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2018 Surface Pro 6 series still suffers from steep CPU throttling

2018 Surface Pro series still suffers from steep CPU throttling (Source: Own)
2018 Surface Pro series still suffers from steep CPU throttling (Source: Own)
There's no doubt that this year's Surface Pro models are significantly faster than the last generation since Kaby Lake-R doubles the number of cores from Kaby Lake. The bigger question, however, is how much or little the models will throttle when under load. Performance throttling was abysmal on the 2017 series and it's just slightly improved for this latest iteration.

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When we tested the Surface Pro 2017 series last year, we discovered a major drawback that most other reviewers either shrugged or ignored: Throttling. Processor performance from the Core i5-7300U and Core i7-7660U SKUs would drop by as much as 18 to 31 percent over long periods. Thus, users who purchased the Core i5 or i7 SKUs expecting Core i5 or i7 performance would actually be getting much slower results than advertised.

For the 2018 Surface Pro series, Microsoft has finally made the jump from 7th gen Kaby Lake to 8th gen Kaby Lake-R with the promise of improved cooling. Has the company stuck to its word?

A good way of testing CPU performance sustainability is to run CineBench R15 Multi-Thread in a loop and recording the final scores for each round. Our graph below plots the 2018 Surface Pro i5 and i7 SKUs against the 2017 Surface Pro i5 and i7 SKUs. Performance throttling can be observed across the board with some SKUs suffering more sharply.

The largest drop in performance is last year's Surface Pro i5 SKU at 31 percent followed by this year's Surface Pro i5 at 25 percent. The latest Surface Pro i7 is an improvement with a performance drop of 12 percent vs. 18 percent on the 2017 equivalent. In other words, the 2018 series fares better, but only by smaller margins than we had hoped for.

Even after accounting for the steep throttling, however, the new Kaby Lake-R models are still significantly faster than the last generation Kaby Lake models. Jumping from the 2017 Surface Pro i5 to the 2018 Surface Pro i5 brings a raw CPU performance boost of about 50 to 75 percent and the i7 SKUs see similar results. Microsoft's implementation of Kaby Lake-R may be slower than average when compared to "proper" Ultrabooks, but it's certainly the fastest Surface Pro series yet by far.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 6, Core i5, 128 GB Intel Core i5-8250U, Intel Core i5-8250U: Ø452 (434.07-584.91)
Microsoft Surface Pro 6, Core i7, 512 GB Intel Core i7-8650U, Intel Core i7-8650U: Ø571 (559.56-638.59)
Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) i5 Intel Core i5-7300U, Intel Core i5-7300U: Ø240 (211.49-337.24)
Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) i7 Intel Core i7-7660U, Intel Core i7-7660U: Ø352 (335.35-409.45)
Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit
Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) i7
Intel Core i7-7660U
163 Points ∼100%
Microsoft Surface Pro 6, Core i7, 512 GB
Intel Core i7-8650U
163 Points ∼100%
Microsoft Surface Pro 6, Core i5, 128 GB
Intel Core i5-8250U
143 Points ∼88%
Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) i5
Intel Core i5-7300U
141 Points ∼87%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Microsoft Surface Pro 6, Core i7, 512 GB
Intel Core i7-8650U
639 Points ∼100%
Microsoft Surface Pro 6, Core i5, 128 GB
Intel Core i5-8250U
585 Points ∼92%
Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) i7
Intel Core i7-7660U
410 (min: 335.35, max: 409.45) Points ∼64%
Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) i5
Intel Core i5-7300U
334 Points ∼52%

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 10 > 2018 Surface Pro 6 series still suffers from steep CPU throttling
Allen Ngo, 2018-10-31 (Update: 2018-10-31)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.