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Surface Pro 2: Battery Life and Performance

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell



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Surface Pro 2 (2013): Performance

The 2012 Surface Pro was plenty fast enough, so any gains here aren't that important. Microsoft clearly agrees as, rather like Apple with the 2013 MacBook Air 13-inch, it's opted for a small decrease in clock speed (1.6GHz from 1.7GHz) instead of a straight clock-for-clock match to the Haswell equivalent. The result is a relatively modest performance boost with the Surface Pro 2's PC Mark 7 score of 4,853 is only 2.3% higher than the 2012 model. It's still a damn high score, however, edging out expensive Ultrabooks likes the Sony VAIO Pro 13 and Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus in the same test.

It has faster graphics than the Sony VAIO Pro 13, too, scoring 50% (28,892) higher in 3D Mark's Ice Storm Extreme test. The Intel HD 4400 chipset is by no means a speed demon, however, and sadly falls short of the Intel HD 5000 found in the latest MacBook Air 2013. But it plays any game from the Windows Store easily, and has enough about it to play some older games at reasonable settings.

Despite the small gains, by any reasonable measure the Surface Pro 2 is seriously fast. It's just as fast as any Ultrabook you're likely to come across, which means it eats everyday computing tasks for breakfast, while it boots very fast and slips in and out of sleep with only the slightest of delays. It's only likely to flounder in a desktop style environment (i.e. hooked up to a large monitor and running large numbers of browser tabs and background processes), where the low-power processor and 4GB RAM may prove restrictive.

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Surface Pro 2 (2013): Battery Life

This is the real acid test. The 2012 Surface Pro lasted just four hours in the Powermark benchmark, which was poor by laptop standards and disastrous by tablet standards. Pre-launch Microsoft was making some worryingly vague claims on this front, preferring to stick to 'up 75%' better rather than specific numbers, but the reality is more promising than we first feared.

In our Powermark benchmark, a looping test consisting of one half web browsing, and a quarter each of productivity and video playback, it lasted a creditable seven hours and 53 minutes. This was at 40% brightness, which considering the high peak brightness is quite bright. Reduce it further and eights hours or more is eminently achievable, though 10 hours is probably too much to ask.

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This is clearly a vast improvement on the last version, albeit not as much as Microsoft's 'up to' claim. It's long enough that it's conceivable to use the Surface Pro 2 on and off all day on a single charge, provided there's some downtime at least. Compared to Ultrabooks, the Sony VAIO Pro 13 lasted six hours and 14 minutes on its main battery, while the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus managed a similar eight hours and three minutes. Only the Sony VAIO Duo 13 managed more, a very impressive 10 hours and 8 minutes.

How you judge the Surface Pro 2's battery life is complicated by its hybrid status. By the standards of a laptop it's very good. Not quite as good as the latest MacBook Airs maybe, but very good. By tablet standards, however, the Surface Pro 2 is adequate rather than very good. So which is fair? On balance, the Surface Pro is more a laptop replacement than a pure tablet (perhaps 60/40 in favour of the laptop) and as such it's hard to complain about the battery life. Would we like more? Certainly. Is nearly double the life a good enough improvement for now? We say yes.

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Surface Pro 2 (2013): Heat and Noise

It's not the only improvement, either. The Surface Pro 2 is noticeably cooler and quieter than the 2012 Surface Pro. The fans only really spin up when running graphically challenging applications/games and when pushing the CPU hard, whereas the 2012 edition tended to get hot and bothered after a prolonged spell of general use or video playback. The result is that, when used as a tablet. the Surface Pro 2 is cool to the touch and near silent. It's impressive how quietly the fans spin, too.


October 22, 2013, 2:45 pm

Aren't the cameras on the Surface Pro 2 still 720p front and back? I've read TR for years but these sort of mistakes shouldn't make it to print, it's a simple check of the spec sheet.


October 22, 2013, 3:37 pm

Apologies, this is my mistake. I thought I was looking at the Surface Pro 2 specs page with the Surface 2 specs side-by-side, but turns out I was on the Surface 2 specs page which is the other way around.


October 23, 2013, 7:29 am

Interesting to read how when a device attempts to have some sort of connectivity, such as a USB 3 port, micro-sd slot etc, its considered limited. But its never an issue on an ipad :-/ Anyway, i`ve dabbled with the original surface pro and loved the fact of how versatile and slick it is.


October 23, 2013, 8:47 am

Maybe it's because the iPad doesn't run the same operating system that you would find on a desktop machine?

Or maybe it's because the reviewer sees the Surface Pro as a "a tablet, laptop and desktop in one"? As per the very first sentence of the review.


October 24, 2013, 11:52 am

If the stylus really is "an essential part of the Surface Pro experience", you could have dedicated a little more attention to it.
Edge accuracy and cursor/brush lag in particular would have been good to know about.


October 24, 2013, 12:52 pm

Apologies, I spent less time on it principally because:

1) It hasn't changed at all from the last version
2) I'm not so well qualified to judge it from a creative perspective.

Short version, however, is that it's very accurate, very fast and a pleasure to use. I can't think of a tablet that's better to write and draw on.


December 21, 2013, 2:39 pm

It absolutely is an issue on the iPad, not being able to directly plug in a USB stick or hard drive is a bl**dy nuisance. The iPad is basically a toy, once there is something better - and that's not going to anything Windows based - ill be moving off it. One USB connector is IMHO inadequate. If that breaks you are stuffed.


December 22, 2013, 3:01 pm

I have been using an iPad for a couple of years but wanted a windows tablet and opted for the surface pro 2.

I am a little disappointed in the charging solution which is a bit fiddly and is far too close to the mini-dp port. I keep accidentally dislodging the power when the dp port is connected. I also have a problem with the weight when compared to an iPad. However I do not regret the purchase and will use it every day.

7/10 and improving. Shame about the bad update - Microsofts quality standards are slipping in relation to updates being released too soon


January 2, 2014, 1:33 am

Installed the Intel HD 4400 Driver and it'll solve your dynamic contrast issue (turn off the driver power optimization from intel) and it'll also dramatically improved the gradation quality (no more banding) and finally able to calibrate the screen properly.


January 3, 2014, 5:57 pm

I just got mine yesterday, I'm actually on it right now lol! It's perfect in my opinion. I'm just glad I got a hold of one, since they're practically sold out everywhere

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