Performance Benchmarking, Battery Performance & Portability
We will be testing the Surface Pro 3 using our usual suite of benchmarks. And as for comparison, we will be including results from recently tested Ultrabooks including the HP ZBook 14 and ASUS Zenbook UX302. Other contenders include the HP EliteBook Folio 1040G1 and the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, the winner of our Tech Awards 2014 Best Ultra Portable Notebook category. Here is the list of benchmarks used:
- PCMark 8
- 3DMark 2013
- Tomb Raider
- Far Cry 2
And here is a quick look at how the Surface Pro 3 compares against the other Ultrabooks.
We begin as we normally do with PCMark 8 and the Surface Pro 3’s scores on this benchmark seemed generally underwhelming. Its scores on the Home, Creative, Work and the Adobe apps scenarios were noticeably below average. It did pick itself up on the Storage scenario, thanks to its quick SSD.
However the key distinction here is that the compared notebooks all have far better processor and memory components that clearly make up for the gulf in benchmark scores. Had Microsoft supplied us with speedier variants, it should easily match up to the compared Ultrabooks the carried high-end configurations. Unfortunately at this point of time, test units are limited and all efforts are going into stocking up adequate inventory for its imminent launch. As such, our sub S$1,400 specced unit can't quite match up with most of the others that are priced around S$2,000.
The Surface Pro 3’s performance on 3DMark 2013 was not encouraging either as it recorded the lowest scores. Granted, its Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated GPU was never going to raise any eyebrows, but even against systems with similar graphics hardware like the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, the Surface Pro 3’s scores were over 12% poorer. Given the slower processor companion and that 3DMark computes its final score based on the performance of both the CPU and GPU subsystems, it was only inevitable that the Surface Pro 3 test unit was able to churn out less than comparable results. This shouldn't have been the case if we were supplied with a better specced configuration.
Far Cry 2
Despite the Surface Pro 3’s disappointing showing on 3DMark 2013, it managed better on Far Cry 2 and recorded frame rates that were on a par with the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and Acer Aspire S7, both of which rely on the Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated GPU for graphics processing. Clearly, the Intel HD Graphics 4400 is ill-suited for gaming at such resolutions.
We also tried running at the Surface Pro 3’s native resolution of 2160 x 1440 pixels and managed just 19.12 fps on Medium settings and 11.23 fps on Very High settings.
Since Tomb Raider is a fairly new addition to our suite of benchmarks, we could not include results from some of the older Ultrabooks. However, it is clear that the Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated GPU could not cope with the demands of this game. At Full HD resolution, the Surface Pro 3 could only manage a paltry 11.1 fps and even when we turned the resolution down to 800 x 600 pixels, it struggled to get 30 fps. Judging from what we have seen here, a mid-range discrete GPU is required for a game like this.
We also tried measuring the temperature of the Surface Pro 3 as it was running Tomb Raider and found that the case at the back of the device reached a maximum temperature of around 43 degrees Celsius. It feels toasty for sure, but it would't cause a burn. Still, its a respectable reading considering the Surface Pro 3’s svelte dimensions and the fact that its cooling is almost completely dependent on a single small blower fan embedded deep within the unit.
Battery Life & Power Consumption
With its 42Wh battery, the Surface Pro 3 managed to last a respectable 3 hours in our battery test. This is decent, but not fantastic considering comparable Ultrabooks managed to last around 45 minutes to an hour longer. In terms of power consumption, the Surface Pro 3 comes it at just above 14W, which is actually one of the slightly higher figures - this explains its below average battery life. Its high resolution screen is partly to blame for the increased power consumption, but it is a necessary trade off that one has to make.
Our Portability Index factors in battery life, weight and volume so you can see which notebook is the most worthwhile to carry around. Surprisingly, the Surface Pro 3 scored well even with the Type Cover on. As we mentioned earlier, the Type Cover adds significant thickness (5mm) and weight (around 300g) to the system. But even so, its score was the best amongst its competitors. However, if you are well adapted to typical tablets with the on-screen keyboard, the Surface Pro 3 on its own achieved a very high score of just above seven points, easily double that of its competitors.
At this point it is also worth noting how compact the power adapter is. It weighs only about 150g and the adapter itself even has a USB port to help charge your other devices such as smartphones, tablets or mobile battery banks. With a slim notebook like the Surface Pro 3, its pro Type Cover and the compact power adapter, you would easily shave a lot of bulk and heft from toting around conventional notebooks and their accessories.