The Surface Pro is powered by a third-generation dual-core Intel Core i5-3317U processor running at 1.7GHz (up to 2.6GHz in Turbo Boost mode) with integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. This is the same CPU/GPU combo used in the MacBook Air, and it has a Thermal Design Power (TDP) rating of 17 watts — TDP being the maximum amount of power a system's cooling system needs to be able to dissipate. Although Nvidia doesn't quote comparable TDP figures, the ARM-based Tegra 3 used in the Surface RT has been measured consuming less than 2W under load. The trade-off, of course, is that the Core i5 is far better performer, as our benchmarks show (see below).
There was pre-launch speculation that the Surface Pro might include Intel's new low-power Y-series Core processors, which at CES Intel claimed "will operate as low as 7 watts", but this didn't happen. It turns out that these new chips have a TDP of 13W, the 7W quote referring to a new Intel measure called Scenario Design Power (SDP) that estimates the average power consumption under load. Looking further ahead, the low-power variants of Intel's fourth-generation Core processors, codenamed Haswell, will have a TDP of 10W. Clearly, there's scope for lowering the power consumption of the CPU/GPU subsystem, and therefore increasing the battery life, in future versions of the Surface Pro.
The Surface Pro comes with 4GB of (non-expandable) RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of SSD storage. Our review sample had 128GB, and reported 89.6GB of user-available capacity out of the box (see above). There has been some controversy over free space reporting on Microsoft's Surface tablets: check out Ed Bott's blog post for the details. Suffice to say that if you find the out-of-the-box free space insufficient, you may want to consider moving the system's 7.81GB recovery partition from the SSD to a USB flash drive using Windows 8's Recovery Media Creator utility. You can, of course, add more storage (up to 64GB) via the tablet's MicroSD card slot or attach a storage device to the system's USB 3.0 port; you also get 7GB of free SkyDrive cloud storage with your Microsoft account.
You'll have to rely on wireless connectivity, as there's no Ethernet port on the tablet, and no USB Ethernet adapter supplied. The Surface Pro has a dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) Marvell chipset, reported as the Avastar 350N, which also includes Bluetooth 4.0. Wi-Fi connections seemed solid enough during testing, both on our office network and at home. There's no mobile broadband option for the Surface Pro, although many might find this useful on a more work-oriented system such as this. As it stands, you'll either have to attach a USB dongle, taking out the tablet's only USB port, or connect via a smartphone over Bluetooth.
As far as productivity software is concerned, the Surface Pro merely comes with a 30-day trial version of Office 365 Home Premium — unlike the Surface RT, which has Office Home and Student 2013 preinstalled. The same set of 'modern-style' apps are preinstalled, and of course you can install both legacy desktop apps and native apps via the Windows Store.
Performance & battery life
Given that it contains a solid set of ultrabook components, it's no surprise to find that the Surface Pro delivers solid ultrabook-level performance. Its Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 5.6 (out of 9.9) is determined by the lowest-scoring subsystem — in this case, the Intel HD Graphics-driven Desktop graphics performance. The other scores, topped by 8.1 for the SSD-driven disk subsystem, are shown here:
The demanding Cinebench 11.5 benchmark confirms the Surface Pro's ultrabook credentials, as it more than matches a recent Core i5-based convertible Windows 8 tablet, the Lenovo ThinkPad S230 Twist, on the CPU and OpenGL tests:
To get an idea of the Surface Pro's performance compared to its ARM-based Surface RT stablemate, we ran a series of browser tests (using the 'modern' version of IE 10) — Sunspider 0.9.1, Rightware Browsermark 2.0 and Microsoft Fishbowl on both systems:
Clearly the Surface Pro trounces the Surface RT on these tests, delivering 6.3, 1.7 and 2.6 times the performance on Sunspider, BrowserMark and Fishbowl respectively.
The Surface Pro is powered by a non-removable 42 watt-hour battery — a considerably heftier unit than the Surface RT's 31.5Wh battery. To test its longevity, we measured the (fully charged) system's power draw under various conditions: idling with the screen at 25, 50 and 100 percent brightness, and performing a significant workload (Microsoft's Fishbowl HTML5 test) with the same trio of screen brightness settings. Dividing the average power draw into the battery rating gives an estimate of the expected battery life (Wh/W=h). Comparable figures for the Surface RT are also shown:
With estimated rundown times ranging from a paltry 1.5 hours (under continuous load with the screen at 100% brightness) to 6.7h (idling with 25% brightness), it's clear that the Surface Pro is short on battery life. Under real-world conditions, with the system alternating between periods of load, idling and sleep, you might expect the battery to last somewhere between 4 and 5 hours, if you keep the screen brightness down. The Surface RT, by contrast, delivers around twice the battery life of the Pro — a far more acceptable figure.
In case you were wondering about the accuracy of our battery life estimates, we performed a sanity check with the load/100% brightness setting. Our power draw measurements gave an estimate of 1.5 hours; on running down the fully charged system, we got a battery warning at 1h 33m and expiry at 1h 37m.
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||27.46 x 1.35 x 17.3 cm|
|Case form factor||tablet|
|OS & software|
|Operating system||Windows 8 Pro|
|Software included||Office 365 Home Premium (30-day trial)|
|Chipset & memory|
|RAM installed||4096 MB|
|RAM capacity||4 GB|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Display technology||ClearType Full HD 10-point touchscreen|
|Display size||10.6 in|
|Native resolution||1920x1080 pixels|
|USB||1 x USB 3.0|
|Wi-Fi||802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n|
|Pointing devices||trackpad (on Touch/Type covers), stylus|
|Keyboard||Touch Cover, Type Cover (optional)|
|2nd camera resolution||1 megapixels|
|Main camera resolution||1 megapixels|
|Audio connectors||audio out|
|Accessories||48W AC adapter|
|Number of batteries supplied||1|
|Number of batteries supported||1|
|Processor & memory|
|Clock speed||1.7 GHz|
|Processor model||Core i5-3317U|