Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 trail behind OS X, iOS and Android in battery life tests

Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 trail behind OS X, iOS and Android in battery life tests

Summary: Fingers are pointing at Windows 8.1 as tests show that both the Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 tablets trail behind OS X, iOS and Android devices when it comes to battery life.

Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2
(Image: Microsoft)

Microsoft's latest entry into the crowded tablet market is out, and while the overall hardware specification is impressive, the battery life delivered by the new Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 tablets leaves a lot to be desired.

The Windows 8.1-powered Surface Pro 2 and the Windows RT 8.1-powered Surface 2 tablets were pitted against the crème de la crème of tablets, ranging from the iOS-powered iPad 4 to Android-powered tablets such as Google's Nexus 7 and Samsung's new Galaxy Note 10.1 by tech site AnandTech.

At the heart of the Surface Pro 2 tablet is Intel's new Haswell processor, silicon that the chipmaker claims will boost battery life by up to 50 percent compared to the previous generation hardware. Given this, you might expect the Surface Pro 2 to score pretty highly when it comes to battery life.

But it doesn't.

The Surface Pro 2 trails behind competition in both the web browsing and video playback battery life tests, achieving a runtime of 6.68 and 6.65 hours respectively. Compare this to the Nvidia Shield, which ran for 13.53 and 18.63 hours in the respective tests, or the iPad 4 which could manage 9.48 and 13.45 hours.

In fact, there was only one tablet in the listing that pulled in a worse time than the Surface Pro 2, and that was the original Surface Pro tablet.

Since Microsoft calls the Surface Pro 2 "the tablet so versatile, it's practically a laptop" then it might be fairer to compare it to a notebook. Software developer Jeff Atwood did some digging and pulled up the AnandTech battery test data for a notebook with a similar spec to that of the Surface Pro 2, which just happened to be Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air.

The 13-inch MacBook Air manages to squeeze 14.28 hours of life out of the battery when running the web browsing test, more than double what the Surface Pro 2 could achieve. Now the 13-inch MacBook Air has a much bigger battery than the Surface Pro 2 does (54Wh compared to 42Wh), so perhaps comparing it to the 11-inch MacBook Air, which has a 38Wh battery, is fairer. But even with the smaller batter, the 11-inch MacBook Air still runs for 11.10 hours, which is almost twice as long as the Surface Pro 2 can manage.

"That means the Air is somehow producing nearly two times the battery efficiency of the best hardware and software combination Microsoft can muster, for what I consider to be the most common usage pattern on a computer today," Atwood points out.

The problem certainly isn't down to Intel's Haswell processors, which not only perform well in the MacBook Air but also in the new Chrome OS-powered Chromebooks, offering 10 hours of battery life.

This would suggest that by opting for Windows, users are slashing hours from their tablet's battery life. It is possible that future optimizations delivered via updates could help restore some of this lost battery life, but this is very much in the hands of Microsoft.

Now, you might think that this is an unfair "apples verses oranges" comparison, given that the Surface Pro 2 is a full Intel PC featuring a dual-core Core i5-4200U processor humming along at 1.6GHz and running a full operating system, while the iPad and Nexus 7 tablets are built around more efficient ARM silicon and operating systems designed for mobile devices. Fortunately for us Microsoft also manufactures an ARM tablet that we can throw into the mix.

The ARM-powered Surface 2 pulls in a more respectable score – 8.07 hours for the web browsing test and 10.05 hours for the video playback test – but these figures still trail behind what the iPad, the Nexus, the Shield, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 can offer.

If you want a tablet that offers the flexibility of a PC, then the Surface Pro 2 is well worth taking a look at, and is a solid piece of kit, but if you want good battery life, then you will almost certainly want to look elsewhere.

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft Surface, Windows 8

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  • Yet another controversial article to gain attention.

    Seriously? Microsoft does a fantastic job increasing the battery life on Surface Pro 2 by 75% (you said 50% btw), and yet you end your article with "if you want good battery life, then you will almost certainly want to look elsewhere."

    First, your tests are completely bogus, so there's no point in arguing numbers. Your comparisons also do not make any sense. It's like you cannot make up your mind comparing it to a heavy 13" MacBook Air or an iPad. Your comparison is just as bad as comparing a business laptop to a mobile phone.

    Finally, why was there no mention of Power Cover? It's not just extra battery but is a serious option since it functions as a keyboard as well.

    Readers, don't believe everything you read on the internet. Here's a tip from me: If you want to learn more about battery life on Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, you will certainly want to read about it elsewhere.

    • I guess you didn't read the article properly

      The tests are from Anadatech -
      They seem pretty reasonable to me.
      While surface pro battery is far from great, I'm sure version 2 is an improvement, but like it says in the article - far from what was announced.

      As for normal surface, I believe Tegra 4 is mainly for performance being among the fastest ARM processor around, snapdragon is more focused on the power efficiency - it will be interesting to compare the new Nokia tablet with the surface 2 - tegra vs snapdragon.
      • Still apples and oranges

        The battery life shown is for a web browsing test. We don't know how Anandtech's web browsing test penalizes faster-performing computers. Unfortunately, Anandtech does not have comparable web-related performance test data (SunSpider, Mozilla Kraken, etc.), for MacBook Air.

        One indirect indication of how test works is here
        In this test, page is loaded every 10-15 seconds, and it is visible, how a faster computer loads more pages in the same period of time. The more pages in the same time, the more battery is depleted, which is only fair.

        Another Anandtech test shows that the normalized battery life is comparable between a Windows PC and MBA. At light workloads, the normalized battery life is actually better for Sony Vaio Pro 13.

        Add here the non-linear nature of silicon. An undervolted, underclocked CPU will consume less power for the same amount of work, so chances are, MBA gains part of its battery life by being slower than Surface Pro 2, which is, apparently, designed to favor speed.

        The data from Anandtech revives of Surface show, that Surface 2 leaves iPad in the dust on these tests. Even slower, ARM-based Surface 2 leaves iPad in the dust.

        Finally, the iPad numbers are measured with iOS6. Update to iOS7, and it goes worse. The battery is depleted faster, and it is slow to charge.

        In contrast, Surface charges very fast. There is also a Surface battery cover which increases usable off-charger time significantly. This can't be done with iPad or MBA.

        So you choose what you want: a slower machine, which also charged slowly, or a faster one, which charges faster. Just one number, battery life, is not always enough to judge the quality.
        • This is the Internet

          Please stop thinking critically on it. You are spoiling its sensationalism for the rest of us.
          x I'm tc
        • typical

          none of what you say makes any sense or is based on any facts.

          the article, by the way blames windows, not the surface hardware.
    • Look at the article he wrote minutes after this one

      "Apple's new Mac Pro revolutionizes the desktop workstation" Please, that cylindrical, high-priced, tin-can junk? I'm not hating on Mac, just mainly pointing out the author's bias and sensationalism in his articles.

    • Totally agree

      I totally agree with lmoxiel. This article is really weird.

      The author compares the ipad life battery with a Surface Pro 2... Did the author ever used a Surface Pro 2 ??
      It's not like an IPAD !
      Of course the ipad 's got more battery life, but can it does all the things that a Surface Pro can do ? Certainly not.
      • It's not weird

        It's just utterly flawed, and the author knows better, which casts doubt on his credibility.

        stephanber4's point is the reason this is an "apples and oranges" comparison. It's completely invalid.

        Does a Mercedes get the same gas mileage as a Volkswagen Beetle? Of course not - it's an apples and oranges comparison -

        as is the one the author uses.
  • Not shocking

    Dude, Windows products have trailed in battery life forever. Windows was designed at a time when power consumption was not a concern, and they have not been able to fix all the power inefficiencies out. But Surface 2 (RT and Pro) are better than Surface and Surface Pro, and they are approaching all-day battery life. Once you get to all-day battery life, extra battery life is nice but not a huge win.

    Microsoft certainly needs to do better on this, but we all know that this is just AKH looking for a reason to slam Microsoft on the day of the Surface 2 launch.
    • It is not shocking

      But it is also not true.
      x I'm tc
    • Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

      This guy will say and do anything in his power to destroy Microsoft in any way he can. He will choose any topic or information he gets that makes MS look bad and through it your face as if he was told by God to do it.

      The Surface RT and Surface 2 tablet will give you 8 to 10 hours of web browsing, Office document editing and apps. It will give you a bit less if you are running videos especially if the files are located on a remote drive. Battery life is in fact one of its key feature considering that they are running Windows which was coded at a time when energy consumption was considered that important.

      The main feature is how fast they charge up. In less than 2 hours you are ready to go! From zero to full even if you use the tablet at the same time.

      The Surface pro battery life was less than stellar but version 2 offers twice the battery life that's up to 8 hour in a tablet form. Considering that it is a full Windows tablet that can run Autocad, Photoshop, InDesign and all the other great windows applications… it is a very good battery life.
  • For a lot of us

    battery life isn't that big of an issue. Granted, there are some road warriors that more.
  • It's more powerful...

    Will an iPad or an Android be able to play GTA5 when it is available for the PC? No...

    Was there a compromise made so the Surface Pro 2 will be able to play Xbox quality games? Yes... Is the Gaming Industry expected to hit over 100 billion dollars in 2015? Yes...

    Will guys line up to buy a Surface Pro in a year or two when the price drops to $500-600? Probably... Will Apple or Android be able to compete? It doesn't look like it...
  • Its a joke, click-bait.

    Whoever conducted this test and published the results are fools, how can one compare a real computer (Surface Pro and Surface 2 ) with toys that runs toy operating systems???
    • You have a point

      But why even call it a tablet? If we look at surface as a traditional PC it will lose miserable against many competition, even portability advantage can be questioned. There are cheaper, lighter, with bigger screen and with the same OS if you really must go with windows.
      • Lighter?

        I am not sure I have come across to many i5 computers weighing less than 2 lbs.
  • Ugh

    Microsoft should have gone through the OS with a fine tooth comb and started cleaning things up, and killing processes that are not needed for normal function. They could have done so much better, and they should have put a bigger battery in as well.
  • Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 trail behind OS X, iOS and Android in battery l

    Not a problem. If the battery gets low then you just plug it in. Problem solved. People don't go for more than a few hours without being near an outlet anyway. People don't spend a continuous number of hours on their tablets either. So while you try to make this sound like its all bad news because its a Microsoft product the reality is most people will take the functionality of the Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 over the others and work around the non-issue of battery life.
    • You have a weird logic

      By that logic, electric cars would be dominating by now - you ran out of battery in the middle of nowhere - you just plug it in... and wait, ... wait, ... and wait :)

      I know it's not the same thing, but you are obviously wrong, personal mobile devices should have a good battery. BTW, have you seen the size of the surface pro power supply? Adding to the weight of the surface pro, the power adapter and the touch cover will take you to values that are bigger than that of a macbook air 13'' (not 11''). There goes the ultra portable PC...
      • Your comparison is weird

        I don't use my car for entertainment or serious business work. I use it for taking me places in physical. I use my computer for entertainment, business work not for taking me places in physical. /s
        Ram U