Surface Pro as a Tablet

If you can get over the bulk, Surface Pro is easily the fastest tablet on the market today. Apple has done a great job of making relatively slow hardware feel very fast with iOS, but Surface Pro brute forces its way to the top. Web pages load quicker than on any ARM based tablet and multitasking is just awesome on the device. This is where the power of Intel’s Core microarchitecture really comes into play.

Since the introduction of the 3rd generation iPad with Retina Display several folks have pointed out to me that UI frame rate isn’t always so smooth on the device. I personally never noticed because I found that most of the competition was even worse, so it always seemed relatively smooth to me. After playing with Surface Pro however and going back to even the 4th gen iPad all of the sudden frame rate stutters are much more noticeable. Playing around with Bing maps on Surface Pro vs. RT is like night and day. Even if you compare scrolling and zoom performance to native iOS maps on the iPad 4, Surface Pro wins out.

Scrolling in web pages, application install time, file copy time, everything is just significantly faster on Surface Pro than on any competing tablet. Oh, and it boots (from full power off) in less than 10 seconds. It’s really the combination of the great CPU performance and fast SSD that deliver the responsiveness of the Surface Pro.

We’re still lacking good cross-platform performance tests, but there are a few browser based benchmarks that I can use to highlight just how much faster Surface Pro is compared to anything ARM based on the market today:

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9.1 - Stock Browser

SunSpider is our tried and true quick js benchmark, and here we see huge scaling as we move to Intel's Core i5. Regardless of browser used you're seeing a significant improvement in performance that directly translates to faster web page load times.

Moving on we have Kraken, a seriously heavy javascript benchmark built by Mozilla. Kraken focuses on forward looking applications that are potentially too slow to run in modern browsers today. The result is much longer run times than anything we've seen thus far, and a very CPU heavy benchmark:

Mozilla Kraken Benchmark

Even when handcuffed by modern IE10 you're looking at almost twice the performance of the Nexus 10. Level the playing field with Chrome as a browser and now Surface Pro completes the test in a bit more than 1/8 of the time of the iPad 4, or 1/4 of the time of the Nexus 10.

Surface Pro manages to deliver almost 5x the performance of the iPad 4 here.

We have one last web-based benchmark: WebXPRT by Principled Technologies (PT). WebXPRT measures performance in four HTML5/js workloads:

Photo Effects: Measures the time to apply effects to a set of six photos. The filters are Sharpen, Emboss, and Glow. WebXPRT applies each filter to two photos. This test uses HTML5 Canvas 2D and JavaScript.

Face Detect: Measures the average time to check for human faces in a photo. WebXPRT runs this test on five photos and uses the average time to calculate the final result. This test uses HTML5 Canvas 2D to get access to photo data. The detection algorithm is implemented in JavaScript.

Stocks Dashboard: Measures the time to calculate financial indicators of a stock based on historical data and display the result in a dashboard. The calculations are done in JavaScript, and the calculated stocks data is displayed using HTML tables and Canvas 2D.

Offline Notes: Measures the time to store notes securely in the browser's HTML5 local storage and display recent entries. This test uses using AES for security.

We're reporting the overall score after all tests have been run:

WebXPRT - Overall Score

Next up are another set of benchmarks from PT, but unlike the WebXPRT suite these tests don't run in a browser. Once again we're looking at performance in a handful of tasks designed to stress the CPU. Here the performance advantage continues to be quite significant. While Surface RT and the other Windows RT/8 devices still feel a bit sluggish, I have no performance complaints whatsoever about Surface Pro:

TouchXPRT 2013 - Photo Slideshow

TouchXPRT 2013 - Podcast MP3 Export

TouchXPRT 2013 - Video Sharing

TouchXPRT 2013 - Photo Sharing

TouchXPRT 2013 - Photo Enhance

If I had any complaints about using Surface Pro as a tablet outside of weight, they’d be about Windows 8. There are still far too many bugs and quirks in the OS that just don’t make sense. I’ve outlined some of my issues with Windows 8 before. I think the UI works just fine for a tablet, it’s just the unfinished touches that need attention. For example, having to gesture in modern IE10 before being able to switch between tabs seems silly.


This still happens way too often in the Windows Store, no indication of what's going on just a blank screen

On the bug-front, all too often I’ll wake up the system only to have the lock screen upside down. And despite all of the extra performance under the hood, the time from when you hit the power/lock button to when something appears on the screen is just longer than on an iPad or Android tablet. We’re not talking several seconds, but it’s still noticeably longer.

The Surface Pen Surface Pro as a Windows 8 Notebook
POST A COMMENT

229 Comments

View All Comments

  • piroroadkill - Monday, February 11, 2013 - link

    How about they put all the bulk in the keyboard section, attach it permanently, and get rid of the kickstand? That way you could use it anywhere, even on your lap! Sounds much better.

    Seriously though, this is a painfully awkward gimmick, and I'd much rather have an ultraportable laptop.
    Reply
  • Patrice - Monday, February 11, 2013 - link

    I'm a prof photograph and film maker. I use my PCs with adobe production suite and other sotfwares. I have a light version on my laptop too when on a shooting but I thought that the Surface Pro, with a smaller footprint would be the perfect tool as an enhanced monitor and controler (different applications) for my cameras. My wife received an ipad 4 for Christmas and since then I tried to find a usefull application beyond what a 15 year old would do with the thing unfortunately I'm still on the quest of findings something productive (work related) beside converting my ipad into a slate (which I don't need) or a remote control for my tv or my pc.

    The surface pro looks like a good, (I do not intent to edit or do any post prod on it) idea but if I understand correctly the product has the same disease as the ipad stuff; no video input! I understand Apple's business model to brickwall the user whitin the "I"universe but MS? Why can't I use the Surface as a monitor? After all it offers more than decent quality? Why should it be limited to an AV output??? If my understanding of the product is right, that's a big no no for me, I'm still stuck with a laptop.

    The battery drama is real only when you compare the product with non-computer product like Android and the i stuff, I do not have any problem with that as I have a ton of very good batteries that will power the Surface for a long time except that I would need a 12vdc charger (lighter plug) that is not offer on MS shop.

    Why is it that when buyng a $1200 I have less technical details then buying a $10 toater? Tried to get an idea about power consumption; over the battery stuff, there is no info, idle power amps, low work load, heavy. I know it depends but would be easy to set a minimum and maximum. The point being that this piece of hardware should be used in more remote location and situation for people than needs the power and freedom of use, this is not for the kids chatting on facebook, this is for working people that needs to do the other stuff.
    Reply
  • crispbp04 - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - link

    it has a usb3.0 port, how do you not consider that an option for av input? Reply
  • Soda-88 - Monday, February 11, 2013 - link

    Does anyone know what type of SSD is in the Surface Pro? Is it replaceable with bigger mSATA drive for example? Reply
  • Soda-88 - Monday, February 11, 2013 - link

    Nevermind, just saw this:
    Update: It looks like the C400 SSD is an mSATA drive, likely similar to the one we reviewed here a while back.
    Reply
  • Marq - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - link

    I feel anandtech is spot on with their view of microsofts product: essentially an ultra book with tablet capabilities. If you were to take such a view you'll find the surface pro rather pleasing. It's funny the way some argue against it. They say the androids and ioses can do the same things and are worth more. A 128gb iPad @ 900usd needs an additional Bluetooth keyboard, can't take USB and is stuck at how much it's given. What's the difference? Yes it gets 9hrs of life. But it can't do photoshop; it can't do GIS applicationS it can't do serious video editing. This device and many others like it (Lenovo, Samsung etc) strides the boundary between tablets and ultra book.

    This and upcoming generations will make mobile computing true. The androids and iPads are stuck by their oses limitations and will never be able to do what this device does (and they are not meant to).

    I will seriously consider this over the MacBook Air if I didn't have one already. The life is similar but the surface pro is smaller and comes with a pen to boot.
    Reply
  • dijuremo - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - link

    Surface Pro is easily the fastest tablet on the market today.


    The Samsung ATIV Pro 700 has been out since December of last year packing the same CPU, 4GB of ram and 128GB SSD. Claiming that the Surface Pro is easily the fastest tablet on the market just sounds as if you were paid to write this review....

    http://www.samsung.com/us/computer/tablet-pcs/XE70...
    Reply
  • JLQ - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - link

    So far I've actually enjoyed using this device except for the fact that there are no WinTab drivers for the Wacom digitizer. That means no pressure sensitivity in many graphics applications like Photoshop and Corel Painter, which is a huge bummer for me. Lisa Gade is the only reviewer that I've seen that discusses this.

    For now, I'm waiting and seeing if WinTab drivers will be provided in the near future. Otherwise, I'm making do with ArtRage for the time being, given that it supports Microsoft's newer pen API and thus does register pressure-sensitive input. Touch controls (pan, zoom, rotate) are an added plus.
    Reply
  • Imaginer - Saturday, March 30, 2013 - link

    I agree with you. I too enjoyed light gaming, CADing, and used ArtRage. Corel Painter 12 doesn't support pressure, but finger pinch zoom and two finger rotate works. I do not understand the people saying the better option is making do with price equivalent of a ARM tablet and a laptop.

    For as I used my Kindle Fire, I wished I can view things as smoothly as my PC and work with it better in terms of input, both hardware and software. I like my Envy 14 1st generation laptop, but I have and still do an awkward disconnect with using my Intros with it. Even placing the digitizer on tip of the Envy's keyboard still is awkward for lap use as I have to remove it for keyboard use.

    Hence I am glad and have gotten a Surface Pro. I was considering the Samsung ATIV 700T, but if its keyboard dock was heavier with a second battery and maybe second removable mSATA SSD, I would have picked that instead.

    I hope some group, either one, solves the pen capability in Painter (and PhotoShop and others too).
    Reply
  • Bytre - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - link

    My 128GB has a samsung mzmpc128hbfu-000mv. AS SSD clocks in at 471.31MB/sec read, 252.33MB/sec write on the sequential test. 89.4GB free out of the box, 110GB total capacity (as measured by c: properties). Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now