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
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  • thecoldanddarkone - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - link

    Hopefully I get mine tomorrow. Looking at the model it looks like some an 830 controller (lazy google). Reply
  • thecoldanddarkone - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - link

    Same as yours. Reply
  • dilse - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    Though i am new-user I like your review very much anandhji....simple yet powerful review covering all aspects without any bias

    I like""surface pro as a tablet"" part of the review and your comparison with other tablets in the market.

    Keep it up and thank you very much
    Reply
  • augustofretes - Saturday, February 16, 2013 - link

    The way I see it the Surface Pro is just a better ultrabook than the rest (specifically I think is a better ultrabook than the Macbook Air 11"). It's an ultrabook that can also work as a decent tablet. As an ultrabook it's only disadvantage is not being comfortable to use in your lap, which I don't think is a major problem when it has a great screen, touch screen, stylus support and a Micro-SD slot. Reply
  • kelhardy80 - Sunday, March 03, 2013 - link

    I did some research on this product and was surprised to see that most customers of the Microsoft Surface Pro are ok with the battery life (about 5 hrs on average with heavy constant use...and 8 hours with usage on- and off). Besides, most of us are near a power outlet anyway! Some customers even said they had no problem using this machine on their lap. For a more detailed look at the Surface Pro from the point of view of actual customers, check out http://ceejay1980.hubpages.com/hub/Best-Windows-8-... for a compilation of customer reviews of the Surface Pro. Reply
  • yos123 - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - link

    another review www.windows8web.com/surface-pro Reply
  • Amit kumar - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - link

    Awesome!..Worthy review even I believe you It is awesome. I saw fairly a few respectable features this site as well. http://www.gadtecho.com/microsoft-surface-pro-full... Reply
  • alnnn - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    "Haswell is part of the solution to this problem, but we’re still talking about waiting until the end of the year before Microsoft can realistically integrate that."

    Realistically, if we assume that Haswell will launch in June, how long will it take for Microsoft to integrate Haswell into a Surface Pro 2? Q4? Or Q3?
    Reply
  • Shockwave241 - Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - link

    I, personally, own a Microsoft Surface RT, and I did the exact same benchmark, and I got completely different results. My Kraken Benchmark result was around 25,000 m/s, 1/2 of what these results seem to be. It could have been the WiFi connection at the time, but I'm not sure. Reply

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