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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  • Scootir - Saturday, February 09, 2013 - link

    As someone who administers these types of devices for major hospital organizations I can guarantee that docs and nurses (and the administrator's who select what they get to use) would hate this device. it's poor battery life alone makes it a complete failure in this space, not to mention it's price. A clinical shift is 8 to 12 hours, not 3.something. We don't need much at all in terms of processing power - hospital electronic medical records run on Citrix farms and the Citrix receiver runs acceptably on the cheapest smartphone anyone can buy. I'm sorry, but from a healthcare perspective, iOS and Android devices make the Surface Pro look like a joke. Reply
  • jamawass - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    Are you mentioning productivity, then using facebook and light web as examples?
    Anand clearly stated in the article that the Surface pro isn't for that market but can be used as a laptop replacement so one can use real Adobe products not the kids' version on an ipad for example.
    Reply
  • JimTC - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    For consumption I'll stick with my iphone5 - i certainly am not interested in carrying around a bigger version of it.

    I'm looking for tools I can use. This one seems to be it (or at least getting there).
    Reply
  • DogmaHunter - Thursday, February 07, 2013 - link

    The "post-pc era" is marketing talk. It doesn't actually exist.

    Here's why: not a single person who has a smartphone or tablet threw out his laptop or desktop or is planning to do so.

    Tablets and smartphones do NOT replace pc's. At the very least, we are in the "pc plus era". And even that is stretching it imo.

    And tough to justify that price for media consumption?
    Here's the thing... Surface Pro is not a media consumption device. It can consume media, but so can my 4000$ desktop. Surface Pro is just a pc like any other.

    If people can justify the price they pay for a desktop, laptop or ultrabook... I see no reason they couldn't justify the price for Surface Pro.
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Thursday, February 07, 2013 - link

    Based on your stated needs, it wouldn't make sense to purchase the Surface Pro unless you had money to burn or knew your future needs will need the power/flexibility of full program installs over Apps.

    But you could still save money and avoid Apple's Walled Garden by purchasing an Android powered tablet.

    Your choice at the end of the day,

    Best Wishes on your selection,
    Reply
  • Daeros - Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - link

    Seems a little steep for what you get... I think the Yoga 13 or MBA does better for the same amount of money, and several ultrabooks are a bit less if you don't need the "tablet" experience. Reply
  • DogmaHunter - Thursday, February 07, 2013 - link

    I bet you can't find me a single device with the same or comparable specs for much cheaper. Reply
  • Alucard291 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Which just means that all typical devices in this spec range cost roughly the same. So you start picking from other things, like battery life (which this piece of trash has none of) and screen quality (welp not this trash again too bad) and so on :) Reply
  • yesno - Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - link

    I appreciate the focus on performance, but what about the size, aspect ratio, and weight? The smaller size of the iPad mini, and the ability to read off it one-handed, makes it a better tablet than the iPad 4 in my usage. But it is creamed in every benchmark you could imagine.

    Whatever its performance, the Surface won't make a good tablet if its not comfortable to use as a tablet--even though this is much more subjective.
    Reply
  • LetsGo - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    Agreed, I'd love a true 8Inch portable Windows Pro machine.

    It should be under 700g if 10inch or greater this is no good.
    Reply

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