Shortly after general availability of the Surface Pro 2, Microsoft pushed out a firmware update that allowed the Marvell WiFi solution to drive down to even lower power states. I spoke with Microsoft after the update went live and immediately re-ran both of our battery life benchmarks on the Surface Pro 2. The improvement is significant.

As a recap, both of our battery life tests are run with the displays calibrated to 200 nits and running a fixed workload. A faster system doesn't mean more repetitions of a workload, just that the system enjoys more time idle. 

The web browsing benchmark cycles through a series of desktop web pages at an aggressive interval until the battery dies. 

Web Browsing Battery Life (WiFi)

In our web browsing battery life test, Surface Pro 2 now manages better battery life than Surface 2. Microsoft told me that their internal target was over 8 hours, and this firmware update brings it up to snuff via a nearly 25% increase in battery life. 

Video playback also sees a boost since I test with WiFi enabled and connected to an active AP. Here we're playing back a rip I made of the last Harry Potter movie. It's a 720p 4Mbps high-profile H.264 video:

Video Playback Battery Life (720p, 4Mbps HP H.264)

Haswell's video playback still doesn't seem all that power efficient. I've heard a rumor that this gets fixed in Broadwell though. The improvement on the video playback side is still reasonable at 16% over the numbers I originally ran.

A software update also rolled back the Surface Pro 2's video drivers to an earlier version that seems to have fixed the display corruption on wake issue as well. If you're wondering, Surface 2 didn't receive any similar battery life changing firmware update.

I chatted with Microsoft a bit about why Surface Pro 2 can't seem to deliver the same battery life in these tests as a 2013 MacBook Air. They correctly pointed to the litany of sensors included in Surface Pro 2, as well as the higher resolution display, active digitizer and capacitive touch all of which increase power draw over the MBA. While it's still true that we run into a lot of poorly optimized Windows notebooks as far as battery life is concerned, Jarred recently reviewed the new Sony VAIO Pro 13 that is a clear exception. 

The VAIO Pro 13 is, for the first time in my memory, able to equal Apple's idle power efficiency if you normalize for battery capacity. The 2013 MBAs still managed to be more efficient under heavier workloads, but Sony at least showed it was possible to close the idle power gap. 

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  • mkozakewich - Tuesday, November 05, 2013 - link

    The biggest gripe I have with basically every Surface Pro review is that they don't bother comparing it with other ultrabooks. That's its category, frankly.
    Weird halfway-between devices like this should be compared to both categories for a real look at it, because that's what they're intended for, so at least we've got these mobile comparisons. It's really important to know if a device like this is worse at everything, or competitive in one category while falling short in another.

    Another fact worth pointing out is that a Surface Pro 2 with Battery Cover should get about 14.28 hours in their web browsing test.
    Reply
  • eallan - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    That's a great improvement for being out a couple weeks. Reply
  • nerd1 - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    Now the surface 2 pro became a quite practical device. I've found sony and dell's offering are not quite good (just as expensive, has worse build and worse pen) so maybe I'll end up getting surface 2 pro. Reply
  • erikiksaz - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    I wonder when they pushed the update. I feel like I've been getting about eight hours on my SP2 since I've gotten it. Reply
  • althaz - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    As a rule, generally real-life battery is better than tested battery - at least that's been my experience. It's more important to be consistent and fairly accurate than constantly improve to get a more accurate test and have no consistency. Reply
  • fronkhead - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    Same here, I remember downloading the firmware update on the day after launch (Wednesday) Reply
  • teiglin - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    I'd love to see the desktop battery life test results on Surface Pro. I think for most people, the desktop usage model is more realistic than the tablet one. Not to mention it's awkward reading the battery efficiency chart without surface in a surface article. :P Reply
  • AngryNil - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    This is interesting. That battery life seems good to me, so just looking forward to a slimmed down chassis in SP3. Reply
  • GTRagnarok - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    Whatever it is Sony's doing, everyone else needs to copy them. Reply
  • Klimax - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    I suspect they got all drivers in order. (Like support for Timer coalescing and such.) Also chose right chips for it. Reply

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