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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  • Silma - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    Don't the Sony benchmarks show that battery life is to a large extent more dependent on the hardware than the O.S? What makes the Sony so much better? Much better batteries & a much power efficient screen? Reply
  • Klimax - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    Drivers and components. Most of OEMs don't put such emphasis on it and thus we see such disparity. Reply
  • Silma - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    Anyways kudos to the Surface team this is a big win for SP2 users.
    Even if battery benchmarks only go so far.
    I'm typing this post on a brand-new Surface 2 & did super intensive things such as import more than 2gb of outlook files & index them, replicate GBs of Skydiver files, setup apps & download & install all windows updates. Play a few HD movies and listen to Xbox music (btw sound is so shockingly loud for such a small device that I'm heavily lowering it, granted in a silent environment). The battery gauge shows 50%, fingers crossed!
    Reply
  • sorten - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    Those are very impressive gains in battery life. I can't wait for the SP3 running on Broadwell. For now I have bought the Dell Venue Pro 8. Reply
  • davepermen - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    if only they had that fix prior to all the reviewers.. but good news anyways. Reply
  • dhenke - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    Where can I download this firmware update? I did a windows update check and it didn't find anything. And I did a Google search and nothing came up. Reply
  • frostyfiredude - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    You may already have it, I believe it came out the 23rd if memory serves. Idle battery life estimates went from 10 to 13 hours overnight I found, which makes sense looking at the changes seen above. Reply
  • ananduser - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    It would have been nice if you had tested the Pro as an ultrabook as well(performance wise and battery wise - light/medium/heavy), since practically being one, and not just as a tablet.

    I am curious...do an active digitizer and a capacitive multitouch capability add to the power draw of the device even when NOT in use ? I always thought that a resistive touchscreen is passive while a capacitive one has an added idle power draw. What say you Anand ?
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Saturday, November 02, 2013 - link

    There is nothing resistive about the touch screens used in the Surface Pro 2 or any current tablet/smartphone in the last ~3 years. It has a capacitive touch screen and an active digitizer screen for the pen. Both have to poll all the time unless you shut them off. Reply
  • ananduser - Sunday, November 03, 2013 - link

    I mentioned the resistive tech as a comparison point. I know the Surface is capacitive. So, that polling indeed has a power draw. But is it significant ? Reply

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