Battery Life

Surface features an integrated 31 Wh battery, which is larger than what’s in the iPad 2 but smaller than what Apple used for the iPad 3.  Charging duties are handled via a 24W power adapter with a custom magnetic connector.

Of all of the aspects of Surface, the charging connector feels like the least well executed. For starters, the connector is quite long – about twice the length of a MagSafe connector. Secondly, the magnets in the connector aren’t all that strong so the attraction to Surface isn’t very confidence inspiring. The third issue is alignment. Because of the 22-degree beveled edge on Surface, you have to approach mating the power connector to the tablet very carefully. More often than not I’d have the connector match up but not fully connect. It usually required a few minor adjustments to get the connector to actually start charging. My final complaint is about the power indicator LED on the connector itself. The LED only glows white and gives no indication of whether or not the device is done charging. Furthermore, it doesn’t even glow all that bright, making it hard to tell in daylight whether the device is even getting power. I’m pleased with virtually all aspects of Surface’s physical design, but the charging port and connector need to be redone for the next generation.

The power adapter itself is larger than the 10 – 15W units you get with most tablets in this price range, but it is also a considerably larger power supply. You can take Surface from completely empty to fully charged in a little over 3 hours hours. You can also get Surface up to 50% power, while using the device, after just over an hour of being plugged in. Microsoft wanted to prioritize real world productivity scenarios where you had a limited amount of time to charge but also needed to use the device. The larger power adapter and not gigantic battery were the right balance to meet those needs.

The power brick features a Windows RT logo, but is otherwise clean. The surface of the adapter is a nice soft touch plastic. The two prongs for US models stow away neatly in the adapter. The power cable is nice and long at around 1.5m. There’s no built in cable management other than a little U to keep the connector attached to the end of the cable.

To measure battery life I put Surface through our 2012 tablet battery life suite. All tests were run with the display calibrated to 200 nits and with Surface, its Touch Cover was attached.

Overall battery life is pretty competitive with the iPad. In lighter use cases Apple pulls ahead slightly, but if you look at our updated web browsing test the heavier CPU load pushes Surface ahead of the third gen iPad. It’s not clear how the 4th gen iPad would stack up in this comparison.

Video playback is also decent for Surface, although Apple manages to pull ahead with the win there as well. The bigger accomplishment is that we’re seeing a Windows device with battery life that’s comparable to other tablets running mobile OSes designed from the ground up.

Microsoft has the right OS platform to be competitive in this space. With some more power efficient hardware I could see a future iteration of Surface moving its way up these charts.

Camera Performance


View All Comments

  • Dev69 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    The current Surface RT price point \functionality exemplifies the Microsoft products stereotype of not purchasing the first version.

    Let the early adopters beware :)
  • frabber - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    too expensive, unless we can see, unlike Apple, price falling after some months, Reply
  • samiur666 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Anand so is it possible to connect the tablet to a TV and stream a movie from netflix or a thumbdrive? I find myself often doing doing with my ASUS Transformer and I see you mentioned some issues with HDMI output but I wasnt sure.

  • WP7Mango - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I'm not Anand but I can answer the question -

    The answer is yes! You can do it via HDMI or wirelessly via DLNA. I think the HDMI issue might be a sync thing, because HDMI output to my Samsung 1080p TV works perfectly.
  • agentbb007 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    This was a really great review thank you Anand! The editors at cnet need to learn a thing or two from you. I got so upset after reading another praise Apple bash MS article on their site I have sworn I will never type that URL in my browser again. Instead I will come to your site to get a true non-biased review of hardware. Reply
  • OldAndBusted - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    "Through two seemingly simple additions to the design (but incredibly complex to actually develop and implement), Microsoft took a tablet and turned it into something much more. "

    It's funny, but those are the exact two features that I care the least about. I don't have one at present, but when I had an iPad, I used it as originally demonstrated by Steve Jobs - in my easy chair in front of my TV. I can't imagine using a tablet as a desktop computer, so the kickstand and keyboard cover just come across as silly to me. Without the kickstand, could Microsoft have made the Surface a millimeter or so thinner?

    That said, I still find myself interested in the Surface. I do wish though, that Microsoft would allow third-parties to skin that start screen, it's ugly. It may work brilliantly, but aesthetically, it's an eyesore. Bright primary colors, monochrome icons, tiny, tiny typeface on the tiles. It's a mess. And the tiles/icons for Office are even crazier. Yes, they've at least added color to the icon within the tile, but the icon is tiny. With the tiny typeface. Just a horrible interface.

    And yet. I think I still want one.
  • kyuu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Can't disagree more. Especially compared to the ugliness of iOS's chiclet app icons on a grid.

    WinRT/8 is definitely the best looking of all the touch-based OSes by far. The last thing MSFT should do is allow OEMs to start screwing with the UI (and introduce performance issues as OEM skinning and bloatware always does).
  • bronopoly - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    This may seem like a silly question, but can I plug the surface into my pc via the surface's USB port? I really wouldn't like transferring something to a usb drive and then transferring it to the surface (even though I can't even do that on my iPad). Reply
  • lhotdeals - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I have always been a fan of Anandtech reviews, this one on one of the most anticipated tablet does not disappoint. This is how reviews are supposed to be done rather than some filled with subjective judgements and unfounded claims. Reply
  • bd1 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    is visual studio available for RT ? Reply

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