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

  • WP7Mango - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    No. That's what the Surface Pro is for. Reply
  • tzhu07 - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    If I were to buy a tablet today, I'll still take the iPad for the most widespread support. Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    So what's up with the Windows RT review? Really looking forward to it, but it's a day+ late now (at least I thought I saw that it was supposed to be up later the same day of the Surface review). =( Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    So what's up with the Windows RT review? Really looking forward to it, but it's a day+ late now (at least I thought I saw that it was supposed to be up later the same day of the Surface review). =( Reply
  • simbadogg - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    I believe on microsofts spec/surface page they said it was a proprietary connection for HDMI / video out. Is this a standard micro HDMI connector? If so what type (C, D?). Just wanting to know if there can actually be other cables used other than the standard microsoft cable. Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Windows RT reminds me so much of XP x64. I think that the next full release/update of RT will be a lot better than this one. I think by then it'll become clear that apps launching slowly and overall lethargic performance is part of what Jobs KNEW was an important component of having a slick, awesome device.

    Your device has to "feel" fast in order for users to think it's fast. It may not be actually fast, but they have to feel like it is. Every review says the same thing. "It's great, it's different, I really like it, I want to love it, but it's so slow..."

    It feels slow because the transitions are slow and the design was not built around tricking the user into thinking it's faster than it is. The whole iOS core started around doing this very thing. Tricking the user into thinking slow hardware was fast with clever use of transitions and design.

    It seems like MS did not learn this lesson. Hell, it was in the Jobs biography. Perhaps they should read more.
  • antef - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Anand, you mention having to double-press or long-press to switch apps on other platforms, but that's not the case with Android in general, only with the new Samsung and LG phones. The other manufacturers rightly went with the Google standard of including a dedicated button for app switching, so it's one press to bring up a list with thumbnails and another press to go to the app you want. I don't think MS's implementation is any better than that. This is the issue with most people using Samsung's and LG's poor designs and not realizing Android is better elsewhere. Of course, Windows RT still wins when it comes to side-by-side mode. Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    A few reviews complained about using the stand on a lap or any non-level surface being unsteady, with the touch cover you can flip it back half way and then have the stand resting on THAT rather than your lap. That should be much more stable as it now has a level surface and much more surface area. Reply
  • pblock - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Thank you for a wonderful, comprehensive review. However, at our office, most of the talk is wondering if the Surface will be usable on your lap. Does the stand work on your lap, or is it too awkward? And what about each of the keyboard covers? Most of us who use laptops rarely place them on a table or desk but instead are using them on the couch or in an easy chair. Reply
  • techenthu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    It has a USB port . Can i use a data card with this?
    I am sure carriers need some installation before use the data card . So i was wondering if surface will allow using the data card

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