Battery Life

Performance isn’t the only benefit that comes with Tegra 4 – NVIDIA and Microsoft also enjoy a smaller/lower power process: TSMC’s 28nm HPL. Of course four high-clocked Cortex A15 cores drives max power consumption higher than on Tegra 3, but idle power consumption and power efficiency at lower clock speeds should be better. As with most present day mobile devices, the move from Surface to Surface 2 comes with an increase in dynamic range of power consumption. I put Surface 2 (as well as Surface RT) through our 2013 tablet/smartphone web browsing battery life test and came away with around 8 hours of use on a single charge. That’s definitely not the lowest power that we’ve seen, but it is an improvement over the 6.8 hours Surface RT managed in the same test.

Web Browsing Battery Life (WiFi)

As with all modern Tegra SoCs there’s one extra “companion” core designed to be used for lower power/performance operation. Unlike under Android, there’s no hot plugging of CPU cores under Windows RT – there are always four Cortex A15s presented to the OS/scheduler, regardless of whether or not the companion core is active. Microsoft tells me the companion core is used on Surface 2 (unlike its predecessor), however specifics are tough to come by. Microsoft claims the companion core is used during full screen video playback. The only thing I can think of is that the hardware migrates the companion core in under certain circumstances, taking the place of one of the four A15s, and software specifically sets processor affinity in this case. I tried confirming whether or not this was the case by playing a movie and inspecting the process under task manager, unfortunately I came up empty handed. The video playback process wasn’t set to run on any one core in particular, it was allowed to run on all four exposed cores.

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

However it’s used, the impact seems to work relatively well. Surface 2 managed just over 10 hours of battery life in our video playback test. It’s not the best we’ve seen in this test, but it’s definitely competitive with other flagship devices.


Surface 2 ships with Windows RT 8.1, and similarly absorbs all of the improvements that 8.1 brought to x86 machines as well. A number of ARM specific optimizations are under the hood, which should help improve both performance and power consumption.

The biggest issue with Surface 2 remains on the software front. Developer support for Windows Store applications is no where near where I thought it would be by now. There are some big ones (Netflix, Facebook), but there’s still no good Twitter client, no amazing IM client, and of course you don’t get good integration of Google services anywhere (outside of leveraging Mail for Gmail access).

Without opening up classic desktop APIs to developers, we won’t see alternative web browsers like Chrome or Firefox on Windows RT 8.1 either. Although IE11 does a relatively good job on the touch front, I find that heavy multitasking with IE11 on Surface 2 can result in a lot of hangs and crashes within tabs or the application itself. I can understand Microsoft’s hesitation on this front (better control over the platform if you don’t open it up), but I can’t see a future where Windows RT is successful and Microsoft doesn’t allow developers to access both sides of the platform.

SoC, CPU & Performance Final Words


View All Comments

  • trip1ex - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    Eh I don't see people clamoring for small tablet screen with a mediocre keyboard just so they can use Office. I don't see people wanting Windows on their tablet either. They want to ditch Windows as much they want to ditch the cable company.

    I think tablets are misunderstood my most still.
  • kyuu - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    You're right: tablets are misunderstood by most. Apple and Google have fooled people into thinking tablets should be oversized smartphones. Microsoft instead presents WinRT, which offers much more functionality than iOS or Android, and all people can focus on is the app store selection, which is the one and only point iOS and Android have over WinRT. Reply
  • DocForker - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    I love my gen 1 surface RT with 8.1 and can't wait for the Surface 2! I run apps side by side - the new Facebook is great, or I can have twitter in one panel and browse the web in the other half. OneNote that syncs between my phone, my wifes phone and my surface and my home and work desktops is amazing. Being able to edit a Word doc on my desk and then have it show up immediately in my recent list of Office Docs on the surface is awesome. Sending YouTube video (or streaming audio) from an IE browser window (using the devices charm) to my XBOX and having it play full screen high definition on my 60" plasma - all while browsing Facebook or reading the news and tracking Twitter is just something I don't think you can do anyplace else. What about playing Halo Spartan Assault on the surface and then sending it to the TV - and hooking up an XBOX controller and a Bluetooth headset. Or hooking up an external monitor with Word & Excel running on it - giving that to a person with wireless keyboard & mouse to work homework on and then having a second person playing a touch game wordament on the surface itself? Try that on an iPad or Chromebook or android tablet.

    I think the problems with most of these reviewers is that they just don't know what these devices are capable of. They are so locked in to a restrictive IOS ecosystem that they fail to see the possibilities with these Surface tablets.
  • InspectHerGadget - Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - link

    You hit the nail on the head but then the restrictive iOS system does all they want so obviously they're not going out to buy an XBOX, a Windows 8 Desktop, a Windows 8 Phone then a Surface and then learn to tie it all together when they probably have AppleTV, iPad, iPhone and possibly a Mac in the house. Once you get into an ecosystem then I would say it really doesn't matter which one it is. iOS has a huge head start in this area so Microsoft have to pull out the stops to catch up and it isn't easy to get people to switch if they're happy with what they've got. Reply
  • ElBurro - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    "but there’s still no good Twitter client, no amazing IM client, and of course you don’t get good integration of Google services anywhere (outside of leveraging Mail for Gmail access)."

    I hope you realize that in Microsoft is trying to eliminate the desktop especially for ARM. There is not much chance of the Win32 API opening up. In fact for it maybe shut down completely for Windows 10 or Windows 11 even for the pro versions of the OS.
  • ElBurro - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    oops sorry I meant to put this quote
    "but I can’t see a future where Windows RT is successful and Microsoft doesn’t allow developers to access both sides of the platform
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - link

    "It wasn’t too long ago that Microsoft was charging hundreds of dollars for new OS revisions, but with Apple and Google redefining what users come to expect from both cost and frequency of OS updates, Microsoft had to change."
    Isn't 8.1 more of a service pack than a new OS revision? And MS has never charged for those.
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - link

    Funny how much lower fps we're getting in the offscreen tests knowing that both are rendered at 1080p... Says a lot about the reliability of that benchmark. What's that overhead from? Reply
  • Tarrant64 - Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - link

    There were statements about a new 2nd-gen charge for the Surface 2 but I have yet to see any pictures of what those changes are. It seems everything else was covered but it was hyped briefly that it would be worth buying. I'm curious if it is, because I hate my current charger. Any chance the article(s) can be updated to show the specific changes there? Reply
  • bull2760 - Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - link

    Just purchased my Surface 2 and LOVE IT! I did previously own the 1st gen Surface RT but I sold it on Graigs list when I saw this one being released. 2nd generation is much faster at loading everying thing. Almost as fast as you click them the office suite apps open, big difference right off the bat between the 1st gen. Now that it includes Outlook you really can't beat this device for easy travel allowing you to take your work along with you. The new back lit TYPE keyboard is awesome. Way more responsive than the touch keyboard I sold with my old RT. I added a sandisk 64GB microSD and now I have 128GB of storage built in. I carry this around with me in the office as I work on employee computers so that I can answer email on the fly. Could not be happier with the purchase absolutely love the new Surface 2. Reply

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