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.

Software

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
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  • Braumin - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    I'd say this is almost the perfect device then. The app situation is not as good as iOS obviously, but most people want email, facebook, twitter, and a browser. Maybe a couple others. This will do all of that well without any of the virus worries, and it'll do other stuff really well too. Reply
  • paulbram - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    EXACTLY! It seems like everyone who reviews these types of devices assumes it was built for the techiest of techies. In reality, this is the "PC" that could probably serve 99% of the people out there. You can't mess it up, and really offers you exactly what you are already doing on your old PC. This is an argument that no other ecosystem can offer, including full Win8/IOS or Android. RT is not a weakness people! It's exactly what I want to give to every one of my relatives! Reply
  • savagemike - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    Actually I'm pretty sure you could do those things with an iPad quite easily and also have not much to worry about in the way of virus issues or maintenance.
    You could also do all of it with a Chromebook if you aren't actually looking for a tablet interface and just want to do e-mail, facebook, twitter, and browser. And again - have few worries about virus issues or maintenance.
    Reply
  • eanazag - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    You can't do real Office on Chromebook or iOS. I am not a fan of google docs. iOS still sucks when it comes to Office. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Yep, can't do real office, no file system on iOS, and iOS doesn't support external monitors and mice (and only kinda-sorta supports key boards). Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    No, not being able to install any regular software is a huge problem for 99% of mankind. In essence Windows RT reduces the capabilities of the device to Office and Web and media consumption. Android and IOS do not suffer from the same problem because they both have a decent store where good applications can be found for a decent price while the Windows store really is a buzzkill. Reply
  • ESC2000 - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    For one thing the app selection is drastically improved now compared to a year ago but also web and media consumption are the primary uses of tablets so I'm not so sure being limited to that is so terrible, especially considering the advantages that surface 2 brings: it can actually replace the laptop and tablet of a casual user since it offers the desktop and office (fir free no less). The apps, 99.99% of which are probably downloaded by less than 10 people, will come. If you're a specialty user or a power user, surface 2 is not for you but the vast majority of people are not, and this is a cheap (rather than buying a laptop) aesthetically-pleasing device that can serve all their needs.

    Now that I'm thinking about it the price on this thing is pretty good. .. you can get it for less than an ipad which has very limited functionality in comparison (basically = large ipod touch). Granted you probably want the 64 GB - although it accommodates external storage - and the keyboard, which makes it less reasonable.
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    iOS and Android are still terrible compared with real Windows, and no amount of "apps" replaces Office and a real file system and the ability to use an external mouse, keyboard, and monitor. Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    I feel you. My grandpa grandpa manages to install that crap faster than you can say "don't do that!" over and over again... Not even the usual anti-crapware software helps. However Win RT is not a cure since it doesn't allow him to install his MUST HAVE 1000+ best card games... and since the store is *really* slim on cardgames. Reply
  • kyuu - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    What the heck kind of esoteric card games is he playing that you can't find an app on the Windows Store? Reply

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