GPU Performance

The Surface 3 with the Atom x7-Z8700 pairs the Intel Gen 8 Graphics from Broadwell with the Airmont CPU cores of Atom. Unlike the Broadwell cores though, the Surface 3 SoC only has 16 execution units (EUs) as compared to 24 in Core M. The maximum frequency is also reduced to 600 MHz for these cores, as compared to up to 900 MHz in Core M. This is all necessary to keep the x7-8700 in the 2 watt SDP.

So performance will be a step back compared to Core M, but really this should be no surprise. The interesting comparison will be how it compares to Surface Pro 3 with Haswell Gen 7.5 graphics and of course to Bay Trail equipped tablets.

We will start with some synthetic tests and then move on to DOTA 2 to see how it performs on a real world game.

3DMark Tablet

3DMark 1.2 Unlimited - Overall

3DMark 1.2 Unlimited - Graphics

3DMark 1.2 Unlimited - Physics

The GPU upgrade is a big improvement over the ASUS T100's Bay Trail graphics, but the Atom GPU still can not compete with the fastest tablet SoCs out there.

3DMark Notebook

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark 11

Comparing the Surface 3 to PC class hardware puts it in a pretty poor light when looking at GPU performance. Our 3DMark tests have the Surface Pro 3 with the Core i3 on average 40% faster than Surface 3. Comparing it to the Dell Venue 11 Pro with Core M, we find the Core M GPU is on average 47% faster, which is quite a gap. Let’s not forget though that the Surface 3 is a mere 2 watt SDP, whereas Core M is a 4.5 W TDP and the Haswell-Y in Surface Pro 3 is an 11.5 W TDP.

GFXBench Tablet (OpenGL)

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan (Offscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex HD (Offscreen)

As with the 3DMark scores, the GPU upgrade is significant, but still a ways back of the best tablet GPUs out there. Intel still has some work to do on this front.

GFXBench Notebook (DirectX)

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench 3.0 Alpha Blending Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench 3.0 ALU Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench 3.0 Driver Overhead Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench 3.0 Fill Rate Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench 3.0 Render Quality (High Precision)

GFXBench 3.0 Render Quality (Medium)

We see a similar story with GFXBench on the notebook side. The 16 EUs in our Atom SoC just cannot compete against the larger and faster GPUs in Core.

Moving on to a real-world game, we use a custom DOTA 2 benchmark for our lower powered devices. It is a very popular battle-arena game, and the GPU requirements are not too demanding.

DOTA 2 Value

The GPU in the Surface 3 is really not enough to play most games, and even on our value settings, the Surface 3 is not a great experience for DOTA 2. The higher TDP of Core M lets it do ok in this test, but overall the Surface 3 is a long way back of even the Surface Pro 3 Core i3.

Storage Performance

Like most tablets, the Surface 3 utilizes eMMC storage rather than the SSD storage found on higher priced laptops and Core M tablets. It costs less, it is less complex, and it works. So expectations are that it will not be able to compete with the fastest solutions out there. But as a tablet, workloads should be less complex, at least in theory.

Unfortunately Microsoft shipped me the 64 GB version of the tablet, and due to PCMark 8 requiring a large amount of free space in order to perform its tests, it was unable to be run on this device. But we have run into this issue in the past, and we can turn to a couple of other tools to get a feel for how the storage performance is. Even though eMMC is slower than a good SSD, there is still different levels of performance based on the NAND in use and the controller.

I ran CrystalDiskMark over a 4 GB span and the results are below.

Surface 3 eMMC Storage (left) vs Surface Pro 3 Core i3 SSD (right)

Compared to a true SSD, the eMMC performance leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, most of the time when I was using the tablet and I found it slow, such as installing software, or loading programs, it was mostly disk bound. There are faster eMMC options available, but I will refrain from comparing it to other tablets since we do not have the same benchmarking tools for both.

System Performance Display
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  • MrTetts - Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - link

    The IPad is ALWAYS going to be an inferior product regardless of use case.

    1. For video/media consumption - you would have access to more media players, more content markets (than just the itunes store) and simply more choice overall.

    2. For media/content creation - You do not even have this option (or intergrated well enough) on an IPad.

    3. Basic office duties - We can all agree that any office applications on an IPad would be very watered down and frankly quite useless. If you have to buy a keyboard to access an application properly on an ipad, then my friend, I have news for you... your use case clearly aligns you to a surface 3.

    An IPad is no where near up to par. You are getting a very big IPod Touch for your money. Don't give in to the marketing from Apple telling you you can be productive on an IPad.
    Reply
  • zhenya00 - Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - link

    No, just no. I could make a list 3 times as long as yours detailing the ways that an iPad is superior to any Windows tablet. And I own several iPads and two Surface Pros. Frankly I'm just tired of having to counteract this kind of FUD. Reply
  • romprak - Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - link

    I have 3 iPads at home (first gen, 3rd gen, and Air) - and his list seems quite accurate to me. One reason I've started transitioning our children after they are 6 years old to Surfaces and/or Macs. I am a little sad at how much money we've wasted on iPads, I certainly will not be doing that any longer.

    With our Macs and Surfaces, the children are actually learning how to do stuff and not be passive observers.
    Reply
  • lolstebbo - Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - link

    The only mental block I'm having right now is does Microsoft even have some sort of equivalent to iMovie? That's the one thing on the Mac side that I don't have a Windows-compatible equivalent for. Reply
  • lilmoe - Monday, May 4, 2015 - link

    Better performance is arguable. Your mileage may very when it comes to battery life too. It's not only about the keyboard, it's what you can do with that keyboard (IE: iOS VS full Windows, and there's not comparison there). With Windows 10, it's practically game over when it comes to value.

    It's the other way around. The iPad, and other Android tablets (I'm looking at you Samsung), should be priced way less if we're talking "value".
    Reply
  • pedromcm.pm - Monday, May 4, 2015 - link

    No. The iPad has better screen, apps designed for that screen, a much superior touch-based ecosystem, better SoC performance, 4g option, better battery life and so on. And people buy it because it doesn't run windows, too... It runs something else that is fun, simpler, and does the job, most of the time.

    Still, i hope that with force touch Apple brings a superior pen-based solution. Because of the mentioned qualities, if the iPad adds what is seen as the surface and note line greatest advantages, it will be the equivalent of iPhones and bigger screens.
    Reply
  • ultrAV - Monday, May 4, 2015 - link

    "apps designed for that scren" what do u mean, are you compare ios to android tablet?
    4g option is available for surface 3 too
    Reply
  • BlueBomberTurbo - Monday, May 4, 2015 - link

    Better screen? Might want to read over the Display section again...

    Considering the lightweight OS, it's no wonder the iPad has better performance. Try running OS X on there and see what happens.

    The Surface 3 will also have a 4G option soon, just not at launch.

    And Windows 10 will be able to run fun and simpler apps from iOS and Android, and apps that always get the job done from Windows. ;)
    Reply
  • pSupaNova - Monday, May 4, 2015 - link

    Please guys this tablet can not compare itself to an IPad or Android in the tablet space.
    Simple things like finding good replacement soft keyboards are severly lacking in the Metro store.

    The performance of the atom is getting better as the GPU has vastly improved but cannot still match last years top tablets.

    As for Full windows use your better off just getting a laptop, the included digitizer is a very good addition but thats a niche field at best.

    Microsoft need to drastically lower the price of this tablet if they want it too succeed or throw in the touch cover and pen.

    And trying to intice Android and IOS developers is just showing how lacking Windows store is.
    Reply
  • Lesliestandifer - Monday, May 4, 2015 - link

    I have an iPad can't really compare windows to iOS or android. When I want do some reading in bed I reach for my tablet when I want to do some real work I get my pc. Both iOS and android flourished because they were cheap quick n easy and there was really no Windows alternative with equivalent specs and power. No one said the windows store was awesome I also had a windows phone it sucks.tablets have always left me wanting to be able to do more. iPads are significantly underpowered and still don't multitask properly! Now with the opportunity to get rid of the iPad\laptop and run it from one device ....yes I will be doing that when the SP4 comes out. Reply

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