WiFi Performance

Microsoft made an unusual choice for Surface’s WiFi hardware, it uses a Marvell AVASTAR dual-band MIMO (2x2) 802.11n wireless network controller (88W8797?). Marvell tends to be one of the more cost effective players in the industry which could help explain Microsoft’s choice.

Despite the rarely used silicon, WiFi range on Surface is quite good. Subjectively I was able to hold on to 2.4GHz signals at greater distances than I could on both the 3rd gen iPad, ASUS’ Transformer Pad Infinity and even compared to the VivoTab RT based on some short time I had with the device. Surface also maintains good distances on 5GHz however the performance drop offs are far more significant.

The sweet spot for Surface’s WiFi appears to be around 40 feet away from an AP, with minimal obstructions (doors/walls are fine). Within this range in my testing I was able to maintain speeds of around 20 – 40Mbps. Add another 20 or so feet and you’ll see performance cut in half again.

Although range is good on Surface, at the outer edges of coverage you’re looking at 2 – 4Mbps, which is only really enough for casual web browsing.

The only real downside to Surface’s WiFi performance is its peak performance. I wasn’t able to get beyond 42Mbps when copying files to the device from a local server on the network. It’s possible that I was limited by some file sharing protocol overhead, but without a good suite of network performance tools for Windows RT it was the best I could do for now.

A Plethora of Ports and Storage Options Camera


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  • enealDC - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Any takers?? Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Early adopter = heartburn. Reply
  • daar - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Been using an Thinkpad X41 tablet for ages at work, will probably pick this up to replace it. I mean, this thing does have pen input yes? I didn't see much mention of it in the review. Missing a few benchmarks as well, which is kind of a shame as the Surface is the one of the most interesting computing device put out in the last while.

    Also would like to ask who makes the actual panel? I recall AT used to note this in reviews in the past but not as of late, I don't think I even saw mention of it in the iphone 5 review.
  • gardocki - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    No pen input on the Surface RT, just on the Surface for Win 8 Pro, which will likely be about twice the cost and won't be released for another 90 days Reply
  • gcoupe - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I don't think this is correct. If you look at the "Help me choose" document published by Microsoft, then they state that "Capacitive pens available for purchase".

    True, these aren't active pens, with pressure sensitivity, but as far as I'm aware, WinRT will have handwriting recognition.

    It would be good to get some confirmation of this though, and a measure of whether it is as good as the handwriting recognition in Windows 8.
  • This Guy - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    All capacitive touch screens work with capacitive pens. In my experience capacitive pens write like crayons.

    Running an older tablet with a worse input array I have perceived capacitive hand writting recognition on win 8 as being quicker and more accurate compared to win 7. That said, I still find it painfully slow compared to the on-screen keyboard.

    So yes, Surface RT supports capacitive pens, but the experience of capacitive pens is generally so poor on other devices most people don't consider them as pen inputs.
  • nagi603 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Capacitive pen compared to an active pen is like comparing a baby tricycle and a jet airplane. Not even in the same league. But unless you have tried something remotely like the latter, you won't even know that.

    Trust me as someone who has actually tried both and has been using a wacom pen for years: throw that capacitive pen out the window!
  • SleepyFE - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Most interesting computing device?????

    It's just a small laptop with all it's guts stuck in a poorly cooled space behind the screen.
  • owned66 - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    ummm .... ?
    this is windows RT
    its using an ARM cpu
  • SleepyFE - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    I know it runs on ARM, does that not make it a laptop, is a server using ARM not a server?
    No matter how u spin it, it either a tablet (of which there are many and 99.9% use ARM) or it's a laptop with less power and less headroom (regarding cooling).
    Thankfully a week laptop is at least sort of useful, but paying 100$ extra to get the keyboard? No thanks!!

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