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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  • sri_tech - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    What Google services you think are better than Microsoft services? I don't understand the fascination towards these chromebooks.

    1. Google docs are wannabe MS Office which does not have the most of the functionality and not compatible with many peripherals.

    2. Outlook.com is very good email client and in addition Outlook for work related things.
    Can't you access the gmail from browser? If you need app for everything what is the point of all the browser tests that you guys do in every review.
    You can pin the gmail.com to the start screen and with just a tap, you will be in gmail. That is how everyone using them on laptops right?

    3. Skydrive is very good and has all the features and more cross platform than Google drive.

    4. Skype is integrated into the OS which is more widely used than any Google equivalent.

    5. Can you use chromebooks as tablets? Does chromebooks have touchscreens?

    6. All the bing apps like news, finance, travel, weather are not useful?

    I expect better from you guys.
    Reply
  • noeldillabough - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    I have a huge problem with skydrive; although this might not apply to these tablets, but if you want to use it you must log in with your Microsoft account. If you're on a domain and login with your domain credentials and click on skydrive in 8.1, it prompts you to switch to a connected account.

    Unfortunately this renders Skydrive completely useless. I'd be fine if I could add my Microsoft account in and still log in with the domain account but you can't anymore. Maybe an oversight.
    Reply
  • sri_tech - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    A Microsoft service needs Microsoft account. So does all other services from all companies.

    I don't understand your second point.
    Reply
  • noeldillabough - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    The issue is in windows 8 you could enter your Microsoft account information for SkyDrive without having to switch your login account to a connected account. Now its forced and if you have a corporate device logging in with your Microsoft account won't be allowed. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Yep. Microsoft has ironically killed support for Skydrive on Windows 8.1. Reply
  • dustwalker13 - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    yes it is a bit annoying that you can not change the account, since it has been integrated so deeply with the system now. but actually i do not mind all that much. what it means in the end is that my own devices are synced with my account, and should i need data from another account i can:

    1. share them and access them this way
    2. login to the other account via the browser

    so actually that is a nonexistant problem once you think about it and a logical solution for microsoft as they save all the important settings on skydrive for your devices and thererfor of course want you to be connected to your account at least on that level.
    Reply
  • althaz - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    His issue (mine as well) is that when you are at work, your domain account should automatically count as a Microsoft account. I don't want to login with my home MS account to do work stuff, that would a) jumble my shit together and b) not make sense. Currently I get around it by having a second microsoft account, but that's a super-long way away from ideal. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    If you're on a domain it means business and the business should ALSO provide you with the Outlook.com account. At no point should you realistically be using YOUR OWN personal account on the business machine. Reply
  • cjb110 - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    Yea, at most you should be able to share (given your security guys allows you) your business data with external untrusted accounts (which your personal one is). Reply
  • FredyHandanovic - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    My Uncle Andrew just got a nearly new red Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan by work part-time using a lap-top. look at here now http://goo.gl/dXg26D Reply

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