Laptop Performance

Just like with battery life, we need to evaluate the performance of Surface Pro 3 as both a laptop and a tablet. As a laptop, Surface Pro 3 delivers performance comparable to other Ultrabooks of similar specs - assuming we're talking about short bursts of performance. In prolonged workloads you'll see a bit of a gap, and even a slight regression vs. Surface Pro 2 due to the thermal design targets for the new chassis.

With the exception of the Work suite in PCMark 8 v2, we're mostly looking at performance in the range of a 13-inch MacBook Air - the prototypical Haswell ULT notebook. Surface Pro 3 is definitely in good performance company. In the Work suite however the MacBook Air (running Windows) is able to deliver around 16% better performance than Surface Pro 3. I'm guessing this has to do with thermals more than anything else.

Cinebench R11.5 - Single-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Multi-Threaded Benchmark


PCMark 8 - Home

PCMark 8 - Creative

PCMark 8 - Work

PCMark 7 (2013)

We see a similar story if we look at GPU performance:

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark 11

In terms of playable games, with some tweaking to detail settings you should be able to average 30 fps in titles like Dota 2. Running at the panel's native resolution is generally out of the question but for lighter titles on Steam like Transistor, you can have a reasonable experience. The higher end Core i7 Surface Pro 3 does ship with Intel's HD 5000 graphics instead of HD 4400 in the Core i5 review sample I tested. It's entirely possible that we see better gaming performance or thermal management (more EUs at lower voltage) in that design.

Just like in previous designs, Surface Pro 3 integrates a SATA SSD (likely M.2 this time). In this case Microsoft uses an OEM version of Samsung's SSD 840 EVO, a 3-bit-per-cell MLC design that we've found to be a pretty good value. I am disappointed we didn't see a move to PCIe storage but for general use I doubt there's much value in it. PCMark 8 v2's storage test isn't particularly stressful but it does show that Surface Pro 3's SSD is at least competitive with its predecessor and the MBA despite moving to TLC NAND.

PCMark 8 - Storage

Display Analysis Tablet & WiFi Performance


View All Comments

  • dupawow - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    Great review! Can't wait till i get mine. Reply
  • drmyfore - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    Surface Pro 3 / 800g (+295g TypeCover=1095g)
    Macbook Air 11 / 1.08kg
    Macbook Air 13 / 1.35kg

    Surface Pro 3 / 2160*1440
    Macbook Air 11 / 1366*768
    Macbook Air 13 / 1440*900

    Surface Pro 3 / 9.1mm (4.8mm TypeCover=13.9mm)
    Macbook Air 11 / 17mm
    Macbook Air 13 / 17mm

    Surface Pro 3 / 9H
    Macbook Air 11 / 9H
    Macbook Air 13 / 12H

    Why not compare with Air 11?
  • dylan522p - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    Because it is luster in terms of screen size and real estate. Reply
  • dylan522p - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    Bigger* Reply
  • rodolfcarver - Friday, October 3, 2014 - link

    It sure is an fantastic tablet. For work, I don't see how you could get anything better (but for other things there are, see ). I've had mine for a couple of weeks and couldn't be more pleased. Reply
  • bestllc - Monday, July 8, 2019 - link

    Thanks for Your writing i found them interesting
  • MarcSP - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    Then, why compare it with the even bigger MBA13? :-] Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - link

    Bigger? By what? Oh, pretty much nothing. Reply
  • basroil - Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - link

    "Bigger? By what? Oh, pretty much nothing."

    I suggest you pull out a calculator and do the math, that 2" increase is a 40% increase in area!

    With 40% more area you get a hell of a lot more room to dissipate heat and that much larger battery (54W vs 38W). When comparing surface pro's 7.58 hour life to the 13" MBA the difference is only 22% despite a 29% decrease in battery size (both on windows, . Compared to the 11" MBA (about 8.5hours on OSX) the SP3 should be very competitive, and should last substantially longer in heavy use tasks.
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - link

    You are also comparing a laptop to a convertible. Not really in the same category. The SP3 kicks the MBA's ass IMO. Reply

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