The Surface 3 Reviewby Brett Howse on May 4, 2015 9:00 AM EST
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
Post Your CommentPlease log in or sign up to comment.
View All Comments
ingwe - Monday, May 4, 2015 - linkThis definitely looks interesting. If they would lower the price a bit or use faster storage, I would almost certainly buy.
hughlle - Monday, May 4, 2015 - linkAgree. As a device it is very compelling especially at that price point (i paid £480 for a 64gb ipad air 2 which could do pretty much nothing), however i'd only want one for the full functionality, and once you've paid out for that, it becomes quite a big argument as to whether you just pay the little more and go for the i3 sp3.
stefstef - Thursday, May 7, 2015 - linkno need to be unhappy. used apple hardware goes like hell on ebay. you might surely get a good price for it.
jim32 - Thursday, May 7, 2015 - linkI plan selling my iPad Air and getting the Surface 3 when the LTE version comes out. I need to wipe the dust from the iPad first though.
hughlle - Monday, May 18, 2015 - linkSold it a week later and took a 100 pound hit. 20% depreciation in a week is hardly good retention of value in my mind,
houkoholic - Monday, May 18, 2015 - linkIt's relative - with Android kit you usually lose 40%, and in 6 months more than 70%. So 20% is actually very good.
JRX16 - Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - linkOne week or 6 doesn't make much difference here. It would still be 20% which is excellent for anything used. What makes a difference is how close it is to the next release. It's not like a car with mileage, time of use doesn't make a big difference in price on these things. Condition does.
jaydee - Monday, May 4, 2015 - linkMy sentiments exactly. I feel there's a very small number of people who "need" a tablet/laptop all-in-one and are willing to sacrifice the best of either world, for an average tablet/mediocre laptop. I might be generous calling it an average tablet, just because of the lack of apps compared to android and Apple. If you're not going to hit at an attractive price point, then I'm not sure of your expectations.
With the $600 model, plus type cover and dock pushing $930 plus tax, why not an HP Spectre x360 8GB/256GB for $999? Is the portability, really worth giving up that much CPU/SSD speed, and RAM/SSD capacity, better keyboard and larger screen?
deathwombat - Monday, May 4, 2015 - linkLack of apps? It runs Windows! It runs about 8 billion apps written between 1995 and 2015. There is no large library of apps for any tablet.
smorebuds - Monday, May 4, 2015 - linkIkr. I just want to run my legacy Windows programs on a 10" screen using just my fingers. Can't do that on my sucky Samsung and Apple tablets. Who needs modern touch-friendly interfaces anyway...