Surface Pro 4 Battery Life Benchmarks

15
How To: Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues

So, the Surface has been out for about 7 weeks as I write this and I finally managed to get all of my data together to do some real-life Surface Pro 4 battery life benchmarks. Part of this delay was to give Microsoft a chance to address some ongoing battery issues with the November Update which was released in mid-November.

I’ve done this type of testing for previous Surface models and many people have found it much more useful and accurate than synthetic benchmarks created by battery testing software (which many reviewers use).

So, let’s get to the test results…

Surface Pro 4 Battery Life: Benchmarks

Here are the results for all three SP4 CPU models (m3, i5, i7). For these tests, in the interest of scientific rigor, my testing procedure was as follows (unless noted otherwise in a specific section):

  • The m3 SP4 had 4GB or RAM and a 128GB SSD
  • The i5 and i7 SP4s and 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSDs.
  • The Surfaces were all patched up as of November 15th (and included the November Update).
  • The Surfaces were not updated during the test sequence (to keep the patch level consistent throughout the tests).
  • The tests were run 6 times for each model and averaged to get the results below.
  • The devices were fully recharged and restarted before each test run.
  • The default “Balanced” power plan was used on each device.
  • Screen brightness was set to “Suggested”.
  • The devices were used until the critical battery action put them into hibernate at 3% remaining capacity. All low power messages were ignored.
  • None of the three devices I tested seemed to suffer from any issues or bugs that caused premature battery drain.
  • If I got an “outlier” result (such as the battery only running half as long during a single test), it was discarded and a new run was performed.
  • Results were rounded to the nearest minute.

Now that you know what my testing procedure was like, let’s move onto the actual benchmarks…

Surface Pro 4 Battery Life: Normal Use

In this scenario, I tested a “normal use” scenario. Basically, I used the Surfaces to do things like web surfing, blogging, editing pictures, light graphics work, email, Facebook, streaming videos, etc. In other words, I basically just used them to work and web surf like any normal day.

I let the SP4s turn off the screen and sleep normally when I wasn’t using them, but I did not power them off or press the power button to sleep them manually.

This graph shows minutes of battery life during normal use, including when sleeping:

surface pro 4 battery life

All three tablets would have made it through a normal 8-hour work day but, the m3 model would have just barely squeaked by at 7 hours and 54 minutes. By comparison, the i5 model gave me, on average, 10 hours and 4 minutes of life

This graph shows the total battery life while the Surfaces were actually powered on and in use (not including sleep):

surface pro 4 battery life

You might be surprised how poorly the m3 version did with this test. At 376 minutes (6 hours, 16 minutes) of average total run time, it had a battery life that was even less than the average for the i7 version. However, nothing was wrong with the test. It seems that the m3 version of the SP4 is simply less efficient than the other models.

If you try these tests yourself, the results will vary depending on the types of software you run, power settings, and how often you let your Surface go to sleep. I tend to let my let my Surfaces sleep about 30% of the time during the day and I don’t tend to run high-intensity apps like Mathematica, Lightroom, or Lumion. Inversely, I do often run several web browser windows at once and I often have MS Paint and/or Excel running in the background; so, I am taxing the CPU a little bit, just not a lot.

Surface Pro 4 Battery Life: Streaming

For this test, I fired up the Netflix app and simply played back to back videos until the battery was exhausted. There were minimal gaps between videos (sometimes I had to deal with the “are you still watching” prompts). this test does a good job of simulating being on a long flight and passing the time by streaming movies. I did the same thing with YouTube (in Chrome).

The results are as follows:

surface pro 4 battery life

Correction: The original graph for this section was incorrect. The m3 data was good but, the data for the i5 and i7 models were from a different test that I decided not to use (powered on, doing nothing). The graph above is the corrected version. The other graphs were double-checked and are correct.

As you can see, the m3 model once again is lagging behind the i5 model but, has a slight edge on the i7 model. Streaming from the net uses Wi-Fi quite a bit but it shouldn’t be a huge tax on the CPU; so the m3, in theory, should have an advantage.

It also seems that the Netflix app is a little more efficient than YouTube on Chrome, which is not really a surprise.

Surface Pro 4 Battery Life: Gaming

For this test, I fired up SP4 is lacking) but they are still pretty good and it draws each spacecraft component separately which adds to the CPU load.

Here are my results:

Surface Book vs Surface Pro 4 Battery - SP4 Gaming

The m3 finally outperformed the i5 and i7 for battery duration. However, even though the battery lasted longer, it was much more painful to play KSP on the m3 than the others.

Often, I would have framerates in the single digits when I had more than one small spacecraft on screen. The i5 was quite playable most of the time (but would lag if I had a lot of objects on screen) and the i7 version played pretty smoothly no matter what I had on screen (up to the point I put a monster space station with 628 individual parts in orbit, anyway).

Funny enough, if you look at my post on the Surface Pro 4 for this test but that’s probably because the SP3 has a battery with a larger capacity.

Surface Pro 4 BatteryLife: Recharging

While depleting the battery is usually more fun, how quickly you can recharge your SP4 is pretty important, as well. So, here are the results of my testing where I recharged the SP4 models from 3% back up to 100%. The tablets were not in use during the charge cycles:

Surface Book vs Surface Pro 4 Battery - SP4 Recharge

This time, the result is pretty much a draw as all three versions recharge in a little over 2 hours and 30 minutes. Since the m3 version of the SP4 comes with a 24W charger (as opposed to the 36W version that comes with the i5 and i7 versions), I was a bit surprised by this result.

Surface Pro 4 Battery Life: Conclusion

So, according to the marketing folks, the low-end m3 version of the SP4 should have the best battery life. Unfortunately, it clearly doesn’t. I poked around online looking for other SP4 m3 battery reviews and it seems that SP4 that was pretty similar to mine. This makes me think that my testing wasn’t flawed and that there’s something wrong with the m3 equipped SP4 when it comes to power management.

Overall, the i5 version seems to do the best job of managing battery life and, as a bonus, it has more computing power than the m3 model. So, if you want the best battery life from your Surface Pro 4, opt for one of the i5 models.

Tim


15 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Tim
    First thanks for the testing I’ve waited for this test. Now I hope that you are able to help me. My Surface i5 4gb model gets only about 4-6h out of the battery. I’m using it for note taking in class and some browsing. Most of the time my brightness is at 25% since that is enough. My battery settings are in a custom eco mode with cpu max at 50% and passiv cooling. I really hope that you are able to help me otherwise I’ll have to wait for the January/February update.

    Thanks in advance

    Eugene

    • Eugene,

      There are a lot of variables at work. On top of that, there seems to be a wide spread of experiences. For example, this article ended up on Reddit and I saw that some folks seemed to agree with the results and some said (like you) that they’re not getting anything close to it.

      Could you elaborate a little bit and maybe we could come up with some things to help:

      – Are you using the pen to take notes? I don’t tend to use the pen very much.
      – Is it 4-6 hours of continuous use?
      – If you un-throttle your CPU does the battery life get better, worse, or stay the same?

      Also, what AV (if any) and background apps are you running? Anything there that might be “chatty” on WiFi. Oh, also, how about your privacy settings.

      Some of those (Wi-Fi sense and update sharing for example) might be chatty when it can see other computers. My testing mostly happened at home (private network) so neither of these would be a problem for me. So, try clamping down on the privacy settings to see if it helps.

    • BAttery life sucks. I bought i5 8 gb and it does not last more than 4 hours.THis is when i am only checking my mails. The device battery is the weakest link. I wa told by microsoft that this is a hardware issue and we just need to wit. I returned my device and i am hapy now

  2. I am concerned that since you tested just one device with each processor, the results could be due at least partially to variability. If you tested three i5’s maybe they would have slightly different battery life as well. I don’t know how much variability exists between devices of the same type…?

  3. I’m getting similar results as Eugene with my SP4 i5 4Gb.

    Today I’ve been using OneNote for a good proportion of the morning on 75% brightness. The battery is still showing 68% with an estimated 3h 49m left.

    If I load up Edge and have a couple of tabs open, things start getting warm. Battery life plummets and I get the fan running sometimes too. The battery even drains pretty quickly when Edge is in the background and I have the Battery Saver on. I understand that games will drain the battery but surely just having a few web pages open that you’re not interacting with shouldn’t stress the device too much.

    Its quite hard to tell whether you have a sub-standard device when everyone’s usage is different. ‘Normal use’ for one person might be ‘Light use’ for another. Are there any benchmark utilities out there that simulate ‘normal use’ fairly well so that we can do an absolute benchmark rather than a relative one.

  4. When including sleep mode I’m getting considerably less than 4 hrs. up time w/battery saver and suggested background lighting. SPi7/16Gb/256.

  5. I do have a SP i7/ 8Gb/ 256 with an average battery life of 4-5 hours. I’ve exchanged it with another one because of the poor battery life (Microsoft told me I had a faulty device). But there is no noticeable difference.. According to the benchmarks, the SP i5 should have a better battery performance. I thought that an i7 could run on an as low clock speed as an i5, when using only light office apps.. Is that a misunderstanding ?

  6. Its a pity MS didn’t spend more time optimising the SP4 at the design stage to get better battery life. A combination of “fit for purpose” software allied to correct hardware integration with a bigger battery would have done the trick. And hey, if they had just left it as thick as the SP3 they may have achieved this by fitting in a bigger battery. If you look at other “reddit” posts one of the most requested features for the SP5 is better battery life, based on real life experiences of the SP4. Let’s not kid ourselves: we’re talking about premium devices with premium cost, so I expect the product to have premium parts and a premium “all day” battery. I still like my original Surface RT, and am on the fence about upgrading.

  7. If you haven’t already, go to privacy, background apps, and turn off all those apps running in the background. Made a huge difference for me and I can get anywhere from 6-8 hours of constant use (multiple edge tabs, outlook 2016 and OneNote 2016.

  8. My daughter is having similar battery isues with SP4 I5 4GB. 5 to 6 hours normal use with power saving tips in place. In addition battery Mgt messages for remaining battery life are all over the place and nonesensical pointing to some serious issues with the power mgt software, battery or both. For a university student with a high workload, this makes the device not fit-for-purpose. A student just can’t afford to replace substandard hardware at these prices. I’m in the IT industry myself and recommended this Microsoft Product to my daughter with all the right intentions backing MicroSoft to the hilt. Boy have I had to reverse my opintion and I am continually embarrassed at how the big players in my industry continue to miss the mark. To openly claim 9 hours battery life in their advertising yet deliver only 5 to 6 hours at best is not just dissapointing, its actually a breech of contract and misleading or false advertising. In our country, we have consumer guarentee laws that protect consumers against this type of fraudulant claim by a company. That said, we are following the Microsoft support process and so far they look to be taking the issue seriously. I have all my fingers crossed that their support services will rescue the situation and to some extent restore my faith in our industry. However, research on the Internet regarding these battery issues does not fill me with confidence.

Leave a Reply