Real-World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks

Real-World-Surface-3-Battery-Life-Benchmarks

It’s finally done….

It took a while but I finally finished my Surface 3 battery life benchmarks post that I’ve been promising a few of you for some time.

I tested the battery endurance of the Surface 3 against the Surface Pro 3 in five different scenarios as outlined below:

  • Web Browsing: This benchmark is for those casual users who primarily surf the net and check email and Facebook
  • Everyday Use: This benchmark is the one that is relevant to people who work with their Surface 3 and is focused on what many people would consider “everyday use” scenarios for a business user
  • Constant Use: This benchmark is for streaming media watchers/listeners and consisted of me simply playing Netflix movies one after another.
  • Heavy Use: This benchmark is for Surface 3 owners who game on their Surface 3. I did this one using Kerbal Space program since it’s fairly processor intensive but not so much that it wouldn’t run on the Surface 3.
  • Recharge Test: Since I had to recharge the devices anyway, I thought it would be interesting to capture how long it took to do so.

These five tests did a good job of testing the battery life of the Surface 3 in multiple scenarios, so you can find the one(s) that most closely matches your type of needs and then set your expectations accordingly.

Note: In all the tests I used default hardware settings, i.e. screen brightness, etc..

Real World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks: Web Browsing

In this test, I charged the batteries, then used the tablets to surf the web until they auto powered down with a flat battery.

Test Details:

  • The power option for both tablets was set to the default Balanced configuration
  • The Surface 3 used is the 2GB model
  • The SP3 I used has an i5 processor and 4GB of RAM
  • I was connected to WiFi the entire time the tablets were awake
  • I surfed the web using IE 11 as close to continuously as I could
  • Minimal downloads were performed during this test
  • No streaming video (except ads) was viewed during these tests
  • The tablets were allowed to sleep when I wasn’t actively using them but, I did not manually turn them off
  • I ignored the “low battery warnings”
  • My tests both started at 7:30 AM and ended when the devices auto powered down automatically. After recharging the device, I used information from the internal battery report to calculate the number of minutes the device was actually in use.
  • Results are rounded to the nearest minute

The duration is summarized in the below graph:

Real-World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks-Web

These test results are unique since I only performed the test for each tablet once (as opposed to an average of multiple data sets as I prefer) because it was really time-intensive and mind-numbing after a while :-).

The Surface 3 came in at only 7 hours and 45 minutes. Not quite the 9 hours Microsoft was promising but, to be fair, they say “up to 9 hours” in their claims. The Surface 3 in this test.

I know I could have used a script to do the test as some reviews have done but I didn’t want the script skewing the results. Besides, IMHO, scripts don’t do an adequate job of simulating real human surfing behaviors.

Real World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks: Everyday Use

In this test, I charged the batteries then used the tablets in a “normal” manner intended to simulate how many people would use their Surface on a day-to-day office or school use basis until they auto powered down.

You should understand that my computing habits are likely different than yours; so, your results will vary a little bit. I tried to compensate for this by running the test 5 times and calculating the average.

Test Details:

  • The power option for both tablets was set to the default Balanced configuration
  • The Surface 3 used is the 2GB model
  • The SP3 I used has an i5 processor and 4GB of RAM
  • I was connected to WiFi the entire time the tablets were awake
  • I surfed the web, checked my email, worked with Excel/Word/Publisher, downloaded files, wrote blog posts, edited graphics, and maybe played a few games or watched some Netflix.
  • The tablets were allowed to sleep when I wasn’t actively using them but, I did not manually turn them off
  • I ignored the “low battery warnings”
  • All of my tests started at 7:30 AM and ended when the devices auto powered down automatically. After recharging the device, I used information from the internal battery report to calculate the number of minutes the device was actually in use
  • Results are rounded to the nearest minute

I ran the test 5 times and averaged the results. The average duration is summarized in the below graph:

Real-World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks-Normal Use

As you can see, the Surface 3 made it an average of 388 minutes (6 hours, 28 minutes) and the Surface Pro 3 only made it 328 minutes on average (5 hours, 28 minutes).

Don’t get hung up on the fact that the battery didn’t last 8 hours as both tablets would have lasted me for an entire 8 hour workday. This is because I (like most folks) don’t work continuously. I took a few breaks, I had lunch, I talked to people on the phone, etc…

Real World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks: Constant Use

In this benchmark, I recharged the battery then fired up Netflix to simulate someone Netflix binging on a new series or enduring a long trans-oceanic flight by watching movies until the Surface auto powered down.

TEST DETAILS:

  • The power option for both the Surface 3 and SP3 was set to the default Balanced setting (not that it mattered much in this scenario)
  • The Surface 3 used was the 2GB model
  • The SP3 I used has an i5 processor and 4GB of RAM
  • I simply played movies on Netflix back to back until the devices auto powered down
  • I played the same movies on both tablets
  • I ignored the “low battery warnings”
  • Results are rounded to the nearest minute

Below are the obtained results. As with the other tests, I did the test 5 times for each tablet and the below graph represents the average of those benchmarks:

Real-World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks-Constant Use

The average for the Surface Pro 3 was very close to the Surface 3 in terms of duration coming in at 433 minutes (7 hours, 13 minutes) as opposed to the 462 minutes (7 hours, 42 minutes) of the Surface 3.

You might be surprised by these results but you need to consider that the screen and wireless adaptors were the biggest battery drains in this scenario, not CPU power since neither CPU had to work that hard (and kick on the fan) to display the video.

So, since both tablets were basically acting as just a screen the entire time, the larger battery in the Surface Pro 3 happened to power the larger screen for roughly the same amount of time. This could have been by design.. perhaps?.

Real World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks: Heavy Use

In this benchmark I tested the battery life of both tablets by playing Kerbal Space Program until the Surface turned itself off because it was out of power then I noted the elapsed time.

This was the perfect simulation of playing video games until the battery died (since that’s exactly what I did) and was a great excuse to play video games almost all day for a week 🙂 – Joanna just loved that…

TEST DETAILS:

  • The power options for both the Surface 3 and SP3 were using the default Balanced setting (not that it mattered much in this scenario, either)
  • No other settings in the Power saver plan were altered
  • The Surface 3 used was the 2GB model
  • The SP3 I used has an i5 processor and 4GB of RAM
  • I did a fresh install of KSP 1.02 from Steam and did not add any mods to the game
  • I started playing with >98% battery and stopped when the devices auto powered down automatically
  • I ignored the “low battery warnings”
  • I simply calculated the amount of elapsed time between me beginning the test and when the battery died to obtain my results

As before, I ran the test 5 times and averaged the results. The average duration is summarized in the graph below:

Real-World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks-Gaming
At 6 hours and 2 minutes, the Surface 3 lasted just 30 minutes longer than the Surface Pro 3 in this test. On the plus side, it ran much cooler and quieter than the SP3.

Also, three Kerbals lost their digital lives during these tests. Sad really, the new atmospheric drag and heat modeling with the latest patch can really take a toll during reentry. That and I really should have used a bigger parachute…just sayin’

Real World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks: Recharge Test

This test was pretty simple, I just timed how long it took to charge the batteries after they were fully discharged.

TEST DETAILS:

  • I used the stock power adapters to charge both tablets
  • I charged them both to 100%
  • I simply calculated the amount of elapsed time between me plugging the device in and it reaching 100% charge

I did this test 5 times as well and averaged the results as shown below:

Real-World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks-Recharge

As you may know, I’m not a huge fan of the Surface 3 charger but even I was a bit surprised that it took nearly 6 hours to recharge the tablet.

Real World Surface 3 Battery Life Benchmarks: Conclusion

I went into this experiment expecting the Surface 3 to outperform the Surface Pro 3 pretty much hands down on the battery tests. But, the results didn’t turn out that way.

The Surface 3 only outperformed the Surface Pro 3 in the Constant and Normal use scenarios and not by the margin I would have expected with all of the energy saving tech built into it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big fan of the Surface 3 (in spite of the charger) and think it’s a great little tablet but I was just a little disappointed that the battery life wasn’t a runaway improvement over the Surface Pro 3.

Maybe I was expecting too much?

So, if you’re expecting huge battery life gains over the Surface Pro 3, you’re going to be disappointed in the Surface 3. However, if you’re after a thinner, lighter, quieter, and cooler running version of the Surface Pro 3 with similar battery life, then the Surface 3 will be exactly what you’re looking for.

In case you’re wondering, it took 25 days of testing / recharging / testing again just to get my datasets before I could even begin writing the results:

  • 2 days doing the “web browsing” tests
  • 10 days doing the “normal use” tests
  • 5 days for the “constant use” tests
  • 5 days for the “heavy use” tests
  • 3 days of something going wrong with the constant use tests forcing me to throw out that day’s results.

In addition, I had to do other work during those 25 days so, it was exhausting but it is much more comprehensive than other comparisons of the Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 batteries I’ve seen.

Tim

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