Surface 3 Benchmarks

Surface 3 Benchmarks

When I first got my hands on a Surface 3 one of the first things I did was run several benchmark tests against the unit.

I feel it’s important for you to note that I was working with the 2GB version for these benchmarks because every other benchmark article on the Surface 3 I’ve seen is using the 4GB version which may give you slightly better marks due to the extra RAM.

I feel this could help you decide if you need to spring for the $599 USD 4GB Surface 3 or can stick with the $499 USD 2GB Surface 3.

Hey…… $100 is $100, right?

OK, before I start the actual Surface 3 benchmarks, let me point out that I will be referring to the lower end Surface 3 as the “2GB Surface 3” and the higher end version as the “4GB Surface 3” to help avoid confusing the two versions.

Surface 3 Benchmarks: Testing Parameters

For all of the tests I ran, I’m presenting the average results of 3 separate test runs to increase accuracy. In addition, all of my results will be comparing the Surface 3 against the following machines in order to give you some context…

I’ll also be incorporating results from another Surface 3 benchmarks post that I’ve found on the internet where the 4GB Surface 3 variant was used. That way, you’ll have a more complete picture of the performance differences between the two versions.

Brad Sams over at Neowin also did the Ice Storm, PC BenchMark, and Google Octane tests with the 4GB Surface 3 Microsoft sent them to review; so, I included his results in red below to give you a complete comparison.

Surface 3 Benchmarks: 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited

This test was using 3D Mark from the Windows store. Since all of the devices were too powerful to run the Ice Storm or Ice Storm Extreme tests, the results below are from the (more rigorous but much more boring to watch) Ice Storm Unlimited test…

Surface 3 Benchmarks - Icestorm Unlimited

As you can see, my benchmarks placed the 2GB Surface 3 just behind the 4GB Surface 3 version and way behind the Surface Pro 3. As you might have expected, both Surface 3 versions outperformed the Surface 2 (but maybe not as much as you would think).

Surface 3 Benchmarks: PC Benchmark (CPU)

This test was done using the PC Benchmark app from the Windows store. It’s one of my favorite benchmarking apps due to its simplicity.

In the two graphs below, you can see the single-threaded and multi-threaded CPU test scores for each tested tablet (along with Brad’s results for the 4GB Surface 3)

Surface 3 Benchmarks - Single Thread

Surface 3 Benchmarks - Multi Thread

As you can see the 2GB version results are nearly identical to what Brad posted for the 4GB version. I would expect this as both versions have the same CPU just different amounts of RAM and different sized hard drives.

Surface 3 Benchmarks: PC Benchmark (RAM)

This test is again using the PC Benchmark application but, this time, the RAM speed is being compared in MB/Sec.

Surface 3 Benchmarks - RAM

Again, no surprise that the two versions of the Surface 3 are almost identical as one simply has more RAM than the other but, they are of the same type. Once again the SP3 blows the Surface 3 out of the water for performance.

Surface 3 Benchmarks: Google Octane

This test was done using Google Octane which combines a bunch of benchmark tests and tests (primarily) the Javascript processing ability of a machine; so, it’s kind of an indirect way to test the processing power (but it’s incredibly easy to run; so, why not include it?)

Surface 3 Benchmarks - Octane

Surface 3 Benchmarks: GeekBench

The benchmarks below are from the GeekBench 3 application. This time, I’m using average results from the Geekbench database for the 4G Surface 3 results. Also, since the Surface 2 is a RT device, I couldn’t run the Geekbench tests so there are no results for it listed below…

Surface 3 Benchmarks - Geekbench

Again the difference in RAM between the 2GB and 4GB Surface 3 models doesn’t seem to impact the performance very much.

Surface 3 Benchmarks: Conclusion

In general, the Surface 3 benchmarks show that both variants are very close for performance. It seems the extra 2GB in RAM simply doesn’t give the 4GB Surface 3 any significant extra “oomph”. So, if you’re trying to figure out which variant to get based on performance, I’d say they are both pretty much equal.

That said, the 64GB SSD that comes with the 2GB Surface 3 is tiny and the 128GB SSD might be worth the extra $100 all by itself even though there isn’t any appreciable performance gain.



    • Im at least glad you said for your purposes. As a student who owns a desktop, the surface 3 is great for note taking and even working on papers, but if I need to go to a stronger PC, I save to the cloud and load up on my desktop. This is great for that.

    • One would have to question what your purposes are, because you’re not going to to better with an Ipad or an Android tablet.

  • surprised that in Surface 3 Benchmarks: PC Benchmark (CPU) test, the 2 GB shows a performance increase. Can you explain that?

    • It could be due to any number of factors…. for example…

      – The Surface Brad Sams was using had software running in the background eating CPU while he was running tests (Anti-Virus for example)
      – His could have thermal throttled and mine didn’t
      – The CPU in my unit might have been clocked slightly higher than his
      – etc…

      Things like that are why i do averages of multiple tests as it tends to level those transitory performance hits out.


    • Because 2Gb surface 3 uses the cpu power more than a 4Gb surface 3. Meaning the 2Gb demands more cpu power because there is not enough memory to store data to the memory

  • I am surprised to see that very few (if not none) of the comparisons compare the Surface 3 to the Core i3 version of the Surface Pro 3.

    This is by far the most relevant test to perform in order to see if the smaller price difference actually worth it.


  • Could you re-run ice storm unlimited test for surface 3 2gb once again? it seems that after a clean boot it would boost up the scores by a lot.

    • Actually, I did a clean boot before running the tests. That’s the average of the test runs. I imagine the 4GB Surface 3 test was a single run and, as such, might be a little higher than the average of a series.


  • Thanks for this review! It seems awfully misleading to promise a significant performance increase when upgrading form the 2gb to 4gb ram model. The storage is not a big deal for me since I use cloud storage and can also connect and external drive if necessary. Based on your review my understanding is that I will be totally fine with the 2gb model and will also be saving $100!

  • […] you’re still on the fence on which version to order, you can check out our articles on Surface 3 Benchmarks and our Surface 3 Hand-On Review to get more information to help you […]

    • It plays fine in my experience. No noticeable lag (except from the network, of course).

      I haven’t yet done my in-depth battery benchmark testing on the Surface 3 (it takes a week or so the way I do it) but, I’ll specifically test that when I do the post.

  • I’ve been looking for a Surface RT vs Surface 3 comparison. I know the RT got no love but it ran Office just find and I think for a lot of people that’s all that they ever use. Since RT is a lighter weight OS I’ve always wondered how it would compare against the low end windows 8 Surface’s.

    • Not favorably for performance. If it helps, I did include marks for the Surface 2 which was the direct successor to the Surface RT.

      I don’t have a complete set of benchmarks for the RT but, I know that it would score about 3300 to 3500 on the Ice Storm Extreme test which is only about a third of the performance of the Surface 2.

      Hopefully, that gives you something to compare against.

      • I finally did notice in the article that you said the Surface 2 was RT. There are too many models and I wasn’t sure if the Surface 2 could be Win8.
        I thought RT would do better since its a light weight OS. I was afraid the Surface 3 would be slow like the netbooks were in the past but it doesn’t seem that way

  • Would love to see a comparison between the Surface Pro 3 Core i3 version and the Surface 3. Any possibility of this?

    • Sorry, not from us. We don’t have an i3 version of the SP3. But, maybe we should get one? I think this question came up once before about the Surface 2.

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