The Surface has been out for about seven 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 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 down 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 of 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 six 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. 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 rest them manually.
This graph shows minutes of battery life during regular use, including when sleeping:
All three tablets would have made it through a typical 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):
You might be surprised by 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 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 usually 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 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:
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 significant 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 a total 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:
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 display) and the i7 version played pretty smoothly no matter what I had on screen (up to a 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, you will see that the SP3 has a battery with a larger capacity.
Surface Pro 4 Battery Life: Recharging
While depleting the battery is usually more fun, how quickly you can recharge your SP4 is pretty essential, 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:
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: How to Save Battery Life on Surface Pro 4
There are some basic things you can do to save battery life on this Surface. These are fantastic tips if you are looking to experience prolonged juice, in addition to already having a good battery!
Use Battery Saver Mode
There is an icon in your notifications section (it can also be searched, or Cortana can be used) that can be set up. This preserves the battery as much as possible by automatically dimming the screen as well as turning off other behind the scenes life suckers. You can turn this one on at all times, or select it to go on automatically when it hits 20%.
Disable background apps
In your settings, you can disable the background apps with a simple click. Go to the privacy feature and then click on background apps under the words “let apps run in the background”. You also have the option to turn off individual apps as you desire. These selections will help your device to do less work and therefore preserve your battery.
Keep an eye on your brightness
When the brightness automatically adjusts to brighter, it is wise to put it at a moderate level. High brightness on the display is one of the worst battery drainers. You can change the brightness through settings, on your toolbar, or on the keyboard itself.
Turn off battery suckers you don’t need
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and mobile broadband are all things that run in the background. They are always searching for networks, and they drain your battery life in the process. Airplane Mode is a great way to give your laptop a break when you can go without these features. You can also individually keep them off as they are not in use.
Surface Pro 4 Battery Life: Best Accessories
We can talk all day long about battery life, but I also wanted to give you some insight into how to improve your time spent on the Surface Pro 4. I am doing that by giving you a list below of some of the best accessories! These accessories will only make your device even more lovable than it already is.
Some would argue that the Microsoft Surface type cover(aka the Surface’s keyboard) is the most important of all the accessories. This addition is the one thing that can make or break you having just a tablet or a two in one tablet and laptop. And the Surface 4 type cover is the best out there! It is larger than its predecessors by a whopping 40 perfect, and it’s so upgraded that even the Typepad glass is smoother than before! Not only does it have these improved features, but it is also faster, and typing has never been more comfortable with the new space that fits in between keys. There are even a few extra keys that come with this upgrade, which adds onto the list of improvements. All that extra space was truly put to good use!
The next great accessory on our list is the car charger for your Surface Pro. Do you use your Surface on the go regularly? Do you worry about it dying while you’re on the road? Then this is a great accessory for you! Laptop chargers seemed all but a far off dream for many of us. But now they are here and made just for your device. This charger is specifically designed for both the Pro 3 and 4. It also keeps the device from overcharging, which protects your battery from harm in the long run!
Surface Pen Tip Kit
Our third great feature is the Surface Pen Tip Kit, which saves you from buying a ton of pen types or wearing out your pen. With this kit, you have a great variety of sensitivity in your pen tips as well as different shapes and sizes. This product is a customizable set of pen tips which help you to get to work more efficiently. Regardless of if you draw, shade, write, select, or whatever you do, these tips are great for anyone who is looking for more than the generic tip that came along with your surface when you first purchased it.
Urban Armor Gear
The last add ons we will cover are some very protective, military-grade accessories. The first is the Urban Armor Gear, which is a surface case made for your Pro 4. This case offers ultimate protection from severe potential damages such a dropping it, scraping it, and scratching it. Not only is this an incredible protector, but it also has a built-in storage space for your Surface Pen! You can even stand this case up in not one, not two, but FIVE positions! Not to mention, it does not block any necessary ports from being used. It’s like a dream protector.
Matte Screen Protector
One of the best brands around is the ArmorSuit MilitaryShild. This accessory of theirs helps to keep your screen from scratching and cracking. If you are on the go frequently, have children around, or simply experience wear and tear that can lead to breakage, this screen protector is your best bet. It is military grade, meaning it’s top-notch quality. It is designed for this device specifically and offers incredible clarity through the glass. This protective layer is not like others meaning it is clear as day. This protector allows the device to remain free of common issues like fingerprints, dust, oil, and even screen bubbles. Not to mention, it is a UV protection, meaning the glass will not yellow like others tend to do. Lastly, the brand is so incredible that they allow you to claim free of charge if it does not live up to its expectations.
There is everything from mouses and chargers, to a variety for pens, to cases and screen protectors. There are so many fun and useful accessories out there for you to purchase and enjoy with your Surface Pro 4. We have covered a good variety of them below, but be sure to dig deeper and find ones that aren’t listed here as well!
Surface Pro 4 Battery Life: Conclusion
Surface Pro 4 Battery Life: Final Thoughts
So, according to the marketing folks, the low-end m3 version of the SP4 should have the best battery life. Unfortunately, it 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 Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.