Law Office Technology–Surface 3 Benchmarks

I have previously described how Microsoft has announced the Surface 3, which is a scaled-down, more affordable version of the Surface Pro 3.  Tech writer Paul Thurrott did some benchmark testing on the Surface 3 yesterday, and posted the results on Twitter:

He compared them to benchmarks for the Surface Pro 3 with the Core i5 processor:

That isn’t bad, and it bears out what Microsoft has announced regarding Surface 3’s performance: that it would perform at about 74% the level of the Surface Pro 3.

He also ran graphics benchmark tests, and to be blunt, the Surface 3 benchmarks show it getting hammered by the Surface Pro 3; it is, apparently, only marginally better than the Surface 2. Not Surface Pro 2, but Surface 2. Which runs an ARM chip.

That’s largely okay, though. I don’t think anyone buys a machine with an Atom chip (regardless of whether Intel has zinged up the name by calling it “x7”) expecting a graphical powerhouse. At least, no one should buy a machine with an Atom chip expecting a graphical powerhouse.  But Thurott’s benchmarking made me wonder how those numbers compare to, say, the Core i5-2300 Windows 7 machine I’m running at work with 6 GB of RAM, which was purchased in May of 2011.  So I went to, which makes PCMark8–the software Thurrott used–and waited for the 2.8 GB file to download.

Three or Four Hours Later, Finally a Benchmark

After two hours, the software downloaded, and an hour after unzipping and installing it, I was finally able to run PCMark8 and I chose the Work Conventional setting. My score was 2631, which, frankly, surprises me.

2011 Desktop Benchmarks
Benchmark score for Work-related tasks on 2011 desktop.

I realize that there is a big difference between desktop- and laptop-class processors, and having a dedicated video card probably helps things, but I really thought that the Surface Pro 3, running a processor that it is at least 3 years younger than the one in the desktop, would be more competitive, especially considering it isn’t running two screens, presumably didn’t have two instances of Windows Explorer, Firefox with 7 open tabs, Chrome with three open tabs, OneNote, and Outlook going. And the Surface Pro 3 also has an SSD while the HDD on the desktop is a bog-standard 1TB drive, albeit one spinning at 7,200 RPM.

I also ran the home test, since that way I could compare oranges to oranges. Adding in some gaming and picture editing tasks brought the benchmarks down a little to 2339, but still quite a bit higher than the Surface Pro 3’s benchmarks.

2011 Home Benchmarks
Benchmark score for home-usage tasks on a 2011 desktop machine.

No Space on the Venue 8 Pro to Compare Benchmarks

The size of the PCMark8 file meant that I wouldn’t be able to install it on my 16GB Venue 8 Pro.  While there are almost no Store apps installed on it, updates to Windows 8.1 and Office 2013 have gobbled up a ton of the usable space on the device.  This is a real limitation of the small form factor tablets, and it means that I really can’t recommend a Windows-based tablet with anything less than 32GB standard going forward. Yes, you can use the microSD slot for storage of documents and files, but that expansion capability doesn’t translate well to installing applications.  When I have a little more free time, I’ll see if I can find a way to cram PCMark8 onto the V8P, because I’d like to see just how much improvement there is between last year’s Atom chip and this year’s version.  Additionally, the V8P is swift for the limited functionality that it provides, and it presents a feeling of minor marvel that a fully functioning PC can be held in one’s hands.  When you look at the device rationally, however, and you don’t forgive its limitations, it really is a laggy machine.  Everything from webpages to applications to text-input boxes features the same “touch, wait wait wait, load” delay.  Once the app or webpage is loaded, things function fine, but there’s still noticeable lag.

All  this means is that: if the benchmarks for the V8P and the Surface 3 are similar, that means the Surface 3 may not present a long-term enjoyable solution.  It’s one thing to spend roughly $250 on a device, cover (without a keyboard), and stylus that doesn’t perform like a champion; quite another to spend upwards of $680. Speaking of prices, apparently Costco is selling a Surface 3 bundle which includes the keyboard cover and stylus for essentially $80 off the full price. That might be worth checking out for Costco members. (Costco is also reportedly running a sale on the Surface Pro 3.)

Benchmarks Aren’t Everything

Of course benchmarks aren’t everything. Some tech followers like to boast how Android phone benchmarks are outrageously higher than the iPhone’s benchmarks, as seen in‘s (German language) information.  But the iPhone 6 isn’t a dramatically slow phone thanks to UI and UX optimization.  A lower-scored machine can run as smoothly as a higher-scored machine if the operating system is more efficient.  Nonetheless, cramming PCMark8 onto the Venue 8 Pro has taken on new urgency, and I hope to be able to do a test in the near future.