The key issue faced by many tablet and laptop manufacturers is how to add a large enough battery that the machine can be used to its full potential and still offer several hours of usage from a single charge. While smartphones and tablet batteries are measured in mAh, laptop batteries are often quoted in kWh and Microsoft‘s Surface Pro 3 is no different.
We’ve already published a review of the Surface Pro 3 having used it for two months but how does the battery stack up? Unlike most laptops – but like most tablets, incidentally – the Surface Pro 3 comes with a non-removable battery and while Microsoft hasn’t confirmed the exact details and capacity of the battery, the Redmond-based company claims it will last up to 9 hours.
In my two months of testing, I’ve found that it rarely lasts the whole nine hours but depending on your usage, you can expect to get between 4 and 7 hours battery life depending on how you use it. First let’s look at how much the battery lasts when performing various tasks and then I’ll reveal some of my tips to improve the battery life.
Surface Pro 3 Battery Life Review
Like every device, battery life will vary day-to-day depending on your exact usage and it’s likely that it will vary each day as your usage varies. However, considering the various different tasks you’ll use the Surface Pro 3 for, we can estimate the following battery life:
The figures below are averages based on between three and nine tests for each use case with display brightness set to approximately 50 percent:
Social Media (Twitter/Facebook using native apps): 5 hours 37 minutes
Web Browsing (using Chrome): 4 hours 12 minutes
Web Browsing (using Firefox): 4 hours 41 minutes
Media Playback (including audio and video playback): 3 hours 16 minutes
Video Editing (using Sony Vegas Pro): 2 hours 29 minutes
Productivity (using Microsoft Excel, Outlook and Word): 6 hours 04 minutes
As with all devices, display brightness makes a significant difference to the battery life and with the Surface Pro 3, display brightness has a marked effect on battery life. Using the same use cases above in three tests of each type, full display brightness results in the following battery life:
Social Media: 3 hours 16 minutes
Web Browsing (Chrome): 2 hours 23 minutes
Web Browsing (Firefox): 2 hours 59 minutes
Media Playback: 1 hours 51 minutes
Photo Editing: 2 hours 14 minutes
Video Editing: 1 hour 09 minutes
Productivity: 4 hours 14 minutes
What about when you’re not using the Surface Pro 3? How long does the battery last for without needing a recharge? Tablets like the iPad and Galaxy Tab S can last a couple of days without use while laptops can often go a little longer but how does the Surface Pro 3 compare?? The answer is: 3 days 13 hours.
The battery life on the Surface Pro 3 has certainly been interesting and overall, it should be good enough to handle a light day’s usage in and around meetings. However, if you intend to use the Surface Pro 3 for a full days’ work, I would certainly recommend carrying the charger as it’s otherwise unlikely to last the whole day.
5 tips to improve the Surface Pro 3 battery
Now we know the battery life of the Surface Pro 3, let’s take a look at some of ways you can improve the battery life. While useful on a daily basis, some of these tips can be used to add up to 30 percent extra to the battery life.
Reduce brightness: as demonstrated above, the display brightness has a large effect on the battery life. Reducing from full brightness to 50 percent or less still results in a usable display but can add a up to three hours to the overall battery life.
Close background apps: this sounds obvious but one of the biggest problems with all technology is applications running in the background. With the Surface Pro 3, applications running in the background can drain battery life, especially if they are resource-intensive applications so closing these down will certainly improve your battery life.
Use Airplane Mode: Unless you rely on the internet or a live feed application (e.g. a stock broker), turning on Airplane mode when you’re not using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi will improve your battery life. Enabling and disabling this is as simple as a toggle (in Windows 10 at least) and while it may not add a large amount to your overall battery life, it can help if you’re likely to run out of charge before the day is up.
Change power plan: this last one only applies to devices like the Surface Pro 3, which run on the full Windows OS. Part of the power management tool in Windows is the option to specify different power plans to use for different times; for example, you can set the Pro 3 to automatically switch to a max-performance plan when you’re plugged into an outlet or a max battery life plan when you’re working off the internal battery. Windows also lets you create customised power plans so you can really tailor the power consumption to your needs.
Like most electronics, the Surface Pro 3 battery life does vary significantly according to your usage and your exact battery life will depend on how you use the tablet. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get the full 9 hours battery life that Microsoft quote but this is no different to other devices and the overall battery life is similar to battery life my 15-inch retina Macbook Pro offers me.
The key thing to remember is that it’s highly unlikely you’ll get a full working days’ usage out of the Surface Pro 3 unless you hardly use it so you’ll probably want to carry a charger if its your only work laptop/tablet and you need it throughout the day.