Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) Review: Still Setting The Bar For 2-In-1s

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Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) Benchmarks: Storage, SunSpider And PCMark

One of the first things we like to do when evaluating performance is to gauge how fast the storage subsystem is in a particular rig. To do that, we first fire up ATTO's Disk Benchmark. Here we will see peak sequential throughput of the PCIe-based M.2 solid state drive inside the Surface Pro. This shows us both read and write workloads of small to larger sized file transfers.

Microsoft Surface Pro ATTO
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The peppy SSD inside this Surface Pro is a 256GB Samsung PM971. This is an NVMe drive, which means it shuttles data back and forth through the PCI-Express bus, allowing for much faster file transfers compared to SATA-based SSDs. Samsung rates sequential read performance for this SSD at up to 1.4 GB/s (1,400 MB/s) and sequential writes at up to 0.8 GB/s (800 MB/s).

In ATTO, this drive had no trouble hitting those advertised speeds, and even exceeding them. It hit 1.46 GB/s (1,463 MB/s) in one of the read tests and 0.83 GB/s (838 MB/s) in a few of the write tests. Having a fast SSD is important not only for file transfers, but also general system throughput and app loads. In this case, the Surface Pro is snappy and responsive—pairing this SSD with a Core i5-7300U and 8GB of system RAM provides a potent foundation.

Next we switched our focus to general purpose benchmarks with SunSpider, a JavaScript benchmark, and then ran PCMark 8 to get a comprehensive look at how the Surface Pro handles standard office productivity chores and home media tasks.

SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark
JavaScript Performance Testing

We should note that SunSpider is more of a platform test, in that different browser versions, associated with different OS types, can and do affect scores. However, among the Windows 10-powered machines here, all things are relatively equal and Microsoft Edge is our browser of choice, since it is installed by default on all machines listed here.

Microsoft Surface Pro SunSpider

When plotted on a graph, the Surface Pro's performance in SunSpider seems lacking, though that is not really the case. There is only a 7ms or 8ms difference standing between the Surface Pro and the upper section of the benchmark graph. And compared to the Surface Pro 3, which is two generations behind, the Surface Pro is around 20 percent faster in this benchmark.

PCMark 8 Benchmarks
Productivity And System-Level Benchmarking

We selected three tests from the PCMark 8 benchmark suite: Home, Storage and Work. Futuremark recently improved all three tests with PCMark 8 version 2 that offers a nice swath of mixed media workloads, from document editing, to video conferencing and editing. We selected the Open CL "Accelerated" options for both the Home and Work modules, which let's the benchmark take advantage of current generation integrate GPU engines to accelerate some aspects of processing.

Microsoft Surface Pro PCMark 8

Here again the Surface Pro takes residence in the middle section of the graph, when sorting by the Work Accelerated score. It is able to skip ahead of most systems running a previous generation processor, though probably would score a little higher if it had 16GB of system memory instead of 8GB. In the Storage benchmark, however, the Surface Pro posts the fourth best score at 5,001.

Overall, the Surface Pro shows it is more than capable of productivity chores and general purpose computing. That said, it falls a little short of the similarly spec'd Samsung Galaxy Book 12. Pound for pound, Samsung's detachable is the closest competitor to Surface Pro in the charts above.

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