Battery Life, Heat and Noise
Microsoft put in a considerable amount of engineering effort to trim-down the fan and cooling solution in the Surface Pro 3. The total assembly is no taller than the height of a USB port and it is capable of keeping a Core i7 processor cool enough to operate reliably.
While Microsoft claimed that the Surface Pro 3 was silent in its launch presentation, the fact that it is actively cooled means it can never be completely silent. The fan and heatsink design inside is quite innovative, however. Take a look...
During normal day-to-day use, however, the Surface Pro 3 barely makes a peep. When working in office documents or browsing the web, the Surface Pro 3 is incredibly quiet—you have to put you ear up to the vent to hear anything at all. Under heavy workloads, though, the fan in the Surface Pro 3 spins up considerably and it is clearly audible. The device is not loud by any means, but it is most certainly not silent when the CPU and GPU are getting hammered.
To see just how well the cooling solution inside the Surface Pro 3 performed, we ran the tablet under full load for 30 minutes and then recorded the external temperature of the device using an infrared thermometer at various points. As you can see, temperatures varied from about 30.5ºC to 36.5ºC everywhere on the tablet, except for the area directly above the processor. On the upper-left corner (just behind the USB port and DisplayPort), the Surface Pro 3’s surface temperature peaked at 42.5ºC. If you’re wondering what that feels like, it’s certainly warm to the touch, but it is not uncomfortable in our opinion. We could leave our hand over the spot indefinitely, without having to pull away due to the heat.
Battery life proved to be very good on the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft claims up to 9 hours of battery life while surfing the web, and that is absolutely the case. During normal, everyday use, browsing the web, checking emails, and editing Office documents, the Surface Pro 3 had no problem lasting an entire work-day, and then some. If we unplugged the Surface Pro 3 at 9am, we wouldn’t have to plug it in until about 7:30PM with this use case.
Under more taxing conditions, as one would expect, battery life is reduced. Using the very taxing Battery Eater Pro (which loads the CPU, GPU, and storage simultaneously), the Surface Pro 3 put up a score of 149, which placed it near the top of the charts.
The Surface Pro 3 is not going to give you the same kind of battery life as a light-duty, underpowered tablet, but versus other convertibles and ultrabooks, it fares very well.