Surface Pro DOA over battery life or not?

Microsoft released details about their second iteration of Surface hardware on November 29th.  The Surface Pro is to be released “early 2013” and pricing will start at $899.  I thought the specs were impressive and pricing was on par with what I expected them to start at.  I only paused at two points.  Storage and battery life.

I’m not here to beat the storage horse to death.  It’s been done.  It’s Windows and it’s big, I get it.  I only paused because Microsoft pointed that fact out for me.


I got a good chuckle at this footnote because I’ve been spoiled by other tablet software and it’s smaller footprint.  I took a mental note that the 64Gb Surface Pro is probably not for me. (I have the 32Gb Surface RT and often think I should have got the 64Gb)

The battery life issue came to head due to a tweet from Panos Panay, a GM at Microsoft and an architect of the Surface.


He stated that the Surface Pro will have “half the battery life of the Surface RT.”  The web immediately lit up with activity.  Surface Pro is DOA, RIP Surface Pro.  This was a feeding frenzy for every tech blog on the planet.

Could this be the death of the product before it hits the shelves? Honestly, I was thinking that somewhat at first but I’ve had some time to mull this over and I think that while the headline is great; Surface Pro is DOA due to 4 hour battery life, these tech writers are forgetting a few things.

First of all this isn’t an iPad. It doesn’t look like one, it doesn’t act like one. What would have been the lowest run time required from Surface Pro for it not to be an instant failure to these people? Eight hours, 7?  Had it come in at 7 or 8 hours it would have been “commendable but not quite iPad like run time.”  In other words, it would have failed in their eyes no matter what.

My second point came by way of the Sunday paper and the advertisements within.  The ad for Office Depot was filled with Windows 8 laptops and they listed a stat under each one that no other ad in this paper had.  Battery life.  It was all over the place. Most were listed at “up to” 3 hours and some minutes.  Mostly, 3hr 30min, 3hr 45min, and a couple at 3hr 59minutes.  (That one confuses me to why they couldn’t just fudge that up to 4 hours.)  My own experience with Windows laptops is not much better.  Run time in my household has always been less than stellar but admittedly we don’t have the highest quality of laptop in the house.  Yes, there are laptops with longer running battery life than what I have discussed here.  That’s not the point.  The point is that on this store flyer there are a lot of choices and most of those choices are under 4 hours of battery life.

The last point is the “mileage may vary” argument.  In laptops we all know that what is advertised is rarely achievable.  My mileage with Surface RT has been on par with what’s advertised if not better.  Others have seen this as well.

I think that calling Surface Pro an instant failure due to it’s battery life is simply crazy.  It seems to me that the Surface Pro has more of a chance than these tech writers think.  Call it a laptop with a touch screen.  Only, it has a Core i5 processor, an SSD drive, two HD cameras, USB 3.0, sensors galore, and comes in at 2 pounds.  Did I mention the whole touch thing?

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10 Responses

  1. Aaron Rodriguez says:

    To me it is a doa…. I have the RT and going from 10-12 hrs to half that is just not "good enough" anymore. I would have absolutely upgraded from RT to a Pro had it gotten 8 hrs on a charge.

    My baseline these days is a RT can do whatever you throw at it and get through a work day (8 hrs). With a pro I would have to watch what I do on it and to me that makes it doa.

  2. Darren Cohen says:

    While I don't think this makes it DOA, it will take away from what most think of when they think of a "tablet". That is really the issue here. If you look at the specs with an i5, mini display port, usb 3.0, etc this is a pretty high end laptop replacement. The problem is that normally the battery is stored in the keyboard area, where here there is no keyboard area. I am impressed that they are able to get this much battery into the tablet form factor from an engineering point of view. I hope that they come out with a a keyboard down the road that can have an extended battery in it like we are seeing with some of the other OEM's.

  3. No, it's not DOA. Users have 2 options: RT or Pro.

    RT: Rich battery life, Modern UI apps plus Office, lighter and not as thick, lower resolution, slower
    Pro: Laptop battery life, Modern UI + desktop apps, thicker, higher resolution, faster

    The Pro is aiming to be a laptop replacement as well as a tablet replacement. It can even be a desktop replacement if you have an external monitor and peripherals.

    The Pro will cater to enterprises and professionals.

    • sam says:

      100% right, this is the first true desktop replacement tablet on the market- on the go: tablet with note taking capability- at home and office: plugged to 27" monitor, production workhorse…tech bloggers are blind. Surface Pro is the answer to all possible uses-cases.

  4. sircasio says:

    The Pro's use case it a laptop replacement – not a tablet. It's an ultrabook with a full power processor. My MacBook Pro running Win7 can't eek out 2hours of life, I would gladly take four!

    Also, given the pricing, it certainly doesn't appear that the Surface RT nor the Surface Pro are intended to sell great quantities. The OEM's provide similar (or better) hardware specs with lower price points. The Surface (and its touch/type covers) however have a killer design/build and so people are still seriously considering them (almost Apple-esque).

    Microsoft knows by now they need an Atom based solution and a Surface 2.0 with the new lower powered Core processors…when those come out, they'll sell like hotcakes.

  5. MazoMark says:

    I think the battery life issue will make people really stop and think how they plan to use the device. As others have pointed out, the Pro is not a tablet. Anyone expecting 8-10 hrs of battery life from the Pro with current battery technology just didn't fully appreciate this difference.

  6. jon devries says:

    The issue with the pro is that it isn't going to have instant on/off. Will the fans have to keep running when you go to standby?

    • R0bR says:

      Since when do fans keep running when on standby? I haven't powered off my laptops in years, and with Windows 8 just shutting the lid is instant off, open the lid its instant on.

  7. EricTheRed says:

    The battery life is not a deal breaker for me, at this time. The price is a bit more than the competition, however if they engineered it better than the competition I may still consider it. The lack of a keyboard may be a bit of a problem, however if it uses the RT keyboard, then I already have one as my wife will use the RT and doesnt like using the keyboard.

  8. Willen says:

    I don't think it's DOA. I always had in mind that it's the world's most portable laptop with touchscreen as you said. It's a whole new level of "things" for me. It's a computer in a body of a laptop, and that's it. An incredible device I'll be able to install my insane games and run with no need to get them on the "App Store". I really think it's great. It would be better if it had an iPad's battery life, which is really awesome due to the fact it doesn't have multiprocessing. The tablets running Android have awful battery life 'imho'. I really think that the Surface Pro is the start of the end of the computers we know, not the end of the tablets we know.