Surface Pro 2 May Target 8+ Hour Battery Life With Haswell
September 4, 2013 12:15 PM
Memory bump and NFC may also be added
Despite a rocky start for its tablet experiment, Microsoft Corp. (
) is reportedly prepping its second generation of Surface tablets for this holiday shopping season. The Surface Pro 2 is expected to receive
Core series chip
from Intel Corp. (
I. First Gen Surface Pro Was Sunk Largely by it's Intel Processor
Before 2010 no tablet had achieved strong enough sales to be characterized as a hit and the market was considered a niche space. Then in 2010 Apple, Inc.'s (
posting stunning sales
. A key to its success was its decision to dump the power-thirsty Intel processors that littered its underappreciated Windows predecessors and instead adopt a weaker but more power-efficient core design from ARM Holdings Plc. (
). Thanks to the ARM chip, the tablet boasted a battery life of 10 hours -- a key selling point.
Two years later, Microsoft, still steaming from missing the tablet craze,
ditched its OEM partners
launch its own first-party tablet hardware
-- Surface. And Microsoft offered up a variant dubbed Surface Pro that packed
a 1.7 GHz dual-core Intel i5-3317u
. The hot question was whether Intel's primary "Core" chip line had come far enough power-efficiency-wise to truly compete with hit ARM-equipped Android tablets and the iPad.
Things looked promising at first. The tablet
launched in Feb. 2013
and some retailers
sold out of their early stock
. In fact in its first month the tablet reportedly
moved 400,000 units
. But eventually
sales petered out
leading Microsoft to take a
whopping $900M USD write-down
a permanent $100 USD discount
on the struggling tablet.
Data-mining indicates that Surface RT is actually the stronger seller, comprising about 9.5 percent of Windows 8/RT devices sold, while Surface Pro occupied a measly 1.0 percent.
The Surface Pro has been outsold by the ARM-equipped Surface RT.
The deal breaker for many was the high price ($799 for 64 GB and $899 USD for 128 GB after the latest discount) coupled
with the poor battery life
. The Intel chip shaved the ample 7-hour battery life of the ARM-equipped Surface RT down to a little over 4 hours. Arguably, Intel is to blame on both of these counts as it demands up to
$300 USD more
for its power-hungry chips, versus popular ARM competitors.
To make matters worse, the tablet at times felt sluggish during heavy use with "only" 4 GB of RAM and the Windows 8 OS consumed much of the storage, leaving
only 83 GB free on the 128 GB Surface; 23 GB on the 64 GB Surface
. By contrast the iPad -- which requires about 10 percent of storage to be free, plus room for the OS -- offers about 105 GB for the 128 GB version and 54 GB for the 64 GB version [
]. It appear the Windows recovery technology is primarily to blame -- of the 10.4 GB allocated for Windows, 7.9 GB of it is reportedly for recovery.
II. Fixing Surface -- Haswell May Do the Trick
Microsoft has already moved to remedy storage shortcomings by
bumping the capacity to 256 GB
in the first-generation models.
But the pivotal question remained what to do about the power-hungry Intel chip. It appears Intel has sold Microsoft on the idea of a
brain for the Surface 2. A
recent analysis by
showed Intel making
serious power-efficiency gains with
, with a projected battery life of 8 hours with a 42.5 Wh battery. Of course these numbers were based on Apple's OS X and iOS -- but they suggest that if Microsoft does its homework on the firmware front, their may be hope that the Surface Pro 2 fixes the abysmal battery life of its predecessor.
is offering 8+ hours of battery life on a 42 Wh battery.
The aforementioned tests were done on a
ULT processor (13.5 W TDP). In June Intel also announced an even more efficient ULX line (10 W TDP) (with 'Y' tacked onto the chip numbers), which could bump battery life even higher. If Microsoft can get it hands on ULX chips, it has a shot at least doubling the battery life of the first generation Surface Pro.
The Surface Pro 2 is also expected --
-- to pack a "refined" kickstand, improving on a popular feature in the first model. It's also expected to bump the memory to 8 GB.
that other Surface Pro 2 rumors point to NFC, wireless charging, an LTE variant, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi support.
Meanwhile the Surface 2 (the second generation Surface RT) is expected to receive a predictable bump from NVIDIA Corp.'s (
) Tegra 3 arm processor to a Tegra 4 chip -- possibly
the Tegra 4i
The only official word from Microsoft is that it has committed to "updates" as noted in a video from Microsoft
. However AdDuplex -- which claims to be the largest Windows 8/RT-specific advertising network -- has noted Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 devices are already logging internet hours, indicating that Microsoft is likely dogfooding prototypes in preparation for a launch.
Microsoft has confirmed a "refresh" of Surface. [Image Source: ZDNet]
Those same numbers hint that Microsoft may be competing with its
own recently acquired
-- Nokia Oyj. (
) -- as
a pair of Nokia tablets
(codenamed RX-107, RX-108) also show up in the mined data.
"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
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