Benchmark scores show performance gap between Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3, iPad Air 2

Microsoft rightly pitches the new 2-in-1 as an alternative to Surface Pro 3 for 'less intense' tasks

Surface 3

A handful of benchmark scores for Microsoft's not-yet-released Surface 3 tablet hint that it's between a third and half as fast as the company's older 2-in-1, the more powerful Surface Pro 3.

The scores also show that Apple's iPad Air -- which starts at the same $499 price of the Surface 3 -- is between 36% and 93% faster than Microsoft's latest device.

Five Surface 3 benchmark scores posted on Primate Labs' Geekbench in the last two days have ranged from 949 to 1009 for single-core, and from 3200 to 3430 for multi-core.

The tests may have been run by people who have a review unit; like other hardware makers, Microsoft often seeds media outlets and influential blogs with machines prior to bringing them to retail, giving reviewers hands-on time so that they can publish their takes on or before the sale or ship date.

Microsoft has begun taking pre-orders for the Surface 3, but the tablet will not go on sale until May 5. The Redmond, Wash. company announced the Surface 3 on March 31.

By comparison, scores posted on Geekbench for the Surface Pro 3 running the mid-tier Intel Core i5 processor ranged from 2693 to 3208 (for single-core), and from 5430 to 6681 (for multi-core). That device starts at $999, sans keyboard.

Geekbench listed only a few benchmark tests of the low-end Surface Pro 3, which is powered by an Intel Core i3 CPU, but those averaged 1580 (single-core) and 3270 (multi-core). The slower Surface Pro 3 costs $799.

Microsoft does not disclose unit sales for its Surface line, much less break them down by model. But the Surface Pro 3 with a 1.9GHz Core i5 processor was easily the most-benchmarked on Geekbench, implying that it has been the biggest seller.

The differences between the Surface 3 and its bigger brother, the Surface Pro 3, were expected: The former relies on a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, specifically the Atom x7-Z8700. The Surface 3 is the first announced device to use the new "Cherry Trail" Atom chips, as well as Microsoft's first entry-level tablet to abandon ARM-based chips.

Cherry Trail was designed for tasks that require less computing horsepower, and for fan-less designs like the Surface 3. Cherry Trail also boasts twice the graphics performance as earlier Atoms, Intel has claimed.

Earlier this week, Microsoft touted the Surface 3 as a smaller, cheaper alternative to the Surface Pro 3, saying the former was suitable for "less intense" chores like browsing, casual games and working with Office documents. The Geekbench scores support that.

Apple's iPad Air 2, launched last fall, also beat the Surface 3 in Geekbench's scoring system. That tablet, powered by a 1.5GHz A8X Apple-designed system-on-a-chip (SoC), produced scores as high as 1829 (single-core) and 4665 (multi-core).

The lowest-priced iPad 2 comes with just 16GB of storage; the model with the same 64GB of storage as the low-end Surface 3 costs $599.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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