Microsoft Surface Pro 3 CPUs Compared: Intel Core i7-4650U vs i5-4300U vs i3-4020Y

Surface Pro 3 with KeyboardAlthough I believed the Intel Core i3 and i7 processors inside the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet will be from the next generation Intel Broadwell chip family, it turned out that they’ll be actually the current Haswell chips. Namely the Intel Core i7-4650U and i3-4020Y. They will accompany the i5-4300U as the already known option.

That’s according to CNet’s source at Microsoft. To remind you, the company announced the i5-4300U and unnamed i3 and i7 as the Surface Pro 3 CPU options. Since we now know thier SKUs – the i7-4650U and i3-4020Y – we can compare processors of the new tablet. At least their specifications and PassMark benchmark scores.

Naturally, the Core i7-4650U will be the fastest among the trio. It has some more advanced specs over similar i7 Haswells. The main is inclusion of the Intel HD 5000 series integrated graphics instead of the HD 4400. That should bring a bit faster graphics rendering, but still without big performance leap.

The i5-4300U is already in use in the Surface Pro 2. As a mid-range chip, it’s quite suitable for office and home tasks and is frequently used in various laptop and tablet models. It has the Intel HD 4400 IGP.

The Intel Core i3-4020Y is the slowest among them. Not just because the i3 is generally positioned lower in the CPU hierarchy, but also because of its lower power consumption. It’s an “Y” part with maximal thermal design power of 11.5 Watts, down from 15W of the “U” chips. Therefore, power-efficiency is the main selling point of this option. Hopefully, the i3 Surface Pro 3 will have a longer battery life than the i5 and i7. At expense of lower computing speed. The integrated HD 4200 IGP in it is a tad slower than the 4400 series.

Here are the benchmark results of these processors, taken from PassMark benchmark database. It contains test results of the processors used in various Windows-based laptop and tablet models available on the market.

Intel Core i7-4650U vs i5-4300U vs i3-4020Y Benchmark

The chart shows advantage of the i7, not only over the i5 and i3 Surface Pro 3 options, but also over the commonly used i7-4500U chip. Of course, the full-blown quad-core i7-4700MQ for high-performance and gaming laptops is far ahead. The i5 appears to hit the sweet spot between performance and cost, while the i3 is satisfactory for the most of home and office use scenarios. It should be avoided if you plan to use the SP3 mostly for demanding professional photo editing, video production or similar tasks. For these purposes, the i7 is recommended.

In the table below you can see the most important specifications points of the CPUs. The differences are highlighted in red color.

Intel Core i7-4650U Intel Core i5-4300U Intel Core i3-4020Y
Code Name  Haswell  Haswell  Haswell
Status Launched Launched Launched
Launch Date Q3’13 Q3’13 Q3’13
# of Cores 2 2 2
# of Threads 4 4 4
Clock Speed 1.7 GHz 1.9 GHz 1.5 GHz
Max Turbo
3.3 GHz 2.9 GHz Not available
Cache 4 MB 3 MB 3 MB
64-bit 64-bit 64-bit
Set Extensions
SSE 4.1/4.2, AVX 2.0 SSE 4.1/4.2, AVX 2.0 SSE 4.1/4.2, AVX 2.0
Lithography 22 nm 22 nm 22 nm
Max TDP 15 W 15 W 11.5 W
Customer Price
TRAY: $426.00 TRAY: $281.00 TRAY: $281.00
Intel HD graphics
Intel HD Graphics
Intel HD Graphics
Graphics Base
200 MHz 200 MHz 200 MHz
Graphics Max
Dynamic Frequency
1.1 GHz 1.1 GHz 850 MHz
Quick Sync
Yes Yes Yes
Turbo Boost
2.0 2.0 No
Yes Yes No
Hyper-Threading Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes Yes
for Directed I/O (VT-d)
Yes Yes No
Intel TSX-NI Yes Yes No
Yes Yes Yes
Secure Key Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes No
Disable Bit
Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes Yes

The most important difference between the i3 and other two parts is absence of TurboBoost technology on the former. That’s one of the causes of the lower benchmark scores of it. As already noted, another big difference is the lower TDP on the i3. Intel has also omitted some technologies important for business use on this chip, such as vPro system management. The i5 and i7 are pretty much similar, with graphics being the main difference.

6 thoughts on “Microsoft Surface Pro 3 CPUs Compared: Intel Core i7-4650U vs i5-4300U vs i3-4020Y”

  1. Man, thank you so much. Only place I’ve found that acknowledges/talks about core count and if they have hyper-threading. To me, this is way more important than a little clock speed. After looking at it though they’re all the same. Too bad, it’d be nice if they’d offer a 4 core/8HT

  2. Pingback: Surface Pro 3: Battery Life Core i3, i5, i7 | JimUBC
  3. Pingback: Surface Pro 3: i5 vs. i7 | Austin Chambers
  4. Hello; thanks all! Sorry to bother you. I am desperately looking for service manuals/schematics for MS Surface Tablets, especially newest models. Unlike other products, and I have been acquiring service manuals for years, I have seen zero sources or info for this. Don’t care why just want a source or hint; am happy to pay for such info and material. If you have any idea or could ask a good contact, I would be greatly appreciated and indebted. Thank you! Jay Korobow i can be reached at jaykorobow at comcast dot net

  5. Thanks for posting the prices for the chips as well as the price, it really helps perform a cost benefit analysis. No other website has laid our the performance and price benefits in such a concise manner.


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