Surface Pro 3 Undervolting Boost Performance by 20% reduce heat and noise

By Chris – 10th July 2014
Surface Pro 3 Undervolting Boost Performance by 20% reduce heat and noise

While the Surface Pro 3 is not lacking in terms of performance by any means  (For a Windows tablet), there are those of us still wanting a bit more.  And it is possible with a few minor tweaks to boost both your CPU and GPU output by around 20% according to our tests*. If you’re one of those types that like to tweak your machine to the best of its ability, then this is for you. We’re not promising you will get 20%, but in our own benchmark tests this is around the figure we were able to achieve with ease. You might even be able to go over 20% more performance on your own Surface Pro 3. It all depends on your chipset and varies from CPU to CPU -We can’t stress this enough. And you should even see reduced fan noise, heat and a tiny increase in battery life.

And to do this we only need one program, Intel Extreme Tuning Utility aka Intel XTU. Some of you might know of this utility from Intel or have used it to overclock before on test tops or notebooks. Well, don’t worry we are not overclocking here. You would have to be insane to try that on a tablet like the Surface with its thermal limits. No, no in fact we want to do the opposite of overclocking and overvolt. A simple undervolt, that’s the key to make the Surface Pro 3’s Haswell i5 or i7 preform even better. All while reducing heat and that throttling that reduces the systems performance.

The whole goal of  doing this is to give the CPU and Intel HD GPU more thermal headroom to allow the GPU and CPU to maintain higher clocks longer, less heat and throttle much less than stock voltage.

Download and install the latest Intel XTU version. Once installed, go to All Controls. Click agree on the warning. Now you can start with tweaking your CPU, GPU and Cache voltages. The worst that can happen is a BSOD and the system will reset, if that happens your pushing the undervolt too far. Highly unlikely you could corrupt your SSD from a sudden reset. If you don’t want to risk this, then please do not continue. There is no way you can do any physical harm to the CPU.

We suggest you start out on the dynamic CPU voltage offset on your Surface Pro 3. Try around -50mV, run a CPU stress test and to see if its stable. If that’s good, try a little less. Repeat this process till your happy and most importantly stable. Then move onto the Processor Graphics Voltage Offset and the cache voltage. Its best to tweak one at a time, find a stable undervolt before going onto the next.

Our stable setting below. We could do better but for now this is very stable.

Note your CPU maybe do much better or worse than this. Mileage varies somewhat cpu to cpu.

Our Surface Pro 3 undervolt.

Our stable Surface Pro 3 undervolt. i5 4300U model.

Show me the proof!

Here is the proof of our claim, our simple 3D mark 11 benchmark test showed a big improvement in CPU and GPU scores over stock on our Surface Pro 3. Why? Well less voltage = less heat = more time in turbo (higher clock speed) and better overall performance.

Undervolting Surface Pro 3 our stock score

Our 3Dmark 11 stock voltage score P826

undervolting Surface Pro 3 our undervolt

And our undervolted score, was P1012 A healthy 22.52% increase over stock voltages, both CPU and GPU benchmark numbers have increased. Nothing to sneeze at for a free performance increase right?

So have fun with this, but remember if you encounter the system resetting itself, blue screens of death or not sleeping correctly. Chances are you need to ease back the undervolt a little. And remember this is not for everyone!

Please do comment with your own undervolts and testing. This may help other Surface Pro 3 users looking to squeeze the most out of this amazing tablet.

  • Nicolas Savides

    Interesting article. Have you measured the impact on battery life?

    • GamerHeadlines

      Its too hard to measure. My guess is 3-5% tops.

  • GamerHeadlines

    This was run with the first update. But not the second firmware update 9th?. The second firmware update has lowered the points by about 20-40 in 3dmark. I got 979 almost 1000 in 3dmark11 with the new firmware and undervolt.

  • Kevin

    You said the only risk is the possibility of corrupting the SSD due to an unexpected shutdown. Does that mean it shouldn’t violate the Surface Pro warranty?

    • GamerHeadlines

      It shouldn’t effect your warranty, I don’t how it would.

  • guest

    Any amount of tweaking force-reboots when entering connected standby…

    • GamerHeadlines

      If that’s the case, try enabling Hyper-V. No connected standby then and no crashing. Windows search type Turn windows features on or off. Run it. Enable Hyper-V

    • tinypocket

      Same with me — I get a force reboot after connected standby with even the slightest tweaking.

  • GamerHeadlines

    It helps out, allows the SP3 to turbo for longer and it did throttle less in our testing. The 3dmark11 scores prove this.

  • Connor Ryan

    Can anyone let me know what the stock value for “Turbo Boost Power Time Window?”

    When I changed my values I noticed that yours was 3 seconds, so I set mine to that. I am experiencing some issues and I want to get everything back to stock before I start playing again.

    If anyone wants to email it to me or post a stock screen shot, my email is [email protected]

    • GamerHeadlines

      I think the default is 3 seconds.

      • Connor Ryan

        When I first set it up, my surface was not 3 seconds. I changed it to 3 to match yours. If anyone gets a stock screen shot let me know.

  • Connor Ryan

    Here are my results:

    Shows maximum core clock at 798mhz

    • GamerHeadlines

      I think you forgot to paste the link ?

      • Connor Ryan

        it wont let me post it for some reason

  • Jay

    got 1002 on an i5, 128GB, 4GB … but only with an additional fan.. around 800 without the fan and around 700 before undervolting ~60mV

  • Darth62969

    so undervolted to the i3 yeah not working, no turbo boost. uh overvolt would do what?

    • Aryzen

      Heat it up. That’s really it.
      You overvolt if you overclock and the processor needs more power than usual.

      (Someone correct me if I’m wrong…?)

      • Darth62969

        outside that you are right… it’s still not helpful.

  • brennanyama

    Sure, undervolting will boost intermittent performance, but a thermal throttle is just that… The problem with the SP3 isn’t max performance (well, at least it’s not the MAIN problem), the problem is performance under sustained load. The thermal throttling is so aggressive (as it probably should be for such a wafer thin device), once you hit the throttle, any performance gain you get from UV gets thrown out the window. Of course, UV is a pretty safe procedure, so there’s not a whole lot of hurt to it–just don’t expect to start playing your games at reasonable FPS for extended periods of time…

  • chrisowright

    I also managed to undervolt my i7 surface 3 pro:
    Cpu: -46,875 mV
    GPU: -67,38 mV
    So far every stress test was stable (did not try over 5 min though).
    Setting Processor Cache Voltage offset highter than -46 mV (I tried -50) resulted in restart.
    I hope that my surface keeps stable under these settings in prolonged use.
    Frequency of both gpu and cpu seems much increased, and will be higher in sustained load (gpu: from 400 to nearly 600, a 50% increase; cpu maybe 10-20 %).
    Saving battery mode seems ok, I will check whether there are problems arising in further use.

  • Guest

    I also managed to undervolt my i7 surface 3 pro:
    Cpu: -40,875 mV
    GPU: -67,38 mV
    So far every stress test was stable (did not try over 5 min though).
    Setting Processor Cache Voltage offset highter than -45 mV (I tried -50) resulted in restart.
    I hope that my surface keeps stable under these settings in prolonged use.
    Frequency of both gpu and cpu seems much increased, and will be higher in sustained load (gpu: from 400 to nearly 600, a 50% increase; cpu maybe 10-20 %).
    Saving battery mode seems ok, I will check whether there are problems arising in further use.

  • chrisowright

    surface 3 pro i7: undervolting gpu stable at -40 mV.
    Down to -45 and below prevents sleeping so far..surface logo splashes immediatly ;-(

  • Ben

    Mine’s running a fair bit cooler at -65 across the board. Only issue I’m having is when I shut down and turn back on later in the day the settings aren’t reapplied automatically and I have to set them again.

  • dm

    Thanks for the article!

    I finally got around to take the time and tweak it. Went for lowest power consumption, rather than max performance. One could try adjusting the Turbo Boost Power Time Window further and especially the Processor Graphics Ratio Limit. Ratio default should be 11x (=1100MHz), maybe you could get it to 12x or 13x, but that only with relative higher voltage and temp (which then throttles more again…), so maybe I try that later. Also might try changing the Turbo Boost (Short) Power Max, but it will increase average temps and ramps up the Power Limit (afaik…).

    I got the i5, 8GB Ram version, managed to get:
    -78mV core, -78mV cache, -100mV gpu
    I pretty much have no thermal throttling, only the very annoying power limit kicks in… dunno how to get around that.
    3D Mark 11 ( 64-bit) is P1020 (gpu 929, physics 3415, comb 779)

  • SP3Owner

    I got a p1038 graphics score of 940 with the same setting you have in a sp3 i5 256gb. I’m impressed!! Thanks for the tips!

  • Guest

    I7 Version:
    DirscriptionMax. TaktCPU VoltGPU VoltTempPushed Fan?Benchmark XTUShort TurboStandard3,30091-93Yes339onUndervolt 13,3-40-6789-91Yes348onUndervolt 23,3-50-6788-89Yes350onUndervolt + UC3-50-6780-90Yes333onUndervolt + UC 2,6-50-6776-90Yes338onUndervolt + UC3-50-6787-90351off

  • i

    I wanted to ask if it makes sense to undervolt CPU (i5-4300U) on my S3PRO to lower minimum power consumption and heat. Is it possible with intel XTU and current intel CPUs? I don’t want to increase the performance of my S3Pro, I want to keep same performance but with less power consumption and heat. I used to do undervolting on my old thinkpad X41 with intel Centrino, where I lowered CPU voltage on all CPU frequencies and the benefit was less heat, less noise (fan working less time) and more battery life. But I am not sure if it can be reach nowadays. I was told the undervolting is usable nowadays only for max. performance which is not my desire, I am not gaming, etc. Thank you for answer.

    • Riding on a future wave

      Yes you get more battery life as a result of undervolting. If you go down a few posts theres a guy that undervolted the cpu -78 the core -78 and the gpu -100. With the gpu undervolted that far the performance will deff take a hit. You can deff increase battery life through this method and also in the advanced power options set your max prossesor limit percentage to around 30% or lower on balanced or power saver to save even more battery. If you go to task manager under the performance tab you’ll see your prossesor will never get over like 1.70 or .90ghz which will deff save your battery. You just have to do some testing.

  • Riding on a future wave

    Messing around with my surface I got really good results. I got a 3d mark score of 1081 a graphics score of 960. I think that’s really really good for the surface pro 3 with the Intel hd4400. I can now run any game I want on medium settings mostly and get around 28-40 fps witch is beyond playable. The surface is a really really amazing machine. I’m also using windows 10 tech preview.

  • Aryzen

    i7 Surface Pro 3, can UV to -62 mV just fine, for the processor… But the GRAPHICS crashes if I do that.
    When I say crashes, I mean the system hard resets as soon as any significant stress is introduced. Under stress test, it lasts three seconds after I press start.
    I can’t UV much of anything without the graphics complaining about it. I guess I’m going stock… I’m sad.

    • Darth62969

      you can give the graphics processor more juice you know.

      • Aryzen

        I mean, if I UB the processor -62 mV, the graphics crashes, even if I do not adjust any other settings.
        I read some comments down below, and that said to UV the processor to -40 mV, and the Graphics to -62 mV…
        How odd, that the processor voltage makes a such a huge difference for another component…. Is this because I’m using Intel graphics drivers instead of the stock drivers?

      • miklamx

        How would you do that?

    • Aryzen

      Nope. It survives the stress test, but fails in every day use…

  • Mike

    It’s something wrong with mine. Kees rebooting even at lower settings.. I mean really even st – 0.01. A minute after screen turns off it renoots. Is it me or I’ve got a lemon?

  • Pablo Angel Casiano

    I used your settings and worked like a charm! Thank you!

  • ogmackplrcool

    Just picked up a SP3 i7 and undervolting has made a huge different for me. I used your settings as a starting point and achieved great results. I was only able to UV the graphics chip about 50 mV. Anything lower than that and I got random display crashes. No reboots but annoying nonetheless.
    Now it seems to teeter at about 86-88 degrees during benchmarks or heavy use. A couple times it started throttling but instantly sped right back up when the high speed fan kicked in.
    Great guide. Thanks!

    • Any chance you have a note of the correct defaults for the i7 Surface Pro 3? Even if there is just an option to restore defaults in the tuning tool could somebody post up what those *should* be?

      • ogmackplrcool

        I don’t as I upgraded to a SP4 soon after this. I thought there was a default profile saved automatically?

        • I think there, I am trying to diagnose a weird problem and wanted to try and compare my defaults to other peoples – Somebody mentioned in a forum they were getting strange issues w/ sleep crashing and they had the wrong default settings apparently…Unfortunately they didn’t post any details.

          I have a friend with a SP3 so when I see him next I’ll try and compare the defaults of both the systems.

  • Can somebody post up the defaults for the i7 Surface Pro 3?