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Here's why 'Instant On' is a huge deal for Surface Pro 7 and Surface Laptop 3

Surface Laptop 3
Surface Laptop 3 (Image credit: Windows Central)

In my recent review for the Surface Pro 7 and first impressions of Surface Laptop 3 13.5, I keep mentioning "Instant On" as a super cool feature that has been dramatically improved from previous iterations. Built, presumably, with Intel's Project Athena and the 10th Gen Intel platform, the feature effectively turns a laptop more into a smartphone or Apple iPad.

In this quick demo I posted on Instagram you can see a real-world example of it in action. The Surface Laptop on the left has been off for the entire night. Opening the lid, you must press the power button to resume. There, you see the Microsoft logo on the screen with the progress circle before it gets to the login screen for Windows 10. The entire process is only about 20 seconds (some laptops take even longer, like Dell).

Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop 3 13.5 on the right does it all within three to four seconds – even after being off all night. Moreover, the battery drain is minimal. After eight hours of being off, the Surface Laptop 3 13.5 only dropped 3 percent of the battery. The feature works up to 72 hours before the system will finally hibernate.

There is no setting for this, or rather, this is just how these devices work out of the box.

Some of this may seem trivial, but when you are in-and-out of your Laptop 3 or Surface Pro 7 multiple times a day, being able to jump back into your flow quickly is enormous. It is one reason why so many people like the iPad (and smartphones) – they are always ready to work.

And yes, this feature takes a bite out of one of Qualcomm's bragging rights with its Snapdragon on PC technology, which behaves the same. That means it will be even harder to choose between Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro X.

Finally, not to slight the AMD version of Laptop 3 15, as it wakes up very quickly too, especially in multiple succession. Windows Hello is lightning fast. But you will still occasionally see the Microsoft logo when it hibernates as it does so more frequently.

What do you think of this improvement? Shout out in comments if you believe all laptop manufacturers should focus on this tech, or if it's no big deal.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • I loved this feature on my Dell Venue 11 Pro. Too bad not many devices have connected standby anymore.
  • Wow! That instant on is amazing! In fact, I blinked and missed the actual screen lighting up lol. The video is truly a help to do it justice and show how much of an improvement it is over S1 sleep.. because most people would have different ideas of what "instant on" is.. my Ryzen laptop takes two seconds to wake and it doesn't really bother me but after seeing this Intel instant on, it makes it seem slow lol. I wonder if it also has connected standby.
  • Super impressive. Now is the time to upgrade to Intel 10th gen haha
  • My phone and my old Samsung tablet do this, and it's always been appreciated. But my Surface behaves this way about 95 percent of the time anyway (just a bit slower because it's an older generation). The real difference with me is that I rarely feel the need to restart my phone or tablet, but my PC needs a restart frequently or it starts getting cranky. Waiting for it to load is not a big deal and it's much better than in the past (it takes about 15-20 seconds + some stuff to load) but it's not instant. If I'm not mistaken, it's this main drawback that WCOS addresses. In the WCOS era, Windows really will be "instant on" because there will be no need to shut down often.
  • Can't help thinking if we're worrying about 20s startup times, we need to get some perspective on life, even if you are shutting down and starting 20x a day, that equates to a saving of roughly 6mins, or about 1% of the working day. That doesn't mean to say I wouldn't be happy with a faster boot time, I'm not sure there's much in life, I can do in that extra 20s every once in a while, pretty much puts an end to enforced coffee breaks. Hard to believe we used to measure boot times in minutes and software could take hours to compile.
  • I wish Dan would (assuming it's possible) to do a battery test with Instant On off versus on.
  • Not sure it's possible, but the battery drain as is, is minimal - I lose 4% overnight (9 hours).
  • I am really looking forward to « instant-on » functionality on a Windows laptop / tablet computer for several years, and it is one of the reason I was seriously (and I am still) considering an always on, always connected PC with Qualcomm 8cx processor like Samsung Galaxy Book S (it is also a fanless computer, which is also a big plus IMO) I am happy that 2019 is finally the year it comes of age on Intel laptop computers, and yes indeed, it makes me hesitate more between a Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 or a Samsung Galaxy Book S. However, 3% - 4% battery drain overnight seems still a bit high (it means ~10%/day and so nearly 30% battery drain in 72hours before hibernate kick-in if needed). @Daniel : Any chance to compare the battery drain between a Microsoft SL3 and a Samsung Galaxy Book S / Microsoft Surface Pro X when you will review them (really, really looking forward of the reviews of Samsung Galaxy Book S / Microsoft Surface Pro X with ARM processor) ? Thanks
  • 4% drain in 9 hours - which is roughly 12% per day is quite high compared to the Qualcomm/ARM devices. So we have standby of less than 10 days :(
    No wonder they go into hibernation within 72 hours.
  • Is it such a huge deal, though, when you can charge back up to 80 percent within an hour, though?
  • This feature is critical to a secondary device, e.g. for sketching and taking notes. This is always happening to me with my Surface Go: When I need to explain something with the help of diagrams to my colleague during a conversation, I would bring out my Surface Go, press the power button, wait for 20 seconds or so in awkward atmosphere, log in with Windows Hello, click the eraser button on Surface pen once, it gets connected, click twice, it launches the whiteboard. And finally I can sketch. For the usage as a primary device, I think it will be less noticeable but still a great improvement that will make life happier!
  • That's odd, my surface pro 6 has never taken 30 seconds to wake up, even after a day. What takes a long time *sometimes* is windows hello, that can take 30 seconds or more but that only happens occasionally. I definitely won't trade down to a surface pro 7 with its reduced battery life.
  • I didn't even know this was available on Surface Pro 7 until I'd bought one. Yet it's a major selling point of the Surface Pro X. I'm really glad I ignored that hype now and went for the 7.
  • Ok, so pulling aside the fan boys for a moment, most people I know disable Hibernate due to the huge (I forget what they are called) page files (?) that it generates and wastes storage. So what is this 'instant on' using? are they powering the RAM? Are they still using the save state files that reserve stupid amounts of space on the drive? Also, is it going to be disabled when I kill Hibernate?