Surface Book Review – A Gaming Focused Perspective

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Gaming Performance

Surface Book Gaming Performance

This device might not immediately be seen as a gaming machine, and nor should it with it's 940M equivalent GPU and relatively weak CPU compared to proper gaming laptops. But that doesn't mean that it's entirely impossible to play games at appreciable levels of detail and at decent resolutions. Granted, some more graphically intense games aren't going to be playable at all, and you most certainly won't be playing at the native resolution either.

And key to this is that you won't necessarily be playing games using the integrated HD 520 either.. In this case, the iGPU is the GT2 within the lineup of Intel, and it operates at a frequency of 1GHz. There are 24 univfied shaders that share the system RAM for it's VRAM. It supports DirectX 12_1, though it might not be wise to play games on this part, as at this speed it won't be too terribly fast. Fallout 4 achieved a maximum of 18FPS at 720P, and Black Ops III achieved 12FPS at 768P, hardly playable. Older games, or more isometric and simple games are playable with the HD 520, though at significantly reduced resolution and effects. It's the GTX 940M that's very interesting here.

The 940M here is a variation of the actual official part, that comes with 2GB of DDR3. In the Surface Book it's clocked slightly lower and comes with 1GB of dedicated GDDR5. It retains the 384 shaders, 16 ROPs and 32 TMU's. The memory bus is limited to a paltry 64-bits, however. As we'll see below, though, that might not have as much of a difference at this level as we might think. Optimus is used to great effect here, and of course it's completely turned off when not in use. You can set which application uses the dGPU in NVIDIA's settings in the control panel, either globally or individually.

So we tested a variety of games to see how it did. All games were played at 1080P unless specifically stated. Each game had different settings attached, which are in the notes below the graph. But needless to say, this very small and minuscule device is much more capable than it might outwardly seem.

Game Settings Notes:

Batman Arkham Knight 720P, lowest possible settings, 16x AF All GameWorks Off
Batman Arkham Origin Everything on, No AA, AO Normal, DX11 Enhanced
Battlefield 4 Medium preset
Battlefield Bad Company 2 High preset
Call of Duty: Black Ops III 720P, Lowest settings, no AA
Civilization V 1080P Medium Detail, No AA
Dirt 3 Medium preset, 2xMSAA
Evochron Mercenary Highest Settings
Fallout 4 720P Medium Preset
Grand Theft Auto V Everything Normal, No AA, x16 AF
Hitman: Absolution 1080P Medium Preset
Just Cause 2 Medium settings, NoAA16xAF SSAO medium everything on, concrete jungle
Shadow of Mordor High Preset
Skyrim High preset
Sniper Elite III Medium, ambient occlusion, tessellation
Sniper Elite V2 Medium Preset
Star Wars: Battlefront Low Preset
The Witcher 3 Low presets
Tomb Raider 1080P High Quality preset

Something interesting happened here. The Surface Book has become a decent on the go gaming machine. No, it's not going to blow you away in quality or in resolution, but even 720P (though slightly stretched vertically) looks great on this size of screen. The only truly unplayable games are the obvious ones in the current modern lineup, Batman Arkham Knight, Black Ops III and The Witcher 3. Even the lowest settings were strangely poor experiences. But despite those few titles, the Surface Book can let you game on the go very easily, if you're willing to lower graphical fidelity to allow it to play. It's a surprise, to say the least, but casual gaming on the go in a portable package is indeed possible here. What's even better is that while it does get hot, and the fans ramp up, it isn't too terribly loud or annoying even in the most intense of situations.

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