Rise of the Tomb Raider + Surface Book/Surface Pro 4

Rise of the Tomb Raider + Surface Book/Surface Pro 4

This week’s release of Rise of the Tomb Raider on Windows Store has triggered much excitement, given that it’s the first AAA Windows Store game. But how does it perform on Microsoft’s latest devices?

To find out, I tested Rise of the Tomb Raider on both a Surface Pro 4 with an Intel Core i5 processor and integrated graphics and 8 GB of RAM, and a Surface Book with an Intel Core i7 processor, a dedicated NVIDA GPU, and 16 GB of RAM.

Obviously, there were some differences. But one thing was true of both Surfaces: the devices’s fans run alot while the game is running, even if you’re just in the opening menus. Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 are powerful productivity wonders. But neither is a serious gaming PC.

Close-up detail of cut scene, on Surface Book with default graphics settings.

By default, the game runs at 1280 x 960 on both machines, with FXAA anti-aliasing and triple-buffered vertical sync. (In fact, this could very well be the default setting regardless of the PC. I’ve not tried it on other machines yet.) At this resolution, the SP4 is slow, really laggy, even in the menus. It’s unplayable, in fact.

So I looked around for some performance guides. As you might expect, there are already some good references available, despite the fact that this game is only a few days old. GeForce’s Rise of the Tomb Raider Graphics & Performance Guideis probably the best place to start.

Long story short, the way I made this game work on Surface Pro 4 was to bump the resolution down to the minimum (800 x 600), disable anti-aliasing, and de-tune most of the settings in Graphics options. (When I tried to change the Ambient Occlusion setting, the game crashed hard, so I gave up after two tries.)

Game menu, Surface Pro 4 at 800 x 600.
Game menu, Surface Pro 4 at 800 x 600.

With that done, the game is actually quite playable, at least in the opening sequence I’ve now played far too many times. But integrated graphics are only going to get you so far if you’re looking for graphics quality. Case in point: in many scenes in which a lot of sky is visible, there is a weird and distracting pattern onscreen. Playable but … eh.

A weird pattern in the sky, seen when you tune down the graphics.
A weird pattern in the sky, seen when you tune down the graphics.

The Surface Book is a bit more interesting because the model I have utilizes an NVIDIA dGPU. I tried the GeForce Experience app, which can automatically tune games to the hardware capabilities. But it couldn’t find Rise of the Tomb Raider (perhaps because of the universal app wrapper). And checking the site, I can see the game doesn’t appear in the list of supported titles (yet).


But Surface Book can handle the default resolution and graphics settings with aplomb for the most part. The performance is good and the graphics quality is excellent.

Game play, Surface Book.
Game play, Surface Book. (Not sure why this looks so washed out. It looks much better on the device.)

That said, I’d love to report some frame rate numbers. Does anyone know of a way to display this information in-game?


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