Gaming and laptops go together like mud and a new pair of shoes, that is, until NVIDIA was able to cram higher-end graphics into a slim package. When you marry that with a quad-core i7 CPU, what you end up with is a machine for the road that can also let you frag from the hotel room.
While my initial review was primarily targeted at the business world, after all this is a great machine for the office, it’s also a capable gaming device. During the past few days, I have been using this machine heavily, strictly for gaming, and I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised by the performance of the machine.
For strictly testing purposes, I measured the performance of three games, PUBG, Doom and Tomb Raider. In addition, I also played a bit of Fortnite and Ashes of Singularity as well but I don’t closely monitor the performance of the last two games as the first three titles showed this machine can handle modest gaming performance.
The GTX 1060 in this machine shines and with all games, it is possible to get over 60FPS, depending on which settings you are willing to sacrifice. I used the keyboard and a Logitech G502 for most of my gaming but I did also try it out with an Xbox controller too (more on that later).
With PUBG and all the settings on ultra, I was averaging in the low 30s when running around with a dip of high teens when flying into a max of mid-40s when inside buildings. Clearly, this is not ideal, but knock the settings down from ultra (lower the resolution too) and you will get much higher frame-rates; I played this game with the performance set to max in Windows 10 and plugged in. When I set everything to low, frames were in the low 40s during heavily congested scenes and reaching into the 70s inside buildings.
With Doom, I played it with it both unplugged and plugged in as when it is plugged in, you will get better performance. On my machine, when set to performance mode when on battery, the fans only kicked on when needed; when it is plugged in, the fans spin up right away and are running the entire time.
If you watch the video, you can see the performance gains in action as Doom was staying in the 30-40FPS range when on battery and when plugged in, it nudged up into the 50s on occasion.
I played Tomb Raider as well under both scenarios and the results are roughly the same, you will see about a 5+FPS average increase when plugged in versus on battery. Using the games built-in benchmarking tool, there was a 3FPS advantage to when plugged in vs not plugged in; this is the only synthetic benchmark testing I did for this mini-review as real-world usage is a much better metric than synthetic tests.
One thing that you may run into is that when gaming on the battery is that it will nosedive quickly. This isn’t a major surprise as I was running the machine at full capacity and pushing for higher FPS than battery life. In the instance that you do run down the battery, the Surface Book will prompt you to save your game so that you don’t lose any progression; the machine does not randomly shut down.
As for the issue of will gaming while plugged in draw down the battery? During my sessions I did not experience any significant drops, the battery level stayed roughly flat; meaning it did not charge but it also didn’t decrease either. Just know this, plugged in, you will have to put on a serious marathon session to flatten the battery from a full charge; for me, it’s a non-issue for my style of gaming.
One ‘issue’ if you want to call it that is when pairing an Xbox One controller to the machine for the first time, it would never ‘discover’ the peripheral. Once I plugged it in via USB and registered it with the laptop, I had no issues going forward. It was a little bit odd seeing as I thought you could initially pair it wirelessly on the first run but be aware of this if you run into issue like I did.
Overall, as a pure gaming machine, I’m quite pleased with the performance but it’s not going to replace a gaming desktop anytime soon. That being said, if you “only” have a few thousand to spend and want to do a modest amount of gaming from a laptop while on the road, this machine is more than capable of handling that task.