Surface Book Tip: Manage the Discrete GPU

Posted on November 5, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 0 Comments

Surface Book Tip: Manage the Discrete GPU

While the NVIDIA discrete GPU found in some Surface Book models is still somewhat mysterious, those who go this route gain some unique additional capabilities. Here are two of them.

First, here’s what we do know about the GPU.

The discrete GPU (or dGPU) found in select Surface Book models is an NVIDIA GeForce “Maxwell”-based GPU with 1 GB of dedicated GDDR5 RAM. The chip is really designed for power-user productivity scenarios—Adobe Illustrator and Lightroom, for example–and not gaming. But as I’ve discovered, it can handle modern 3D games quite ably, assuming you don’t mind sticking to 1080p-type resolutions.

So here are two tips for best taking advantage of this unique configuration.

You can control whether individual applications use integrated graphics (the Intel HD Graphics 520 chipset in the screen) or the dGPU. To do, you run the NVIDIA control panel, which comes with Surface Book. (Find it with Start search.) Normally, Windows will automatically choose which graphics processor to use on the fly. But if you have a particular app that you wish to always use the dGPU (or, conversely, always use integrated graphics), this control panel lets you make this choice.

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You can optimize games for the dGPU. NVIDIA makes an application called GeForce Experience which lets you optimize games for your NVIDIA graphics processor. This application doesn’t come with Surface Book, but you can download it from the NVIDIA web site. When you do, it will scan your PC for installed games and then present the optimal configuration for each, optimized for your exact hardware. Pretty cool. (But don’t try to use this utility to update Surface Book’s drivers. Windows 10 will handle that.)

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