Should you buy the Surface Book with Performance Base for gaming?

Surface Book

We have to be careful not to call it a "new" Surface Book, as it's really not. But the refreshed high-end model has some notable improvements over the existing one. You're getting twice the graphics power and plenty more battery life in something that's virtually identical to what you can already buy.

We're also asked fairly often with regards gaming, just what mileage you get on a Surface Book. We've already addressed the current top-spec model and what kind of gaming experience you get on it, but what about the Performance Base? Is it one for gamers?

What's inside the Surface Book with Performance Base?

Surface Book

Microsoft (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

If you're interested in the full specs list, we've compiled a list of those, but the most important part from a gaming perspective is the "2x graphics" that Microsoft promoted on stage at launch. The Performance Base brings a 2GB NVIDIA GTX 965M to the Surface Book, along with a beefier battery.

While still a way off what you'd find in a dedicated gaming laptop, it's a substantial increase on the current NVIDIA graphics in the Surface Book. It's also the same GPU used in the base model Surface Studio.

Can you game on it?

Surface Book

Yes, you can. OK, you want more than that. We've already proven that you can game on a Surface Book, albeit with mixed results and a definite reduction in both resolution and graphical quality. And no, it's not just Candy Crush, either, you can enjoy titles such as Overwatch and Gears of War in some capacity.

The Performance Base will only improve that experience, and at this point, we'll have to wait and see exactly by how much. Given past experiences with a 960M GPU, we'd be fairly hopeful of a good improvement in both frame rate and resolution, but the fact it's a 2GB rather than a 4GB card will still prove limiting at times.

This refreshed edition of the Surface Book doesn't change the processor, either, which means you're still using a dual-core chip. Gamers should always prefer a quad-core.

More: Gaming on the current Surface Book with NVIDIA GPU

It's expensive

The Surface Book has never been a laptop to consider on a tight budget, regardless of your use case. The Performance Base Edition starts at $2,399 and goes up to $3,299. It's expensive, but it's also not exactly a regular laptop.

It's also not great value at these prices if gaming is high on the agenda. For less, you can certainly get much more raw performance. By comparison, the most expensive Razer Blade with a quad-core i7 processor and a GTX 1060 GPU tops out at $2,700.

The bottom line

Surface Book

The conclusion is very similar to that we came to when asking this same question about the Surface Studio. Your reasons for buying a Surface Book should be first and foremost that you want one for what it offers away from playing PC games. It's a unique product among laptops and has a lot to offer, albeit at a price.

If you're a casual gamer then you can go into a Surface Book knowing that you will be able to play your favorite titles to some extent. But if gaming is high on your priorities, go somewhere else.

See at Microsoft

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at