Is the Surface Pro X good for gaming?

Surface Pro X
Surface Pro X (Image credit: Windows Central)

Is the Surface Pro X good for gaming?

Best answer: Yes, with caveats. Thanks to the diversity of Windows content, you can actually turn this into a decent gaming machine for highly optimized games and arcade-style 2D side-scrollers. Just don't expect to be playing the latest AAA blockbuster on ultra-high graphics. At least not natively. If you want a PC that runs games more reliably, that you can take with you, consider the Razer Blade 15 instead.Always connected: Surface Pro X (From $800 at Microsoft)For superior portable gaming: Razer Blade 15 (From $1,300 at Razer)

Arcade style tablet

Surface Pro X

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Surface Pro X is a unique proposition from Microsoft. It's powered by ARM architecture, yet runs full Windows 10. This creates a lot of benefits, but also a few limitations. For the full rundown on the technicalities therein, please consult our full Surface Pro X review.

Given its mobile-like architecture, typically, you can expect superior battery life compared to similar Windows laptop hybrids in this class, as long as you're using apps optimized for ARM. Emulating x86 programs pushes the battery a bit harder. Even when running games, the ARM-powered Surface Pro X gets nowhere near as warm as its Intel-powered brethren, which is a welcome benefit if you're someone familiar with how damn warm the Surface Pro line can get during intensive tasks.

YouTube reviewer josher14 demonstrates Batman Arkham City running surprisingly well on the Surface Pro X.

In terms of playability, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of games that run well on the Surface Pro X, but you have to accept the limitations. Visually simplistic games like Guacamelee, Dead Cells, Hollow Knight, Blasphemous, and even more layered 2D games like Ori and the Blind Forest run well on the Pro X. Essentially any 2D side-scrolling arcade-style game will run well on this device. Still, you can even push it up to 3D in some scenarios too.

Some 3D games like Diablo III, Overwatch, Fortnite, and others can achieve a playable frame rate on the lowest possible settings. Aggressively optimized games like Rocket League can also achieve very respectable frame rates, even up to 60 FPS. YouTube gaming reviewer josher14 demonstrated a range of older 3D Unreal Engine games that perform incredibly well on the device, including Batman Arkham City. You can watch an example above.

Rocket League

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The seems to vary wildly from title to title, depending on how the game is built and how well optimized it is. Essentially, you shouldn't pick up the Surface Pro X specifically for gaming. Still, it's certainly something it can do on the side, along with its impressive performance for productivity tasks and always-connected LTE chipset.

Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming option

Source: Daniel Rubino | Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino | Windows Central)

Despite the limited capabilities of the Surface Pro X in terms of native gaming, thanks to Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming, we now have another option.

Xbox Game Pass lets you play the Xbox versions of games via streaming over an internet connection, using a connected Xbox controller, or even with on-screen touch controls in a pinch. 4G LTE probably isn't fast enough unless you have a particularly great signal and stick primarily to turn-based games (of which there many). But, over a stable Wi-Fi connection, the Surface Pro X makes for a great streaming device, with good battery life.

Consider Razer Blade 15 instead for more potent portable gaming

Razer Blade 15

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

If you want a more capable gaming PC that retains the sleekness and mobility of the Surface Pro X, consider the Razer Blade 15 as an alternative.

It's a fair bit pricier, but that's due to its more beefy internals geared towards gaming, rather than productivity. The model I'm using has an RTX 2060 dedicated GPU, which is leaps and bounds more powerful than the ARM chipset found in the Pro X, complete with full Intel Core i7 processing and 16GB of RAM. It also has large fans underneath for cooling, and a Thunderbolt port for external GPU enclosures if you want to push it even further.

Of course, you're sacrificing a touch screen, inking, and tablet-style user scenarios from dropping the Surface Pro range. Still, if it's gaming you're interested in, a more serious laptop like the Razer Blade 15 is something you should definitely consider. The Pro X should be seen primarily as a productivity device that can do some very light gaming on the side, and nothing more.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!