Visual Computing a Highlight of Surface Book, Microsoft’s First Laptop

by Jay White

Now you can always have visual computing power at your fingertips — along with your keyboard. Microsoft unveiled Surface Book, the software giant’s first laptop computer, Tuesday. And it’s packed with surprises.

Unveiled by Microsoft Devices CVP Panos Panay to an audience of hundreds of press and analysts in New York, the Surface Book features a Maxwell architecture-powered GeForce GPU nestled snugly into a detachable keyboard base.

The base can be folded flat against the screen, like a laptop, tucked against the back of the screen, or even detached — a surprise to many.

The Surface Book is just the latest example of how Microsoft and NVIDIA are working together to make powerful visual computing capabilities available to everyone.

On Tuesday, Microsoft’s Panay wasn’t shy about showing the GeForce GPU-powered Surface Book running Adobe Premier Pro.

“This is for the gamer who plays League of Legends; this is for the architect who is building a building right now; this is for the scientist who is thinking about a cure for cancer,” Panos told his audience. “This is for the developer who wants to compile using the GPU and CPU at the same time and not lose a minute.”


Panos then surprised the audience by handing out several of the laptops to those listening to his presentation to touch for themselves.

It’s easy to understand the fuss. This is a device packed with features that highlight the visual prowess of Windows 10. A press of a button and a simple tug is all that’s required to detach the 13.5-inch display so the screen can be used as a clipboard.

Microsoft is clearly eager to share the Surface Book with you, too. The NVIDIA GeForce GPU variant starts at $1,899, and is available Oct. 26. You can pre-order yours starting Wednesday, Oct. 7.

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  • Ryan Gadz

    What GeForce is actually in the Surface Book? Its probably a custom variant, but what GPU is comparable?

  • Ryan Pennington

    This is for the gamer who plays “League of Legends” – really? The on-board graphics will play LoL at 60 fps already for $1000 less. If this is not comparable to the 980m then the surface book dGPU upgrade is going to be a flop.

  • Ryan Gadz

    those 980m laptops are huge and bulky.. if it did have that kind of performance then there would be no point in buying anything else.. laptop or tablet.

  • Tim Hardy

    +1 I’m waiting for the detailed specs on the GPU in the Surface as well before I buy. I imagine anyone who wants one is doing the same, so I’m not real clear about the decision to obfuscate this info.

    Please give us the details. We’re not buying until you do.

  • Miiah

    Which Maxwellis it? That narrows it from GTX950m to GTX980m.

  • David Wilson

    Why is no one (MS or nVidia) saying WHICH GPU? This is really annoying. I came here because I figured at least YOU GUYS would think this worth clarifying! You can’t even find out in the technical specs on the MS order page!!! What,you have to buy it and go into device manager to learn this one fact?

  • Benjamin Rodriguez

    I agree LoL is a poor choice of benchmark, of course it’s going to play LoL. But you’re deluding yourself if you think they can include a 980m. It’s not a gaming device and the thermal constraints of the device would not allow it. It’s probably a modified 960m.

  • Josh

    Seems like a perfect opportunity to launch a 950ti.

  • Joel Gerlach

    Can you shed any light on which GPU? We’re all desperate to know, it’s a huge feature to leave out!!

  • Miiah

    This is off their promo video. Notice how the chip says “nVIDIA GeForce GPU” but doesn’t show the model number? Look up a picture of any ‘m’ series and you’ll see the model number on it. Why are Microsoft and nVidia not giving the specific model number? All I have seen is a fact sheet with 1Gb GDDR5 dedicated to the GPU. I also haven’t seen what type of RAM is in the tablet, just the size.

  • Andrew

    Only one question… Does it support the Oculus Rift (DK2 and CV1)? Guessing no, but hoping for yes. I want that form factor.

  • Evarate

    1GB of GDDR5 is really rather weak; I’m surprised. Haven’t seen that since the days of the Geforce GTX 460 1GB really.

    “Intel® HD graphics 520 and optional NVIDIA® GeForce® Graphics Processor with dedicated 1GB GDDR5 high-speed memory”

    Considering the Intel 520 graphics is about as fast as a Geforce 820m, we’re looking at something probably a step up from it; maybe a custom Geforce GTX 950m?

    A GTX 950m would be about the same as a desktop grade 750 Ti, both of which support GDRR5. Although 1GB is the the low side, the GDDR5 part is a better choice considering the alternative — a 2GB DDR3 Geforce 940m. Whatever the choice, it won’t be as slow as a Tegra X1 either, which is about the speed of a Geforce 620m and is the backbone of many of the fastest tablets currently available elsewhere.

    Overall, a 950m and Skylake CPU is pretty attractive for casual users, even if the price is higher than I’d care for. We’ll see though!

  • Wolf350

    The GPU is in the detachable keyboard, so regardless of what the specs are, upgrading your tablet/laptop GPU just became a thing.

  • Anshel Sag

    He’s right, you know.

  • Sascha Pallenberg

    @anshelsag:disqus maybe something new? A GTX 955M anyone?

  • Ry

    Pretty sure you’ll find it’s a 940M.

  • Grishen

    The die is rectangular, which means 950M or above is impossible (950M has a square die).
    The size and length-to-width ratio seemed very similar to 940M/930M/920M (they are identical in GPU). Why it never mentions about the exact spec is 940M/930M/920M are specced with DDR3, there are no Maxwell sport with 384sp and GDDR5 right now.

  • James Joseph

    I agree I find that whole situation stupid in my eyes how can you not post GPU specs if your talking about your own products? I guess we’ll have to wait till it gets released or someone “leaks” it.

  • Sascha Pallenberg

    good call and well spotted.

  • Kevin

    not necessarily. There’s a chance Microsoft won’t offer up-gradable keyboards

  • supmotto

    If you think they can fit a 970 in that small form factor then you must be insane.

  • Brian Harris

    you don’t have to render at native resolution. You can for example, upscale 1080p to 4k when gaming. Also, you’d be surprised how little video memory is used for games these days.

  • Eric

    Unless its a new SKU. Maxwell with die shrink? Interesting idea.
    All Maxwells have been 28nm as far as I know and they’re over a year old. If they could shrink to 14nm or so with a process akin to what Skylake uses, it’s going to be hugely much faster or power efficient or both.
    With a 6Mpixel screen that’s needed.

  • SilentCid

    The video says GDDR5 about 28 seconds in.

  • Megacharge

    The GPU is an Nvidia GTX 960M, I confirmed it through a Microsoft rep.

  • Sascha Pallenberg

    it’s a customized GPU! I

  • Ry

    Where’s the info? NVM found it.
    “Nvidia does say that the GPU is new, and as yet unannounced, suggesting that it might be a semi-custom chip developed specifically for the Surface Book and sitting in between models in the existing line-up.” 955..?

  • Jose Abel

    truth was spoken

  • Stan Velijev

    Several sources claiming it’s a custom GPU with 1GB GDDR5. Being that it’s Maxwell it’s in the 900 series, and being GDDR5 would imply at least a 950M. None of the 900M series however come with 1GB of VRAM so it isn’t exactly that, though if it’s comparable to a 960M with 1GB VRAM then that’s pretty reasonable.

    Won’t be able to play most games at the full 3000×2000 resolution unfortunately, but 1500×1000 at medium setting should run most games well enough.

  • Stan Velijev

    Maybe there’s some chance of the GPU sharing the system memory when it’s capped out like with Intel GPUs. That would be pretty attractive, and likely a smarter move than having 2gb GDDR5 run at full power all the time and hardly actually being fully utilised.

  • Ariaan

    Indeed, I just got a confirmation from the MS Service Chat that it’ll be a custom Maxwell-chip for the Surface Book. So it’s most likely going to be a 9X5M GPU, didn’t get any info on the memory amount though, but it’ll have to be at least 2GB to keep my interest.

  • Chad Capeland

    Any laptop with Optimus can’t run a VR HMD. Doesn’t matter what Geforce or Quadro chip is in it.

  • BillPosters

    It’s 1 GB.

  • BillPosters

    Dude it’s not a gaming laptop. He said that on the day. What it does have is better performance than integrated graphics, which means you can play most of your games on medium settings. Turn off AA etc, and it should perform well. Oh, you want AA on? You need AA? Then by all means, buy a gaming laptop with 980m and 8GB of vram, and the cooling hardware to support that.

  • BillPosters

    Yeah exactly. It won’t blow away gaming laptop performance, but that’s because it’s not a gaming laptop. It’s shame they couldn’t bump the VRAM up to 2GB.. I don’t mean just for games, but 3D design applications use a lot of real-time texture processing that needs more video memory.

  • BillPosters

    Depends on the game. GTAV benefits from more video memory.

  • Rob C

    Which Chips, hard to say; came here to find out …

    If you’re ordering 10M CPUs and GPUs you’re not stuck with OTS, or even OEM (that works even better when you’re someone who knows someone, as is the case here).

    I’d get the newest Architecture GPU, cut to a ‘mobile number’ of Cores (~ 1/2 Desktop), with the TDP determined by whether it is docked or not. All the ‘fail Chips’ from the run (not all Cores fused) would go into the lesser Models.

    We don’t know 100% certain (exactly) which CPU is included (or even the SSD Model #’s), yet ALL the top of the line Models are preordered and out of stock.

    Purchased ‘sight unseen’, essentially, in the first couple of days. Now we’ll know the Specs AFTER shipping.

  • Yil58

    This card should have some tech used in Tegra x1, I suppose. Theoretically 768 cores, 1GHz (3TB fp16, 1.5TB fp32, just a bit better than gt4e in unreleased top skyline-H) should be possible under 18w considering tdp of Tegra x1 is 10w which also has 4 or 8 cpu cores.

  • Yil58

    Intel hd 520 alone can handle lol at 60
    950M is good enough for many high-end 3d games by indie standard.

  • Jay Cruz

    Yep. With the new specs coming out it seems to be better than the GTX 930m with GDDR5 memory. Lower clock but still about 10% better performance. It’s pretty amazing that they fit all this stuff for only 65w PSU.

  • Evarate

    Well, I was too optimistic it seems.

    The memory performance of a 950m, but with the core number and clock rate of what a 935m might have. Overall, I guess you could call it a near 940m equivalent
    CUDA Cores: 384
    Core clock: 954 MHz
    Memory data rate: 5010 MHz

    Total available graphics memory: 5081 MB (4 GB shared)
    Dedicated video memory: 1024 MB GDDR5

  • Mark

    Is this GPU powerful enough for videogame developpers who uses UE4 (unreal engines). Reported GPU who works well are Nvidia GTX 770 video card, NVIDIA GeForce 470 GTX, MD Radeon 6870 HD, gtx670m
    , 2x nVidia GT755M
    , Nvidia Geforce GTX 660 M
    for example.