【TECHS】 Mystery Solved? ~ Surface Book GPU Performance ~

One of the main interest among those who planning to buy Surface Book is the actual performance of the discrete GPU.  Yet the detail of which has been suspiciously absent.  Using another major comment Microsoft made during Surface Book introduction perhaps help us get the real performance of the GPU.  Let’s solve the mystery.


Best model surface book is 2x more powerful than Macbook Pro 13 inch!

surface book macbook pro twice powerful comparison

Above is the picture from the conference.  This was supported by Microsoft as following statement.

Our validated performance claims are for the Microsoft Surface Book with an Intel Core i7 with 16GB RAM and custom discrete NVIDIA GeForce GPU against the MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display with an Intel Core i7 with 16GB RAM. We used third-party benchmarks to test the best available Surface Book against the best available 13-inch MacBook Pro.


CPU performance are similar at best

CPU Mark Rating
As of 11th of October 2015 – Higher results represent better performance
Intel Core i7-5557U @ 3.10GHz
Intel Core i7-6600U @ 2.60GHz

One may wonder why is newer Skylake CPU (Surface book) is slower than older Broadwell CPU (Macbook Pro 13 inch).  This is because the CPU that Surface Book is using is 14W power version whereas Macbook Pro uses 28W power version.  More power consumption inevitably makes more powerful CPU.  Downside is obviously battery life.  In Apple’s system, Macbook Air uses 15W series.


So based on the above facts, we can readily conclude Surface book’s twice powerful statement really refers to the GPU.  So from here is essentially a simple math.  First find what’s the Macbook Pro 13 inch model’s GPU performance, and double the power.  That should be what the expected performance out of dedicated GPU built into the Surface Book.

Iris Graphics 6100

Integrated GPU used for the Core i7-5557U (Macbook Pro 13 inch model) is called Intel Iris Graphics 6100.

GTX 960M

Source: http://gpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/Nvidia-GTX-960M-vs-Intel-Iris-Pro-HD-6100-Mobile/m27242vsm25925

According to userbenchmark site, GTX 960M gives overall average User Bench score 2x of the Iris Graphics 6100.

GT 755M

Alternatively if we use notebookcheck.net to look up some of the benchmark scores for Iris GPU, we see followings:

3DMark 11: Median 1828
3DMark Vantage: 5717
3DMark 06: 8764
Cinebench R11.5: 27.2

Crysis 3 Medium: 22 fps

More detail: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Intel-Iris-Graphics-6100.125591.0.html

Searching the same website with roughly double the score resulted in NVIDA GeForce GT 755M.

Benchmark scores of GT 755M GPU are followings:

3DMark 11: Median 2877.5
3DMark Vantage: 11600
3DMark 06: 15861
Cinebench R11.5: 54.6

Crysis 3 Medium: 49.4 fps

Obviously, not every benchmark scores are doubled.  In fact, some are tripped on this chip compared to that of Iris Graphics 6100, but more interestingly Cinebench R10 score is actually lower on this GPU than Iris 6100, but I have no clue what each of these benchmark score means.  So that’s my limitation here.


GT 755M and GT 960M are substantially different in their performance.

Using the first website i.e. UserBenchmark, Effective speed of the GTX 960M is 79% above the GEForce GT 755M.  Similarly, second website i.e. notebookcheck.net shows 3DMark 11 score of the GTX 960M is 5410, which is almost double that of GT 755M.  When it comes go game benchmark software such as Crysis with same setting GT 960M had 80 fps whereas 755M had 48.4 fps  and Iris 6100 had 15.9 fps.

So depending on which benchmark score we go by two times performance means drastically different.

Which one is more likely the real performance close to Surface book dedicated GPU?


If you notice the above comparison table created by Notebookcheck site has couple additional GPU.  One is GTX 950M, which I’ve seen some had speculated perhaps Surface book GPU may be equivalent to without any detail of the logic provided.  960M is slightly more powerful but may be considered somewhat similar.  Most key part of this comparison table is inclusion of AMD R9 M370X GPU, which is Apples Macbook 15 inch dedicated GPU.  This chip is relatively twice the performance of Macbook Pro 13 inch Iris graphics GPU on these benchmark scores.

If I were working for Microsoft and making a statement this is the best laptop in the planet, and knew it’s GPU is even more powerful than the competitors highest model (15 inch Macbook Pro with dedicated GPU), I think I will flat out say that.  This is as portable as 13 inch Macbook Pro yet graphical performance is even surpasses 15 inch Macbook with dedicated GPU.  Such statement can be safely made if Surface book’s GPU were equivalent of 950M or 960M in performance.

So as much as I hope to be proven wrong here, my guess is the actual performance of Surface Book’s dedicated GPU is more like NVIDIA Geforce GT 755M.

What do you think?


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