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The new Surface Pro 4 seems a pretty solid machine and I'm looking to get one as my new mobile workstation since I travel a lot for work (compared to the back-breaking Dell workstation I currently have to drag everywhere). But I also want it to be reasonably good at running modern games, though they don't have to be at their highest settings or pulling 90FPS. Thankfully there are several options, but I'd like advice on which (if any) will make the most difference versus their cost.

Here are the configurations I'm considering:

  • i5 / 4GB / 128GB ($999)
  • i5 / 8GB / 256GB ($1299)
  • i7 / 8GB / 256GB ($1599)

There's also the i7 with 16GB but it's a bit more expensive than I'd like to pay.

I'd like to get the most bang for my buck out of it in terms of performance. Primarily it will be a work computer but if I occasionally want to fire up a newer game, what's the lowest model on the list that will comfortably handle it?

Note that I listed the SSD sizes simply for comparison of the benefits. Their size is not critical to the question, but could make the difference if I'm on the fence between the two i5s.

Edit: Based on the answers so far it seems the Surface Book with the dedicated GPU may be the better way to go for gaming. Is the GPU itself the limiting factor? As far as I can tell the other hardware (aside from the screen) is the same. In the price range of the i5 Book with GPU ($1900 USD) is there anything else that offers better gaming performance while still being highly mobile and functional?

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    If you want to run games from your disk, 128 GB is not a lot. Games are big. I'd also recommend you consider a supplemental external drive. – ArtOfCode Nov 16 '15 at 12:55
  • Yeah I'm planning to have one anyways for FS backups and just extra media storage. It would be especially important with that 128GB model though – thanby Nov 16 '15 at 12:57
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Like qmd said, these aren't meant for gaming. If you really want a Surface Pro 4, I would go with the i5 8GB model, because at this day and age, you need at least 1.5GB for Chrome to run smoothly and a i7 is not needed for the day to day jobs unless you are doing virtualization of any kind or photo/video editing.

I would get a Surface Book which CAN handle modern games. Also it has a keyboard which I prefer to the one that you can get on the Surface Pro 4. The Surface Book starts at $1500 ($1899 for the model with the dedicated GPU) and is a 2 in 1 laptop kind of machine with a video card. There is also a model without the video card, but I would not get that one.

For both models, I would get the Surface Dock ($199.99) for more ports for at home or in a hotel.

It is up to you, but I would get the i5 Surface Book. Here are links for your clicking pleasure to both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book.

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  • I was originally excited about the Book but after I played around with one in the store I decided it doesn't have quite the mobility advantage that the Pro does. For example the battery extension and video card are housed in the keyboard, and it doesn't have a kickstand, so if you detach it you actually lose a lot of the mobile benefits. That didn't excite me. But maybe I'll give it another look since you guys are recommending the i5 which is much more affordable. – thanby Nov 18 '15 at 14:04
  • Oh wow it's reversible, I didn't even know that until now... that at least remediates the lack of kickstand. – thanby Nov 18 '15 at 14:07
  • I undersant it, but i would have a cover over the screen anyways becaus of the hard to replace screen. you could get one with a kickstand. To store it in a smal bag i would just detatch the keyboard anyway and take it to the hotel i'm staying at or at home. 2 bad there isn't a version with a kickstand and a keyboard. – Thomcdrom Nov 18 '15 at 14:07
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I guess it depends on your definition of comfortably handle. In my opinion none of these models will comfortably handle a modern game.

Having said that, there are users that are currently running games like Fallout 4 on the i5 8GB version (LINK) at 1280x720 and it seems to be doing fine.(Other users say the game constantly crashes or won't even start.)

Just be prepared that you will only be able to run the game at the lowest possible settings. If you don't mind all of that as well as the occasional frame rate drop in graphic intensive areas go for the i5 8GB 256GB SSD version.

I personally wouldn't get that laptop if I was planing on playing newer games. It just wasn't made for that.

Response to a comment:

In general it comes down to the fact that laptops have significantly lower power supplies than desktops which in return limits the CPU and GPU a laptop can power. I am afraid that pretty much every gaming laptop has this flaw.

Even the most expensive Surface Pro 4 is not going to give you smooth gaming performance now and certainly not in 2-3 years. If you occasionally want to play some FIFA 16 or Dota 2 while you are on a business trip I think the Surface Pro 4 will be just fine. If you plan on playing newer games like Call of Duty and Fallout 4, I don't think you will enjoy that. Constantly playing at the lowest resolutions with <50 fps is not going to be fun in the long run. At least it wouldn't be for me. Hope that helps.

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