GPU Performance

While many will lament the loss of the Intel Iris graphics on this year’s lineup of Surface Pro computers, as already stated, there’s no Iris graphics available anymore in the 15-Watt lineup. There’s no doubt that the extra execution units, and the extra eDRAM as a system cache were valuable, but you can’t sell a product that doesn’t exist. As such both the Core i5 and i7 models have the Intel UHD 620 GPU for 2018. Whether or not this will make a dramatic impact on real-world use will depend heavily on what the GPU was used for, since in some cases the wider GPU could made a noticeable impact, but often it was highly thermally limited in a 15-Watt package anyway.

To test GPU performance, the Surface Pro 6 was run through our non-gaming GPU suite. If you’d like to compare it to any other device we’ve tested, please use our online Laptop Bench.

3DMark

Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike

Futuremark 3DMark Sky Diver

Futuremark 3DMark Cloud Gate

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited - Graphics

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited - Physics

In the synthetic 3DMark from UL Benchmarks, the Surface Pro 6’s extra CPU grunt helps it stay with the Iris equipped 2017 Surface Pro except in the least demanding tests, although on the most demanding GPU test, which is Fire Strike, the UHD 620 is well behind AMD’s Ryzen 7 in the same 15-Watt package.

GFXBench

GFXBench GL 4.0 Car Chase Offscreen

GFXBench GL 4.0 Manhattan 3.1 Offscreen

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench is an OpenGL based test and is less relevant due to the lack of new OpenGL titles. These tests are aimed at the mobile computing crowd for smartphones and tablets, although in those cases the tests are run in 16-bit mode and not necessarily in OpenGL either so the results aren’t directly comparable. Here again we see the Surface Pro 6 in the middle of the pack, although the AMD based system drops off due to OpenGL drivers.

Dota 2

Dota 2 Reborn - Value

Dota 2 Reborn - Mainstream

Dota 2 Reborn - Enthusiast

Valve’s Dota 2 is a very popular arena battle game, and the game itself is playable on a wide-range of devices. The game engine tends to be CPU bound quite quickly, but is still a good yardstick when looking at lower-power GPUs. Here the Surface Pro 6 does quite well, especially on the lower detail settings. When the game is set to its maximum settings at 1920x1080, the Iris GPU in last year’s Surface Pro ends up throttling heavily and offering lower performance despite being a quicker GPU on paper. You can see quite easily how the game ends up CPU bound though if you look at the Surface Book 2 which features an NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU. This GPU will easily run circles around anything else in the charts, but the game is held back by the U series processor.

GPU Conclusion

Intel hasn’t made significant changes to its GPU lineup for some time, and definitely lags behind AMD’s Vega architecture found in the Ryzen mobile lineup. Due to the lack of availability, Microsoft was unable to  maintain the tradition of offering the Iris GPU either. We’re fairly accustomed to where the Intel iGPU sits and until a new one is launched, we aren’t going to see anything too dramatic in the GPU performance.

Storage Performance

As with last year’s model, the Surface Pro 6 uses a BGA SSD meaning it’s soldered directly onto the motherboard. This saves space, as well as a couple of grams of weight, compared to the M.2 versions. SSDs have become a commodity, so generally manufacturers tend to buy from several suppliers. We can’t say for sure whether Microsoft is doing that this time, since we just have the single sample, but in the past they have so it would not be surprising to see this multi-sourced.

In the review unit we have the SK Hynix BC501 in a 256 GB configuration. This is a PCIe Gen 3 x2 SSD, which SK Hynix rates for 110K IOPS random read and 150K IOPS random write.

The SSD is bumping into the limits of PCIe 3.0 x2 on sequential read and write, and only the 128 GB model won’t do that according to SK Hynix. As usual, larger SSDs offer better performance, but you’re not going to see higher sequential reads than this BGA SSD offers in a x2 configuration.

System Performance Display Analysis
POST A COMMENT

79 Comments

View All Comments

  • Da W - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    There used to have a big difference between i5 and i7 on surface. Not anymore. An i5 is enough and you will save 300$. Reply
  • stacey94 - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    Do you guys have plans on reviewing the Laptop 2? I'd like to know more about the display calibration and throttling characteristics.

    Also, I wish you guys were a little harder on Microsoft about their misleading SSD dual sourcing with review and retail units. Historically (I've noticed this with the SP4, SB1, SP2017, SL1), they send reviewers a unit with a decent drive, but in retail, you'll only ever find units sold with a cacheless, slow TLC drive that doesn't even come close to the results seen in reviews. This has been passed off as lottery/dual-sourcing in the past, but I deploy these machines and follow user comments online, and have yet to find anyone who has received the "good" drive.

    For example, for the first gen Surface Book, they sent reviewers units with a decent Toshiba drive, but every retail unit had the PM951 which was a truly awful drive in the 128 and 256 GB configurations since it did not have the TurboWrite from the equivalent EVO.

    In the 2017 models, they sent reviewers units with a decent PM971, but almost every retail unit had the piece of junk Toshiba THNSN0128GTYA. Sometimes, in the case of Notebookcheck, they even misled the reviewers into thinking the i5 comes with the Toshiba and i7 with the PM971, but every i7 Surface Laptop I've deployed still has the crappy Toshiba drive.

    Many people, especially content creators, who want a good SSD buy Surface devices and come out disappointed when they don't perform up to par with MacBooks. It's unclear to me if MS is still doing this with 2018 devices, but they really need to be called out.
    Reply
  • SaolDan - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    I actually had a surface pro 4 with the toshiba drive. The screen developed a pressure spot and i took it in to the microsoft store and i requested a replacement with the same drive and not the slow samsung drive. No one i the store had ever seen the toshiba drive. We tried 4 sp4 and they all had the samsung drive. Reply
  • Icehawk - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    I am willing to bet the new Surface sucks in real life just as much as the previous ones. Super unreliable driving more than one monitor and I’ve just had two where the battery has swollen detaching the screen - I will say though MS was great replacing both even though their warranties ended a year earlier. Also the high rez screen SUCKS - you need a lot of scaling to use it directly or when running multiple monitors it can cause issues getting resolutions set. I have never seen anyone use it as a tablet - they are either docked or used with a keyboard. A thin & light laptop is the better solution IMO. Reply
  • Icehawk - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    Btw my inital comment about multi monitors - Surfaces have a terrible time reliably attaching to monitors via dock. Telling execs to unplug and replug until they work is not good. All but two (we have 18 deployed) users hate them... Reply
  • wr3zzz - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    This is why I am hesitant to purchase 3:2 screen laptops for work. 16:9 desktop monitors are the norm in workplaces and homes. 3:2 might be more practical on a small screen but 16:9 is just easier with 1:1 docking when you don't work primarily with the laptop screen. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    "The lack of an Intel Iris GPU option was unavoidable, since it no longer exists in the 15-Watt range,"

    Hmm. Wonder what happens to the 13" rMBP non-touchbar then.
    Reply
  • Lew Zealand - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    The 13" rMBP is still using Kaby Lake because of that.

    Not to worry, the Mac Mini is still using *Haswell.*
    Reply
  • WatcherCK - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    Do you still get a (time limited) free 365 subscription when buying a surface? I remember that being a thing with the older models... Reply
  • Duncan Macdonald - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    With a non-replaceable battery these devices have a usable life of 3 years or less before they become landfill. AVOID
    (Ifixit gives the Surface Pro 6 a repairability score of 1 out of 10 - unrepairable)
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now