Compute with the Surface Book

When discussing Ultrabooks, the word Compute doesn’t get thrown around very often, and for good reason. Even the MacBook Pro 13 only comes with Intel Iris graphics (no GT3e yet) and although Intel’s GPUs have been a priority over the last couple of generations, just like in gaming there is only so much you can do when your TDP is shared with the processor.

With Surface Book, there is more of an opportunity here. If you opt for the model with the NVIDIA GPU, you gain access to CUDA, which is NVIDIA’s parallel computing platform. Quite a few applications that need strong parallel processing have CUDA available as an option. Adobe, for instance, has CUDA support in many of their professional products like Photoshop, After Effects, Premier Pro, and more. NVIDIA lists hundreds of applications on their site which can benefit from GPU compute power, and there are also OpenCL applications as well which would benefit from the more powerful dGPU.

Expectations need to be put in check of course, because the GPU available in the Surface Book is not a workstation class GPU, so we shall see how it compares on these types of tasks. This is not an area where we have an extensive database of other devices, and normally compute is not a heavy focus for Ultrabook reviews, but I feel the Surface Book may find a niche with content creators so it’s worth examining.

Compubench

From the makers of GFXBench is Compubench, and like GFXBench, there are a number of tests which can be completed with either the CPU only, or by choosing a GPU.

CompubenchCL Face Detection

CompubenchCL TV-L1 Optical Flow

CompubenchCL Ocean Surface Simulation

CompubenchCL Particle Simulation 64K

CompubenchCL TRex

CompubenchCL Video Composition

CompubenchCL Bitcoin Mining

The results are a bit mixed. Some of the tests respond very well to having the NVIDIA GPU, but some of the others don’t get as much of a benefit. But where the GPU helps, it can help a lot. Several of the tasks are 50% faster, and the Video Composition sub-test is 212% faster on the discrete GPU.

Agisoft Photscan

This software performs photogrammetric processing of images, and it has an option to use the GPU or just standalone with the CPU. Of the entire benchmark, only one section actually leverages the GPU functions so that test has been highlighted.

Agisoft Photoscan Stage 2

Even the one accelerated test still only shows a 5% decrease in time with the GPU being used. This highlights that even though a task may be accelerated with the GPU, the overall impact may not always be what you are expecting, since not all tasks can be done in parallel.

Using the Surface Book NVIDIA GPU for Compute

There is no doubt that if you are performing work that supports CUDA, the NVIDIA option on the Surface Book is going to make an impact. The question of course is how much. Applications such as those from Adobe do leverage CUDA, but it’s not for all tasks. This is kind of the issue with considering the GPU for compute. If you are someone who uses Adobe Premiere on the go, and need something smaller than a typical workstation class notebook, the GPU is going to help out, but since it doesn’t get leveraged for all tasks, it is very dependent on the exact task that you are performing.

GPU Gaming Performance The PixelSense Display
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  • Gigaplex - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    "A high end 15" laptop will have nearly double the performance, plus larger screen, etc."

    I'd hope both a high end and low end 15" screen to be roughly the same size.
    Reply
  • beggerking@yahoo.com - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    anandtech has been extremely biased for years now.

    nothing new...

    on all iphone reviews, no multicore bench because crapple can't be multicore.

    when ipad pro comes out, i wonder what they would say lol
    Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    And mobile display test are synthetically skewed towards LCD numbers. They do a lot of good tests on here, but if there is an Apple alternative in whatever category you're looking at it's a wise choice to take Anandtech reviews with a grain of salt. :) Reply
  • amdwilliam1985 - Saturday, November 14, 2015 - link

    "You're reading it wrong".
    lol, jokes aside, you should read the charts/data carefully, separate the iDevice from the rest of the crowd.
    just compare iPhone with iPhone, everything else vs everything else, it makes sense too since iPhone buyers buy iPhones, other buyers can buy everything else... We're living in a "digital divided" world.
    Reply
  • rangerdavid - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    I wish there was a down-voting feature in these threads to mute the trolls. Reply
  • Appanage - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    My Apple Watch cost me 249, and it has the top of the line hardware. Granted there's no bottom of line but it won't cost 15 grand to get the most capable Watch they sell.

    As for the weird little laptop plus tablet cost comparison thing you did there, Microsoft doesn't currently offer a functional tablet with a usable tablet interface so no price comparison can be made. Their keyboardless laptop is kinda cool for someone who might find that sorta thing useful while being hindered by Windows on a touchscreen.
    Reply
  • xthetenth - Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - link

    Windows on a touchscreen actually works really well. There's a few places where the stylus helps mitigate programs that aren't great for touch, as opposed to the many places in iOS where nothing at all helps bridge the massive functionality gap between most real programs and apps designed to be fat fingered around. It's a pretty nice tradeoff.

    It's the iOS tablets that aren't functional tablets with usable tablet functonality. They're just souped up phones. So now we're back to two devices on the Apple end to do what one Windows device can do. At least with the iPad Pro you don't also need to take a pencil and paper.
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Friday, November 13, 2015 - link

    Wow you're stuck in the last decade. Reply
  • Der2 - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    Microsoft's response to the iMac Pro. And a suave review for a casual user! Great review to my man Brett! Reply
  • Der2 - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    P.S no need to wait for the rise of the tomb raider...as it just dropped recently! Reply

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