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Microsoft's Surface Book i7 doubles the GPU performance of its predecessor

Gordon Mah Ung | Oct. 27, 2016
Updated Surface Book i7 gets fatter GPU, slightly fatter body, and keeps the Fulcrum hinge.

It’s like a modular upgrade

What’s really interesting with the new Surface Book i7 is how Microsoft upgraded it. From what I can tell, Microsoft basically kept the tablet portion the same and instead worked on a new base to pair with it.

It also explains why there’s no Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C either—the controller chips for those would be contained in the tablet. 

In some ways, that’s a nifty strategy. In a laptop with discrete graphics, you can arguably say that Skylake to Kaby Lake isn’t worth the redesign, so instead you just redesign the bottom half and push it out the door.

I also suspect that if you took the last-gen Surface Book, detached the tablet and swapped it onto the new Performance Base, it would work just fine. When we get the new Surface Book i7 for review, I’ll try it.

The bad news for Surface Book users is that Microsoft’s policy has been not to sell replacement bases. You have to buy the whole thing.

The new Surface Book i7 is available for pre-order at $2,400 with a Core i7, GTX 965M, 256GB SSD, and 8GB of RAM, and will ship on November 10. 

And Apple?

Panay went on to take a shot at Apple, saying the new Surface Book i7 is up to three-times as fast as a comparably priced MacBook Pro. I know it’s unverified, but I believe it.

Last year I did a showdown between a MacBook Pro 13 and the original Surface Book, which I configured to equal the MBP’s price, and the Surface Book wasn’t just twice as fast in graphics tasks, but three times as fast. 

That’s no surprise though, as the MacBook Pro 13 packs integrated graphics. Sure, it’s Intel’s best integrated graphics, but a discrete GPU will stomp it good. The GeForce GTX 965M will triple-stomp it.

The problem is, Apple is about to finally unveil new MacBooks. I’ll be shocked if the new MacBook Pro 13 comes out with a Skylake dual-core instead of a Kaby Lake dual-core.

Apple will also have access to AMD’s latest-generation mobile Polaris chip. Most expect Apple to reserve that discrete chip for just the far larger and heavier MacBook Pro 15, but what if it’s able to stuff that 14nm-based Polaris into the MacBook Pro 13?

If Apple does that, then we’ll have a different ball game and Surface Book i7 may not be the laptop kicking others’ butts.


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