Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 is one of the best examples of a 2-in-1 device that’s capable of tackling all the tasks one would need a PC for, but can also easily be used for entertainment and content consumption.
Since Windows 10 — like Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 before it — can manage touch as well as non-touch applications and experiences, Surface embodies the versatility and ease of use of the OS. Plus it serves as an inspiration to other PC makers to create products that are similarly versatile.
The Surface Pro 4 is a best of breed product. It features powerful Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, ample RAM, fast SSD storage as well as high-resolution touchscreens and slick and useful Type Covers that convert it into a notebook PC. Microsoft has built a business around Surface. They now sell the Surface Pro 4, the Surface Book and the recently launched Surface Studio. These products reinvent what PCs can do and how they are used, and it all started with the Surface tablet.
Surface Pro is Microsoft’s vision for a mobile computing future. Form the very start, they decided to use notebook processors, fast SSD drives and offer users optional docking solutions that can expand the Surface device into a bona fide desktop PC. Surface Pro is also designed to run full PC desktop applications and this includes thousands of PC games.
Theoretically, you can use your Surface Pro 4 for gaming but there are limitations. The Surface Pro 4 does not have a discreet graphics card. It does feature a decent integrated Intel Graphics chip, which works fine for casual games and for some of the older, less graphic intensive games, but it might drop frame rates and performance for the more demanding titles. If you’re playing Diablo III, you should be fine, but anything more demanding might be a bit of a push for what is basically a tablet with no cooling and no dedicated GPU.
Play Anywhere is the future of gaming
There are various games coming with what Microsoft has dubbed the Play Anywhere program. This means that one code can unlock both a PC and an Xbox version of the game. The idea is that if you like a game, you pay for it once and can play it on your PC or your console as you prefer.
When you buy an Xbox Play Anywhere digital game through the Xbox Store or the Windows Store, it’s yours to play on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PC at no additional cost. To take advantage of Xbox Play Anywhere, you will need to have installed the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition update on your PC, as well as the latest update on your Xbox One console. Then, simply log into your Xbox Live/Microsoft account and your Xbox Play Anywhere games will be available to download. On your Xbox One, games will show as “Ready to Install” under “My Games and Apps.” On your Windows 10 PC, games will appear in “My Library.”
Various game developers are getting on board this program and consumers now have more choice (plus they don’t have to buy different versions of the same game just to be able to play on different devices).
The great thing about the Surface Pro 4 is that it has a multi-touch display. This makes it ideal for many mobile games, casual games and many puzzles available in the market.
Second screen, multiple possibilities
Bring a Microsoft product, the Surface Pro 4 has a distinct advantage — it can easily become a remote second screen for a nearby Xbox One. While your mileage may vary, this can work great for some games and it might be challenging for others. I see this as being ideal for racing games, adventure games and platform type games but might not be the best for first-person shooters due to the latency issue one might encounter on less powerful network setups.
Imagine this scenario: Your kids are determined to get to the next level of Halo 5: Guardians on their Xbox One, but you want to watch a movie on the family room TV. Avoid family anguish by lending them your Surface or Surface Book so they can continue the battle in the next room while you finish watching The Martian on your 4K TV.
Thanks to Windows 10, you can stream your Xbox One games and dashboard to your Surface or Surface Book as long as you stay on the same home network. This is the advantage of having various product from a similar ecosystem. I’ve used this feature for playing various games on my Surface device in my office while other people watched Blu-Rays in my living room.
Of course, for this to work without latency, you need to have a updated 5 GHz, 802.11ac wireless network and be within a reliable distance so streaming works well. In my experience, a lot of thing need to work in concert to pull this off properly. First, ensure both the Surface Pro and the Xbox One have the latest updates. Ensure that your network isn’t saturated. Newer routers can divide users into various bands. I’d place the Surface Pro and the Xbox on the 5 GHz band and keep other devices in the lower available bands.
The travelling gamer
I’ve traveled with Surface Pros and usually have them loaded with my favourite games (current rotation includes Overwatch and Batman: Arkham City). I pair my Xbox Elite Controller and find that I can pass the time in hotel rooms with this setup. Using the HDMI-out adapter, I can even output video to HDTVs and projectors to get a larger than life feel.
Minecraft works great on the Surface Pro 4 and I find the multi-touch aspect to be quite intuitive. No surprise, since Microsoft (who bought Mojang, Minecraft’s creator) has enabled the popular game to work great across various devices.
These are just some of the ways it is possible to use your Surface Pro 4 for gaming.