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Surface Book vs. MacBook Pro: It isn't twice as fast. It's three times as fast

Gordon Mah Ung | Oct. 23, 2015
Microsoft figured out how to put a discrete GPU into the Surface Book, and it paid off.

First up is LuxMark 3. It’s a test designed to measure the OpenCL performance of a chip. OpenCL stands for Open Compute Language, and it’s an attempt to move general purpose CPU chores onto the GPU.

For my test I ran the LuxBall load because other workloads crashed on the MacBook Pro 13. I wasn’t sure how this one would break, as Intel’s OpenCL performance has come a long way, but the result is certainly something that’ll make PC fans happier.

surface book vs macbook pro 13 luxmark 3 luxball
LuxMark 3 is a cross-platform OpenCL benchmark. I ran it on both of the graphics chips which is where OpenCL should run. Click on image to enlarge.

That’s a pretty hefty performance advantage in OpenCL in the Surface Book’s win column. As fast as Intel’s Iris 6100 is with its 48 execution units, it’s still not enough. The performance gap in the next test opens up that lead even more.

Heaven 4.0 performance

Next I ran Unigine’s Heaven 4.0 graphics test. The test was run at 1366x768 resolution with 2x AA, no tessellation and medium quality. I did this because the MacBook Pro 13 defaulted to many of those settings when started. On the Mac, the only graphics API is OpenGL, while the PC has DirectX and OpenGL. I opted for DirectX, as I don’t think it would have been fair to use OpenGL on the PC—Windows is all about DirectX, and it’s a big advantage for the platform.

Full disclosure: I ran the same test with different settings to see how the graphics in both stacked up. Most of the tests showed the Surface Book with the same big performance margin, though I could also find settings that would drag down both laptop’s performance so they were the same. Still, I think is a fair representation. 

surface book vs macbook pro 13 heaven 4 13x7 medium no tess 2xaa
Suface Book also gets to wave good bye to the the MacBook Pro 13 in Unigine’s Heaven 4.0. Click on image to enlarge.

Let’s try a real game

Rather than rely on a synthetic game benchmark, I also decided to throw a real game at it. Square Enix’s Tomb Raider is available on Steam on both platforms. It’s a fairly recent game and came out for PC and consoles in 2013. Feral Interactive ported the game to OSX the same year.

One caveat here: As a port there’s clearly a lot of things that could be different between the PC version and the Mac version. For my test, I ran it at 1400x900, which was the default resolution on the Mac, and selected the “Normal” quality setting on both. I also poked around the game’s graphics settings to see if there was any variance between them that got lost in translation.

 

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