Surface RT Game Performance

Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry has just published its Microsoft Surface RT review. Richard Leadbetter generally agrees with earlier impressions: the device is promising but rather disappointing in its current state; the upcoming Surface Pro should be much more desirable. However, Leadbetter also takes a look at the Surface RT’s launch lineup of Windows Store games, and the results are dire.

  • Hydro Thunder: Hurricane, ported from Xbox Live Arcade, “regularly drops down south of 20 fps” despite rendering at a sub-native 1024×576 resolution.
  • Four 2D games – Fruit Ninja, Cut the Rope, Angry Birds Space, Jetpack Joyride – have noticeable frame rate problems on the Surface RT, yet run flawlessly on the iPad 3 despite its higher 2048×1536 resolution.
  • Two 3D games, Dredd vs. Zombies and Guns 4 Hire, likewise look better and run more smoothly on the iPad 3.

Side by side, the basic reality is that in the here and now, Surface is barely competitive, and despite the storage deficit, the bottom line is that the iPad offers far superior games performance at the same ballpark price point – not to mention vastly superior support from developers, something we are promised will improve but at present is rather poor.

Keep in mind that this was a comparison to the third-generation iPad. For buyers of new devices, the Surface RT competes with the newly announced fourth generation which is supposedly twice as fast again. So as far as the gaming audience is concerned, “Apple has absolutely nothing to worry about from this lackluster challenger.”

2012-11-03: Tim Anderson has run some benchmarks on the Surface RT and on an Intel Core i5. All tested languages – IE10 JavaScript, C#, Visual C++ – perform worse on the Surface RT than expected, but especially C# and C++. This looks like a case of immature ARM optimizers, a suspicion which Herb Sutter has confirmed for C++. Since games tend to demand computational performance, it’s no surprise they do so badly. Once again, the Surface RT is a 1.0 product and clearly not ready for prime time.

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