How to use your Microsoft Surface Pro for gaming

Microsoft surface pro gaming - can this tablet be good for gaming?

I recently got my hands on a Microsoft Surface Pro touch screen tablet and was surprised to find out that it is a great portable gaming rig. Seriously, Microsoft surface pro gaming. You don’t need to spend money on the expensive and hard to find Razer Edge Pro tablet to enjoy PC gaming on a tablet, you can actually do it on the Surface Pro. This article will show you how to use your Surface Pro for gaming.

The razer edge pro

The Razer Edge Pro

Don’t confuse Pro for RT

The Surface Pro is not the Surface RT, please don’t be confused by the fact that both share the same “Surface” name. The RT is an experiment gone awry, a crippled tablet that has no market and is forcing Microsoft to take a $900 million dollar write off. The Pro on the other hand is a Windows notebook that replaces the keyboard with a touch screen making it Microsoft’s reference hardware design for Windows 8. Most people like to compare it to an iPad, but I think the 11″ MacBook Air is a better comparison.

Surface Pro Specs

I’ve been playing with the Surface Pro for the past few weeks and only recently learned that it is quite the capable gaming machine and here is why:

  • It has a gorgeous high resolution 1080p IPS display which looks great at all viewing angles.
  • It has a Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB of RAM and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics chip. That is the sort of spec you would see in a medium range notebook like say for example, the 11″ MacBook Air.
  • It has hardware support for all sorts of controllers including many Xbox devices.
  • It supports a massive array of games not just the simple tablet games, but full rich desktop games like Starcraft, Word of Warcraft and even Halo.

I didn’t think to try games on the Surface until I read an review of Halo Spartan Assault which the reviewer said was great on the Surface. The thought of using the Surface as a gaming platform didn’t occur to me so I excitedly fired up the Microsoft Store and downloaded the game.

Halo Spartan Assault can be played via the touch screen.

Halo Spartan Assault can be played via the touch screen.

The touch screen on the Surface makes so much sense with games. It works accurately and reliably and makes the interaction with the game much more direct. Rather than being separated by a D-pad or a Mouse, I’m touching the screen with my hands and the result makes me feel like I’m touching the game. Strange as it sounds, its much more immersive.

Recommended Accessories

The Razer Sabertooth works great with the Surface Pro

The Razer Sabertooth works great with the Surface Pro.

The Surface has a single USB port on the left side which you can use to connect a mouse, keyboard or D-Pad. You can actually plug your xBox controller into it and it works right out of the box. Many games will recognize the various controller types and start working with them without the need to install any drivers. Its pretty awesome actually, a lot like plugging a controller into your dedicated console like the XBox 360, not like a computer. I recommend the Razer Sabertooth controller.

The Razer keyboard features a USB pass-through port for your mouse.

The Razer keyboard features a USB pass-through port for your mouse.

If you are going to do some serious gaming I’d recommend a USB gaming keyboard like the Razer Black Widow (Tournament Edition) which will give you the pass-through USB port you can use to connect a mouse or D-Pad.

The real test for gaming is Call of Duty Black Ops II which can be controlled via the D-pad that I mentioned earlier. To get a good frame rate, I lowered the resolution a bit below 1080p to 720p and the frame rate was a solid 60 frames per second. Loading levels took a while, even with graphics settings on low, but the game still looked great and played great. Its not quite up to Xbox 360 standards, but its pretty darn close. Not only that, but its a portable rig meaning you can take your best games to a coffee shop or on vacation.


Microsoft isn’t advertising the Surface Pro as a portable game platform but it certainly is. For the value it is actually one of the better tablet based gaming platform supporting the largest best quality games. With a massive library and support for a wide variety of gaming controllers, it is a much better option than anything on iOS or Android. Microsoft hasn’t updated the Surface Pro with Intel’s newest chipset but when they do, it will be even better. If you bought a Surface and you haven’t tried gaming on it, I’d recommend starting with Bungie’s Halo Spartan Assault which uses the Surface’s built in touch screen and doesn’t require any additional accessories. If that doesn’t convince you, then no harm done, you only spent a few dollars on the game. If it does, then you’ve just uncovered the miniature Xbox hiding under the business suit that was your Surface Pro.

By joshkerr

Josh is an 8x startup founder and angel investor.

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