Will the Microsoft Surface Book 2 Pack a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060?

By Markets Fool.com

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The Surface Book. Image source: Microsoft.

Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Surface Book launched in late 2015. In its marketing materials, the software giant said that the device has the "full power of a high performance laptop and the unprecedented versatility of a tablet."

In fact, Microsoft was so bold as to claim the Surface Book offers "twice the power of a 13" MacBook Pro." In the fine print accompanying this claim, Microsoft says that this comparison refers to the graphics performance present in these respective products.

The 13" MacBook Pro uses an integrated graphics solution while the Surface Book uses a stand-alone graphics processor from graphics specialist NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA), which allows the Surface Book to pull ahead of the MacBook.

Interestingly, WCCFTech recently published an article discussing a potential successor to the Surface Book (referred to as the Surface Book 2). In that article, the author wrote that WCCFTech "desperately want[s] to see a [GeForce GTX 1060] as a bare minimum" inside of the new device.

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Will the folks at WCCFTech get their wish? Not likely.

GTX 1060 is beyond what could fit in such a device

The first generation Surface Book used what AnandTech describes as a "custom Maxwell processor" that's "about equivalent to the [NVIDIA] GT 940M."

"Taking a look at the GPU in our samples leads us to the conclusion that it is most certainly a GM108 based GPU," AnandTech wrote.

The key bit here is "GM108." With each product family, NVIDIA tends to build a family of chips with different performance/power/cost targets. For the Maxwell generation, the lineup was as follows:

  • GM108
  • GM107
  • GM206
  • GM204
  • GM200

The way to figure out the positioning of a particular NVIDIA graphics processor within a given architecture family (in the case of the above, Maxwell) is to look at the last digit of the model number; the lower the number, the more powerful -- and power hungry -- the chip.

GM108, then, is the weakest member of the family of chips built on NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture.

You may recall that NVIDIA's Pascal line of graphics processors is as follows:

  • GP108
  • GP107
  • GP106
  • GP104
  • GP102
  • GP100

The GeForce GTX 1060 that WCCFTech mentions is based on the GP106 processor. Note that going from generation-to-generation, NVIDIA generally keeps the power envelopes roughly the same, but by virtue of architectural (and in some cases manufacturing process) improvements, performance goes up.

The GP106, just like the GM206 before it, would simply be too power hungry for a slim, convertible device like the Surface Book. If Microsoft uses a stand-alone graphics processor in its next generation Surface Book, I would expect it to be based on the upcoming GP108 chip rather than on GP106 or even GP107.

Surface Book 2 still won't be a gaming monster

The first generation Surface Book is hardly what any gamer would refer to as a "gaming laptop." Here's what CNET had to say about gaming on the first generation Surface Book:

For casual on-the-go gaming, the Surface Book works better than I feared, but also not as well as I had hoped after its initial announcement. I would not recommend buying the Surface Book specifically as a gaming machine, but if you invest in one as a powerful new 13-inch premium laptop, both its gaming abilities and part-time hybrid design are valuable extra features to have.

GP108 should deliver significantly improved performance over GM108 in the same power envelope, making gaming on the next generation Surface Book 2, should it actually feature the chip, better than on the prior model. However, the latest games themselves continue to become more demanding, so the relative gaming experience of the GP108 while it's relevant should be about the same as the GM108 when it was the newest thing at the bottom of NVIDIA's stand-alone graphics processor stack.

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Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Nvidia. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.