Minecraft ran exceptionally well. For this, we can thank the game's heavy reliance on CPU processing rather than GPU processing. The Core i5 processor rendered the Minecraft environment quite well, and everything ran smoothly near 40 frames per second, even with all the fancy graphics settings enabled.
The two Firaxis games--XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Civilization 5--mostly chugged along below 30 frames per second, and ended up being pretty choppy but arguably playable. Because these games are basically super-charged board games, their slower turn-based gameplay allowed Surface Pro to catch up, and make up for the frames it dropped. In effect, the hardware's performance deficits were only an issue during cut-scenes, when scrolling around maps, and when processing my opponent's turn.
A port battle royale
But enough about the small handful of games I put under the benchmarking microscope. My primary objective for this Surface Pro exercise was to find a quality way to play Steam games on my big-screen TV without running a crazy-long HDMI cord from my current desktop behemoth. With the help of Surface Pro's HDMI adapter, I was hoping to play my PC games on the big screen, taking advantage of Steam's new Big Picture interface.
PCWorld's Surface Pro is mated to Microsoft's Type Cover, but the touchpad on that keyboard accessory is hopeless for navigating gaming interfaces, so I grabbed a USB mouse along with my Xbox 360 controller. Just one problem, though: The tablet boasts only one USB port.
Shoot, and I was planning to use a gaming keyboard and a USB headset too.
Desktop gaming machines come with tons of USB ports for a reason, and without them, the basic gaming experience can be crippled. I grabbed a USB hub and finally managed to hook everything up, but the Surface Pro was now an over-tethered mess with all those cables attached.
To test out Xbox 360 controller support, I turned to Super Meat Boy, an indie-developed side-scroller that offers console friendly gameplay. I set the game to Surface Pro's native 1920-by-1080 pixel resolution, and it ran at a stable 30 frames per second, which was a bit too choppy for my tastes due to the fast-paced action intrinsic to the game. There weren't any other graphical options to adjust, so the resolution was all that could be addressed.
Regardless, the controller worked well, and I concluded that Surface Pro can be an able platform for playing simple console-style games via Steam. Likewise, loading a few console emulators would be easy and convenient.
Gaming on the go