Graphics Performance

One major point of differentiation with the previous generation Surface Laptop 3 was Microsoft partnering with AMD to offer a "semi-custom" design. For the APUs that went into the Surface laptops, Microsoft got chips with an additional graphics unit (CU) enabled for both the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 models, resulting in nine and eleven total graphics units, respectively.

With Renoir, AMD decided to cut back on the total graphics hardware for their integrated Vega GPU, and make up the difference with higher frequencies thanks to the better 7 nm process. As such, a normal 15-Watt Ryzen 5 model will offer six graphics units, and Ryzen 7 offers eight. The semi-custom Ryzen Microsoft Surface Editions do get access to an additional graphics unit on the Ryzen 5 models, bumping it up to seven total, but the Ryzen 7 4980U is not so lucky, and makes do with the same eight compute units as all other Ryzen 7 4000 series processors. Any performance uplifts from the normal Ryzen 7 will be due to the higher maximum frequency, boosted to 1950 MHz on the 4980U, which is 200 MHz higher than the Ryzen 7 4800U, and 350 MHz higher than the Ryzen 7 4700U.

Surface Laptop Processors
CPU Intel Core i5-1145G7 Intel Core i7-1185G7 AMD Ryzen 5 4680U AMD Ryzen 7 4980U
GPU Design Intel Iris Xe Intel Iris Xe AMD Vega AMD Vega
GPU Size 80 Execution Units 96 Execution Units 7 Compute Units 8 Compute Units
Max Boost Frequency 1300 MHz 1350 MHz 1500 MHz 1950 Mhz
Process Intel 10nm SuperFin Intel 10nm SuperFin TSMC 7nm TSMC 7nm

To see how the Surface Laptop 4 performs in gaming, it was run through our standard laptop graphics suite, which includes a couple of synthetic tests, as well as some actual gaming results. For the most part, the comparison devices are either AMD or Intel with integrated graphics. The MSI Prestige, highlighted in blue, features the latest Intel Xe graphics thanks to its Tiger Lake internals. The Surface Book 3 is included just to get a feel for where the integrated results are against a device with a decent dGPU, as the Surface Book 3 features the NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti graphics adapter.


Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike

Futuremark 3DMark Sky Diver

Futuremark 3DMark Cloud Gate

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

As a purely synthetic test, 3DMark offers several levels of scene complexity, with Fire Strike being the most demanding, and Ice Storm Unlimited being a test which can be run on low-end phones and tablets. Other than Cloud Gate, which is CPU limited, the Renoir platform, even with the highest frequencies available, is not able to match Tiger Lake in terms of GPU performance. The Surface Laptop 4 does show a nice bump over the other devices though, so the increased frequency headroom of the Ryzen 7 4980U certainly helps.


GFXBench 5.0 Aztec Ruins Normal 1080p Offscreen

GFXBench 5.0 Aztec Ruins High 1440p Offscreen

In the second synthetic test, we see a similar result. Although the Surface Laptop 4 with Ryzen is not able to surpass the 96 EU Intel Xe GPU in the MSI Prestige, it is still noticeably ahead of the other devices.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider - Value

Although several years old now, the first of the rebooted Tomb Raider games can still be very demanding for internal graphics, especially with the resolution and details turned up. On lower settings, it is easily playable, with the Surface Laptop 4 just about hitting 120 FPS at our Value settings of 1366x768 Normal, but on 1920x1080 Ultra, the Surface Laptop 4 hits just 25 FPS average.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Value

The second installment of the rebooted Tomb Raider series added DirectX 12 support, and cranked up the graphics significantly. At the same Value settings as the previous game in the series, framerate drops to under 50 FPS average for the Surface Laptop 4, and it can’t quite match the Tiger Lake system which is on the cusp of 60 FPS average. This is a game we could not even realistically run on laptops from just a couple of years ago though, so on both the AMD and Intel side, integrated GPUs have come a long way.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider - Value

The latest installment in the Tomb Raider series is one we don’t even normally run on iGPU devices, as the results are unplayable, but to get a comparison, it was included this time. At 30 FPS average for the Surface Laptop 4, this is likely not going to be a great experience.

Strange Brigade

Strange Brigade - Value

Another DirectX 12 title, Strange Brigade is not as demanding as some of the latest AAA titles, and as such, is definitely playable on devices with the latest integrated graphics. At 65 FPS, the game is 100% playable, but still well behind Tiger Lake.

F1 2019

F1 2019 - Value

So far, the results have been quite clear, and although the gaps tighten up on F1 2019, as it is more CPU intensive than some of the previous games would have been, the Renoir APU still finds itself behind Tiger Lake.

Far Cry 5

Far Cry 5 - Value

Far Cry is also a game that can be somewhat CPU limited, but not so much with these lower powered GPUs, and again, the pattern is the same as all of the other tests. What is interesting is how much better the Renoir system is than the previous Surface Laptop 3 with Picasso though. Moving down from 11 CUs down to 8 was easily overcome with the extra frequency headroom, and increased CPU throughput of the Renoir design. The latest AMD Cezanne APUs do not increase the GPU size either, so in theory, performance should be fairly similar to the Surface Laptop 4 on these titles.

GPU Conclusion

It is a bit of a let down to see that for this latest generation, Microsoft was not able to again add a larger GPU to the Ryzen 7, like they did for the Surface Laptop 3. The Ryzen 7 4980U is technically a semi-custom design, but really this only down to it being the best binned Renoir APUs that AMD is offering. Given AMD's history with graphics, it is a bit surprising to see Intel now leading on integrated graphics performance, especially after years of the UHD 620 and previous generation designs being quite low performance. AMD first made integrated graphics a priority with the original Ryzen APUs, adding in their Vega graphics architecture, and outclassing the competition in the process. But in this case, AMD has seemingly rested on its laurels, and with Tiger Lake, Intel has stolen this crown back. And, with AMD not adding any more graphics units with Cezanne, it is unlikely this will change.

The performance is good, and the extra frequency allowed on the 4980U does bump it ahead of the other Renoir devices we have tested, but AMD's integrated Vega GPU is definitely not the fastest iGPU anymore.

System Performance Display Analysis


View All Comments

  • Cliff34 - Friday, May 7, 2021 - link

    Bt mouse connection is not reliable. Reply
  • evilspoons - Friday, May 7, 2021 - link

    I've been using a Bluetooth LE mouse (Microsoft 3600) with my Surface Pro 3 for years now. It's as reliable as any device that needs a separate receiver and I don't have to worry about breaking the damn thing off in a laptop bag. Reply
  • mrochester - Saturday, May 8, 2021 - link

    Try a Logitech bluetooth mouse. MX Anywhere 3, MX Master 3 I'd highly recommend. Reply
  • s.yu - Sunday, May 9, 2021 - link

    Same here, beware Logitech's battery scam but there's nothing wrong with the reception. It might suffer the BT power-save bug but AFAIK that's not mouse-specific but laptop-specific. The workaround is to turn BT power save off or if that doesn't work, one of those BT scanners that pings the mouse every few seconds. Reply
  • The Garden Variety - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - link

    "no external optical drives"

    Are you for real?
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - link

    not everyone is a silicon valley darling. Many people still have movies or photos or optical media. Sure you could make the argument that those people likely are not the primary surface market, but "most people" are not the surface market, and "most people" is what's being discussed, not people who gladly use no external devices with their $1500 computer.

    Would it have really killed them to have another type A port? Even $200 chromebooks can maanage that.
  • The Garden Variety - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - link

    You're falling into the typical Anadtech commenter fallacy. If they had two USB-C ports, you'd ask for USB-A ports. If they have one USB-A port, you ask for two. If they had two USB-A ports, you'd find something else to bitch about. User-upgradable memory. A bigger battery. A brighter screen. A different screen ratio. Who knows; who cares! It's all fallacious, feature-itis by this tiny little very loud segment of the computer-using population that wants everything to still be floor-standing desktop towers and all sorts of other why-can't-things-just-stay-the-same-isms.

    It has one USB port. And I guarantee you not one person who buys one will care that it only has one, nor would it cause so much as a single additional sale if it had two. People don't make decisions that way, any more so than when people go buy a car do they look at torque curves. It's *fucking* mental how myopic you people can be and how what you find important doesn't represent even the tiniest sliver of importance to computer manufacturers anymore.

    But not to worry. I'm sure there will be a smartphone review posted soon, that way you can get back to bitching about removable batteries.
  • Reflex - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - link

    This right here. It's pretty easy to see what consumer demand looks like at a given price point. Go look at what the popular models are and recognize that whatever assumptions you have about your personal use case may not be what the market is requiring.

    All sorts of stuff I want on a given bit of hardware that isn't commonly there. It's okay, I adapt. The market does not exist exclusively for me.
  • alexvoda - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - link

    Well, with regards to ports, if you are offering less to the user than the chipset offers you and you don't have a good reason for that, you are just cheaping out on the customers.

    This is part of the reason Surface devices suck from some POV. If the CPU gives you Thuderbolt for free (Intel versions), than as a user I expect you to give me Thunderbolt ports because it only costs you the traces on the board and the ports themselves. Microsoft has been very very late in adopting Thunderbolt for some reason (I know the latest versions do have Thunderbolt).
  • Rookierookie - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - link

    Of course people who buy it won't care, the people who care won't buy it. I certainly won't buy a laptop with just one USB-A port. Reply

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