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How We Tested Tablet-Based Gaming

Is Your Windows 8 Tablet Fast Enough For PC Gaming?
By

We're testing Dell's Venue 8 Pro differently than we would a desktop PC. To begin, we aren't comparing it to anything, so there's little value in charting performance. Rather, my goal is to demonstrate that playing PC games on a tablet is viable (or not). With that in mind, I chose to record video of actual gameplay to illustrate the usability of our chosen titles with a real representation of frame rate.

It turns out that video does a pretty good job of this. With that in mind, here are the specifications of Dell's Velue 8 Pro:


Test System
CPU
Intel Atom Z3740D (Bay Trail), 1.333 to 1.833 GHz, Four Cores, BGA1380, 2 MB L2 Cache
Memory
DDR3L, 2 GB, 1600 MT/s, CL 9-9-9-24-1T
Graphics
Intel HD Graphics, 4 EUs, 313-688 MHz
SSD
32 GB NAND
Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8.1 32-bit
DirectX
DirectX 11
Graphics Drivers
Intel Graphics Driver 10.18.10.3349
Display all 48 comments.
Top Comments
  • 13 Hide
    AMD Radeon , July 7, 2014 12:51 AM
    Great Review :) 

    Finally i see one noticeable advantage of Windows Tablet over Android
Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    batman2142 , July 7, 2014 12:47 AM
    Same article with SP3 would be a worthy read since it gives a chance to see how their HD4400 vs HD5000 on the variants match up, and if possible a projection on what the newer chipset that wont be making into the current SP3 but might make into the refresh by holiday season?
  • 13 Hide
    AMD Radeon , July 7, 2014 12:51 AM
    Great Review :) 

    Finally i see one noticeable advantage of Windows Tablet over Android
  • -7 Hide
    blackmagnum , July 7, 2014 1:23 AM
    Burn your hands on the tablet while gaming, why don't you?
  • 4 Hide
    iPeekYou , July 7, 2014 2:03 AM
    "...turning it into a portable PC gaming console..."

    Does not compute
  • 3 Hide
    K-beam , July 7, 2014 2:43 AM
    Awesome article, Don, I have had the same thoughts recently. I think we would have appreciated some more info especially on:
    - Battery (maybe most important when you speak of portablility) - how long does it last with this model. I was eyeing the Asus Transformer Book T100TA, which they say has a quite respectable battery (but is also more expensive)
    - Does a PS3 controller (free, if you have a PS3) work with it?
    I would ideally have liked to see a mention of the Prince of Persia / Max Payne (1+2) / (Older) Tomb Raider / Splinter cell (1-4) and similar older third-person adventure games. In my opinion those work marvellously with a PS3 gamepad. Ah, I forgot - I wonder whether the touch would work directly with games from the Monkey Island series. Ah, another great genre for playing on a tablet, that was totally missed here - turn-based strategy games like the Heroes of Might and Magic series and Civilization (4). And also the grand-daddy of "modern" open-world FPSs - FarCry 1 :) 
    The biggest risk with those games is still compatibility with touch/Win 8.
    An expanded re-visit maybe when the new generation of chips come out from either from Intel or AMD?
  • 0 Hide
    CaptainTom , July 7, 2014 3:31 AM
    I mean isn't the controller choice obvious: PS4. It connects via bluetooth and has a touchpad so you can control the menus with a mouse.
  • 1 Hide
    back_by_demand , July 7, 2014 4:25 AM
    If you bought a Surface Pro 3 it probably wasn't to play games, but nice to know it is one of the best performers out there in the tablet range
  • 10 Hide
    ScrewySqrl , July 7, 2014 4:54 AM
    What I want to know is why has no one pushed an AMD APU into one of these windows tablets for gaming?
  • 1 Hide
    K-beam , July 7, 2014 5:22 AM
    I am also thinking SteamOS as dual boot...
  • 2 Hide
    K-beam , July 7, 2014 7:16 AM
    What's up with these multiple posts!!! Sorry for the splamming, it seems every time the page gets refreshed, the post is re-submitted!
  • 5 Hide
    gallovfc , July 7, 2014 7:26 AM
    Nice tests Don !! We are looking forward for more tests !! Maybe with a MS Surface Pro, or any AMD based tablet (with more GPU punch).
  • 2 Hide
    larsoncc , July 7, 2014 9:30 AM
    I enjoyed this article. I just spent some time configuring my own new tablet to run some games - a Dell Venue Pro 11 (with an "i5" dual core). It's about as powerful as you'd expect, which is to say it's not spectacular.

    Some games run very well on the tablet - Left4Dead 2 and Unreal Tournament 2004 run fantastically, as you might expect because they're a bit older, or based on older engines. Likewise, some other games that have lower system requirements run perfectly well (indie stuff, smaller games, games that were ported from PC to tablet). Examples include Castle Crashers, Geometry Wars, Plants Vs Zombies, Puzzle Quest, Pac Man DX, etc

    Some newer games that I've tried have framerate issues, but still at least play at lowest settings and resolutions. The games below, despite their framerate issues remain playable for the most part.

    Battlefield 4 (looks horrific because resolution scaling must be used, 20-35fps)

    Diablo 3 (35fps out of combat, 20-25 in combat, 17-19 in Torment II/III combat).

    Borderlands 2 (30+ out of combat, some dips in combat)

    Saints Row IV (45+ in places, 17-20 in others, it's odd, more geometry = bad)

    Tomb Raider (27-45fps or so, perfectly playable for the most part).

    In most cases, I am nerfing settings to a ridiculous degree.
  • 0 Hide
    larsoncc , July 7, 2014 11:12 AM
    I'd also add that cell phones have some Bluetooth controllers worth considering, like the MOGA series of controllers. Likewise, I hear that PS3/4 controllers are an option, but the concern with all of these is whether or not they have XInput (rather than using a program to bring compatibility with each game).
  • 1 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , July 7, 2014 11:16 AM
    For some reason, I'm estimating that by time the Surface Pro 6 is released, that one will be great for gaming. Integrated GPU will have caught up, sufficiently. You know how PC gaming is, it only gets so good to a certain point, because they have to make console ports, as well. Granted, the XBOX One/PS4's GPU is already outdated by the PC having discreet GPUs.
  • 0 Hide
    ninjustin , July 7, 2014 11:48 AM
    No matter the frame rate playing Dota on an 8 inch screen makes it unplayable. I have a 10 inch laptop and it's practically impossible on that.
  • 0 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , July 7, 2014 11:55 AM
    ...Nintendo's DSi XL? Did you happen to miss where it's been succeeded by the 3DS XL and the 2DS?

    (3DS XL and 2DS aren't really directly comparable due to the different form-factor - clam-shell vs tablet)
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , July 7, 2014 12:09 PM
    Quote:
    ...Nintendo's DSi XL? Did you happen to miss where it's been succeeded by the 3DS XL and the 2DS?

    (3DS XL and 2DS aren't really directly comparable due to the different form-factor - clam-shell vs tablet)


    That was a bit of a brainfart in the intro, the actual article mentions the 3DS XL.

    Anyway, thanks for catching it. Fixed. :) 

    As far as being comparable, in the broad sense any portable gaming device is comparable. Portable console, phone, phablet, tablet... so I believe it's a relevant comparison in this context.
  • 0 Hide
    falchard , July 7, 2014 12:11 PM
    Quote:
    What I want to know is why has no one pushed an AMD APU into one of these windows tablets for gaming?

    MSI has. MSI W20. I think the issue has more to do with the clock speeds on the APUs in this power envelope, around 1 ghz. With this low a clock it may not have the necessary oomf. The recent APU has the power envelope and oomf, but we are only now starting to see it used in Tablets.
  • 3 Hide
    cleeve , July 7, 2014 12:12 PM
    Quote:
    Burn your hands on the tablet while gaming, why don't you?


    The Venue 8 Pro got warm during our play time, but I never found it uncomfortable.
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