Is Your Windows 8 Tablet Fast Enough For PC Gaming?

First-Person Games: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Left 4 Dead, Unreal Tournament 3

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion set the standard for modern sandbox adventure games, and it still looks good today. Despite a reputation for necessitating high-end graphics hardware when it first launched, I'm going to give it a shot on our tablet.

Although 1024x768 is playable, I prefer to err on the side of responsiveness and higher frame rates. As with Star Wars: The Old Republic, 800x600 is a viable resolution on an 8" tablet, and that's what I went with, also selecting the Low detail preset, but bumping texture quality up to Medium and increasing the view distance to its highest level. The Distant Land option was enabled, too.

In this type of game, a mouse and keyboard are preferable, but not imperative when space is an issue. I decided to give the SteelSeries Free a shot, as well as the GestureWorks Gameplay software, allowing me to play the game through touch-based controls.

Dell Venue 8 Pro - Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Test

Oblivion still looks great and runs smoothly at these quality options. The Free worked as well as any gamepad I've ever used, despite its compact size. GestureWorks' Gameplay software is functional as well, though it takes some getting used to. You'll probably want to adjust your sensitivity settings to taste.

Left 4 Dead

Valve's fast-paced zombie shooter Left 4 Dead is one of my favorite multiplayer co-op games. It's also a great manifestation of the Source engine, which is also prevalent through Half-Life 2, Counter Strike: Source, Team Fortress 2, Portal, and many other titles. If Dell's Atom-powered tablet can handle Left 4 Dead, other Source-based games will probably work as well.

We ran the game at its highest detail settings with trilinear texture filtering, but with shader detail set at Low. Resolution was kept at 800x600. But again, that looked great. As for the controls, we couldn't get the Gameplay software running correctly. However, the SteelSeries Free gamepad worked like a charm.

Dell Venue 8 Pro - Left 4 Dead Test

Left 4 Dead runs surprisingly smoothly on the Venue 8 Pro. The gamepad provides excellent response. As with any shooter, however, I prefer a mouse and keyboard setup. I actually played through Left 4 Dead on Dell's tablet in a hotel room over Wi-Fi. It took two hours for me to realize I was having fun without the power cord plugged in.

Unreal Tournament 3

Epic's Unreal Engine 3 has a long and distinguished history of driving some of the most popular PC games, including the Batman: Arkham series, Gears of War, BioShock, Borderlands, and Mass Effect, among others. It's an older title, but I decided to take Unreal Tournament 3 for a spin, too.

I was forced down to 800x600 once again, this time selecting the lowest detail level, a texture resolution of "3", and the middle level of character LoD. Even with a big compromise in graphics fidelity, some of the game's maps still suffered from low performance. I eventually settled on the Torlan map for optimal playability.

The game's well-known camera spin issue occurred when I tried to use the SteelSeries Free, but I switched to GestureWorks' Gameplay on-screen controller and was fine.

Dell Venue 8 Pro - Unreal Tournament 3 Test

So long as you're mindful of the map you're playing Unreal Tournament 3 is playable. Naturally, that's bad news for newer, more demanding titles based on Unreal Engine 3. But I can't say I'm surprised. The HD Graphics engine with four EUs just isn't suited to fast-paced gaming, even backed by Intel's more capable x86 architecture.

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  • batman2142
    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?
  • AMD Radeon
    Great Review :)

    Finally i see one noticeable advantage of Windows Tablet over Android
  • blackmagnum
    Burn your hands on the tablet while gaming, why don't you?
  • iPeekYou
    "...turning it into a portable PC gaming console..."

    Does not compute
  • K-beam
    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?
  • CaptainTom
    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.
  • back_by_demand
    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
  • ScrewySqrl
    What I want to know is why has no one pushed an AMD APU into one of these windows tablets for gaming?
  • K-beam
    I am also thinking SteamOS as dual boot...
  • K-beam
    What's up with these multiple posts!!! Sorry for the splamming, it seems every time the page gets refreshed, the post is re-submitted!
  • gallovfc
    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).
  • larsoncc
    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.
  • larsoncc
    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).
  • JOSHSKORN
    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.
  • ninjustin
    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.
  • Nintendo Maniac 64
    ...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)
  • cleeve
    665346 said:
    ...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.
  • falchard
    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.
  • cleeve
    749236 said:
    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.
  • Thorfkin
    Personally, I'd like to see a 13 to 15 inch Windows 8 tablet with a native 1080p resolution based on AMD's Beema or Mullins APU. That would allow me to do some mid-range pc gaming while mobile. Or I can stream a high end game over my network using Steam In Home Streaming while I kick back on my couch. I did find an HP tablet that was close but the resolution was wrong. A resolution less than 1920x1080 will force in-home streaming to scale the rendered image from it's source and damage the clarity. I don't want that. Too high a resolution will hamper the tablet's ability to render graphics quickly at it's screen's native resolution. It's a shame Microsoft didn't based one of it's Surface Pro 3 lines on an AMD APU. I'd have bought one then.
  • g-unit1111
    I actually have a Venue 8 and I've been really itching to try Steam on it, with a few older games, but really - my first love when it comes to gaming is strategy games, and I can't wait to see how this one pairs with my favorite - Civilization V. Especially now that Brave New World has touch screen support.
  • cleeve
    457740 said:
    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)


    I played about two and a half hours of Left4Dead with some friends before I noticed the tablet wasn't plugged into power, and it still had some juice left. Your mileage will depend upon the game and screen brightness, obviously, but I was impressed.

    457740 said:
    - Does a PS3 controller (free, if you have a PS3) work with it?


    I believe a PS3 controller can be used with some hacks, but I was trying to find peripherals that were plug and play.

    457740 said:
    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 :)


    There's an infinite possible list of titles to try, too many to realistically tackle for little old me. I encourage you to grab a tablet and give your favorites a shot. :)

    457740 said:
    An expanded re-visit maybe when the new generation of chips come out from either from Intel or AMD?


    I'm hoping so. I don't know if the new mullins/beema APUs have any design wins in a tablet yet, but I'm going to keep bugging AMD periodically because I hope it'll happen and I'd love to test this.
  • SamR0ck
    Intel Graphics is a joke. I hope AMD starts promoting the APUs and even their onboard graphic capabilities for mobile and tablet. This is going to be great for gamer who are constantly on the move and would like to play some recent highend games.
  • utomo
    Why not dell venue 11 pro i3 or i5?