Are you looking for a good Windows tablet for gaming? No matter if you’re looking for an expensive high-end gaming tablet that lets you play recent premium games or a cheaper one for light gaming, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve been reviewing tablets since 2008 and just recently I’ve run a big gaming test on the Microsoft Surface Go.
At the beginning of this article, you’ll find a list with a quick overview of all our current recommendations. Further down, I’m sharing more details with you including our test results of playing Apex Legends on the Surface Pro 9
The Best Windows Gaming Tablets
- No-Expenses-Spared Gaming Laptop Replacement : ASUS ROG Flow Z13 (on Amazon*). Holy moly, this tablet is extremely powerful and lightweight but also extremely costly. It comes with the latest Intel chip and currently has the 4000-series Nvidia RTX GPU at a cost of around $1,500 to $2,000. Weighing just over one kilogram (2.5 lbs), you’ll definitely be able to play the latest games with the Flow Z13.
- For Graphic Experts That Also Want To Game: Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (on Amazon*). The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 is a high-end Windows tablet with a Quadro 1000 dedicated GPU. Costing $2,500, we’d advise you to not buy this unless you are a graphics professional and your primary goal is to do graphical work (but occasionally want to play games).
- All-Rounder With An Achilles Heel: Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (on Amazon*). We reviewed the Surface Pro 9 and loved its overall performance. As a gaming tablet, it’s a compromise: without a dedicated GPU, it struggles with high-resolution gaming. You won’t be able to run modern games at full-res on its 2880 x 1920 pixel, 120Hz screen, but we enjoyed playing Apex Legends at 1280 x 720 pixels.
- Ultra-Portable But With Ultra-Low Expectations: Microsoft Surface Go 4 (on Amazon*). The Surface Go 4 can’t really play modern games because it doesn’t have a powerful processor nor does it have a dedicated graphics card. However, if you are content playing old games from 10-20 years ago, or modern games with simple graphics, you will have a much better experience playing games with this Windows tablet. If you can set your expectations right, you will enjoy its compact, 521 gram (1.15 lb) weight. We compiled a list of games that are playable on the Surface Go here.
Should You Buy A Windows Tablet For Gaming?
You can play games on a Windows tablet, but does it mean you should?
Here’s a hard truth: for the portability that tablets offer, you will always have to compromise somehow.
The compromise could be that you have to pay a much higher price for the same spec. Otherwise, you might have to settle for lower-end graphics detail on modern games.
To be fair, if you bought a full-size gaming laptop, portability goes out the window. Battery life will be abysmal. It’ll sit at home much more.
Travel A Lot? Maybe A Windows Gaming Tablet Is Worth The Price
As a person who travels often, I feel anxious when I leave my gaming laptop at home. It’s the device that’s capable of running games, running the whole Adobe Creative Cloud suite and it can run local AI image generation.
I’ve spent 12 days using my Microsoft Surface Go and was pleasantly surprised that it managed to do most things I needed to do on my main computer, except video editing. Everything felt rather slow and sluggish, but what needed to be done was done.
I dreamed of what life would be like if I had only one main Windows device.
I’ve got good news. Your ability to play games on a Windows gaming tablet is only limited by how much you’re willing to spend.
ASUS makes the ROG Z13, which is a tablet that can play modern games at a decent setting. However, you might also opt for a more humble experience with higher-end Microsoft Surface tablets.
Finally, if you aren’t looking to buy a gaming laptop replacement, you might consider prioritizing portability with a 10-inch tablet that can play some games.
ASUS ROG Flow Z13
Remember my dilemma about how there’s always a compromise?
With the ROG Flow Z13, the only compromise is your wallet. It’ll be heavily compromised as the higher-spec Z13 has a $1,879.99 price tag. You can get a lower-spec version with a Nvidia RTX 4050, but we’ll focus on the higher-end one with the Nvidia RTX 4060.
The ASUS ROG Flow Z13 (2022) is a 13.4-inch tablet running Windows. Aimed at gamers, it features an Intel Core i7-12700H chipset, a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card, and the display supports 120Hz. Similar to the Surface Pro series, it has a kickstand and a keyboard cover.
So, if you decide to go all-out and no-holds-barred, you are going to get these specs:
- 13.4″ WQXGA Touchscreen display with 165Hz refresh rate
- 13th Generation Intel Core i9-13900H
- NVIDIA RTX 4060 8GB GDDR6 Graphics
- 16GB LPDDR5 5200Mhz RAM
- 1TB Solid State Drive (PCIe Gen4)
- Robust Connectivity
- Wireless/Wired connectivity (WiFi 6E)
- ROG AURA RGB Gaming Detachable Keyboard
- 0db Ambient Cooling
- Biometric Security
All in a package that weighs 2.60 lbs (1.17 kg) with a thickness of 0.51 inches (1.2 cm). The charging brick delivers 130W of power and weighs only 300 grams.
As a person who uses Adobe Photoshop a lot, the fact that the Flow Z13 has a touchscreen that works with a stylus sounds amazing. After using the Surface Pen on my Surface Go, I’m convinced that being able to draw directly on the screen is much better than using my Wacom graphics tablet (a screenless device that accepts input from a stylus, and looks like a very large touchpad).
Remember what I said about compromising your wallet? If you are willing to go further, you can also buy the ASUS ROG XG Mobile GPU.
Simply put, the ROG XG Mobile GPU is a device that has a high-end, graphics card such as the Nvidia RTX 4090 Laptop GPU, RTX 3080, or the AMD Radeon RX 6850M XT. It plugs into a proprietary port on the Flow Z13 and also gives you extra USB and HDMI ports.
At the time of writing, this peripheral was out of stock in all official retailers and the 4000-series ROG XG Mobile GPU is “coming soon”. An open box RTX 3080 version was retailing for $1,095 on Best Buy, in case you want to estimate the cost of a new one.
Protip: if you don’t want to spend close to $2,000, you could consider buying the models of yesteryear. You can buy the 2022 model with the RTX3050 4GB on Amazon for about $1,100. The performance gap between the RTX 3050 and RTX 4060 is noticeable, though.
Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16
For professional graphic designers who also want something that can play games, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 can handle both. If you have never needed to use a stylus on a tablet, this product isn’t for you.
I own a Wacom and I know what they do. However, if this is your first time hearing of them, Wacom creates devices that help you create digital art much more effectively.
One part of their product line involves creating tablets that have a screen so you can draw art using their stylus. The MobileStudio Pro 16 is pretty high-end among the products they make.
The MobileStudio Pro 16 costs $2,499.95. That’s even more expensive than the ASUS ROG Flow Z13 and you get these specs:
- Screen size 15.6″
- Resolution UHD (3840 x 2160)
- Intel® Core™ i7
- NVIDIA® Quadro® P1000, 4GB GDDR5
- 16 GB DDR
- 512 GB SSD
You might have noticed the graphics card isn’t a Quadro, rather than the more typical RTX. The Quadro shines as a professional-grade graphics card for uses such as 3D modeling, animation, and other professional uses.
From a pure gaming tablet perspective, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 does not have very impressive specs for its price. As I said, you’re better off gaming with another tablet unless you need something with the professional-grade MobileStudio Pro 16 offers.
Microsoft Surface Pro 9
We reviewed this Windows tablet a while ago and really liked it. In fact, we gave it full marks with the only downside being a short battery life.
If we’re just looking at it as a gaming tablet, it wouldn’t gain full marks. Remember the central idea of gaming on a Windows tablet is “compromise”.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 is the best Windows tablet you can buy at the moment. It offers a premium built, newest Intel processors, a pretty 120Hz display, as well as fantastic accessoires with the Slim Pen 2 and Signature Keyboard. Sadly, the battery life is short and not much has changed compared to the Surface Pro 8.
The Surface Pro 9 doesn’t have a dedicated GPU. So, gaming performance does suffer. You can’t expect to play most modern games at their highest resolutions or highest details. Sometimes, you might have to play at a lower resolution that falls short of its 2880 x 1920 pixel, 120Hz screen.
Let’s take the case of Apex Legends. Apex Legends ran smoothly with default settings and 720p resolution. The frame rate we got was between 30 and 60 FPS.
It’s playable when we turned up the resolution to 1440 x 900 pixels. Then it’s mostly between 25 and 40 FPS, which is only too low for demanding gamers.
However, the graphics performance is too weak for a Full HD resolution, because the frame rate often drops below 24 FPS.
As you can see, you won’t be able to enjoy the Surface Pro 9’s fabulous PixelSense Flow screen in its full 2880 x 1920 pixel, 120Hz glory.
We also found the speakers to sound good — not as good as the iPad Pro — but good enough that we enjoyed watching movies on it.
Microsoft Surface Go
Gaming on the Microsoft Surface Go is really about managing expectations.
Luckily, I’ve done that for you by compiling a list of games that you can play on the Surface Go.
Think of the Surface Go as a Windows tablet that has the capabilities of computers produced 10-15 years ago. Then, using that, you can adjust your expectations.
The Microsoft Surface Go 4 is an excellent choice if you're looking for a 10-inch Windows tablet. It offers a pretty display, a high-quality design, an excellent Surface Pen and a good keyboard. The performance is very good, especially for office work, but I can't recommend it as a gaming tablet or for graphic work. It's also a shame that it's quite expensive.
- Premium design
- Pretty display
- Great Surface Pen
- Good keyboard
- Perfect for office work
- Short battery life
- Quite expensive
- Slower than an iPad
I played Half-Life 2 on my Surface Go. I enjoyed it. Great FPS! The original Deus Ex was equally good.
However, even more modern, indie, games like The Escapists 2 or Streets of Rogue didn’t perform that well. We’re talking about 2D, top-down games with graphics reminiscent of GTA2.
I tried Darkest Dungeon 2 on the Surface Go and it’s playable even though FPS hovered at 15-25 FPS at the lowest setting and lowest resolution. It’s a slower, decision-making game like Civilization is, so it’s still playable despite the low FPS.
The Surface Go is pretty amazing in terms of portability, though. I brought it around and used it as my main computer for 12 days and I was amazed by how much I could do with it.
But when it comes to gaming, it doesn’t score very high. If you are trying to kill time, you’re better off watching films on the Surface Go.
If you do insist on using the Surface Go, then the good news is that the Surface Go 4 provides great performance that’s better than my Surface Go, so games that were on the borderline would perform a bit better.
Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i
The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i directly competes with the Surface Go lineup, but unfortunately, performs worse than the Surface Go in terms of graphics performance.
You can’t play Fortnite. You can run Asphalt 9, but can’t really play it because it stutters too much.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i offers a great design with an integrated kickstand and a good keyboard cover that is included. I also like the 10-inch FullHD screen and that the keyboard can be used as a Bluetooth keyboards as well. However, the cheapest version is fast enough for very simple tasks only.
- Pretty design
- Good 10.3-inch screen
- Keyboard with Bluetooth
- Very affordable
- Optional LTE 4G
- Bad cameras
- Intel N4020 quite weak
- Few touch apps
If you buy anything lower than a Surface Pro 9, expect to compromise on the titles you can play on the tablet.
Just like the Surface Go, if you only played games from 15 years ago, you’ll do fine. However, expecting to play modern games on the Lenovo Ideapad Duet 3i would be a lost cause.
So why did we include this tablet here? When we reviewed it, it provided really good value for what it offered. Today, if you manage to find one, it’ll be even better value.
Price, performance, or portability. Choose two.
Choosing to buy a Windows tablet is choosing portability. Now, choose another aspect that you want.
If you want portability and performance but are willing to forgo a low price, then consider the ASUS ROG Flow Z13. That’s the ultimate gaming tablet with room to expand through its ASUS ROG XG Mobile GPU external module.
If you want portability and a low price, then say bye-bye to performance. I own a Surface Go because I chose those two aspects. I don’t regret buying it, but I did have to compromise on my expectations of what it could do.
In all cases, if you sacrifice portability, you will get much better performance and value for money. If you noticed, even the top-tier Windows tablet does not have an RTX 4070 or higher-end graphics card. Similarly, specced gaming laptops would also be much cheaper.
So the real question is, what are your priorities in terms of price-performance-portability?
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