Surface Book Adds Lower-Cost Discrete Graphics Option

Microsoft has made it easier for gamers to afford its new Surface Book while still enjoying the power afforded by a discrete graphics card. You now have the option to add Nvidia GeForce graphics to the $1,499 base model of the 2-in-1 device for an extra $200. Previously, you would have had to buy the $1,899 Surface Book to get a notebook with the same graphics card.

The new $1,699 model doesn't offer as much storage as the $1,899 Surface Book: It has a 128GB SSD instead of the 256GB you get from the higher-priced configuration. But this new configuration should appeal to those with plenty of external or cloud storage. Microsoft will continue to sell a $1,699 Surface Book with 256GB of storage but with integrated Intel HD Graphics, for those who prioritize internal storage.

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Giving would-be Surface Book owners a lower-cost option that includes discrete graphics should broaden the appeal of Microsoft's new laptop. More importantly, it draws another distinction with Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro, which seems to be the Surface Book's main rival.

As we noted when we compared the Surface Book to the MacBook Pro, the entry-level models of both notebooks have similar specs, but the Apple laptop does have a lower starting price of $1,299. What the 13-inch MacBook Pro doesn't offer, however, is discrete graphics -- it's got an integrated Intel Iris Graphics 6100 GPU. To get a MacBook Pro with discrete graphics, you'd have to buy a 15-inch model, with only the high-end $2,499 configuration offering a discrete AMD Radeon GPU.