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Microsoft sets sights on gamers with low-end Surface Book

Costing $200 more than the most basic Surface laptop, this model features an Nvidia GeForce graphics chip rather than relying on graphics tech built into the main processor.

Multiple versions of the Surface Book will go on sale next week.

Microsoft has tweaked its Surface Book lineup just before next week's launch by adding a low-end model designed to lure gamers with better graphics.

This new version of the most basic Surface Book laptop, spotted Thursday by TechRadar, adds a separate Nvidia GeForce graphics chip rather than relying on graphics tech integrated directly into the model's Intel Core i5 processor. Separate graphics chips cost extra but help endow video games with lavish landscapes and snappy performance. Until now, the GeForce option was available only on higher-end Surface Book models.

This low-end, gamer-friendly Surface Book, which includes 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, costs $1,699 (£1,100 or AU$2,350). That's $200 more than the same model without the GeForce chip. This new version is set for release Monday, the official launch date for all Surface Book models, but is not available for preorder. All other models are showing at least four-week to seven-week waits before shipping, according to Microsoft's site.

The Redmond, Washington-based company has touted the Surface Book, with its detachable keyboard, touchscreen display and atypical hinge, as the " ultimate laptop." Microsoft's first homegrown laptop, the Surface Book embodies an ambitious transformation for a company that, aside from its Xbox game console, chiefly sold software for most of its history. That has changed with the release of the first Surface tablets in 2012, as well as the Lumia smartphones released since Microsoft bought Nokia's devices and services business in 2014.

The Windows 10 laptop is entering a crowded market, but Windows 10 has helped fuel Microsoft's strong quarterly results, released Thursday. The Surface Book will compete not just with Apple MacBooks but with laptops from Microsoft's own business partners that sell Windows-powered machines. Microsoft launched Windows 10 this summer in an attempt to improve a reputation damaged by the confusing Windows 8.

Microsoft has apparently been rejiggering its final Surface Book lineup since the October 6 unveiling. It also added a top-end Surface Book with 1TB of storage for $3,199 earlier this week, though that model shows a January 22 shipping date on Microsoft's site.

The extra Nvidia graphics capabilities add $200 (£130 or AU$275) to the price of the most basic $1,499 Surface Book. The $1,699 price tag is the same as an upgrade on the most basic model to 256GB of built-in storage. Customers in that price range will need to decide whether more storage or improved graphics is a better bet for them.

One unknown factor: Microsoft hasn't detailed which Nvidia graphics processor is in the Surface Book other than to say it will have 1GB of GDDR5 high-speed memory.