I’ve always been a fan of the Microsoft Surface products since the first one rolled out years ago, but when I heard about the specs of the Surface Go, my first reaction was… why would anyone want this?!
Surface Go is basically a smaller Surface Pro with a seemingly underpowered CPU. A 10-inch ultraportable tablet/laptop did pique my curiosity so I picked one up and have used it for a month…
My main portable devices on the Go have usually been an iPad Pro and 12-inch MacBook combination. Sometimes taking the iPad Pro, although a very capable device in most of my tasks, feels limiting. And then taking the 12-inch MacBook by itself, feels overkill when I just need a tablet to watch my Netflix on. Believe me, I love both devices but carrying both can be a hassle, and sometimes carrying only one of them could be a bigger hassle.
Now this is where the Surface Go comes in – a single device that could replace both the MacBook and my iPad Pro, or for anyone who is looking to consolidate their tablet and laptop into one. Sure this has been attempted several times even by Microsoft with the launch with the very first Surface or a bunch of other OEMs, even Apple with their iPad Pro but there was always that one limitation… whether it be weight, price, performance, lack of mouse support, connectivity, etc I’ve given myself all the same reasons.
So here’s what I think of the Surface Go after using it for one month as a laptop, tablet, and even a desktop connecting it straight through the Apple AV USB-C Hub powering my keyboard, mouse and 32-inch 1440 display.
Unboxing / Weight / Size
Out of the box the surface go comes with a charger and that’s about it. Obviously no keyboard, and no pen. I know they’ve never included the keyboard but it was nice having the pen, but now you have to fork out an additional $$100 on top of the other $100 to get the keyboard. Let’s not beat around the bush… you NEED to spend that extra money to fully utilize this device and Microsoft keeps claiming this starts at $399. I can go off on a rant about this for hours but let’s skip that for today.
The Surface Go, with it’s 10-inch 1900×1200 217 ppi 3:2 display weighs a little over 1lbs without the keyboard. The keyboard adds a minimal amount of weight to the device but it’s not even 1.5lbs when you have it attached. The dimensions are 9.65 x 6.9 x .33 inches. In doing a Google search on the weight and dimensions of the Surface Go in comparison with the iPad Pro 10.5 inch, this is what you get (iPad Pro on the left, Surface Go on the right):
Source: Phone Arena
The two devices match up pretty close when you compare then, one being a dedicated tablet, while the other being a hybrid with a full desktop operating system. For those of you who are on the road a lot, the Surface Go fits right into the tablet pocket in most laptop bags. So if you want the best of both worlds, you can bring a MacBook and the Surface Go and you won’t even notice the difference in weight and space that this takes up in your bag!
As stated earlier the design of the Surface Go is that it is basically a smaller version of the Surface Pro, which is not at all a bad thing. The Surface Go’s built in adjustable kickstand remains to be an engineering marvel. There is so much flexibility in how far you can adjust this to get at the most comfortable level for viewing, typing, and writing. The rounded corners is also a nice addition in gripping the device. Although not as thin as the iPad, the Surface Go is light enough to hold as a tablet and watch videos on.
Ports seem very limited on the Surface Go with just a headphone jack, Surface Connector, and a single USB-C port… however that USB-C port is very versatile. You can skip the ridiculously overpriced Surface Dock use any USB-C hub with an HDMI port and turn this into a desktop (which we will get into later).
Before I go any further, right after unboxing this, I just went straight into upgrading this to the full Windows Home. The whole point of getting this was not to use this is a restricted tablet with Windows S. If I wanted to do that, I’m definitely better off just sticking with the iPad Pro which works beautifully running iOS. I’m going for the full OS experience and I’m not wasting any time. If you want a take on Windows S, there’s quite a few out there you can find with a quick
Screen / Surface Pen / Speakers
The 10-inch 1900×1200 3:2 touch screen, although not 4K 120hz, etc… is quite good. Reading, writing, scrolling through web content works very well on the 3:2 ratio display. At 217 ppi, text and images are sharp and videos look great on the screen. I did run into some scaling issued with some old applications where it looks blurred and distorted but that’s to be expected. The default scale on the Go is 150% which is fine 90% of the time, but some would say the sweet spot is at 125% giving you more room to view more of what you’re working on. I leave mine at 150% and have had no issues browsing the web and watching videos.
The touch screen is very responsive to my fingers tapping, pinch to zoom, and scrolling through websites on Microsoft Edge has been smooth. As for Chrome… well that’s a different story.
Taking notes and annotating PDFs with the $100 Surface Pen (yes it’s a freaking ADDITIONAL $100) is just as good as writing with the Apple Pencil. In my opinion, the Apple Pencil works smoother with less latency but the difference is not that great and you do get used to it. The great thing about the Surface Pen is that it has a replaceable battery that will last you up to a year so you don’t have to awkwardly charge it. Being able to magnetically attach to the side of the Surface Go is nice too. Also, the “eraser” feature comes in very handy as it feels natural to just flip the pen over and “erase” your mistakes.
Although a bit more responsive, writing with the Apple Pencil however, feels like I am writing on glass.
Cameras / Speakers
The built in video camera is really impressive for a device that starts off at $399. In fact it’s better than that piece of crap that’s built into the MacBook or any MacBook Pro. Sample video and sample photos right here:
The built in front facing stereo speakers are decent. It has two speakers in the front (not 4 like the iPad Pro) but it does hold it’s own when you want to watch some Netflix or other movies on the Surface Go. The sound is clear, loud, and pretty powerful for a supposed budget device. These sound better than anything in it’s class and kudos to Microsoft for not skimping out on the speakers.
The Surface Go is powered by the Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y at 1.6ghz which is the very low wattage variation of the 7th gen Kaby Lake processor. The Pentium name doesn’t really mean anything in this case except sound like a CPU from back in the 90s so the performance expectations on this isn’t so high.
So far there is a 4GB RAM with 64GB eMMC flash memory and 8GB with a 128GB SSD. I opted for the 8GB / 128GB. My own expectations were very low which may be way I was pleasantly surprised on how well the Surface Go handled my daily workflow.
For those who care about benchmarks, the Surface Go 8GB scored 3900 on Geekbench which faired better than other ultraportables within it’s class. the iPad 2018 however scored almost 6000. Let’s be real and set the right expectations… you are not going to use this as a full-time 4K video editor, you’re not going to play games with you would run on a gaming laptop or desktop, and you’re not going to have 100 Chrome tabs open. Obviously this device is not going to be for you. What it’s meant for is to take notes, run productivity applications, watch movies, surf the web and do all the daily non graphics and CPU intensive stuff and for the most part, the Surface Go handles them all quite well, with a few performance and software annoyances.
- Chrome sucks on this thing when using it as a tablet. The touch responsiveness in using Chrome is pretty bad and scrolling on it is just annoying
- Edge runs super smooth in tablet mode – think of Edge on the Surface Go as Safari on the iPad. Yeah it’s that good
- Using the Windows Store apps of Netflix is great – you can watch shows offline like you can on the iPad
- Hulu, Crunchyroll, etc work pretty well. You could use web versions but I think the apps work better
- Evernote app is pretty terrible. The desktop application is OK…
- One Note is fantastic, writing with the Surface Pen as mentioned earlier is very responsive
- Being able to click the “eraser” button on the Surface Pen to launch applications is super smart
- The kickstand outclasses anything that’s tried to imitate it
- Battery life is decent but definitely no iPad
- The touch interface on the iPad is a lot better, faster and smoother
- It takes awhile to get used to or tolerate some of the clunkiness of using this as a tablet – unless you are solely just using this for simple tasks such as watching videos and note taking
- The onscreen keyboard sucks and has been glitchy since the very first Surface – it hasn’t changed at all, WTF Microsoft
- This was laggy at initial setup but it was because updates were installing
- Chrome works so much better with a mouse and keyboard
- They keyboard is great – better than the horrendous Apple Smart Keyboard, and a step above the MacBook’s
- The large trackpad is pretty responsive
- I have Outlook, Skype for Business, Excel, Seven Chrome tabs, and Spotify open all at once while printing a document wirelessly and it’s working just fine without and lag
- This ain’t no gaming laptop… far from it but it runs Retro Arch emulators just fine. I’ve been playing the PSP version of Rondo of Blood and Metal Slug perfectly
- Battery life I got from this was about 6 course… really wish I could at least get 8 out of this
- Thankfully, I can charge easily with any USB-C cable and power brick
- Do you connect your MacBook or PC Laptop to a larger display using a USB-C Hub? You can with the Surface Go and charge at the same time!
- The Apple USB-C AV hub works perfectly fine with the Surface Go
- I am able to drive a 32-inch 2560×1440 display without any issues
- Took awhile to get used to how slow the apps loaded compared to the MacBook Pro I had docked to my display
- I only switched back to my MacBook Pro to run edit videos using Final Cut Pro and photos on Affinity Photo
- YouTube runs like crap on Edge in desktop mode, but works fine in Chrome… go figure
- Being able to instantly undock from the large display after a hard day’s work, walk this thing to the couch and pop open Netflix or just browse the web is so damn amazing
- Docking back to my MacBook Pro made me appreciate how fast it was
I’m really surprised at how well the Surface Go is. My goal was to use this for one month of using this as tablet, laptop, and desktop and I was expecting to ditch this thing in a matter of days because of the “slow and underpowered” processor. What needed up happening was that my MacBook (12 inch) and iPad Pro have been collecting dust since I got this thing. This is no way the perfect device in any way. The battery life is mediocre at best the CPU performance can be limiting, Windows Store apps is flooded with garbage, and it’s only a half decent tablet compared to the iPad. The big challenge is getting over the fact that this won’t replace your desktop class device running a 7th Gen i5 processor and critics are quick to attack the Pentium Gold processor this comes with.
Thankfully, the good outweighs the bad and the Surface Go in my opinion is a glimpse of what’s more to come in the future. Just imagine better battery life, a high range CPU/GPU, more hard drive space, etc… all squeezed into that form factor and all the productivity and entertainment possibilities that will bring.
Right now, the Surface Go can do many day to day things without too much compromise.
My desktop, laptop, and tablet all fit into a small bag… because they are one device! What a wonderful time to be alive
- Great build and display quality
- Small, lightweight but very capable
- Kickstand is amazing
- USB-C port adds versatility
- Expandable MicroSD storage
- Keyboard is excellent
- Surface Pen is excellent
- Makes a great secondary device
- CPU speed doesn’t fly with the eagles
- Some apps do not run that well
- Adding a keyboard and mouse will bring the cost up to the $700+
- Mediocre battery life
- If you want to solely use this for a tablet… get an iPad instead
- If you want to solely use this for a laptop… get a real laptop
Overall Rating: 4/5
You can pick one up here: https://amzn.to/2xSdzJv