There is some tech that seems like a rehash of what’s come before, and there is also tech that seems flashy, too gimmicky and overpriced; the Microsoft Surface Go tablet, I feel, embraces the flash of design, the joy of super portability and combines that with adequate performance. It takes what’s so amazing about it’s larger Surface Pro sibling and shrinks that down into a super-portable, fantastic little package. As a lover of both Macs and PC’s, I feel my expectations were high going into this review. For starters, I have used both Macs and PC’s for the better part of 25 years, and I know my stuff. This is one amazing device – especially for students or professionals ‘on the go.’
Some backstory: I pre-ordered the 8 GB Ram/64 GB SSD model. This is the pricier $550 model, but there is also a base $399 version with 4 GB ram and 32 GB eMMC storage, which many reviewers have blanketly said not to order, although I would suggest you visit your local Best Buy or Microsoft Store to check out both models if you’re curious. For my needs – I purchased the roomier model – which some say is a way to ‘future-proof’ your purchase. I also ordered the optional new $30 Surface Mouse (which was cobalt blue, like the optional $130 cobalt blue Type Cover I purchased.) I brought along my own pen from my Surface pro that I also own, but that’s another $99 if you’re interested in the inking capabilities. In all, if you’re buying this all from scratch, $399 may get you ‘in the door’, but also keep in mind an optional $2-300 may be spent to get all the functionality in the peripherals that you want. Keep that in mind when considering your purchase.
The Surface Go is available in a low and high end configuration, and the peripherals all come in either burgundy, cobalt blue or platinum.
My higher end model Surface Go definitely has met all of my expectations. The Surface Go features a fanless Pentium Gold CPU. It’s not the fastest in the world (think Intel Core M performance) but I feel the trade-off of portability is worth it in most use cases.) The kickstand on the tablet goes all the way back, and is great for artists who want to draw or sketch on a ‘flat surface’ or ‘studio screen.’ Speaking of the screen, it’s amazing, and I’ll list all the specs of this machine below for your convenience:
|OS||Window 10 Home in S-mode|
|Display||10-inch 3: 2 aspect
1800 x 1200 with touch
|Processor||Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y (1.6GHz)
|Graphics||Intel HD 615|
|RAM||4GB or 8GB
128GB or 256GB SSD
|Ports||1x USB-C 3.1 (aux. charge, video out, data), microSD (up to 1TB), Surface Connect, headphone jack|
|Surface Pen||4,096 levels of pressure, tilt suppport|
|Camera||5MP front-facing with Windows Hello
8MP rear auto-focus
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Optional LTE (late 2018)
|Audio||Dual front-facing speakers
Dolby Audio Premium
|Battery||Up to 9 hours|
|Dimensions||9.6″ x 6.9″ x .33″ (245mm x 175mm x 8.3mm)|
|Weight||1.15 lbs (0.52 kg) without keyboard
1.7lbs (0.77 kg) w/keyboard
|Power||24 W power supply|
|Price||Starts at $399
Keyboard $99 or $129 (Alcantara)
The Surface Go features a USB-C port, a Surface connect proprietary charging port, as well as a headphone jack. That’s it. You don’t get a USB A slot or anything. However, Microsoft was awesome enough to include the micro-sd card slot, which means you can expand your storage to store apps, files, OneDrive backups and more. (Keep in mind that the lower end model Surface Go has the same ports as it’s more expensive sibling, but it’s memory is only 4 GB and it only contains eMMC storage, which is essentially like the kind of storage your cell phone or camera uses. Much slower at handling many tasks or multiple web pages.)
Essentially, I found the Surface Go a wonderful device for ‘on the go’ computing. Of course, every use case is different. My use case is that I am a full time student (online school), as well as work full-time. I find the Surface Go amazing for my needs since it’s so small (the device is 10 inches and is truly light) – I can literally fit it anywhere and I barely know it’s there. My Surface Go fits perfectly in a smaller messenger bag or in a woman’s big purse. It’s amazing on portability and I think the power, while sometimes limiting, is just right if you do one or two tasks at a time. For instance, I can have Edge open and browse the web while listening to Spotify, and if I open another app I may experience a lag. This is common on these smaller devices and I’m perfectly fine with that performance. (If I wanted to use CAD or play Fortnight, I’d get a more powerful machine, for sure. This is NOT for hardcore gaming, but casual Windows Store games are fine.) Also, keep in mind that the Surface Go ships with Windows 10 Home in S Mode (formerly, Windows 10 S) which can be switched over to regular Windows 10 Home for free in the Microsoft Store.
The Surface Go also sports a wonderful front and back webcam, which is around 8 MP and looks amazing. The optional keyboard is tiny, to be sure, but after a week I found I became used to it’s smaller size. If you have large hands like me, it may take you 1-2 weeks to get used to the keyboard if you purchase it, which I highly recommend in order to get the full PC functionality out of this device.
The only drawback to the device, I feel, is tablet mode in Windows 10. I feel it’s not as full-featured and useful as, say, iOS is on iPads. It’s not optimized Windows for a tablet you’re using, its full blown Windows 10. If you’re OK with that, then you’ll be just fine with this device. If you’re looking for a more content consumption device, definitely go with an iPad. However, for me, full Windows 10, with the ability to morph between work and school use cases, is perfect for my needs.
Artists will love this device. As an artist, I find using the Surface pen (which magnetically attaches to the side of the device) to be such a pleasure. Palm-rejection works great, and lines drawn are fast, and easily erased with the other end, unlike the Apple Pencil. I love the kickstand which allows the tablet to almost lay flat while you draw, and the ports are useful for expansion or Surface Dock expandability.
I give the Surface Go 8 out of 10 stars. It almost gets it right, but what it does get right – portability and full Windows 10 – is amazing and I highly recommend this device for students, busy professionals who just want to jot down notes in OneNote in work meetings, or for anyone with basic computing needs.
(Tip: Buy your Surface Go from the Microsoft store online and get your student or educator discount! Also: don’t forget Microsoft Complete Protection for $99. You can find that in the Microsoft Store on the device and can be purchased up to 45 days after device purchase. Protect your investment, and have fun taking it everywhere you go.)