In this review, I look at the brand new Microsoft Surface Go. I am a big fan of the Microsoft Surface range, going right back to the original Surface RT. The build quality, performance and design have made Surface one of my favourite PC brands.
Microsoft have just launched the lower cost Surface Go so does a budget Surface add or detract to the Surface brand?
The Surface Go comes in two configuration options. £379 for the 64GB eMMC version with 4GB of RAM, and £509 for the 128GB SSD / 8GB RAM version. In this review, I will be looking at the 128GB version.
- 128GB SSD
- 8GB RAM
- Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4415Y
- USB C, headphone jack, Surface Connector, MicroSD card slot
- Windows Hello
- 5 MP front facing camera, 8MP rear facing camera
- Intel HD Graphics 615
- 1800 x 1200 display
- 552grams weight
- Windows 10 in S Mode
- 9 hours battery life
The design of the Surface Go is very similar to the other Surface devices. It is extremely well made with slightly more curves that my other Surface (Pro 4). If you take a Surface Pro and shrink it down you have the Surface Go. Therefore, the lower price has not comprised the build quality.
Surface Go is 10 inch and the perfect size for carrying around. The screen does not feel cramped despite its small form factor PCs, and the 1800 x 1200 screen is extremely sharp and clear. There is a trade-off which is that you end up having to have smaller keyboard and there is a Surface Type Cover designed specifically for the Surface Go.
The keyboard is actually very good for typing on, the keys are only slightly smaller than a Surface Pro type cover, and the trackpad is actually the same size. I did end up with a couple of miss typed keys when typing fast on it but its fine for most tasks. I have written this blog post and other on it without any issues.
The 10 inch size makes it perfect for tablet use. I tend to use it in the evening with the keyboard detached or folded around the back in tablet mode. Windows 10 tablet mode has come in for some criticism for not being developed over Windows 10’s lifetime, but for web browsing, reading twitter and other basic tasks it works very well. Then if you need to do something more productive you can open the keyboard and use it as a proper Windows PC.
I use the Surface Pro 4 for the same tasks and find the larger size of the Pro 4 slightly too big to hold in tablet mode for a long period of time. With the kickstand the Surface can go from almost vertical to almost completely flat so you can get it to the perfect angle for working. I have used it on my lap without any issues (as I do with the other Surface devices).
The question many people have asked is how is the performance? My initial impression is that the machine is quick and responsive depending on the tasks. The Surface Go will not run Windows Mixed Reality and it is not a gaming machine. I would not like to render 4K videos on it either. What it is, is an excellent machine for is using with Microsoft Office, browsing the web and taking with you on the go.
The Surface Go is very responsive. It has Windows Hello so as soon as you switch on the device it springs into life almost immediately. The start menu is very responsive, UWP apps load almost instantly and the device is a pleasure to use. There is no lag or slow app loading times. This is helped by the fast SSD drive and 8GB of RAM. It has fan-less design so there are no air vents.
Over the last few days I have using the Surface Go to write documents with Microsoft Word and despite the keyboard being smaller than a Surface Pro keyboard I found I could type very comfortably on it. The trackpad is actually the same size as the trackpad on the Surface Pro.
As it is a Surface, you can use the Surface Pen and the 4096 levels of sensitivity. You can also use the Surface Dial with the Surface Go but you can’t place it on the screen and interact with it like you can with the a Surface Pro.
I should also mention that the Surface Go runs Windows 10 in S Mode. This means that the only apps you can install on the Surface Go are the ones available from the Microsoft Store and it comes with Microsoft Office apps (which are free to use). If you want to install other apps that are not available in the store then you will need to switch the app in to Windows 10 Home mode (which is free and easy to do).
Gaming on a Surface Go
Gaming is not the strong point of a Surface Go. You are not going to be playing the latest Forza Motorsport on it or AAA games due to the Intel HD Graphics 615 chip but it is fine for casual gaming. I tried Minecraft and that worked fine without any issues. You are also not going to be using the Surface Go for Windows Mixed Reality.
On the Go
Where the Surface Go excels is taking with you. Its light, portable and its small size means it is perfect for use on a small tray tablet on a plane or on the train. The 10-inch size is perfect for us as a tablet, I use the Surface Pro 4 as a tablet and find it a little on the big size but the Surface Go is perfect.
In tablet mode, I use the mail app, Microsoft Edge and Twitter so I don’t have issues with tablet mode. The great thing about the Surface Go is that when you need to do some work done, you flip open the keyboard and you have a full Windows laptop.
The great thing about it being a PC is that it has all the connectivity you need. There is the Surface dock connector, MicroSD card slot for adding extra storage and a USB C port which can also charge the device.
For someone like me the Surface Go is the perfect device. The Go is small and compact; it is quick and has a great keyboard. It isn’t a gaming machine, it’s not a performance workstation, it’s a Window 10 PC is beautifully designed that you can use browsing, productivity and casual gaming. Starting at £379 this is the cheapest Surface device available, but do not forget the Type Cover, which start at £99. The Surface Go blows away my similar priced Lenovo Yogabook (with its Atom processor) in terms of performance and convenience.
So does it add or detract from the Surface band? For me it opens up the Surface range with its lower cost of entry but the device still has the Surface brand quality. I know there are other small Windows tablets available but this to me is the best 10-inch Windows device you can get.
Here is my video review of the Microsoft Surface Go:
Ian Dixon is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), founder of TheDigitalLifestyle.com tech site and producer of the weekly The Digital Lifestyle Show podcast. Ian has been writing and talking about Windows for over 10 years and has over 20 years in IT as an IT Manager. Ian has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook and over 4 million views on his YouTube channel.