Microsoft Surface Go Review: One Year Old

Microsoft has been incredibly successful with its niche and high-end lineup of Surface computers. I have reviewed the Surface Laptop (1st gen) and the Surface Book 2. The Surface Book 2 I reviewed was the top-shelf version that retailed at the time for $3,849.00. The Surface Go I have retails for $699. With that in mind, I really had to adjust my perspective on what a Surface device was capable of. With the Surface Go there would be no high-ish end gaming, no insane battery, no (real) editing of photos, etc.  I’ve spent a little more than a month with the Surface Go. Find out how it performed for me int he full review below.

How many times have we pondered the contents of that box?

What’s in the Box?

Unboxing a product from almost any niche or high-end electronic device is very much like unboxing an Apple device ever. Clean, minimal packaging with the bare minimum found inside. This is true with the Surface Go as well.

  • Surface Go
    • Actual model was the Surface Go for Business
  • Surface Go Power Adapter
  • Quick start guide
  • Safety and warranty documents

Note the lack of the Type Cover and Surface Pen. Queue sad trombone!

Pen not included 😢

Surface Go Specifications

Most customers picking up a Surface Go will end up with the standard Go version which comes with Windows 10 Home in S Mode. The model Microsoft loaned me was the Surface Go for Business which comes with Windows 10 Pro, sans S Mode. If you do find yourself using the Go or any Windows device in S mode, be sure to turn that off as soon as possible.

Dimensions: 9.65″ x 6.90″ x 0.33″ (245 mm x 175 mm x 8.30 mm)

Weight: Wi-Fi: Starting at 1.15 lbs (522 g), not including Type Cover*

Storage: 128GB SSD

Display: Screen: 10″ PixelSense™ Display with 1800 x 1200 (217 PPI) resolution, Aspect ratio: 3:2, Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Processor: Intel® Pentium® Gold Processor 4415Y

Memory: 8GB RAM

Connections

  • 1 x USB-C
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • 1 x Surface Connect port
  • Surface Type Cover port4
  • microSDXC card reader

Cameras: Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)

  • 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p Skype HD video
  • 8.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video

Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics 615

Exterior Casing: Magnesium

Colour: Silver

What I Liked About the Surface Go

Battery Life

The Surface Go is the perfect device to have an ARM processor but Windows, at the time was not ready for ARM devices. Well, at least not ready for a device that carries the Surface branding. Neither was the Snapdragon chips available on the time. Those are just starting to come to market now, known as the Snapdragon 8cx. Having an ARM chip, in theory, would provide several more hours of battery than any Intel CPU, but we’re not there yet.

With the right expectations in tow, the battery on the Surface Go was great

Regardless of all of that, and only having an Intel CPU option, the battery life of the Surface Go was excellent in my time with the device. I have been using the Surface Go for all forms of typical day-to-day use as well as some light (Microsoft Store Apps) gaming.

The company I work for at my day job has pretty much fully transitioned over to Office 365 and Dynamics 365 for nearly everything. With this in mind, I used this opportunity to use the Surface Go as my “meeting” device so I could leave my Lenovo X1 Carbon docked at my desk for some of the heavier tasks I have to work on in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.  Using the Go for this purpose was great. I was able to move from meeting to meeting all day and did not have the need to charge the battery for 3 workdays. 

Size

The Surface Book 2 was a bit of a boat anchor, but it was also a workhorse. The Surface Go was a pleasure to carry around and it stowed nicely in any bag I had. The device has some really large bezels in a world that wants to shrink bezels of devices to near zero, but those large bezels gave a bit of non-screen area to hold onto when using the Surface as a tablet device. I’m not going to lie though, a slightly larger screen would have been great.

The size also was appreciated while I used the device as my “meeting” device as I mentioned above. Some of our boardrooms and meeting rooms lack a lot of table space. While others carefully found ways to place their X1 Carbons, coffee, phone, etc, I rolled in and was ready to go right away!

Left: Lenovo X1 Carbon (4th Gen)
Right: Microsoft Surface Go, Type Cover and Surface Pen

As I mentioned above, my previous Surface experience was with the Surface Book 2 which had amazing specs and performed better than any computer I have used before (I’m not a gamer, a graphic designer or anything that requires a high-end computer). Switching the Surface Go, now a mature and about a year on since its release, I knew I wasn’t going to see the same type of performance. 

The Type Cover

The Type Cover on the Go may be small, but it is a joy to use

The Type Cover doesn’t ship with the Surface, which is the norm despite how much people complain about it. The type cover on the Go is just as good as those before it. The trackpad is excellent, which has been the case since the Surface Pro 3. Not much else to say here. If you’ve used a Surface Type Cover or any Surface keyboard, you know how good they are. I am even starting to flip my stance on the Surface keyboards vs the Lenovo X1 Carbon keyboards. In the past I was siding with Lenovo, but I am not so sure any more.

What I Didn’t Like About the Surface Go

Performance

Overall, for most basic use cases the Surface Go held its own, but if you are trying to multitask on the device for any period the Pentium CPU in the Go would suffer and performance would fall off a cliff. I know the device isn’t going punch at the same level as the Surface Pro 6 or Book 2, but I had hoped that it would not bog down so significantly when using multiple apps and having multiple tabs open in Edge (Edge Chromium Dev, by the way).

I didn’t run any sort of bench marking software, as I personally feel that is a major waste of time and never tells a proper story.

If you drop the Surface Go into Windows 10’s tablet mode and run one app at a time, you will actually have a really great experience. Running in normal desktop mode, get Edge/Chrome and a few other apps going, performance degrades.

Should You Buy the Surface Go?

It’s complicated…

When I reviewed the Surface Book 2 I said it was complicated. That device was and still is a power users dream. It does absolutely everything. My recommendation of the Surface Go is the same but for the opposite reasons. It’s complicated…

The Go, like the Book 2, is a niche product designed to fill a specific use case. The Go is great for someone who is a front line worker, or someone who is doing basic data input for things like orders but cannot or does not want to be tied to a desk or finally for those doing just email or word processing on the go. If you are one of these or really want an incredibly portable Windows tablet, the Surface Go is for you, but if you need a little more performance and speed I would recommend the Surface Laptop 2. I spent a few months with the original Surface Laptop and it was great. Well, great once I got rid of Windows 10 S.

The Surface Go is now a year old and it does not look like there will be a Surface Go 2 at Microsoft’s upcoming event on October 2nd, 2019. So take that into consideration too when deciding if this is the right device for you.
The Surface Go is available from both the Microsoft Store and Amazon.ca for $699.00 CAD. Don’t forget to check out the Type Cover and Surface Pen too!

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