The Microsoft Surface Go is a very interesting Windows tablet. With its 10-inch display, it is a lot smaller than the Pro series but features the same high-end build quality. It has a built-in kickstand, a type cover and can be used with the Surface Pen. Even though the internal hardware is much weaker, it is quite expensive starting at 399 USD without any accessories. So, is it worth it? That is what you will find out in my Microsoft Surface Go review.
Design & Build Quality
Let’s start this review with the design and build quality. Regarding this, the Microsoft Surface Go is excellent. It feels as high-end as the Pro series does. In fact, it has a similar magnesium body. However, the corners are rounded a bit. There is a small plastic part on the top for the antennas, but the rest is metal.
Compared to an iPad or most Android tablets, it is quite thick at 8.3mm. And it is a bit heavier than these competitors with 522g. For a Windows device that is not bad though. And we get the same kickstand on the back like with the Pro series. That one is made out of metal as well and can be opened very far.
As I said, the Surface Go feels very high-end. The only negative thing I noticed is its big black bezels around the screen. Sure, with those it’s easy to hold the tablet. But they could have been just a bit thinner.
On the right side, we get a USB C port. You can charge the device with that one as well. However, there is still the standard Surface connector below the USB C port. In Addition to that, we obviously get a power button, volume controls, and a headphone jack. And we get a microSD card slot underneath the kickstand. On the bottom, there is a magnetic connector for the keyboard cover as well.
By the way, the sound quality out of those speakers if fine for watching YouTube or Netflix. However, they are not as good as on other premium tablets with four speakers.
Cameras & Windows Hello
The Microsoft Surface Go has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and an 8-megapixel camera on the back. Yes, both cameras are not as good as on recent smartphones. But considering this is a tablet, the picture quality is pretty decent. The front-facing webcam is sharp enough for selfies and Skype and the main camera is good enough to scan documents as well.
I really like that we are getting an IR camera next to the front-facing camera. Like with bigger Surface tablets, you can unlock the device using facial recognition and Windows Hello. That works great most of the time. But still, sometimes a fingerprint reader is nicer.
The display of the Microsoft Surface Go has a diagonal of 10 inches and an aspect ratio of 3:2. So, it is a bit smaller than the much older Surface 3 which had a 10.8-inch display. The screen has a resolution of 1800 x 1200. While the pixel density is not as high as on a smartphone, text and icons look sharp enough when the tablet is sitting on a table.
All other aspects of the screen are pretty good too. It is bright, has wide viewing angles and colors look saturated. It’s also great that the screen is fully laminated. So there is no air gap between the touchscreen and IPS panel.
So, overall, the display is great. But at the same time, it is not the best ever build. A lot of premium tablets with iOS and Android have a much higher resolution.
Hardware & Performance
Inside the Microsoft Surface Go runs an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y chipset. That is a dual-core processor with two cores clocked at 1.6GHz. It does not support Turbo-Boost. Depending on the version, you can get it with 4GB or 8GB of RAM and a 64GB eMMC storage or a 128GB SSD. My review unit is the cheapest one with 4GB of RAM and a 64GB internal storage.
As you can see in my benchmark comparison, the Surface Go gets pretty good results in the Geekbench Single-Core-Test and in Cinebench. It is faster than the Acer Switch 3 with an Intel Pentium N4200 processor. However, in the Geekbench Multi-Core-Test, tablets with the N4200 are faster than the 4415Y because those are quad-core processors.
However, because of the stronger single-core performance and because the graphics chip is more powerful, the Surface Go feels faster in real life than N4200 tablets. But still, the differences are not that high. And you should also keep in mind that devices with a current Core m3 are noticeably faster than both.
Well, what does that mean? In my opinion, the Surface Go certainly is fast enough for office work. Apps like Microsoft Word run very smoothly and you can surf the web in Chrome and watch YouTube or Netflix without any issues.
You could also use Photoshop for smaller tasks. However, the performance is too weak if you have to handle huge files with a lot of layers and effects. For that, the version with 8GB of RAM and the 128GB SSD should be a bit better. But just a bit.
Even if you are buying the highest-end version of the Surface Go, keep in mind that the performance of the weakest Surface Pro is much better. The Surface Go is mostly suited for office work. Sure, in theory, you could play some games on it. But only simpler once. I actually tried to play Fortnite on here. And in fact, it does run at between 20 to 30 frames per seconds sometimes. But in between it is so laggy, that I would call it unplayable.
Type Cover & Surface Pen
Alright, let’s take a closer look at the accessories. You can get a keyboard cover called type cover which costs 99 US Dollars. In addition to that, you can also get the Surface Pen which costs around 99 US Dollars as well. Both have to be bought separately.
Like with all Type Covers, it is connected using a magnetic PIN connector at the bottom of the Surface. The cover features a magnetic bar at the top so you can angle it up a bit. That way it is easier to type and should sit more securely on your lap.
As we are used to from its predecessors, the new Type Cover is excellent. I would even call it outstanding. The keyboard is very well made and feels much nicer than most of its competitors. Because of the smaller screen, the keyboard is a bit smaller than the big Type Cover. But I’ve been able to type on it fast without having to get used to it first. Sure, 99 Dollars are a lot, but the keyboard really is excellent.
We get a trackpad underneath the keyboard as well. That one works as expected but is smaller than on most notebooks.
Alright, let’s get to the Microsoft Surface Pen. Actually, it is exactly the same stylus we know already from the Surface Pro. So you should be able to get it used already if you don’t want to spend as much.
Well, as I said, it is the same Surface Pen so I don’t have much to say about it. It works just like on the Surface Pro. On the top, you have to insert a battery and we get buttons on the side and top. The pen is pressure sensitive and supports 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity. That means you can draw a thin line while pressing the pen onto the screen lightly and a thicker line by pressing it harder.
Overall, the Surface Pen works great on the Surface Pro. Especially if you want to write down handwritten notes. And, by the way, the handwriting recognition built into Windows 10 is excellent. It is much better than on all Android tablets I tried.
Alright, let’s take a look at its battery life. This is a huge weakness on all Windows tablets and it does not get better here. In my battery test, the Surface Go gets a result of 9 hours. For that test, I’m always looping an HD video at 50 percent brightness.
Well, compared to other Windows tablets in this price range, those 9 hours actually are pretty good. However, remember that iPads and a lot of Android tablets get up to 12 or even 14 hours in the same test.
During real-life use, the battery life often is a bit weaker. Obviously, it depends on what you are doing. When working in office apps or surfing the web in the browser, you probably won’t get over 6 hours of active use.
Windows 10 & S Mode
Before I’m ending this review, let’s quickly talk about Windows 10. Microsoft is shipping the Surface Go with Windows 10 in S Mode. That means that out of the box, you can install apps from the Microsoft Store only. But don’ worry. It is very easy and free to switch from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Home.
Actually, the Microsoft Store is not that bad. There are some nice apps like feed readers in there and the Netflix app works nicely too. However, if you want to install apps like Chrome or the full version of Photoshop, you have to switch to Windows 10 Home. I did that immediately. For most, I don’t think Windows 10 S is ready yet.
Well, besides that, it is standard Windows 10. If you use the Surface Go without the keyboard, you should check out the tablet mode. Once activated, it is much easier to navigate in Windows using your fingers. There are even a lot of built-in gestures.
Microsoft Surface Go Review: Final Verdict
So, is the Microsoft Surface Go a good tablet and can I recommend it? Yes, I really like the Surface Go. The build quality is excellent, the display and performance are good and the Type Cover is outstanding. The Surface Pen works nicely too. I really enjoyed working with the Surface Go because it is so small and portable. However, at the same time, it is really expensive. Including the keyboard, you have to pay at least 500 US Dollars.
Because of its small screen and weak performance, I can’t recommend it as a full notebook replacement. And, if you want to save money, there are cheaper alternatives out there. Obviously, they don’t offer as a premium build. Well… I would say I can recommend it as your third device. I can recommend it if you need a really portable Windows tablet. And if you don’t mind to spend a lot of money for a premium device.
Again, I think the Microsoft Surface Go is a great tablet, it is excellent. And there is no 10-inch Windows tablet out there that offers as many premium features. But because of its price, I can recommend it only if you need an additional small Windows device next to your notebook or big Windows tablet. Let’s take a look at a couple of alternatives.
One direct competitor is the Lenovo IdeaPad D330 that should be released soon. It is a 10.1-inch Windows tablet that will be offered in several versions. The cheapest one will start at 299 euros and probably around the same in US Dollars. However, the cheapest version will offer an HD resolution only. All of them will be shipped with Intel Gemini Lake chips.
Another alternative is the Chuwi SurBook Mini (review) which is a China tablet that usually is sold using import shops only. With that one, we get a 10.8-inch full HD display and, well, a kind of Surface design. They copied the Surface design almost one to one. The build quality and display are great but the performance is a bit weaker.
If you are just looking for an inexpensive Windows tablet you should check out the Acer Switch 3 (review). Depending on the country, you usually can get it at around 400 US Dollars including the keyboard. The performance is very similar, but it offers a larger 12-inch screen. And, as I said, the keyboard is included.
- High-end build quality
- Good display
- Performance good enough
- Outstanding keyboard
- Good stylus
- IR camera
- Very pricey
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