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Surviving 12 Days With The Surface Go As My Main PC: An Experiment

Can the Surface Go be your main computer? I used the Surface Go exclusively for 12 days and here’s what I learned in this experiment.

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surface go photoshop

I’m happy to report that I have survived 12 days using my Surface Go and I’m glad I did it.

What’s The Big Deal? Pros And Cons

I went on vacation and it meant I had to decide between carrying a super heavy studio computer that’s around 6.5 lbs (3kg) or bring my Surface which less than 2 lbs (almost 1kg). Take a look at this picture:

Microsoft Surface Go vs. Gaming Laptop

Traveling in winter also means I need to allocate space for clothing that’s greedy on luggage space. The space that the studio laptop would take up is equivalent to about two sweaters’ space. Don’t forget the power brick that would have to come along.

Let me just say that I have the ultimate bottom-barrel Surface Go ever produced. It’s the original Surface Go with 4GB RAM, 64GB storage and Intel Pentium 4415Y dual-core 1.6GHz processor.

Everything is a bottleneck. Low RAM means things are slow. Low storage means I often find myself deleting stuff. If you have a Surface Go that’s any newer or higher in specs than this, you’re already ahead of me and you’ll probably get a smoother experience.

I already knew that using my Surface Go as a main computer is going to be slow. I’ll elaborate on how I experienced doing each task further down the article. But first, I want to highlight some unexpected benefits that I have discovered.

Small Size Comes in Handy When Traveling

But over the days as I traveled, I realized that the Surface Go’s small size is really beneficial for bringing around. See, I’ll never bring my studio laptop around. It’ll just stay in the hotel. Whereas I have the incentive to bring my Surface Go around in case I need to quickly reply to a complicated email.

If you are taking trains or planes, you’ll know that the tray tables are pretty small. So it’s also great that the Surface Go can fit on a tray table comfortably. Whereas if I brought a bigger laptop, I would have problems with opening the screen fully as it would hit the seat in front of me.

Surface Go Serves As Power Source To Charge Your Phone

By the way, the Surface Go also serves as a power source to charge your phone. When traveling, you might find yourself using your phone more as you take more pictures and use Google Maps much more.

Bring a USB-C cable! I brought a USB-C to USB-C cable which allowed me to charge my phone using my Surface Go, even while it was sleeping. It isn’t fast like using a proper charger, but it’ll give you enough of a boost to call an Uber or use Google Maps.

Read: Our Full Microsoft Surface Go 4 Review

Surface Go Task Capabilities Reviewed

Here are some tasks that I do and my faith in how confident I am with the Surface Go’s ability to handle them.

TaskConfidence level
Web research, emailsConfident, with patience
Word processingConfident, if slow
Web dev/DevOpsOK
Photo editing in PhotoshopBelow average
Video editingClose to nil

For reference, I’d rank every one of these as “Great!” if I were asked what my experience would be with my main computer.

Let’s take an in-depth look at each task.

Web Research, Emails and Browser-Based Tasks On Surface Go

I use Chrome because I have my data synced using my Google Account.

Compared to my main PC, Chrome tends to need to refresh when I switch tabs. Perhaps it’s a result of less memory on my Surface Go with 4GB RAM, so Chrome will get rid of the content from inactive tabs much quicker. This means that switching tabs can take more time that usual.

As I type words in WordPress, Google Docs, or Gmail’s input boxes, I am finding that words do not appear in real-time. If I typed a word, I might have to wait a split-second before it appears on the screen. One big resource hog that you should turn off is content analysis apps or extensions such as Grammarly or Yoast’s SEO/reading score tools. Upon turning them off, you’ll find word processing to be much faster.

If all you do is browser-based tasks, then you’ll be fine.

Photo Editing in Photoshop With The Surface Go

I am of two minds here.

On the one hand, using the Surface Pen on the Surface Go’s screen is a real delight. On the other hand, using Photoshop on my Surface Go is quite slow. On my main PC, I would have seen the results immediately, but on the Surface Go, I had time to twiddle my thumbs…

But perhaps I should be happy that it even works on my low-spec Surface Go.

Most tools in Photoshop work. Classic tools like the Clone Stamp, Spot Healing Brush, Lasso, Pen tools work very well. Upon touching my Surface Pen on the screen, I can immediately see the result.

When there’s more complex computation involved, that’s when it’ll take longer. For example, Content-Aware Fill took a very long while. Puppet Warp didn’t work real-time, so you’d have to test and pray.

Some Neural Filters would conk out. I tried giving a background blur to one of my photos and Photoshop went unresponsive. Generative Fill worked quite well, though.

If you’re going to use Photoshop like it’s CS6, then you’ll be fine.

One issue that I constantly had to deal with involved the Scratch Disk Full error. My Surface Go would hit the wall either at startup or as I used the app, where at some point tools will stop having an effect. It was a huge disruption, so I put my Scratch Disk onto my SD card by partitioning a virtual drive that mimics a real hard drive. That completely eliminated this issue.

Essential Accessories For Efficient Work On The Surface Go

If you are going traveling, consider bringing these accessories.

Original Power Supply or USB-C Charging?

The most important accessory that you can bring is the power supply.

I initially considered just bringing a USB-C power source but I’m glad I didn’t just bring that.

The day before, I bought a 45W USB-C PD charger, thinking it’ll all go well. It mostly did.

A USB-C charger will charge your Surface Go as long as it is above a certain wattage. I tried using an old 5W charger and a 15W charger and they didn’t work as well as my 45W USB-C PD charger.

However, it seems that every time I use my touchpad, it’ll glitch. The cursor will move without my input, and that makes aiming for buttons and icons quite difficult.

Using the original power supply also ensures that you have a free USB-C port which I used for my wireless mouse’s receiver.

Wireless Mouse

I’m not a touchpad kind of guy. I prefer the mouse because it’s faster and more accurate.

I didn’t buy a Bluetooth mouse, but that would be most ideal. Remember, you only have one USB-C port and every time I used my wireless mouse, I will use that port. Plus, wireless receivers are tiny and easy to lose while travelling.

If you can do work with the touchpad, then all the power to you. Having one fewer accessory makes for less baggage.

Surface Pen

Not everyone will need this but I had some Photoshop tasks to do on-the-go.

As you might have seen from my faith-o-meter above, I didn’t have much confidence on using Photoshop on my Surface Go, but I was surprised as to how everything worked out much better than expected.

Being able to draw directly on the image itself makes it really easy to edit photos. I think the experience is much better than using a regular graphics tablet.

If your Surface Go is low on battery, then make sure to bring a charger or a spare battery, depending on your model. My Surface Pen uses an AAAA battery, which I have never found in an ordinary store. I could only buy them online.

Read: The Best Apps For Your Surface Pen

USB-C to USB Adaptor

usb c to usb converter

If you are bringing any USB accessories, consider bringing an adaptor that converts the Surface’s USB-C port to a regular USB port. This will allow you to charge and sync devices, for example, cameras, smartwatches, smartphones.


The Surface Go is pretty great for watching movies, but unless you want to broadcast your audio, you’ll need earphones. My Surface Go has an 3.5mm audio port but I still preferred to use my wireless earbuds.

Dangling wires are a pain when you are on airplanes, especially when you’re sitting in an aisle seat and someone wants to go to the lavatory.

Nevertheless, wired earphones have the benefit of latching onto your Surface’s battery, whereas with wireless earbuds, you might find that it has ran out of juice a few hours in, while your Surface still has juice to keep going.

Storage Considerations When Using Surface Go

I have a 64GB Surface Go and frankly, 64GB doesn’t cut it.

The first thought is to install a larger memory card, so I doubled my memory by adding a 64GB SD card.

If you are going to buy a SD card, make sure to buy a high performance one. Here’s how to read the symbols on your SD card.

Now, the problem with using a SD card is that some software might not support some features on it. It can range simply from not allowing you to install software on it to not allowing you to store temporary files on it.

This is where you can use your SD card to create a virtual drive. This has completely eliminated Photoshop’s “Scratch Disk Full” error on my Surface Go.

Syncing Data Between Main PC and Surface Go

If you own a Surface Go, you might have another PC from which you do most of your work.

Therefore, there’s the issue of how to move files between the main PC and your secondary computer.

There are three mainstream services that you can use: Microsoft’s OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive. All of them offer a free tier and all of them can be installed on multiple computers to store files online.

ProviderCostFree Tier?
Google Drive$1.99 with 100GBYes, 15GB
Dropbox$9.99 with 2TBYes, 5GB
OneDrive$1.99 with 100GBYes, 5GB

The simplest to set up is OneDrive because it’s already pre-installed in Windows 11, but if you use Google Docs and other Google services a lot, you might be better off with Google Drive.

I use Dropbox because I found the app to be better than Google Drive’s app. I faced some issues with Google Drive’s app when I first installed it, which led me to try out Dropbox.

Dropbox allows me to designate a folder that will be synced throughout all my computers. Dropbox also allows me to keep files online and only download them when I want to use them, so that really helps because my Surface Go only has 64GB of storage.


Twelve days with the Surface Go initially sounded like a scary thought. There were a lot of “What Ifs” that hovered in my mind.

  • What if I got a request to do something that the Surface Go would not be capable of?
  • What if I were bored and wanted to play games?

The Surface Go is actually quite a capable computer, it’s just slow. I think it can handle most things my main PC would, except slower. The only exception here are videos or complicated Photoshop work.

On the other hand, what I got was a Windows tablet that was small, portable and had a decent battery life for working and entertainment while flying or taking trains.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: 12 Tage mit dem Surface Go als PC Ersatz: Ein Experiment | Tablet Blog

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