Test: Surface Go comes very close to being an incredibly good product

surface go test & review

They must fix this in Go 2.

Microsoft has not released a titles since Surface 3, which was launched in 2015. Since that time, they have launched more Surface Pro models and expanded the portfolio with impressive products like Surface Laptop, Surface Book and Surface Studio.

There are many who have requested a smaller board than Pro, including the undersigned, and the wait has been long and good, but now Surface Go is here.

Surface Go

Specifications:

  • Operating System: Windows 10.
  • Display: 10 inches with IPS panel. 1800 x 1200 pixels.
  • Processor: Intel Pentium 4415Y. Two kernels at 1.6 GHz.
  • Graphics Card: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 615.
  • Storage: 128 GB SSD.
  • Memory: 8GB DDR3L.
  • Connections: Surface Connect, USB-C, microSD card reader and audio output.

Tradition of faith, we can start by looking at the design and the building quality. The chassis is as usual made of magnesium and the building quality is solid and impeccable – here there is no sign of failure of the magnesium, everything is well screwed together.

Designally, Go looks like a small Surface Pro, but the former has more rounded corners than the big brother. On the backside, the integrated support is adjustable to the angle you want, and it is as durable as on Surface Pro. Below you will find the microSD card reader useful if you want to expand the storage space or transfer pictures from the camera.

Personally, I like the design very well, except one thing: the thick frame around the screen. Compared to iPad Pro, it does not look great, but as I wrote in the sneak, you have at least plenty of space to rest your fingers.

Of connections, everything is on the right side (in landscape mode). Minijack connector and Surface Connect have got a long-awaited addition, namely USB-C. An additional plus is that the USB-C connector can be used to charge the device. The top of the page is the power button and volume keys, while a 5 megapixel camera can be captured just over the screen, which can shoot at 1080p. Next to this, it sits an IR sensor for Windows Hello. Face detection works as well as always in Windows 10, but only in landscape mode due to camera location.

A camera is also found on the opposite side and it takes 8 megapixel resolution and 1080p movies. Surface Go also has a built-in microphone and two surprisingly powerful 2 watt speakers.

The Surface series is known to have great displays, and so is the Surface Go. The resolution is 1800 x 1200 pixels, giving a pitch density of 217 per inch. It can not measure with iPad Pro (2224 x 1668 pixels and 264 pixels per inch), but now the latter is in a completely different price range. The brightness is around 400 nits and the contrast is at 1500: 1.

The biggest appeal with the screen is actually the thick frame around which makes everything feel so cramped.

surface go review

In use

Microsoft had made great changes and the operating system was one of the most controversial ever. Here there was touch in front, while the good old keyboard and mouse had to be in second place. Personally, I liked Windows 8, and later 8.1, but it’s easy to understand why others did not share my enthusiasm.

The failure sent Microsoft back on the drawing board and the result was Windows 10 – probably the best OS to the company – where the mouse and keyboard were back in the spotlight. It caused touch to be downgraded, but Windows 10 works very well with pen and finger.

Note that our test device is updated to Windows 10 Pro so you get full experience. With S Mode enabled, you only get access to apps from the Microsoft Store.

Therefore, Surface Go, despite its modest size, is surprisingly simple and fun in use. If you enable the tablet mode, you do not look at the menus that are not yet optimized for touch and you can handle it in many ways.

surface go review

Surface Pen can be attached to Surface Go.

If you want to increase your experience further and become more productive, you may want to go to the purchase of Microsoft’s Type Cover. It’s a shame not that they are included in the package – Microsoft markets the Surface, Keyboard and Pen together and how well integrated they are – but here you have to put a thousand flaps for the keyboard and one thousand flaps for the pen.

The Surface Go keyboard is less than you are used to, but it did not take long before I got used to it. The keyboard is actually absolutely outstanding to write – Apple Smart Keyboard is not nearby – and it’s relatively good walking despite its modest size. Then we speak both in width and in depth.

The pen is also solid, as Surface Pen has been since Microsoft first launched Surface in 2012. The latest edition supports 4096 print levels and slant shading. I’m no artist, but at least I can say that Surface Go and Pen are the perfect combination for notes. It’s almost so you should still study and have these tools and OneNote available. Here, too, the size is in. Surface Pro often gets a little bit bigger when you just want to take some quick notes. Go is online and perfectly suited for this purpose.

A reversing thing with Surface Pen is that it is magnetic so that you can attach it to the left side of Go when it is not in use.

It’s hard to draw a favorite between touch, keyboard and pen. They are best for their use. For example, as a surfboard in the sofa, the on-screen keyboard is good, if you want to write longer texts, Type Cover comes well, but if you draw or like to write notes with a pen, Surface Pen is unbeatable.

During the test period, Surface Go has been used as both a work tool and an entertainment plate. For work, it’s actually the screen, not the performance (more about it further down), which limits the user. As a journalist, you often work with windows side by side, and here 10 inches are not always optimal. Things become simply too small, especially when you have a bit of sight from the beginning.

Like a coffee dish, Go is pretty good, but it suffers a bit of the lack of apps. Streamlines find Netflix and Spotify, but TV 2 Sumo, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Nordic are glimpsed with their absence. Fortunately, you can use these services in Edge, but optimized feeds win seven days a week. YouTube is also not available, but here I can recommend the MyTube option.

Otherwise, Surface Go well for browsing thanks to the fact that Edge is well optimized for touch, something Chrome is about to be, but the latter is still a bit more resource-intensive than Microsoft’s browser.

The keyboard, despite its size, is absolutely fabulous to write on.

Performance and battery

Then we come to the point where Surface Go probably disappoint most. According to credible Paul Thurrott, Microsoft was given by Intel an “offer they could not resist”, but it was asked if the Redmond company would have done it. Not a bad word about Intel, they make some decent powerful processors, but they have not made as much success on mobile devices. Something that is probably the reason why they have dropped a lot of the focus. Now it’s hard to say if the performance had been better with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 on board – Lenovo announced a PC with the chip under IFA. Our experience is that the Intel Pentium Gold chip is good enough, but not much more than that.

That said, Surface Go is not intended for advanced use. On the contrary. Nevertheless, sometimes it takes some time to open Spotify, Edge, or Email, or to switch between two programs. Lightroom, as I mentioned in the sneak desk, was just to forget. Unfortunately, the experience was far too bad. Much of this is also due to the fact that the screen is small and that Lightroom CC on Windows 10 is not fully optimized for such small screens.

Surface go SSD perfomance

SSD performance is as such.

Note that you can adjust power mode in Windows 10 and choose whether you want the best battery life or best performance. Also note that in the least expensive model, a slower eMMC is present, while in the more expensive one we tested has a faster SSD.

The battery is also a point where Surface Go does not deliver as well as hope. Under specifications, Microsoft provides nine hours of battery life with the footnote:

«Up to 9 hours of battery life for local video playback. Testing performed by Microsoft in June 2018 using pre-manufactured device with Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y processor, 128 GB and 8 GB of RAM. The test consisted of fully discharging the battery during video playback. All settings were standard except the following: Wi-Fi was attached to a network, and automatic brightness correction was disabled. Battery life varies greatly depending on settings, usage, and other factors. ”

We tested following these requirements, but failed to get more than six hours of video playback before Go took the evening, and it was set to “better battery” with power mode. For work, about a third of the battery disappeared after a little two hours. Possible childhood diseases and battery life can be optimized through a firmware update, but during the test period we were not exactly impressed.

surface go test

The support is as solid as on Surface Pro.

Conclusion

So, there you have Surface Go. A tablet I like in many ways, but in other ways it seems a bit disappointing. The screen is bright, responsive and the 3: 2 format is at least as good as the 4: 3 iPad. Everything is any better than 16: 9 and 16:10 on the tablet. Surface Go is relatively fun in use and it specializes in writing, such as this test, a pen, music and video feed in the kitchen or on the couch and as a surfboard. As you can see, much of the experience depends on buying a keyboard and pen, but it’s worth it.

What most disappoints with Surface Go is undoubtedly the performance and battery life, which is generally below what was expected. This is also the main reason why the grade does not get higher than it gets, although seven is by no means a bad character.

Anyway, I feel Microsoft has laid a solid foundation and I hope to see a Surface Go 2 with stronger chipset – maybe Snapdragon 1000 – and much better battery life. On the app front, it’s probably not big Microsoft gets done – unless “progressive web apps” take off – it also helped with a fuller Microsoft Store.

Pro

+ Good for surfing. 
+ Good keyboard and pen. 
+ Great screen. 
+ Building quality.

Contra

– Slightly sad. 
– Keyboard and pen must be handled separately. 
– Disappointing battery life. 
– The Microsoft Store needs more apps.

Video reviews

Microsoft Surface Go – Hands On Review

Microsoft Surface Go review: surprisingly good
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