Surface Go Review

For non-Apple users wanting a tablet device, Microsoft’s Surface Tablets have been the go-to devices. Surface Pro is synonymous with Professional’s wanting productivity on the go without having to sacrifice any power and maintain a full-fat operating system. 

That being said Surface and the Surface Pro have not been cheap devices.  Running full Windows 10 and packing in powerful hardware doesn’t come cheap. That of course keeps a plethora of users firmly entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem with the iPad or iPad Pro which in many cases will still come in cheaper than a Surface Pro and with each new iteration of iOS, makes the iPad a more than capable productivity machine for professionals on the go. 

The Surface Go makes a bold attempt to change all of that. A Surface device that builds its own identity and can run the full-fat version of Windows 10 all at a price of $699 or $949NZD depending on which specs you go for. All of a sudden Surface has gone from being a product for professionals to being a product that almost anyone can get into. 

If you’re used to seeing Surface products the first thing you’ll notice is the design.  Gone are the harder, angled edges of the Surface Go. In their place are softer, rounded edges that convey the sense that Go is a device that is aimed at more than just the powerhouse professional. 

Aside from the softer approach to edge design the Surface Go looks almost identical to the rest of the Surface lineup, just in a pocket-rocket size of 10 inches. In its favour the Surface Go features a MicroSD slot behind the kickstand and also a USB-C port. It still has the standard surface charging port in addition to USB-C plus the endangered species that it the 3.5mm headphone jack. 

The best in market, kickstand is back once again and feels as sturdy as ever. The hinge is just phenomenal and can fold back up to 180 degrees. It always manages to remain its firm, solid feel and never feels flimsy.

My review unit came with the Type Cover as well that provides a tiny keyboard and trackpad. It “snaps” into place on the Surface Go and also acts as a screen cover for the device when its not in use. It is solid and works a treat although it can make for a cramped typing experience and the odd spelling mistake, especially when working on a Bus (as I have been doing every day since using this device). Am I complaining? Not really. I mean, it’s a small device, you can’t buy a Surface Go knowing its only 10 inches and then complain when you are presented with a keyboard that manages to cram in all the standard keys onto a 10 inch cover. If you take it to work than through the USB-C port grab yourself an adapter and you’ll be able to go for the full sized keyboard and mouse combo, plus tap in to using the device with dual screens. 

Specs wise much is the same regardless of price. You’ll get an INtel 4415Y chipset with Intel HD Graphics 615. Both devices feature a 10 inch, 10 point touchscreen with a resolution of 1800 x 1200 (217PPI) but more on the screen in a sec. Where the differences in price point come in are storage and RAM. At $649 you’ll get an eMMC 64GB drive and 4GB of RAM. At $949 you’ll get 128GB of SSD storage and 8GB of RAM. 

Both devices run a smooth experience with Windows 10 but the device come in “S Mode” as standard. For those wondering, S Mode is a tablet experience that only lets you download apps from the Microsoft Store. It is supposed to provide for a safer, smoother experience but lets face it, there are a lot of apps that you’ll want that aren’t in the store. It is dead easy to switch the device out of S Mode and when you do you’ll be treated to the full-fat Windows 10 Pro experience on a teensy 10 inch screen. 

If you’re used to a tablet running on Android or have been using an iPad with iOS then using the Surface Go with a full operating system is going to be a novel experience. Don’t get me wrong running Android OS is alright, if you just want to watch Netflix, YouTube, do some web browsing, look at some photos or play some mobile games. And granted the iPad Pro packs a lot of punch and gets pretty close to the full laptop experience but it still will only allow you to get apps from the app store and use the app in it’s iOS designed way. Surface Go in Windows 10 Pro mode let’s you get the freedom of a complete PC operating system all on an ultra-portable tablet device. 

Running on an Intel 4415Y chipset and only having integrated Intel graphics does bring with it compromises though. Power heavy, graphics intensive apps and software aren’t going to be ideal on the Surface Go. Yes with the Surface Pen you can do some drawing, colouring, etc but not to the same extent you’d get on an iPad Pro or Surface Pro. Again it’s all about compromise, if you need that extra power then get a Surface Pro. The one curious thing I did note though was that Google Chrome runs like an absolute dog on the Surface Go. Chrome works on everything so it surprised me to see it stutter when I scrolled, suffering major frame rate issues and being about as smooth as a ride over sand dunes in a buggy. Microsoft Edge though runs as smooth as a hot knife through butter.

When it comes to the display it may not sound impressive on paper but the 1800 x 1200 is a real surprise package. Believe it or not this screen is absolutely beautiful to look at with some of the best colour accuracy you’ll see on a tablet, let alone one that costs less than a grand. The 3:2 aspect ratio is excellent for working and web browsing and the switch to 16:9 for movies is also fantastic although you do get the black bars at the top and bottom that is exaggerated by the over-bearing bezel heavy design.

Battery wise you can get around 9 hours of use out of the Surface Go. If you’re using it as an all-day work device you’ll probably have it plugged into power most of the day anyway. For the commutes on public transport to and from work or for using on a flight the Surface Go will get through plenty of work before it needs a juice top up.

If you haven’t used a Surface before then you’ll be well used to having to make some compromises when using a tablet. I’d like to think that even the most ardent Apple loving iPad user can admit that there are compromises required to using an iPad even if it is a Pro and those compromises are getting fewer and farther between. Look, Surface Go may run on full-fat Windows 10 but still doesn’t mean that you don’t need to compromise. Power and size are the two biggest compromises you’ll make. Let’s face it though, when you are paying less than a thousand bucks for your tablet device compromises are nothing new. All in all Surface Go is a fantastic tiny-tablet for multi-taskers, professionals wanting portable productivity and the family that wants to streams movies, watch TV and play a few basic games. If you’re looking for the tablet equivalent of an all-rounder then look no further than the Surface Go.

Surface Go was provided by Microsoft New Zealand for review purposes.