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Hardware

Surface Go: Six Months Later

The Surface Go was released about six months ago and during that time, I have used the device on a couple road trips, a significant amount of time around the house, and a little bit to knock out a few work-related tasks. This ‘review’ is more of an update of the device after using it a significant amount of time, rather than a comprehensive deep dive into the hardware.

It’s important to remember what this hardware is designed for; first line workers, education, and casual use. It’s not designed to be a workhorse, that’s the Pro, but at the same time, it is a Surface, which means it has a pedigree that it should still be a quality piece of hardware.

The version of the Go that I have is the 128 GB model with 8GB of RAM, Microsoft is selling this device for $549.00 and here is how it has fared for the past six months:

Pros:

I quite like the size of this hardware. While the 10in screen can feel small at times, it’s also excellent at being an ultra-mobile computing device. I can toss it in a bag and with it weighing only a bit over 1lb, you don’t even know it’s in there.

The Go works best when running one application at a time, full screen. Yes, you can snap apps and run two side by side, which is ok for a browser and a word doc, but the screen size is a bit too small for hardcore multitasking. And that’s not a knock against the Go, it’s supposed to be small.

The real value of the Go is that you can take it anywhere without much overhead. It’s tiny, it feels premium and is much easier to use to knock out a few emails or watch videos on the back of a plane, than a phone. And with Windows Hello, USB-C, and a headphone jack, optional LTE, it hits the mark for what you could possibly need when out in the field.

And the 1800×1200 at 217 PPI display is fine for my needs; it’s high enough in resolution that you don’t see any pixels during your daily use, but it’s not overkill where everything feels too small.

Neutral:

The keyboard on the Go, which does cost extra and you can’t use your previous gen covers, works well but it does feel a bit cramped if you are writing lengthy content. This is the sacrifice you make when buying a smaller device; the keyboard can’t be any larger without it looking awkward when paired with the device but it’s about as small of a keyboard that I can use comfortably.

The trackpad works as you would expect and key travel distance is long enough that it doesn’t hurt your fingers if you really smash down on the buttons when typing. The Type cover is exactly what you would expect it to be; it gets the job done but it’s far from being a perfect keyboard.

The speakers on the Go work and that’s about all you need to know. They are far from a quality listening experience but in a device of this size, this should not surprise anyone. Plan on bringing a pair of headphones if you are going to be watching movies or listening to music.

And performance, the Go is lacking in the grunt you might expect from a Surface-branded piece of hardware. Even though this is entry level, the Pentium Gold Processor studders when diving deep into multi-tasking; a low-end Core i3 processor would have likely been a better choice.

Cons:

My biggest complaint with the Go is the battery. And it’s not even the battery life while using it, it’s when you pick up the hardware after a few days of it sitting idle in a bag.

As other Windows/Intel combination devices have suffered from, if you leave the Go unused for a week, when you pick it back up, you have no idea if it will have a flat battery. This isn’t unique to the Go but it seems especially apparent because of the smaller battery capacity.

I wish this device had a Snapdragon chip inside, as it should offer around the same performance as the Intel Gold chip but with better battery life. And the bigger advantage is that you can leave a Snapdragon device unused for weeks or even months, and the battery won’t be flat when you return to it.

Overall, I’m still a believer in the Go. It’s far from a perfect device, but it’s also great at just being a simple piece of hardware. And as long as you don’t plan on leaving it unused for weeks at a time, it’s a reliable tablet as well.

While the $549 price is a bit tough to swallow at this point in the lifecycle of the device, you can occasionally find it on sale. The Go is a good casual or light use device and as long as you are ok with running one application at a time, or always bringing your headphones, you will be happy with it.

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Comments (8)

8 responses to “Surface Go: Six Months Later”

  1. wright_is

    I wish this device had a Snapdragon chip inside, as it should offer around the same performance as the Intel Gold chip but with better battery life. And the bigger advantage is that you can leave a Snapdragon device unused for weeks or even months, and the battery won’t be flat when you return to it.

    Could you expand on that? My work smartphone is not used at the weekend and, if I charge it on Friday night and leave it in my work bag over the weekend, it is usually between 60% and 70% on Monday morning. After a week, the battery is almost flat.

    My old smartphones, when switched off, do last a couple of months before needing a top-up charge (if I can't remove the battery). (I keep them around as spares in case the new phone gets damaged.)

    Do you mean leaving it in the bag in connected stand-by or do you mean it still has a flat battery when it is turned off?

  2. Joseph Finney

    I see you didn't mention the pen. I'm thinking about getting a Surface Go for pdf annotation, OneNote sketching, and photo markups. Does the pen performance feel like that of the other Surface devices?

  3. jaredthegeek

    I bought a Go with 8 gigs of ram with LTE. I know what I was getting into but I loved my old Surface 3 with LTE. Its a casual use machine at a really premium price but I needed the option of windows over an iPad, which I did try but could not live with. I still believe its good enough for most users but the keyboard is ok for a short duration. I read and watch a lot of technical training videos on it and its been great for that. I carry it as a notebook at work and take notes in OneNote. I wish they had kept it at 11 inches as that seems to be the perfect compromise for size and usability.


    People complain about the bezels but they need to be that large for the keyboard to function properly with its flip up attachment.


    The battery life has not been as big of a bummer as I assumed it would be though its still not where it should be.

  4. stephenf

    You can find them at COSTCO for a good price. The hardware specs are a bit different than what you normally see. 128GB SSD drive with 4 GB RAM and you get a 2 year warranty and tech support as well. Then for another 49.99 you can get 2 more years of warranty which includes accidents. And, if you use your COSTCO Visa to pay you get another year. 5 years total. At Christmas time they reduced the price by 50.00 at first. Then, they reduced it a 2nd time another 50.00. Total w/o the extra warranty was 349.99. And this included the keyboard. Crazy good price! They also have a 90 day return policy if you are not happy with it. I have been having problems with the wireless dropping out but only the GO. All other devices in the house are fine on the wireless. I will be exchanging it. It's a nice box for the money.

  5. rmlounsbury

    I had debated for awhile about whether or not I wanted to pick up the Surface Go or wait for something else (such as a device built around Windows Lite when that comes out). I ended up pulling the trigger a week ago and so far it has been a pretty pleasant experience for what the device is.


    I picked up the 128GB / 8 GB version which was discounted across the board by Best Buy (including pen & keyboard) by 15-20% making the all in price a bit more acceptable though still about $100 more than I'd like to have paid for a device that is effectively an iPad with the ability to run Win32 apps.


    But, if you use the Surface Go like an iPad with 1 app at a time it works just fine. It is a great companion device and well built for handling OneNote, email, web browsing, and other Office focused tasks. As an IT Pro it handles PowerShell/Terminal functions (no surprise) and WSL (somewhat surprised) without a problem. That piece is probably the part that makes this really handy for an IT Pro that needs terminal/PowerShell/WSL on the go without lugging a larger laptop along.


    The battery is the most disappointing and unless I have it plugged in I usually shutdown the Go when I'm not using it. Fortunately, it takes no time to boot up Windows 10 on the Go but it is a bit fiddly to have to do that. Also in the disappointing category is the screen size. The Go has some major bezels and it feels like they could have gone an inch larger on the screen and scaled those bezels down. That being said the Go's bezels are no worse than the bezels on the Google Pixelbook. But scaling the screen up and reducing the bezels would give more workable space and a sleeker look without having to increase the device size. Of course, that comes at a cost and this is a budget device so I get why they did with what they did with the screen.

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Brad Sams has more than a decade of writing and publishing experience under his belt including helping to establish new and seasoned publications From breaking news about upcoming Microsoft products to telling the story of how a billion dollar brand was birthed in his book, Beneath a Surface, Brad is a well-rounded journalist who has established himself as a trusted name in the industry.

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