The small-scale Surface Go from Microsoft recasts the largertwo-in-one as a casual computer you can toss in a bag and take anywhere. But, the change in size, price and processing power presents a lot of questions for would-be buyers. To answer the most pressing ones:
Yes, the new Surface Go can still run many everyday PC tasks, even with only an Intel Pentium processor. No, it’s not likely going to satisfy as your all-day, everyday workhorse computer, both because of the limited horsepower and the small size. Yes, it’s significantly less expensive than the bigger Surface Pro, and closer in price to an iPad ($318 at Sam’s Club). No, it’s not going to save you much at the end of the day, as the must-have keyboard cover and other accessories are still sold separately (and priced on the high side).
The Surface Go starts at a reasonable $399 (£379 or AU$599). But once you add a $99-to-$129 keyboard cover, a $99 stylus and maybe an extra $150 to double the RAM and storage space to mainstream laptop levels (from 4GB/64GB to 8GB/128GB), you’re looking at a much bigger investment.
But despite not being the bargain Surface you might have been hoping for, it’s hard not to like this little two-in-one Windows hybrid. The smaller size works surprisingly well, both for the 10-inch, 1,800×1,200-pixel display and the clip-on keyboard, which manages to shrink down individual keys without overly compromising the overall typing experience.
It helps that the touchpad built into the keyboard cover is huge for such a small device. And that familiar touchpad and cursor interface works seamlessly with — or instead of — the touchscreen, giving you exactly the sort of flexibility lacking in the iPad or other non-Windows tablets.
Microsoft Surface Go
|Price as reviewed / starting price (US)||$778 / $399|
|Display size/resolution||10.0-inch, 1,800×1,200-pixel touchscreen|
|CPU||1.6GHz Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 615|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1|
|Operating system||Windows 10 / Windows 10 S|
Powered by Pentium
The biggest question about the Surface Go was how it would perform as a Windows 10 ($100 at Amazon.com) machine. That’s because it swaps the usual Core i-series Intel CPUs for lower-end Pentium processors, which are typically only found in laptops at the budget end of the spectrum (it’s a favorite for Black Friday doorbusters, for example).
It’s a definite step down in processing power, but the potential silver lining is that for most of what people do on their PCs today — websurfing, media playback, and using online tools and services — there’s not too much of an experiential difference. At least if you don’t run too many apps at once or keep 20 browser tabs open.
If the idea of a smaller, less expensive Surface sounds oddly familiar, that’s because it’s been tried before. The closest comparison is the single-name(as in the non-Pro version), which was a 10-inch variant released in 2015 with an Intel Atom processor. At the time, I referred to it as “trickle-down computing,” and said it wasn’t powerful enough to be your full-time computer.
While the hardware specs may not wow you on the page, in real-world situations I found the Surface Go to be filled with pint-sized charm. During my frequent NYC coffee-shop writing sojourns, it turned out to be the perfect size for on-the-go use, with the keyboard just big enough and the system powerful enough to run Google Docs and the other online tools I use regularly.
The Surface Go feels like it hits a sweet spot between design and functionality. The best parts of the Surface experience — the excellent kickstand, the best-in-class keyboard cover, the great stylus support — are all here, just in slightly miniaturized form. It also takes a step into the future (some would say present) by adding a USB-C port. Power can be connected via your own USB-C power source or with the included magnetic Surface-style power connector.