Review: Microsoft Surface Go

Category: Features, Reviews

My couch is essentially my home office and for the past six years the computer sitting atop that comfy, warm, and highly non-ergonomic desk has been an 11″ MacBook Air. She’s served me well and almost everything you read on this website has been written on it, whilst most likely sat upon the couch.

Sadly both the MacBook Air (and the couch) are past the “overdue” and now heading dangerously into the “long overdue” territory of needing to be replaced. The problem, with the computer side of that at least, is finding something good enough to replace the Air and with Apple basically pretending that it, along with the Mac Mini & Mac Pro for that matter, don’t exist, it’s been a difficult thing to do.

I’ve tried the new hideously keyboarded MacBooks, I’ve tried iPads and both the 10″ & 12″ versions of the iPad Pro version but nothing has really been the right fit (or the right price) for a couch based home-office computer at the ready.

That was until the Surface Go came along. Many journos and critics out there wondered who the “Go” was really for. Its screen was too small for anyone wanting to do be productive, it’s CPU was too underpowered for anything grunty and demanding and it hovered in this weird in-between land obscured by the Surface Pro & a pure tablet. It was perfect!

The Go is essentially a smaller, lighter version of Microsoft’s very popular Surface Pro. It has all the usual Surface gear, a kickstand at the back that can adjust to any angle, a special connector for connecting a the keyboard cover and then a smaller 10″ 1800 x 1200 touchscreen, that is on par with Apple’s iPads.

It’s super light, weighing in at  only 0.5kg and around the edges are a single USB-C port (which neither the older or new versions of the Surface Pro & Surface Book have for some reason), a 3.5mm headphone jack, microSD card reader, a 8MP rear camera and 5MP front facing one which can be used for Windows Hello – which is basically FaceID for your desktop. There’s also a pair of forward projecting stereo speakers that do an incredible job and for my money, make the iPad’s sound like they’re in a tin can.

USB-C Surface Go
Show us your USB-C

The Go’s powered by an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y CPU, which is nothing fancy at all but it’ll get you through a game of Fortnite and power a workbook or two of Excel but that’s about it. You’re not going to be editing video (or rather you shouldn’t attempt to), nor will you be mining Bitcoin on it. It doesn’t draw a lot of power though, which is great and helps push that battery life to a good nine hours that you’ll come to appreciate quickly! Sadly the Go, like all the Surface lineup has a proprietary charging port where being the first to include USB-C could’ve truly taken advantage of it and added a second one, dropping the dog and profit show.

CPU benchmark
The Go’s CPU is no record breaker

Microsoft offer two versions of the Go. The base, which starts at A$599 comes with a measly 4GB of RAM and 64GB eMMC drive. eMMC is like a welded in SD card and slower than a tortoise these days. I’d avoid this version like the plague. The only real option is the A$839 one with 8GB of RAM and a real 128GB SSD in it. A pretty significant price difference but well worth it and won’t have Chrome grinding to a halt when you open a second tab.

Sadly buying a Surface be it Go or otherwise means you’ll likely be buying some accessories to go along with it. Microsoft of course kindly offer an array of options to choose from such as the Surface Pen for an extra $140, the Surface Mouse for $55 and of course the Surface Keyboard Cover for $200.

Don’t be fooled the Go costs more than you think

The Surface Pen is probably the most useless thing I’ve thought I’ve wanted in a long time. It syncs up really easily and works like you’d expect. Windows 10 has handwriting detection so you can scribble on the screen and pretend you know how to draw but ultimately it’s nothing I couldn’t do without a mouse or using a finger on the Go’s touchscreen. Microsoft did have the foresight to at least magnetise the Pen so it clips onto the side of the Surface Go, unlike Apple’s pencil, which although far superior to the Pen is still mind-bogglingly without a home.

The Surface Mouse is just a bluetooth mouse, I can’t say much more about that. Buy what suits you, don’t think you have to invest in theirs. You don’t.

Surface Pen
The Surface Pen is not as useful as I expected

The Keyboard cover is something I was pretty worried about. It’s an accessory I had to have should the Go be a candidate to replace my existing setup but it also needed to work well and be easy to use. Having its keys slightly closer together than a standard keyboard was the first hurdle. Thankfully it wasn’t really an issue, they felt great to type on and whilst yes they are closer my brain quickly adjusted and I didn’t have much of an issue after an hour or two.

The next problem, and one that greatly affected the iPad Pro of ever being used on the couch reliably, was stability. Thankfully the Surface’s kickstand meant that using the Surface and keyboard cover on my lap was something I could actually do! It’s still not as good as a real laptop but it was workable. An iPad Pro & Apple’s keyboard cover is not.

The Surface Pen is probably the most useless thing I’ve thought I’ve wanted in a long time.

The downside of the keyboard is the trackpad. Using it on a desk was fine but using it on my lap I was constantly activating it and having my cursor jump all over the place. Even when I turned its activation sensitivity down to nothing it still caused me grief. Not what I wanted out of a $200 keyboard.

The Go’s other big drawback is Windows. Yeah, yeah I know “Apple fanboy”, whatever. The fact of the matter is Windows, despite having a dedicated tablet mode even its touchscreen responsiveness at times was just woeful. I don’t really care or want the tablet mode even, I just expect that when I use a finger to scroll a webpage or a document that it actually scrolls and scrolls in the right direction! Most of the time I just gave up and I’d go back to the trackpad and keyboard 99% of the time.

Good couch stability is important

I’m not saying macOS would be any better being used as a touch device but I’m saying it can’t be any worse either and I understand exactly why we have Android and iOS more than ever now.

The other thing to note about Windows 10 is that it’s Win 10 S, which is their weird version that won’t let you install anything outside of the Windows Store but thankfully you get the ability to unlock that and give you a normal version so you can install Chrome for a start.

A pretty promo shot from Microsoft

When all’s said and done the Surface Go is so close to being the perfect machine for my sofa cum road-warrior machine. I kind of love it but at the same time I kind of hate it for how frustratingly close it is but isn’t. If that makes sense?

I think if you’re were a person already living in a Microsoft world it would fill that gap perfectly but as invested as I am in Apple it’s hard to say that I’ve truly embraced it, but I can officially reveal the Surface Go  has officially become my new couch companion.

Microsoft Surface Go

A$539-859
Microsoft Surface Go
8.3

Design

9.0 /10

Performance

7.0 /10

Features

9.0 /10

Pros

  • Beautiful display
  • USB-C
  • Long battery life
  • Super portable
  • Great speakers

Cons

  • Windows
  • Touch issues
  • Needs expensive accessories

*Please note: Buy button makes use of a Microsoft affiliate link to help support Reckoner

4 comments

  1. I’d say Apple needs to read reviews like this, but I fear it’s obsession with putting lipstick on the braindead iOS pig would blind them to the message. iOS is great for what it was designed for… mobile and simple users. Apple seems to think it can push that more towards actual computing with increasingly awkward bolt-ons to iOS (does anybody like Files really?), made possible by faster processors, but hindered by the fundamental design of the system. iOS does its job perfectly – for simple users. Trying to expand that use case smacks more of profit motive than making insanely great products. Cheaper Macs with pencil & touch done properly are what’s needed! Too many resources are used trying to make iOS what it’s not and not enough on bringing Mac into the 21st century.

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