Microsoft Surface Go review

The ultimate 10-inch tasker’s tablet

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

The Surface Go is a gorgeous machine that brings you an excellent Windows 10 experience in a 10-inch tablet.

For

  • Excellent design
  • Surprisingly strong graphics
  • Decent price
  • Fantastic display and speakers

Against

  • Still no accessories included
  • Less powerful than an iPad
  • Screen could be sharper

Microsoft’s Surface Go, its latest tablet that aims to be a smaller, and more affordable, Surface Pro is finally here. The Surface Go doesn’t bring about any major surprises, but perhaps that’s a good thing.

What you see here is what should have been the core conceit of every small Windows tablet since the beginning: everything you love about the Surface Pro tablet, only smaller. No half-baked operating systems – though, this model does ship with Windows 10 in S Mode – and no strange app compatibility issues. It’s just a smaller Surface that works.

Of course, there were some cuts to be made to create a Surface tablet of this size, namely in the power department, but your expectations should scale accordingly. The Surface Go is what the Surface 3 should have been years ago, and it was well worth the wait.

Depending on your needs, the Surface Go could easily be your daily driver for everything from work to watching movies. In the race for the ultimate tiny tablet for taskers, Microsoft just leapt ahead of the competition.

surface go

Spec Sheet

Here is the Microsoft Surface Go configuration sent to TechRadar for review: 

CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y (dual-core, 2MB cache)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615
RAM: 8GB LPDDR3 (1,866MHz)
Screen: 10-inch, 1,800 x 1,200 (217 ppi; 3:2 aspect ratio) PixelSense touch display
Storage: 128GB SSD
Ports: 1 x USB-C 3.1, MicroSDXC card reader, Surface Connect port, headset jack
Connectivity: IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1; LTE optional
Cameras: 5MP (1080p video) front-facing webcam (Windows Hello face login); 8MP (1080p video) rear-facing autofocus camera
Weight: 1.15 pounds (0.52kg)
Size: 9.6 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches (245 x 175 x 8.3mm; W x D x H)

Price and availability

The Surface Go configuration we reviewed costs $549 (£509, AU$839), and it’s the most powerful version of the tablet that Microsoft offers. Meanwhile, the starting model goes for $399 (£379, AU$599), with 64GB of eMMC storage and 4GB of memory, while the rest of the specs remain the same.

The Surface Go is available now in the US, while the UK can pre-order for an August 23 release, and Australia and New Zealand will get it on August 27.

Annoyingly, Microsoft continues to sell the tablet’s all-but-essential accessories separately. The Surface Pen goes for $99 (£99, AU$139), while the new Alcantara fabric Type Covers designed for Surface Go ask for $129 (£124.99, AU$199). These come in burgundy, cobalt and platinum colors.

Finally, a standard black nylon Type Cover is available for a more palatable $99 (£99, AU$149), bringing all of the same features in a slightly less premium feel and look.

Apple’s latest iPad, arguably the Surface Go’s biggest rival, goes for $329 (£319, AU$469) to start, which gets you 32GB of flash storage and 2GB of memory – half as much as the starting Windows tablet in either case, albeit behind a sharper screen. For the iPad to match the Surface Go’s storage and memory, that would cost you $429 (£409, AU$599), though memory remains at 2GB in all configurations. All told, the iPad display is far sharper than the Surface Go’s.

All the while, the Asus Transformer Mini is an awfully similar device to the Surface Go in that it offers a 10.1-inch Windows tablet with a kickstand. Plus, both the stylus and keyboard cover are included for only $399 (about £300, AU$534) to get the model with 128GB of storage. However, the screen isn’t as sharp as either alternative, and it comes with 4GB of RAM as its only memory option.

Image 1 of 14

Image 2 of 14

Image 3 of 14

Image 4 of 14

Image 5 of 14

Image 6 of 14

Image 7 of 14

Image 8 of 14

Image 9 of 14

Image 10 of 14

Image 11 of 14

Image 12 of 14

Image 13 of 14

Image 14 of 14

Design

At first glance, the 1.15-pound (0.52kg) Surface Go appears simply to be the Surface Pro shrunken down by 2.3 inches on the diagonal, and that’s largely true – excellent kickstand and all. However, Microsoft clearly put some design effort into this version, opening it up to a larger audience, specifically students.

The first major hint toward the Surface Go’s intended audience is the rather prominent rounding of the edges and angles that Microsoft has applied to the device. Gone are the stark, angled edges of the Surface Pro in lieu of rounder, softer edges that help give this version of the Surface its own distinct identity.

Beyond that, this device is largely the same in design as its forebears, except smaller. The excellent hinge returns and can bend nearly 180 degrees like before, making this device an ideal canvas for digital drawing and note taking.

Microsoft still managed to cram a USB-C port and microSD card reader into the smaller Surface Go, neither of which the latest iPad has. This means that not only can this tablet’s storage be expanded, but it has two ways to hard-wire a dock and expand displays compared to the iPad’s single method, thanks to the mainstay Surface Connect port.

As for the new, obviously smaller, Type Cover, Microsoft manages to deliver full-sized keys (now with more pronounced curves) within a smaller amount of space, and has included a glass trackpad that’s larger in depth than that of the Surface Pro. All told, the Type Cover feels just as snappy as it has before – we would say ‘only smaller,’ but it doesn’t feel that much more cramped when typing.

That said, you will need to get used to a slightly tighter typing experience, especially when the device is on your lap. The keys are spaced closer together than normal keyboards, which alters exactly where your fingers naturally rest, so as to keep your index fingers on the F and J keys.

Otherwise, typing on the Surface Go is much more comfortable than on other 10-inch devices, which should be lauded. For what it’s worth, the iPad Smart Keyboard uses strange, completely round, keys and doesn’t even feature a touchpad – because iOS doesn’t support mouse input.

surface go

Display and audio

Microsoft’s display game continues to be top notch on the Surface Go. At 1,800 x 1,200 pixels, it’s not the sharpest 10-inch tablet display by a long shot, with the latest iPad coming in at 2,048 x 1,536 pixels.

Regardless, the Surface Go display is just gorgeous in everyday use. The display is incredibly color-accurate, and movies and images look fantastic on it. Of course, that 3:2 aspect ratio is great for work and web browsing, but gives full-screen, 16:9 videos the shaft with lots of wasted space.

Like most tablets, the bezels around the display are particularly large, but that’s to allow for gripping the device from any side without interacting with any of the on-screen content. It also allows for the Type Cover to connect to the bottom bezel via magnet for a better typing angle.

Regarding the relatively thick bezels, the Surface Go’s speakers reside within them on both sides of the screen. For such tiny drivers, these speakers sound surprisingly powerful, deep and nuanced in the amount of channel separation they can deliver. This makes the Surface Go just as good of a multimedia tablet as it does a mild productivity device.