This is a multi-part review. Make sure to check the whole thing out with the links below!
- Part 1: Introduction
- Part 2: Hardware
- Part 3: Type Cover and Surface Pen
- Part 4: Performance, Where Art Thou?
- Part 5: Maximum Flexibility
- Part 6: Conclusion
The Microsoft Surface Go is a product rife with contradictions. On the one hand it’s a delightfully portable PC with high end hardware, excellent accessories, and the flexibility to work in many situations. On the other hand, it is slow as a dog, runs an operating system not optimized for the hardware, and costs more than it should.
For a device intrinsically linked to the “no compromises” moniker, it sure feels like there are a lot of compromises here.
If you love Windows and want the most portable version of Windows available, then this could be an okay choice. The hardware is undeniably wonderfully constructed, and it does indeed run the full Windows 10 experience. But I worry that the performance and battery issues hold it back from being a good buy for a lot of people. You really have to be comfortable with quite poor performance if you’re going to truly enjoy this product. Even typing this article right now, typing into a plain text file and no other apps open has the letters appears on screen about a second after I type them from the Type Cover. It’s sloooooooow, and it’s basically unacceptable for a computer in 2018.
The cost for this performance is also hard to justify. I paid $630 for the Surface Go, Type Cover, and Surface Pen. I think that’s exactly what Microsoft expects you to get with this device, and for that cost I’m hard pressed to think of another PC for the same price that runs this badly.
As I mentioned in the parts on hardware (build quality) and accessories, these are very nice physical goods you’re getting, but they’re betrayed by the Intel chipset running it all.
If you want this hardware and accessory quality with decent performance, the Surface Pro is going for $599 right now and looks to be a much better performer for only $200 more. That may be a notable difference for some buyers, but I also think that computer will last you much longer. The Surface Go is wildly sluggish today; I can’t imagine how slow it’s going to be in just a few months. I can’t even reliably watch YouTube or Netflix videos on this thing without dropped frames or complete crashing.
My personal opinion is that the Surface Go was made to hit a price point, not to deliver a certain quality of experience. I think Microsoft wanted to sell a $400 tablet and they refused to say no when the hardware clearly wasn’t there to get their users a great experience. Because of that, I really can’t recommend the Surface Go to almost anyone. It’s super portable, but I think the jump in performance from the Go to the Pro line is well worth the small upgrade price.
On the other side we have the iPad 2018, which is $70 less expensive than the entry level Surface Go, and performs much better and does basically all of the same things people are going to buy a Surface Go to do. If you can’t stand iOS, then this isn’t really an option for you, but if you like iOS at all, I really think the iPad is a better tablet if you’re looking for something portable and well made.
All this said, I actually plan on returning my Surface Go and exchanging it for a Surface Pro. I have enjoyed having a Windows system in my life and the flexibility of a tablet that can convert to laptop and desktop interfaces is quite nice to have. If I do go through with that exchange, then you can be sure I’ll share my (far more abbreviated than this 7,000+ word review) feelings on it right here on BirchTree.