Thoughts on the Go. Surface Go

Surface Go is the successor of Surface 3. I thought the Surface 3 was good for what was intended. A well built device that can be had for $500 that can run Windows 8 (later Windows 10) on mobile silicon. Of course, there are some caveats with Surface Go especially compared to the Surface Pro line that aren't surprising considering the price reduction. Why some reviewers are treating these caveats like it's the end of the world is beyond me. But before we get into that let's talk about the positives and why the Surface Go can be a great addition for a select group of users.

One of the biggest issues graphic artist friends had with the Surface Pro line of devices are the prices. They like the form factor, they like the power for productivity (gaming is another story sans Surface Studio and SurfaceBook 2), they like the ability to run full applications on a tablet that can function as a laptop. But they don't like the prices. Some of the complaints aren't reasonable of course because no one is releasing a top tier spec laptop with a Max-Q form factor priced in the $150 Chromebook range. Ain't happenin. A friend said she wanted a $250 laptop she can do 3D modeling with.

I laughed.

At $399 and $549 respectively, Surface Go is the low end of the Surface line, not the low end of tablet computing in general.

Surface Go tries to alleviate some of the price concerns though. The base model at $400 is for people that don't perform demanding duties, like 3D modeling, on their machines but need something that's a bit more robust than an iPad. This model specs out at 4GBs of RAM and 64GBs of eMMC internal storage with a Intel Premium Gold 4415Y CPU, along with Intel HD graphics 615. The screen is a 10 inch 1800x1200 display. There are also:

a USB type C port

3.5mm headphone jack (thank goodness)

Surface Type cover port

Surface Connect port

mSDXC card slot

8 MP rear camera

5 MP front camera


2 front speakers (Dolby Audio Premium)

Ambient light sensor




Not bad for what it is in a slim, lightweight build. This configuration is good for students, writing papers, doing research, some Excel or PowerPoint work, email etc, or people that don't do heavy computing or extensive multitasking and don't mind the screen size. For the price, it's easy for some to forget that one of the determining factors is the slim light weight build.

The $549 version of the Surface Go is the same as the $400 version except it comes with twice the RAM and twice the storage in a better configuration, 8GBs of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive (SSD). This is the version I'd recommend to select friends with a bit of coin to spend. Even with the same CPU and integrated graphics technology as the base model, the $549 version is obviously going to provide some better performance/better multitasking. With the mSDXC card slot, storage on both devices can be upgraded by 256GBs or more depending on budget. But regardless of Surface Go version, a variety of great applications can run on the Go. It's just a question of how well under heavy load. Either way, the $549 version is the better deal. Then there's Windows 10 S.

Yes Windows 10 S. It's the advertised more secure version of Windows that limits the user to only allowing the installation of verified applications direct from the Windows store and uses Microsoft Edge browser and Bing Search by default. This cannot be changed so if you're a heavy Google user that needs Chrome in your daily life, sorry. The uninitiated may assume that by only allowing Windows store applications to be installed on Surface Go devices, would limit the devices to only using mobile apps similar to iPads and Android tablets. This would be incorrect. The Windows store also has full Windows 10 x86/x64 applications as well as mobile applications and mobile versions of full Windows applications.

Through my own research in the store I've found Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo, Power Director Standard and Ultra Editions, Photo Director 8, Photo Director 9, Krita, Inkscape and Sketchbook Pro. Also for sketch artists and digital painters, there's Expresii (I didn't like it but I know some that love it), Graphiter and Sketchable which also supports the Surface Dial and is exclusive to Surface devices. There are also other well known standards such as Spotify, iTunes, Audible, Amazon Music, Hulu, Netflix, Slack, Instagram and more. The number of apps available aren't as deep as the App Store or Google Play but today is a different time than the anemic Windows Store in 2015. What the Windows store lacks in depth compared to the App Store and Google Play, it makes up for in raw power and capabilities because no other app store offers full desktop applications because they simply can't. There isn't an iPad or Android tablet made that supports desktop applications which is a huge advantage in favor of Surface Go and Surface devices in general.

There are PC/Xbox One games in the Windows Store as well. Top tier titles such as Resident Evil 7 and Middle Earth: Shadows of War. For the gamers out there, don't get your hopes up though. There is no way the $549 version of Surface Go is running Resident Evil 7, Gears of War or any other demanding Xbox game currently in the Windows Store. But if users decide to switch from Windows S to full Windows 10 which is quite easy to do now, there are a wealth of older PC games and even great indie games that will run on the Go via Steam. So, no Resident Evil 7 for you but Surface Go should be able to run CounterStrike, Unreal Tournament, Alien vs Predator, Civilization II and other games from that era or a bit later. Lightweight indie games should also be no problem on the Surface Go and I'd be very surprised if the new and very pretty Asphalt 9: Legends can't run on the Go. I even read reports that Fortnight is running on it but this doesn't surprise that much considering it's running on smartphones and the Nintendo Switch.

To wrap this up, the Surface Go is a cheaper entry into the Surface line for people that like tablets but need a bit more kick beyond iPads and Android tablets and people that want to try the Surface line but can't afford Surface Pro just yet. I've used Surface Pro devices for years so I personally wouldn't invest in a Surface Go for myself as it would be a downgrade. But I'd definitely buy one for my dad or a good friend, if I had any. Even though Surface Go doesn't work for me, I can definitely see it working for some other people. For light to medium workloads using desktop class software in a really slim, compact form factor, it's tough to beat at that price. Add in the price of the Type Cover and Surface Pen though and the price comes strikingly close to a used entry level Surface Pro. But the key word there is "used." I don't understand some reviewers being upset over the performance under load of the Surface Go. Did they expect it to run like a top tier Surface Pro but at half the price and half the spec? Some of these same reviewers praise Chromebooks which are the poster children for under performance. There are damn good reasons why companies don't power their offices with Chromebooks, but I digress. I got nothin else. It's Friday, I'm hungry and it's time to play some Zelda and Warframe.

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