Microsoft Surface Go long-term review

I have used a 2018 Microsoft Surface Go for over a year. On average, much of my “admin” work use (Word / PowerPoint / grading / email / videoconferencing) and non-gaming personal use (media consumption, webinars) were done on the Surface Go. I found the 2018 Surface Go (Pentium 4415Y CPU, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD) to be perhaps the best value I’ve ever had in a computer, in terms of usefulness versus price. The 2020 Surface Go 2 looks as good of a deal–however, the entry-level Surface Pro 7 has proportionatly more capability for the money. The benchmarks and initial reviews of the Core m3 2020 Surface Go 2 are favorable.

If yourself or a loved one including STEAM students / workers would benefit from a secondary device, consider the Surface Go 2 Core m3 model (8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD) or the entry-level Surface Pro 7 (8GB RAM Core i5).

Video conferencing

The 2018 Surface Go can be adequate for videoconferencing in general, as long as you’re not using other programs at the same time. The 2018 Surface Go CPU isn’t powerful enough for the advanced features like Zoom background replacement without a green screen. While headsets are better for any laptop over the internal microphone, there isn’t a problem using the built-in array microphones of the Surface Go for speaking to live groups.

Voice commands

The 2018 Surface Go generally seems to have a great array microphone. It is relatively straightforward to dictate a first draft of text using Windows Voice Commands to compose text with the Surface Go. This is accomplished in general by pressing ⊞ Win+h in any application, bringing up a dictation bar. Windows voice dictation accuracy is not nearly as good as Android’s voice typing system, but it is OK. Especially if it’s been a long day and you just want to close your eyes and let a stream of consciousness flow.

charging

The Surface Go can be charged at least in three ways, which we find quite flexible:

  • OEM 24 watt (Surface connector)
  • USB-C PD to Surface connector adapter (need 15 volt USB-C PD adapter, works with older Surface too)
  • USB-C PD 18 watt or higher charger

Media

The 2018 Surface Go is fine to play video from YouTube and similar at the full screen resolution. The web browser is a bit slower on the 2018 Surface Go than on a mid-range laptop priced 3 times higher than the 2018 Surface Go.

Caveats

The main downside of the 2018 Surface Go is as expected, the relatively slow dual-core Pentium 4415Y. However for most uses I find the 2018 Surface Go to feel faster than a loaded 2014 i7-4650U Surface Pro 3, despite what the benchmarks say. If one is building code and running simulations, those will feel slower on the 2018 Surface Go, like a 5+ year old laptop would feel.