For a long time, tablets have existed in a nebulous space – not quite as practical as a phone, and not nearly as capable as a laptop. The Microsoft Surface Go exists somewhere in the space between, filling a much needed niche in portable computing.
For just over a week, I had the chance to travel with the Surface Go as it helped me complete a variety of Sisyphean tasks including, somewhat ironically, writing this review. While past experiences with portable Windows laptops had sent me running into the cold and uncaring clutches of the Apple monolith, the Surface Go presented me with something completely new.
The Surface Go was extremely slick, very accessible and powerful enough to serve me in my everyday needs. To say it was love at first sight would be to cheapen the bond that we built.
Alongside the Surface Go, I was provided with a tablet pen and keyboard cover that come as optional accessories for the device (priced at $139.95 and $149.95 respectively). While the Surface Go is able to run completely free of these extras, they do provide an added layer of versatility and protection for the device – for a price.
The whole package is very neat, and with magnetic clips on both accessories, the tablet can easily transform to suit your every whim. While taking hints from Apple’s popular minimalist style, the Surface Go also innovates it, with subtly great design.
The power cable, for example, clips neatly into the side of the device, appearing almost completely flat against it. This rules out much of the wear and tear faced by regular cables and means the tablet can be rested on any side when in use. It’s a minor change, but one extremely appreciated for its versatility.
It’s not just the design that’s versatile either, as it has a range of features and uses that make it a practical and useful machine for those with a busy professional life.
Ostensibly, this is the primary function of the Surface Go, designed mainly for portable and practical use across professional and personal life. Notes can be written directly onto the machine via tablet pen, replicating that long-forgotten feeling on writing notes on actual, real-life paper, or typed in via the keyboard accessory.
Both methods work easily well, with the tablet pen working brilliantly in tandem with the touch screen to make note taking easy, quick and practical.
Given the versatility and ease of use of the tablet pen, the leap between note-taking functionality and drawing capability is not hard to see. As a hobbyist artisté (read: I am terrible at art), the Surface Go was a fun tool to poke around with, and was sensitive enough to fashion rudimentary artworks with. The artworks I created were far too powerful to be perceived by mortal eyes, however, so I’ll save you the pain and torment they would surely bring.
Unfortunately, the Surface Go is not a particularly powerful device. Battery life is fairly standard, with claims of reaching up to 9 hours of untethered battery life semi-mythical. I was never able to obtain more than around 6 hours of continuous use, which sometimes dipped as low as 3 when using the device for gaming.
While it is designed for simple, on-the-go use, it still managed to power through a variety of lower-tier adventure games when required. It sputtered and complained when A Hat in Time and Skyrim were tested, but it was perfectly at ease playing lower spec adventure games like Mysterium and The Secret of Monkey Island.
A significant portion of my Steam library was available to me on the Surface Go, a distinct advantage from other tablets, which are often locked to particular games and apps. While the Surface Go initially booted into Windows 10 S Mode, which prevents third party applications from being installed, this feature is easily overridden, meaning the tablet can run natively in standard Windows 10.
Overall, the Surface Go is a well-designed and practical tablet perfect for every day use. While it can’t be relied on for its power capabilities, its functionality and style shines in other areas. In a busy and fast-paced life, the Surface Go represents the perfect, loving companion, balancing the practical needs of a laptop with all the convenience of a lightweight tablet.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Sleek and stylish design; versatility of use; portability
Lowlights: Battery life; power capabilities; accessory prices
Price: $839 (128GB)
This steamy affair was conducted with a loaned Surface Go retail unit provided by the publisher.