This week I received the Surface Go from Microsoft along with a full compliment of stunning cobalt blue peripherals – Surface Pen, Surface Mobile Mouse, and a Surface Type Cover.
You likely remember that Surface Go was launched in July 2018 in two different models with the key differentiation being the amount of RAM (4GB and 8GB) plus the storage (64GB of eMMC or 128GB SSD). Since then an LTE model with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM has become available.
All versions of Surface Go have the 7th Generation Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4415Y and they are all fanless designs.
As for ports, Surface Go has its Surface Connect for charging/docking, a USB-C 3.1 that can handle data, video, and charging, plus there is a headphone jack for obvious purposes and a MicroSD card reader to expand your total storage. This was a commercial/education targeted model so it came with Windows 10 Pro installed.
After that it is pretty much the 2-in-1 Surface device from Microsoft that you expect with the 165 degree hinge, the magnesium case, and a brilliant 10 inch display. Just think Surface Pro but smaller all around.
Of course, smaller and fanless means compromises when it comes to power and capabilities compared to its bigger siblings in the Surface hardware line.
In the Surface Go that begins with the most visible aspect of the device – it’s 10 inch screen. The bezels are quite large around the smaller visible display but that is a trade off to make sure the case for Surface Go is big enough to hold all the hardware that is under the hood. Personally, the big bezels fade away after working at the device for a while. By the way, they are about the same size as the bezels on the 2017 Surface Pro.
Note: I am writing this on the Surface Go and can say that while initially the smaller Type Cover takes some getting used to, it is more than capable for putting this article together.
Under the hood, the two key elements for performance, the CPU and storage device, are not going to match the performance of a fan cooled Surface Pro. However, that is not what Surface Go is all about in this form factor.
After I unboxed the Surface Go, the out of box experience from pushing the power button and reaching the desktop took about 15 minutes or so – really not too bad for such a device. However, at this point the process slowed down because it arrived with Windows 10 Version 1803 which was the shipping version of Windows 10 when Surface Go was released. So that meant operating system updates for 1803 and multiple firmware updates for the hardware.
Once I had all of that updated, it took a couple of Windows Update cycles to get everything, the Surface Go was all caught up and ready to move forward except for one thing – Windows 10 Version 1809 aka the October 2018 Update – was not popping up in Windows Update for some reason. Of course, being the geek I am that didn’t stop me because I went to the download Windows 10 page and did an in place upgrade to Windows 10 1809.
Following that my next move was to install the latest Windows 10 (19H1 – May 2019 Update) build on the device. I opted into the Windows Insider Release Preview ring and promptly received the latest build, 18362.86, and followed that with a check for app updates, etc. to get completely up to speed.
Now throughout the afternoon, I was involved in other projects and work so Surface Go was not getting my undivided attention. That means there could have been some lag between an update cycle completing and me initiating the next one but it did take several hours to get to the finish line with my setup process. Again, as I mentioned earlier, Surface Go is not a high end Surface device and these types of processes are CPU and storage intensive. The configuration of Surface Go means this type of activity is not its strong suit. If you come into this understanding that and knowing that updates like this will take a little longer than your main desktop should not create a lot of frustration for how long they take.
It is what it is at this point and so these are under the hood trade offs just like the more visual aspect with the devices screen and bezels.
Now that the Surface Go is completely updated from an operating system and Microsoft Store apps perspective, it was time to sit down and customize things.
I decided that initially this device would just have my personal stuff on it. Email, OneDrive, and certain apps. Although I tend to make all my devices match in those areas across the board, Surface Go is a different type of device as previously mentioned. I am not going to bve doing heavy duty video or graphics processing because that is not what it is built for. On the other hand, accessing the web, email, and other services via the browser and apps is right up its alley.
Office 365 apps comer preinstalled on Surface Go and while I thought about just accessing and working on my files via the browser, I went ahead and logged in with my personal Office 365 account credentials. The only exception was Outlook as I opted to stick with the inbox Mail and Calendar app for that piece.
After that was done, I installed the Windows 10 Twitter app, BitWarden desktop app and browser extensions for password management, and the Edge Developer and Canary builds of the browser for testing.
The other thing I was excited for with the Surface Go was being able to use the Your Phone app on it along with my Samsung Galaxy S9+ to perform screen mirroring between the two devices. Imagine my disappointment as this capability was not immediately available after the device was all updated and linked. I decided to try again in the morning and left a message for a member of the Your Phone app team on Twitter about the issue.
When I fired up the Surface Go this morning, the screen mirroring option was still unavailable so at the request of the Your Phone app team I submitted feedback in the Feedback Hub and left it at that for now. However, about 30 minutes later, when doing some other work on the Surface Go, the screen mirroring option was available in the app. In addition, the recently added notifications feature was also available.
That brings me to right now typing this article into my site using the Surface Go.
My efficiency with the smaller keyboard continues to improve and the screen is very easy on the eyes. I have used about 30% of the battery over the course of this morning since picking up the Surface Go about two hours ago. It will take more time to evaluate its overall power profile.
I plan to bring the Surface Go as my secondary device for the trip to Seattle this weekend for Build 2019. Alongside, I will have the Surface Book 2 for heavy duty lifting, live tweeting keynotes, image handling, etc. Of course, you can expect a running commentary from me about the travel experience with Surface Go including using it on my flight and the notoriously cramped work space of an in-flight tray table.
Something tells me that this smaller Surface sibling is going to work out pretty good in that situation but stay tuned for more moving forward.
Thanks to everyone who has chimed in on Twitter about their own usage experiences with Surface Go as I have shared this process throughout the day. If you have any questions about the device or comments about your own experience with Surface Go please leave them in the comments below.