Microsoft Surface Go 3, review. Promoted for Windows 11, postponed for autonomy

Surface Go has always been one of our favorite devices, ever since the first release. An incredibly versatile convertible, which fits with the needs of the student and with those of the professional, a figure who needs a light and easy-to-carry tablet with Windows on board. Windows, for those who work in certain areas, is essential to manage all those applications that do not exist on other platforms, and the availability of a version with LTE connectivity also goes perfectly with this type of use, or working on the move.

All this is accompanied by the incredible build quality that has always accompanied Microsoft products: magnesium body, high-resolution Pixel Sense screens, excellent cameras and top-level finishes.

Surface Go is not a cheap product, and it can’t even be: the screen is not the classic 16: 9 that is found in all low cost tablets, the body itself costs a lot and even the IR system for Windows Hello has a not indifferent cost.

Last year, with the Surface Go 2, Microsoft cleverly managed to slightly transform the Surface Go without revolutionizing it. maintaining compatibility with the same keyboards but increasing the performance that the first generation struggled to offer.

With the most recent version, Surface Go 3, this optimization work stopped only at the processor change: the new model, which we have been testing for two weeks, it would be indistinguishable from the Surface Go 2 were it not for the acronym that identifies the Intel processor inside. The extra power is there, but the impression is that you could, and should, do much more especially if you want to compete with Chrome (and Chromebooks) and the 10 ”iPad.

The user can in fact choose the tenth generation dual-core i3-10100Y processor, this processor used on the flagship version which costs 699 euros or the Pentium 6500Y that equips the basic models.

Although one is identified as “Core i3” and the other as Pentium, in reality we are faced with two almost identical processors: 14 nanometers, same cache, same TDP and same microarchitecture of the cores. The only difference is in the base frequency of the processor which on the Core i3 version starts at 1.30 GHz to get to 3.90 GHz with the turbo while in the Pentium version it starts from 1.1 GHz to get to 3.4 GHz. A really minimal difference that we believe is hardly noticeable in practice.

We fully embrace the idea of ​​not changing form factors: Surface Go must remain small and the 10.5 ”screen in 3: 2 format seems the perfect compromise between portability and usability. By further reducing the frame there would have been problems of involuntary touches at the edges, and by changing the size the old covers would no longer be good, forcing the user to an additional expense.

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The benchmarks of our model with SSD disk
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The Windows store begins to populate with apps. Great sign

On the other hand, we are not of the same idea as regards the choices made on the components, where in the base model we still find 64GB of very slow eMMC memory and 4GB of RAM. We don’t make it too much a matter of pure performance because in the end the Surface Go is not a tablet for productivity, but a product designed for school and light use, however if we look at the price / performance ratio the competition is now ahead. EMMC memories on a notebook costing more than 450 euros in 2021 cannot be seen.

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It is therefore difficult to recommend the basic model at 449 euros, but the version we tested at 619 euros should also be carefully evaluated: with the optional pen and keyboard the price starts to get challenging. The advantage of the Surface Go, however, is that of having Windows 11 on such a small device, and in this sense it is really difficult to try to propose an iPad or a Chromebook: those who need Windows need Windows.

Performance adequate, but the battery suffers

Using it in recent weeks we have found ourselves in front of the good product that we already know and even go out every now and then. However, time passes, and the Surface Go seems to have stuck in the past. The first critical point concerns battery life: The Surface Go 3 has a 28 Wh battery, and if this seemed adequate last year, it is no longer in the conditions we find ourselves in today. It is not so much Windows 11, which from the point of view of energy efficiency is very similar in footprint to Windows 10, how much the apps used in the office / school areas that have evolved and become heavier.

We use Slack as a business collaboration tool, and Slack uses Electron with Javascript like many other cross platform hybrid apps. As the months went by, Slack became heavier and heavier, and the same thing goes for other messaging apps too: just look at the memory footprint to see it. Webex, but also Teams or Classroom itself, with the camera turned on on the small Surface Go 3 really consume as much as they consume Slack or Discord.

In all use cases, even when watching a movie with Netflix or using basic apps, we have never managed to reach the 11 hours promised by Microsoft. In the best case we stopped at about 5 hours, but with annoyingly low brightness: the average is 3 hours – 3 hours and 30 minutes if used with Edge and a dozen open tabs, with some communication tools and with the Office suite.

Today, with this hardware configuration and with the evolution of the software world, a Surface Go 3 turned on in the morning by a pupil at school would not be able to arrive at 13, thus covering the entire teaching day. It can always be recharged with a battery pack via USB, but it is certainly neither convenient nor practical. Perhaps Microsoft should have looked at ARM processors for this third generation of Surface Go: they are not notebooks made for gaming (at most you play in the cloud with GamePass) and not even for video or photo editing, and if we think about the excellent performance achieved by now. from the emulator a Surface Go 3 with a Snapdragon would have given the right autonomy and performance similar to that of the processors adopted, which are however designed to be adopted with passive dissipation.

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The Surface Go 3 camera remains one of the best cameras. And this also applies to the front.

A real shame, because Windows 11 fits very well on the Surface Go 3 and the user experience remains pleasant and fluid. Both portrait and landscape mode the new menus adapt very well, and even using only your fingers you can better manage Explorer by working on files and moving windows as you wish. Windows 11 still needs some tweaking, but overall we have to say that the user experience on such a small screen device is more consistent and improved. Furthermore, as soon as it will be possible to have the Android apps on Windows 11 we will find an even more complete tablet in front of them.

The second critical point concerns the keyboard: it is convenient to have it in the cover, but it continues to flex a little too much if an adult with a slightly heavy hand is using it: you have to get used to it and understand that it is not the keyboard of a notebook.

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