Microsoft Surface Go 3 review: A compact tablet with laptop aspirations

Microsoft Surface Go 3 review: A compact tablet with laptop aspirations

The Surface Go 3 is Microsoft’s latest and most affordable tablet and is designed to handle basic computing tasks. While there’s no shortage of convertible Windows laptops, detachable 2-in-1s are still a rarity and are often expensive. This makes the Surface Go 3 quite interesting as it is priced lower than the Surface Pro lineup. It’s also much more portable, hence the name.

The Microsoft Surface Go 3 is primarily a Windows tablet, which can transform into a laptop with the optional keyboard accessory. Think of it as Microsoft’s version of an iPad, but running the full Windows desktop experience you’re probably used to. It could be an attractive solution for those looking for a hybrid computer that can handle both work and entertainment needs, such as content consumption. Is the Surface Go worth it? Let’s find out.

Microsoft Surface Go 3 Project

Thanks to the hybrid nature of a detachable 2-in-1, the Microsoft Surface Go 3 performs infinitely better as a tablet than most convertible Windows laptops with 360-degree hinges. It is around 8.3mm thick and weighs 544g making it quite thin and light. It can be easily carried in one hand. The matte gray finish doesn’t attract fingerprints, and the metal body feels sturdy and well put together. When used in portrait orientation, you’ll find the power and volume buttons on the right and the headphone jack, USB Type-C port and a proprietary Surface Connect port on the bottom. The latter is used to quickly charge the tablet and connect to accessories, but the Surface Go 3 can also be charged via the Type-C port.

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Built-in kickstand on Microsoft Surface Go 3 offers a wide range of usage angles

The left side of the Microsoft Surface Go 3 has touchpoints to power an optional keyboard. Unlike most tablets, the Surface Go 3 has a built-in kickstand that offers a wide range of usage possibilities. Hidden behind the stand is a microSD card slot, which is very easy to miss as there is no inscription or marking to indicate its presence.

The Microsoft Surface Go 3 has a 10.5-inch full-HD (1920×1280) touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio and Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Brightness levels are good and colors are vivid and punchy. The bezel around the display is thick enough to provide enough area to rest your thumbs when holding the tablet. There’s a 5-megapixel webcam, along with an infrared camera for Windows Hello facial recognition. The Surface Go 3 also has an 8-megapixel rear camera. You also get cutouts on either side of the display’s bezel for the front stereo speakers.

Microsoft Surface Go 3 specs and software

The Microsoft Surface Go 3 has been released in several variants, but only one configuration is available online, at least at the time of this review. It’s the same one Microsoft sent me, and it has a 10th Gen Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y CPU, 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM, and a 128GB SSD. This variant has an official price of Rs. 57,999, although you can find it for less online.

Other variants can be found in a separate section on the Microsoft website called Surface for Business. These include a base variant with 64GB of eMMC storage and 4GB of RAM and a high-end variant with an Intel Core i3-10100Y CPU. There is optional LTE connectivity with the Surface for Business variants and they come with Windows 11 Pro. These variants can be purchased from listed retailers, but they are not easily found on regular e-commerce platforms.

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There’s only a single USB Type-C port, which means you’ll need a dongle to connect multiple peripherals at once.

For what it’s worth, I think Microsoft has chosen the right configuration for consumer use, as the lower variants have eMMC storage and only 4GB of RAM, which isn’t ideal for Windows. The Core i3 CPU in the top-end variant doesn’t offer much compared to the Pentium Gold, just higher clock speeds for the CPU cores and a slightly better integrated GPU. All Surface Go 3 variants feature Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.

In terms of software, the Microsoft Surface Go 3 comes with Windows 11 in S mode, which only allows you to download apps from the Microsoft Store and use the Microsoft Edge browser, for security and management. You can easily switch to standard mode, which will let you install just about any Windows app, but there’s no going back. There aren’t many third-party apps preinstalled, which is a refreshing change. You get a Microsoft 365 Family trial. A full version of at least Office Home and Student would have been nice, and many of Microsoft’s OEM partners offer this with their laptops.

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Type Cover keyboard completes Surface Go 3’s transformation into a laptop

Before we move on, we should talk about some of the accessories you’ll likely want to buy along with the Surface Go 3. Microsoft offers a standard Type Cover keyboard (Rs. 10,950) or a Signature Type Cover (Rs. 15,699), which is made using Alcantara fabric. Microsoft also sent me a Surface Pen which costs additional Rs. 9,099 in India. The pen runs on a single AAAA battery and can magnetically attach to the top of the tablet. These add considerably to the total price.

Microsoft Surface Go 3 performance and battery life

I’ve been using the Microsoft Surface Go 3 for a few weeks now, both for work and play, and I can confidently say that it easily fulfills its intended purpose. I can’t speak for the base variant, but the one with the 128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM is good enough for basic computing tasks like writing, video calling, answering emails, and even a little Photoshop work. Windows 11 works fine, although you have to get used to a little lag. In my experience, this has always been present. It was noticeable when waking the Surface Go 3 from sleep mode and whenever I had to navigate the Windows UI. Heavy applications like Photoshop take longer than usual to load, although this worked fine for me once it was up and running.

Without the keyboard, the Microsoft Surface Go 3 is a decent tablet. Windows is a little difficult to use without a stylus, and the lack of good tablet-friendly apps in the Windows Store doesn’t help either. However, for watching content, the built-in stand is a lifesaver. You can place the tablet at any angle, anywhere, and start watching. The Surface Pen is useful for taking notes or drawing, though I’m not a big pen user so I ended up not using it much. The only tablet feature I miss in Windows is the ability to turn off just the screen without putting the entire device to sleep, which would allow for use cases like listening to music.

microsoft surface go 3 ww screen

Content consumption is a good experience on Surface Go 3

The Surface Go 3 easily doubles as a productivity machine as soon as you plug in the keyboard. The whole setup wasn’t as easy or comfortable to use on my lap as a regular laptop, as the Type Cover keyboard has some flex and the stand’s sharp edge tended to dig into my thighs after prolonged use. However, it worked fine when placed on a stable surface. The keyboard keys are very comfortable to type with even lighting. The glass trackpad is pretty good too.

Casual games ran well, but anything with heavy 3D graphics struggled. Fortnite, for example, was almost playable despite lowering the graphics quality and resolution. Asphalt 9: Legends was a little stuttery in places too. Audio from the stereo speakers is loud and clear. The 1080p webcam is pretty good too, and the video is clear even in a dimly lit room. The rear camera has autofocus and is decent for the occasional photo or document scanning.

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Microsoft Surface Go 3 is almost the same size as 2021’s 11-inch iPad Pro

Microsoft claims the Surface Go 3 can provide up to 11 hours of runtime on a single charge, which turned out to be a little too optimistic in my experience. With uninterrupted use, I managed to stay between four and a half to five hours, but if I took breaks in between, I could stretch it to about seven hours. For a 10.5-inch Windows tablet, it’s not terrible, but it’s far from ideal. I used this tablet with the keyboard attached most of the time, so without it maybe you could have a little more battery life. With light workloads, frugal usage, and a more conservative battery profile, you could get through a full workday on one charge, but it would be tough.

In our Battery Eater Pro test, the tablet (minus the keyboard) ran for a reasonable 2 hours and 40 minutes. The included adapter lets you fast charge the Surface Go 3 to around 80% in an hour, which isn’t bad. The charger also has a USB Type-A port that can be used to charge any device.

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Microsoft Surface Go 3 is compact and portable, but quite expensive in India


The Microsoft Surface Go 3 may be the company’s most affordable 2-in-1 Windows tablet, but Rs. 57,999 is a lot of money. One argument that often comes up is that you could get much better specs on a standard laptop for the same price, which is true, but you can’t comfortably use them as tablets. The variant I tested was adequate in terms of performance. It also has a bright screen, good speakers, a high-quality webcam, and solid build quality. Battery life is a little poor, and the accessories most people want are relatively expensive.

If you add a stylus and keyboard, the Surface Go 3 will cost almost Rs. 80,000, at which point the Lenovo Yoga Duet 7i appears to be a much more attractive deal. It has better specs, making it more of a Surface Pro competitor, and what’s more, the keyboard and stylus are included.

The Microsoft Surface Go 3 is a very nice little tablet with the potential to be a 2-in-1, but the average battery life and total cost of the entire package will keep many people from taking the plunge.

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