With all of my usual apps open, I typically used around 70 to 80 percent of the Surface Go's 8GB of RAM. I felt flashbacks to a decade ago when I had to keep a close eye on memory usage on all my PCs. Though, the situation would certainly be worse on the entry-level Surface with 4GB of RAM. The thought of using a Windows 10 PC with so little memory makes me anxious.
Eventually, I had to train myself not to think of the Surface Go as a full-fledged PC, but a tablet that could occasionally open up Windows 10 applications when I needed them. You'll have no trouble if you're using it to browse a few web pages or watch Netflix. It can even handle several Office documents simultaneously. Just don't go overboard and launch dozens of browser tabs, multiple YouTube videos, and Photoshop at the same time.
In our battery test, which involves looping an HD video until the computer dies, we the Surface Go clocked in at nine hours and 50 minutes, well above Microsoft's nine-hour estimate. Of course, that figure will drop precipitously depending on what you're doing. With my usual workflow, it typically lasted around six hours before the battery completely drained.
Pricing and the competition
The Surface Go starts at $399 with the Pentium Gold CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. The step-up option, which we reviewed, goes for $549 with the same CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Given that eMMC storage is notoriously slow, and 4GB is practically useless, I'd recommend considering the more powerful model if you plan to move lots of data. And don't forget, you'll have to pay another $99 for the Type Cover (or $129 for the Alcantara version) and another $100 for the Surface Pen.
ASUS's Transformer Mini is similar to the Surface Go, with an integrated kickstand and 10-inch screen. It's a better deal, starting at around $379 with a bundled keyboard and stylus. But it's just as underpowered as the Go, with an Atom X5 processor and 4GB of RAM.
You can also nab Apple's latest iPad for $329 with 32GB of storage, or $429 with 128GB. You'll have to add a third-party keyboard if you plan to type a lot, though, which will typically run you around $100. Apple's keyboards only work with the more expensive iPad Pro (and personally, I'd recommend a Logitech model over those). On the Android front, there's Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Tab S4, a pricey $650 option, but one that also has a gorgeous AMOLED screen and a bundled stylus.
Even though the Surface Go is technically a PC, it's mainly competing with tablets. And just as you wouldn't want to replace your computer entirely with an iPad, you shouldn't think of the Go as your primary machine. Instead, it's more of a secondary device, one that you can carry around all day when you don't feel like lugging a larger laptop.
I'll admit, the Surface Go is full of compromises. It's slow, and it's limited by Windows 10's slim tablet app selection. But it also has a keyboard that blows away any other tablet, and it can run normal Windows software if necessary. It's not meant for everyone, but if you're in the niche it's targeted at, it could the Windows tablet you've been waiting for.
Video credits: Brian Oh (shooter); Kyle Maack (editor)