Microsoft Surface Laptop Go Review

The Surface Laptop Go Review: Everything you would expect from a Microsoft Surface in a smaller package.

My Favourite Surface Ever!


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Intro

I’ve spent the last two months using the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go. After getting over the lack of a few premium features such as inking support and a backlit keyboard, I am convinced that this is possibly one of the best Surface devices ever released. It is certainly my favourite.

I used the Surface Go and Go 2 in the past few years and enjoyed them; they left me wanting more out of them and feeling like I wasn’t getting the full Surface experience. On the face of it, the Surface Go is a miniaturized Surface Pro, but with the power of the Pentium Gold processor, lack of RAM and a slightly cramped keyboard and trackpad, I felt slightly underwhelmed compared to my times with the Surface Pros and Books.

I went into my time with the Surface Laptop Go expecting the same thing—a boiled-down version of the Surface Laptop. After two months, that absolutely wasn’t the experience I had.



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Specs

The below specs are of the unit Microsoft send me for review. It was a top-end version of the Surface Laptop Go, so please keep that in mind while reading through!

Display: 12.4-inch PixelSense Display, 1536 x 1024 pixel resolution (148ppi), 3:2 aspect ratio, 10-point multi-touch

Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1

Memory: 8GB LPDDR 4x RAM

Storage: 256GB SSD

Dimensions: 278.18 x 205.67 x 15.69mm Weight: 1,110g (2.45lb)

Camera: 720p HD f/2.0 front-facing camera

Operating System: Windows 10 Home in S Mode

Battery: Up to 13 hours of “typical device usage”

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6

Sensors: Ambient light sensor Ports: 1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x Surface Connect port

Graphics: Intel UHD graphics



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Display

The display on the Surface Laptop Go is a lower resolution (1536 x 1024 pixels) than what you find on other Surface machines but, as was the case with previous Surfaces I have used, including the Go versions, the Laptop Go’s display was bright, vibrant and for my use, accurate. No, it isn’t Full HD, but this is not a media consumption device. It is geared towards users who are on the go and need something small, reliable and well built.

Like all other Surface devices, the Laptop Go has the same 3:2 aspect ratio. I think that all laptops should have this aspect ratio. I think the world is over 16:9. Some manufacturers have moved to 16:10, which is great, but for productivity, nothing beats 3:2.

Like all Surface computers, the Laptop Go has a touch screen. It works well, but with the laptop form factor compared to the Surface Pro and Go tablet-style, I didn’t use it much. It was more for scrolling webpages and documents.


Ports and Connectivity

I/O ports and Surface devices have always been a point of contention. Microsoft has taken the Apple approach of less is more, but they have also taken a safe approach by being slow to adopt the newest I/O connectivity on their devices.

The Surface Laptop Go is no exception. Onboard you have a Surface connect power port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, one USB 3.0 Type-A port and one USB 3.0 Type-C port.

I read many complaints that the Laptop Go should have had USB-C charging and Thunderbolt 3. While I agree with the charging, this is a budget laptop, and for the target market, Thunderbolt 3 would have driven up the cost of the device.

In my opinion, this is the first Surface to strike the right amount of ports for the type of customer it is geared towards. The single USB-C port is acceptable in this context, considering the most you will need to connect to a machine of this type is a USB-C display adapter, your smartphone or other USB-C peripherals such as a card reader. If the USB-C port is occupied, you can easily fall back to the USB-A port.

I don’t have strong feelings about the 3.5mm headphone port. That was a feature on many devices a few years ago, but TWS headphones are much more readily available and affordable today than wired headphones are nothing more than an inconvenience.

The only port I would change would be to ditch the Surface Connect port for another USB-C port for charging. I am hoping Microsoft takes that bold move away from the proprietary power connection some time in 2021. Fingers crossed!


USB-A – USB-C – 3.5mm
Surface Connect Power

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Performance

I eluded to this earlier, but I had low expectations for the Laptop Go. My previous Go experiences were positive but slightly underwhelming. In my time with the Laptop Go, I was amazed at how well it kept pace with other more powerful devices.

The 8GB of RAM helped, but I think the difference-maker is the processor compared to the Surface Go devices. The Laptop Go comes with an i5, regardless of the model, whereas the Surface Go offers a Pentium Gold processor, which is wildly underpowered by today’s standards.

Microsoft’s decision to avoid a low powered processor is a massive win for Laptop Go customers.

My Surface Laptop Go use was not incredibly heavy, but I did have to jump in and out of Photoshop periodically. Not once did I feel like the Go was lacking. Like all other Adobe apps, Photoshop is a heavy app, but the Go was up for the challenge.


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Fingerprint reader in the power button.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Pen

The keyboard on the Laptop Go is amazing. I can’t really say much more than that. With each new surface device, I use I fall more and more for the keyboard. I used to put Lenovo on a pedestal when it came to keyboards. However, as I type this review between an X1 Carbon and this very Surface Laptop Go for the purposes of comparison, the X1 doesn’t meet the mark. Surface Laptop, to me, is the new keyboard king.

The touchpad, like all other surface devices is large and pleasant to use. I found it to be accurate and responsive.

When I initially received the Laptop Go, I was excited to use my Surface Pen, like all other surfaces. However, I had forgotten that the Laptop Go does not support inking. At first, I viewed this as a disappointment and a mark against the device. Then, when considering my earlier points about the device’s form factor, its intended audience and its price, the pen and inking support would add cost to an already premium-priced device.



Software and Windows 10

The Surface Laptop Go, like its other Go family members and the original Surface Laptop, ships with Windows 10 in S mode. In case you are unaware, Windows 10 in S mode restricts users to install apps from the Microsoft Store only. This is good for organizations that do not want their users getting into trouble installing potentially harmful applications. It is also good if you’re only browsing the web and happy with the default apps like Edge (which you should be because it is great!) and the Mail and Calendar apps. The store does contain many popular apps like Twitter and Facebook Messenger as well.

For someone like myself who likes to test various different applications or has legacy applications, I use for various purposes, S mode does not work for me. Thankfully, you can easily turn off S mode with a quick settings toggle.

Other than S mode, Windows 10 is Windows 10 and for me, that is a good thing!


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Windows 10 in S Mode Settings
A few clicks will free you from the shackles of Windows 10 in S Mode.

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Pros:

  • Premium build quality
  • Outstanding webcam
  • Excellent keyboard and trackpad
  • Intel Core i5 processor

Cons:

  • No backlit keyboard
  • No support for inking
  • Lower resolution display
  • Limited I/O

Conclusion: Should You Buy The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go?

I always find myself hard-pressed not to recommend a Surface device, which is still the case here. I will admit, the Surface Laptop Go is expensive, some may say too expensive, but with a Surface device, you are buying into a family of devices that are incredibly well built, well supported and look great. The Surface Laptop Go makes the perfect laptop for someone on the go who wants to consume the web, send email but can hold its own for tasks like editing photos and consuming multimedia when needed.

If your needs are exceptionally low and you live only in email and on the web, with no need for more power from time to time, a Chromebook may suit you fine. However, a Chromebook boxes you in with no way out, even with a more expensive model. The Surface Laptop Go will have its limits, but the ceiling is considerably higher.



The Surface Laptop Go is available from Microsoft starting at $759.99 CAD and the configuration I reviewed will set you back $1,229.99 CAD.

Check out the Surface Laptop Go from Amazon right HERE!

My Favourite Apps: Microsoft Office Lens

Microsoft Office Lens is one of my favourite and most useful apps. Check out my mini-review of this must have app.

My wife and I have recently embarked on a Marie Kondo-Esque type clean up of our house. We moved in just over a year ago, and like with any move, many boxes of miscellaneous things ended up shoved into the storage rooms of the basement. As a result, more and more junk ended up was added to those rooms. Inevitably, the storage rooms were a complete nightmare. Our messy storage room, amplified by the welcoming of twins to the family (five kids now in total), started to spread into the rest of the basement. It was time to do something! It was time to be ruthless and finally rid ourselves of all of those things that would have been sure to spend many more years in a box.


One of those many things in boxes were old pictures, documents, schoolwork, certificates, awards, etc. Were we ever going to display them? Read them? Use them in any way, shape or form? The answer was NO. We didn’t want to throw out all of these memories, but the idea of scanning them on our now antiquated HP all-in-one wasn’t an inspiring option either. My wife suggested to me to take pictures of the papers we were planning to toss, but me being me, I had to find a more technologically involved method.


I had considered Google’s photo scanning app but, having tried that in the past, I decided it was a non-starter. Google’s offering requires you to take four shots of the same picture to capture it. Nope, not happening!

Enter yet another Microsoft app tucked away in my app drawer rose to the occasion to save the day. Microsoft Office Lens.



What is Microsoft Office Lens?

You can think of this app as a document scanner for your phone but backed by robust, well-thought software. Thanks to the far more powerful camera on your smartphone, results are better than the scanner attached to your printer.


Why I Like Office Lens

Effortless Use

Using Lens is as simple as using your camera. Open the app, line up the document, picture whiteboard or business card you are trying to capture and click.


Powerful

As you can see in the image, lining up, the whiteboard, or whatever you are capturing, doesn’t require a perfectly aligned head-on shot. Shooting from the side will yield the same result.


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Connects to All The Things

I initially used Lens to capture whiteboards in meetings at work. Since then, Microsoft has added a lot of features that make it appealing to use for personal reasons too. For example, this house clean up and capturing old school work and pictures from years past. Having the ability to seamlessly switch from personal and work accounts is a big value ad for Lens


Flexible

Lens lets you save a document in a handful of different locations and file formats at the same time. After capturing the image, you can save the output as a PDF or JPEG to your OneDrive account, add as an image to a OneNote notebook, add to a PowerPoint slide, save to your phones camera roll or if it is a text-based document use Microsoft word and OCR to output as an editable text document.


Overall, I have found Office Lens to be a big help at home and at work. It is available for download on Android and iOS at the links below.



My Favourite Apps: Your Phone Companion from Microsoft

Sharing some of my favourite apps with you. First up, You Phone from Microsoft!

Trying something new…

Every so often you find an app that fundamentally changes how you use your phone. Some of those apps quickly make it into the mainstream and are covered excessively by tech media, while others can often sit in a small, but vocal niche. I thought it would be fun to share some of those lesser known niche apps with you in the form of a mini review and see what you think. Who knows, maybe you will find them as useful as I do.

First up, an app from a little known company in the Seattle area, Microsoft.

What is Your Phone?

You Phone is a take on other services that have existed, or still exist like Push Bullet or Air Droid, but with a far more modern and simplistic approach. It also has one major advantage over its predecessors, Windows 10 and nearly a billion users. Essentially, it is a link to your phone from your Windows 10 PC.

The app allows you to do the following

  • View camera roll
  • Send and receive SMS text messages
  • View phone notifications

The camera roll function as of this writing is currently limited to the last 25 photos on your phone, but Microsoft is currently rolling up an update that will remove that restriction, allowing you to view the last 2,000 images stored on the phone.

Sending and receiving SMS from your PC has been possible for sometime thanks to Google’s Messages app and browser tie-in, but having it nested inside a dedicated application is great.

The phone notifications feature is a bit lacking, since you cannot interact with the notification, but at the very least it allows for a quick triage of a notification to see if picking up your phone is actually required. In the future I would like to see some changes allowing me to interact with some notifications that support it on the phone. For example, I use Asana for work, and can comment on a mention via the notification on on the phone. Being able to do this from the Your Phone app would be a greatly appreciated addition.

It may sound kind of limited, but being able to see and interact with these core functions of my phone has done wonders for productivity. I am one of those people who spends entirely way too much time picking up my phone just for the sake of it, to check and see if I have anything that needs my attention. Often times, there is something to action, but there are many times throughout the day where I pick up and unlock my phone for no reason at all.

Your Phone is also receiving a major update as I write this that will enable users to interact with phone calls coming from your phone. This is a great addition and one I am really looking forward to. The fewer times a day that I need to take my hands off my mouse and keyboard, the more I can done.

Make and Receive calls on your phone from your Windows 10 PC!

Once the update is live on You Phone users will be able to do the following phone related tasks;

  • Answer incoming calls on your PC
  • Initiate a phone call form your PC with the You Phone Windows 10 apps phone dialer or from your contact list
  • Reject calls and send a predefined text to the caller
  • Reject a call, and send it to voicemail
  • See recent call history
  • Transfer calls from your PC to your phone and vise versa (this one really excites me)
  • Click to call from the web on your PC

For an app that has already changed the entire way I work with my phone during the day, these call features easily make this one of the most useful apps I have ever used, and certainly on of my favourites.

You Phone is currently only available on Android, and due to the locked-down nature of Apple, will likely never be available on that platform. So if you’re using Android 7.0 or above, and running Windows 10 you should consider giving Your Phone a try. Now, if you spend little to no time in front of a PC, this app won’t be much use for you, but users such as myself will find this app to be incredibly useful.

Where Can You Get You Phone?

What do think of Your Phone? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below!

Microsoft Surface Go Review: One Year Old

I’ve spent a month with the Surface Go from Microsoft. The Go is just over a year old. Is it still worth considering? Find out!

Microsoft has been incredibly successful with its niche and high-end lineup of Surface computers. I have reviewed the Surface Laptop (1st gen) and the Surface Book 2. The Surface Book 2 I reviewed was the top-shelf version that retailed at the time for $3,849.00. The Surface Go I have retails for $699. With that in mind, I really had to adjust my perspective on what a Surface device was capable of. With the Surface Go there would be no high-ish end gaming, no insane battery, no (real) editing of photos, etc.  I’ve spent a little more than a month with the Surface Go. Find out how it performed for me int he full review below.

How many times have we pondered the contents of that box?

What’s in the Box?

Unboxing a product from almost any niche or high-end electronic device is very much like unboxing an Apple device ever. Clean, minimal packaging with the bare minimum found inside. This is true with the Surface Go as well.

  • Surface Go
    • Actual model was the Surface Go for Business
  • Surface Go Power Adapter
  • Quick start guide
  • Safety and warranty documents

Note the lack of the Type Cover and Surface Pen. Queue sad trombone!

Pen not included 😢

Surface Go Specifications

Most customers picking up a Surface Go will end up with the standard Go version which comes with Windows 10 Home in S Mode. The model Microsoft loaned me was the Surface Go for Business which comes with Windows 10 Pro, sans S Mode. If you do find yourself using the Go or any Windows device in S mode, be sure to turn that off as soon as possible.

Dimensions: 9.65″ x 6.90″ x 0.33″ (245 mm x 175 mm x 8.30 mm)

Weight: Wi-Fi: Starting at 1.15 lbs (522 g), not including Type Cover*

Storage: 128GB SSD

Display: Screen: 10″ PixelSense™ Display with 1800 x 1200 (217 PPI) resolution, Aspect ratio: 3:2, Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Processor: Intel® Pentium® Gold Processor 4415Y

Memory: 8GB RAM

Connections

  • 1 x USB-C
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • 1 x Surface Connect port
  • Surface Type Cover port4
  • microSDXC card reader

Cameras: Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)

  • 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p Skype HD video
  • 8.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video

Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics 615

Exterior Casing: Magnesium

Colour: Silver

What I Liked About the Surface Go

Battery Life

The Surface Go is the perfect device to have an ARM processor but Windows, at the time was not ready for ARM devices. Well, at least not ready for a device that carries the Surface branding. Neither was the Snapdragon chips available on the time. Those are just starting to come to market now, known as the Snapdragon 8cx. Having an ARM chip, in theory, would provide several more hours of battery than any Intel CPU, but we’re not there yet.

With the right expectations in tow, the battery on the Surface Go was great

Regardless of all of that, and only having an Intel CPU option, the battery life of the Surface Go was excellent in my time with the device. I have been using the Surface Go for all forms of typical day-to-day use as well as some light (Microsoft Store Apps) gaming.

The company I work for at my day job has pretty much fully transitioned over to Office 365 and Dynamics 365 for nearly everything. With this in mind, I used this opportunity to use the Surface Go as my “meeting” device so I could leave my Lenovo X1 Carbon docked at my desk for some of the heavier tasks I have to work on in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.  Using the Go for this purpose was great. I was able to move from meeting to meeting all day and did not have the need to charge the battery for 3 workdays. 

Size

The Surface Book 2 was a bit of a boat anchor, but it was also a workhorse. The Surface Go was a pleasure to carry around and it stowed nicely in any bag I had. The device has some really large bezels in a world that wants to shrink bezels of devices to near zero, but those large bezels gave a bit of non-screen area to hold onto when using the Surface as a tablet device. I’m not going to lie though, a slightly larger screen would have been great.

The size also was appreciated while I used the device as my “meeting” device as I mentioned above. Some of our boardrooms and meeting rooms lack a lot of table space. While others carefully found ways to place their X1 Carbons, coffee, phone, etc, I rolled in and was ready to go right away!

Left: Lenovo X1 Carbon (4th Gen)
Right: Microsoft Surface Go, Type Cover and Surface Pen

As I mentioned above, my previous Surface experience was with the Surface Book 2 which had amazing specs and performed better than any computer I have used before (I’m not a gamer, a graphic designer or anything that requires a high-end computer). Switching the Surface Go, now a mature and about a year on since its release, I knew I wasn’t going to see the same type of performance. 

The Type Cover

The Type Cover on the Go may be small, but it is a joy to use

The Type Cover doesn’t ship with the Surface, which is the norm despite how much people complain about it. The type cover on the Go is just as good as those before it. The trackpad is excellent, which has been the case since the Surface Pro 3. Not much else to say here. If you’ve used a Surface Type Cover or any Surface keyboard, you know how good they are. I am even starting to flip my stance on the Surface keyboards vs the Lenovo X1 Carbon keyboards. In the past I was siding with Lenovo, but I am not so sure any more.

What I Didn’t Like About the Surface Go

Performance

Overall, for most basic use cases the Surface Go held its own, but if you are trying to multitask on the device for any period the Pentium CPU in the Go would suffer and performance would fall off a cliff. I know the device isn’t going punch at the same level as the Surface Pro 6 or Book 2, but I had hoped that it would not bog down so significantly when using multiple apps and having multiple tabs open in Edge (Edge Chromium Dev, by the way).

I didn’t run any sort of bench marking software, as I personally feel that is a major waste of time and never tells a proper story.

If you drop the Surface Go into Windows 10’s tablet mode and run one app at a time, you will actually have a really great experience. Running in normal desktop mode, get Edge/Chrome and a few other apps going, performance degrades.

Should You Buy the Surface Go?

It’s complicated…

When I reviewed the Surface Book 2 I said it was complicated. That device was and still is a power users dream. It does absolutely everything. My recommendation of the Surface Go is the same but for the opposite reasons. It’s complicated…

The Go, like the Book 2, is a niche product designed to fill a specific use case. The Go is great for someone who is a front line worker, or someone who is doing basic data input for things like orders but cannot or does not want to be tied to a desk or finally for those doing just email or word processing on the go. If you are one of these or really want an incredibly portable Windows tablet, the Surface Go is for you, but if you need a little more performance and speed I would recommend the Surface Laptop 2. I spent a few months with the original Surface Laptop and it was great. Well, great once I got rid of Windows 10 S.

The Surface Go is now a year old and it does not look like there will be a Surface Go 2 at Microsoft’s upcoming event on October 2nd, 2019. So take that into consideration too when deciding if this is the right device for you.
The Surface Go is available from both the Microsoft Store and Amazon.ca for $699.00 CAD. Don’t forget to check out the Type Cover and Surface Pen too!

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