We’ve all likely heard the phrase “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” and that old saying aptly represents the latest refresh of Microsoft’s portable and inexpensive 2-in-1 Surface Go 3 computer.
Physically, the device looks identical to its predecessor. It has the same dimensions, the same 10.5-inch touchscreen display, and the same cameras. Where the difference lies is under the hood.
The Surface Go 3 can be configured with upgraded Intel processors that are 60% faster than the previous model. More powerful processors mean you can multitask easier and likely won’t experience any annoying slowdowns from running simultaneous apps.
• Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y or tenth-generation Intel Core i3 dual-core processor
• 10.5-inch PixelSense display
• 4/8GB of RAM; 64GB eMMC or 128GB SSD
• One USB-C port, Surface Connector, MicroSD card reader, headphone jack
• LTE connectivity available for extra charge, 256GB SSD available for business customers
I spent a few days testing the Microsoft Surface Go 3, and while the newest small Surface has the same design as the one that came before it, a new processor makes it much faster and provides a smoother user experience overall. Here’s why the versatile 2-in-1 is the best mini laptop you can buy.
- 9.65 inches by 6.9 inches
- 0.33-inches thick
- Weighs 1.2 pounds
Microsoft has not made any changes to the design of the Surface Go, and that’s fine! The Surface Go 3 still has slim fingerprint-resistant bezels, a premium build with a silver magnesium alloy finish, and a sturdy stand. All Surface Go 3 models have dual microphones, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. For $100 more, you can get LTE network connectivity.
The device, which is about the size of a magazine, weighs just 1 pound. I think it’s a perfect size. It’s small enough to toss in a bag without taking up too much room or weighing you down, but is still big enough to get work done on the go.
I highly recommend investing in the keyboard cover, so you can use the device like a laptop. Unfortunately, the keyboard is sold separately. For comparison’s sake, Apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro and iPad Air costs $299, and Microsoft’s Surface Go Type Cover retails for $99, but has been on sale for prices as little as $60.
The keyboard feels slightly cramped and its trackpad is smaller than what you’re probably used to, but after a day using the Surface Go 3 as my primary machine, my muscle memory quickly kicked in and I really enjoyed using the keyboard.
A Great Canvas for On-the-Go Artists
- 10.5-inch touchscreen display
- Surface Pen support
- 5MP crystal clear webcam
The new Surface Go 3 has the same 10.5-inch PixelSense display with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,280 pixels as its predecessor. Technically, the latest iPad has a more impressive resolution, which means its images offer more detail, but it’s 0.3 inches smaller than the Surface Go 3’s screen. Measuring in at 8.3 inches, the iPad mini’s display is over 25% smaller.
The more expensive Surface Pro 8 has a sharper display than the Go 3 and packs a better 120Hz refresh rate, which results in smoother animations but at the expense of battery life.
Regardless, I found the Surface Go 3 display to be plenty sharp and vibrant. I enjoyed watching Netflix on it and didn’t ever feel like it was too small to get some serious work done on it, either. Its dual 5MP front- and rear-facing cameras are better than most, too. My Zoom calls were crystal clear, and since the display has a kickstand, I was able to find the perfect angle.
The Surface Go 3 is compatible with Microsoft’s Surface Pen, which makes for a handy stylus and sketching tool. I enjoyed using the pen to mark up my documents and jotting down lists, but can’t but can’t speak to its usefulness as far as creating elaborate drawings since I’m a horrible artist. However, I did like that the Surface Pen magnetically snaps to the display for easy storage.
A Welcomed Jump in Processing Power
- Choice of Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y or Intel Core i3-10100Y processor
- Up to 128GB of storage and up to 8GB of RAM
- Stereo speakers with Dolby Audio
- Optional LTE connectivity
Thanks to a new Intel chipset, the new Surface Go is one of the most powerful mini laptops around. Microsoft says it’s 60% faster than the previous Surface Go 2. The device runs Windows 11, so it’s essentially a full-fledged laptop (once you upgrade from S Mode). You’d be hard-pressed to find a device this size and in this price point that’ll run as much software as this computer does.
Although we would have liked to see it have more than one USB-C port, it’s nice knowing you have the option to plugging in nearly any external display, camera, printer, or hard drive into it without issue — something you can’t say with most tablets or Chromebooks.
The base configuration has just 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage space via its eMMC drive. I strongly recommend you upgrade to the variant with the 128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM. That should give most users enough room to store all their favorite apps, photos, music, and documents. Plus, some space for videos to watch even if you don’t have an internet connection.
For power users, Microsoft sells a variant that runs off of the 10th generation Intel Core i3 processor. That additional performance boost will come in handy for gamers and professionals, but if you just need to do general web browsing and document editing the Intel Pentium Gold processor should suffice for most users.
As far as battery life is concerned, Microsoft claims that the Surface Go 3 can last for up to 11 hours on a single charge, which is an hour longer than the Surface Go 2. While testing the Go 3, I could barely get through the workday without reaching for its power cable. I think most users can expect between 6 and 8 hours of use. If you don’t have it at peak brightness and are just watching videos, you can stretch its battery past the 10-hour mark.
If you’ve ever worked on a tablet, you’ve probably realized that in certain circumstances a tablet simply can’t replace a laptop. The Surface Go 3 offers unrivaled productivity because it gives users the option of running the full-fledged Windows 11 operating system. With the Surface Go 3, users aren’t bound by the limitations of a tablet-based operating system or a select number of apps to choose from.
Even though the changes from the Surface Go 2 to Surface Go 3 are minimal, the performance increase is notable. Plus, the tablet still offers users an incredibly sleek and highly portable design in a convenient 2-in-1 form factor for a reasonable price.
And while battery life leaves a bit to be desired, and some folks may be frustrated to have to fork over a couple extra hundred dollars for accessories like the keyboard, Surface Pen, or on spec upgrades, I still think the Surface Go 3 is an excellent machine that’s perfect for work and play.
Shop Microsoft Surface Go 3
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