Microsoft Surface Go
Microsoft Surface Pro
1800 x 1200
2736 x 1824
Intel Pentium 4415Y
Intel Core i7-7660U
RAM (as Tested)
Intel HD Graphics 615
Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
Storage Capacity (as Tested)
802.11ac (2.4+5.0 GHz Dual-band)
9:00 (Microsoft estimate)
Microsoft Surface Go
Quality build. Small, lightweight design. Low price of entry to the Surface line. Good potential for education use.
Under some circumstances, some lag outputting to external display. Narrow size for on-lap use. No standard USB ports.
The Surface Go is an intriguing low-cost detachable for travelers, education buyers, and others who want to launch into Microsoft’s well-made, attractive Surface 2-in-1s on a tight budget.
Microsoft Surface Pro
Powerful Core i7 processor with Iris Plus graphics. Improved battery life, kickstand, keyboard cover, and Pen. Higher-than-full-HD screen resolution.
Pricey. Type Cover and Pen sold separately. Lacks USB-C and Thunderbolt 3.
With faster performance, better battery life, and other welcome improvements over its predecessor, the Microsoft Surface Pro is still the standard bearer for 2-in-1 Windows tablets.
After a long string of rumors and speculation, Microsoft’s Surface Go was finally revealed this week as a lower-cost (and smaller) alternative to the familiar Surface Pros of years past. Starting at $ 399, this new 10-inch Windows tablet draws influence from the 12.3-inch Surface Pro (which starts at $ 799), without being a straight-up, shrunken-down clone of the larger tablet that came before it.
To achieve its more appetizing price point, some obvious concessions were made. The processor, for one, is a low-wattage “Kaby Lake” Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y, as opposed to the Surface Pro’s range of Intel Core m3 to Core i7 CPUs. And the base model uses eMMC memory versus a “true” SSD. That said, due in part to its high-screen resolution, the Surface Go stuffs a premium appearance into a modestly priced package. Better yet, it’s compatible with a lot of the same kinds of accessories as the full-fat Surface Pro, so you can expect similar functionality from the Surface Go, despite its watered-down internal components.
Built-in kickstand and all, the Surface Go shares many of the Surface Pro’s best qualities, though in some ways it differs. To help you break down what’s new and what’s not from Microsoft’s latest tablet, we’ve constructed this handy guide pitting the Surface Go against the Surface Pro. From the ports to the pricing to the core components, here is everything you need to know about these two devices before jumping on a purchasing decision between them.
While the Surface Pro has a higher resolution and pixel density (2,736 by 1,824 pixels total and 267 pixels per inch) than the Surface Go, the Surface Go’s PixelSense screen comes close. It’s an 1,800-by-1,200-pixel, Gorilla Glass 3-coated display featuring Microsoft’s signature (yet controversial) 3:2 aspect ratio. In the event that you have to use all 10 fingers on the screen at once, there’s support for 10-point multi-touch in place, as well. What’s more, you can sit the Surface Go up on a desk or tray table the same way as you would the Surface Pro, thanks to the familiar built-in kickstand that extends out from the back.
Winner: Surface Pro, on sheer size and resolution.
For the first time on a Microsoft tablet, the Surface Go leverages a single USB Type-C port. You also get a microSDXC card reader, a mini DisplayPort output, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. As is the custom with these slates, the Surface Go uses a proprietary Surface Connect port for charging. Meanwhile, the pricier Surface Pro also has a microSDXC card reader, a mini DisplayPort, a headphone jack, and a Surface Connect port, but you get full-size USB Type-A rather than USB-C (still, just one).
Winner: Tie, but leaning toward the Surface Go from a technical achievement point of view, given that it’s so much smaller.
The Surface Go and Surface Pro share one key accessory: the Surface Pen. The ordinary Surface Pen stylus ($ 99.99) comes with neither tablet but is compatible with both tablets. So if you own one from an older Surface, you can carry it over to a Surface Go. The Surface accessory keyboards, though, are specific to the different tablets, which is necessary because of their different sizes. The Surface Pro has its own line of keyboards with a built-in touchpad, as does the Surface Go, but the latter’s are dubbed Surface Go Type Covers. A basic-black one costs $ 99, while a premium $ 129 version, the Surface Go Signature Type Cover, comes in a choice of three colors.
The Surface Go also shares compatibility with the new Surface Mobile Mouse ($ 34.99), which connects wirelessly over the Bluetooth 4.2 protocol—no dongle required.
Of all the features the Surface Go could have omitted, the rear-facing camera seems like a no-brainer. But for it to serve as an aggressive competitor to the iPad and other Windows 10 tablets, both the front- and rear-facing cameras had to remain intact. So, the Surface Go has a 5-megapixel front-facing cam, along with an 8-megapixel rear one. On paper, those are the same camera specs as the Surface Pro. We haven’t tested the Surface Go, so we’ll have to declare this one a tie.
Core Components and Storage
The latest (2017) iteration of the Surface Pro comes in eight different flavors, starting with a 2.6GHz, dual-core Intel Core m3/128GB SSD/4GB RAM option ($ 799) and capping out at a 2.5GHz, dual-core Intel Core i7/1TB SSD/16GB RAM model ($ 2,399). The Surface Go is distinctly limited in its configurations. The two Surface Go models share the same Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y processor (a 1.6GHz, dual-core chip), and the entry-level $ 399 model wields 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC flash memory. Spending $ 150 more nets you a version of the Surface Go with double the RAM and storage, at 8GB and 128GB, respectively, with the storage being a true SSD, to boot.
Winner: Surface Pro
Seeing as the Surface Pro comes in such a wide variety of configurations, the pricing ranges widely:
- Intel Core m3/128GB SSD/4GB RAM – $ 799
- Intel Core i5/128GB SSD/8GB RAM – $ 999
- Intel Core i5/256GB SSD/8GB RAM – $ 1,099
- Intel Core i5/256GB SSD/8GB RAM (LTE) – $ 1,249
- Intel Core i7/256GB SSD/8GB RAM – $ 1,299
- Intel Core i7/512GB SSD/16GB RAM – $ 1,899
- Intel Core i7/1TB SSD/16GB RAM – $ 2,399
As mentioned in the components section, the Surface Go comes in just two variants, both of which cost less than any one of the Surface Pro models:
- Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y/64GB eMMC/4GB RAM – $ 399
- Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y/128GB SSD/8GB RAM – $ 549
The winner is clear in this section, but overall it’s up to you to decide what works best for your use case. It’s a battle between the portable and inexpensive Surface Go, versus the larger and more powerful Surface Pro. If you need more than what’s offered by the 6-watt Pentium processor, the Surface Go may not be fast enough in either of its two renditions. If the Surface Pro is too bulky (or pricey), then the Surface Go is going to be the better bet. Of course, you can find a whole slew of Windows tablets out there, aside from these two options. For the best Windows tablets, take a look at our overall Windows tablet roundup. For the best tablets in general, we’ve covered those too.