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Microsoft Surface Go 3 Review

Verdict

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The Surface Go 3 has seen minor improvements since its predecessor, with a CPU upgrade and Windows 11 improving the tablet experience. But there’s little here to make it more tempting than Apple’s iPad, especially once you factor in the poor battery life and mediocre specs.

Pros

  • Boosted performance
  • Windows 11 improves the tablet experience
  • Great design, with built-in stand

Cons

  • Minor improvements compared to Surface Go 2
  • Poor battery life
  • Type Cover costs extra
  • iPad is faster and has a better screen

Availability

  • UKRRP: £369
  • USARRP: $399.99

Key Features

  • Improved CPU performance:Microsoft has upgraded the CPU for the Surface Go 3, boosting the performance compared to its predecessor.
  • Pre-installed with Windows 11:Windows 11 enhances the tablet experience with a more touch-friendly navigation and an improved app store.
  • Compatible with Type Cover:The Surface Go 3 can be connected to a detachable keyboard, turning into a makeshift laptop, but you’ll need to pay extra for this accessory.

Introduction

The Surface Go 3 is the latest entry in Microsoft’s range of tablets, which can also be turned into a makeshift laptop when paired with the sold-separately Type Cover. 

It’s an appealing form factor for watching video and scrolling through social media, while also being handy for writing duties with a clip-on keyboard. 

But can it compete with Apple’s iPad or the more fordable Lenovo Chromebook Duet? I’m unconvinced, despite the additions of Windows 11 and a more powerful CPU making it a slightly improved experience compared to the Surface Go 2

Design

  • No changes to design since Surface Go 2
  • Type Cover still costs extra
  • Great build quality, and built-in stand

The Surface Laptop 3 has the exact same design as its predecessor. Even if you whip your ruler out and start meticulously measuring every edge, you’ll realise the dimensions are unchanged at just 8.3mm thick.

I personally don’t think this is an issue, as the Surface Go 3 both looks and feels great, with a metal build and a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 screen boasting a far higher quality than say the cheaper Amazon Fire tablets. 

Surface Go 3

The built-in stand is one of my favourite aspects of the Surface Go range, allowing you to prop it up on a table without the need of a separate accessory. The stand feels study too, so should easily withstand the bumps of a train journey. 

It’s unfortunate that Microsoft doesn’t bundle the Type Cover with the Go, which costs a whopping £99 – or an even more costly £124.99 if you want an Ice Blue, Platinum or Poppy Red variations. It’s a similar story with Apple’s iPad, but the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is worth checking out if you want everything bundled together at default. 

The Surface Go Type Cover feels fine. It magnetically clips to the tablet’s underside, as well as the bottom bezel to create a comfortable slant. But the keys are rather shallow, and the keyboard’s deck is noticeably flimsy, causing the Type Cover to bounce up and down as you hammer at the keys.

Microsoft's Type Cover

It’s fine for the likes of web browsing, writing emails or even completing short bursts of homework, but those who need to write lots and lots of copy will likely want a proper keyboard instead. 

You’ll find a few ports on the device’s edge, including USB-C, a MicroSDXC card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack and the Surface Connect port for power delivery. I’d personally like to have at least one additional USB-C port, but can understand why Microsoft hasn’t been able to squeeze a USB-A onto its slender frame. 

There’s also a 1080p webcam above the screen, which captures surprisingly decent video, at least for the likes of Microsoft Teams and Zoom. It even supports Windows Hello for facial recognition logins. A rear-facing 1080p camera can also be found round the back of the device, although it’s nowhere near the standard of flagship smartphone sensors, so I don’t recommend using it for your holiday snaps. 

Display 

  • Full HD display is ideal for watching video
  • Has great contrast and a good range of colours
  • iPad boats superior specs and costs less

I’ve got no complaints with the 10.5-inch screen. The 1920 x 1280 resolution is plenty sharp enough for a tablet this size, and it presented video with plenty of brightness and colour. 

I enjoyed watching Netflix and the like on this tablet, proving to be a good device for portable watching. I was especially impressed to see how vivid the colours looked when watching cartoons such as SpongeBob SquarePants, making it ideal for children. 

SpongeBob on screen

I used a colorimeter to test the performance of the screen, and the results backed up my first impressions. The 375-nit figure is easily bright enough for use outdoors, while the 1368:1 recorded contrast is better than most laptop or tablet screens at this price, resulting in a pleasant video experience. 

Colour accuracy is high enough for watching video and creating digital art, although you’ll want a greater range of colours here for professional work – the Surface Go simply isn’t designed for such use cases. 

But while I’m quietly pleased with the Surface Go 3’s display, it’s also worth knowing you can get better elsewhere. Apple’s entry-level iPad is not only cheaper, but boasts a 10.2-inch screen with a 2160×1620 resolution and up to 500-nits of brightness. And the Surface Go 3 screen is no improvement on that of the £279.99 Lenovo Duet Chromebook either. 

Performance 

  • Two processor options available
  • High-end chip offers reasonable speeds
  • Windows 11 improves the tablet experience

Performance is the only area Microsoft has significantly improved the Surface Go 3 compared to its predecessor. You now get the option of two chips: the dual-core Intel Pentium 6500Y (from £369) or the dual-core Intel Core i3-10100Y (from £569). Neither options are powerful enough to compete with a high-end laptop, but they’re adequate for a tablet. 

Microsoft sent me a unit with an i3-10100Y chip, which is the most powerful you can currently get. The Surface Go 3 ran perfectly well with this chip, hopping from web page to web page without much delay. But don’t expect this tablet to power through taxing applications, as it’s designed for basic day-to-day tasks and little else. 

Surface Go 3Surface Go 2Lenovo Chromebook Duet
ProcessorIntel Core i3-10100YIntel Pentium Gold 442YMediaTek Helio P60T
PCMark 1026481888N/A
Geekbench 5 single-core907427263
Geekbench 5 multi-core1596970915

The benchmark results show a sizable performance jump compared to the Surface Go 2, although that’s admittedly an unfair comparison since I’m using the results of the entry-level Surface Go 2 configuration. In Geekbench 5, the iPad (9th Generation) greatly outpaces the Surface Go 3 with its 3330 multi-core score thanks to the power of the Bionic A13 chip – it’s yet another area where Apple beats Microsoft. 

Microsoft sadly hasn’t improved the storage capacity, with just 64GB eMMC and 128GB SSD options available. That really isn’t much storage space at all, so you’ll likely need to make a lot of use out of cloud services in order to store all of your documents, photos and videos. 

The Surface Go 3 comes with Windows 11 preinstalled, and the new operating system makes for a far better tablet experience than Windows 10. The centralised taskbar and a focus on icons and widgets (opposed to claustrophobic menus) have all been designed with a touchscreen in mind. And the improved Windows 11 app store is also a big boon for those who want to use the Surface Go 3 like a traditional tablet. 

Surface Go 3

That all said, I still think Windows 11 lags behind the likes of iPadOS and ChromeOS for touchscreen use. The iPad simply offers a far more streamlined and user-friendly experience, with no extra fiddling required to get every homescreen and app optimised for prods and swipes. The Surface Go 3 is arguably more intuitive when used with a keyboard and mouse, but you’re better off buying a Chromebook or mid-range Windows laptop if that’s going to be your main method of use.

It’s also worth pointing out that Windows 11 is available for free on any Windows laptop or tablet device, as long as it meets the system requirements. This means you can install Windows 11 on a Surface Go 2, so you’re not getting any benefits in terms of software by spending extra on the Surface Go 3. 

Battery life 

  • Worse battery life than the Surface Go 2
  • Lasted just 7 hours and 30 minutes in benchmark test

The upgrade to a new processor has actually come at a cost for Surface Go 3, as benchmark results suggest it actually has worse stamina than the Surface Go 2. 

After turning the brightness down to 150 nits and running the PCMark 10 office battery benchmark, the Surface Go 3 lasted just 7 hours and 30 minutes before shutting down. For comparison, the Surface Go 2 lasted 9 hours and 13 minutes in the same test. 

Surface Go 3

That’s a major issue, as the Surface Go 2 already had an average battery life compared to the competition. The iPad (9th Generation) lasted around 10 hours during testing, while the Lenovo Chromebook Duet was capable of a far more impressive 13-hour figure. 

The Surface Go 3’s poor battery life also means that you may be better off sticking with the older Surface Go 2 instead, especially since it has been discounted this year and will likely feature in the Black Friday sales. 

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Should you buy it?

You want a Windows 11 tablet:
Windows 11 is a nice step up on Windows 10 for tablets, with more touch-friendly icons making it far easier to navigate. However, it’s worth pointing out that Windows 11 is available as an upgrade for the Surface Go 2 too.

You’re happy to go for an iPad or Chromebook:
The biggest issue with the Surface Go 3 is that it doesn’t offer up an advantage over the iPad, despite Apple’s tablet seeing a lower price. Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet also represents superior value by bundling in the detachable keyboard. 

Final Thoughts

It’s hard not to be disappointed by the Surface Go 3. The only real improvement here compared to the Surface Go 2 is a speedier processor, but that’s also been offset by the shorter battery life. 

This is still a good tablet, with a great design and lovely screen, but Apple’s iPad offers superior quality at a cheaper price, while the Lenovo Chromebook Duet represents far better value since it bundles in the keyboard attachment free of charge. 

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We test every tablet we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the tablet as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Used as our main tablet during test period

Tested with synthetic benchmarks and real world use

Tested the battery life

FAQs

Can you use a mouse with Surface Go?

Yes, you’ll be able to use a wireless mouse since it features Bluetooth. Wired mice are a little more tricky, as there’s no USB-A port, but you can plug an adaptor into the USB-C port instead.

Does the Surface go have USB ports?

Yes, but only the latest USB-C standard. It does feature the old rectangle-shaped USB-A connection.

Does Microsoft Surface Go come with keyboard?

No, you’ll need to pay extra for the keyboard accessory, which has a starting price of £99.99.

Trusted Reviews test data

PCMark 10
Geekbench 5 single core
Geekbench 5 multi core
3DMark Time Spy
CrystalDiskMark Read speed
CrystalMarkDisk Write Speed
Brightness
Black level
Contrast
White Visual Colour Temperature
sRGB
Adobe RGB
DCI-P3
PCMark Battery (office)

Full specs

UK RRP
USA RRP
CPU
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Front Camera
Battery Hours
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
ASIN
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Resolution
Refresh Rate
Ports
GPU
RAM
Connectivity
Colours
Display Technology
Screen Technology
Touch Screen
Convertible?

Jargon buster

Refresh Rate

The number of times the screen refreshes itself per second.

Nits

The brightness level of a display. 300 nits is regarded as the minimum target for high-end screens.

USB-C

The modern USB connector you’ll find on most Android phones, new laptops, cameras and games consoles. It’s reversible and used for charging along with data-transfer.

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