Surface Go 3: A lateral upgrade for Microsoft's uniquely affordable tablet
PCWorld|January 2022
If you’re in the market for Microsoft’s Surface Go 3, consider the Surface Go 2, too.
MARK HACHMAN

Microsoft touts its 10.5-inch Surface Go 3 tablet as its most mobile Surface. While that’s definitely true, what else does the new Surface Go 3 have to offer? A small processor bump, Windows 11, and—well, that’s about it.

The Surface Go 3 is essentially the same device as the Surface Go 2. We don’t consider Windows 11 to be necessarily worth the upgrade (fave.co/3cdEtj3), which robs the Surface Go 3 of its appeal. As for the processor upgrade—yes, there’s now a 10th-gen Core i3 option, but it doesn’t really move the needle performance-wise.

BASIC FEATURES AND CONFIGURATIONS

Microsoft’s Surface Go 3 is available in three configurations, ranging from $399.99 on up to $629.99, which is the price of our review unit. We wouldn’t recommend the $399.99 base model (with a Pentium Gold 6500Y, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage) because the 4GB of memory isn’t sufficient for running multiple apps. The other configurations, including a midrange version (Pentium Gold 6500Y/8GB RAM/128GB SSD: $549.99) and a premium offering (Intel Core i3/8GB RAM/128GB SSD: $629.99), round out the offerings.

The Surface Go 3 is unique because there aren’t many small, inexpensive Windows tablets vying for your wallet. Otherwise, the Go 3 is priced similarly to Microsoft’s budget clamshell laptop, the Surface Laptop Go (fave.co/3sbM4Yk), which also has a $549.99 discounted version that includes a Core i5-1035G1 with 8GB of memory and a 128GB SSD. The Laptop Go’s screen is a definite step down, however.

Unlike the prior Surface Go 2, the current version of the Surface Go 3 consumer version doesn’t ship with cellular options. It’s a somewhat odd omission, though our Go 2 review (fave.co/2Z2lrIY) indicated that its cellular reception was spotty. Microsoft reserved the LTE option for what it calls the Surface Go 3 for Business (fave.co/3pYKDKl), which ships in both a $499.99 (Core i3/4GB RAM/64GB SSD) and a $679.99 (Core i3/8GB RAM/128GB SSD) configuration, each with an LTE SIM tray that the consumer version lacks. The Business configuration also allows you to chose either Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro, an odd choice given the optional 4GB RAM configuration.

Unlike the Surface Pro 8 (fave. co/31UYlG9), the Surface Go’s Type Cover has not been redesigned to accommodate the Surface Slim Pen 2 (fave.co/3FesjD6). And yes, you still have to buy the keyboard separately. The Type Cover’s prices range from $59.99 to $129.99, depending on color and available discounts. For inking, there’s the older $99.99 Surface Pen. Unfortunately, there’s no pen loop to secure the pen with the Go 3, though the side of the tablet is magnetized to help keep the pen in place when it’s not in use.

Processor: Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y, Core i3-10100Y (Core i3 as tested)

Display: 10.5-inch PixelSense (1920×1280, 220 PPI)

Memory: 4GB/8GB LPDDR3 (8GB as tested)

Storage: 64GB (eMMC)/128GB (SSD) (128GB as tested)

Graphics: UHD Graphics 615

Ports: USB-C (5Gbps), Surface Connect, microSDXC, Surface Connect, Surface Type Cover

Security: Windows Hello depth camera

Camera: User-facing, 5.0MPixel (1080p video); rear-facing, 8.0MP (1080p video)

Battery: 26.8Wh (design), 26.0Wh (full)

Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0

Operating system: Windows 11 Home in S Mode

Dimensions: 9.65×6.9×0.33 in. (8.3mm)

Weight: 1.2 pounds (without keyboard)

Color: Platinum

Prices: $399.99 on up, $629.99 as tested (fave.co/3F29inF)

Optional accessories: Surface Go Type Cover (fave.co/3DZSwnO) ($84.99 to $129.99 MSRP), Surface Pen (fave. co/3IYkrIf) ($99.99)

The Surface Go 3 looks physically identical to its predecessor, with slightly thinner bezels than the original to accommodate the 10.5-inch, 1920×1280 PixelSense display. Microsoft typically uses the chunky bezels as landing pads for your fingers and thumbs. It seems they’ve dimmed the display a bit, however, as we recorded a maximum brightness of 374 nits as opposed to the Go 2’s 483 nits. Like its predecessors, the Go 3 does away with the fan as well as the vents, letting the magnesium chassis passively radiate any heat that the tablet generates.

Out of the box, the most significant change to the Surface Go 3 involves the transition to Windows 11, specifically the addition of Windows 11 Home in S Mode. This means two different things. First, setup involves stepping through the soothing sequence of introductions as described in our Windows 11 review (fave. co/3cdEtj3). Secondly, Windows 11 Home in S Mode handcuffs you by restricting apps to the Microsoft Store, as Windows 10 S (Windows 10 Home in S Mode [fave.co/3edGAV7]) did.

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