We tested and compared the Microsoft Surface Go versus Surface Pro 6 in terms of Performance, Price, Display quality, Battery life, Portability, Keyboard & more.
Above you can see the Ranking with the results and below you are going to find the in-depth reports of the two Microsoft Surface Laptops.
Ranking First: Microsoft Surface Pro 6
- Improved multitasking performance
- Beautiful, bright 3:2 display
- Excellent battery life
- More expensive than Surface Go
Outstanding workmanship and hardware that’s as powerful as a real laptop – for most people it looks like the perfect productivity device.
If you’re thinking about buying a Surface Pro and want to go back to last year’s model to save money, don’t. The improved battery life makes the purchase of a Surface Pro 6 much more worthwhile.
While it’s still not quite perfect and the competition has been quite a bit more innovative this year, it’s still the leader among 2-in-1 notebooks.
Except for the beautiful black color scheme, which feels great, the Surface Pro 6 hardly differs from its predecessor. The tablet is 0.85 cm thin and weighs just 1.7 lbs – just like last year’s model.
It has the same ports and connectivity options and even the exact same type cover. The latter should not be a criticism, as there is almost nothing that Microsoft has to improve in terms of type cover.
We have to admit, however, that we’re very disappointed this time by the lack of a USB Type C port. We’re not talking about any perceived advantages of this type of connector.
For years, Microsoft has been locking faster data transfer rates and more versatile docking options behind the Surface Connect port, forcing people who want faster data transfer and more connectivity to buy a Surface Dock for $199.
Not even the USB ports are up to date, because instead of USB 3.1 there is only USB 3.0 – the outdated standard is only about half as fast. With a notebook with such good workmanship and designed for long-term use, we find this completely unacceptable.
The Surface range has always been equipped with fantastic displays, and the Surface Pro 6 hasn’t changed that. Microsoft is doing its best to find great panels for their devices and we really like the display built into the Surface Pro 6.
It’s 12.3 inches tall, has a resolution of 2736 x 1824 pixels and is bright, colourful and dynamic – overall it’s one of the best displays available in this product category.
The screen brightness load increases to a bright 410 nits, a value usually reserved for premium devices like ThinkPad, MacBook and XPS. Now the Surface also belongs to the top league in terms of screen brightness. The aspect ratio of 3:2 is another great feature, as it provides a lot of usable screen space for working.
The contrast ratio of 1290:1 is very good, the rich black and bright white are especially noticeable in games and movies. The color space still doesn’t quite match that of a MacBook or other 4K displays, but with 70 percent of AdobeRGB, the Surface Pro 6 is on the same level as most competing models.
The thin display edges make the Surface Pro 6 look extremely modern.
Microsoft has once again equipped the Surface Pro 6 with two color profiles: the default advanced mode and the standard sRGB mode. The colors look great for the average user, but for professionals such as photographers, we would recommend calibrating the screen first.
But all this is nothing new. It’s the same panel as last year’s model, and we would have been very happy with a higher resolution, like the Surface Book 2 with its 3000 x 2000 pixels or the Google Pixel Slate. Probably we will have to be patient until next year.
It is strange that the Surface Pro 6 does not come with a keyboard. The type covers are available in various materials and styles and cost between $130 and $150. Although some of the keys are slightly shorter, the layout never looks uncomfortable and all keys feel good. The touchpad is still one of the best for Windows 10 laptops.
Another peripheral that is unfortunately missing is the surface pen. This first-class stylus has 4096 sensitivity levels and even an integrated eraser. It costs $100 and is available in different colors. Microsoft has not designed a new version for the Surface Pro 6.
Both extras are fantastic, but we wish they were included. Without them only the half-hearted tablet mode remains, which is a disappointment compared to the devices from Apple and Google.
Of course you have the option of connecting your own keyboard or mouse via Bluetooth or USB cable.
Another change is that instead of the Pro version, only the Home version of Windows 10 is installed on the Surface Pro 6. So, if you need features like BitLocker encryption and Remote Desktop, you’ll have to buy an upgrade.
The Surface Pro 6 is a great way to replace your old laptop. It comes with a fully functional version of Windows 10, giving you access to a wide range of software. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the tablet mode, which still feels immature.
Unfortunately, the selection of apps in the Microsoft Store is very limited and the navigation of settings and app menu feels like it hasn’t been optimized for touch control. But due to the size of the Surface Pro 6, this is not such a big problem as in the Surface Go, which has to rely much more on its tablet mode.
However, we would be happy if Microsoft would finally make a serious attempt to rework the tablet mode a bit – especially if Microsoft wants to convince its customers of the concept of the 2-in-1 notebook.
The Surface Pro 6 has a decent battery life. On average, the battery lasts for eight hours when I surf the internet with Chrome and run almost ten desktop applications in the background.
This is significantly less than the thirteen and a half hours that Microsoft promises, but this value is only based on the playback of locally stored videos. But most people will use their device differently. The battery life is enough for a whole working day or for some Netflix episodes and games.
Due to the built-in Intel graphics chips, the Surface Pro 6 is not suitable for graphics-intensive games, but casual games from the Microsoft Store run without problems.
The entry-level model that we tested is equipped with an 8th-generation Intel quad-core processor – a significant improvement over last year’s model, especially when multitasking. You also have a choice of 8 or 16 GB of memory.
The Core i5-8250U is fast, but we’re a bit disappointed that Microsoft hasn’t chosen a newer Intel chip from the Whiskey Lake U range. The built-in Kaby-Lake-R processor is already almost a year old. It is fast enough, but lacks some new features that can only be found in Intel’s latest chip models. Among them are features like faster clock rates and Gigabit-WiFi.
With the Surface Pro 6, you can work all day in the office and then use it in tablet mode on your way home on the bus.
The Surface Pro 6 is not a gaming machine, nor does it pretend to be one.
As it turns out, the upgrade to Intel’s integrated UHD 620 graphics chip provides a slight performance improvement over the HD 620, but this can only be seen in synthetic benchmarks, and it doesn’t affect the actual gameplay.
Because it is a tablet, the Surface Pro 6 is only conditionally suitable for games. The iPad Pro would be a better choice here, as it not only has a huge selection of games but also a good deal of graphics performance.
The biggest disappointment in our test was Fortnite. The game now even runs on the smartphone – on the iPad it even runs great – but on the Surface Pro 6 things look different. Although it was relatively playable at around 30 frames per second, we had to screw the graphics settings down completely.
The forward facing stereo speakers sound very good, considering that the Surface Pro 6 is just a laptop. They’re great for watching movies and can even fill an entire room with music.
I love how versatile and light the Surface Pro is. But using it on your lap is still a bit uncomfortable, because the folding stand can be a bit painful after a while.
I would also like Microsoft to tweak the display edges of the Surface Pro a little. Although they are much narrower and less noticeable than on the Surface Go, many other laptops now have even thinner edges.
If you are still using a Surface Pro 3 and are looking for a newer model, the Surface Pro 6 will be noticeably better. It’s lightweight, portable, and gives you the full power of desktop applications and Windows 10, and when it comes to Windows devices, despite similar alternatives, there’s nothing really comparable.
Microsoft has taken the lead when it comes to 2-in-1 notebooks, but is now in danger of being overtaken by the competition. Apple is still selling the MacBook Air after years, although most manufacturers have long since surpassed this design.
Although the Surface Pro 6 lacks a few modern connectors and the design may look very familiar, it is still the top of the range of 2-in-1 devices, which is why the Surface Pro 6 is ranking first versus Surface Go.
Ranking Second: Microsoft Surface Go
- Strong display
- Better Price than Surface Pro 6
- High quality components
- Windows 10 in S-Mode
The Surface Go is Microsoft’s smallest surface tablet. It is light and handy, but still usable as a full Windows system. The Intel Pentium CPU and the bright display do a surprisingly good job. However, we would leave the type cover alone for the time being.
Tablets in the 10 inch form factor are not yet passé: Microsoft wants to prove this with the Surface Go. Microsoft already tried to establish itself on the market dominated by iOS and Android a few years ago.
The Surface 3 with Windows 8.1 was able to convince Techtestreport qualitatively, but was quite expensive and the operating system was not up to the competition. Microsoft concentrated on the Surface Pro series for the time being.
After three years the Surface Go is now a new attempt. In the basic version it is available for $500, while the intellectual predecessor cost $600.
The mentioned prices don’t include the clip-on keyboard, which Microsoft calls Type Cover again. It costs, like the separate Surface Pen, $130 extra. The system has one advantage: the tablet market for Android and iOS devices is oversaturated and public interest is comparatively low.
A Windows 10 tablet is a refreshing new addition. It turns out that the Surface Go is actually quite suitable for some purposes. The fully-fledged Windows 10 Home is an important factor here. Compared to Android devices or the iPad, the Surface Go looks rather clumsy, though.
If we place the small 10-inch surface unit right next to a 12-inch Surface Pro 3, things look quite different: The Surface Go is noticeably more handy and can be held in one hand quite easily.
This is not least due to its rather low weight of 1.14 lbs. For comparison, we put the Surface Pro 3 on the scale, which comes to 802 grams. However, the weight does not come close to a 10.5 inch iPad with 1.05 lbs.
The Surface Go is also quite thick for such a small device. The case is with 9 millimeters as high as the Surface Pro 3 that is several years old, which is doubly regrettable when we look at the connections on the device: Microsoft only uses a single USB type C port.
A USB-A port is missing. If an identically thick Surface Pro 3 has room for such a USB port, why not also the smaller version? At least we can also insert a micro SD card into a slot behind the stand of the Surface Go.
The grey and angular look of the Surface Go is, like all devices of the Surface series, a matter of taste. The very good workmanship of the case has the tablet in common with other representatives of the series.
The magnesium-coated surface feels pleasant to the touch. Another definite plus is the infinitely adjustable folding stand, which we have already welcomed in other Surface Pro units.
The optionally available type cover is also very well made. It is covered with the textile Alcantara – similar to the Surface Laptop. That feels nice and soft. However, we are also concerned that the fabric will wear and get dirty over time.
Keyboard & Touchpad
Writing on the miniature version of the type cover takes some getting used to and even after several hours we still miss a larger keyboard. Microsoft tries to keep the standard keys as large as possible, while input keys such as Tab, Return or the backspace key become proportionally smaller.
Because the type cover is relatively thin, the keys always give a little when pressed, which makes the typing feel spongy. At the same time, we find the keystroke pressure too high – annoying.
A consolation is at least the well usable touchpad. Because Windows 10 can best be operated in standard mode with cursor and not with the finger. The keyboard is also illuminated. So we can write in darker rooms if necessary.
Nevertheless: We wouldn’t call the type cover a compulsory purchase, as it is the case with the larger Surface Pro. At least, writing on it for a long time doesn’t give us any pleasure.
The Surface Go is – as is now common for the series – equipped with a pen digitizer that recognizes the optional Surface Pen. We can also use it to operate the Wacom Bamboo Ink, which supports the Microsoft Pen Protocol.
However, the input pen of the older Surface Pro 3 does not work anymore. Nevertheless, owners of a Surface Go should get a pen.
Because the tablet can be used very well as a digital writing pad due to its rather small form factor. Native Microsoft apps like Onenote or other x86 programs like Autodesk Sketchbook work smoothly and without problems on the Surface Go.
We also like the display resolution of at least 1,800 x 1,200 pixels, so that our lines don’t fray on the panel. The device can be used as a mini drawing tablet due to the stand.
If we use sophisticated software such as Adobe Photoshop on the Surface Go, we should bear in mind, however, that the RAM is very limited, especially in the cheap version. Large pictures or motifs quickly exceed the limit of 4 GByte RAM.
The Pentium Gold CPU from Intel, which is built into the device, seems to be quite weak in theory. Appearances can be deceptive.
At least in the US, both versions of the Surface Go have a Pentium Gold 4415Y from Intel installed. The chip is based on the already older Kaby-Lake architecture. The two cores with hyperthreading clock with 1.6 GHz as standard.
With a standard TDP of six watts, the SoC doesn’t need a fan, which we like very much. Despite the passive cooling, the tablet isn’t even excessively hot under full load. We measured a maximum of about 75 degrees.
Nevertheless: The small chip performs relatively poorly in benchmarks. In the CPU benchmark, Cinebench R15, it scores just under 160 multi-core points and thus still under a six-year-old Core i5-3317U.
During the test, the system draws about 14 watts of power from the mains. Although the Pentium Gold feels like it takes an eternity for a Cinebench run, the CPU delivers a good performance in various applications.
When surfing the web or writing in Libre Office, the performance is completely sufficient. This also applies to writing and drawing in Autodesk Sketchbook and Microsoft Onenote in native resolution.
Even Adobe Photoshop works satisfactorily and only jerks slightly with large files of 4,000 x 4,000 pixels, although this program is more suitable for the more expensive version of Surface Go due to the memory requirements. This is also true when we open many tabs in Google’s Chrome browser.
Our advice for owners of the small version: Image files in native resolution of max. 1,800 x 1,200 pixels can also be processed with less RAM. In addition, not too many programs should run in parallel.
The one or other game on the Surface Go is also possible with some restrictions in the graphics settings. As a classic tablet game, we try out the performance of the Intel CPU and the integrated graphics unit with Minecraft for Windows 10: No jerking, no faltering – quite a surprise for us. It gets more interesting when we try out more demanding titles.
Blizzard’s multiplayer shooter Overwatch is not necessarily a game for this class of devices. But the fact that we can use it at all shows the superiority of a full Windows 10 over mobile operating systems like iOS and Android, at least in the gaming area.
And it doesn’t even work badly: in native resolution and at medium details the tablet still reaches 40 fps. The title runs really smoothly with 59 fps at low graphic details.
The Surface Go’s touchscreen also entices us to play the card game Hearthstone, which is playfully very well suited for a tablet. The system reaches 48 fps in high details. However, some animations jerk noticeably, for example when the portrait of our opponent explodes after a lost match.
It’s important that we set the CPU in the Windows task bar to the default setting of maximum performance. In Hearthstone this makes a big difference: In energy saving mode, only 18 fps can be achieved on high graphic quality.
The Surface Go’s SSD is, as expected, brisk in the more expensive version. It’s the Toshiba KBG30ZMT128G with 128 GByte capacity and NVMe interface in the M.2 form factor. The drive achieves a maximum of 1,270 MByte/s in sequential reading and 704 MByte/s in writing.
The low-cost version relies on 64 GByte eMMC flash memory, which should be considerably slower. Usually the transfer rates there are slightly above HDD level in the range of 100 MByte/s read rate, which is still sufficient in most applications.
One thing can be said with certainty: We should decide beforehand which hardware configuration we need. The hardware of the Surface Go is completely soldered and neither RAM nor mass storage can be expanded or exchanged. However, this is not surprising for a tablet.
For the screen of the Surface Pro we give a plus point: we measure a brightness of maximum 455 candelas per square meter.
Therefore, the reflective display doesn’t disturb much at full brightness. We measured a minimum value of 399 cd/m² at the lower left corner of the panel. We can’t see the difference with the naked eye.
The hardly common resolution of 1,800 x 1,200 pixels is however a problem in games: Hearthstone and Overwatch show black bars at the edges because they can’t scale the resolution to the full picture. Hearthstone does not even offer them.
In our opinion, the battery is a little too small for a compact tablet. Our runtime tests show this: We achieved a runtime of 8:49 hours in the less demanding productivity test in the Futuremark benchmark, Powermark, which simulates typing, video chat and web browsing. The Pcmark 8 simulates a slightly higher load, including casual gaming. After 4:21 hours it’s over.
In the Netflix continuous run of the sci-fi series The Expanse, the Surface Go comes up to the ninth episode of the first season: 5:59 hours. We tested this with WiFi enabled and a display brightness of 200 cd/m².
These are values that would be okay for a conventional notebook. However, we expect a bit more runtime on a mobile 10 inch tablet.
The Surface Go is one of the few full-featured tablets that ship with Windows 10. The operating system has several advantages over Android and iOS. We can install Photoshop on the small device, use 3D modeling programs like Blender, set up an integrated development environment or try out full-fledged PC games.
Using the pen and tablet mode works quite well even without a keyboard. Windows 10’s handwriting recognition is now quite mature and can be helpful for search queries or typing URLs.
But the Surface Go can’t do without the conventional desktop mode either, for example when we want to make some system settings. The usability as a pure touch device doesn’t quite reach the seamless user interface of an Android or iOS.
Moreover, the Microsoft Store is still not a big competitor to its Google and Apple counterparts, although it has already filled up noticeably.
The Surface Go has Windows 10 Home in S mode pre-installed. Although this version, which is limited to the Microsoft Store, makes little sense for almost any user, we can understand Microsoft’s decision. The S mode is practical when we give a Surface Go to our less IT-savvy family members.
They cannot accidentally install malware, bloatware or other software. The S-Mode can be switched once and irrevocably to a full Windows 10 Home. This is easy, free and fast via the store, but only with a Microsoft account.
The Surface Go fills the niche of 10-inch Windows tablets, which was not served after the low success of the Surface 3 in Microsoft’s product range. The device fulfils this role well. At 520 grams, it is pleasantly light and at the same time as excellently manufactured as the Surface Pro and other devices in the series.
Unfortunately, the device lacks a USB-A port, which would certainly have found room due to the rather large case thickness. A USB type C and a MicroSD card reader are available. The foldable stand known from other Surface devices is again included and a plus.
The Surface Go’s panel has a sufficiently high resolution of 1,800 x 1,200 pixels. The brightness is very good with 450 cd/m². There is also a pen digitizer on which we can also use a Wacom Bamboo Ink.
The Go is particularly suitable as a drawing instrument or digital notepad thanks to its handy form factor. With Windows 10, we can also install the full-fledged software we are familiar with, such as Adobe Photoshop.
The performance of the Pentium Gold 4415Y is only quite modest in theory. It is convincing in Photoshop, Autodesk Sketchbook, Microsoft Office and Onenote. Even various games like Hearthstone, Minecraft and Overwatch work well in native resolution on reduced details.
The nice thing is that Windows 10 allows the installation of full PC games. However, we should pay attention to the RAM. Games and programs like Photoshop quickly exceed 4 GByte capacity. You shouldn’t open too many applications at once on the cheap version of the tablet.
We are not very convinced by the Surface Go’s type cover. The keyboard is simply too small and yields slightly when typing, so that writing is not much fun. This accessory is not a must buy. However, we recommend a stylus.
The battery life is also okay for a tablet of this size, but below average: After six hours of Netflix in a row, it’s over. A maximum of about 8:49 hours is possible with light typing.
Nevertheless: The Surface Go is well made, fast and very versatile due to Windows 10 – a recommendation for users who find a Surface Pro 6 too expensive or too big and who draw, write, surf the internet or play a game on the train. Those who write a lot prefer to buy the Surface Pro 6.