Surface Go vs. Surface Pro

Is it worth spending more for the Surface Pro, or is the Surface Go good enough?

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In fleshing out its tablet range with the new Surface Go — a $400 2-in-1 laptop unveiled July 9 — Microsoft is looking to offer a decidedly cheaper option for prospective Surface buyers.

But how does the Surface Go measure up to its bigger brother, the Surface Pro? Is it worth spending that bit extra, or can you get what you need with the lower-cost option? In this head to head, we pitted the Surface Go versus the Surface Pro to find out where the best value for money lies.

Design

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

We call the Surface Pro the best Windows 2-in-1 you can buy for good reason. It sports a fantastic chassis that’s sleek and sturdy with a solid, premium feel to it. It’s a little heavier than the Surface Go and measures up at nearly a couple of inches longer, but that doesn’t detract from it being a versatile, compact device. It has a great hinge that lets it fold out to almost flat (165-degrees) with the kickstand and you can always flip the keyboard around for full tablet mode when needed.

The Surface Go is comparable in almost every way and looks near identical. You’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart by look or feel, and it’s hard to tell at first glance where the Surface Pro’s enhanced price tag comes from. You do have a smaller screen — 10-inches versus 12.3-inches on the Pro — but both sport great little keyboards and touchpads (not bundled in, unfortunately). The keyboard on the Go really impressed us enough that we’d happily say it’s the best 10-inch keyboard we’ve ever used, but at that form-factor, it’s just not as comfortable over long periods as the larger, but arguably inferior quality, Pro keyboard. In both cases, you have to pay extra for that input option.

In terms of connectivity, the Pro shows its age a little by offering a traditional USB-A 3.0 port, alongside a microSDXC card reader, miniDisplayPort output, Surface port for power, and a headphone jack. The Surface Go changes that up for a single USB-C port, a microSDXC card reader, and a headphone jack.

Performance

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Internal hardware is where you stop wondering why the Surface Pro is a more costly device. It’s significantly more powerful. Where the Surface Go starts at $400 and sports an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y dual-core processor with up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage space, the Surface Pro has much more impressive choices to pick from. Where the $800 base model comes with an Intel Core m3 processor — which the Pentium Gold chip should pull slightly ahead of — from there things get far more interesting. For an extra couple of hundred dollars, you get a quad-core Core i5 CPU, and if your budget allows it, there are options for a Core i7 CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, and a TB of storage space.

The Surface Pro is also available today with LTE Advanced connectivity, while we’re told that the Surface Go will be available with that as an option further down the line.

The Surface Pro’s display is more impressive too. Coming in at 12.3-inches, it has a resolution of 2,736 × 1,824 resolution, with a pixel density of 267 pixels-per-inch (PPI). In comparison, the Surface Go offers an 1,800 x 1,200 display with a PPI of 217. While both displays look great, it’s hard to argue that the significantly greater density of pixels on the Pro doesn’t look better.

While the Surface Pro is the more expensive device in almost all configurations, that gets you a more powerful system and one that can do far more than the basic, general-computing tasks of most Surface Go configurations.

Portability

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What the Surface Go lacks in power, it makes up for in portability. It’s a smaller device at 10-inches at its broadest point, where the Surface Pro measures 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33-inches. It’s also lighter, weighing just 1.15 pounds, while the Pro tips the scales at up to 1.73 pounds with the weightiest hardware configuration. Both tablets are very portable, but if you plan to lug one around all day, the Go is the noticeably lighter device.

The Go may struggle to last as long as the Pro on a single charge though. While the Surface Go is said to manage around nine hours of general computing, the Surface Pro is rated for up to 13.5-hours. In our testing it managed more than 10-hours of constant video looping, so it will easily make it through a full workday and then some. We have some misgivings about whether the Go can do the same.

Pay for the Pro

Surface Plus
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

If you’re considering both devices in this head to head, you should almost certainly opt for the Pro. While its price tag is higher, its hardware configuration far outstrips the Surface Go. They might look roughly the same, but the higher-resolution display, more powerful processor, and lengthier battery life make the Surface Pro an all-around better convertible table than its cheaper, newer counterpart.

The Surface Go is a decent little device, but it’s more suited to competing with the likes of Apple’s iPad than it is with the Surface Pro. If you can afford it, buy the Pro. You won’t be disappointed.

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