The Surface Go 3 replaces the second iteration of Microsoft's hybrid tablet computer. It arrives with a new, more powerful processor and the latest Windows 11.
The Surface Go is Microsoft's entry-level 2-in-1 PC that completes a now well-rounded Surface family. For this 2021 edition, the Surface Go doesn't do anything new, except for the switch from an 8th-generation Intel processor to a 10th-generation model. Nevertheless, we put this Surface Go 3 on our test bench to check all aspects of it. In fact, we're testing the most powerful model here, equipped with an Intel Core i3, 8 GB of RAM and an SSD, but less expensive Intel Pentium versions also exist. For more powerful tablet PCs, you'll have to turn to the top of the range of the brand: the Surface Pro 8.
The design of the Surface Go 2 hasn't changed. For an entry-level model, the Surface Go 3 benefits from a very neat construction, with a magnesium chassis, but Microsoft didn't bother: the design is perfectly identical to the Surface Go 2. We find the foot on a very practical hinge that allows you to put the Surface upright on a desk, but also the 10.5-inch screen and its borders unfortunately still quite thick. Also, the glossy screen retains a lot of fingerprints; it will therefore have to be cleaned regularly.
The connectivity is still very limited and is limited to a USB-C port and a mini-jack output in addition to the proprietary magnetic connector for power. A microSD card reader is hidden under the Surface's base, but we would have liked at least one more USB-C port. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 provide fast connectivity, and both webcams shoot 1080p. The Surface Go does indeed pack a 5MP front camera and another on the back that goes up to 8MP. The front camera offers a nice image, even if in low light the result is, as always, less convincing. It is also equipped with an infrared module that allows you to use Windows Hello to unlock the screen.
With no fan system, the Surface is always perfectly silent. In use, it heats up very little, but some intensive applications such as HandBrake will make it reach more than 40°C, which could be annoying when holding it in the hands. However, the Surface Go 3 is not designed for this purpose, so heating up will normally be rare.
As a reminder, the Surface Go Type Cover keyboard - which also serves as a screen protector - is not included with the PC. However, its presence seems essential to fully enjoy the computer. It is magnetic and connects in no time to the pins on the bottom edge and offers a very satisfactory typing experience despite the smaller than normal keys. A small touchpad is also present and the keys are adorned with a 4-level adjustable backlight.
With this new iteration, the Surface Go embeds an Intel Core i3-10100Y processor, logically much faster than the Core m3 of the previous generation. The basic frequency of the processor is limited to 1.3 GHz and its TDP (Thermal Design Power) to 5 W, so you should not expect to be able to use heavy processing software or games.
The Surface got a performance rating of just 29 after our various benchmarks. On the other hand, the experience is smooth in the office, while surfing the web or watching movies. This is the primary use of the Surface Go. Note in passing that they come with Windows S, which only allows you to download applications via the Microsoft Store. However, the computer will propose to exit the S mode in a few clicks as soon as you try to install a third-party application.
The 3:2 aspect ratio of the Surface Go 3 is excellent for an entry-level PC. The Delta E of just 1.2 and the color temperature of 6230 K ensure accurate colorimetry. The contrast of 1470:1 and the maximum brightness of 456 cd/m² are also at very good levels, but it is the average reflectance of 51% that is lacking, as is often the case with touch panels. Almost a flawless performance. Finally, the occupancy rate of the screen is "only" 77% due to the thickness of the borders.
There's no need to expect a miracle from the tablet's speakers. Located on both sides of the screen, they can help you to play a video from time to time, but we can only advise you to use an external speaker or headphones.
Despite a limited power (110 mVRMS), the audio output is very good. The dynamic range is good, the distortion low (0.013%) and the crosstalk hardly noticeable (-57 dB).
Mobility / Autonomy
Needless to say, with its small size, the Surface Go 3 can be taken anywhere, especially since it weighs only 544 g. Even with the addition of the Surface Go Type Cover keyboard, it is still very practical to use at the office, standing up or on the move. Its block charger remains small and light, and you can change the power connector for US or UK compatible pins if needed (sold separately).
We were disappointed with the battery life, due to an inefficient Intel processor and a small battery. The Surface shut down after just over 6 hours during our test while playing video on Netflix and the Chrome browser, with headphones plugged in, so you'll need to connect to the mains for extended use.
The Surface Go 3 is a timid evolution of the Go 2. The new Intel processor brings better performance, but this hybrid tablet-PC is only intended for office or multimedia use. We appreciate its lightness and the possibility to use it everywhere, as well as the quality of construction and screen worthy of a high-end computer. However, the performances are far from those of the other computers we tested and the autonomy is finally quite limited. It's hard to recommend the Surface Go 3 under these conditions, unless you really need the Windows ecosystem.