Microsoft Surface Go 3

Microsoft Surface Go 3 – a little more of the same (review)


While the Surface Pro 8 has had a substantial upgrade, the Surface Go 3 just gets a choice of two new processors – the rest is straight Surface Go 2. And you know what? That is not a bad thing – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Ironically my review of the Surface Go 2 in May 2020 was – ‘more of the same, just better. But to be fair to Microsoft, the new processors make a difference.

But before we get to the review, what about Windows 11?

Windows 10 had a facelift and a tummy tuck, and the result is a fresher, perhaps more macOS-like interface. So, at that ‘Shallow Hal’ level, it is still Window under the Surface – sorry, running on the Surface. In a few days of use, I managed to find everything I was using in Windows 10. So it just looks a little different – it is no harder to use.

The Surface Go 3 comes with Windows 11 S mode. None of our diagnostics software runs on S. It is a quick, free upgrade to Windows 11 Home via the Microsoft Store. But note that you must have a Microsoft account, and you can only set up Windows 11 with an internet connection. New features include:MS Teams – new facelift and integrated into the Taskbar

  • Virtual desktops – easy to set up multiple desktops and toggle between them
  • Better tablet layout
  • Widgets – small live versions of weather, news, calendar and much more (no more live tiles)
  • Snap Groups and layouts – easier to place and size apps on multiple desktops
  • Android Apps – soon bringing Amazon Appstore mobile apps to the desktop
  • Xbox console support for better gaming
  • More secure – faster Windows Hello logins
  • More efficient processor and power use (sleeping tabs)
  • Better memory and disk management
  • Faster and smaller updates and out-of-hours updates
  • Instant-on mode from sleep

Here is a 15-minute overview, and it is worth the time. You can jump chapters on the timeline.

Microsoft Surface Go 3

WebsiteProduct Page
ModelsIntel Pentium 6500Y 4/64 $629 and 8/128GB $849
Core i3-10100Y still coming
Special prices for students and business
OptionsType Cover $149.95
Signature Type Cover $199.95
Surface Pen $139.95
Surface Go Sleeve $119.95 Microsoft 365 1/6 people $99/129
Warranty12-months ACL
2/3/4-year Accidental Damage coverage $139amage coverage $139/200/276
60-day return policy for try before you buy
CompanyMicrosoft is an American multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services
MoreGadgetGuy Microsoft  and Surface news and reviews

First impression – small and light

It is small (245 x 175 x 8.3 mm) and eminently packable (544g without keyboard) in a purse or backpack. Yet it is a full-fat, 10.5″ touch screen Windows PC with USB-C and runs everything a laptop or desktop does – albeit a little slower.

I have been testing the Pentium 8/128GB version for a couple of weeks as my ‘production’ PC. Via a Microsoft dock, it drives 2 x 4K@30Hz monitors (or you could drive 2 x 4K@60Hz using the USB-C) and accessing all manner of Ethernet, USB-A 3.0 and USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 devices.

Sure, it is slower than the Surface Pro 7 (Pro 8 review coming), but it behaves beautifully.

But above all, the Surface pedigree remains – that excellent kickstand, the magnetically attachable Type cover, 3:2 ratio screen, and decent battery life. You can charge via the USB-C port, which means you can use a power bank battery on the go.

Why you buy

A company uses several Surface Go 2 m3 versions in a peer-to-peer network to register people on-site at conferences. The prime advantage is less setup time, and they can go anywhere.

A racing club gives stewards one to complete paperwork online and relay trackside info where there is Wi-Fi.

An executive who uses it as a Kindle reader and a portable media centre when travelling. At the hotel, hook it up via HDMI or Miracast to a TV and a stereo Bluetooth speaker for the best sound. And it has all his business apps – Office, Outlook, Teams and runs a VPN.

Road warriors – it has quite a good daylight readable screen and can be recharged via a utility socket (5V/3A/15W is slower) and finds and logs into Windows guest networks.

Students who need a lightweight, all-day Windows device.

And it’s a viable Windows alternative to a 10.5” iPad, especially with Microsoft 365 software offers.

What it is not

Sorry no IP rating, no MIL-STD and no drop tests. If you want that, spend $4K+ for a Panasonic Toughbook G2.

But it is small enough to put in a zip-lock plastic bag if you really want to read in the bath.


 It is the same screen as the Go 2 – 10.5” 1920 x 1280, 220ppi, 3:2 ratio PixelSense IPS display under Gorilla Glass 3 (BOE NV105WAM-N31. We measured 400+ nits, 1493:1 contrast, 105% sRGB, 70% DCI-P3/Adobe RGB and Delta E of 1.1 (excellent).

Gaming wise it is <40ms GTG, so it is for low frame-rate standard and browser games.

It is an SDR (standard dynamic range) screen, but it will downmix HDR (high dynamic range) streaming content. It has bright and vibrant colours and fine office or daylight use but is reflective for direct sunlight use.

Processor – 3-cylinder and a turbo

The review unit has an Intel Pentium 6500Y 14nm 1.1/3.4GHz, Amber-Lake series (GeekBench 5 single/multi-core 767/1523). There is an option (price unknown) of the Core i3-10100Y (GeekBench 5 990/1890).

These are both dual-core, four-thread, average 5W TDP (3.5-7W) and have passive cooling, so no matter what you do, it is not meant for lots of multitasking or extreme use. Under heavy use, the battery life drops by about 30% and the 50° CPU temperature cap drops the speed to about 80% on mains power and 62% on battery (Windows sets an 80% limit on battery). This has little impact on typical use.

Both processors use an Intel UHD Graphics 615 300/900MHz GPU and 23 execution units (300-1000MHZ 24 EU). It supports three displays – internal and two external to 4K@60Hz.

Memory is LPDDR4-1866 (maximum supported by the CPU) and is not expandable. My advice is to get the 8GB version unless all you need it for is light use.

The 64GB version is eMMC Flash (not tested) but the 128BG is PCIe NVMe 3.0 x 2 lane SK Hynix HFB1M8MQ331C0MR. Its sequential read/write speeds are 1600/400MBps. It also does quite well with larger files indicating a decent cache size.

The Micro-SDXC slot can take up to 1TB, but that is slower flash memory. The great thing is that Windows sees it as a fully operational drive – not just slow storage.

Battery – somewhere between 7-10 hours

Microsoft’s claim of 11 hours uses its typical use scenario at 150nits (less than half brightness). And yes, you can get that with a video loop, 50% brightness, Wi-Fi off and playing from the SSD.

Otherwise, it is a bit of a stretch, as our PCMark 10 battery tests show.

Moden Office test: 5 hours and 2 minutes

But synthetic tests aside, I found it ran out of juice at between 7-8 hours on my typical use.

Recharge times depend on whether it is in use or screen-off

  • Screen Off, 24W charger 0-100% 2 hours and eight minutes
  • Screen On, 24W charger 0-100% 3 hours and 10 minutes
  • USB-C PD maximum 25W 0-100% 2 hours (PD means the device dictates the charge needed)

You can also use a USB-C PD powerbank or 5V/3A car utility charger, and it will charge in 5 hours and 10 minutes.


It uses an Intel AX200 adapter that gives 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, 2×2 MU-MIMO, Wi-Fi 6 AX in up to VHT160 – 2.4Gbps on our reference NETGEAR AX12 router. That is seriously fast.

BT 5.0 LE is also fast at 3Mbps, and it has a good 20-30 metre transmit strength.

It held the 5Ghz signal out to 15 metres – excellent.


The Surface Go 3 has one USB-C port. Our tests show its 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) and will upstream charge at 19.44V/1./29A/25W, although it tends to slow down to 20W at about 70% charge. It also provides up to 5V/3A downstream to dongles.

The Surface Connect Ribbon charger has similar specifications to the USB-C port. It is handy as it means you don’t have to worry about upstream power.

There is a 3.5mm combo 4-pole port for mic and speakers.

And a magnetic backlit keyboard connects via pogo pins.

Expansion requires a dongle or hub. We tested with a variety of USB-C dongle with power pass through as well as a Surface Hub Dock 2 – all good.


  • Front: 5MP with IR for Windows Hello sign-in
  • Rear: 8MP sensor
  • Dual ‘studio class’ mics – whatever they were, they were adequate to a distance of about 2m.

Both cameras shoot 1080p@30fps and give a good sharp image for video conferencing. 


Just like its predecessor, the maximum volume is 73dB – fine for personal use. The sound signature is almost the same – no bass, building mids and almost flat from 500Hz to 10kHz. But it is messy (the gold curve is jagged), not well controlled, and has some distortion.

Microsoft claims 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio. Sorry, we could not find it as an app or equaliser and made the same comment for the Surface Go 2.

It has a Realtek DAC and the BT 5.0 SBC codec. It is clear and loud with our Sony WH-1000xM4 reference headphones.



While we philosophically object to paying more for the keyboard (Type Cover), or stylus we understand that this is similar to Apple – at least it comes with a charger.

The review unit came with a burgundy red Alcantara Signature type cover (backwards compatible to all Go). It is backlit, has a 1mm throw and 30g actuation. So, it is not for War and Peace, but you can thump out a letter or two. It folds up to protect the screen. The trackpad covers most of the top right to bottom left swipe.

The stylus uses Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP) which is essentially N-Trig (now owned by MS). These are active pens (battery operated), 4096 pressure points and Bluetooth connected. There is no dock.


The hinged kickstand is a Surface signature and can bend back to 165° (nearly flat). Because of its smaller footprint, it is easier to use on a plane. Gorilla Glass 3 is for scratch resistance – not drop resistance. You may find that a tempered glass screen protector is an asset. It is not IP rated, so take care with water.

GadgetGuy’s take

The Surface Go 3 is what it is – an incremental refresh of the Surface Go 2. As long as you understand that it’s a 10.5” pocketable Windows PC, you will be fine. It is also a great content consumption device.

I am a little concerned about the variable battery life; still, the ability to use a USB-C power bank to top up on the move is a bonus.

Hint: Buy the 8/128GB version (either processor) if you want to do any productivity work.


There is nothing else like the Surface Go 3 it in the Windows world, so it passes all tests, gains points for full-fat Windows connectivity and more points for working with everything.

I have tried to get the same functionality from Android and an iPad tablet. The Surface Go does it all.

The issue here is how we rate it

  • Is it a Windows alternative to an iPad Pro? Absolutely
  • Is it capable of performing all productivity and content consumption related tasks? Absolutely
  • What about the Microsoft price premium? Learn to live with it as you have Apple
  • Do you like the Surface style? Yes

So, it will rate well unless you expect i5/i7 performance from a 10.5” tablet.

Note that we have changed review scoring to enable rewards for more class-leading features. The Surface Go 2 rated 9/10, but under the new system, that is 7/10.

Microsoft Surface Go 3 full specs

NameMicrosoft Surface Go 3Surface Go 2 (last generation)
CPUDual-Core Pentium Gold 6500Y OR Core i3-10100Y Both with TPMPentium Gold 4425Y
8th Generation Core m3-8100Y
GPUSameIntel UHD Graphics 615
MemorySame4GB / 8GB LPRDD3
StorageSame64GB (eMMC) / 128GB (SSD)
DisplaySame10.5-inch PixelSense 1,920 x 1,280 dots, 220ppi, 400nits, 1,500:1, Gorilla Glass 3
Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP)
10-point Touch
Surface Pen
CameraSame5MP 1080p (front, Windows Hello compatible)
8MP 1080p (rear)
USB Type-CSameUSB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps
Card readerSameMicro-SDXC to 1TB
AudioSame3.5mm combo jack
2W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio
Enhanced dual far-field mics
Other portsSameSurface Connect ribbon 10Gbps data/video/power
Wi-FiSameWi-Fi 6 AX
(Intel AX200)
LTENot released yetSnapdragon X16 LTE
KeyboardSameSold separately
Pointing deviceSamePrecision TouchPad
on optional Surface Go Type Cover
AC adapterSame5V/1.6A/24W
Size HxWxDSame245 x 175 x 8.3 mm
Weight544g Wi-Fi544g (Wi-Fi) / 553g (LTE)
OSWindows 11 Home (S) with free upgrade to Home.Windows 10 (S mode) with a free upgrade to Home
Microsoft Surface Go 3
Surface Go 3 gets a choice of 2 new processors – the rest is Surface Go 2. It is perfect on the 'Go'.
Value for money
Ease of use
Lightweight but full-fat Windows 11
Excellent 3:2 ratio, bright screen
Windows Hello Security
SD reader for storage expansion
USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port 10Gbps for expansion
Variable battery life
Options add up to an expensive ultra-portable