Surface Go Benchmarked: Better Than Most Sub-$500 Laptops

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Starting at $399 ($599 with keyboard), the 10-inch Surface Go is designed to be a secondary PC, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't care about its performance.microsoft surface go 013

To gauge just how much oomph you're getting for your money, we benchmarked the two configurations of the Surface Go and compared the results against competing budget laptops and the entry-level iPad.

The starting $399 Surface Go features a Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage, while the $549 model offers the same CPU but bumps up the RAM to 8GB and comes with a 128GB SSD. Here's the results so far.

Geekbench 4

  Geekbench 4 Score
Surface Go (4GB) 3749
Surface Go (8GB) 3900
Asus E403NA 3849
Lenovo Flex 6 11 3072
iPad (9.7 inch) 5983
Budget Laptop Average 3159

Geeekbench 4 is a benchmark that measures overall performance, and on this test, the $399 Surface Go scored 3,749. The $549 8GB model hit a slightly-higher 3,9oo. The average budget laptop or 2-in-1 that's under $400 scores 3,159 on Geekbench 4, so both Surface Go models are above average.

The $349 Asus E403NA, which features an Intel Pentium N4200 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of eMMC storage, scored in the middle of the two Surface Go units at 3,849. The Lenovo Flex 6 11, a budget 2-in-1 with an Intel Celeron N4000 CPU, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage, notched a lower 3,072.

What about the iPad Pro and iPad? The A10X Fusion processor inside the 10.5-inch iPad Pro ($649) reached a sky-high 9,233 on Geekbench 4. The A10 Fusion-powered iPad, which starts at $329, also outperformed the Surface Go with a mark of 5,983.

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited (Graphics)

  3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited
Surface Go (4GB) 41,060
Surface Go (8GB) 41,552
Asus E403NA 14,935
Lenovo Flex 6 11 25,678
iPad (9.7 inch) 52,353
Budget Laptop Average 21,516

 If you want to play games between meetings or classes, the Surface Go offers nearly double the graphics performance of the typical budget laptop or 2-in-1, but the iPad is even more powerful.

On 3DMark Ice Store Unlimited, the 4GB and 8GB versions of Microsoft's tablet were neck and neck at 41,060 and 41,552, so you shouldn't notice much of a difference between the two configurations. The average budget laptop score is a lowly 21,516.

The iPad is the champ here, as it scored over 10,000 points higher than the Surface Go, but at least the Surface Go was much faster than its Windows brethren.

Productivity (Excel)

Surface Go (4GB) 4:45
Surface Go (8GB) 4:42
Asus E403NA 5:56
Budget Laptop Average 7:15

For our productivity test, we use a macro to match 65,000 names and addresses in Excel, and both Surface Go devices performed well. The 4GB and 8GB models finished within a few seconds of each other at 4 minutes and 45 seconds and 4:42, respectively. The iPad doesn't run this test, but the Surface Go was considerably faster than the Flex 6 11 and the budget laptop average.

Storage (File Copy)

Surface Go (4GB) 87.74 MBps
Surface Go (8GB) 87.74 MBps
Asus E403NA 33.3 MBps
Lenovo Flex 6 11 35.8 MBps
Budget Laptop Average 44.22 MBps

If you're wondering whether the 128GB drive in the more premium Surface Go is any faster than the 64GB of eMMC storage in the entry-level model, you may be disappointed to learn that they offer the same file copy rate of 87.74 megabytes per second. This is based on our file copy test, in which we duplicate 4.97 GB worth of files on the system.

On the plus side, the Surface Go was nearly three times as fast as competing Windows laptops, and it's about twice as speedy as the average budget laptop.

Display: Brightness and Color Gamut

  Brightness Color Gamut (sRGB)
Surface Go (4GB) 404 nits 129.2 percent
Surface Go (8GB) 404 nits 129.2 percent
Asus E403NA 213 nits 69 percent
Lenovo Flex 6 11 206 nits 71 percent
iPad (9.7 inch) 489 nits 119 percent
Budget Laptop Average 245 nits 87 percent

There's the Surface Go and iPad, and then there's everything else. The displays on Microsoft's and Apple's tablets are in their own league compared to the budget Windows competition. At 404 nits, the Surface Go's panel is very bright, even though it falls behind the iPad's 489 nits. 

The panels on the Asus E403NA (213 nits) and Flex 6 11 (206 nits) are very dim by comparison.

When it comes to color reproduction, the Surface Go is tops, as it registered 129.2 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That beats the iPad (119 percent) and wipes the floor with the Asus and Lenovo, which were both near 70 percent.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Surface Go is faster than competing budget Windows laptops on most tests, especially graphics and its storage. However, the iPad is even more powerful on some tests. Where the Surface Go really separates itself from the value-priced Windows pack is its bright and colorful display.

Just don't think about using the Surface Go for heavy-duty tasks like video editing. We don't typically run our demanding video test on budget systems but just to see how it would perform we used the Surface Go to transcode a 4K video to 1080p, and it took nearly an hour. A powerful ultraportable like the Dell XPS 13 takes just 16 minutes to do the same task.

So, assuming if you can live with a relatively small 10-inch screen, the Surface Go should give you the pep you need for everyday tasks along with a great-looking screen.

 

 

 

 

 

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
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4 comments
  • Lorenzo Says:

    @malaheo I think there is in fact a difference between SSD and EMMC, as shown here: https://www.windowscentral.com/surface-go-64gb-emmc-speed-test.

    But if you look at the chart in the link, the write speeds are very similar, hence the similar performance in the copy tests above (since copying involves both reading and writing). I think the difference will really show when you're loading programs and doing other tasks directly affected by read speeds.

  • Scott Says:

    Yeah, I'm not really believing the whole "budget laptop" argument here. Get the better (much more functional) model with a keyboard and pen, and suddenly, the price goes up to $950 CAD.

    Really not seeing the "budget" here.

    I just purchased a surface go, and honestly, I'm thinking about returning it. More ram and faster SSD doesn't save the shitty Pentium processor.

  • maleheo Says:

    I find it hard to believe that there's no difference between SSD and EMMC storage. Can you run read speed tests?

  • jay teare Says:

    Thanks, been trying to find anyone who has actually tested the base model... Everyone is saying buy the next model up, can't see why. I have a asus transformer mini and its great, it runs Photoshop, CAD software, Sketchup while still having mail, edge open with loads of tabs and streaming music... And this has an atom processor.

    I'm sold, this test, being better than my Asus and knowing that my wife's Surface Pro is very well built, makes me wanna get the base model now.

    Don't suppose you wanna give your away to a poor teacher who has to buy his own laptop???

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