Which Surface Is Right for You? Go vs Pro vs Laptop

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Microsoft's Surface notebooks give users chance to experience Windows 10 as its creators intended. But do you want the affordable Surface Go, the mainstream Surface Pro 6, the detachable Surface Book or the more-traditional Surface Laptop 2?

  Surface Go Surface Pro 6 Surface Laptop 2 Surface Book
Starting Price $399 $899 $999 $1,499
Display 10-inch, 1800 x 1200-pixel 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504-pixel 13.5-inch, 3000 x 2000-pixel
CPUs Pentium Gold 4415Y 8th Core i5, Core i7 8th Gen Core i5, Core i7 6th Gen Core i5, Core i7
Battery Life 6:06 9:20 Rated for 14.5 hours 12:29
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 615 Intel UHD Graphics 620 (i5), UHD 620 (i7) Intel UHD 620 Intel HD Graphics (i5), Nvidia GeForce (i5, i7)
Storage 64GB eMMC, 128GB SSD, 256GB SSD 128 to 1TB SSD 128 to 256GB SSD 128GB to 1TB SSD
RAM 4GB, 8GB 8GB or 16GB RAM 8GB or 16GB RAM 8 or 16GB
Weight (pounds) 1.15 pounds 1.7 pounds 2.8 pounds 3.7 pounds
Thickness (inches) 0.3 inches 0.3 inches 0.6 inches 0.9 inches
Colors Silver Silver, Matte Black Silver, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, Matte Black Silver
Keyboard $99 extra, $129 extra with Alcantara Keyboard not included, at least $129 extra Alcantara Aluminum

Each of Microsoft's laptops has its pros and cons. To help you choose, we've broken down the differences below and come up with some recommendations.

Surface Go: Best for Modest Users 

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If you're looking for a simpler system, Microsoft's latest Surface -- the Surface Go -- is right for you. Starting at $399 before its accessories -- such as detachable keyboard and pen -- the Surface Go is Microsoft's answer to iPads and Chromebooks. It's less-speedy, though, making it ideal for casual internet use, including web browsing, email writing and social media activity. 

In our Surface Go review, we found Microsoft's detachable to have an impressively colorful display, a comfortable keyboard complete with a full-on touchpad, and strong overall performance for the price. However, the 2-in-1's somewhat short battery life holds it back.

Pros: While the Surface Go feels like a well-built device, its $399 price is its strongest weapon. That's nearly half the price of the entry-level Surface Pro. And unlike the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, it features a USB Type-C port, and doesn't require Microsoft's $80 Surface Connect to USB-C Adapter.

Cons: That Intel Pentium CPU means you're not going to be running demanding apps, such as Adobe's Photoshop, smoothly on this device. Also, the Surface Go's tablet screen has pretty thick bezels, which make it look a bit outdated. Lastly, it arrives running Windows 10's S Mode, which limits you to the Windows Store apps, though that's easy to disable.

The Surface Go is available from Microsoft.

Surface Pro 6: Best for Mainstream Users and Designers

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A tablet with a kickstand that attaches to Microsoft's keyboards to form something that resembles a laptop, the Surface Pro 6 is the jack-of-all-trades in this lineup. Its battery life falls right in the middle of the Surface pack, with 9 hours and 20 minutes on a single charge.  

Microsoft's latest flagship detachable starts at $899 with a powerful Intel 8th-gen quad-core processor, and comes in a slick new matte black color scheme (unfortunately, there's still no USB-C). It's a great pick for mainstream consumers and casual artists who don't want to spend over $1,000 for a laptop.

Pros: The Surface Pro is the lightest of Microsoft's devices and one of the least expensive. It also provides the best tablet experience, as the Surface Book's detachable screen only lasts for a couple of hours on a charge when it isn't docked.

Cons: Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 6's price doesn't include a keyboard, so you'll spend at least $129 extra for an attachable Surface Type Cover ($159 for one covered in the luxurious Alcantara). And even after you buy one, it's still not as lap-friendly as the Surface Laptop and Book, which offer a more traditional design.

The Surface Pro 6 is available from Microsoft.

Surface Laptop 2: Best for Students, Business Users

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Starting at $999, the Surface Laptop 2 can only be used as a clamshell, which makes it ideal for users who don't need tablet mode at all. The latest version of Microsoft's flagship laptop promises up to 85 percent better performance with its 8th-gen Core i5 and Core i7 processor, and sports an improved keyboard built to put the MacBook to shame. The Surface Laptop 2 also introduces an attractive new matte black color option, but, like the Surface Pro 6, still lacks a USB-C port.

Pros: Students, essayists and bloggers will likely prefer the Surface Laptop, the best Microsoft notebook for typing. The Surface Pro will bounce around if you try and use its laptop-mode on your lap, and the Surface Book costs $500 more. Unlike that expensive Surface Book, the Laptop offers a cushy and hard-to-stain Alcantara-covered keyboard.

The Surface Laptop -- which comes in platinum, burgundy red, cobalt blue and matte black, is also the best option for those looking for a notebook that stands out from the crowd. The Surface Book only comes in silver (the sold-separately Type Covers for the Surface Pro are available in the same colors as the Surface Laptop, except for the gold option).

Cons: The Surface Laptop's limited design makes it the only member of the family to not offer a detachable tablet display (though its screen supports ten-finger touch input). You also have to spend at least $1,299 to get it with what we consider decent specs: a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Also, those fancy colors are also restricted to the $1,299 model.

The Surface Laptop 2 is available from Microsoft.

Surface Book: Best for Video Editors, Anyone with Deep Pockets

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The Surface Book is the best of the bunch, earning its higher price. Not only does its detachable design give you a real laptop (no kickstand here) and a full-fledged tablet, but it's the Surface with the most graphics power, which many creative professionals require. So, if you can afford to spend at least $1,499, this is your best choice. And if you need to do professional video editing or 3D modeling, you'll have to get the Surface Book with Performance Base, which starts at $2,399.

Pros: The Surface Book provides the best of both worlds: a high-res tablet that you can use on its own and a notebook that balances well on your lap. It also has over 12 hours of battery life if you use it with an integrated GPU.

Unlike every other Microsoft notebook, the Surface Book can also be purchased with a discrete graphics card. Video editors can get the notebook with an Nvidia 965m GPU, which reached 78.5 fps on the Cinebench OpenGL graphics test, a rate more than twice as fast as we saw in systems with Intel integrated Iris graphics.

Cons: Starting at $1,499 without discrete graphics, $1,899 with a low-end GPU and $2,399 with an Nvidia 965m chip, the Surface Book is restricted to those with a mountain of cash to burn. Also, annoyingly for this price, it's still rocking generation Intel 6th Gen CPUs while its siblings have already stepped up to 7th Generation Core processors.

The Surface Book is available for purchase from Microsoft.

Laptop Guide

Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
Henry is a senior writer at Laptop Mag, covering security, Apple and operating systems. Prior to joining Laptop Mag — where he's the self-described Rare Oreo Expert — he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. You can find him at your local pro wrestling events, and wondering why Apple decided to ditch its MagSafe power adapters.
Henry T. Casey, on
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