Microsoft Surface Go 4 vs. Surface Go 3: Is the business refresh a winner?

Microsoft Surface Go 4 on a gradient background next to Microsoft Surface Go 3 on a desk
(Image credit: Microsoft)

After the Surface Go 3 inspired our reviewer to question whether Microsoft should continue the product line at all, the Surface Go 4 doesn't have a high bar to clear to win this one. 

If you were to judge it by looks alone you are going to be extremely concerned as not much has changed, but before you click away, the design and display weren't our problems with the previous model, it was the terrible performance and battery life, and Microsoft at least appears to have addressed those. The big wildcard with the Surface Go 4 is that it is officially the Surface Go 4 for Business and is being exclusively marketed to companies.

We'll update this face-off with our actual lab results once we get our hands on it, but for now here's a look at the Surface Go 4 vs. Surface Go 3 based on the specs, pricing, design and more.

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Surface Go 4 vs. Surface Go 3
Row 0 - Cell 0 Surface Go 4Surface Go 3
Starting priceTBD$399
ProcessorsIntel N200Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y, Intel Core i3-10100Y
Display10.5 inches (1920 x 1280 pixels)10.5 inches (1920 x 1280 pixels)
Battery LifeTBD6:50
Storage64, 128, or 256GB64 or 128GB
Weight with keyboard1.2 pounds1.2 pounds
Size9.6 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches9.6 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches
PortsUSB-C, headphone jack, Surface ConnectUSB-C, headphone jack, Surface Connect

Surface Go 4 vs. Surface Go 3: Value and configurations

The Surface Go 3 started at $400 and came with a low-end Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y processor, Intel UHD Graphics 615, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. If you wanted a faster CPU, you had to shell out $230 more for the 8th Gen Intel Core m3-8100Y variant with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. The most expensive configuration ($729) featured the same specs, but comes with LTE support.

We are still waiting on the official pricing for the Surface Go 4 as Microsoft isn't marketing it to consumers, but safe bet it will bump up to at least $500. The Intel N200 CPU is the only options paired with 8GB of RAM and either 64, 128, or 256GB of storage.

Type Cover Keyboards, which help transform the Surface Go 3 and 3 tablets into laptops are $130.

Winner: Undecided. We need the official pricing on the Go 4, but given the outdated specs on the Go 3, unless Microsoft prices the Go 4 at over $600 it's going to be an easy win for the Go 4.

Microsoft Surface Go 3 review

Microsoft Surface Go 3 (Image credit: Future)

Surface Go 4 vs. Surface Go 3: Design  

If you were looking for a head-to-toe makeover on the Go 4, you're going to be disappointed, as good luck telling it apart from its predecessor. It features the same silver magnesium body with the same obsolete, thick bezels that wrap around the 10.5-inch display. Though I’d prefer thinner bezels, considering it is a tablet first there's at least some excuse for it here so you have room to hold it. On the top edge, you’ll find a volume rocker and a power button. The bottom features connecting pins for the optional Type Cover keyboard.

Both the Surface Go 3 and 4 have a built-in kickstand that offers a 165-degree range of motion, allowing the tablets to be propped up or converted into laptop mode with the Type Cover keyboard. A lustrous Microsoft logo can be found glimmering on the back of both tablets. They also have identical camera pairs: a 5-megapixel front-facing camera that supports 1080p video and a 8-megapixel, auto-focus, rear-facing camera.

The one big change for the Go 4 is that the display, battery, kickstand, and motherboard are all now replaceable making it a much more serviceable laptop, which makes perfect sense given its new all-business focus.

Microsoft Surface Go 3 review

Microsoft Surface Go 3 (Image credit: Future)

The Surface Go 3 and Go 4 are ideal for frequent travelers or those that need to haul the 2-in-1 around the office or worksite constantly at only 1.2 pounds and 9.6 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches.

Winner: Surface Go 4

 Surface Go 4 vs. Surface Go 3: Ports 

Once again, the Surface Go 3 and Surface Go 4 are identical in this round.

Microsoft Surface Go 3 review

Microsoft Surface Go 3 ports (Image credit: Future)

Both sport the same ports: a headphone jack, a USB-C input and a Surface Connector. You’ll also find a microSD card slot under the kickstand. LTE models have a nano-SIM tray located on the left side (under the kickstand).

Winner: Draw

Surface Go 4 vs. Surface Go 3: Display 

As mentioned, the Surface Go 4 and 3 have the same 10.5-inch, PixelSense, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display with 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution. Both serve up a screen-to-body ratio of 76.5%.

We'll find out in our testing whether the Go 4 display actually has an edge on the Go 3, but I wouldn't count on any massive differences.

Winner: Draw

Surface Go 4 vs. 3: Keyboard and stylus 

If there’s one aspect of the Surface Go line that Microsoft gets right, it’s the optional Type Cover Keyboard that transforms the Windows tablet into a mobile, lightweight laptop. It’s a shame that Microsoft doesn’t ship the Go 4 and Go 3 with the detachable keyboard. A Type Cover-less Surface Go experience doesn’t sound very fun —  the on-screen keyboard isn’t efficient (especially for high-productivity workflows).

Spanning less than 10 inches from key to key, the first thought that comes to mind is, “Will I feel comfortable typing on the Type Cover keyboard?” On one hand, the keys are surprisingly clicky and provide satisfactory tactile feedback. The 3.8 x 2.2-inch, smooth glass touchpad is small, but adequate and responsive to Windows gestures, including pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling. 

On the other hand, the Type Cover’s inability to remain fixed while you’re typing on it is a common complaint. The keyboard also feels cramped and is unsuitable for large-handed users. On the plus side, if you’re a frequent traveler, the miniature keyboard forces you to “stay in your lane,” so you won’t irk nearby passengers by accidentally elbowing them.

Microsoft Surface Go 3

Microsoft Surface Go 3 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

You can also add an optional stylus to the Surface Go 3 and 4 experience, but it’s not a must-have unless you have an affinity for sketching or taking notes. The Surface Pen has 4,096 pressure points. It also has a tail eraser, a customizable button and supports tilt for shading.

Winner: Draw

Surface Go 4 vs. Surface Go 3: Performance 

This is where we expect to see the biggest difference between these two, but we'll need to wait for our lab test results to see how significant of a jump it is. While it's disappointing that Microsoft didn't give it 13th-gen chips, it's still a two-generation jump from the 10th-gen in the Go 3 to the 12th-gen in the Go 4.

There's no question that the Go 4 will win, just a question of by how much.

Winner: Surface Go 4 

Microsoft Surface Go 3 review

Microsoft Surface Go 3 (Image credit: Future)

Surface Go 4 vs.  Surface Go 3: Battery life 

Microsoft boasted that the Surface Go 3 would offer “all day battery life” and up to 11 hours of “typical device usage.” Our results could not have disagreed more with the Surface Go 3 tapping out after 6 hours and 50 minutes on our test that involves continuously surfing the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits.

Microsoft's claimed "typical device usage" battery life for the Go 4 is 12.5 hours, so we're at least hoping to see something closer to that, as the Go 2 was a battery sipper delivering 11 hours and 39 minutes in our test. The more efficient 12th Gen Intel chip should help there, but again we'll wait for the test results to tell the final tale of the tape.

Winner: Draw

Overall winner

The Surface Go 4 for Business clearly comes out on top even before we have the final pricing and some of the lab tests, but the shift to a business focus from its mainstream appeal with the last model makes things a little messier.

Given that we have never recommended the Go 3, the real question for potential Surface Go 4 shoppers is whether the slight updates have made it competitive with other affordable business 2-in-1 laptops.

Based on what we've seen so far I'm doubtful that Microsoft has done enough to keep it relevant beyond the most diehard of Surface fans. Maybe the lab results and review will surprise us, but if you are in the market for a new business laptop right now I would recommend perusing our best business laptops and making a selection from there rather than rolling the dice on the Surface Go 4. 

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more. 

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