My new Surface Go

It's probably not that easy to understand, why I (as a strong Linux advocate) bought a Microsoft Surface Go and use Windows on it, but let me try to explain…

In about one week the new semester at university begins and I thought about how to take notes during lectures. The last years I often used my normal laptop (a ThinkPad Yoga S1, a convertible, running Linux) but was very distracted sometimes. I thought about getting a tablet where I can take notes more easily. Something like an Apple iPad. Or a Microsoft Surface.

I thought a lot, compared different options, read reviews and watched videos. In the end I opted for the Microsoft Surface Go.

My top reasons were:

  • It's usable as a real computer (no golden cage like the iPad or maybe even some Android tablets). I can run all software needed.
  • The price is ok (definitely not cheap, but with signature type cover and the Surface Pen it's probably a bit cheaper than the iPad with type cover and Apple Pencil) - on a side note: It's twice as expensive as my new PC.
  • Other students were using Surfaces too and they liked them.
  • OneNote seems to be a great software for note taking, in the past I used Xournal on Linux but it has a lot of potential for improvements.
  • Windows has the Windows Subsystem for Linux and soon there's a second, more advanced version too. So it's not completely without Linux.
  • Because Microsoft produces both, the hard- and software, it should play nice together (the same argument often given why iPhones, iPads are great from the user experience).

So I ordered the Go in the larger version with 8 GB of memory and an 128 GB SSD with all the accessories (signature type cover, Surface Pen and a case) from the shop with the cheapest price (Amazon in this case). The hardware feels very nice and of high quality. My expectations were met and even topped a bit.

But also my Windows expectation were met. First I upgraded the installed Windows Home in S mode (that only allows you to run apps from the Microsoft Store) to Windows Pro using a student license key. But it came with a Windows version from October last year, so I wanted to upgrade it to the May version from this year. Of course it took the whole night to update. Microsoft really needs to fix the situation of updates on Windows. What I also found a bit annoying is that I had to turn off hundreds of settings to get rid of the always-listening Cortana and all the other privacy invading settings. It wasn't even possible to setup the computer without an Microsoft account (the only option would have been to remove the account after setting it up).

But because this isn't my main computer or laptop, I think I can live with Windows on it and sometimes also experience how it's on the other side - with it's bad and good points. On my work laptop there's Windows too. In some points Windows has indeed some advantages. Great system-wide dark mode support. Touch support and support for pen input is awesome. I can use the pen to input text. Whenever I use it and need to enter text, a window appears, in which I can write the text by hand and the system automatically recognizes what I wrote there (using OCR - optical character recognition). Even with my bad handwriting style.

And I don't want to start talking about fractional scaling on displays with high resolutions… (hint: It is a whole level better than on Linux.)

So far that are my first experiences with my new hardware. I will keep reporting if my idea of using it for note taking during lectures works out.

Jan-Lukas Else
20 years old student who writes about everything he cares about.