Surface go – for note taking

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Hi – i have purchased a surface go for taking notes and using for travelling – if you want me to answer any questions or run any tests let me know. To date I have been using an Ipad Pro so can give you thoughts and comparisons if it helps 🙂

Comments (38)

38 responses to “Surface go – for note taking”

  1. Paul Thurrott

    I have a question. You own an iPad Pro. And ... you bought a Surface Go? Why? :)

    • markiehill

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      Paul - simple really - I travel a lot and I wanted one device that could do everything. My job as a senior manager means that I can be editing a PowerPoint , loading a PowerPivot model or updating spreadsheets (forecasts etc). Lack of mouse support on an iPad makes things that should be easy hard (not to mention office features like PowerBI that do not run on IOS). The lure of having one device that I can use for everything without too many compromises and it being lightweight and easy to fly with is what made me take the plunge. So far I have found it is sadly the software rather than the hardware that lets the device down !


      • BigM72

        In reply to markiehill:

        You wrote you already had a surface pro 3 as well...so you only carry this device now and not the Pro 3?


        Given battery life is no better than Pro 3. Is the drop in screen and keyboard size and performance worth the savings in weight?

        • markiehill

          In reply to BigM72:

          The surface pro 3 is pretty horrid and I have had two - it's too big to take notes effectively and the fans are continuously running and noisy , it also randomly doesn't sleep properly and ends up dead in my bag. So far the go just works . Yes for me so far the trade offs are worth it.


  2. Michael_Miller

    FWIW, I have tried using one device for all, a Surface Pro, (actually, I have had viturally all Surface products at one time or another), and I have discovered, sadly enough, it doesn’t work very well, too big and heavy for all uses even though it can do it all. So, now I carry two devices, a Surface Pro for work and an IPAD Pro mostly for consumption although I use it also for emails (work and personal) and note taking which syncs up nicely with my Surface Pro using OneNote. Don’t think taking the Surface Go as one device for work travel will do the job as it is too slow and battery life is quite limited for work related tasks. As a result, I am resigned to having to take two devices when traveling (plus my phone). I think most people (carrying two devices) are in that camp.

    • markiehill

      In reply to Michael_Miller:

      I have been putting it through its paces today and I have to say I am pretty impressed - I have managed to install visual code , install Python run some python scripts and listen to Spotify whilst browsing the web , it is not super fast but it is not as slow as the benchmarks would suggest. I have had no lags which have annoyed me yet. I agree with you over the surface pro though - the amount of times that it died on me or overheated in my bag because it didn't shut down properly , or the fans were on full with little load.


  3. harmjr

    1) What Version of OneNote do you prefer OneNote 2016 or Windows 10?

    I am finding that I want ON 2016 on desktop and Windows 10 on my tablet smaller screen device. The tablet I am almost 100% using it just for Pen use or reading.


    2) What version of the Surface Go did you get? I am wondering how the low spec machine handles as all reviewers are getting the 8gb model.


    3) I feel the screen on Surface Pro is too big for note taking during a meeting. I am currently using a 8" Asus device that seems kinda right but of course no one will make an update to this. So do you feel for note taking better on smaller screen?


    4) Do you use Outlook 2016? or another email app or just a webportal?

    Email use has been the biggest problem for me. I have them all setup. But I will still go to my desktop or android phone to reply to emails.



    • markiehill

      1) What Version of OneNote do you prefer OneNote 2016 or Windows 10?

      I am finding that I want ON 2016 on desktop and Windows 10 on my tablet smaller screen device. The tablet I am almost 100% using it just for Pen use or reading.


      In tablet mode I prefer the Windows 10 version as It seems to be better setup to running in tablet mode

      2) What version of the Surface Go did you get? I am wondering how the low spec machine handles as all reviewers are getting the 8gb model.



      I did get the 8GB version - I would avoid the slower version, the more powerful model seems to be the sweet spot.



      3) I feel the screen on Surface Pro is too big for note taking during a meeting. I am currently using a 8" Asus device that seems kinda right but of course no one will make an update to this. So do you feel for note taking better on smaller screen?


      I cant use the surface pro for note taking It is far to big , this is more practical.


      4) Do you use Outlook 2016? or another email app or just a webportal?

      Email use has been the biggest problem for me. I have them all setup. But I will still go to my desktop or android phone to reply to emails.


      Outlook 2016 - it works well on this device , don't find it restrictive at all.



  4. markiehill

    Some more thoughts for you if you are considering this device.


    I am currently on a train down from Glasgow to London - rather than my usual mode of transport (flying). I have spent the last 1.5 hours doing email over WIFI during which the battery has dropped from 87% to 67%.

    Other than using Outlook and Microsoft ToDo pretty much nothing else is running in the background. I set the screen on its lowest setting and the power in battery saving mode - you can make your own judgement whether this is okay for your usage. For me I am never to far from power so its ok.


    I am opened up the device this morning and the keyboard would not respond despite pulling off and re-attaching , strangely alt-tab functioned but nothing else. I then rebooted and was presented with installing updates which then hung on the restart … one hard restart later I was back and running although hardly a great tablet experience. Far too much thinking at 5:30AM


    Some positives - the keyboard though cramped works well and I do not have any problems editing documents , I even signed a document by pushing the device flat on the train table with the keyboard attached and that worked well with no spurious key presses. The trackpad is fantastic - one of the few devices where I do not feel compelled to carry a mouse around with me , even my MacBook Pro did not quite succeed in achieving this.


    Recharging time is pretty good - from 67% to 100% in about 1/2 hour.


    If folks are interested I will keep on updating this :)

  5. Captain_Eric

    [Edit: I see you answers in the other thread. Thanks]


    I posted this elsewhere (up to you on where to answer), but what charger is needed to charge via USB-C?


    I suppose 1) the minimum wattage to keep it going and 2) to truly charge it.


    Thanks in advance. Great thread.

  6. markiehill

    Surface GO in real life Part 2 - see the first post below before reading this.


    So this is my second day of travelling with the Surface Go and I officially love it.


    I think this is one of the best devices that Microsoft have made and they are onto a winner for the mobile worker especially if they release a 4G model.


    So over the past few days I have dealt with everything my work has had to throw at me and it has coped well - I have never once got upset about performance , as I have said battery life is mediocre but given what this tiny device can do it is acceptable.


    To give you an idea - we have a forecasting sheet which contains quite a complex PowerPivot model which will happily choke a Surface Pro 3 and get all the fans running and lock the machine - The go takes a little while to refresh the model but it does it fast enough that it is not a problem and continues to be quite useable. For me this is probably an good test of something which was annoying on the Pro 3 and is perfectly acceptable on the GO.


    The other god send is the USB C charging - let me explain. I carry a portable battery with me for charging my phone on trips, it is one of the Anker 20000MAH units. Today stupidly I left my charger in the office - however plugging the Go into the battery means it will run and still charge at a slower rate but it copes with both running and charging at the same time - this is a fantastic feature and yes you will have to carry a dongle if you need to use USB A devices but I think that is a price worth paying. EDIT: (I have been watching this closely it charges for a while and then stops the animation for charging but still says charging - I need to have a closer look at this)


    So - I am very happy with my purchase so far - it does what it says on the tin - I stand by my recommendation that the faster model is the one to have even but the sheer delight of having something so functional and portable should make that price pill easier to swallow.


    My Ipad pro is consigned to a desk drawer - this is exactly what I need to get my job done.


    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to markiehill:

      Looking forward to getting the LTE one as soon as it is available. I have a 15" Surface Book 2 but I really want to ditch my ipad when I travel for this. The iPad has made for very simple media consumption but the ability to switch into the programs I use on my Book will make it the ultimate tablet for me.

  7. Tony Barrett

    You purchased a Surface Go for 'note taking'? That's a very, very expensive notepad! I'm sure there were considerably cheaper options out there for a few notes - a notepad and pen will cost you next to nothing.

  8. Aardappelboom

    Aha! I've been picking my brain for buying one for the exact same needs. I'm getting a surface book from work and I'd love to digitalize my note taking on a separate device. I always find the "flexibility" of the surface to be insufficient since most of the time I just want to write something while working on my pc. Not one or the other.


    Could you just tell me how you find note-taking on the Surface Go? Is it handy, just big enough, too big, too small?

    • markiehill

      In reply to Aardappelboom:
      So far if I am honest it is getting in the way - before I would have picked up my Ipad used an apple pencil and it would have been more about the notes than the device. With the Surface go - windows hello does not work in portrait mode (it does now , see below) so you need to manually unlock which can be a bit laggy. One note itself is okay though my palm keeps activating the on screen keyboard randomly. So far I am struggling to be as productive with note taking. The size is good though and generally performance is good enough (I have the 8GB model) - the battery life is disappointing - you can drain the battery in three hours if your doing anything intensive. So a mixed experience so far.


  9. Jeffery Commaroto

    You said "My job as a senior manager means that I can be editing a PowerPoint , loading a PowerBI model or updating spreadsheets (forecasts etc)"


    Have you done those things on it yet? How does it run?


    I write a lot of Python programs for data analysis. I am curious about Visual Studio Code and running the Linux Subsystem. If you don't use or want to load either no problem but would be curious.


    I have been VERY skeptical of this thing especially because of Paul and Brad's takes. With that said I went into a Best Buy today and played with one. They had a 4GB model and I have to say I was surprised by how much I liked it. It was more responsive than I thought it would be and I liked the keyboard and overall form factor.


    I found myself thinking it might be something I would buy and use. I love my iPad but there are so many times I am out, especially when my kids have activities, where I don't want to lug around a laptop but I would like to get some work done. BUT then there are so many potential downsides to this including battery life and the cost starts getting high once you look at the 8GB/SSD model. Probably going to be a skip.

    • markiehill

      In reply to Jeffery_Commaroto:

      I work in the analytics word - so can try those things out for you , if you want to message me with some usecases i can test them for you. My initial thoughts are it would struggle but you know what , its a good challenge. As for basic office tasks , yep its fine. Spreadsheets open a bit slower but nothing that offsets the benefits of the portability.


  10. skborders

    My iPad air is running out of storage an I am thinking about upgrading it to new one with Apple pencil support. I would love to be able to take notes. What are you using to take notes on the surface and how does it compare with the iPad and pencil. Also does the iPad do handwriting to text support?

    • markiehill

      In reply to skborders:
      I use the suface pen - it feels clunky compared the apple pencil and it is much thicker. The button on the side i find really annoying however the erase function by turning the pen round is really useful and something Apple should have implemented by now. I am not sure on the handwriting to text support - i have never used it , though i could test it for you if you want.


      • skborders

        In reply to markiehill:
        I would like to see examples of note taking on both. I know windows has good hand writing to text recognition, I have wondered if the iPad does this with the pencil. I have a surface three but the battery life will not allow me to give it a real use case try. With my current iPad I use a keyboard to take notes and could do that with my surface 3 as well, but would like to use a pen on the screen with handwriting to text because it would be faster.


      • bbold

        In reply to markiehill:

        The Apple Pencil is a huge piece of plastic that strangely charges by sticking out of the side of the iPad. The Apple Pencil also contains no eraser. In my opinion, the Apple Pencil is the clunky tool and the Surface Pen is magnificent in every way. I also have a Surface Go and it works beautifully. Just my 2 cents. Comparing the iPad Pro and the Surface Go isn't a fair comparison, imho, since iPad Pro uses iOS and not full desktop Windows.

        • skborders

          In reply to bbold:


          I don't need full windows really for what I do in this particular case, just want the best writing experience. In particular handwriting to text.

        • markiehill

          In reply to bbold:
          I dunno i have used both stylus a lot - i guess everybody has their own opinion :) I agree a general comparison of the Ipad Pro and the Go is hard on the Ipad Pro. However it would not take many changes to put the Ipad Pro over the top for me - lack of mouse support is probably the real killer and i could do 90% of what i need. The Go does 100% of what i need but windows needs a lot of work to get to the point where it gets out of the way like IOS does when using it as a tablet. I want every app to get out of the way and every resource and design choice to be about the app in front of me in this mode and its not there. I think sadly that Apple are closer to creating the perfect device than Microsoft is at this point - the next couple of years are going to pivotal in the enterprise. I see more and more Apple devices day after day and these are being used by both the young people at the start of their career and the long in the tooth Microsoft supporters like me. I don't discount Google here either - they are making a real push on Enterprise services now in the top tiers - with that comes a further push of Chromebooks etc.


          • Simard57

            In reply to markiehill:

            "I want every app to get out of the way and every resource and design choice to be about the app in front of me in this mode and its not there"

            This sounds like what the design goal of Windows 8 was - easy switching between apps in full screen mode. Seems that may have been the correct design choice but such piss poor execution on Microsofts part. I wonder how much better things would have gone IF they included better tutorials on how the new device worked. I read so many complaints about the hidden "discoverable" controls -- which would have been overcome by better tutorials!


          • jules_wombat

            In reply to markiehill:

            I would think that Galaxy Note would be the most obvious contender for note taking and casual office productivity, as Android does supports mouse. Microsoft Windows is way too bloated for most users, inlcuding most office users and its Tablet mode poor for more casual use.

            • markiehill

              In reply to Jules_Wombat:
              I am torn with Android and I did consider the Note 9 - I use an iPhoneX for my day to day though I do have the S9 plus and a Pixel XL as I like to keep trying Android in the hope that a switch will stick. A note 9 with a normal 13 inch laptop would not have been a bad choice.

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