back to article Microsoft's cheapo Surface: Like a netbook you can't upgrade

If you can put up with the slow speed, Microsoft's budget Surface Go offers a cheapskate alternative to the stylish but costly Surface Pro line, effectively reviving the Netbook concept a decade on. The convertible slab is aimed at students and schools, but it's likely to be bought for field workers too. The Surface Go bucks …

  1. Phil W

    If you're on a budget but want a Surface it might be worth looking at the Linx 12x64. Surface lookalike with a quad core Atom and 4GB RAM, available for under £200.

    I don't have one yet but most of the reviews are good, so I have one on the way.

    1. Mattjimf

      Good luck with that one. We had one to trial in my work and god it was awful, getting drivers was hideous, the build and performance was woeful and it kept dropping off the WiFi.

      1. Phil W

        The WiFi dropouts should supposedly be better now, there have been driver and BIOS updates to fix it.

        As for performance, like others have said it depends what you're doing with it. I tend to use small laptops/tablets as web browsers and remote desktop clients.

        I had a HP 2in1 with a Bay Trail Atom and 2GB RAM previously, it was just about ok for everything I wanted, only lack of RAM let it down really. Given that this is a generation of CPU newer and twice the RAM it should do for me.

      2. SSampson

        Expecting pre-release product to be complete or RTM quality is perhaps naïve.... Expecting this product was designed as a laptop replacement is also naïve... I do NOT understand how people categorized the Surface line from day one. THIS device is meant as a tablet with the option for running desktop apps.... It is NOT meant to be a performance laptop replacement. It does not have all the apps the iPad and android devices have, although in practical terms it has MOST of the useful business applications. To compare the raw number of apps is a silly and pointless exercise. When it comes to performance, I have read reviews that say they can barely open 2 pages in Chrome to those that say they can open 12 easily, but that large Excel spreadsheets bog. These comments show how lacking the reviewers tend to be these days. It is like me comparing my car - which is capable of over 320kph - to an F1 car and then saying it is crap because it can't accelerate or corner as fast.... (of course it will likely perform better at Le Mans.... but then that is a different application, no?) ....

        and BTW - the more we compact devices, the less repairable they will be.... this should not be a surprise.... this is exacerbated by a swap vs repair mentality - most so-called techs today have very little idea of what it is they actually do - A+ certification is a joke - and calling anyone a genius OR an expert at Apple or MS stores is a bit much.... Personally, I won't hire anyone that can't at least re&re an older PQFP - not that we do it that much anymore either, but the knowledge means they have an understanding greater than a 4 day course and a youtube channel

        1. Phil W


          "A+ certification is a joke"

          Yes, yes it is, and I say that as A+ certified technician.

          A multiple choice exam where more than one answer is right but you can only pick one, or only one is correct they one they say is correct isn't, is not a good measure of anything except your ability to pass bullshit exams.

    2. Timmy B

      Re: Linx 12x64

      That's very similar specs to an original Surface 3 (non-pro) and thus going to be a bit slow unless you're just doing bog standard email/browsing/office tasks.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Linx 12x64

        It depends on what you are trying to do with it. For a lot of verticals or simple office document editing, it should be more than enough. I had an Atom based Samsung tablet for a while. It wasn't a speed demon, but fast enough for Word, Excel and Outlook and the odd Store game.

        Obviously, if you are going to be installing Gentoo on it and compiling everything as you go, it is going to be a real slug.

        1. Joe Montana

          Re: Linx 12x64

          If you're just using it for browsing and some simple editing, you'd be better off getting a cheap android tablet...

          If you install gentoo on it, then it should run quite well after everything has finished compiling, assuming you configure it right... Even the actual compilation won't take that long as you let it run overnight unattended.

          1. hplasm

            Re: Linx 12x64

            "Even the actual compilation won't take that long as you let it run overnight unattended."

            So -shorter than a Win10 update then...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Linx 12x64

        "bog standard email/browsing/office tasks." What else are you going to use it for apart from a bit of streaming? A developer workstation!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you're on a budget but want a Surface

      If you're on a budget but want a Surface, just send me the money and I'll spend it on cake.

      It'll spare you the disappointment, and you will know the money will have been well spent and well enjoyed.

      1. Phil W


        No thanks, I'd rather buy cake for myself, plus I have now received my Linx tablet and am not disappointed at all. Performance is more than adequate, especially given the price (£145 for a Grade A refurb unit)

    4. WallMeerkat

      Avoid cheap Windows tablets. I bought an iwork10 and it was just horrible to use, it kept registering actions as "minimise everything".

      1. Phil W


        Unfortunately there is a lot of cheap tat around in Windows 10 tablets now, much as with Android. iwork chuwi and other odd brands all tend to be garbage. Linx I have mostly read good reviews of, apart from those where people were clearly expecting more than they should given the specs. I am quite pleased with mine.

        As with all purchases of items not from major brands (and some of those from major brands frankly), read reviews and be sure of what you're buying before purchasing.

  2. Timmy B

    I don't think that the majority of people that will buy one of these expecting to ever do any kind of self-repair.

    I'm unsure what this article is meant to achieve. It doesn't detail the actual specs, doesn't do any kind of review and only seems to be a placeholder page for a link to the iFixit page. Have I missed something and the Reg and iFixit are now owned by the same people?

    1. Roger B

      You only have to see who the author is to see the point of the article, any chance to bash Windows and Andrew will be there. As for the product, I've not ready many reviews for it yet, strangely lots of gaming websites/youtubers asking the question is it any good for portable gaming, I guess in this age of the Nintendo Switch people are now looking for a similar Steam device, general consensus is no, not good for gaming, it only just runs Fortnite at sub 30fps, although I think it manages Skyrim okay, as always with tablets, don't buy the cheapest model.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Bashing time

        Andrew seems to take particular delight in bashing BOTH Microsoft and Apple.

        Keep it up Sir!

        raises my glass of "YARL" to him (Brewed in Argyll and I'm on the Ardnamurchan Pensinula)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You only have to see who the author is to see the point of the article, any chance to bash Windows and Andrew will be there.

        Rubbish. Andrew has in the past been slagged off for posting too favourable reviews of Windows products.

        Like the BBC - all the liberals call it too far right, and all the conservatives call it too far left - I think this means you've arrived, Andrew...

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      The specs were listed a couple of weeks ago. I agree with you that I don't think that the target market is going to worry about repairing or upgrading this kind of kit. I'm also not convinced that the size of the battery will matter that much either. A bigger issue will be having to pay £££s for the optional extras. But Microsoft's biggest worry is probably whether there really is a market for this kind of underpowered device (the lack of RAM is most likely going to be an issue for some) at all. And, if there is, how can they square the circle of providing reasonable hardware at the same time as not cannibalising sales of their premium product?

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "I don't think that the majority of people that will buy one of these expecting to ever do any kind of self-repair."

      Depends on whether the buyers think putting a new battery in is classed as self-repair.

  3. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    Sounds like it might make a reasonable netbook if you could install lubuntu or Fedora on it...

    1. Fibbles

      Just get a cheap Chromebook and install GalliumOS on it. Its a lightweight distro specifically for Chromebooks.

      I got myself an Acer CB3-431 a few years back and did just that. Full metal body, 14 inch screen and some random Intel dual core SoC for £200ish. The distro and SDD make it feel pretty nippy considering the hardware and the battery lasts 10+ hours with heavy use (I mostly use it for coding and web browsing).

      It's pretty much what I always wanted netbooks to be but never were.

      1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

        "It's pretty much what I always wanted netbooks to be but never were."

        I got one of the original Acer Aspire ONE netbooks, the ones that came pre-installed with a shitty chopped up version of Debian....

        I made use of it for years for what it was made and intended for. lightweight stuff like email and web browsing.... watching the occasional movie... but it needed a proper os on it, and upped the ram to 1.5gb worked well.... but the battery life was terrible and it soon refused a charge....

        its now sitting in a corner with five printers and a scanner plugged into it, running Debian and CUPS. when it breaks I'll upgrade it to a raspberry Pi....

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          I got one of the original Acer Aspire ONE netbooks, the ones that came pre-installed with a shitty chopped up version of Debian....

          I made use of it for years for what it was made and intended for. lightweight stuff like email and web browsing.... watching the occasional movie...

          I have one of those, although it had MSWinXP on it when I got it (a tenant left it behind when they abruptly moved). Works fine for basic browsing, email and document editing (about all I needed it for), but video is unwatchable on it (running Mint 18.x Mate). Perhaps the KAV60 version started cutting corners.

          Of course, I have been wondering if a RasperryPi 3 could be modded to fit in the case (it seems a bit too thin to fit the mods needed to support the video, etc). Would probably be cheaper/easier to go for a PineBook.

    2. Zippy's Sausage Factory

      So many downvotes because I missed the "joke alert" icon. Sheesh!

    3. macjules Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Looks suspiciously to me like all those warehoused Surface tablets just got a new life.

  4. Sil

    You say netbook speed but with zero benchmark or link to benchmark.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Given that the processor is faster than high-end processors of the Netbook era, it should be a lot faster than those old netbooks. :-)

      1. Dave K Silver badge

        Software has changed a lot in those times however. Windows 10 is a lot more demanding than XP/Linux distros on old netbooks, plus web pages now require a lot more grunt to render as well. It's not necessarily how fast something is in equal benchmarks, but how quick it feels in daily life doing basic tasks of today.

  5. cambsukguy

    Nothing wrong with a netbook

    I gave my youngest an Asus Eeeeeee something ages and ages and ages ago.

    The battery lasted forever (ie 8 hours), it was functional and had a real keyboard of sorts.

    When the time came it updates to Win10 and ran just fine although I suspect the Atom Win10 version had bits missing to keep it running reasonably.

    The disc was only 320GB but wasn't a real problem. It even ran an external HD monitor and real keyboard/mouse combo for 'proper' school work (like Netflix).

    Now, having given him my last laptop, which was languishing because I treated myself to a 'new' pre-loved laptop 2 years ago, I put Ubuntu on it and it runs as a portable debug collector for my work thing no problem - it even dual-boots when needed.

    Sine my laptop is only 'portable' in the loosest sense of needing a power cord 'just in case' and being heavier than a slim modern (expensive) laptop, a cheaper, long-battery-life, netbook-alike would suit me and my pocket better than an expensive ultra-light laptop.

    Having touch-screen/tablet functionality would be an added bonus.

    1. Sureo

      Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

      Yes I'll be keeping my netbook thank you very much. And it runs Windows 7.

    2. LewisRage

      Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

      Still got my old Acer Aspire netbook running in the sitting room for basic stuff, got an SSD in and 8GB ram. Windows 10 runs* and it does enough for the time being.

      It'd do better with a *nix OS but there are not drivers for the wifi and my skills don't extend to making my own.

      If nothing else it gets me RDP'd to a fairly powerful VM running on a microserver somewhere in a cupboard, but I wouldn't want to have to use it for anything.


      1. Teiwaz

        Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

        Still got my old Acer Aspire netbook...It'd do better with a *nix OS but there are not drivers for the wifi and my skills don't extend to making my own.

        Interesting...what model?

        I've an Acer Aspire One N450 that's been happily running Ubuntu for years since I replaced WinXp, no issues with Wifi, but some other distros struggled with providing firmware outofthebox.

        1. LewisRage

          Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook


          It's the Acer Aspire One 722.

          Maybe I'll take another look, it'd be handy to get away from windows on it.

          1. Teiwaz

            Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook


            It's the Acer Aspire One 722.

            Maybe I'll take another look, it'd be handy to get away from windows on it.

            The BCM4313 broadcom wireless card (on the Acer Aspire One 722) is compatible with the open source brcm80211 driver directly included in the standard kernel since at least 2012 - some obscure 'Linux distros make you jump through hoops to get non-standard firmware (i.e. prop blob support) onboard, but that chip should not have been a problem. I think it's the same one as on my D260 (N450 Atom) machine, and it's run Ubuntu since 2011 with only 1GB (upped to 2GB fairly painlessly).

    3. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

      Still running my EEE 701 4G, in fact I just bought a replacement keyboard for it from Aliexpress. It's still chugging away with the latest MX Linux on an 8Gb SD card and 1Gb RAM. Great for torrenting or as an internet radio, if nothing else.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

        Another Asus owner here, in this case a 901 with upgraded SSD.

        Yeah, it is a bit slow, but it does things using Windows 7 that are VERY difficult to replicate in Android - and a PITA in Linux; which is why I keep it around, and take it with me when I travel abroad.

        That, and the fact I have a HUGE laptop bag I can stuff with goodies and avoid the weigh-in drama of having 17KG of hand luggage.

        1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

          Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

          lol... all of you showing off with your new netbooks...

          Acer aspire ONE A0A150 its over 10 years old.... still in daily use...

  6. JDX Gold badge

    I can't imagine anyone buys a tablet type device thinking about upgrading it.

    1. 404

      I do. At least once.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    MSFT Baaad

    I’ve never seen a Surface Go but I know I won’t like it.

  8. RyokuMas Silver badge

    If Microsoft want to corner the educational market...

    ... their best option is to have these things running a version of Windows that can be absolutely 100% proven to have no telemetry whatsoever, and update scheduling fully configurable.

  9. big_D Silver badge

    So, tell me again...

    How do I stick more RAM, a bigger drive and a more powerful processor in an iPad or a Surface Pro?

  10. Teiwaz

    effectively reviving the Netbook concept a decade on.

    Hey, some of us are still keeping ours on life-support, and waiting for industry to come back to it's senses.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      You could look at the GPD Pocket, a current 7" laptop.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Though that never seemed to bother enthusiasts who for a time, before the iPad was launched, flocked to netbooks."

    Yes, but the first netbooks weren't loaded with windows bloat, they perfromed so well for the price because they ran Linux and nobody seemed too phased with the supposedly hard to use operating system and lack of MS office, lame excuses trotted out when the penguin is involved.

    It wasn't enthusiasts that bought them either, they sold far too many for such a small group of consumers, it was ordinary people after a bargain and few complained until the later versions with barely enough resuorces to run bloatware arrived and were priced within £50 of a traditional low end 13.5-15" notebook.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Linux

      Upvote for stealing my post. I had even copied the same quote to my clipboard, ready to paste in.

      What killed the first generation was $trong-arM tactics from the likes of Guess Who, making it clear to manufacturers and dealers that they had only one future.

    2. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

      Re: Linux

      "Yes, but the first netbooks weren't loaded with windows bloat,"

      a big reason for the decline in netbooks was the fact the early ones did not run windows and the great unwashed were returning them to shops because they could not use them. They had to up the specs and the price (microsoft tax) to shoehorn in windows...

      Ironically, the final death blow was the ipad and later android tablets that also did not run windows...

    3. WallMeerkat

      Re: Linux

      My AOA150 ran Linpus, which was an adequate Linux distro (in that it had a browser and OpenOffice). Easy enough to get terminal access and enable the XFCE menu.

      However I remember that era "I bought this computer that has a penguin on it, can you put windows on it?" like my job writing embedded software on an obscure linux platform gave me unlimited windows licences to hand out.

      I was kinda glad when they all moved onto iPads, they do less damage. Though now they think my job gives me unlimited icloud account storage.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what's the price?

    let me guess... FROM £499 :)

    1. Jason Bloomberg

      Re: what's the price?

      £379 inc VAT when I went to look -

  13. Dropper

    Windows tablet

    It's a browsing tablet that allows you to edit the occasional Office document. It can probably handle the needs of students in lower age groups and can probably be used for coding or as a reasonable diagnostic tool (hook it up to electronic devices to analyse them via a USB / serial connection). No one who buys one of these things is going to try gaming or edit complex images in Photoshop.

    At $400-$600 it's a bit over-priced, but not by much as it's obviously meant for someone that doesn't want to heft a laptop around. Only someone that wants a tablet-sized device would ever buy this - and as a tablet you expect limitations at that price point. No one buys a regular iPad and expects it to replace a MacBook Pro, so why would this be any different in the Windows world?

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: At $400-$600 it's a bit over-priced

      It's massively overpriced.

  14. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    It looks like the Microsoft 'Go' is

    a 'NoGo' device at least for the people who use this site.

    Ok, so we are clearly not the target market for this thing but even so, MS seem to have gone out of their way to cripple it from the outset. They did exactly the same with netbooks so they clearly have form here.

    I sort of feel sorry for the poor sods who get suckered into buying one of these. I'm sure that many will get the impression that things have not moved on since the last 'netbook' debacle.

    My vote is FAIL (Again) but I'm sure that it can be rescued by the installation of a decent OS as has been mentioned.

    As a final though, it might be worth benchmarking one of these against the lastest Raspberry Pi. Could it be possible that the £35 device has more grunt than one of these? Now that would be real headline news would it not?

    {yes I know that you have to add KB, screen and it does not have touch but...}

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It looks like the Microsoft 'Go' is

      "Ok, so we are clearly not the target market for this thing but even so, MS seem to have gone out of their way to cripple it from the outset."

      At least it's not WindowsRT :-)

  15. adnim

    It's a consumer device.

    Why examine it as if it were a professional bit of kit?

    Microsoft want to sell another one in two years not a replacement battery.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    M$ Surface Go ... starts at £379 ...

    ... sorry....I've mentioned this before, but the CHEAP Acer Cloudbook used for writing this is perfectly useful with everything integrated into the motherboard ("no use maintainable parts inside") -- and all for £200:

    - Intel N3060

    - Intel WiFi (but only 802.11n)

    - 2GB memory

    - 32GB eMMC "hard drive"

    - 14 inch display, 1366x768 display (but HDMI port available)

    So.....this (cheap) low end laptop is fine for WP, email, browsing, some programming (Python, C), various network management tasks...but maybe not so good for huge spreadsheets.


    So even if I end up thowing it away in a year or two.....I'm still a long way ahead....and I've managed to avoid spending money with M$ as well!!!!!

    1. WallMeerkat

      Re: M$ Surface Go ... starts at £379 ...

      I'm sure most of us have old laptops and netbooks lying around, stick an SSD in, up the RAM, and put cloudready on - a new chromebook!

  17. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge


    Asus Transformer Mini looks a better long term bet (build quality: longevity, battery life; if not size) than the linx, for a few dollars more than the Linx.

    I'll stick with my Sony Vaio P11ZW and Hackintosh Acer One (OSX) for now. The Sony is incredibly well made, after years of zero problems the screen suddenly went multicoloured and blocky - absolutely miniscule micro cable had been dislodged by sticking to some tiny blob of glue stuck to something else, heavens knows where this originated. Cable shoved in, screwed it all back together and it's still bloody useful and handy 5 years later. I'm awaiting the release of the new GPD Mini 2, which looks great.

  18. P. Lee

    Here's why the industry is failing

    The aim is market segmentation, not customer satisfaction.

    When the question is, "what can we produce which will be cheap but not destroy our more expensive products' market share" your corporate culture is going to kill your business.

    Actually, I don't think MS could win here anyway. They have built such a strong Windows-PC-for-Business-and-Gaming brand that anything which doesn't meet that expectation of performance will cause the product to fail.

    If I were them, I'd leverage the xbox brand for consumers. "Xbox-Tablet" and hide all the Windows branding and styling. Windows is toxic for a home brand. That's a "work" system with associated with 9-5 work, corporate control (no screensaver changes for you and you will have the corporate logo on the desktop - in case you don't know who you work for), A/V software run amok and arcane system controls.

  19. Bibbit

    What is wrong with proper netbooks?

    Last week I bought a 5 year old HP Elitebook (c.£100) with 4GB RAM 320GB HDD. It has all the ports and runs like a dream (I did swap W10 for Kubuntu though). And recycling is good for the environment. Peace & love etc.

  20. conscience

    Once again Microsoft fail to understand the market, they really don't seem to have any idea about what people actually want.

    The original netbooks were quite popular because they were functional computers that ran at a reasonable speed (running Linux) and, more importantly, they were cheap so they were considered a bargain. Netbooks only stopped being popular once Microsoft forced Windows XP onto them which killed performance and increased the price to almost the same as a far superior laptop, at which point there was no contest and laptops became seen as far better value for money so buyers opted for those instead.

    The price of this thing is absolutely ridiculous! £379.99 4GB/64GB just for the base machine or £509.99 8GB/128GB for the upgraded version, which itself is too expensive for what it is, but then come all the extras on top: Type Cover £99.99 (black)/£124.99 (coloured), Surface Mobile Mouse £29.99 or Surface Precision Mouse a staggering £99.99, Surface Pen £99.99. On top of that you can add whatever the dock costs, and then you still have the problem this hardware is somehow expected to run that resource hog known as Windows 10. Considering the total price this will be dead on arrival, the cheaper version costs £609.96, or a whopping £834.96 with the 'premium' upgrades - and that is excluding the dock! I predict Microsoft will end up with another warehouse full of kit they cannot sell. It seems they will never learn.

    This will end up being another failed Microsoft project that gets cancelled before too long.

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