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Is the Surface Laptop Go good for developers?

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Is the Surface Laptop Go good for developers?

Microsoft has done a great job at improving upon their Surface line up year after year. Everything from the super portable Surface Go 2, to the heavy duty Surface Book 3 to the middle of the road Surface Laptop give off enough variety so that there is something for everyone.

I personally use the Surface Pro 6 for pretty much everything (this exact model). And before that, I used the Surface 3 for pretty much everything. If you remember the Surface 3, it was the super tiny Atom powered Windows device that tried hard to be a computer. If you'd like to read more more about my experiences with that limited architecture, you can read my post here.

Needless to say, I am a fan of portability. I want my computing experience to be seamless and to integrate into my life and that means 2 things. Lightweight hardware and long battery life.

That dream is now closer than ever with the Surface Laptop Go.

There's alot to get into here. Because the Surface Laptop Go is Microsoft's attempt at tackling that mid-tier range that only a few companies have been able to dominate so far, you can expect that maybe they fell short and left a few things out.

And you might be right as the base model ($549) features a somewhat limited 4GB of RAM and a 64GB storage capacity.

What it lacks in power however, you get back in quality and in build.

You get much of what makes the Surface lineup such a popular choice these days, such as a high-resolution touchscreen display, super flexible hinge mechanism and of course it runs Windows 10 so that you can run all of your favorite apps.


Microsoft Surface Go

The Surface Laptop Go might be a tiny piece of hardware, but it definitely comes equipped with a few features that you might not find on other laptops of equal value and size.

The main standout feature is of course the size, hence the name Surface Laptop Go. It is meant to be a lightweight and mobile device coming in at 2.45lb. Not bad, considering the Macbook Air comes in closer to 2.8lbs.

It also brings with it an estimated 13-hour battery life with standard usage. That number is typically exaggerated for any device hitting the market and because it really depends on the user and their habits, I don't put too weight on it reaching the 13-hour mark. But if it can get close, then it's definitely worth a few added points.

Having said that, the Surface Pro 6 that I use, with some reduced settings, tends to give me about half a day's worth of solid work, somewhere in the area of 6-8 hours. But again this number varies wildly from day to day and the Surface Pro model is also a more powerful device running Windows 10 Pro, whereas the Surface Laptop Go runs Windows 10 Home (in S mode).

It's also very similar to its bigger and older sibling the Surface Laptop in terms of build quality and material. It features a full-sized keyboard and an aluminum construction. I'll say now, that I am a huge fan of the Surface line keyboards. They are quiet enough to not distract people around you and have just enough spacing to ensure that you don't skip a beat if you are a fast typer.

I tend to type in the area of 95-105 WPM, and so far my accuracy with the Surface keyboard has remained higher than on other keyboards of similar sizing.

Microsoft Surface Go

The Surface Laptop Go isn't super port heavy however, but it does offer the essentials that you will typically interact with on a day to day basis such as a USB-A port, a USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack.

Charging of the device is done through your usual Surface Connector and it can charged to 80% in as little as 1-hour for anyone that is typically on the Go (pun intended).

If you opt for the 8GB model, you will also get access to the built in fingerprint reader/power button hybrid, which I actually do recommend. Not required, but definitely a convenient feature to have.

Microsoft Surface Go

Technical Specs

Now for the technical stuff.

Operating System Windows 10 Home in S mode
Display 12.45 inch PixelSense Display
Resolution 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI)
CPU 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics
Memory 4GB or 8GB LPDDRx RAM
Storage eMMC drive:64GB
SSD Options: 128GB, 256GB
Security Enterprise-grade protection with Windows Hello sign-in
One touch sing in with FingerPrint Reader Power button
Network Wifi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
Battery Up to 13 hours of typical device usage
Fast charging - Charge your Surface Laptop Go to 80% in just over one hour
Cameras 720 HD f2.0 camera (front-facing)
Audio Dual far-field Studio Mics
Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby Audio Premium

The specs are not overwhelming. But really they are not intended to be. They are decent for running most applications that you will need on a day to day basis. An i5 CPU on a mid-tier resolution display with 8GB of RAM will deliver good performance. Which brings me to my last point.

Good for web developers?

Now let's get into whether this pretty affordable, portable and stylish laptop is a good fit for programmers. My answer is typically the same when asked about comparing devices for certain jobs. And my answer is a question.

What are you using it for?

If your a full-stack JavaScript web developer who relies mainly on VS Code, Node.js and GitHub, then more than likely this touchscreen and full-keyboard 10th gen i5 laptop with a 13-hour battery life will be a good fit for you. Particularly if you aren't trying at all to break the bank and just need something that just works and that is reliable.

And I say that coming from the fact that my Surface Pro 6 comes with very similar specifications, such as an i5 processor, 256GB SSD storage and 8GB of RAM, which have been more than enough to run every major application that you can think of in my web development life.

Although note that the base model of the Surface Laptop Go ($549) only has 4GB of RAM and a 64GB drive. If you take it one step up, you are looking at spending $699 for the i5, 8GB of RAM and 128GB drive model. This is probably the model that I would recommend as 64GB is incredibly limiting and there's a good chance that the OS will take up a substantial portion of that.

The resolution is also decently high enough that web design work should be of no problem as well. If you are a designer however, then the story might be different. Again, the Surface Laptop Go isn't trying to be the anything killer. It's trying to be well-rounded. So if you are need of true to life colors and super high resolution displays, then this tiny laptop might not be for you.

Good for app developers?

Alright. This laptop isn't for everyone. If you are an app developer for example and perhaps you are running Android Studio with several emulators, this might not be for you. For one, again, this is a small device. Designing large scale apps on such a limited space is more challenging. And secondly, emulators tend to require alot more power than your typical HTML page or JavaScript framework.

This is one of the reasons why I personally don't spend too much time in the app development world.

If you are doing any type of video editing or high resource usage work, again, you might want to upgrade to the more powerful Surface Laptop Go model for the RAM alone. The highest spec model comes in at around $899 and gives you 8GB of RAM with a 256GB drive. However, the CPU does not change. Something to consider.

Good for student developers?

My answer in this category is, yes. I myself was a college student at some point in time and I remember how awkward it was lugging around a 5lb laptop from class to class in a beefy protective briefcase. I remember how stressful it was as well when looking for that last power outlet at the far corners of the library or computer lap. And I remember how useful it was to have all of my software with me at all times so that I didn't need to manage two workspaces.

I think the Surface Laptop Go is just that. It isn't trying to be your next gen gaming machine or your million dollar design tool. It's a portable all-day laptop with very useful features such as a touchscreen display, full-sized keyboard, fingerprint login and a relatively strong CPU that should handle most of the apps that you will encounter.

So if that sounds like a machine that will meet your daily demands, then I definitely recommend giving this laptop a second glance.

Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.


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