Four reasons why the Surface Go's bezels are so thick

Reception so far of the new Microsoft Surface Go seems to be excellent with many people excited about a small, easily portable Surface PC running full Windows 10 – especially at that lower price point.

But if there is one complaint we're hearing a lot: 'dem bezels... why are they so thick?

Like a lot of things in life, there's no single answer, but rather a few reasons as to for the large black bars around the Surface Go's display. Here are a few we learned about when talking to some people at Microsoft regarding the Surface Go – and a few apparent explainers too.

1. Surface Go is for everyone (including kids)

Microsoft is positioning the Surface Go as an accessible Surface for all users, and that means those little tykes in elementary school. It's no secret that Microsoft is pushing hard on education lately and Surface Go is part of that strategy.

Gripping a 10-inch tablet with those teeny digits is a bit easier when you have a thicker bezel. Granted, a child in third grade could wield a more massive Surface Pro (1.7lbs, no keyboard) but the Surface Go's mere 1.15-pound heft lends itself better for kids K-12 in schools.

None of this is to say Surface Go is only for kids, but instead, for the first time, this is a Surface that has them in mind.

2. Windows Hello, cameras, antennas and being even-steven

Microsoft could save some space by omitting the Windows Hello infrared (IR) camera and sensor, but they kept that premium feature for the budget-orientated Surface Go. It's a smart move.

But between those sensors, the 5MP front-facing camera, and the precision antennas at the top of the device (including ones for the LTE edition), Microsoft needs a certain amount of border to accommodate it all. (There's also the dual speakers etched into the display and the space need for those).

That's fine as the other three borders (bottom, left, and right) could be substantially thinner – but then you lose symmetry. HP (in)famously does such a design on its popular Spectre 13t series of laptops, and not everyone agrees it's the best look primarily for a tablet, which frequently shifts orientation.

3. Bigger display, higher price or smaller display, larger keyboard

When engineering a laptop, the size of the display directly determines the dimensions of the lower half.

For laptops, the size of the bottom half governs battery size, thermal cooling, processor and GPU choice, and whether components are soldered or replaceable. Surface keeps all its guts in the top display half, but its size limits the dimensions of the keyboard.

The Surface Go already has a small, somewhat cramped keyboard since the display is 10-inches (plus extra for that bezel). Were Microsoft to reduce the bezel further the keyboard would have to match that reduction. That experience is a no-go for what is already a compromised typing experience (compared to a full laptop).

Sure, the Surface Go would look great, but at the cost of usability.

The other alternative is to keep the top half's dimensions the same, but jam in a larger display – so maybe 10.8-inch instead of 10. That solves the keyboard-size problem, but since nothing is free, you just drove up the cost of your "budget" PC and drove down battery life (which is already on the low side).

Compromises must be made, and the right balance of cost, features, and battery life needs to be found. You may think that tacking on an extra $50 for a larger display is no big deal, but when you're trying to get as low as possible for pricing, those margins matter to Microsoft and the buyer.

4. Magnets for Surface Pen and Type Cover

Just as Microsoft needed space for the Windows Hello camera and IR lights, the magnets needed to keep the (optional) Surface Pen stuck to the left side of the tablet also require space.

Keeping strong magnets near your motherboard and various electronic components can be risky if not properly shielded. Having some space between the magnets and those electronics certainly helps.

Microsoft could have omitted magnets for the Surface Pen altogether, but do we want to go back to the sticky pen loop on the keyboard solution from Surface 3 again? Probably not.

Also, as noted in comments Microsoft has more magnets on the bottom bezel. Those are need for the Type Cover, which not only sticks to the base, but sticks to the display bezel to create that nifty typing-angle. Without a thick bezel to match the keyboard either could not stick to the bezel, or it would be too close to the display. It's all about the angles!

No answer is satisfactory

If you saw the Surface Go and were repelled by 'dem bezels (which don't look as bad in person), then literally no explanation will make you feel better about the design. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For example, I find a '78 Chevrolet Corvette hideous looking, flat out revolting, but others disagree.

Nonetheless, when making something like Surface Go with a fixed retail cost of $399 and those size goals compromises must be made. We may not like all the design choices, but remember that they usually have a reason (or four) behind them, which helps explain it a bit.

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Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • The bezels on the Suface Go are fine. There, I said it. :P
  • The bezels on the Surface Go are larger than on the Surface Pro. That's just strange. Why can't Microsoft get these things right?!? Ugh!
  • Anyone who has used a Surface3 extensively at work, for hours out of the day, would not ask for smaller bezels. Lol the bezels are functionally necessary.
  • The bezels also help to bring the screen up off the table when using the stand.. That's why it's important that MS get feedback from real users of their devices.
  • There won't be many "real users" if potential buyers think it's ugly and antiquated, and buy an iPad instead.
  • To be honest, bezels are fine in tablet mode, but the operating system SHOULD recognize when the keyboard is attached and remove those bezels in laptop mode. Just another nice thing Windows 10 could do to make the experience better...
  • I mean, my car SHOULD fly to and drive itself. That doesn't mean such tech is easy or doable right now. Companies are exploring such concepts, but putting that into production and make it all work seamlessly is not trivial - if it were, you could name me any tablet in the world that does this (even by Apple). Also, the idea that such tech would launch in the budget range for Surface is a bit of a stretch. Such tech is always high-end and trickles down, not the other way.
  • Agreed. I should not have said SHOULD but COULD. Having said that, in my opinion, I don't think Microsoft has done enough to make the tablet experience great on Windows 10. I understand it's a work in progress, and that tech "is hard" - but if they want to be the go to OS for devices of all sizes, the experience is pretty important. I'm really hoping cshell addresses this, but we will have to see.
  • We all agree that the tablet experience (OS level) needs to improve, but larger bezels are not really a part of that especially when they're actually functional ;) Hopefully, with Surface Go coming out, more emphasis will be placed on the OS experience.
  • Bluesky2112... That's actually one of the smartest things I've heard around here. Selectable bezel size by blacking out (and disabling) a defined border width of the screen... Ingenious! I'm sure MS has thought of this, but I would like to see that feature implemented. Would it even be acceptable to have the camera, and sensors on the actually screen? I wouldn't care. It woukd be a cool feature for watching Netflix, and the like. Awesome! Send feedback.
  • This article is why you're Daniel Rubino. #compliments
  • Uh, actually the tech required for that is incredibly basic. It's literally just creating black borders on a screen. No one has bothered to do it because consumers haven't been screaming for it and, to be honest, it's unnecessary. Bezels don't mean anything. People who complain about large bezels around a screen need to focus more on what they do with a device rather than how it visually looks because ultimately, looks don't mean anything.
  • You can't just slap black borders on the edges and call it a day. You would need to re-scale the screen. Also, did you miss how the device would be more expensive if the screen was larger? The whole idea is to make an affordable smaller Surface. Are you going to buy one? Do you need one? I'm sure there are other devices out there with smaller bezels.
  • Did you miss the fact that I said, no company would bother to do it because it would be a waste of time and bezels are meaningless, large or small, or did you just read the first line and decide to go on a rant? And scaling should already be catered for due to resolution changes, it could be set up to actually adjust the resolution and instead of stretching to fit, maintaining aspect ratio. This is not difficult to implement, but again, while it could be done it's not going to because it's pointless. but it's no good saying something is hard, when it isn't.
  • Oh, and yes, I could be interested in the Surface Go if the 256GB model shown in spec sheets becomes a thing, it coupled with the Ethernet/USB adaptor would suit my needs perfectly workwise.
  • It's doable.. That's the point.
  • I could replace the 1.4 lire engine in my car with a 1.0 litre engine "just because it's doable", but just because it's doable doesn't mean it should be done. The bezels on my Surface Pro 4 are hideous but they have a purpose as, Surface Pen and Keyboard aside, they allow for the front firing speakers, FFC and Windows Hello sensors as well as the extra ports on the side. This means bezels are necessary unless you would actually like to pay $3000 for a thicker 2 in 1 with a notch in it.
  • "Looks don't mean anything" Lol, virtually the whole world disagrees with you! Whether it's furniture, clothes, cars, tech devices or even people, looks matter. A lot!
  • I know I'm in a minority on this. Which is sad.
  • I'll go the opposite way on this and say what happens if Microsoft created a Surface with unequal bezels around the screen?
  • Is this a joke? Implementing BlueSky2112's suggestion is actually trivial; it just hasn't been thought of (or didn't pass the 'is it worth it' test) is all. Just because no other OEM hasn't done it isn't exactly proof that it's impossible. I mean, detecting that the TypeCover is attached? Check. Selective palm rejection? Check. Screen Resizing/Rescaling? Check. It's okay to say, "I don't know why they haven't done that" instead of making untrue claims about it's difficulty.
  • Right, so where do you put the speakers, the FFC and Windows Hello sensors and the Surface Pen. As I stated above, just because it's doable doesn't mean it should be done AND people would still complain about virtual bezels anyway!!!
  • Microsoft is working on virtual bezel
  • Virtual bezels. Cool idea!
  • Please tell us all how the OS is supposed to pick up PHYSICAL bezels and remove them?
  • Simple, the screen itself extends to the edges of the display, and depending on what setting you settle, or mode you are in the actual usable screen area adjusts to the setting. So, for instance, watching a movie could utilise the entire length of the screen, but if you switch it to tablet mode the screen truncates and it creates virtual bezels for easier handling. But if you were using it in tablet mode on a table you could hot a button to bring it to the full screen real estate again.
  • Also need bezel on the bottom for the type cover to rest at angle (another magnet)
  • Yup, good point!
  • The straightforward answer to 1-3 is "it works on the iPad"... I too dislike the VERY vulgar Corvette Stingray. Then again, that goes for 90 % of American cars... Sorry.
  • As usual, Windows Central acts as the Microsoft apologist. Those bezels are hideous. The device is doomed. Microsoft screwed up another one!
  • Hey @cybersaurusrex argue the actual points and not your "feelings" like an adult, how about that? If you can't actually debate or respond to the arguments made here then you are free to leave. (And, surprise, looking at your posting history for the last 7 months and it's all negative. I get it now, you're trolling. Probably going to throw a ban on your account.)
  • You go, Daniel!
  • Not sure aesthetic preference requires arguing "the actual points". The why and how bezels are hideous to some people is up to the professionals to determine. The last two sentences follow quite logically.
  • I guess I took umbrage at the "apologist" part when I merely explaining engineering choices/restrictions and the hyperbolic (and unsupported) "it's doomed" and "Microsoft screwed up!" parts, which is speculation. I write a whole paragraph saying none of my explanations matter if you find it ugly. That's fine. I'm not here to argue aesthetics, I'm here to talk about the choices made by the engineers and why they were made.
  • Nah, personally I find it looking fine for what it is, and I do agree that saying "the device is doomed" is hyperbolic.
  • Holding the device in landscape mode, the Surfaces Go has 0.6" side bezels while the iPad has 0.8" bezels. (Note: I am halving the difference between the device width and the screen width.) Holding the device in landscape mode, the Surfaces Go has 0.7" top/bottom bezels while the iPad has 0.4" bezels. (Note: I am halving the difference between the device height and the screen height.) The front face of the Surface Go is 70% screen, compared to 73% for the iPad. While a higher rate is better, this difference is not significant.
  • Manus... Wait a minute... You think the C7 Corvette is not a nice looking car?... I mean, I'm a German auto guy myself, but I love Corvettes, especially the styling of the C2 & C3.
    Relative to the article, the C7's design is more function over form, as are the bezels on this device... But, I also don't see how they look that bad... I think people are just sheeping what the internet has said about bezels for years. Do YOU actually think they look that bad??🤔🤔🤔
  • Rodney, not talking about mani, let's be real. Most people who complain on here aren't big Ms customers. They don't buy a lot of these devices and weren't going to before complaining. F em. F is short for forget, of course 😏
  • You..hate the 78 vette??!!! *unfollows*
  • It's phallic looking and flat out gross.
  • I'm really amused that you are so put off by it that you posted a link in the article to show everyone. Lol
  • He just knows there's a bunch of millennials around here that are more concerned with their skinny jeans, and makeup, than automotive enthusiasm. If I know what a 62 Corvette looks like, off the top of my head, you guys should at least be able to picture a C3. 😍
  • I like the '62 vette. But, let's not kid ourselves, the 1970's were NOT the peak of design for ANYTHING (clothes, houses, cars, hair, carpets, or jewelry).
  • I literally see it as a penis car and question the men who drive them by choice lol
  • Daniel. I know it's just your opinion, and I'm gonna take it with a grain of salt, but you've lost it. That car looks like the damn Bat Mobile. It's awesome. Lol
  • ...Maybe the Bat Penis Mobile.
  • I haven't seen anyone say "I'm glad they used big bezels." Lots of people are saying the opposite. It doesn't take a design genius to figure out that people don't like big bezels on tablets. Regardless of whatever advantages large bezels may have, it was unwise for MS to ignore what people want. As the old saying goes: "If you don't listen to your customers, someone else will."
  • I think it's also unwise to let a few vocal malcontents who have never seen this device in person to dictate the conversation. No one ever said "I love FHD over QHD!" or "Paying $499 is so much better than $399" or "9 hours of battery life (video loop) is better than having 12!" So that doesn't mean much. Give anyone the choice for more without consequence and - shocker - they'll want it. But here's the rub: the ARE consequences. Literally every design and engineering choice has consequences. You may not like the bezels, but now go and solve the problems you created by reducing them and keep the same $399 price tag. You can't have it all. Not yet, at least. Feedback is feedback, but I'm not quite ready to believe that this device will fail because of the bezel size. Like most things on the internet, it's blown out of proportion.
  • Even blown out of proportion it's still not as big as those bezels!
    Ahem. I'll see myself out now.
  • lol touche, well done
  • I hope you're right, because I'm a shareholder of MS. I'd love to see this succeed. But …. It's not just a few vocal malcontents who don't like large bezels. It's the consuming public at large that has decided they don't like large bezels, which is why the tablet industry has moved to smaller bezels (even at the $400 price point). As for engineering compromises, it's true you can't have it all, but the public and the manufacturers have figured out that large bezels is not the issue on which people are willing to yield. I believe It's a bigger deal to consumers than you may think. I do agree that the device probably won't fail just because of the large bezels. Schools may buy it, because purchasing directors for schools don't care whether kids think the bezels look hokey. Since education is a primary target market for this device, it may succeed where it was designed to succeed. But I predict it will fail with consumers generally. It doesn't matter how good a device is if people won't give it a second look because it looks like a tablet from 2010. I'm a Surface fan, and I have owned many versions. (Between me, my wife, and my four kids, I have bought more than a dozen Surfaces over the years.) I currently use an SB2. When they announced the Surface Go, I had just come from Best Buy because I needed a tablet smaller than my SB2 for some uses. I was leaning toward the Galaxy Tab S3. So, when I saw the Surface Go announcement, at first I was excited that I could get a Surface Go instead. The bezels immediately tipped the scale back toward the S3. I'll wait until the Go comes out before I make a decision, and I may end up with it. But the fact that the bezels made even a Surface-Super-Fan like me question whether I would rather have something else makes me believe the bezel will be a significant drag on consumer sales.
  • There is one of thing of note, even with artificial/virtual bezels you still are going to make compromises. As the speakers will not be facing towards you and due to tapered edge, the speakes on the side won't sound that much better than downward firing speakers. But even then the sound will be subpar to speakers facing directly at you. So Bezels are necessary, or you increase the size to 10.2 but even then that little abit extra adds cost per device and increases battery drain which adds up through the life of the device as the battery detoriates over time. But even then you issues of magnets interfering with the speakers. So this design is the best compromise for the price point.
  • In all honesty, I think 1080p is just fine, even on a TV. For a tablet, laptop, and phone, that resolution is high enough to still have a sharp picture.
  • I wish they would have made the bezels on my 10.5” iPad Pro bigger. I am forever tapping something on the screen making something happen that I didn’t mean too. It is especially bad when I’m using it to read a book. My fat thumbs are always accidently turning it one page back or ahead. On my older iPad my thumbs would rest on the bezels.
  • I feel your pain man. It’s one of the main reasons why I exclusively use my 12.9” iPad Pro in landscape mode rather than portrait. I mean don’t get me wrong, the slimmer bezels are nice, but it doesn’t really hold up from a usability stand point. Although I haven’t really have that problem anymore after putting a Unicorn Beetle case on my iPad, it’s ridiculous to think I’d have to get a case just to properly hold my tablet in a different orientation.
  • Personally, I would like to see these convertibles implement some type of 'adjustable bezel'. Perhaps wider when in tablet mode, and thinner when in laptop mode. Given OLED screen technology, I would think this would be more than doable, although certainly not low end.
  • Yeah, mentioned above. That's probably the long-term solution to all of this, but there's a lot going on there to make it happen and mass produce. OLED is nice, but even Lenovo dropped it from the X1 Yoga due to poor battery life (and burn in risk- they had to make the Start bar translucent to prevent burn in!). OLED's pixel control is great, but between the bad battery life and as you note cost, not really doable right now. We'll get there, I'm sure, just not now, not in a $399 tablet.
  • It doesn't make a good tablet due to Windows 10 and can't be a good notebook because, well, it's not a notebook. In Canada the 128gb version with keyboard and pen are over $1000 which puts it close to the XPS 13 or HP Envy 13. I had an Asus Vivo Tab RT, yes that RT, and I loved it even with the limitations, or perhaps because of them. I use Atom based computers everyday so the 4115y would be a screamer for my needs. I can think of so many reasons not to buy this but it came down to lack of GPS. When the LTE model comes in the fall (if it's coming to Canada) I'll look again.
  • Is the screen fully laminated?
  • It's optically bonded, Gorilla Glass, and color calibrated.
  • I've heard people have concerns over screen brightness. The Surface 3 was great display wise but suffered from poor brightness. Would you say the Go gets sufficiently bright for a tablet?
  • The Surface 3 is 4 years old, so I hope the brightness can be improved in that time. I own a Surface 3 and don't have issues with screen brightness, but I've never used it in direct sunlight.
  • Good question. Don't have our review unit yet, so can't really answer. That IS one area where displays vary and would not be surprised that this is not as bright.
  • Also can please you check how useable the screen is on the Surface Go when used outside? I have concerns about the screen glare in the summer sun.
  • I normally use my Surface 3 at 10% brightness all the time, with exception of strong indoor (25% used)/ outdoor light (well, it depends). So, there's no problem with the brightness here at all. The brightness is much better than my ThinkPad.
  • I think we all know there are those who look for something to criticize in any Microsoft product. The Surface Go bezels are like the Alcantara keyboard on the Laptop: a "major issue" that actual owners don't even notice or care about.
  • Yeah, honestly I think people don't even know what they want to be honest. Seems like a few tech bloggers woke up one morning to complain about bezels and all of a sudden it became an industry no-no.
  • Love this device, hope it gets to India ASAP.
  • As expected. Cheaper Surface and still people find a way to complain. Its one of the only guarantees in life, in fact.
  • Hopefully for Surface Andy the complains would be less...
  • You greatly underestimate the Internet, my friend.
  • there is No bezel,
    It's 360 degree notch.
  • Lol
  • Good one lol
  • I just want a super lightweight device I can run OneNote on and get that Surface note taking experience. Really don't care about the bezel size. I can finally leave my Surface Book at home. If a Snapdragon based Surface Go 2 comes out later I will gladly upgrade.
  • I love me some bezels. I have very large hands and they seem to work better for me. That said I won't be buying this device for myself. 10 inches is just too small for me. I also told myself I would never buy another tablet that didn't have a core Intel processor. Might get this for my five year old though I guess.
  • This.
  • Hello Daniel, Can you help test if the driver for Surface connect to usb-c dongle would work for SB1 or other surface models?
    In surface's blog:
    They mention all three models needs the driver [Surface System Aggregator v234.2237.257.0]
    If you install the driver (msi file), you might be able to find this specific driver from the folder where you install the "platform installer."
  • One more reason: When they release Andromeda, people would appreciate it but more because of tiny bezels
  • Also keep in mind editing in Office Mobile is supported on devices with a display smaller than 10.1". So customers with O365 F1, E1 and Business Essentials, which don't include Office ProPlus get to use Office for free. If they had made the screen bigger they would have lost that value. Surface Go is also being targeted at front line workers where the O365 F1 license fits.
  • Good point.
  • Good comment on the keyboard size. I didn't like the bezel at first impression but I get the reason. And as a tablet it will be easier to hold. It is growing on me.
  • All good and well, but bezels that big are like diesel cars these days. It just doesn't sell well.
  • Good points Daniel, was wondering when the bezel debate will pop up haha. Some people just don't think beyond asthetics 😶.
  • I think one major downside of the bezels on a tablet/2-1 like the Surface Go is that in portrait mode it is more difficult to type with both thumbs (especially with people with relative short thumbs like me x) ) compared to thumb typing on the Ipad 2017/2018.
    Of course there is the split keyboard but it's keys are smaller which results in more typing errors and for some reason I just find the not-split keyboard feel more natural to type on.
    Now I understand technically that they cannot remove the bezels without either increasing the cost to much or remove features etc, but a bit smaller bezels would have been nice.
    Hopefully big laptop/tablet companies will start to make 3:2 10 inch windows tablets/2-1's too.
  • I also own a Surface 3. I'm curious if the Go's keyboard is compatible with the Surface 3. The keys on the Surface 3's board are the old style that lack spacing. Microsoft never issued a revised version as was done to the Surface Pro keyboard.
  • It's not. New connector here to keep it super thin.
  • Thanks for a great article, which confirms my impression that the design of even the smallest details of Surface products have been very carefully considered - over and over again. Having a Surface 3 with a 10.8 inch screen I was a little disappointed that MS downgraded the size of the screen of the Surface Go to only 10 inches, thinking that smaller bezels would have allowed for a larger screen. I now understand the reasons for the bezel size much better. For me the main advantage of the Surface Go is mobility. Even the Surface 3 is heavy and big enough that you don't just carry it around. However, with the Surface Go I think MS shrunk the size and weight just enough to make it truly mobile for work on the go (word and ppt), media consumption on the go, note-taking and inking on the go. For that I happily downsize from 10.8 to 10 inch screen size.
  • And I pre-ordered it from Best Buy since they are offering a $50 gift card with pre-order. I already own a pen and not ordering a keyboard. This will be for note taking at work and probably not much else.
  • What about minute taking?
  • I don't care much about the bezels. But why in the world don't they add more colors? This dull magnesium silver look won't appeal to anybody, especially kids. And the keyboard colors are not vibrant enough. Or at least make a black Surface for the adults. This is like offering a car in just a single color...
  • Black one would be nice indeed. Maybe the paint/brush would to easily drop off though (I have that with my current laptop that has the lid black alu, and a small collision reveals the grey color, not a big deal but noticeable when you look at it).
  • Didn't even notice the bezels TBH. Ordered 2 of the 8GB ones for my kids last night. One starts University in Sept and the other is off to year 10, so it's time they join the world of actual computing and stop trying to do every damn thing on an iPhone. Ever watched a "don't tell me how to do my homework, you don't know anthing!" 17-year-old try to do a critical year-end biology assessment on a 5inch iPhone, even when there's a laptop right in front of her?!? Painful. And stupid. I get the whole marketing strategy around pushing that £360 base price but decided to go for the higher model just to make sure they last a few years. After opting for the keyboards and matching mouse and pen setups, it hurt the credit card to the tune of a core i7 surface book 2. Hope it's worth it and they use them :(
  • I think the 8gb + 128/256ssd is the right choice for work. The 64gb option is eMMC (/slower) so not something you would like to multitask and work hours on I imagine (but probably good enough for tablet usage). I am not sure if I personally would have added the mouse, since the touchpad seems good but that differs per person of course. :)
  • I am not excited about this product. to many years to late.
  • I have to be honest: I don't even pay attention to bezel size. The internet is how I found out that this was even an issue! It seems like small bezels are now a premium product feature. Is it fair (or even practical) to expect premium features on a budget device?
  • There are plenty of cheap phones with thin bezels, so if it can be done on a phone, TV, and laptop, it can be done on a tablet. Even the newest Amazon Fire tablets have thin-ish bezels and they're only $80.
  • I find it odd that people expect thin bezels on TVs and phones, but if a tablet or laptop has a bit of bezel no one cares.