Is Surface Go (4GB) good for gaming?
What kind of games can Surface Go (4GB) run?
Even in its most expensive spec configuration the Surface Go is certainly no gaming powerhouse. It's designed for affordability and low-power usage, optimized as a true netbook-like laptop ideal for casual use as a tablet or while travelling. That said, the legacy of Windows and the quite literally tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of retro games that will still run on modern Windows 10 make it a capable old-school gaming device. PC storefronts like Steam and GOG are crammed with classic titles with 2D visuals that Surface Go will totally crush, and even modern games with 2D visuals or stylized, cartoony graphics can run fairly well on this machine. Just do not expect to play anything too intensive.
We tested some touch-optimized PC titles such as Hearthstone and Civilization V on the 4GB Surface Go, and found them to work well. Sometimes background processes in Windows 10 can cause them to stutter, but it's certainly nothing I'd describe as game-breaking. Perhaps the main issue there is the impact on battery life if you're using the Go as a travel buddy. Civ 5 and Hearthstone, despite their light visuals, can cause the Go to heat up quite a bit, burning battery life in the process. If you're planning on rocking the Go on a long commute with some light gaming action, an external USB-C battery pack might be a good option.
At the higher-end of the gaming world, Surface Go just isn't up to the task. Games like Fortnite, despite having stylized cartoon visuals, can be quite intense due to the amount of action taking place on-screen. You can push the Go to the extremes, and get these games to be very close to what you might consider playable. But it will not be a good experience. Some modern games with less complex on-screen action, such as Heroes of the Storm, fared far better on the lowest of the low settings, but look rather ugly in the process. Although again, when the action heats up, stutters can get you killed, which is frustrating. Overwatch which is fairly well-optimized on lower-end devices was completely unplayable on the 4GB Surface Go.
Simply put, stick to retro games, mobile games from the Microsoft Store, or simple, offline titles if you plan to game with the Go. If you want decent gaming on Go, you'll be digging into Windows' extensive gaming legacy back catalog, rather than enjoying the latest and greatest PC gaming has to offer.
Surface Go for portable, casual, and retro PC gaming
While you won't be playing complex modern 3D games on the Go, it's a great Windows PC for old-school retro gaming and less-intensive games like Hearthstone.
Few Windows tablets offer a more accessible portable PC gaming experience.
While the internals in the Go do not lend themselves well to modern 3D gaming, the wealth of retro and less-intensive casual titles on Windows PC make the Surface Go a great option for cheap, portable PC gaming.
If you need a bit more power while retaining Surface Go's portable form factor, consider Surface Pro instead. Pro is still a capable tablet PC, but with some extra juice up to a powerful Core i7 processor, which boosts its gaming capabilities considerably. Popular modern games that simply don't work on the Go, like Fortnite, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft, run quite well on Pro. However, games with more intensive modern photorealistic graphics won't run on the Pro, either. At that point, you may want to consider a gaming laptop with a dedicated GPU.
Same form factor, more power
Surface Pro is svelte and portable, and powerful.
If you want more gaming capabilities in a Windows tablet PC form factor, Microsoft's Surface Pro is the best you can get, particularly when you consider the higher-end options.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!