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Why hasn't Microsoft made a 'Surface Go X'?

Surface Go 2
Surface Go 2 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

When thinking about existing devices that should have an ARM processor configuration available, the Surface Go immediately comes to mind. With its extremely compact dimensions and light weight, the Surface Go is a perfect fit for ARM chips that significantly cut down on power consumption and substantially boost battery life while still offering competent performance for general web browsing and productivity work.

Why, then, has Microsoft chosen to not make a version of the Surface Go with an ARM processor? It's a baffling decision, especially since Microsoft has already shown it believes in the potential of ARM by creating the Surface Pro X. Its custom Microsoft SQ1 and Microsoft SQ2 ARM CPUs allowed Microsoft to slim down the chassis and boost battery life by a full three hours compared to the Surface Pro 7, essentially resulting in a specialized Surface Pro intended for light and long-lasting computing on the go. In the two years since its release, the Surface Pro X has become one of the best Microsoft Surface PCs and is one of the most popular, too.

You would think that bringing ARM to the thinnest, lightest, and smallest devices in the Surface lineup would be a no-brainer for Microsoft following the success of the Surface Pro X. Yet here we are in the aftermath of the Microsoft Surface 2021 event, and we've still heard nothing about a potential "Surface Go X" on the horizon.

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Something that was announced at the recent Surface event was the Surface Go 3, which updates the machine with 10th Gen Intel processing and some other minor improvements. But while the addition of a 10th Gen Intel CPU will make the Surface Go more reliable and consistent, it likely won't solve an issue that the device has suffered from since its 2018 launch: poor battery life. The Surface Go and Surface Go 2 both fall considerably short compared to competing devices in this respect, and while 10th Gen Intel will certainly help, it isn't likely that it's going to fully rectify the problem.

ARM is the perfect solution to the Surface Go's battery life issues.

You know what would solve the Surface Go's longevity conundrum while still offering solid and reliable performance for general computing? The inclusion of an ARM processor. Machines like the Surface Pro X and the Samsung Galaxy Book S prove that opting for ARM architecture over traditional x86 CPUs leads to significant battery life gains.

It's true that ARM chips can't compete with powerful x86 ones when it comes to more demanding tasks, but the Surface Go isn't a device meant for people who need something with muscle. You get a Surface Go if you need something lightweight and affordable for basic computing. Additionally, the Surface Go 3's budget-tier Intel Core i3-10100Y is far from being considered high-end. At that point, why not just use a Microsoft SQ1 or Microsoft SQ2 ARM CPU instead? The Intel Core i3-10100Y isn't offering any tangible advantages over ARM, and ARM would significantly improve the Surface Go's longevity power efficiency.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

At the end of the day, it's frustrating to watch Microsoft squander this opportunity to create one of the most useful and reliable portable PCs ever. The Surface Go form factor is genius, and now that global lockdowns have begun to lift, there will once again be a huge push for efficient mobile computing. But until Microsoft is able to effectively address the Surface Go's mediocre battery life, a lot of people will opt for traditional convertible devices that have better longevity — even though they're less compact and heavier to carry.

There's ultimately no reason why a "Surface Go X" shouldn't exist, especially since the Windows user experience on ARM has significantly improved thanks to plenty of updates and the addition of 64-bit app emulation. With ARM, the Surface Go would go from being a solid device with big battery life compromises to a superb one that provides everything you could ever want from a mobile work machine. And as Microsoft continues to leverage the benefits of ARM on the Surface Pro X, we can only hope that it doesn't leave the Surface Go behind.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

70 Comments
  • Looks like SQ1 is not cheap & going with 7c is not powerful enough and probably not worth it considering x64 emulation performance hit it may take. So sticking with middling intel chips is the best option for now. On the other hand apple is using a13b chip inside 329$ iPad which performs as good as surface pro x's sq1 & sq2. Wish this kind of performance parity was available for windows on arm platform. Both microsoft & Qualcomm has a lot of work to do if they seriously want to free midrange windows tablets from Intel's mediocre chips.
  • "Looks like SQ1 is not cheap & going with 7c is not powerful enough and probably not worth it considering"
    These are my thoughts too. 7c Gen 2 is a BIG step in the right direction, pricewise, but we need another gen/platform bump for it to be better than latest Pentium chips.
  • 7c is only good for chrome books but for windows on arm it's not ideal chip. Microsoft should not let Qualcomm milk midrange market like intel did throughout all this years with handicaped chips like 7c. Imo Sq1 level CPU performance should be minimum requirement for windows on arm. If apple can offer a13b, a14b & a15b in tablets priced between 329$ to 600$ then why can't Qualcomm offer their equelants like Snapdragon 888 for midrange products like surface go.
  • I don’t think Qualcomm cares about PCs. The phone market is so much larger and more profitable, they aren’t putting much effort into areas. Microsoft also doesn’t seem to be concentrating much on ARM either. They at least could support the current snapdragons. An 888 must be able to outperform the 855 based 8CX/SQ series.
  • I've been wondering this too. Based on the performance of the SQ1 and SQ2 processors, I'm actually shocked they bestowed the "Pro" title on them. Likewise, with Intel's Pentium and m3 processors, I was shocked that they decided to put them in the Go considering they offer only marginally better performance and compatibility than ARM's offerings and have terrible battery life by comparison.
  • Cause 8cx Gen 3 coming this Dec is going to be a big boost and will better justify that device/price. SQ1/2 got the ball rolling for that device and higher pricepoint. You want a $399 PC it's not 8cx, it's 7c and that chip is just not there yet to justify using it in "Go X." Maybe next gen.
  • "It's true that ARM chips can't compete with powerful x86 ones when it comes to more demanding tasks, but the Surface Go isn't a device meant for people who need something with muscle." This is exactly the same logic Microsoft used with the Surface RT and we all know how that went.
    The truth is, people expect Windows to be able to do a plethora of things and support a plethora of programs. And Windows on ARM doesn't do that. Even with the emulation on a powerful device like the Pro X, the experience is pretty sub-par.
    If you put an already subpar experience on weaker hardware like the Surface Go is meant to have, you have a Surface RT 3. And for all their flaws, at least Microsoft seems to have sort of learned that people don't really like or want a Windows on ARM device. Let alone one that will perform poorly.
  • The SPX is NOT underpowered. That is a narrative almost always from people that haven't actually used the device in real life. The experience is not subpar for me. I owned an RT as well and the SPX is lightyears ahead of that. It's a lazy comparison. If MS released a GoX w/ 20hr battery life, I'd buy it. I'm not buying the Go3 because the whole point of a device on the "go" is it needs great battery life. As it is, my SPX is my favorite device I've used to date. I have a great experience. But it depends on your use-cases. SPX is (nearly) perfect for me.
  • I also have a Pro X. It works great and LTE is a strong plus.
  • "And for all their flaws, at least Microsoft seems to have sort of learned that people don't really like or want a Windows on ARM device."
    Considering HP and Samsung just announced low-cost PCs with ARM, and HP has the new ENVY Folio and there's Surface Pro X, I'd argue against this. Lenovo was the first with a 5G laptop last year. ARM is a marathon, not a race. And when Qualcomm's purchase of NUVIA (whose engineers made Apple's M1) comes to market, we'll see the future of ARM in PC. Samsung Exynos with AMD is coming. NVIDIA bought ARM Ltd. to make its own ARM chips + RTX GPUs. ARM is a coming tidal wave. You have to be blind or naive to not see it coming.
  • I have the same question, honestly.
  • You can say that again.
  • I would not buy a Surface Go ARM device. The gap has closed now with 64-bit emulation, but the performance hit with emulation is not worth it when using budget chips, and also gaps in ARM native drivers is still a problem. I'm not sure how you can say ARM results in better battery life. The Surface Pro X is rated at 15 hours. The Surface Pro 8 is rated at 16 hours. The Surface Go 3 is rated at 11, which is plenty. I bet if you slanted the battery test comparison of the Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 8 using mostly x86 emulated software, The Surface Pro X would suffer in performance and battery life. Intel is doing a good job of catching up in providing efficient mobile chips. You just can't say blanketly that ARM is better for battery. It is a very complex thing. I run my computers always in Battery Save mode when not plugged in. You will get better performance and battery life because less system level background processing will be going on. There is no reason to run system level background stuff when on battery. It can wait until you plug in. Also, if you use Edge, use sleeping tabs. I'm not sure if Chrome offers something like sleeping tabs, but if it doesn't, close unused tabs. That will have a huge impact on battery life. Also, one last tip. Don't scroll web pages. Use page down and page up. Oh, and another tip. Uninstall third party virus protection software. The default settings of most of these products do way too much stuff; most of which are unnecessary. Just use Windows Defender. It is far more efficient.
  • Great power saving tips! I do most of those too, but I've never put them in a nice concise list like that and had never thought about PgUp and PgDn to save batter over scrolling, but now that you point that, of course -- reduces a lot of animation and pixel motion. Thanks!
  • Same regarding battery life. Also regarding sleeping tabs I would advise people to decrease the time till a tab goes in sleep mode (at least this is easily done in Edge browser), this can greatly increase battery life since some web pages are optimized very badly (/constantly using cpu power).
  • Because there are idiots in charge at Microsoft.
    There is a very good reason why they are the most disliked tech company in the United States (fact from survey just taken last month).
    Microsoft makes stupid hardware decisions on just about everything. Surface Go with a POS intel processor so slow 10 year old computers are faster than it? Sure why not.
    Surface Pro X with an ARM processor priced as high, or higher, than x86 processor versions. Couple that with poor general performance and poor app compatibility? Sure why not
    Take close to a decade to add Thunderbolt to your premier flagship Surface lineup? Sure why not.
    Make horrible buggy products that either get abandoned or updated years after they are relevant? Sure why not. The list could go on for days.
    Microsoft problems run so deep and the corporate culture, policies, and practices are so screwed there is not much hope for them to change.
  • Panos Panay is a genius. I'd say he's the best at leading hardware design in the entire industry. The Surface Go is intended as a low-cost highly portable system. I suspect costs and chip availability are driving the decision, not stupidity on the part of Panos.
  • "There is a very good reason why they are the most disliked tech company in the United States (fact from survey just taken last month)."
    ... according to Twitter comments. That was the "survey."
  • "Surface Go with a POS intel processor so slow 10 year old computers are faster than it? Sure why not.", you are comparing 10 year old desktops that suck up a lot of power with tablets that need to be power efficient, and generally sustained power is less important for tablets than turbo/burst power (since people tend to be use software like Office or making notes more on a Go than rendering videos or such).
  • SG2 is 3x more efficient than my old pc (10yr) and laptop (8yrs). But battery sometimes s*ck, and I don't know why.
  • What cpu do you have in the Go2? I know that the m3 variant has longer battery life when idle or near idle, but is still mediocre under load. It is likely some proces (maybe some unoptimized browser page or background process) that is eating away your battery, hence I would suggest always having the Go 2 in battery mode and that tabs within MS Edge go to sleep within a few minutes.
  • That's also ignoring how much more expensive those 10 year-old computers would have been then than the Go is now.
  • Hey, you can't get mad at the Surface Go because it is so cute; and just plain hits a portability/usability sweet spot. I can't wait for Daniel's review on the Surface Go 3. I can take my Surface Go and run Guitar Pro 7.5 on it and use it to render sheet music in tablet mode. I can then hook up the Surface Go to two daisy-chained 27" 2k monitors, for a total of three monitors, connect with Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and have a full workstation using nothing more than a $20 USB-C to Displayport adaptor. I then have the real estate to arrange the music on huge monitors. The Surface Go does fine with the sound engine in Guitar Pro also (which can be CPU demanding). I'd like to see you do this with an iPad (e.g. go from tablet to full workstation).
  • No ROI on it, that's why. Microsoft's market research tells them that the price/performance vs. Sales ratio is not worth the R&D effort. People who want something in this price range will overwhelmingly buy iPADs, and that won't change any time soon. The GO is the low-cost x86 answer to the iPAD, and will remain so. Anything more powerful is outside the cost range and will be a Dell or HP or Lenovo anyway. It takes a lot of CPU horsepower to run the x64 emulation layer in Windows 10/11, and to put in an ARM CPU powerful enough to do it will push it to the price range of the Pro X anyway.
  • I have no special insight on this, but this matches my assumption on the reasoning. If MS could do it profitably and it really would be longer battery life with no or minimal other tradeoffs, they would. I'm sure there's a reason and the low-hanging fruit/Occam's Razor reason is poor ROI.
  • I think this is an interesting set of ideas on where an ARM Surface Go might or might not fit into the Surface lineup, but it would have been better if we got Microsoft's own word on why there's no ARM Go yet. Maybe they don't have something to say yet, but it's always worth asking.
  • Yeah, we can make educated guesses, but seems like the kind of question MS might actually answer. I don't see a downside to them in explaining their reasoning: "Component costs are higher, so the price would be too high." or whatever the reason is. MAYBE they don't want to say that because it would reflect poorly on ARM (or Intel) in some way that's important to those companies' marketing messages, so they stay quiet to avoid hurting their partners. Maybe.
  • "MAYBE they don't want to say that because it would reflect poorly on ARM (or Intel) in some way that's important to those companies' marketing messages, so they stay quiet to avoid hurting their partners. Maybe." Yeah, or it's just not on message and it's up to journalists to dig deeper. Or maybe there's something up their sleeves. Who knows? The point is that speculating on the motivations of a company should be informed by what that company says.
  • There is most definitely a reason for no Surface Go X - the Surface Go has always been about no compromises x86 compatibility - to the exclusion of battery life. When the Go was originally revealed, one of MS's own engineers did an introductory video that specifically addressed just this point. Nothing has changed in that scenario. Add to that the fact that SQ1 and SQ2 devices are still WAY OVER-PRICED leaves no room for this pint size magician to do its thing.
  • If you're going to put an ARM in it then just make it run Android. Then I can replace my Samsung tablet already.
  • "It's true that ARM chips can't compete with powerful x86 ones when it comes to more demanding tasks, but the Surface Go isn't a device meant for people who need something with muscle. "" We literally have the M1 Chip showing better results than any Intel and AMD laptop CPUs and you guys say ARM chips can't compete with x86?
  • No fair Gabriel...
  • Of course it's fair. What is not fair is pretending a good ARM system is something unachievable. Companies are simply not putting effort into it right now because Microsoft can't make Windows work properly on ARM. As soon as Microsoft builds a Rosetta equivalent, and I mean a real equivalent, then companies will probably rush to build laptops with ARM chips because they are indeed more fitting for laptops.
  • Windows already have a Rosetta equivalent and it's even more advanced as it allows x64 and arm64 binaries link together.
    It's the ARM chips lagging behind. SQ2 is slower than entry iPad and have Qualcomm tax on top of it making it 3 times the price. For the same price you can get a powerhouse beating every single laptop in CPU performance if you pick M1.
  • Agree. Apple is offering best performance per price in tablet PC segment. Next Qualcomm chip for windows on arm must be equelant to apple m1 to justify it's flagship price tag.
  • They are offering the best performance per price in laptops too, unfortunately.
  • Yeah they are but intel & amd top mobile chips are not that behind in raw performance & unlike 329$ iPad macbooks wouldn't do that big damage in premium laptop segment.
  • Not really since they also have an Apple tax on their Macbooks. Eg compare it to some Ryzen 5700 or even 5900HS laptops and those beat M1 laptops in performance vs price (and often even in multicore performance).
  • Compare all the $899 Windows Laptops with the $899 entry-level Macbook Air with M1.
    Which one will have better performance?
    Better battery?
    Doesn't have a fan?
    Which one will score higher benchmarks?
    Which one is lighter?
    Which one won't have its speed cut in half when unplugged?
  • You are now also talking about different features, earlier you were talking about "best performance per price in laptops too" (which is false). Besides that there are budget Windows laptops (even with touchscreen and pen support, like the Asus Vivobook Flip) that cost much less than 900$ while coming with a 512 gb ssd and ryzen 5500u/5700u. Or mid-tier like HP Envy that also still cost less while having a bigger ssd. Sure these are not premium laptops but still sleek and in the end most people are not buying premium laptops either. Finally there is the issue with Macbooks (which MS Surface also suffers from) that the prices skyrocket when you add more ram and go for larger ssd's (at least Surface devices still have a ssd hatch).
  • But even talking performance. Which Windows Laptop offers similar benchmarks for the same form factor?
  • First, don't lie. It's not better than Intel and AMD, even it uses most advanced manufacturing process. When AMD (or Intel go to TSMC, or later on their own chips) used same process than you can compare.
    Second, Windows works properly on ARM. It just not has good ARM CPUs at the moment...
  • It seems fairly obvious to me that that comment was referring to the ARM chips currently available to Microsoft to put in a Go X. That doesn't include the M1.
  • That is Microsoft’s problem. The M1 is an option, just not if you want a Microsoft product. They need to step it up.
  • Hot take: Microsoft should shrink the Pro X. Reduce the screen resolution, battery size, and build quality. No LTE but keep the SQ1/2 processor. Sell it as the Go X. Charge $800 bucks for it.
  • $800 is too high. $600 would be ideal, though.
  • As Daniel Rubino already mentioned, Microsoft simply can't get that SQ chip much cheaper because of the Qualcomm tax and the basics of economy of scale (i.e. not selling enough to warrant a bigger discount from bulk purchasing). As ochhanz pointed out, a SQ1 Pro X without LTE is STILL $900 bucks. I don't see how MS can hit $600 while also keeping the SQ2 chip. But some cost savings can be had from reduced size and build quality. Hence $800 for a smaller device. Keeping in mind that Go 3 LTE is probably going to be about the same as the 2, so around $730. From a price perspective, that leaves little wiggle room to fit another product in between the $730 Go and $900 Pro X. But a Pro X in an 10.5 inch frame miiiight be able to fit in there nicely.
  • I believe they sell the Pro X without LTE now for 900 $ so I think the difference need to be bigger before anyone would buy the Go over the Pro X (bit like there is a price difference between Ipad Mini or Ipad Air compared to the Ipad Pro 12.9"). I would say 700-750 $ bucks.
  • i have surface go 2 and i wouldn't want an arm processor. Microsoft could work on optimizing the battery because SG2 can work 4 to 12 hours ... The problem is also with charging, they gave max 2 hours but now it charges over 3. The minimum charging current is 18W but the powerbank with 22.5W has a problem to charge it.
  • I am happy they doesn't use ARM Chips. As soon as they do this, I would have to switch to another device. I love the Surface Go 3 for its tiny display and handy chassis.
    And I need a x86 chip. Cause at home or my office I use it mostly on the surface dock 2 with an extra 4K display. That runs very fine with my surface go 2. I use it to develop electronic PCBs and program µC. So for my Atmel programmer I need a x86 chip cause there are no drivers at all for that ARM chips.
    And when I am on the go, I want this very small display and light device. To take notes when in meetings.
    So yes, I am very have they still use Intel chips, thanks Microsoft!
  • Performance is probably the main reason why. If you're going to have to rely on emulation to some extent, then the weaker SoC is a huge problem. Also, judging by the price of other Qualcomm devices, it may be expensive too.
  • This seems like a pointless endeavor, at least to me, as long as the SPX exists. If they want to do a Go X, I think letting the sizes and CPU archs stand as differentiators in performance expectations would make the product line less confusing (given the near-identical designs of the SP8 and SPX). I might even go so far as to say the Neo should be a W11 ARM device that replaces the Go (more portable with a more interested focus) and the SPX (which I really think loses it purpose with the SP8 update). Let the ARM stuff lead the bleeding edge of Surface if the Pro line is so committed to bland integration.
  • Hang tight, Mediatek + AMD are currently working on several ARM SoCs for laptops.
  • I plan to pre-order the Surface Go 3 as soon as the LTE version goes live to replace my Surface Go 1 LTE (which replaced the similar sized Surface 3 LTE non-pro). Previous to COVID, I flew and travelled a lot and the battery life was acceptable. I love the form factor to take my personal stuff on the road while I tote a bulkier work laptop. At $750, there are plenty of compromises already. I don't want to worry about what might or might not work on ARM. The M1 seems to show that Windows can be made to work on ARM architecture but Qualcomm doesn't seemed to have reached that point yet. I would love to get the battery life of an Android tablet or iPad but if that was all that was important I would carry one of those.
  • I get it. Battery life is important, but without being able to run every software is just a multimedia pad.
  • Wait.. Pro X is a SUCCESS? I thought it was a dud?
  • What makes you think that?
  • Surface needs a minimum power of M1 to draw attention from consumers. Don't bother with 8cx Gen3 or gen4, 5 if it's still losing ground too much to what Apple has to offer
  • In the 15+ years that I've been following Microsoft, there's the one thing I've learned above all else...whatever seems like an obvious thing to do by Windows/Surface/Xbox/Lumia users will almost certainly be totally missed or ignored by Microsoft.
  • "while still offering solid and reliable performance"
    I'm not sure about that. Battery life is important, but without reliable performance to run every software is just a multimedia powerhorse, but you can get that too on an iPad, a lot better.
    There is a lot of outcry about the lack of performance on base Surface Go, why make it worse?
    Wouldn't be better to just increase battery? Better power management on hardware side?
  • It's the same answer every time this comes up. Surface Go X with ARM wouldn't be any better than Intel until the native ARM app ecosystem is caught up. For most people, they would probably have worse performance/battery life for their tasks having to run X86 in emulation on an ARM. Really, MS just needs developer adoption and they need an ARM CPU that can affordably do emulation - until then moving up to higher power ARM or SQ would be too expensive for the price point. The last thing they want is another RT debacle... (I'm staring at my RT right now... may as well throw it away)
  • "Surface Go X with ARM wouldn't be any better than Intel until the native ARM app ecosystem is caught up. " This is incorrect. Windows on ARM devices are all fanless and offer consistently better battery. Of course they have an emulation issue too. "For most people, they would probably have worse performance/battery life for their tasks having to run X86 in emulation on an ARM. " This is also incorrect. Windows on ARM even running emulated apps offer better and consistent battery gains neither Intel or AMD can offer. The emulation performance hit in my experience is minor. With Intel/AMD the battery life wildly differs, sometimes daily. I've never found this on my Surface Pro X, just like ChromeOS it's consistently great.
  • I'm not talking about Windows on ARM performance, I'm talking about the complete lack of native ARM apps on windows... its atrocious and emulation wouldn't solve the problem on these devices. Emulation on the price point of the CPUs that would end up in a Surface Go X would be atrocious.
  • "Really, MS just needs developer adoption and they need an ARM CPU that can affordably do emulation - until then moving up to higher power ARM or SQ would be too expensive for the price point. " Whilst this is correct, Surface Go doesn't need emulated apps in the same way Surface Pro X might. A Surface Go X would work wonderfully today with Microsoft Edge, Office, Teams, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, VLC. All of these are already ARM Apps. Even then it's NOT all emulated apps that run poorly. Not at all. I use Your Phone and EverNote under emulation, both work fine. A Surface Go X wouldn't be intended for heavy duty apps anyway.
  • A Business case for Surface Go X? Sure... Consumer? no way... I don't think these are aimed at business case... and I certainly don't think Surface Go is worthy if its use is JUST being a clone of a chromebook
  • Because Windows on ARM has a bad reputation. It's telling Microsoft has continues to use Intel since the Surface Pro X. It's a shame as Windows on ARM has x86 emulation issues, but it also has major advantages Intel and AMD can't offer.
  • "This is exactly the same logic Microsoft used with the Surface RT and we all know how that went." Yep. This.
  • We may not see "surface go x" untill Microsoft designs their own CPU. I wish Microsoft will release in-house cpu next year with surface neo and surface go. Surface go with Microsoft own cpu might be an option to Increase battery life as well as keeping the price low.
  • "while still offering competent performance for general web browsing and productivity work" in Windows world maybe is the case, in Mac however (M1) is super sonic machine that can do everything "It's true that ARM chips can't compete with powerful x86 ones when it comes to more demanding tasks" again...
  • "Additionally, the Surface Go 3's budget-tier Intel Core i3-10100Y is far from being considered high-end." Have been saying this for ages. People lambast Windows on ARM but Intel Core i3 and Core m3 aren't powerful either. Windows on ARM is perfect for a Web browsing life device.