Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Go 3: Which tablet should you get?

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Go 3: Which tablet should you get?

Microsoft recently launched both the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Go 3, two devices that will represent the best experiences you can get on Windows 11. These are both tablets, and they’re both great devices in their own right, but they’re in very different price ranges. Right away, that should help determine which one is the best fit for you.

But if you want to know more about them, we’re going to take a look at what makes each of them unique. There are valid reasons to want either one of them, and even though the Surface Pro 8 is evidently the most premium offering, the Surface Go 3 has a lot going for it, too.

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Go 3: Specs

First off, let’s take a look at a rundown of the specs between these two tablets. We’ll go deeper into the differences afterwards.

Surface Pro 8Surface Go 3
Processor
  • Intel Core i3-1115G4 (up to 4.1GHz, 2-core) (commercial customers only)
  • Intel Core i5-1135G7 (up 4.2GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core i7-1185G7 (up to 4.9GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y (up to 3.4GHz, 2-core)
  • Intel Core i3-10100Y (up to 3.9GHz, 2-core)
Graphics
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Intel UHD Graphics 615
RAM
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
  • 4GB
  • 8GB
Storage
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 64GB
  • 128GB
Display
  • 13 inch PixelSense Flow (2880 x 1920) display, up to 120Hz refresh rate, touch, Surface Pen support
  • 10.5 inch PixelSense (1920 x 1280), touch, Surface Pen support
Audio
  • Two 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Two 2W stereo speakers with Dolby audio
Webcam
  • 5MP, 1080p front-facing webcam
  • 10MP, 4K/1080p rear-facing camera
  • 5MP, Full HD front-facing camera
  • 8MP, Full HD rear-facing camera with autofocus
Biometric authentication
  • Windows Hello IR camera
  • Windows Hello IR camera
Battery
  • Up to 16 hours of battery life
  • Up to 10 hours of typical device usage
Ports
  • 2 Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C) ports
  • Surface Connect port
  • 3,5mm headphone jack
  • 1 USB Type-C
  • 1 Surface Connect port
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • microSD card reader
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.1
  • Optional: LTE (Qualcomm Snapdragon X20)
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0
  • Optional: LTE Advanced Pro (Qualcomm Snapdragon X16)
Colors
  • Platinum
  • Graphite
  • Platinum
Size (WxDxH)
  • 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 in (287.02 x 208.28 x 9.4 mm)
  • 9.65 x 6.9 x 0.33 in (245 x 175 x 8.3 mm)
Weight
  • 1.96 lbs (889 grams)
  • 1.2 lbs (544 g)
Starting price$1,099.99 (consumer models with Intel Core i5)$399

Performance: The Surface Pro 8 is far ahead

Just looking at the specs list, it’s immediately obvious that the Surface Pro 8 is the more powerful of the two devices. It’s powered by the 11th-generation 15W Intel Core processors, which bring a big leap in performance over the previous generation, both in CPU and GPU. By comparison, the Surface Go 3 is packing 5W/7W processors without Intel Iris Xe graphics. Naturally, there’s going to be a big gap in terms of performance.

We typically use Geekbench 5 to compare scores, but the Surface Go 3 processors aren’t yet on the database. However, we can use Geekbench 4 for this comparison. Here’s what these processors look like next to each other:

Intel Pentium Gold 6500YIntel Core i3-10100YIntel Core i5-1135G7Intel Core i7-1185G7
Geekbench 4 score (single/multi-core)3,647 / 5,9634,359 / 7,6435,628 / 17,6496,694 / 22,344

The difference isn’t insignificant, especially in terms of multi-core results. That’s because the processors inside the Surface Go 3 only have two cores, while the Surface Pro 8 has four.

The rest of the specs are also quite different. The Surface Go 3 maxes out at 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, which is the base configuration for the Surface Pro 8. You can upgrade the Pro 8 with up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage (limited to 256GB if you add LTE), so naturally, it’s the most powerful of the two.

Front view of Surface Pro 8

The Surface Pro 8 also wins in terms of battery life, with the larger size of the tablet accommodating a larger battery. Microsoft touts up to 16 hours of typical usage, versus the 10 hours on the Surface Go 3.

But it’s important to point out that all of this is to be expected. The price difference between these two devices is huge, so of course the Pro 8 is more powerful. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a bad experience with the Surface Go 3, and it’s still a solid entry-level tablet. For casual web browsing and younger students, it’s still a valid choice.

Display: The Pro 8 is bigger and faster

This trend continues as we look at the displays on these tablets. Again, the Surface Go 3 offers a great experience for its price. It’s packing a 10.5 inch Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) display, and it even has the 3:2 aspect ratio that other Surface devices have. That’s extremely rare at this price point, and it makes for a great viewing experience.

The Surface Pro 8 has a 120Hz refresh rate display and Dolby Vision.

But of course, the Surface Pro 8 is on a different level. It has a larger 13 inch display, and it also packs many more pixels with a resolution of 2280 x 1920. Not only that, but it supports Dolby Vision and up to a 1120Hz refresh rate, making everything feel much smoother. If you’re a fan of inking, there’s a new processor inside the Surface Pro 8 that enabled haptic feedback in the Surface Slim Pen 2, making it feel like you’re writing with a pen on paper. It’s just a fantastic experience all around.

The audio setup isn’t too far off on the Surface Pro 8 and Go 3, Both of them have a pair of 2W speakers providing stereo sound, and they’re pointing directly in front of the screen. The difference is the Surface Pro 8 supports Dolby Atmos surround sound, while the Go 3 only supports “Dolby audio”. That means movies and TV shows may be a bit more immersive on the Pro 8.

Surface Go 3 with red keyboard

Turning to the webcams again, you’ll get a solid experience on both of these devices. The front-facing webcam is a 5MP sensor with Full HD video, which is great for video calls. Even on premium devices, not every brand is using Full HD webcams, but Microsoft even uses them in its affordable Surface Go 3.

The differences are on the back, with the Surface Go 3 using an 8MP camera with Full HD video, while the Pro 8 has a 10MP camera capable of recording in 4K. Both of them have autofocus, too.

Design: The Surface Go 3 is more portable

While both the Surface Pro 8 and Go 3 are extremely portable devices, this is one area where you might actually prefer the Surface Go 3. Because of the smaller 10.5 inch display, this tablet is significantly lighter at just 1.2 lbs, and the smaller size means it’s also more manageable as a tablet. It’s easier to hold with one hand, and you might find it easier to reach every part of the screen. Ultimately, it’s not a huge difference, and the Surface Pro 8 can still easily be taken anywhere.

The Surface Pro 8 uses a new keyboard cover with built-in storage for the Surface Slim Pen 2.

Both tablets also support a Type Cover/Signature Keyboard, as well as the Surface Pen, but they do it in different ways now. The Surface Go 3 has its own Type Cover which is naturally smaller, and it supports the classic Surface Pen with its round design. The Surface Pen attaches magnetically to the side of the laptop, and it uses a non-rechargeable battery.

Meanwhile, the Surface Pro 8 is designed to work with the Surface Slim Pen 2, which has a thin design and is meant to be stored inside the new Surface Pro Signature Keyboard. This offers more secure storage since you can’t knock the pen loose as easily, but it also recharges the battery while it’s stored. Because of the more rounded chassis of the Surface Pro 8, you can’t attach the classic Surface Pen on the side anymore, but you can still use it if you want.

Slim Pen 2 in pen garage

Surface Slim Pen 2 and Surface Pro 8

In terms of ports, the Surface Pro 8 has a pretty big advantage over the Surface Go 3, and that’s Thunderbolt 4 support. If you want to use Thunderbolt docks, displays, or external GPUs, the Surface Pro 8 lets you do all that, and it’s one of the first Surface PCs to do it. Aside from two Thunderbolt 4 ports, it has a Surface Connect port and a headphone jack, which the Surface Go 3 also has. However, instead of two Thunderbolt ports, the Surface Go 3 has a standard USB Type-C port and a microSD card reader.

Connectivity: Both have LTE

The good news for ultra-mobile users is that LTE connectivity is available on both models, or at least it will be in the future. At launch, only Wi-Fi models are available to buy, but LTE variants will be available for both. The Surface Pro 8 should offer slightly fast speeds thanks to the Snapdragon X20 modem, which promises downloads up to 1.2Gbps and 150Mbps for uploads.. The Surface Go 3 uses a Snapdragon X16 modem, which isn’t too far off with download speeds up to 1Gbps and similar upload speeds to the X20.

One caveat that needs to be mentioned is that adding LTE to the Surface Pro 8 limits your storage to a maximum of 256GB. That’s still more than the Surface Go 3 can offer, but it’s a limitation that many may find troublesome.

Surface Go 3 with red keyboard

Both tablets also support Wi-Fi 6, which is the latest standard available (aside from expanded Wi-Fi 6E).The Surface Go 3 also supports Bluetooth 5.0, while the Pro 8 has Bluetooth 5.1. The difference between these versions isn’t that big, so the experience shouldn’t be too different between the two.

Bottom line

As we said at the start, it’s obvious that the Surface Pro 8 is the more premium and overall better device in this comparison. The performance upgrade of Intel’s Tiger Lake processors makes it a very fast machine, plus it can be configured with a lot more storage and RAM. On top of that, it has a super sharp 13 inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and it finally adds Thunderbolt support, meaning you can connect all kinds of peripherals including external GPUs for gaming.

However, if you’re on a tight budget and you just want something for school or casual use, the Surface Go 3 is still one of the best entry-level Windows tablets. The Full HD+ display is already a rarity on devices of this kind, as is the Full HD webcam (plus another one on the back). The performance is noticeably better than in the previous generation too, so it should give you a solid experience for basic tasks.

Depending on your budget and needs, choosing between the two devices should be fairly simple. Once you’ve made a decision, you can buy your preferred device using the links below. Otherwise, you can check the best Surface PCs to find something else that suits your needs.

    Surface Pro 8
    The Surface Pro 8 is Microsoft's flagship tablet, and it comes with an all-new design, a 120Hz display, Thunderbolt 4, and more.
    Surface Pro Signature Keyboard with Surface Slim Pen 2
    The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard complements the Surface Pro 8 with a keyboard and trackpad to make it feel more like a laptop. This bundle also includes the Surface Slim Pen 2, which is stored magnetically and charged in the keyboard.

If you prefer the Surface Go 3, you can buy it, along with the Surface Go Type Cover and the Surface Pen, using the links below:

    Surface Go 3
    The Surface Go 3 refreshes its predecessor with new 10th-gen processors.
    Surface Go Type Cover
    The Surface Go Type Cover allows you to use your Surface Go 3 like a laptop, adding a keyboard and trackpad. Plus, it protects the screen when you're not using it.
    Surface Pen
    The Surface Pen allows you to easily draw and write on the Surface Go 3. It features 4,096 levels of pressure and tilt support, and it can be easily stored on the side of the tablet.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.