I love the Microsoft Surface. It is a beautifully crafted device and one of the most powerful and lightweight devices that can install and run a full operating system.
The (fanless and therefore absolutely noiseless) Surface Go is the cheapest entry into the Surface ecosystem. It is already available for less than 400 EUR (without pen and keyboard) and comes with Windows 10 S (the S-Mode can be deactivated free of charge). It offers a USB-C interface, a proprietary dock connector, a micro-SD slot and a headphone jack. The display has a very high resolution and displays text in razor sharpness – although the maximum brightness still leaves room for improvement. A full Windows Hello camera is integrated in the display. The catch in this offer is the processor. It is a rather weak Intel® Pentium® Gold processor 4415Y.
In 2018 I bought the first iteration of the Surface Go in the version with 8 GByte RAM and a 128 GB SSD for less than 500 EUR plus a TypeCover and the Surface Pen. I generally recommend this equipment variant, because the smaller entry level variant with eMMC memory is really unpleasantly slow.
Why I decided to be adventurous …
I was dissatisfied from day one with the pre-installed Windows 10, not because Windows 10 is a bad operating system, but because of the unordered advertising and bloatware on the device and the uncomfortable feeling that someone is constantly looking over your shoulder and sniffing when you do what on the device.
Unfortunately, Microsoft at some point decided to not only deliver unsolicited advertising, which the user must first actively remove, but also – and this weighs more heavily – to disregard any respect for the privacy of its users and to integrate telemetry (a euphemism for invasive data collection) as a non-deactivatable component of the operating system. Apart from the impropriety of this approach, this circumstance also makes the legal use of the operating system in Germany more difficult – because very few users have the necessary consent of all data suppliers (friends, relatives, streaming service providers, software suppliers, etc.) to legally transmit telemetry information, which may also contain fragments of the main memory and thus fragments of elements protected by copyright and other laws.
… and how i got happy
For this reason, I experimented quite early on with installing Linux on the device. Initially with rather moderate success – mainly because there were problems with secure boot and the bootloader and so using it was really uncomfortable and unreliable.
In the meantime, however, the situation has improved significantly. Linux Mint can be installed in parallel to Windows 10 with activated Secure Boot and configured so that it is the primary operating system on the Surface Go. Except for the integrated cameras, everything works (including TypeCover and Surface Pen). The runtime is still good at 4-5 hours – and thanks to the USB-C interface, the device can be charged with any PD-enabled PowerBank.
The perceived performance is consistently better than under Windows 10. On the application side, only a few compromises have to be made – Skype, Skype for Business (via Pidgin with SIPE plugin), Teams, WebEx, Zoom – everything works. Microsoft Office is available either via RDP or via the Office WebApps. Mail – including calendar and address book – can be used almost as comfortably with Evolution as with Outlook.
Microsoft won’t be pleased, but the Surface Go isAxel Napolitano
more fun with Linux than with Windows.
The Surface Go with Linux is incredibly flexible and it’s just fun to work with. Even if Microsoft might not be happy: The Microsoft Surface Go is currently the best Linux tablet and runs better under Linux (apart from the cameras, which are not yet working) than under Windows 10.
I will publish complete instructions with details in a few weeks – until then, interested parties are welcome to network with me and use the comment section below.
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