The most affordable, smallest member of the Surface lineup is the 10.5-inch Surface Go 2 (8/10, WIRED Recommends). If your needs are minimal, or you prefer tiny computers, this is what you should buy. Despite its slower Intel chips, it gets the job done. This second-generation model fixes our main complaint with its predecessor by providing the all-day battery life you need.

Because of its excellent Surface Pen compatibility, the Go is awesome for note-taking, and with a Type Cover attached, it’s a surprisingly good, if tiny, tablet and laptop hybrid. It might not be able to take on the iPad Pro in terms of sheer computing power, but the Go 2 is well priced and good enough for most college students, or anyone who has the budget for a second, portable computer.

The tantalizingly priced $399 version might not be a great pick if you need the Surface Go 2 to serve as your main computer. Its smaller, slower storage drive and limited RAM could make multitasking and demanding apps feel slower. If you can, spring for the $630 configuration instead. Like the Surface Pro, the Go 2 does not include a $100 Type Cover keyboard or Surface Pen, so remember to pick those up with your tablet purchase.

Surface Go (Core M3, 8-GB RAM, 128-GB SSD) costs $630 at Microsoft’s Store or $730 at B&H Photo and Video (for the LTE model)

The Best for Power Users

Surface Book 3

How to Pick the Best Microsoft Surface Laptop or Tablet
Photograph: Microsoft 

This transforming powerhouse is the only Surface device with an optional graphics chip that’ll boost core performance, speeding up everything from Adobe Premiere to SolidWorks. The full-size, laptop-style keyboard (with better key travel than the Go’s clip-on-type cover) makes typing easier, and the screen detaches at the press of a button to become a tablet when watching movies or annotating documents with the Surface Pen.

This is the closest analog to Apple’s MacBook Pro series. Thanks to standard 10th-gen Intel processors and an optional discrete Nvidia GPU inside the keyboard dock, you’ll get amazing performance for a portable device. Plus, you get the expected suite of Surface goodies—Windows Hello, a gorgeous high-res screen, a luxurious backlit keyboard, and a big, silky-smooth glass trackpad.

The Surface Book 3 comes in a 13-inch or 15-inch package. We haven’t finished our testing, but Microsoft is claiming battery life up to 15.5 hours and 17.5 hours, respectively.