Microsoft Surface Go Part 2 – out in the field

So it has been 4 weeks into using the Surface Go as my main machine – and I thought it was time to share with you how this has gone.    One of my roles in my working week is to manage the IT infrastructure and IT Strategy at Old Buckenham High School in Norfolk.   Now traditionally my work machine for this role has been my Surface Pro 4 however, I thought I would see if the Surface Go would be able to take on the role of the  Pro 4.

Entry sign to Old Buckenham High School
Old Buckenham High School is a typical rural school in Norfolk and makes great use of the Microsoft Cloud

Lets run through a typical school day 

My day starts at home at about 6.30 when I get up and get sorted, a black coffee is soon followed by BBC Breakfast to see how the world is performing since I went to sleep. Generally, I will use the Office 365 admin to check the school’s tenant is functioning as it should be.   The Office 365 admin app is available for free from the Microsoft Store and gives you a health check on the status of your tenant.  

My Surface Go on the lounge table with a cup of tea next to it.
The day starts with using my Surface Go to check the Office 365 status

Next, I will arrive at school approx. 8.30 get into the office.   

Once I arrive in the office and click the kettle on, we spark up the Windows Mail application and check the email of the day. Now I am sure this is a daily ritual for many people, however I only see 14 overnight emails, this is primarily down to the use of Microsoft Teams in the school.  Microsoft Teams is the collaborative centrepiece of Office 365 for Teaching and Learning and has seen us reduce the use of email – instead of using the social media based in the Teams to communicate.

Next up is a visit into one of the IT Suites at the school, and the requirement to reset a few passwords for the new Year 7 students.    Though my Surface Go is running in ‘S Mode’, which means I cannot install Win32 apps, I soon download the Microsoft RDP client from the store, and RDP into the server to connect to the User and Computers snap-in to allow me to reset the student’s passwords.

Windows 10 “S Mode” v Windows 10

‘S Mode’ – In Windows 10 like the Surface Laptop the Go comes with Windows 10 running in ‘S mode’.   ‘S mode’ looks and feels like Windows 10 Pro and can access any of the Microsoft Store Apps including Office 365 Pro Plus.  As Microsoft Store apps effectively run in a sandbox environment, this helps ensure a day 1 – day 1000 experience on the device, also ‘S-Mode’ devices authenticate against Microsoft Azure AD, not local AD.    ‘S mode’ doesn’t support fundamental IT Pro’s tool such as PowerShell and Command prompt, so you may wish to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro or Edu.

I still use ‘S mode’ as its quicker to start up and I like the cloud management (more on that later) if I need PowerShell I simply either RDP into a Server or more recently an Azure VM that is connected through to our infrastructure.

Back in the Office, I use the Go with the Spotify app, and my £25.00 JVC Bluetooth headphones while I have lunch, and get on with a few more areas on our staff drive into there new homes in SharePoint online as we continue to move the school on its journey with the Microsoft Cloud.

As the bell goes a Teams notification pops up requesting some help on Microsoft Forms, so as we continue to move more services into the cloud it frees my time up from firefighting the technology to be able to support teachers to achieve more in the classroom.

So a quick pop into room 10 during the free period in the afternoon means we can offer support to the teacher so she can now build a quiz for students that auto marks itself.   Using the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter in the classroom means that I can simply “connect” to the projector to show what I am doing on the board.   After 20 mins of running through Forms, I simply swipe from the right, chose Connect and then Disconnect from the display.

Finally, the last job of the day is to do some routine maintenance on our Azure AD joined cloud devices using Intune for Education.  The Intune for Education portal is designed to admin your estate from any web-connected device, but with its full-size keyboard, I don’t eat into the screen real estate when I am on the move, unlike my iPad which was my companion device previously.

The Intune Education portal makes it simple to refresh a device overnight and also add a new science web app for deployment, so tomorrow, when they sign in kids, will have access to the resource.

The Surface Go running Intune for Education to manage the school cloud devices

Its only towards the end of the working day you realise the battery life is nearing the end,  Surface Go has up to a 9-hour battery life but in its day to day role in the school, it gets used throughout the day.  Though looking in my bag I realise I have left my Surface charger at home, I don’t have a problem as I get out a USB – C charger for my Samsung Galaxy S8, (which I carry with me all the time!).    With enough charge to last me the rest of the evening I quickly use the Your Phone app (which is linked to my Galaxy S8) to text my wife,  that I am on the way home.

So I am a couple of weeks into using the GO as my main machine and talking to colleagues about their own experiences with the device.   In general, I have been really pleased with what the money buys!   An ideal companion machine for my day to day work, as it been able to all the things I have asked of it  – YES,  do I render high-end quality video and need to use Photoshop to manipulate big images  – absolutely not.

I would say the best aspect is simply the portability of the device and the knowledge of having a fully fledged PC device in your bag which is not going to run out of battery life during the day.  Even it did, you can sleep easy in the fact of being able to use your phone USB charger on the go.    The screen quality I have been particularly impressed with, with its uni-bond construction it means sharing the display with people sitting next to you is no problem.

The Surface keyboard is always a great experience to type on and the size of the trackpad is a vast improvement on the Surface 3 from a few years ago.   I guess my only side is the comparison of the size of the keys against the Pro, for someone like me in my late 40’s who has always used a full-scale keyboard and having middle aged chubby fingers I find at the moment I suffer from hitting the wrong keys when typing sometimes.

Peripherals and extras.

I have invested in the new Surface Mobile mouse from the Microsoft Store, so when I am typing I can be a bit quicker with using the mouse.

The Surface Mobile Mouse

The Surface Mobile Mouse is light, ergonomic and only £29.99 from the store.     Of course, the Surface pen is the best experience and has meant I have used the device in ‘tablet’ mode on several occasions just using the pen to input.   I also very much like the thought of Windows Hello (Face ID) working in portrait mode as well as landscape, so I don’t have to bother about passwords if I haven’t got the keyboard attached.

For the IT Pro or not?

Is the Surface Go the right choice for the IT Pro in school?   Well, it can certainly deal with the pressures of what’s required to admin a network (through RDP) and use in the day to day job.   What’s priceless about the Surface Go is the portability of a full-blown PC with a weight of only 1.15lbs.  Fully functional running Microsoft Office, using Windows inking, using existing 3rd party software and leveraging all of your schools existing investments.

 

How would I rate the Surface Go 

Portability         10

Battery Life       10

Processor           8

Connectivity       9

Keyboard           9

Overall             9.2 /10 

 

My final thoughts

I guess  I would finish with the same thing I would say about any hardware that you buy, is that you need to get the best out of the device from the software or services you decide to run on the device.   It goes without saying by using the Microsoft Cloud, OneNote, Flow, Power BI etc means I get the utmost best from the portability of the device.   If I didn’t and only used it for word processing then any entry-level device would do.   However, as mentioned the portability around the school is absolutely priceless and also as I do a reasonable amount of train travel with my work the ‘lap ability’ factor is completely priceless even against my Pro device.

In the classroom the same is true with service like the Windows Mixed Reality program which allows students to mix the digital world with the physical, on a device for less than £300 means these are truly transformational times in the world of personal computing.

 

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