As reported by Paul Thurrott, Intel “petitioned Microsoft heavily” to use its Pentium Gold CPU in the Surface Go instead of an ARM chip. Despite a new Snapdragon CPU likely offering longer battery life, Microsoft was probably aware of the performance hit this would have meant for the Surface Go—just how much convincing the company would have needed to choose Intel is unclear.
Microsoft-supported Snapdragon 835-powered PCs may have an all-day battery life, but they struggle when it comes to emulated x86 performance. Back in June, Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon 850, a chip designed specifically for the second-generation of Windows on ARM PCs that brings, among other things, a roughly 25 percent boost in performance, but that's still unable to match Intel’s laptop offerings.
Also in June were rumors of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 1000 platform, which is expected to use the new ARM Cortex-A76 architecture. The platform is said to be able to match an Intel i5-7300U (3.5GHz, Turbo) while drawing much less power, but we’ll have to wait until next year to find out if this is accurate.
As for the Surface Go, the device has received many mixed reviews. Some love its iPad-rivalling portability and low price, while others complain that it's simply too slow and too small for many scenarios—though it probably would have been even slower and come with more problems if Microsoft had gone with an ARM chip.