Surface Go Hands-on: The iPad Meets Its Match

I have three key takeaways for you after going hands on with Microsoft's new $399 Surface Go for the first time, which goes on sale Aug 2.

  • The Surface Go feels wonderfully light and pretty solid for something so cheap, and the 10-inch display is great.
  • Unlike the latest $329 iPad, the optional keyboard includes a touchpad, so it's easy to move the cursor.
  • The Surface Go's price is deceptively cheap; with the cost of accessories, the price quickly increases.

Most importantly, the Surface Go surpasses the iPad in multiple ways.

A successor of sorts to the discontinued Surface 3, the Surface Go ($399 to start) targets mobile workers, students and anyone on the move who doesn't want to lug around a traditional laptop. Based on my impressions, this is a well-made tablet that weighs just 1.15 pounds. It feels a lot more premium than the starting price might suggest, and the optically bonded Gorilla Glass display should hold up as you shove this slate in a bag day after day.

Surface Go Key Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
$399 to start/$597 with keyboard and pen
Windows 10 in S Mode (with free upgrade to Home)
10 inches (1800 x 1200)
Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y
4GB, 8GB
64GB, 128GB, 256GB
8 MP (back), 5 MP (front)
27 watt-hours (9 hours rated)
USB Type-C, headphone, Surface Connect
9.6 inches x 6.9 inches x 0.33 inches
1.1 pounds

The 10-inch display is sharp, with 1800 x 1200-pixel resolution, and in person, the panel looks a lot more colorful than other cheap 2-in-1s.

The built-in kickstand (something the iPad lacks) gives you 165 degrees of freedom along with just the right amount of friction. Too bad the bezels around the screen are so chunky they make the Surface Go's design look a bit dated.

On the plus side, the front 5-megapixel camera supports Windows Hello, so you can log in to the new Surface just by looking at it. There's also front-facing stereo speakers, so the sound is directed straight at you. The back of this slate houses an 8-MP camera.

If you're looking for speed, the Surface Go isn't for you. However, the Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4415Y (which sits just below Core M) should give you plenty of pep for surfing the web, reviewing and marking up documents and checking email. Note that the system runs Windows 10 in S Mode out of the box, which promises speedier performance and better security. But you can upgrade to regular Windows 10 for free, which is what I'd do, because I need to run apps like Chrome, which aren't in the Windows Store.

The starting configuration comes with 4GB of RAM but 8GB is also available. As for storage, you're looking at 64GB to start, but that can be upgraded on the Surface Go to 128GB or 256GB.

Ports include USB Type-C, a headphone jack and Microsoft's Surface Connect port for plugging in a docking station.

The Surface Go should provide plenty of endurance. Microsoft says the 27-watt-hour battery is rated for up to 9 hours of battery life. That's over Wi-Fi. LTE models of the Surface Go will also be available.

Now, let's talk accessories. The standard Surface Go Type Cover keyboard will run you $99.99, and it will cost you an extra $99.99 for Surface Pen. So if you want to use the Surface as a laptop — and most people will — you're looking at spending at least $499. And adding the pen will bring you to $597.

There are some pretty decent Windows 2-in-1s available for $500 or less. For example, the Lenovo Flex 6 11 packs an Intel Celeron processor, a good keyboard and a bigger 11-inch display for just $329. However, the screen isn't great, and you get only 2GB of RAM.

The iPad starts at $329, but when you add an Apple Pencil and Logitech keyboard, the total zooms up to $527.95. That's less than a similarly configured Surface Go, but the iPad comes with just 32GB of storage for the entry-level model. More important, iPad keyboards don't offer a touchpad, which means you have to rely on the touch screen for cursor movement.

There's one other way the Surface Go stands out versus the iPad. With the Surface Connect port, you can power two external 2K monitors at once, so this slate can pull double duty as a full desktop PC. You'll just have to keep your performance expectations in check.

This story originally appeared on Laptop Mag.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • darkomaledictus
    Far from an Ipad killer. So long as the battery life of this device is as abysmal as it is it will always be a laptop replacement at best, far off from a tablet. My comic book reader will still remain an Ipad pro.

    Windows also makes this dive extremely clunky when trying to use it as a tablet. The fact that the MS app store has very little of value is not helping them either...
  • hoovy032
    You use the iPad Pro as a comic book reader?
  • darktizzy
    DARKOMALEDICTUS are you for real? You are talking about an Ipad Pro that costs twice as much. If you compare this to the iPad, not the pro, the battery life is similar, 9 hours. "Apple states that normal battery life for surfing the Internet using WiFi, playing music or watching videos is up to ten hours, while surfing the Internet using a 3G network should be up to about nine hours."

    And while I agree about the lack of apps, this is full windows so you can do much more than just 'apps'.
  • rocwurst
    Microsoft is definitely not going to be stealing Apple's tablet crown any time soon. With 44 million iPads sold last year compared to sales of only a few million Surface devices and stagnant growth year on year, it’s no surprise that analysts like Canalys are predicting Microsoft will exit hardware in 2019.

    As far as the mobile Pentium CPU in this cheap Surface tablet is concerned, it’s pretty anaemic competition with a Geekbench score of only 2,050 (3,946 multi-core) compared to 3,462 (5,887 multi-core) for the powerhouse A10 Fusion SoC in the base model iPad let alone the iPad Pro with a multi-core score of around 10,000.

    You seem to think that 4GBs of RAM is good for the Surface Go, but you do realise it has to struggle under the full load of the Desktop Windows 10 OS? This is not going to be a Photoshop/Video Editing machine by any stretch of the imagination.

    And it doesn’t have a Fingerprint reader. How primitive in this day and age of TouchID iOS devices. And no GPS on the Surface Go - what?!

    Compare this to the slim, tablet-optimised iOS on the iPad with it’s million+ multi-touch optimised apps capable of live editing 4K video streams and there is just no comparison.