Surface Go Hands on: Meet the $399 iPad Killer

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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 but is available for pre-order today.

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

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

  $399 to start/$597 with keyboard and pen
OS Windows 10 in S Mode (with free upgrade to Home)
Display 10 inches (1800 x 1200)
CPU Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
microSD Yes
Cameras 8 MP (back), 5 MP (front)
Battery 27 watt-hours (9 hours rated)
Ports USB Type-C, headphone, Surface Connect
Size 9.6 inches x 6.9 inches x 0.33 inches
Weight 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.

Microsoft Surface Go 012 e1531169617435
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.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
Add a comment
  • JackSkell Says:

    Students need battery life while browsing, watching video, and typing documents. Any student needing more esoteric than these basic requirements will be tech-savvy enough to know not to get this.

  • mytwocent Says:

    bigger battery and amd ryzen based apu would have turned this into an absolute killer. this way it is ok - still want one as an on the go device but they could have made a real splash here instead of a dribble ;)

  • Slevin Says:

    The cpu is questionable.

    If this can run programs such as photoshop smoothly, then I think it's a amazing choice for college students. Provided the battery life actually lasts +6 hours.

  • Jerry Suppan Says:

    The lackluster processor will probably be the deal breaker for me. I would not expect to do video NLE work on it, but I'd hope to be able to use it for tasks a bit more then just browsing the internet, reading news and typing messages.

    I may have to consider Lenovo's Carbon X1 Tablet. More pricey but then again, a heck of a lot more in the 2-in-1 detachable form factor.

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