Microsoft Surface Go
IS THIS THE WINDOWS TABLET THAT CAN FINALLY TACKLE THE iPAD?
MICROSOFT’S SURFACE GO, the company’s latest tablet that aims to be a smaller and more affordable Surface Pro, is finally here. The Surface Go doesn’t bring about any major surprises — but perhaps that’s a good thing.
What you see here is what should have arguably been the core conceit of every budget-priced Windows tablet since the beginning: everything you love about the Surface Pro, only smaller. No half-baked operating systems — though this model does ship with Windows 10 in the restricted S Mode — and no strange app compatibility issues. It’s just a smaller Surface that works.
Of course, there were some cuts to be made to create a Surface tablet of this price, namely in the horsepower department, but your expectations should scale accordingly. Depending on your needs, the Surface Go could easily be your daily driver for everything from work to watching movies.
The configuration we reviewed (which included 128GB of eMMC storage and 8GB of RAM) costs $839, and it’s the most powerful version that Microsoft currently offers. Meanwhile, the starting model goes for $599, with 64GB of storage and 4GB of memory, while the rest of the specs remain the same. Annoyingly, Microsoft continues to sell the tablet’s all-but-essential accessories separately. The Surface Pen goes for $139, for example, while the new Alcantara fabric Type Covers designed for the Go are $199, with the standard black nylon Type Cover costing $149.
At first glance, the Surface Go appears simply to be the Surface Pro shrunken down, and that’s largely true — including that excellent kickstand and all.
The first major hint toward the Surface Go’s intended audience is the rounding of the edges and angles that Microsoft has applied to the device. Gone are the stark, angled edges found
THE GO IS JUST GORGEOUS IN EVERYDAY USE. THE DISPLAY IS INCREDIBLY COLOUR-ACCURATE, AND MOVIES AND IMAGES LOOK FANTASTIC ON IT.
on the higher-end Surface Pros.
The excellent hinge returns and can bend around nearly 180º like before, making this device an ideal canvas for digital drawing and note taking.
Microsoft’s still managed to cram a USB-C port and microSD card reader in here. This means that not only can this tablet’s storage be expanded, but it has two ways to hardwire a dock and expand displays, thanks to the mainstay Surface Connect port.
As for the new and smaller Type Cover, Microsoft’s managed to deliver full-sized keys (now with more pronounced curves) within a smaller amount of space, and has included a glass trackpad that’s larger in depth than that of the Surface Pro. All told, the Type Cover feels just as snappy as it has before — we would say ‘only smaller,’ but it doesn’t feel that much more cramped when typing. That said, you will need to get used to a slightly tighter typing experience, especially when the device is on your lap.
DISPLAY & SPECS
Microsoft’s screen continues to be top notch on the Surface Go. At 1,800 x 1,200 pixels, it’s not the sharpest 10-inch tablet display by a long shot — the latest iPad comes in at 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, for example. Regardless, the Go is just gorgeous in everyday use. The display is incredibly colour-accurate, and movies and images look fantastic on it. That 3:2 aspect ratio is great for work and web browsing, but gives full-screen 16:9 videos the shaft with wasted space on the top and bottom.
Like most Windows tablets, the bezels around the display are particularly large, but that does allow you to grip the device from any side without accidentally interacting with any on-screen content.
The Go’s speakers reside within those bezels on both sides of the screen. For such tiny drivers, these speakers sound surprisingly powerful, deep and nuanced in the amount of channel separation they can deliver.
Before getting too deep into performance details just yet, let’s make it clear that you generally shouldn’t buy a tablet or laptop for this price and expect a powerhouse. You’ll get something competent enough to handle basic workloads and casual games, and the Surface Go does that, but not much more.
The Surface Go, with its Intel Pentium Gold processor, can handle basic browser-based workloads, like word processing and content management, as well as the suite of Office 365 apps, with ease. However, don’t expect this processor to handle high-resolution image or video editing and rendering in the same way that a proper laptop does.
The CPU inside employs Intel’s HD Graphics 615, which isn’t far off from the integrated graphics inside the Intel processors used in gaming laptops. This allows for some surprisingly powerful 3D rendering, to the point that Minecraft runs like a dream on the tablet. Furthermore, education apps that use 3D modeling — particularly in the science field — run without issue here, as does Microsoft’s Paint 3D tools.
The latest iPad may oust the Surface Go in pure speed tests, but the Surface Go is a far more versatile device — even in Windows 10 S Mode. Speaking of which, unless you’d like to keep your device on lockdown for security or simplicity reasons, just upgrade to Windows 10 Home — which is entirely free — once you’ve gone through basic setup.
BATTERY LIFE & VERDICT
Microsoft promises up to nine hours of continuous use from the Surface Go. Shocking no one, those aren’t the numbers we could reproduce in our testing, but the real-world results thankfull aren’t awful either. What’s weirder is that the device actually lasted longer in Windows 10 Home than in S Mode.
The difference in our tests is less than an hour, and at any rate, expect the Surface Go to last around 6 hours on a charge, and perhaps a bit longer if the Battery Saver feature is used.
The Surface Go may very well be a niche device, but it’s one that’s only growing. While you could reduce the Surface Go to being just a smaller Surface Pro, the truth of the matter is that the market is trending toward smaller and smaller computing devices.
Yes, there are still no accessories included, it’s technically less powerful than the new iPad and that screen could be sharper. But this is still a compelling option, and one that’s truly a computer in every sense of the word.
MICROSOFT SURFACE GO CRITICAL SPECS (AS TESTED): Windows 10 S (upgradable to Windows 10 Home); 10-inch LCD display @ 1,800 x 1,200 pixels; Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y CPU; Intel HD Graphics 615 GPU; 8GB RAM; 128GB eMMC storage; 1 x USB-C port; 3.5mm audio port; 1 x Surface Connect port; microSD card reader; 802.11ac Wi-Fi; 24.5 x 17.5 x 0.8 cm; 522g.