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Yes, the ru­mors of the smaller Sur­face are true. But will buy­ers be sat­is­fied with the per­for­mance of some­thing some­what faster than the Sur­face Pro 3?

PCWorld (USA) - - Contents - BY MARK HACHMAN

For all of Mi­crosoft’s claims about mo­bil­ity, the Mi­crosoft Sur­face lineup of Win­dows tablets re­ally haven’t been all that por­ta­ble. The smaller, cheaper, lighter Sur­face Go an­nounced in early July hopes to change all that, with a new 10-inch spin on the tra­di­tional Sur­face tablet.

No, this isn’t the Sur­face Mini, or the ru­mored two-screen de­vice, “An­dromeda” ( go.pc­world.com/andr). The Sur­face Go is most rem­i­nis­cent of the Mi­crosoft Sur­face 3

( go.pc­world.com/msf3), 2015’s quirky $499 Atom-pow­ered tablet that pro­vided a cheaper al­ter­na­tive to the pricey Sur­face line. The Sur­face Go dives even lower—prices start at just $399 for a bare-bones model with 4GB of mem­ory and 64GB of stor­age when it ships on Au­gust 2. A key­board will be sold sep­a­rately, be­gin­ning at $99, and the op­tional Sur­face Pen will cost $99 as well.

As the name sug­gests, Mi­crosoft de­signed the Sur­face Go for peo­ple in mo­tion: the sales exec who makes a quick edit or two to a pre­sen­ta­tion while at her daugh­ter’s soc­cer prac­tice, for ex­am­ple. A Wi-fi–only model will ship first, fol­lowed by an LTE model later in 2018. Ac­cord­ing to a Mi­crosoft spokesman, the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Sur­face Go and a de­vice like the Sur­face Pro (2017) is a mat­ter of de­grees: of price, per­for­mance, and screen size.

It’s also a mat­ter of op­er­at­ing sys­tem and pro­ces­sor. Mi­crosoft will pre-load each Sur­face Go with Win­dows 10 S, specif­i­cally Win­dows 10 Home in S Mode. A com­mer­cial vari­ant will ship with Win­dows 10 Pro. The Sur­face Go is pow­ered by a Pen­tium 4415Y “Gold” chip, the very bot­tom of In­tel’s 7th-gen­er­a­tion (Kaby Lake) fam­ily of Core pro­ces­sors.

What this means: The Sur­face Go en­ters a tablet space whose most pop­u­lar play­ers in­clude the An­droid-based 9.7-inch Gal­axy Tab S3 ( go.pc­world.com/gt97) for a lofty $599 and the far more af­ford­able Ama­zon Fire HD 10 ( go.pc­world.com/af10) for a mere $150, as well as, of course, the dom­i­nant Apple ipad, which starts at $329. It ap­pears that Mi­crosoft is shoot­ing for some­where in the mid­dle: a price point low enough to broaden the Sur­face user base, and a fea­ture set that in­cludes a sty­lus and key­board to keep up with the Sam­sung and Apple com­pe­ti­tion (the Fire HD 10 has nei­ther).

A WIN­DOWS TABLET FOR CON­SUMERS

There’s a big ques­tion at the heart of this, though: Have Win­dows users been clam­or­ing for a ba­sic Win­dows tablet? The Sur­face Go does seem to be Mi­crosoft’s an­swer to crit­i­cism that the Sur­face lineup has been just too ex­pen­sive.

The specs that fol­low de­scribe a small, mod­estly equipped tablet that no one will mis­take for a Sur­face Pro—small enough to fit on an air­plane tray ta­ble with the seat in front re­clined, Mi­crosoft says. It seems to have enough equip­ment to han­dle Win­dows 10 S, at least. Re­mem­ber that you’ll be lim­ited to us­ing apps from the Mi­crosoft Store, and brows­ing with Mi­crosoft Edge.

SUR­FACE GO: BA­SIC SPECS

Dis­play: 10-inch (1,800x1,200) IPS, 10-point touch

Pro­ces­sor: In­tel 1.6GHZ Pen­tium 4415Y

( go.pc­world.com/415y; Kaby Lake)

Graph­ics: In­tel HD 615 (in­te­grated)

Mem­ory: 4GB/8GB

Stor­age: 64GB EMMC/128GB SSD (256GB SSD in the com­mer­cial model)

Ports: 1 USB 3.0 Type C, 1 Sur­face Con­nec­tor, mi­crosd, head­phone jack

Wire­less: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-fi, LTE later in 2018

Cam­eras: 5MP front (Win­dows Hello– ca­pa­ble), 8MP rear (with aut­o­fo­cus)

Bat­tery: 27Wh, 9 hours (es­ti­mated) of bat­tery life

Op­er­at­ing sys­tem: Win­dows 10 Home in S Mode (Win­dows 10 Pro for com­mer­cial model)

Di­men­sions and weight: 9.6 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches, 1.15 pounds (tablet), 1.6 pounds (tablet plus key­board)

Price: Start­ing at $399. Key­board is $99 (black) or $129 (bur­gundy, cobalt, plat­inum)

A NEW, SMALLER SUR­FACE TO GO

Mi­crosoft said that there will be two con­sumer ver­sions of the Sur­face Go: one with 4GB of mem­ory and 64GB of SSD stor­age for $399, and an 8GB (mem­ory)/ 128GB (stor­age) ver­sion as well. With a key­board, the cheap­est Sur­face Go will cost just un­der $500. There will also be two com­mer­cial mod­els with some beefier specs—the same pro­ces­sor, but 4GB to 8GB of mem­ory and a 256GB SSD. So far, the only prices Mi­crosoft has re­leased have been for the LTE ver­sions.

Sur­face Go (con­sumer):

4GB RAM/64GB SSD stor­age: $399

8GB RAM/128GB SSD stor­age: $549

Type Cover: $99–$129, depend­ing on color

Sur­face Mouse: $39

Sur­face Pen: $99

Sur­face Go (com­mer­cial):

4GB RAM/64GB SSD stor­age: $449

8GB RAM/128GB SSD stor­age: $599

Type Cover: $99–$129, depend­ing on color

Sur­face Mouse: $39

Sur­face Pen: $99

Un­like pre­vi­ous Sur­face it­er­a­tions — re­mem­ber the Sur­face Book 2? ( go.pc­world.com/msb2)— the Sur­face Go launches with­out fan­fare, in four col­ors: black, bur­gundy, cobalt blue, and the sil­very “plat­inum” of ex­ist­ing Sur­face mod­els. Nat­u­rally, the Al­can­tara-cov­ered key­boards are color-coded to match the chas­sis, and there’s a new Sur­face Mo­bile Mouse to go along with it, be­gin­ning at $39. There’s also a new it­er­a­tion of the Sur­face Pen, with 4,096 lev­els of pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity, that will be of­fered as a $99 op­tion.

In a move that hear­kens back to the Sur­face 3, you’ll have a cou­ple of op­tions to choose from when charg­ing: the tra­di­tional Sur­face con­nec­tor and power plug, or

USB-C. The higher-speed Thun­der­bolt in­ter­face has not been in­cluded.

Though we didn’t have a chance to use it for a long pe­riod of time, the Sur­face Go’s smaller form fac­tor im­plies a dif­fer­ent use case com­pared to its larger and pricier cousins. Though Mi­crosoft sells the key­board sep­a­rately on the Sur­face Pro, its pres­ence is vir­tu­ally as­sumed. That’s not nec­es­sar­ily true with the Sur­face Go.

While the com­pact de­sign has its com­pro­mises, such as a kick­stand lim­ited to two po­si­tions—the Sur­face 3 of­fered three!— it’s still a handy size for any­one who trav­els fre­quently. It fits on a tray ta­ble, the Mi­crosoft spokesman said. Un­der­neath hides the tra­di­tional mi­crosd slot of most Sur­face de­vices.

You may not need the key­board, but Mi­crosoft has paid at­ten­tion to it none­the­less. A spokesman said the com­pany has been busy mak­ing small changes to max­i­mize com­fort and typ­ing speed. Though the keys are smaller than nor­mal, for in­stance, they boast a slight con­cav­ity, to im­prove the land­ing area. (The key­board is about 85 per­cent of the size of the Sur­face Pro’s, ac­cord­ing to Mi­crosoft.) Key travel is about 1mm, ver­sus the 1.5mm or even 1.75mm on com­pet­ing tablets and note­books. All told, Mi­crosoft be­lieves that typ­ing rates will be about 96 per­cent of what you can achieve on the Sur­face Pro’s Sur­face Key­board.

Mi­crosoft also dis­closed de­tails of the new, up­dated wire­less Sur­face Mo­bile Mouse, the am­bidex­trous ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the Sur­face Go. The Mo­bile Mouse is rel­a­tively flat, and is de­signed to be car­ried in the same bag or brief­case that the Go is. It’s

pow­ered by a pair of AAA bat­ter­ies, with a bat­tery life of about a year. The 4,000 fps Blue­tooth mouse is also one of the first to use Swift Pair, the new Win­dows 10 tech­nol­ogy that al­lows the mouse to sig­nal the PC that it’s ready for pair­ing.

PER­FOR­MANCE WILL BE MOD­EST

Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face lineup of­fers a range of pro­ces­sor op­tions, from the pow­er­ful 8th-gen Core chips avail­able within the Sur­face Book 2 ( go.pc­world.com/sb2r), to the Core i7-7660 within the Sur­face Pro (2017), down to the 6th-gen Core chips within the Sur­face Stu­dio ( go.pc­world.com/sfst). With the Sur­face Go, Mi­crosoft’s carv­ing out an even lower tier.

Ex­pect to hear a num­ber of com­par­isons to the Sur­face 3 and its 1.6GHZ In­tel Atom x7-z8700. Ac­cord­ing to Mi­crosoft, the Sur­face Go has dou­ble the pro­cess­ing power and 2.5 times the graph­ics power of the Sur­face 3. Ver­sus the Sur­face Pro 3—the first Sur­face Pro prod­uct to break out into the main­stream—the Go has about a third more per­for­mance than the Core i5 SP3, and about 20 per­cent more than the Core i7 ver­sion. The Go also has enough horse­power to drive a sin­gle 4K mon­i­tor at 60Hz, and a pair of 4K mon­i­tors at 30Hz. Com­pare it to ri­val tablets us­ing 8th-gen Core chips, though, and then Sur­face Go will lag far be­hind.

One ques­tion, of course, is why Mi­crosoft chose an X86 part, rather than an Atom or even one of the new power-sip­ping Qual­comm chips. The an­swer, ac­cord­ing to Mi­crosoft, is sim­ple: be­cause its cus­tomers pre­fer it.

“We’re stan­dard­iz­ing on X86, be­cause many of our cor­po­rate cus­tomers do, and they have mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions of apps and ser­vices on X86 that run on them,” the Mi­crosoft spokesman replied. “Sur­face is X86 across the board.” Ac­cord­ing to the Mi­crosoft spokesman, that’s enough per­for­mance for tra­di­tional mul­ti­task­ing,

along with brows­ing in mul­ti­ple tabs.

WHO’S GO­ING TO GO WITH THE GO?

I didn’t have a chance to per­form what I’d call a full hands-on, though the Sur­face Go does feel light—to­gether with the key­board, the Sur­face Go is lighter than just the SP3 alone, with­out its Type Cover. Typ­ing on it will al­most cer­tainly re­quire some ef­fort, be­cause the key­board is smaller and its keys are shal­lower.

We of­ten look back at prod­ucts to dis­cover a quirky fea­ture that was ahead of its time. In this case, that was the Sur­face 3 LTE ( go.pc­world.com/3lte), which shipped with sup­port for T-mo­bile and Ver­i­zon in late 2015. Now, per­va­sive con­nec­tiv­ity is be­com­ing more im­por­tant. When Mi­crosoft killed the Sur­face 3 in 2016 ( go.pc­world.com/s3dd), an­a­lysts de­bated whether there was a need for an­other, low-cost Sur­face.

And that’s the ques­tion upon which hinges the Sur­face Go’s suc­cess. Mi­crosoft has al­ways carved out the up­per ech­e­lon of tablets and note­books as a way to in­crease rev­enue for the PC mar­ket, and to show what the PC plat­form could achieve. Now it’s head­ing in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion, ex­plor­ing whether con­sumers might pre­fer some­thing less ex­pen­sive. Re­mem­ber, there’s noth­ing stop­ping a Sur­face Go buyer from at­tach­ing a USB-C hub or Sur­face Dock and us­ing the Go as a “desk­top” com­puter, too.

Tra­di­tional Sur­face fans tend to look down on every­thing but the high­est-per­for­mance ma­chines. With the Sur­face Go, Mi­crosoft ap­pears to be mak­ing a con­scious ef­fort to ap­peal to ev­ery­day users as well.

Re­mem­ber, there’s noth­ing stop­ping a Sur­face Go buyer from at­tach­ing a USB-C hub or Sur­face Dock and us­ing the Go as a ‘desk­top’ com­puter, too.

The Mi­crosoft Sur­face Go in­cludes both a USB-C port (sorry, no Thun­der­bolt!) and a Sur­face Con­nec­tor.

The new Sur­face Go (left) com­pared with the 2017 Sur­face Pro (right).

The Sur­face Go uses a kick­stand that’s fixed in two po­si­tions. A power but­ton and vol­ume rocker are on the top.

Mi­crosoft’s new Sur­face Mo­bile Mouse ships in four col­ors.

Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face lineup of­fers a range of op­tions.

The orig­i­nal Mi­crosoft Sur­face 3. The ques­tion for cus­tomers will be: Do we need a cheaper, im­proved up­date?

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