3 rea­sons why Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Go beats Apple’s ipad (and 3 rea­sons why it doesn’t)

Com­par­ing Ap­ples and Sur­faces.

PCWorld (USA) - - News - BY MICHAEL SI­MON

It’s no co­in­ci­dence that Apple re­leased a se­ries of ipad in­ter­na­tional video spots ( go.pc­world.com/ipvs) just hours be­fore Mi­crosoft un­veiled its most af­ford­able tablet (see page 7), the Sur­face Go. The four 15-se­cond ads spot­light the ipad’s abil­ity to make mun­dane tasks like pa­per­work, pack­ing, and trav­el­ing eas­ier with the low-cost tablet.

But now Mi­crosoft has a strong com­peti­tor to Apple’s en­try-level $329 ipad ( go.pc­world.com/elip). With a $399 price tag and a 10-inch screen, the Sur­face Go isn’t just Mi­crosoft’s cheap­est Sur­face tablet, it’s one of the most af­ford­able full-fea­tured tablets you can buy. And it just

might be a bet­ter in­vest­ment than the 9.7-inch ipad, depend­ing on what you need. Here’s why (and why not):

WHY THE SUR­FACE GO BEATS THE IPAD It’s a real com­puter

The ba­sic Sur­face Go might look a lot like Apple’s ipad, but in­side it’s a real deal Win­dows PC, with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of stor­age, and an In­tel 1.6GHZ Pen­tium 4415Y pro­ces­sor. That’s hardly top-of-the­line in PC land, but it’s im­pres­sive for a tablet that’s less than half an inch thick. By com­par­i­son, the en­try-level 9.7-inch ipad has half as much RAM, half as much stor­age, and a two-year-old pro­ces­sor.

With an In­tel pro­ces­sor, that means the Sur­face Go runs a full suite of Win­dows apps, not stripped-down mo­bile ver­sions like you get on the ipad. (Though you’ll need to shift it out of the de­fault “S Mode” to full Win­dows 10—a free up­grade—to do so, how­ever.)

But what re­ally gives the Sur­face Go an edge over the ipad is its in­put ex­pand­abil­ity. Like the 9.7-inch ipad and the Apple Pen­cil, the Sur­face Go in­cludes sup­port for Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Pen, but you can also use it with a Sur­face Type Cover key­board and Sur­face Mo­bile Mouse. That means you can use it like a lap­top on a ta­ble when you’re not hold­ing it. The 9.7-inch ipad can’t do that so eas­ily.

It can drive a 4K dis­play

The Sur­face Go wouldn’t be a true PC if it couldn’t be hooked up to a mon­i­tor. But Mi­crosoft’s new­est tablet doesn’t run just any old dis­play, it can power a full 4K one at 60Hz. Like the Sur­face Book 2 ( go.pc­world.com/mtb2), you’ll need a USB-C adapter or Sur­face Dock to get it up and run­ning, but that’s a small price to pay to hook up your 10-inch tablet to a gi­ant 3840x2160 dis­play. You can even use dual mon­i­tors if you pre­fer, but the re­fresh rate will drop to 30Hz. Still though, let’s see the ipad do that.

It has fa­cial recog­ni­tion

While it may be a fore­gone con­clu­sion that the ipad will even­tu­ally adopt the iphone X’s Truedepth cam­era for ul­tra-se­cure Face ID un­lock­ing, the Sur­face Go tablet has fa­cial recog­ni­tion built in right from the start. Mi­crosoft has added Win­dows Hello ( go. pc­world.com/whlo) sup­port to its new tablet so you can un­lock it just by look­ing at it. While it’s not quite as se­cure as Apple’s 30,000-dot 3D map­ping ( go.pc­world.com/3dmp), it’s still a fast and con­ve­nient way to keep your tablet locked down, and it’s way bet­ter than need­ing to press your finger on a but­ton every time.

WHY THE IPAD IS BET­TER THAN THE SUR­FACE GO It’s cheaper

While $399 is a fan­tas­tic price for this much

tablet, when you break it down, the Sur­face Go isn’t nearly as in­ex­pen­sive as it seems. The real hid­den costs come with the ac­ces­sories. Add on a Sur­face Pen, a Sur­face Mouse, and a much-needed Type Cover and you’re look­ing at an­other $237, bring­ing the to­tal price to more than $600. Apple charges $99 for its Pen­cil too, but you’re still get­ting the whole pack­age for less than $450—al­beit with­out a mouse or key­board. Ar­guably those pe­riph­er­als aren’t cru­cial to the com­plete ipad ex­pe­ri­ence like they are for the Sur­face, though.

It’s prob­a­bly faster

While the pro­ces­sor powering the Sur­face Go is an In­tel Pen­tium part rather than an ul­tralow-power Atom chip, the Sur­face Pro isn’t go­ing to blow any­one away with its speeds. The 14nm chip here is based on In­tel’s Kaby Lake ar­chi­tec­ture, which is a gen­er­a­tion be­hind the newer Cof­fee Lake chips.

The ipad also runs an older A10 chip from 2016, but Apple’s IOS op­ti­miza­tions likely give it a se­ri­ous edge over the Sur­face Go, both out of the box and years down the road. We’ll need to run it through its paces to see if Mi­crosoft was able to make the Sur­face Go fly, but on pa­per the chip in the en­try-level model leaves much to be de­sired.

The bat­tery life is bet­ter

On pa­per, Mi­crosoft rates the Sur­face Go for nine hours of bat­tery life, only about 10 per­cent less than the 10 hours Apple es­ti­mates for the ipad. That wouldn’t be so bad if not for the re­al­ity of Mi­crosoft’s other Sur­face de­vices: Mi­crosoft rated the 2017 Sur­face Pro ( go.pc­world.com/17sp) at up to 13.5 hours of bat­tery life, but in real-world tests, it only lasted for about eight hours. Switch­ing the Sur­face Go from S Mode to full Win­dows 10 would likely im­pact bat­tery life as well.

It re­mains to be seen ex­actly how close the Sur­face Go gets to the nine hours Mi­crosoft es­ti­mates, but we’re sure of this much: It prob­a­bly won’t beat the ipad’s tremen­dous bat­tery life.

Ac­ces­sories make the Sur­face Go costlier than it seems.

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