All systems go-a Microsoft Surface Go review

Take your work on the road with the latest device from Microsoft.

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All systems go-a Microsoft Surface Go review
By  David Ndichu Published  February 7, 2019

At some point during its storied history, Microsoft decided to get into the hardware business. The software giant justified its decision-amid objections from OEM partners-that it wanted to set an example of how its software and hardware can work better together.

The Surface series of slates and hybrid PCs was the outcome of this decision. The youngest sibling in the Microsoft hardware family is the Surface Go, which we are reviewing.

The remit for Microsoft with the Surface Go seems to have been: create an ultra-portable device with full productivity credentials, maintain the premium feel of the rest of the Surface range while lowering the barrier to entry in terms of cost.

It is an especially tough balancing act trying to juggle portability and productivity, a feat that has eluded many that have entered the hybrid PC category. If, and how, the Surface Go accomplishes this fact will be the subject of our review.

Design

Sans the keyboard, the Surface Go resembles any other tablet from afar. It’s when you click on the keyboard, swing open the kick-stand and start the device-and a familiar Windows interface welcomes you-that you realise this one is different. 

The main body consists of a magnesium body that houses the Intel Pentium Gold processor with the integrated Intel HD Graphics 615, 64GB (or 128GB) storage drive, with 8GB of RAM, and the battery.

The adjustable built-in kickstand swivels on a sturdy hinge to an angle of 165º. The hinge itself can bend almost 180 degrees if you need to lay the device flat for drawing or writing. Microsoft offers an optional pen if you are more artistically inclined and you want to turn the Surface into your digital canvas.

On the front is a 5MP front-facing camera while an 8MP shutter sits at the back. The display is a 10” touchscreen affair bound by relatively wide bezels, which comes in handy for gripping when using it in tablet mode.

My testing device came with a type cover that connects to the main body via an 8-pin connector. (Note the cover is normally sold separately).

There are several ports, including a USB-C type connection, MicroSDXC card reader, and a Surface Connect port used for charging as well as a headset jack. The charger snaps magnetically to the port, which I thought was pretty cool.

The Type Cover offers a full-sized keypad as well as a generous trackpad. The back has an Alcantara finish which prevents it from slipping about on a desk or lap. There are two stereo speakers, powered by Dolby.

My tablet came with a sleek wireless Windows mouse, which strangely, had no power button, which felt like an oversight.

Performance

The beating heart of the Surface Go is, of course, Windows (Windows 10 Pro in my case). Combined with the Intel processor, it can handle day-to-day software like Office 365 and apps with ease.

Worth noting that this is not the Intel Core family of processor. For the targeted price point, cuts had to be made somewhere-the Intel Pentium Gold is the lesser-powered cousin. That said, the processor can handle basic browser-based workloads, like word processing and content management, as well as the suite of Office 365 apps as well as casual games with ease.

The surface go is not supposed to replace your full-powered primary laptop or desktop-it’s supposed to complement it. Edit your videos with Adobe on your primary device and take the Surface Go to showcase the fruits of your efforts for instance. Your audience will appreciate the colour-rich Full HD videos.

The screen has a 3:2 ratio, which means movies and TV shows have small black bars at the top and bottom. The 1,800 x 1,200 pixels will not win the prize for the sharpest 10-inch tablet display in town, (the latest 11” iPad Pro has 2388-by-1668-pixels). However, for the size of the screen, the display is very sharp, and movies and photos are brilliant.

The cameras are 1080p with the rear-facing having an autofocus feature. That means videos are in full-HD glory. I recorded several video interviews and was never ashamed of the outcome.

The Surface Go is light, starting at just 1.15lbs or 0.52kg. At 9.6 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches, you can throw it into any normal sized bag and be on your way. I did just that during the time I had the device for review, as I made several trips abroad. It was literally weight off my shoulders in contrast to my everyday notebook. The kickstand is great for balancing on the flip tables in planes. 

A great addition is the microSD card reader, allowing storage to be expanded. Although cloud services are more available now-and I use them a lot-there’s some a level of comfort that comes with having backup in some hardware platform somewhere, just in case.

The Surface Go promises up to 9 hours of battery life and I was able to get at least 6 hours on full operations mode. It can fully charge its battery in 2 hours.

You adjust surprisingly quickly typing on the smaller keyboard if you are coming from a normal-sized keyboard. Perhaps is because the keys are much more comfortable than the solid plastic keys of the typical desktop. Depending on the type of work you are doing, the three modes of interacting with the device-keyboard/touchpad, touchscreen and mouse- seems to enhance the feeling of control.   

Like with every mobile device, it’s better to use headphones if you want better audio for your content. However, as tablets go, the Surface Go speakers are loud without the tininess that usually accompanies sound from mobile devices.

Verdict

My basis for comparison would be my Ipad Pro on which I consume a lot of content, and which is really the gold standard for tablets. Even with my older version of the Ipad, the colours feel a little bit brighter and my grip a little more comfortable with less sharp edges.

However, as a productivity device, the Surface Go passes with flying colours for the price and specs. It is far better than non-PC tablets at getting real work done, with a desktop-class browser and proper keyboard and trackpad.

Microsoft Surface Go sells for around AED 1,700 in local online stores without the keyboard or pen. However, it’s clear you need the two if you are really going to use the device as intended.

For: Price; Small and Light; Perfomance
Against: Accessories sold separately
Verdict: The Surface Go ticks all the right boxes for its category

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