Launched in 2012, Microsoft's "Surface" series has grown in stature and has become a staple of modern touchscreen personal computers. With an extensive lineup, the tech giant has taken another step forward and released its Microsoft Surface Go.
What's the main selling point for this variation?
The company faced stark criticism for releasing an admittedly wonderful set of personal computers without considering affordability. Microsoft chose to take this challenge head-on and released the Surface Go in response to its critics. While many struggled to muster $700+ for the Surface Pro, the average consumer might find a $449 price tag far more enticing. Let's take a look at whether or not this is a home run.
Surface Go Pros
1) Beautiful Display
Let's start with the breathtaking display released by Microsoft. The Surface Go comes in a 3:2 display and is similar to the other variations minus the shrunken appearance. The panel has been reduced in size but continues to deliver stellar value as seen with the Surface Pro (i.e. sharpness, brightness, and general color reproduction). In this case, Microsoft has gone with the "why change something that isn't broke?" mindset and it makes sense. The quality is still as beautiful as it's ever been!
The display is set up at 217 ppi but delivers a resonating performance when put to use. In fact, it remains toe-to-toe with the iPad's 264 ppi. This is a unique advantage that wouldn't be expected from reading the spec sheet but does illustrate the work put into their product.
Along with the display, its overall build quality is astounding and a major plus point beginning with the lightweight 1.15-pound design. Its proportions are similar to the Surface Pro minus approximately 2.3 inches from one side to the other. In fact, they've taken the time to optimize each component (i.e. kickstand) to make it easier for multiple target audiences including students. This level of thought is important with brands such as Microsoft and it appears work has been done to maximize everything despite its diminutive size.
When compared to the iPad, a lot of criticism was drawn towards the uneven and/or harsh design. Microsoft's Surface Pro was unable to win younger audiences over because of the formal design and unauthentic detailing that seemed odd from various angles. This time around, they have taken the time to work on the exterior design including rounding the edges and keeping it compact. To further illustrate how impressive the Surface Go's design is, let's focus on the full-sized keys and how beautiful they look when in motion. Everything is balanced, easy to use, and consistent. Microsoft has established a design that's unique because its glass trackpad is comprehensive in size for such a small personal computer.
To finish out the praising of this superb display and design, it's best to look at the ports. In this case, the Surface Go provides access to a microSD card reader and USB-C 3.1 port that can come in handy for people of all ages depending on their usage patterns. In comparison, the iPad doesn't maximize these ports and doesn't include them in the final design, which is a bummer for many people.
2) Terrific Performance Metrics
While digging through the specs, it's apparent Microsoft has understood the importance of high-quality performance metrics. The benchmark data (i.e. speed, battery life, storage) all play a part in how a device is rated in this day and age. The same applies to Microsoft's Surface Go and it does put on quite a show because of the high-rated specifications.
During the initial testing, Microsoft Surface Go highlights a unique dock that's seamless, quick, and incredibly vibrant. The connectivity is impressive as it links via Surface Connect. In fact, it is able to render 3D Images and large files without breaking a sweat and that's right up there with the best in its class. Whether it's gaming, downloading, or a combination of both, this personal computer does a remarkable job of hitting all necessary benchmarks.
Additional information has started to roll around about Intel's Pentium Gold processor and how well it functions. The chip should hold up its own and does demonstrate the effort that's gone into constructing this device. It's essential to note all of the testing have been done on Surface Go's Windows 10 S-mode and not the actual Windows 10. It is a simple upgrade (free) but one to keep in mind for those who will be moving forward with a purchase. The official Windows 10 is supposed to offer nine hours of battery life and that's ideal in this segment.
To continue on the performance metrics, the specs shine through and illustrate the importance of balance with modern technology. Microsoft has perfected the details and constructed a unique set of components that blend together and work as a powerhouse throughout the day. In terms of simple performance, the Surface Go does all the right things and makes it look straightforward.
One of the main concerns leading up to the July launch was its price point. Continuous criticism was laid down for Microsoft's unwillingness to adapt and understand where the market was heading. In a battle to put together a "high-tech" series, the brand had forgotten about the core of its target audience by unnecessarily overpricing all Surface devices. Of course, this has changed with the addition of a brand-new Surface Go that sits snugly at $399 and is well-priced when compared to the iPad. It is able to deliver a good set of specifications while maintaining a good price point at the same time.
In most circumstances, the price can be listed as reasonable.
It's smart to realize there are several variations of the Surface Go and only the lower end model comes in at $449. This model encompasses 4GB of memory, an Intel Pentium Gold 4415y processor, and 64GB of storage. For those looking to step up and upgrade some of the core specs, Microsoft provides supplementary configurations such as the 128GB of flash storage combined with 8GB of RAM. This comes in at a higher $549.99. These models are all equipped with the same camera, display, and infrared sensor.
As with any detailed review, it's necessary to dig deeper and look into the competition that's out there. Apple's iPad is a major competitor and has looked to corner the "budget-friendly" market with its $449 model. This is slightly cheaper than the lower end Surface Go but also cuts corners with the storage, memory, and ports (no microSD slot or USB-C port). However, Apple has done well in other ways including the ecosystem and their display (2,048 x 1,536 pixels).
4) Ideal for Educational Settings
Deals have been struck with private and public institutions to launch the Surface Go into classroom settings. Microsoft has a good connection with the educational sector and it shines through with the Surface Go's design. Everything has been put together to account for students and that's not a bad thing at all! Whether it's the simple kickstand or how compact everything is, Microsoft can feel good about its potential in classrooms.
Surface Go Cons
1) Multiple Accessories Sold Separately
Apple and Microsoft are guilty of this and it's a concern that's entered the segment. With minimal competition, both tech giants have taken a step back when it comes to including important accessories with their devices. For example, this doesn't include the Type cover or their heralded Surface Pen. However, it's hard to blame them when Apple is equally responsible for ignoring this aspect by leaving out styluses/covers.
Before buying, it's best to factor in the additional expense that will come along with buying these accessories. With the Surface Pro, the same issues were mentioned but things were allowed to slip because it was not marketed as an affordable device. In this case, things start to get a tad hairy depending on how the target audience will take missing accessories especially the Surface Pen. Markets tend to dictate what's acceptable and what's not, which is why Microsoft is willing to test its luck and see what happens especially with Apple doing well.
The Type Cover doesn't have a price and the Surface Pen comes in at a resounding $99.99. For customers going out and investing in the Surface Go, it's best to account for this $99.99 expense if the pen is important to your needs. Of course, just like most accessories, they aren't mandatory for using the device but do play a role in how people feel about a product. It's not a positive and that's something to keep in mind as the product enters stores.
2) No Thunderbolt 3
Microsoft is unwilling to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to Thunderbolt 3 ports and this has to do with multiple reasons. One of the simpler issues has to do with the company's desire to steer away from the iPad and not follow through with identical specs. This is why the Thunderbolt 3 port has been left out and is replaced by other options as deemed fit by Microsoft. Another reason has to do with the company's ability to fit in the USB-C port along with the microSD card slot. This is a good sign for their design team and how the product has been engineered.
Will this be an issue when it comes to the performance metrics or what people have to say about the Surface Go?
When it came to the incoming data and initial tests, the USB-C port is able to do a good job and any missing port isn't a tremendous issue. The iPad might look to highlight this detail but it won't be the deciding factor on which company takes the market in this segment. Some of the other variables are in favor of Microsoft, which have to be kept in mind too.
3) Challenging "On-Lap" Usage
Usability is the name of the game with products such as these and the Surface Go does require patience. One of the cons of compact designs is how they sit on your lap as a user. In this case, Microsoft has a problem in maintaining the Surface Go and making sure it's easy to use while keeping it on your lap. Now, this is not a big concern for people and most will use it as a table or in their hands, it is still something to be aware of. If money is going to be spent, "on lap" usage will have a role to play in your final assessment.
However, it's best to realize the problem does go away as soon as a person learns to adapt. It's not an issue that's going to linger around and that's the price of a compact design in any situation.
Final Thoughts On Microsoft's Surface Go
The shrunken Surface Pro is a legitimate product and one that's been given all the right touches (i.e. USB-C port, large battery life). Microsoft has done well to take the gist of its previous launches and add them into the Surface Go. One of the biggest worries was Microsoft's ability to keep similar specs while reducing prices and they've done a good job here.
While it has taken the tech giant a while to get things spot on, it has managed to hit a home run here. It is right up there with Apple's iPad and provides an optimistic look for Microsoft's future in the segment.
It will be a hit in the education sector and start to make a run for Apple's market share. This is one of those additions that have won many experts over but it's important to keep an eye out on how this product does as time goes on and whether it's as good as it's supposed to be after long-term use.