Mobility

Microsoft Surface Go: What the pros need to know

Microsoft has unveiled its first 10-inch tablet in three years. While it avoids lock-in problems of previous models, the Surface Go might not be for everyone.

After widespread speculation, Microsoft unveiled the Surface Go tablet on Tuesday—the first Surface-branded 10" tablet since the non-Pro Surface 3 was introduced in May 2015. Microsoft detailed the compact design in a TechNet blog post.

The Surface Go, like the Surface 3, is an Intel-powered tablet. As a result, the Surface Go comes with Windows 10, though is locked to "S Mode" out of the box on consumer SKUs, limiting it to use with apps in the Windows Store. This can be disabled for free, likewise, commercial SKUs with Windows 10 Pro can be configured to enable S Mode for free.

SEE: Windows 10 power tips: Secret shortcuts to your favorite settings (Tech Pro Research)

The Surface Go is powered by an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y processor, a dual-core, quad-thread Kaby Lake CPU running at 1.6 GHz that was first released in Q2 2017. At launch, it is available in a 4GB RAM / 64GB eMMC SKU for $399, and 8GB RAM / 128GB SSD SKU for $549. Storage can be expanded via the integrated microSDXC reader. Commercial SKUs have the same hardware specs, though add Windows 10 Pro for an extra $50 per system.

The Surface Go has a 10" 1800x1200 (3:2) display, which supports input via the Surface Pen ($99, sold separately) and can be paired with a Surface Type Cover ($99 or $129, sold separately) and a matching Bluetooth Surface Mobile Mouse for $34.99 (sold separately). In the future, SKUs with 256GB SSDs, as well as LTE connectivity will be available, though pricing information is not yet available.

In terms of other connectivity, the Surface Go retains the 3.5" headphone jack and USB-C 3.1 connector, as well as the Surface Connect magnetic charging and dock port. It includes a fairly typical 8 MP rear and 5 MP front camera. The aesthetics of the Surface Go are similar to other Surface tablets, retaining the hinge found across the product line. The Go weighs in at 1.15 pounds, lighter than the 1.37 pounds of the Surface 3, though heavier than the 1.034 pounds of the 2018 iPad, and 10.5" 2017 iPad Pro.

SEE: Microsoft Surface Go: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

Given the inclusion of the docking port, it would be possible to use with existing docking setups, though the relatively weak CPU compared to Surface Pro tablets would make it unsuited to particularly demanding applications. Standard web browsing, video conferencing, as well as Microsoft Office and other productivity apps would be well suited to the Go. The same administrative options for enterprise deployment are available on the Go as with any other Surface device. The price point, and likely discounts for bulk orders, are likely to make the Surface Go an attractive option for schools.

According to our sister site ZDNet's resident Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley, the Surface Go is not a slimmed-down version of the Surface Pro, rather, "Microsoft execs said they re-engineered the device, in terms of size, weight, balance and design to make it appeal to all types of users on the go." Despite these claims from Microsoft, the Surface Go inherits the same encumbrances to usability as have been endemic to the Surface product line.

First, because of the design of Microsoft's Type Covers, which attach to the bottom bezel of the tablet—and double as a screen protector when not in use—the bezels of the Surface Go are somewhat large compared to other modern tablets, in order to accommodate the cover. Likewise, the means by which the keyboards physically attach to the Surface make typing with the system in your lap moderately awkward when compared to a standard notebook, or true 2-in-1 with a keyboard equipped with a more solid hinge. The Type Covers, historically, wear poorly. The "Premium" $129 model, which is covered in Alcantara fabric (like the Surface Laptop) is known to discolor quickly with use. User reports on Reddit show the issue, though taking a trip to demonstration units at any nearby big-box retailer may offer a better visualization of the wear.

According to Microsoft, pre-orders are open now in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, with retail availability for the US and Canada planned for August 2, with other countries following that month. Pre-orders are coming to Japan, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and in China "in the coming weeks," Microsoft noted, with more markets to follow.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Microsoft's 'Surface Go' is the first Surface-branded 10" tablet in three years, and is powered by an Intel Pentium Gold processor.
  • At launch, it is available in a 4GB RAM / 64GB eMMC SKU for $399, and 8GB RAM / 128GB SSD SKU for $549, with storage expansion possible via microSDXC.

Also see

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Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

About James Sanders

James Sanders is a Tokyo-based programmer and technology journalist. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.

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