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Hands-On: Microsoft's Surface Go

Two weeks ago, Microsoft invited me to NYC to take a look at the newest addition to the Surface family, the Surface Go. The tablet is an entry-level device designed for firstline, education, and the consumer markets with a starting price of $399.

When you first look at the device, if it reminds you of the Surface 3, that shouldn’t be a big surprise. It falls into exactly the same category, has similar external measurements, and has everything you would expect in a Surface 4 but with a new name.

In your hand, the device feels like nearly every other Surface hardware to date. It has that premium feel to it that gives you the confidence that this device will stand the test of time as long as you treat it well.

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But the only thing that matters with this device is the performance of the CPU which is an Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4415Y. This CPU sits below the Core class and in my limited time using the hardware, it was adequate for basic tasks like browsing the web and working with Office apps. That being said, this is far from an in-depth look at the performance of the hardware and I’ll have more on this once I get my hands on a review device.

The kickstand uses the same mechanism as the Surface Pro which means you have significantly more versatility in the positioning of the device unlike the Surface 3 which had fixed positions. It felt confident in nearly every position but keep in mind that this device is narrower than a Surface Pro which means ‘lapability’ may be constrained.

In my limited usage of the device, the display seemed reasonable for the hardware but what is odd is that it has a lower resolution than the Surface 3. The Go has a resolution of 1800×1200 whereas the Surface 3 1920×1280; that being said, it still has a higher PPI than a 27in 4k monitor. In short, no real complaints here at this time as I think this display will appease most users.

One notable addition to this device is that it includes a Windows Hello camera which is something I thought that they may have omitted to help keep the price down. And as you would expect, the camera had no issue recognizing a face for authentication and felt just as snappy as the camera on the Surface Pro.

On the port side of the coin, the Go has USB-C, headphone jack, Surface Connect and a micro SDXC card reader slot. While the type C is not Thunderbolt 3, it does support charging if you don’t want to use the Connect hardware.

One thing I want to point out is that the headphone jack is still in the annoying position of being too high on the bezel of the device. This means that your headphone cable will dangle across the keyboard when being used but there is a good reason why it has to be this way.

On the lower portion of the tablet, where the kickstand is located, the device is too thin to support a headphone jack. Meaning, the only place they can put it is above the kickstand which is why it is always in this location on Pro and Go. It’s a compromise that’s acceptable for this type of device.

The new Type cover works well in practice. Even though it is smaller to fit the size of the Go, the large trackpad makes it easier to navigate and the keyboard doesn’t feel too cramped at this size either. The new colors look great as well, I do still hold out hope that one day the body of the Pro/Book will be colored like the Surface Laptop.

If you had any concerns about the inking ability on the Surface Go, put them to rest. In my limited testing, the pen performed exactly like it does on the Pro. Granted, I am not an artist and do not use the pen for much more than highlighting PDFs and annotating content but for those needs, this device will work well in those scenarios.

Overall, the Surface Go is a smaller version of the Pro in nearly every way. Smaller screen, smaller keyboard, smaller performance and smaller price. This is far from a review of the hardware but simply a few thoughts after spending about an hour with the hardware.

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Brad Sams has more than a decade of writing and publishing experience under his belt including helping to establish new and seasoned publications From breaking news about upcoming Microsoft products to telling the story of how a billion dollar brand was birthed in his book, Beneath a Surface, Brad is a well-rounded journalist who has established himself as a trusted name in the industry.
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