Microsoft Surface Go: more than a let down

Does this mean that Microsoft gave up on killing the iPad?

I still recommend the cheapest iPad to my colleagues, even if they need to invest USD$ 100 for the Apple Pen. In reality I always did it since its inception in 2010. The recently announced Microsoft Surface Go, which starts at USD$ 399 makes this recommendation a little harder. But just a little.

Let’s face it: seems very good

At first glance, the laptop seems very well balanced and designed. You get a low power x86 dual-core processor like the ones on the desktop, meaning performance will be good for a cheap product. It has enough RAM to drive Windows 10.

The size seems good, Office 365 preloaded into the device is a interesting bet to drive in users into the service, and the promise of battery life seems fine considering 8 hours has become the standard minimum and the 2 hours from 0-to-100% recharge time. But thats it’s where the appeal ends.

Sin #1: eMMC is very slow

For the starting price, you will get the most painful storage option available for portable devices. eMMC is like a flash SD card’s chip soldered into the mainboard logic, which in comparison to a SSD chip, pales in performance.

Which performance? For example, writing large files into the system, or installing big applications or Windows updates will take ages. These chips doesn’t use much power, and they’re cheap, but that’s it. Copying a 1GB movie into the storage will take like 1 hour, or a lot of files, even if you have a 64GB eMMC.

Using eMMC storage means you are bound to work more with the Internet. microSD cards fast enough come between USD$ 50~100, so this is a tradeoff.

Sin #2: No pen

For the same price, you get the Apple iPad with the Apple Pen. That’s right, the Microsoft Surface Go doesn’t come with a pen, it will cost you USD$ 99. That’s a huge blow to no tech-savvy people, and hurts the pen-enabled ecosystem of apps in the Microsoft Store.

It’s the same for the the other accessories, like the Type Cover (USD $99) and the Surface Mobile Mouse (USD$ 35), which the also come separately. No discounts or bundles with these, either.

So, for the starting price you’re getting a tablet with netbook-like internals for today standards.

Sin #3: Huge gap between models

The noise that you’ve been hearing it’s all about the basic model. If you want to step up, you will have to pay USD$ 150 more. That’s huge considering that the next model only offers 128GB of SSD storage and 8GB of RAM, and keeps the same processor.

The USD$ 549 Surface Go goes just between the iPad and the iPad Pro, and that is where Microsoft may be putting his hope more than anything.

The criticism around this gap is that the iPad with 128GB of storage comes at USD$ 429, and still leaves room for the Apple Pen and a bluetooth keyboard, while the USD$ 549 Surface Go still doesn’t come with anything.

Sin #4: No LTE version

The new Surface Go doesn’t have any version with LTE. Microsoft promises it will be ready the last quarter of 2018, but that’s a huge blow for a portable device nowadays. Also, there is no indication of how much more you will have to pay to get cellular data connection.

Looking at the other side of the street, the iPad 32GB LTE is available now for USD$ 459.

Surface Go: In no man’s land

With a lackluster CPU to handle more intensive tasks, which Windows 10 hiccups tend to demand, and eMMC storage that’s not up to more than simple tasks, the iPad comes winning hands down.

I’ll quote The Verge, which summarizes very well for who this device is:

It seems like Microsoft is targeting the person that uses an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard instead of a laptop, but doesn’t rely on it enough to pony up for the iPad Pro or the even more expensive Surface Pro. The Surface Go will provide that person with access to the full Windows 10 experience, along with Microsoft’s full Office productivity suite, while still being significantly less expensive than the Surface Pro.

If the main appeal of the Surface Go is to bump the users using Office 365 thanks to (what I suppose) the embedded Office 365 1 year subscription into the device, then they’re very late to the party. Google Docs dominates since ages, Office Online is free.

An Office 365 yearly subscription costs USD$ 70 for one person, and it’s mandatory to use the Office Apps on the iPad or the Surface.

It’s seems the strategy falls apart. Unless you work requires the use of Office software, which is not like mandatory unless it’s 1998, or you need Windows apps to develop something, the only appeal of the Surface Go is the device itself. And by that price, it may be better to get and iPad instead.

The only way you could but the new Microsoft Surface Go is if you are not into the Apple ecosystem for whatever reason, or if your work requires the use of Windows software, something that with cloud services on the vogue seems extremely uncommon.

To give Microsoft some credit, the USD$ 549 Surface Go fills nicely the gap between a “more powerful” iPad and the “too costly” iPad Pro, but I’ll wait benchmarks on the processor and storage IO.

I think many of you agree on one thing: this device should have started at USD$ 299~349, or at least come with the pen or something. Not even the free Office 365 embedded is making the headlines, (supposedly) USD$ 70 in value.

If Microsoft doesn’t want to sacrifice something to push the Surface Go into the mass market, even their partners relationships, users won’t. I won’t. You shouldn’t too.

Graphic Designer graduate. Full Stack Web Developer. Retired Tech & Gaming Editor.