Surface Go vs. iPad

Can Microsoft's new Surface Go steal the iPad's populist top spot?

surface go vs ipad img 3399 jpg

Of all the low-cost tablets out there, the one Microsoft is most keen for its new Surface Go to come out on top against is Apple’s iPad.

Both touchscreen mobile devices have decent internal hardware, great screens, and are lightweight and portable. But which is best? To answer that question, we pitted the new $400 Surface Go against the $330 iPad in a classic head-to-head comparison.

Design

get a 40 discount on the 9 7 inch apple ipad from bh for limited time 2017

The 2018 Apple iPad sports what is, at this point, the classic iPad design. It looks near indiscernible from its predecessors and while that isn’t a bad thing, this does mean it sports relatively chunky bezels compared to most of its contemporaries. The Surface Go isn’t much trimmer around the edges though. The overall look and feel of both devices is premium, but not the most cutting edge in terms of design. They feel sturdy and solid in the hand, though the iPad is ever so slightly lighter.

When it comes to external connections, the Surface Go offers a USB-C connector, as well as a MicroSDXC card reader, and a headphone jack. The iPad has even less connectivity options, with just a headphone jack and Lightning port — the latter of which you’ll need an adaptor for to connect USB devices.

The software on both systems is decidedly different. Where the iPad runs Apple’s iOS platform and is limited to App Store applications, the Surface Go runs a full Windows 10 installation. Although it defaults to Windows 10 S — thereby restricting users to Microsoft Store apps only — you can run a full Windows 10 install on there with a few clicks. That expansive support for applications outside of the Microsoft’s closed garden gives the Surface Go an advantage over the iPad in that respect. It is clear from our time with the Microsoft tablet though, that Windows 10 is still better suited to keyboard and mouse, over touch, control. It’s a more functional software suite than the iPad offers, but it’s not as intuitive.

If you do spend a bit extra for the Surface keyboard, you’ll get an input option that is leaps and bounds ahead of the iPad’s offering, but at just 10-inches, it can still feel cramped compared to those found on larger devices.

Performance

surface go vs ipad img 3376 jpg

One of the most important aspects of any tablet is the display, and both the iPad and Surface Go have great looking touchscreen panels. The Apple tablet sports a 2,048 x 1,536 Retina screen that looks sharp and has good coloring. It’s not quite as black as we’d like, but for less than $350 for the base model, it’s a great looking display. The Surface Go’s has a lower resolution screen at 1,800 x 1,200 with a noticeably reduced pixel density (256 vs. 217), but it still looks good in the 10-inch form factor.

Underneath their glossy surfaces, the two tablets offer quite different hardware suites. The iPad sports Apple’s own A10 Fusion core, with an embedded M10 coprocessor. It pairs that with 2GB of RAM and a choice of 32GB or 128GB of on board flash storage space. The Surface Go packs one of Intel’s dual-core (with hyperthreading) Pentium Gold 4415Y processors with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. There are options however, for up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. That should give it significant memory bandwidth advantages over the iPad, though in our testing we didn’t notice much of a difference between the two in general computing ability.

The biggest differentiator between the two is in graphics performance. While the Pentium chip does have Intel’s HD 615 graphics chip, that doesn’t give it the ability to do much beyond handle very light 3D-rendering apps like Powerpoint. While the iPad is hardly built for serious gaming, it’s much more capable of handling anything you can throw it from the App Store.

The iPad is also available with full LTE connectivity. While that isn’t quite yet a possibility with the Surface Go, we’re told it will be in the future.

Portability

surface go vs ipad img 3373 jpg

At 1.03 pounds, the iPad comes in a shade lighter than the Surface Go, which weighs 1.15 pounds without the keyboard. It’s also a little more compact, though 9.7-inches is about as close as you’re going to get to the Surface Go’s 10-inches, without calling them the same size.

Battery life is likely to be better on the Apple hardware too. Apple claims up to 10-hours of general usage for full charges and we found that played out in our testing. After five hours of YouTube videos, the battery life had only drained more than a third. While we don’t yet have hard battery-life results for the Surface Go, its battery is four watt-hours smaller than the iPad’s and Microsoft only claims nine-hours of life. The concern there, is that the Surface Go may not be able to handle a full eight-hour workday on a single charge, especially if you’re using it for slightly heavier lifting.

For small, lightweight, portable tablet devices like these, that’s a must and suggests that the iPad would be a much more stable pick for day to day use.

Conclusion

apple ipad 9 7 inch 2018 front in hand
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Microsoft’s Surface range has grown from strength to strength over the years, giving us some fantastic hardware like the Surface Book 2 and the Surface Pro. While the Surface Go makes a valiant attempt to resurrect the low-cost, convertible tablet part of that range, it doesn’t do it well enough to supplant its main rival. Apple’s iPad has a lower base cost, a higher-resolution display, a larger battery, and more impressive graphical chops. While the Surface Go might have greater productivity features with its option for a full Windows 10 operating system, that’s not what the average person usually wants to sacrifice for better accessibility.

The Surface Go is a worthy contender to the iPad’s entry-level crown, but it falls noticeably short of its classic rival.

Home Theater

Crowdfunded xFyro Aria true wireless earbuds claim eight hours of playback time

The xFyro Aria true wireless earbuds, now on Indiegogo, claim up to eight hours of play time, which would be the most playback time on a single charge we've seen in this type of headphone yet.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.
Wearables

We tested popular smartwatches to find the uncontested best

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.
Mobile

Juice up your iPhone or Android phone with the best wireless chargers

We checked out the best wireless phone chargers to make tangles and uncooperative ports a thing of the past. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out which wireless charging pads are worth buying, and how their features compare.
Movies & TV

Do you have questions about Hulu and Hulu with Live TV? We've got answers

Not sure which Hulu subscription is right for you? We're here to help. This is your complete guide to Hulu and Hulu with Live TV, including content offerings for each service, pricing, internet requirements, and more.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Computing

Dell’s refresh of the XPS 13 2-in-1 series dips its toes into Intel’s Amber Lake

Intel said its “Amber Lake” Y-series processors would arrive later this year. One month later, the Chilean arm of Dell leaked an upcoming 13-inch XPS 2-in-1 device sporting five CPU options, two of which are Amber Lake chips.
Virtual Reality

Got a Gear VR headset? These are the apps and games you've got to try

Before you put on your new Gear VR headset, you should know which apps and games are worth downloading. Whether you're a fan of documentaries or arcade games, here's a list of the best Gear VR apps and games to be had.
Mobile

T-Mobile expands Simple Global plan, offers $5 international day pass for LTE

T-Mobile offers a number of plans for both you and your family, but how do you know which one is best for you and your situation? Here, we break down the specifics of each plan to help you decide.
Home Theater

Yamaha’s RX-S602 packs MusicCast Surround wireless tech into a slim package

Yamaha’s new RX-S602 A/V receiver takes the company’s MusicCast Surround technology, which lets you wireless connect your surround speakers, and fits it into a sleek, space-saving package.
Computing

What's the best laptop? We've reviewed a lot of them -- and this is our answer

The best laptop should be one that checks all the boxes: Great battery life, beautiful design, and top-notch performance. The laptops we've chosen for our best laptops you can buy do all that — and throw in some extra features while…
Computing

These cheap laptops will make you wonder why anyone spends more

Looking for a budget notebook for school, work, or play? The best budget laptops - including our top pick, the Asus ZenBook UX330UA - will get the job done without digging too deep into your pockets.
Movies & TV

Here are our predictions for the 2018 Emmy Awards

Here's a look at all of the nominees in the top categories for the 70th annual Emmy Awards, as well as our predictions for which actors and series will take home the golden statue in each.
Home Theater

Roku TV Wireless Speakers make Roku TVs an even smarter choice

Roku wants to make life even easier for Roku TV owners with the introduction of its Roku TV Wireless Speakers, which pair wirelessly and even include a “tabletop remote” meant to let you use the speakers away from your TV.
Home Theater

The ultimate surround sound guide: Different formats explained

Wondering which is the best surround sound format for your home theater system? Start by learning the technical differences between the various formats with our ultimate surround sound guide.
Computing

Turn your Surface Pro into a cheap Surface Studio with Kensington’s new dock

Want a Surface Studio but don’t want to pay the premium price? Kensington has a new docking station built for the cheaper Surface Pro that essentially holds Microsoft’s detachable in an all-in-one-PC-style configuration.
Computing

AMD’s Ryzen desktop CPUs for 2019 may double the core count

Although we’re waiting for AMD to release new low-end second-generation Ryzen CPUs, AMD appears to be betting big on 2019. If current rumors are true, Ryzen 3 mainstream desktop CPUs will sport up to 16 cores using its Zen 2 design.
Home Theater

HDMI 2.0b is a whole lot more than just a connection to your TV

HDMI 2.0b is the backbone for many of the latest updates in 4K UHD technology. And while a new cable standard can often involve a bunch of changes for consumers, that is not the case this time around.
Gaming

Want to play Minecraft with friends? Here's how to start your own server

Whether you're hosting a server for a few friends or launching a massive effort to recreate your favorite show's world, you've got options for hosting your own Minecraft Server.
Computing

Microsoft stops a Russian attempt at hacking 2018 midterm elections

Microsoft discovered that the Russian GRU military intelligence agency attempted to hack the 2018 U.S. midterm elections using similar phishing tactics previously employed to hack the 2016 presidential election.
Web

Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook team up on new data transfer project

Some of the largest tech companies in the world have teamed up to make data portability a little easier. The initiative is called the Data Transfer Project, and the likes of Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Facebook are all on board.
Product Review

The ZenBook S doesn't like to show off, but it's one of the best PCs you can buy

Asus has designed a little jewel of a notebook. It looks great, feels solid in the hand, and incorporates several thoughtful design touches that elevate it from pedestrian to premier.