Microsoft challenges iPad with $399 Surface Go

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Microsoft Surface Go with optional accessories.
Microsoft Surface Go with Surface Pen ($99), Surface Cover ($99) and Surface Mouse ($49.99).
Photo: Microsoft

The iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro are serious competitors, but until now Redmond didn’t have anything to take on the $329 iPad. That changed with the reveal of the Surface Go.

This device is $70 more than Apple’s offering and includes a screen just a hair larger. Let’s take a look at how all of their specs compare.

The Microsoft Surface Go is powered by a 1.6 GHz dual-core Pentium 4415Y processor, not the faster Core i-series chips in Microsoft’s more expensive tablets. The $399 version comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB GB of eMMC storage. A $549 version has 8GB/128GB.

For comparison, the $329 iPad released this spring has a 2.34 GHz qualcomm-core Apple A10 processor. It includes 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. A version with 128GB of capacity is $459.

How the performance of these two tablets will compare will have to wait until the Surface Go is released next month. Given its processor, the Windows device will likely do fine with word processing, web access, and similar low-demand tasks. The iPad already offers good performance.

Surface Go vs. 9.7-inch iPad specs

The 10-inch screen in Microsoft’s budget tablet has 1800 by 1200 pixels. Apple’s device is 2048 by 1536, so the iPad has much better pixel density.

The Surface Go weighs 1.15 pounds, while the iPad is 1.02 lbs. Not a huge difference, but possibly noticeable. Also noticeable is that Microsoft put in a kickstand, while its rival lacks one. This possibly accounts for the additional weight.

The Surface Go has a USB-C port for connecting accessories separate from its charging port, as well as a microSD card reader. That gives it a leg up from the iPad, which has a single Lightning port. Both have headphone jacks.

Apple promises up to 10 hours of battery life, while Microsoft promises up to 9 hours. On a historical basis, Apple tends to under promise and over deliver, while the battery lives of previous Surface models have rarely lived up to Microsoft’s promises.

The Surface Go runs Windows 10 S, Home, or Pro. The iPad is currently running iOS 11.4.1, but is compatible with iOS 12 when it’s released this fall.

Surface Go and iPad accessories

Microsoft produces a clip-on keyboard for Surface Go that costs $99. Apple doesn’t offer a Smart Keyboard for the 9.7-inch iPad, but there are plenty of them available on the market from accessory makers. A keyboard makes either model significantly more productive for people who do lots of writing.

Both tablets are compatible with pressure-sensitive pens, though neither come with them. The Apple Pencil is $99, and so is the Surface Pen.

For the iPad, the Pencil is a optional add-on intended for those who do drawing or sketching. Windows and many third-party applications are still not always easy to control with a fingertip, so the Surface Pen is probably a wise idea for all users.

Please stand by

Exactly how the first Microsoft Surface Go and the sixth-generation 9.7-inch iPad will really stack up will have to wait until August 2, when the Windows tablet hits store shelves. 

In the mean time, it can be pre-ordered 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.

As it was released months ago, the iPad is already widely available online and in stores.