Microsoft’s Surface family hasn’t had a smaller junior device available to consumers since the Surface 3, a cheaper device built off Intel’s Cherry Trail platform. Although there have been rumours about a foldable device coming to market later this year, Microsoft still didn’t have a small device to sell to cost-conscious fans of the Surface family. There have been some devices in a similar vein from Microsoft’s partners, but the Surface family has its own charms. Well, Microsoft finally announced the brand new Surface Go, an affordable entry point to the Surface line designed to compete with Apple’s new iPad 9.7 and Google’s range of ChromeBook tablets from their partners like Acer.
The new Surface Go is a shrunken-down Surface Pro 4 chassis, but it lacks any active cooling because the device is completely passive. The Surface Go features a 10-inch IPS display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, making it roughly A4-like in size. The display’s resolution boasts a pixel ratio of 216PPI, which makes it as sharp as any Retina display from Apple and sharp enough for the kind of work the device is going to be doing thanks to touch input. Internally, it ships with Intel’s Pentium Gold 4415Y, a dual-core processor with hyper-threading for four virtual cores, as well as Intel HD 615 graphics. It’s not going to be very fast compared to larger devices with active cooling, particularly with a nominal clock speed of 1.6GHz, but that’s what a 6W thermal limit buys you.
Like previous Surface devices, the memory is soldered into the motherboard, and there are 4GB and 8GB options to choose from. Storage ranges from 64GB of eMMC 2.0 memory all the way to a 256GB NVMe SSD, which cannot be upgraded. Connectivity-wise, there is one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port onboard next to a Surface Connect/Dock port and a combination headphone jack on the right-hand side of the device, while the left side is mostly bare, save for a miniSD card reader and hidden magnets to help hold the Surface Pen to the chassis without a physical loop.
Interestingly, the renders for the device you see here are different from the prototypes shown to the press at Microsoft’s event for the Surface Go in New York City. The header image has a proprietary charging port next to the USB-C port, and in the render above there’s clearly a combination headphone jack on the left side of the device. Hands-on photos of the Surface Go prototypes shown to the media look very different, and currently do not include the SD card reader. The LTE version of the Surface Go, which is not available on launch, may end up swapping the SD reader for a microSIM slot on the left-hand side of the device above the hinge, but Microsoft says the LTE version will only come to market much later.
Like the rest of the Surface lineup, the Surface Go will ship in a single colour initially, with a range of peripheral colours available. The cheapest Surface Go will cost $399 and ships with 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM and a 64GB eMMC storage drive. This goes all the way up to $549 for a Surface Go with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. A unit with a 256GB SSD will ship eventually, presumably for around $650. Essential items like the Surface Go Type Cover are separately available for $99, and the Microsoft Pen is an additional $99 if you want one.
It’s a pricey combination, but there are very few other devices that match the Surface Go’s size and form factor (save for the ASUS Transformer Mini T103HA). Microsoft will be opening preorders for the Surface Go in 21 countries starting this week, but sadly, South Africa is not being considered for a release.