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Microsoft has a new, super-small $400 Surface tablet, and it’s taking on the iPad and the MacBook Air at the same time (MSFT, AAPL)

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microsoft surface go
The Microsoft Surface Go is a $399 tablet. Combined with a $99 keyboard, it’s a teeny-tiny, affordable little Windows 10 laptop.
Microsoft


Meet the Microsoft Surface Go, a teeny-tiny new 1.15-pound laptop/tablet hybrid with a 10-inch screen that can fit in a handbag, fanny pack, or maybe even a particularly deep pocket.

Surface Go pricing starts at $400, but don’t be fooled: Just as with the bigger, more powerful Surface Pro, you’re going to want Microsoft’s specially-made $99 keyboard cover to get the most out of the Surface Go. In other words, you’re looking at $500, all-in, for the Surface Go setup you really want. You’ll be able to buy it August 2nd.

I got to play with one, briefly, a few weeks ago, and my first impression is that Microsoft has done a good job shrinking its Surface Pro form factor into something more portable, but still incredibly usable and comfortable to type on.

Under the hood, Microsoft says Surface Go owners can expect about as much computing power as 2014’s Surface Pro 3. This means it’ll be more than good enough for browsing the web, watching Netflix, and putting together a PowerPoint presentation. Maybe don’t expect to play “Fortnite” with the graphics settings cranked way up, though.

It runs an Intel Pentium processor. The base model has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of hard drive space, while a more expensive model, starting at $549, will have 8GB of RAM and 256GB of hard drive space.

A closer look at the Microsoft Surface Go shows that it has a headphone jack, a Surface Connect charger port, and a single USB-C port.
Microsoft

Microsoft further claims that the Surface Go gets 9 hours of battery life, which comes with the caveat that this was tested by playing a video file that was stored on the device. It also includes facial login by way of Microsoft’s Windows Hello system, similar to Apple’s FaceID, as well as a MicroSD card slot to expand its storage.

In terms of ports, the Surface Go is more limited than its larger brethren. It includes Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect port, which is mostly used for charging but can also be used to plug it in to a docking station. Otherwise, you get a single port for USB-C — a new universal standard that replaces the USB slot you might be familiar with.

The USB-C port can be used for plugging in monitors and other accessories, as well as for charging the Surface Go itself in a pinch. However, the vast majority of devices, including most smartphones, still rely on regular old USB to work, meaning that Surface Go owners might need to get in the habit of carrying around some adapters. It does have a headphone jack, though.

The Surface Go will ship with Windows 10’s “S Mode” enabled, which means you can only install apps from the Microsoft Store — a tradeoff for better battery life and generally smoother performance. If you want, though, it’s easy to disable “S Mode” and go back to regular old Windows, which is good if you want Google Chrome as your browser.

Finally, Microsoft says that a model with LTE cellular connectivity is in the works, but won’t be ready until later this year.

Go against Apple

In the bigger picture, Microsoft is using the Surface Go and its price point to take aim at two Apple devices at once.

First, as a tablet, the Surface Go will square off against Apple’s productivity-focused iPad Pro, which starts at $649 for a 10.5-inch model. And second, as a fully-functional Windows 10 laptop, The Surface Go will try to eke some share away from Apple’s whole line of MacBook laptops, which starts at $999 for the cheapest MacBook Air.

In both cases, Microsoft is employing the same sales pitch as the rest of the Surface lineup.

The Microsoft Surface Go can be used as a lightweight tablet, too. It’s compatible with any Windows stylus, but doesn’t include one.
Microsoft

Because the Surface Go runs a full version of Windows 10, you can run most every piece of Windows software, past or present. That’s especially clutch in both schools and corporations, both of which often rely on specialized software. And because the Surface Go is a tablet, it’s both more portable than any Mac, plus it has a touchscreen.

Make no mistake, Microsoft’s Surface business in total is still a fraction of Apple’s enormous hardware revenues. And while the Surface has its diehard fans, myself included, it’s still a relatively niche product for Windows power users.

Still, at $399, the Surface Go costs far less than the $699 starting price for the larger Surface Pro. That could open up some doors for Microsoft’s hardware business, especially among budget-conscious consumers.

History lesson

On a final note, some Microsoft fans are sure to be disappointed by the reveal of the Surface Go.

It’s been rumored for a long time now that Microsoft was working on a tinier Surface: Microsoft released the 10.8-inch Surface 3 back in 2015, but there hasn’t been anything even sort of like it since. In that sense, the announcement of the slightly smaller Surface Go is just picking up where the Surface 3 left off.

However, in recent weeks, it’s been rumored that Microsoft was closer than ever to revealing Andromeda, a brand-new pocketable Windows device with two screens. While ZDnet recently reported that the Andromeda project was on thin ice and unlikely to ever come to market, Microsoft enthusiasts were optimistic that it was close to debut.

Well, it’s certainly possible that Andromeda is still in the works. But while the Surface Go is indeed pocketable, it only has one screen, meaning that this ain’t it.

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