Finally, there's a decent cheap option for regular computer users

by Peter Griffin / 10 October, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Windows Surface Go technology

Microsoft’s Surface Go: best Windows option.

For those needing a Windows device for occasional use in addition to the smartphone, the Surface Go is potentially the ideal solution.

For a reminder of just how much the smartphone has changed our idea of the value of computers, look no further than Apple’s launch last month of its new iPhones.

The flagship iPhone XS will go down in history not for its revolutionary features, which amount to mere incremental improvements on its predecessor, but its eye-watering price. The entry-level model costs $1899 and the XS Max, with the larger 6.5-inch screen, is $2099, making it the most expensive iPhone ever.

But millions will still buy these devices and their increasingly expensive Android rivals, given their sheer usefulness. We’ve developed an intimate relationship with smartphones, which is unlike any regular computer we own.

That’s why laptop, desktop and tablet sales have slumped in recent years. Only this year have global PC shipments finally shown signs of life as people upgrade their ageing computers to do the few remaining tasks that a smartphone can’t.

Those tasks mainly revolve around word processing and working with documents and software applications that are too awkward to use on a smartphone screen. Many of us still need a PC as well, but the chunky line-up of mid-market, sub-$1000 desktops and laptops on offer is uninspiring.

The iPad tried to change that, but Apple’s vision of it as a device primarily for consuming content, rather than productivity, never saw it emerge as a true laptop replacement.

Microsoft, intent on preserving its Windows legacy, finally filled the gap five years ago with the Surface Pro, a device that combined the portability and design aesthetics of the smartphone with the attributes of a computer intended to help you do your work.

The catch is that the Surface Pro is relatively expensive at $1349 for the entry-level model, and that’s before you add on accessories such as a keyboard and stylus, without which the Surface Pro isn’t particularly useful.

Now comes the Surface Go, an entry-level version of the Pro with a smaller screen, less advanced technical specifications, but a sharp price – $699. For those needing a Windows device for occasional use in addition to the smartphone, this is potentially the ideal solution.

After all, you get all the design features of its Pro big brother – the stylish magnesium case and kickstand, the multi-touch screen and front- and rear-facing cameras, including face recognition for unlocking the Go.

It comes in what is called “Windows S” mode, which is designed to work with Microsoft’s app store, much like an iPad or Android tablet. But you can quickly switch it to the fully fledged Windows 10 desktop version, letting you run all the software programs you are used to multitasking with.

The key sacrifice is screen real estate – the 10-inch screen in the Go compares to the Pro’s 12.3 inches. I took longer to adapt to the Go’s smaller-format Type Cover keyboard, though Microsoft has managed to retain full-sized keys.

The Go’s processor is also a step down from the Pro models but it copes fine running Office, accessing Google Drive, watching Netflix through the native Windows app and making Skype calls. Battery life is said to be 9.5 hours.

The screen is great for watching movies and TV shows, although it’s not as sharp as an iPad. There are, however, USB-C and microSD ports for connectivity and supplementing the standard 64GB of storage.

All up, Surface Go is a neat little package, although the must-have Type Cover and stylus are sold separately, bumping up the entry-level price to $1029. Still, among Windows PC makers, this is probably the best option on the market. While you can use Microsoft apps on an Android tablet or iPad with keyboard, there’s still nothing quite like being in the true Windows desktop environment.

Price: $699 (64GB storage, 4GB memory)

This article was first published in the October 6, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

How Whangārei became New Zealand's home of jugger
99256 2018-12-12 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

How Whangārei became New Zealand's home of jugger

by Michael Botur

On every second Sabbath, grown men and women armed with foam chase a dog skull around Whangārei’s Kensington Park.

Read more
New Zealand's silent Pasifika mental health crisis
100357 2018-12-11 17:18:21Z Health

New Zealand's silent Pasifika mental health crisis…

by Indira Stewart

What do you do if your culture treats mental illness like a curse? Bury it deep.

Read more
The smart speaker with a screen: How does the Amazon Echo Show stack up?
100317 2018-12-11 15:10:01Z Tech

The smart speaker with a screen: How does the Amaz…

by Peter Griffin

A review of the Amazon Echo Show smart speaker.

Read more
Domestic violence: 'There's a huge amount of work that needs to be done' – PM
100265 2018-12-11 10:30:17Z Social issues

Domestic violence: 'There's a huge amount of work …

by RNZ

Grace Millane's death is a reminder of the work that needs to be done to reduce violence directed at women in this country, says the PM.

Read more
Finally, a trio of chunky referendum issues to spice up the next election
99872 2018-12-11 00:00:00Z Politics

Finally, a trio of chunky referendum issues to spi…

by Bevan Rapson

The possibility of Kiwis voting on three contentious issues – euthanasia, cannabis and an MMP shakeup – is like crowdsourcing political decisions.

Read more
The bullying allegations show that Parliament needs transparency
100228 2018-12-11 00:00:00Z Politics

The bullying allegations show that Parliament need…

by Bill Ralston

As a review stalks bullies in the corridors of power, Bill Ralston writes that abuse thrives in the darkness.

Read more
Mortal Engines is like Star Wars on Middle-earth but lacks memorable characters
100219 2018-12-11 00:00:00Z Movies

Mortal Engines is like Star Wars on Middle-earth b…

by Russell Baillie

In a world where cities are humungous all-terrain vehicles, Peter Jackson’s protégé gets bogged down.

Read more
How art therapy is helping stroke victims speak a new language
99448 2018-12-11 00:00:00Z Health

How art therapy is helping stroke victims speak a …

by Donna Chisholm

re-stART, an Auckland art therapy programme, is thought to be the first in the world targeting stroke survivors.

Read more