Review (short): Microsoft Surface GO, the ideal adv-riders laptop??

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by EastRoad, Sep 4, 2018.

  1. EastRoad

    EastRoad Road Viking Supporter

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    Hey inmates,

    Having had both a background in the IT World (before changing my profession to be a machinist and bladesmith many years ago) AND being a bit of a tech nerd at times...
    Well adding insult to injury I'm also into one-bag travel (and by that I mean something that is under 30lts ;) )...

    Long intro short, after Microsoft relased the Surface GO (now, for those who don't know it, it's essentially a 10" Surface Pro model... to some degree), I just needed to buy it.
    Had a really good deal on one as an introductionary offer...

    Up until now I always had to struggle between bringing my 13" Macbook Pro or my 9.7" iPad along a trip.
    For me - like for many these days - having some sort of computer beyond the smartphone at hand when travelling is utterly crucial.
    I'm self employed and when I travel, there's not much happening in terms of work being done or acquiring new work for when I'm back, if I'm not able to send out the occasional quote, send out invoices etc,.
    In fact, having access to the internet and the ability to throw in a few hours of office work is what actually had enabled me to travel without running my business into the ground.
    So yes, it's crucial.

    at the same time carrying my Macbook Pro 13" around was something I didn't like when travelling abroad for both the space / weight (include a charger) and of course the theft issue, with the MBP being my main work computer... also it's not touch enabled and still a bit too large at 13" to worked in some scenarios "on the go".

    The iPad was my other solution that does work charmingly well, until you need to type a lot of text, work with files (albeit, thank you apple, for at least sort of fixing some of the flaws)...

    For a long while I was searching sort of in vain for a notebook, that was not as low specced as some of the more portable devices, that doesn't rely on an non-USB standard charger (chargers on some of the small cheap notebooks ted to be huge...)... has a good touch screen experience.

    the notable downsides for the iPad (I only list the negatives below, as we all know at what the thing does excell)
    - Lack of pointer (mouse / trackpad) support when you use an external keyboard... it's just cumbersome without if you're working with larger texts)
    - Stand... the standard folio case by Apple has two positions to rest the screen in, and whilst it works, it's not comfortable and often easy to tip over etc.
    - No easy file sharing, say accessing an external hard drive, usb stick etc...
    - very mediocre multitasking (two windows max, and very restrictive implementation) (say keep an email open in one window, the browser in another for doing research and a third window for typing... it's all do-able but really not efficient
    - only the ipad pro allows for a semi-decent keyboard integration (I've used a MS foldable BT keyboard, which is the best compromise between size & comfort in my opinion...
    - Rely on APP-Store Apps ... no full "desktop" apps (say my CAD, fusion 360)

    Well, as mentioned: enter he Surface GO (I've got the 8GB Ram, 128 GB SSD model, which is the highest specced you will currently get).

    It does check all of the boxes "positively" which are downsides for the iPad.
    it's only marginally larger WITH The superb keyboard attached.
    The Keyboard Cover is a true treat, I have NOT used another 10" device where typing was as comfortable or fast as with that one... also the tackpad works charmingly well.

    It also comes with one (unfortunately just one) USB-C Port... AND YES, it can be charged with the USB-C Port and an USB-C to USB-A Cable! The charger seems to need to put out 2.5Amps or so for it to be efficient... YES, the supplied separate charger (it's pretty small and proprietary ) is FASTER... but the point is: it works... my higher-end (aftermarket) 3-Port USB-3.0 Quick Charge mobile charger works really well weith the surface go.
    This does two things for me:
    Obviously I don't need to bring yet another proprietary charger along
    Less obvious but very practical: IF I loose/break/etc a charger, I can find a replacement (and cable) just about everyewhere these days. (unlike with a "normal" laptop)

    The Keyboard has another bonus, which is rare-ish at a lower priced device that size: it's fully back-lit....

    The device itself has an pretty cool integrated stand that can be freely set from almost 90 to flat...
    and it's rock solid... unlike the ipad, you can actually have it upright and use the touchscreen without the device moving about.


    Overall, finally someone has made a so-so affordablke, 10" device, running a full OS with a good touchscreen implementation, very decent display, enough horse power to run even photoshop (ok I would not do it as a main task with huge files, but it does work far better than I had thought it would), near perfect keyboard (for the size), at a low weight, sturdy build with USB-C Charging....
    I've found the near perfect travel "laptop" ....
    #1
  2. Uetliberg

    Uetliberg There you go...

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    Had the Surface Pro 3 with me on my trip through the Balkan countries. Weight/Versatility ratio is excellent. And the thing is sturdy enough to ride in the 32Liter dry bag on the back luggage rack. Covered in a neopren sleeve it braved quite some weather, bumps and two falls on the way. And its excellent to work with.
    #2
  3. Wilde

    Wilde Adventurer

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    I got my wife a Surface Pro 4 and it's definitely the go-to device for taking on trips. Unlike the new Go, it was like $1000, so I'd be leery about taking it on the motorcycle to go camping. For $400, the Surface Go looks like a great option.
    #3
  4. MarkM

    MarkM Been here awhile Supporter

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    Surface Pro is a great small tablet PC. Glad to know people are having good experiences with them on bikes.
    #4
  5. EastRoad

    EastRoad Road Viking Supporter

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    I briefly considered buying the surface 4 vs the surface go...
    But for my usage I did not need another fully featured laptop to complement my macbook pro...
    also the cost factor was a major aspect - I paid just under 600$ for the Surface GO including the Keyboard....
    the lower spec model is currently selling for 490$ here - without the keyboard (which is another 95$) ... so the launch deal I got for the higher spec model + keyboard was hard to beat, ...

    frankly I'd would have preferred anything sub 400$ though for travel purposes - but none that I've looked at was either giving me the size & weight advantage I'd wanted nor the hardware specs I was looking for.
    That's why I think the Surface Go hit a sweet spot (at least for me).... at approx. 600$ it's less than any other comparable device, and offers more feature wise.

    I was always rather weary about taking the 1700$ macbook pro on extended trips for the money alone, especially as it's my main computer for work...
    so replacing it prematurely because of motorcycle adv travel induced damage wasn't too appealing.
    Also I rarely needed the power / capacity the thing has when I travel...

    I guess to sum it up, the Surface Go is what in my opinion the iPad Pro 10" (or 9.whatever.inch) should have actually been.
    It is in a very similar weight / size ratio, just with higher specced hardware, full os and a very well working keyboard.
    Sure the iPad has the better touch interface... I guess iOS on the iPad is really difficult to beat in that regard.
    But what does it do good, if it falls short on many of the even more mundane work related tasks.
    I think the iPad is an extremely good media-consumption & web-browsing device... great interface, amazing battery life, solid build quality, with a solid track record and very little serious bugs.... short: it works, really well.
    But as soon as you need more than web-browsing and movie watching, it starts to feel restricted - whilst the surface go, doesn't.
    not to mention it's cheaper than the iPad pro (which is the only way to get a semi decent keyboard solution / integration for the ipad)....
    #5
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  6. Uetliberg

    Uetliberg There you go...

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    I hear you regarding priceand potential dammage. The surface pro 3 is my main computer, the desktop at home gets very much underused. The SP3 did it for me on a few military assignments abroad and now the bike trip. Plus now I am writing my thesis on it. Versatility thats hard to beat. I think the newer models including the Go are not using a cooling fan anymore, which should make them even sturdier for bike travel.
    Enough now - unless Microsoft starts to pay me money... :-)
    #6
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  7. EastRoad

    EastRoad Road Viking Supporter

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    IMG_0710-1.jpeg IMG_0712-1.jpeg

    Weight is very Interrtesting ... taking the iPad out of the slim protective case (100gr) - th total combined weight of the iPad + MS Foldable Keyboard is 776grams...
    The Suerface Go is 774 grams - with the keyboard...

    Size is a close enough match... the Surface GO with the keyboard is thicker than the ipad without a case and only the screen protector, add a case and keyboard and the ipad is actually getting thicker & heavier...
    #7
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  8. Themartymac

    Themartymac Been here awhile

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    Thanks for that review. Well Done.

    I have been attracted to the Surfaces for a while now but the main thing that has kept my ipads in rotation instead is the ability to use a fully waterproof case (lifeproof on all my apple devices), followed closely by a lack of on-board cellular data capability. Now that there are fanless options and subsequently waterproof cases available for the surface models, and cellular card options, I think it's time to look seriously at them again.
    #8
  9. K1W1

    K1W1 Long timer Supporter

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    Have a good look at the fragility of the Surface notebooks before you buy.
    Most people I know who have tried them for business have gone back to more traditional sized products because the Surface notebooks break way to easy and way to often.
    #9
  10. Uetliberg

    Uetliberg There you go...

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    I am sure you can crack a Surface Tablet Notebook thing. But its form factor is what makes it easy to store safely. I personally don't think that it breaks faster in real life application on a trip then a normal sized laptop which is heavier and bigger.
    #10
  11. SnoDrtRider

    SnoDrtRider I've been lost here before...

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    I have had a Surface Pro 4 for a few years now as my only computer and it works well for me. I can slip it my briefcase/bag and take it with me on estimates/etc. I have been a bit hesitant to take it on the bike since it is my only computer and the cost was over $1500 when I bought it. The Go sounds like a good alternative for travel. I was using an old Motorola Xoom tablet as my travel computer but it is old and limited as to what I could do with it as far as connecting the GPS and Camera to transfer files and tracks.
    Does it have a standard USB port for peripherals?
    #11
  12. SnoDrtRider

    SnoDrtRider I've been lost here before...

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    Oh BTW I just received an E-Mail from MS that says they are allowing Office 365 to be installed on up to 6 machines on one license so that is a big plus.
    #12
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  13. MarkM

    MarkM Been here awhile Supporter

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    Several of my coworkers and clients have been using Surface tablets for years with no breakage issues. But I don't have experience traveling with one on a motorcycle.
    #13
  14. EastRoad

    EastRoad Road Viking Supporter

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    IF by "Standard USB" port you mean a full USB-A Port (the one that looks like the one found on most chargers for example) then the answer is NO.
    it does have the much newer USB-C port, which is also a standard ;)

    To connect "older" USB (non USB-C) devices to the Surface, all you'd need is an inexpensive USB-C hub... they can be small and cheap or serve serveral functions, like offering HDMI Out, Charging USB-C Pass through, multiple USB-A Ports to attach more than one USB Device..
    prices range from like 9-150$ depending on your needs.
    #14
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  15. EastRoad

    EastRoad Road Viking Supporter

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    IT's not mil-spec 810 or anything for sure, but it looks solid enough...
    and at 10" it's small. small enough to store easily and keep it protected.

    and again, price wise it's not a top-tier device... I'm ok when it lasts two years worth of travel abuse.
    On the other hand my main computer I usually get 4-5 years out of them... and they're a good bit more expensive ... like three times the surface go.
    that's one of the appealing aspects, it offers enough computational power to do a lot of things and work smoothely... good typing experience - especially for the 10" size... I mean after like 15 minutes of getting used to the slightly smaller than normal keyboard size - I'm easily able to type at 85-90% of my average speed without any issues.
    The latter is what makes it sort of unique for me - the smallest device I owned that was absolutely excellent in every aspect was the 11" Macbook Air... it used to be my travel computer for a long while, until it got killed by abuse.... any of the 10" devices - a size I find absolutely ideal for travel - especially backpacking - have so far offered a very sub-par typing experience. the iPad Pro's official keyboard is not bad - but frankly once you start using a keyboard, you want a touchpad and a pointer.... resorting to either your fingers to select text and navigate a document or a stylus isn't ideal, in my opinion actually far from it.

    Then most of the small scale 10-11" laptops like the Acer things... have a lot of issues:
    VERY sad build quality, creaky plasticy screens, cheap keyboards with ultra cramped layouts, Intel Atom processors (ok the latest gen isn't bad),... usually no more than 4GB of Ram... over all, I've had a few, and they all had serious issues... not to mention, that whilst their footprint is small, they're usually no thinner than an average notebook.
    #15
  16. worwig

    worwig Long timer

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    I've been tossing aound a Surface Pro 3 for years. Love it. Very reliable from what I have seen.
    #16
  17. a57m2000

    a57m2000 Been here awhile

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    #17
  18. EastRoad

    EastRoad Road Viking Supporter

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    I think its an interesting concept, but frankly I doubt I'd be cool with typing lots of stuff on a screen.
    Sure it will be better in that regard than a tablet's standard on screen keyboard... but lacking any kind of tactile orientation of actual key, i sort of doubt its practicability.
    OF course the secondary screen though makes for a fantastic custom keyboard for any type of app that supports it and for graphic use... the i5 should support it nicely. albeit I think 4GB for it's RAM is a tad on the low side, especially considering it's a QHD display ...

    Interesting device for sure though...
    #18
  19. SnoDrtRider

    SnoDrtRider I've been lost here before...

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    Yes my phone uses USB-C which IMO is much better (Non directional) unfortunately all of my devices use USB-A to connect. I'll look for an adapter rather than hub to avoid the bulk.
    #19
  20. a57m2000

    a57m2000 Been here awhile

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    Agreed, I think it make sense only with 8 or even 16GB of RAM, will see at the release day
    #20
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