iPad vs Surface Go

Microsoft has announced a new budget tablet called the Surface Go. It comes in at a lower price than previous offerings but has it got the specs to compete? In this week compare the new Surface Go with Apple's 2018 iPad, the company's own most budget-friendly tablet.

For related advice, have a look at our iPad buying guide.

Price & release date

The 2018 iPad is available now, having launched in April 2018. It starts at £319/$329.

The Surface Go launches on 2 August 2018 in the US and 22 August in the UK, but you can pre-order now. It costs £379.99/£509.99 in the UK and $399/$549 in the US. (Note that the Go will initially be available as a Wi-Fi-only model, but an LTE version is slated to follow later in 2018.)

The prices above will get you the tablet alone: the Surface Go Signature Type Cover and Surface Pen each cost an additional £99/$99, while the coloured keyboards - they're available in burgundy, cobalt or platinum - cost $129. The Surface Mobile Mouse costs $39.

Design & build quality

Apple's tablets have been stuck in a rut design-wise for a few years now, but it is at least a very sleek and minimalist rut. This design was debuted with the iPad Air 2 in 2013 and the relatively thick bezels, for one thing, are starting to look quite retro, but aesthetically it's still pretty great for those who don't demand the latest look.

We also have mild issues with the unlaminated screen, an old-fashioned approach that means the display flexes down (fractionally, but noticeably, at least if you've ever used a laminated screen) when you press it. The Pro iPads, for instance, don't have this weakness, but it evidently enables Apple to cut costs.

The Surface Go is more modern-looking without shattering any design paradigms. Oh, and it has a kick-stand.

Microsoft reckons the Surface Go is compact enough to fit on an aeroplane tray table with the seat in front reclined (it's much thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro), but it's bigger than the iPad: slightly thicker, heavier and longer on both axes. At least partly this is justified by the slightly larger screen. The 2018 iPad is itself a bit heavier than some older iPads, but nevertheless these are both pleasantly portable devices.

Here are some photos so you can make up your own mind about the looks of the two devices:

iPad 9.7in (2018) in pictures

iPad 9.7in (2018) vs Microsoft Surface Go: Design

iPad 9.7in (2018) vs Microsoft Surface Go: Design

iPad 9.7in (2018) vs Microsoft Surface Go: Design

Microsoft Surface Go in pictures

iPad 9.7in (2018) vs Microsoft Surface Go: Design

iPad 9.7in (2018) vs Microsoft Surface Go: Design

iPad 9.7in (2018) vs Microsoft Surface Go: Design

Colour options

The iPad is available in silver, gold and Space Grey. Note that the gold is slightly rosier than in the past; there's no longer a pink option but the gold now has a hint of pink to it.

The Surface Go comes silver only, but you can add a hint of colour with the matching coloured accessories.

Features & specs

The Surface Go is an altogether lower-end device than we're used to seeing from the Surface line. (For a precise outline of the differences, see Surface Go vs Surface Pro.) For that matter the iPad 2018 is a more basic offering than Apple's Pro tablets.

Still, we think both of these tablets will have plenty of muscle for dealing with everyday tasks, emailing, browsing the web and light gaming. Whether you should expect them to be tackling high-end apps in two or three years' time is another matter.

Both devices happily support the firms' own styluses and represent reasonable choices for work on the go if equipped with a keyboard (at extra cost). But the Surface's support for Windows (admittedly the cut-down S Mode - check your favoured applications are supported) may lead some business users to prefer it.

The Surface also has twice as much RAM at even the most basic tier, with the potential to double that if you're willing to pay more (although this may defeat the purpose of a budget tablet).

iPad 9.7in (2018) vs Microsoft Surface Go: Features & specs

iPad 2018 specs

  • A10 Fusion chip (2.34GHz quad-core) with 64‑bit architecture; embedded M10 coprocessor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB or 128GB storage
  • 9.7in LED-backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology; 2048x1536 at 264ppi; 4:3 aspect ratio; supports Apple Pencil
  • 8Mp rear-facing camera; f/2.4 aperture; Live Photos; Panorama (up to 43Mp); 1080p HD video recording; slo-mo (120fps)
  • 1.2Mp front-facing camera; f/2.2 aperture; Live Photos; Retina Flash; 720p HD video recording
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.2; Lightning port; headphone jack
  • 32.4Wh rechargeable lithium-polymer battery; estimated battery life 10 hours (Wi‑Fi), 9 hours (mobile data)
  • iOS 11
  • 240mm x 169.5mm x 7.5mm; 469g/478g (Wi-Fi/cellular)

Surface Go specs

  • 1.6GHz Intel Pentium 4415Y processor (7th-gen Kaby Lake)
  • 4GB or 8GB RAM
  • 64GB, 128GB or 256GB storage
  • Intel HD 615 integrated graphics
  • 10in IPS screen; 1200x1800 at 217ppi; 3:2 aspect ratio; supports Surface Pen stylus
  • 8Mp rear-facing camera
  • 5Mp front-facing camera
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi; LTE later in 2018; 1 x USB 3.0 Type C; 1 x Surface Connector; microSD; headphone jack
  • 27Wh rechargeable battery; estimated battery life 9 hours
  • Windows 10 Home in S Mode
  • 245mm x 175mm x 8.3mm; 522g

OUR VERDICT

The Surface Go looks like a decent tablet, with a solid design and a respectable price tag. The specs seem good for the price (even if that processor is something of an unknown quantity) and the accessories are attractive. It's just hard to know who it's for.

The average consumer looking for a low(ish)-priced tablet for the odd spot of email and web surfing is also going to want a simple, user-friendly interface, and iOS is tough to beat in that department. Windows - and a subset of Windows at that, for further confusion - is a more intimating prospect.

With a lightweight and attractive (albeit samey) design, solid specs and a good range of pre-vetted apps available to download in a secure environment, the iPad is a fantastic bet for tablet hunters on a budget.

The Surface Go looks like a good choice for those who are used to the Surface line from a work context and want to pick up a cheaper model for personal use, but that seems like a narrow niche.

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