Spec Shootout: Microsoft Surface Go Vs iPad Vs Galaxy Tab S3

With the announcement of Microsoft’s new Surface Go, there will be more than a few nervous folks at the Apple and Samsung head offices.

The Surface Go promises to deliver a lot in a compact and inexpensive package that could single-handedly put a massive dent in not just those tablet makers’ bottom line but also the entire Chromebook market. Here’s a look at how the Microsoft Surface Go compares to its major competitors.

Microsoft’s announcement of the Surface Go will give many of the tablet makers out there a lot to think about. Having the kick-stand built into the back of the device is an advantage and Microsoft can employ its market strength in several industry verticals.

I can see schools and healthcare jumping on the Surface Go because of the lower price point and portability.

I’ve left the iPad Pro out of this comparison as its price makes it a very different proposition to the Surface Go. These days, I’d find it hard to recommend the smaller iPad Pro now that the iPad supports the Apple Pencil. And while the Galaxy Tab S3 is a far more expensive device, it’s worth a look for professional users. (If you want to go down the Samsung road, they still offer the older, and lower spec, Galaxy Tab S2.)


  • Surface Go: 10-inch, 1800 by 1200
  • iPad: 9.7-inch, 2048 by 1536
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: 9.7-inch, 2048 by 1536

Microsoft has gone for a serviceable display but lags the competition when it comes to resolution. That means you’ll see less content on the Surface Go. But the difference isn’t massive and probably not enough to sway buyers one way or the other.

Size And Weight

  • Surface Go: 245 x 175 x 8.30mm, 520g
  • iPad: 240 x 169.5 x 7.5 mm, 478g
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: 237.3 x 169.0 x 6.0mm, 429g

The Surface Go is a little larger and heavier than the other options. However, the difference is not enough to make a huge difference to most people. And by the time you add a keyboard to each device, that difference will narrow, or even swing, depending on what you choose.

Processor, RAM And Storage

  • Surface Go: 7th Generation Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4415Y, 4 to 8GB RAM and 64GB, 128GB or 256GB storage options
  • iPad: A10 Fusion chip and Embedded M10 coprocessor, 2GB RAM, 32GB or 128GB storage
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: Quad-Core 2.15GHz processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage with support for microSD up to 256GB

Comparing specs here is tricky as all three devices use completely different architectures. However, the iPad’s skimpy 2GB of memory will mean slower performance when switching between apps on some occasions in my experience. It’s also worth noting that the Surface Go starts with 64GB of storage – double the others. The Galaxy Tab S3 and Surface Go can also be expanded through storage cards.

Comms And Connectors

  • Surface Go: USB-C, MicroSDXC card reader, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.1
  • iPad: Lightning connector, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, optional 4G/LTE
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: USB-C, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, optional 4G/LTE

The Surface Go’s pedigree as a PC that’s been transformed to a tablet stands out. The availability of a USB-C port means you’ll be able to connect a bunch of external peripherals that aren’t available to the other devices.

Battery Life

  • Surface Go: 9 hours
  • iPad: Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video or listening to music
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: Rated at up to 12 hours video playback

Comparing battery life across devices is never easy. Aside from completely different hardware platforms, usage patterns vary substantially between different people. Based on the published information, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between the iPad, Galaxy Tab and Surface Go.


  • Surface Go: Windows 10
  • iPad: iOS
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: Android

All three operating systems are mature and work well. Which you prefer is a matter of personal preference.


  • Surface Go: Type Cover (sold separately)
  • iPad: Third party
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: Galaxy Tab S3 keyboard (sold separately)

This is where the cost equation starts to get tricky. For serious work, you’ll want a keyboard. You can figure on adding a couple of hundred dollars to your purchase for a device keyboard that integrates with the device.

However, as the Surface Go has that integrated kickstand, you could get away with a Bluetooth keyboard if you’re happy for it to not be integrated.

As a bonus, the Surface Go also supports a mouse.


  • Surface Go: Surface Pen (sold separately)
  • iPad: Apple Pencil (sold separately)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: S-Pen (sold separately)

This is another extra purchase. The stylus options for all three devices work well and can substantially change how you use a tablet.


  • Surface Go: From $599
  • iPad: From $469
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: From $949

The Galaxy Tab is the big outrider here with not much change from $1000. By the time you add a keyboard and stylus, you could be looking at a full-fledged 2-in-1 laptop for the money.

The Surface Go has a head start on the others as, even though it’s $130 dearer than the iPad, it starts with double the storage and you can use it to connect external devices over that handy USB-C port. If you want an iPad with 128GB or storage so it matches the Surface Go, then the prices even up.

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