back to article Microsoft's cheapo Surface: Like a netbook you can't upgrade

If you can put up with the slow speed, Microsoft's budget Surface Go offers a cheapskate alternative to the stylish but costly Surface Pro line, effectively reviving the Netbook concept a decade on. The convertible slab is aimed at students and schools, but it's likely to be bought for field workers too. The Surface Go bucks …

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If you're on a budget but want a Surface it might be worth looking at the Linx 12x64. Surface lookalike with a quad core Atom and 4GB RAM, available for under £200.

I don't have one yet but most of the reviews are good, so I have one on the way.

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Good luck with that one. We had one to trial in my work and god it was awful, getting drivers was hideous, the build and performance was woeful and it kept dropping off the WiFi.

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Re: Linx 12x64

That's very similar specs to an original Surface 3 (non-pro) and thus going to be a bit slow unless you're just doing bog standard email/browsing/office tasks.

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Re: Linx 12x64

It depends on what you are trying to do with it. For a lot of verticals or simple office document editing, it should be more than enough. I had an Atom based Samsung tablet for a while. It wasn't a speed demon, but fast enough for Word, Excel and Outlook and the odd Store game.

Obviously, if you are going to be installing Gentoo on it and compiling everything as you go, it is going to be a real slug.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Linx 12x64

"bog standard email/browsing/office tasks." What else are you going to use it for apart from a bit of streaming? A developer workstation!

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The WiFi dropouts should supposedly be better now, there have been driver and BIOS updates to fix it.

As for performance, like others have said it depends what you're doing with it. I tend to use small laptops/tablets as web browsers and remote desktop clients.

I had a HP 2in1 with a Bay Trail Atom and 2GB RAM previously, it was just about ok for everything I wanted, only lack of RAM let it down really. Given that this is a generation of CPU newer and twice the RAM it should do for me.

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Re: Linx 12x64

If you're just using it for browsing and some simple editing, you'd be better off getting a cheap android tablet...

If you install gentoo on it, then it should run quite well after everything has finished compiling, assuming you configure it right... Even the actual compilation won't take that long as you let it run overnight unattended.

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Coat

Re: Linx 12x64

"Even the actual compilation won't take that long as you let it run overnight unattended."

So -shorter than a Win10 update then...

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Anonymous Coward

If you're on a budget but want a Surface

If you're on a budget but want a Surface, just send me the money and I'll spend it on cake.

It'll spare you the disappointment, and you will know the money will have been well spent and well enjoyed.

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Avoid cheap Windows tablets. I bought an iwork10 and it was just horrible to use, it kept registering actions as "minimise everything".

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Expecting pre-release product to be complete or RTM quality is perhaps naïve.... Expecting this product was designed as a laptop replacement is also naïve... I do NOT understand how people categorized the Surface line from day one. THIS device is meant as a tablet with the option for running desktop apps.... It is NOT meant to be a performance laptop replacement. It does not have all the apps the iPad and android devices have, although in practical terms it has MOST of the useful business applications. To compare the raw number of apps is a silly and pointless exercise. When it comes to performance, I have read reviews that say they can barely open 2 pages in Chrome to those that say they can open 12 easily, but that large Excel spreadsheets bog. These comments show how lacking the reviewers tend to be these days. It is like me comparing my car - which is capable of over 320kph - to an F1 car and then saying it is crap because it can't accelerate or corner as fast.... (of course it will likely perform better at Le Mans.... but then that is a different application, no?) ....

and BTW - the more we compact devices, the less repairable they will be.... this should not be a surprise.... this is exacerbated by a swap vs repair mentality - most so-called techs today have very little idea of what it is they actually do - A+ certification is a joke - and calling anyone a genius OR an expert at Apple or MS stores is a bit much.... Personally, I won't hire anyone that can't at least re&re an older PQFP - not that we do it that much anymore either, but the knowledge means they have an understanding greater than a 4 day course and a youtube channel

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@AC

No thanks, I'd rather buy cake for myself, plus I have now received my Linx tablet and am not disappointed at all. Performance is more than adequate, especially given the price (£145 for a Grade A refurb unit)

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@WallMeerkat

Unfortunately there is a lot of cheap tat around in Windows 10 tablets now, much as with Android. iwork chuwi and other odd brands all tend to be garbage. Linx I have mostly read good reviews of, apart from those where people were clearly expecting more than they should given the specs. I am quite pleased with mine.

As with all purchases of items not from major brands (and some of those from major brands frankly), read reviews and be sure of what you're buying before purchasing.

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@SSampson

"A+ certification is a joke"

Yes, yes it is, and I say that as A+ certified technician.

A multiple choice exam where more than one answer is right but you can only pick one, or only one is correct they one they say is correct isn't, is not a good measure of anything except your ability to pass bullshit exams.

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I don't think that the majority of people that will buy one of these expecting to ever do any kind of self-repair.

I'm unsure what this article is meant to achieve. It doesn't detail the actual specs, doesn't do any kind of review and only seems to be a placeholder page for a link to the iFixit page. Have I missed something and the Reg and iFixit are now owned by the same people?

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You only have to see who the author is to see the point of the article, any chance to bash Windows and Andrew will be there. As for the product, I've not ready many reviews for it yet, strangely lots of gaming websites/youtubers asking the question is it any good for portable gaming, I guess in this age of the Nintendo Switch people are now looking for a similar Steam device, general consensus is no, not good for gaming, it only just runs Fortnite at sub 30fps, although I think it manages Skyrim okay, as always with tablets, don't buy the cheapest model.

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The specs were listed a couple of weeks ago. I agree with you that I don't think that the target market is going to worry about repairing or upgrading this kind of kit. I'm also not convinced that the size of the battery will matter that much either. A bigger issue will be having to pay £££s for the optional extras. But Microsoft's biggest worry is probably whether there really is a market for this kind of underpowered device (the lack of RAM is most likely going to be an issue for some) at all. And, if there is, how can they square the circle of providing reasonable hardware at the same time as not cannibalising sales of their premium product?

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Pint

Bashing time

Andrew seems to take particular delight in bashing BOTH Microsoft and Apple.

Keep it up Sir!

raises my glass of "YARL" to him (Brewed in Argyll and I'm on the Ardnamurchan Pensinula)

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"I don't think that the majority of people that will buy one of these expecting to ever do any kind of self-repair."

Depends on whether the buyers think putting a new battery in is classed as self-repair.

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Anonymous Coward

You only have to see who the author is to see the point of the article, any chance to bash Windows and Andrew will be there.

Rubbish. Andrew has in the past been slagged off for posting too favourable reviews of Windows products.

Like the BBC - all the liberals call it too far right, and all the conservatives call it too far left - I think this means you've arrived, Andrew...

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Sounds like it might make a reasonable netbook if you could install lubuntu or Fedora on it...

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Just get a cheap Chromebook and install GalliumOS on it. Its a lightweight distro specifically for Chromebooks.

I got myself an Acer CB3-431 a few years back and did just that. Full metal body, 14 inch screen and some random Intel dual core SoC for £200ish. The distro and SDD make it feel pretty nippy considering the hardware and the battery lasts 10+ hours with heavy use (I mostly use it for coding and web browsing).

It's pretty much what I always wanted netbooks to be but never were.

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So many downvotes because I missed the "joke alert" icon. Sheesh!

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Paris Hilton

Looks suspiciously to me like all those warehoused Surface tablets just got a new life.

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"It's pretty much what I always wanted netbooks to be but never were."

I got one of the original Acer Aspire ONE netbooks, the ones that came pre-installed with a shitty chopped up version of Debian....

I made use of it for years for what it was made and intended for. lightweight stuff like email and web browsing.... watching the occasional movie... but it needed a proper os on it, and upped the ram to 1.5gb ..mint worked well.... but the battery life was terrible and it soon refused a charge....

its now sitting in a corner with five printers and a scanner plugged into it, running Debian and CUPS. when it breaks I'll upgrade it to a raspberry Pi....

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I got one of the original Acer Aspire ONE netbooks, the ones that came pre-installed with a shitty chopped up version of Debian....

I made use of it for years for what it was made and intended for. lightweight stuff like email and web browsing.... watching the occasional movie...

I have one of those, although it had MSWinXP on it when I got it (a tenant left it behind when they abruptly moved). Works fine for basic browsing, email and document editing (about all I needed it for), but video is unwatchable on it (running Mint 18.x Mate). Perhaps the KAV60 version started cutting corners.

Of course, I have been wondering if a RasperryPi 3 could be modded to fit in the case (it seems a bit too thin to fit the mods needed to support the video, etc). Would probably be cheaper/easier to go for a PineBook.

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Sil

You say netbook speed but with zero benchmark or link to benchmark.

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Given that the processor is faster than high-end processors of the Netbook era, it should be a lot faster than those old netbooks. :-)

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Software has changed a lot in those times however. Windows 10 is a lot more demanding than XP/Linux distros on old netbooks, plus web pages now require a lot more grunt to render as well. It's not necessarily how fast something is in equal benchmarks, but how quick it feels in daily life doing basic tasks of today.

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Nothing wrong with a netbook

I gave my youngest an Asus Eeeeeee something ages and ages and ages ago.

The battery lasted forever (ie 8 hours), it was functional and had a real keyboard of sorts.

When the time came it updates to Win10 and ran just fine although I suspect the Atom Win10 version had bits missing to keep it running reasonably.

The disc was only 320GB but wasn't a real problem. It even ran an external HD monitor and real keyboard/mouse combo for 'proper' school work (like Netflix).

Now, having given him my last laptop, which was languishing because I treated myself to a 'new' pre-loved laptop 2 years ago, I put Ubuntu on it and it runs as a portable debug collector for my work thing no problem - it even dual-boots when needed.

Sine my laptop is only 'portable' in the loosest sense of needing a power cord 'just in case' and being heavier than a slim modern (expensive) laptop, a cheaper, long-battery-life, netbook-alike would suit me and my pocket better than an expensive ultra-light laptop.

Having touch-screen/tablet functionality would be an added bonus.

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Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

Yes I'll be keeping my netbook thank you very much. And it runs Windows 7.

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Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

Still got my old Acer Aspire netbook running in the sitting room for basic stuff, got an SSD in and 8GB ram. Windows 10 runs* and it does enough for the time being.

It'd do better with a *nix OS but there are not drivers for the wifi and my skills don't extend to making my own.

If nothing else it gets me RDP'd to a fairly powerful VM running on a microserver somewhere in a cupboard, but I wouldn't want to have to use it for anything.

*kinda.

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Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

Still got my old Acer Aspire netbook...It'd do better with a *nix OS but there are not drivers for the wifi and my skills don't extend to making my own.

Interesting...what model?

I've an Acer Aspire One N450 that's been happily running Ubuntu for years since I replaced WinXp, no issues with Wifi, but some other distros struggled with providing firmware outofthebox.

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Linux

Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

Still running my EEE 701 4G, in fact I just bought a replacement keyboard for it from Aliexpress. It's still chugging away with the latest MX Linux on an 8Gb SD card and 1Gb RAM. Great for torrenting or as an internet radio, if nothing else.

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Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

@Teiwaz

It's the Acer Aspire One 722.

Maybe I'll take another look, it'd be handy to get away from windows on it.

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Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

@Teiwaz

It's the Acer Aspire One 722.

Maybe I'll take another look, it'd be handy to get away from windows on it.

The BCM4313 broadcom wireless card (on the Acer Aspire One 722) is compatible with the open source brcm80211 driver directly included in the standard kernel since at least 2012 - some obscure 'Linux distros make you jump through hoops to get non-standard firmware (i.e. prop blob support) onboard, but that chip should not have been a problem. I think it's the same one as on my D260 (N450 Atom) machine, and it's run Ubuntu since 2011 with only 1GB (upped to 2GB fairly painlessly).

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Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

Another Asus owner here, in this case a 901 with upgraded SSD.

Yeah, it is a bit slow, but it does things using Windows 7 that are VERY difficult to replicate in Android - and a PITA in Linux; which is why I keep it around, and take it with me when I travel abroad.

That, and the fact I have a HUGE laptop bag I can stuff with goodies and avoid the weigh-in drama of having 17KG of hand luggage.

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Re: Nothing wrong with a netbook

lol... all of you showing off with your new netbooks...

Acer aspire ONE A0A150 its over 10 years old.... still in daily use...

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JDX
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I can't imagine anyone buys a tablet type device thinking about upgrading it.

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404
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I do. At least once.

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Linux

MSFT Baaad

I’ve never seen a Surface Go but I know I won’t like it.

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If Microsoft want to corner the educational market...

... their best option is to have these things running a version of Windows that can be absolutely 100% proven to have no telemetry whatsoever, and update scheduling fully configurable.

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Facepalm

So, tell me again...

How do I stick more RAM, a bigger drive and a more powerful processor in an iPad or a Surface Pro?

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effectively reviving the Netbook concept a decade on.

Hey, some of us are still keeping ours on life-support, and waiting for industry to come back to it's senses.

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You could look at the GPD Pocket, a current 7" laptop.

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Anonymous Coward

Linux

"Though that never seemed to bother enthusiasts who for a time, before the iPad was launched, flocked to netbooks."

Yes, but the first netbooks weren't loaded with windows bloat, they perfromed so well for the price because they ran Linux and nobody seemed too phased with the supposedly hard to use operating system and lack of MS office, lame excuses trotted out when the penguin is involved.

It wasn't enthusiasts that bought them either, they sold far too many for such a small group of consumers, it was ordinary people after a bargain and few complained until the later versions with barely enough resuorces to run bloatware arrived and were priced within £50 of a traditional low end 13.5-15" notebook.

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Re: Linux

Upvote for stealing my post. I had even copied the same quote to my clipboard, ready to paste in.

What killed the first generation was $trong-arM tactics from the likes of Guess Who, making it clear to manufacturers and dealers that they had only one future.

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Re: Linux

"Yes, but the first netbooks weren't loaded with windows bloat,"

a big reason for the decline in netbooks was the fact the early ones did not run windows and the great unwashed were returning them to shops because they could not use them. They had to up the specs and the price (microsoft tax) to shoehorn in windows...

Ironically, the final death blow was the ipad and later android tablets that also did not run windows...

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Re: Linux

My AOA150 ran Linpus, which was an adequate Linux distro (in that it had a browser and OpenOffice). Easy enough to get terminal access and enable the XFCE menu.

However I remember that era "I bought this computer that has a penguin on it, can you put windows on it?" like my job writing embedded software on an obscure linux platform gave me unlimited windows licences to hand out.

I was kinda glad when they all moved onto iPads, they do less damage. Though now they think my job gives me unlimited icloud account storage.

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Anonymous Coward

what's the price?

let me guess... FROM £499 :)

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