Surface Go 2 vs iPad: What's the Difference?

How these two budget tablets really stack up

In the battle of the budget tablets, the two key names to stand out are the Apple iPad and Surface Go 2. Both are similarly priced and offer the same level of features. If you're wondering who wins in the battle of iPad vs Surface Go, it's a matter that's a bit more complicated than simply saying one is far better than the other.

The Apple iPad offers a bigger and better display which is very useful when multitasking, but the Microsoft Surface Go 2 provides a lighter design and neat features like a face-recognition camera.

Ultimately, what works best for you will depend on what you need your tablet to do.

Surface Go 2 and the 8th generation iPad

Overall Findings

Surface Go 2
  • Thin and lightweight.

  • Expensive to fully upgrade to system you'll want.

  • Facial recognition camera.

  • Smart and modern design.

iPad
  • Larger, better display.

  • iOS is a better operating system than Windows 10 S.

  • Camera could be better.

  • Ties into Apple ecosystem.

Both the Microsoft Surface Go 2 and Apple iPad are great machines. They're both purely tablets but they offer a certain amount of flexibility which means you can expand what they can do right down to adding keyboard add-ons and other features. 

They're ideal for browsing the internet or doing some light gaming, but you can also use them for some work tasks, whether that's taking notes for class or typing up a document. Simply put, they're pretty versatile systems and offer more for the price than a budget laptop. 

We're not convinced there's one superior option here. Both are good in different ways, and you won't be disappointed with either choice.

Technical Specifications: More Options for the Surface Go 2

Microsoft Surface Go 2
  • 64GB storage.

  • Extensive configuration options.

  • Great camera.

Apple iPad
  • 32GB storage.

  • Storage is the only thing you can configure differently.

  • Mediocre front camera.

Both tablets approach technical specifications in a very different way. That's because while the Apple iPad has a powerful A12 Bionic processor, you can't change it in any way. In comparison, the Microsoft Surface Go 2 allows you to choose what specification device you want. That's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can choose to upgrade the Microsoft Surface Go 2 quite substantially but it means it'll cost a lot more than a standard Apple iPad. 

The only thing you can choose in terms of technical specifications with the Apple iPad is its storage capacity with 32GB as the base option and proving to be quite small for most users. In comparison, the Microsoft Surface Go 2 starts at 64GB which is far more flexible for most users.

Also, the front camera on the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is superior to the Apple iPad's quite lackluster 1.2MP camera, with a 5MP front camera for selfies. 

The Microsoft Surface Go 2 also has a slightly larger screen with a 10.5-inch display compared to the iPad's 10.2-inch display. In either case, battery life promises to be around 10 hours for both tablets although this will vary depending on what you're doing with it. Gaming in particular will reduce battery life faster and require more recharging. 

Operating System Differences: Both Easy to Use

Microsoft Surface Pro 2
  • Uses Windows 10 in S Mode.

  • Limitations due to not being full Windows 10.

  • Can only use Microsoft Edge to browse online.

Apple iPad
  • Uses iOS.

  • Quite a well-designed OS by now.

  • Lots of apps to download.

A fundamental difference between both tablets is their choice of operating systems. The Microsoft Surface Go 2 uses Windows 10 in S mode which is a very limited version of Windows 10. You can only get apps from the Microsoft Store and you're limited to browsing online with the Microsoft Edge browser. 

In contrast, the iPad uses iOS which is also somewhat limited but has a far more extensive App Store and allows for you to browse with whatever browser you choose from the aforementioned store. 

Fortunately, both operating systems are very easy to use and perform the general tasks you'd expect to do on a tablet. Both are also very secure so if you're worried about safety concerns or viruses, you're in safe hands here. 

Pricing: Cheap Starting Prices for Both

Microsoft Surface Go 2
  • Starts at $399.

  • Accessories are expensive.

  • Upgrades needed to get the most from it.

Apple iPad
  • Starts at $329.

  • Accessories are expensive.

  • Storage on basic spec choice is fairly low.

The Microsoft Surface Go 2 starts at $399 while the Apple iPad begins at $329. In the latter's case, you'll almost certainly need to spend more to benefit from extra storage, unless you keep very few files on the device itself. Similarly, the basic specification of the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is a little limited so you may want to extend its longevity by upgrading to a pricier model.

In both cases, the tablets benefit from accessories such as a keyboard cover which protects the device while also giving you a keyboard to type on. They're pretty expensive but important if you want to turn your tablet into a pseudo-laptop. Be prepared to spend a little more on whatever you decide to get the most future-proofing.

Final Verdict: Both Have Their Strengths

Both the Microsoft Surface Go 2 and the Apple iPad have their respective strengths. While they're both quite inexpensive to start, you'll need to budget for an upgrade or two. In the case of the Apple iPad, it needs more storage, while the basic processor on the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is too limited to be worth recommending. 

If you're easily confused by complicated specifications, the Apple iPad is the easiest purchase to make but we really like the Microsoft Surface Go 2's extra thin design and the fact it looks a bit more modern. It also has a slightly bigger screen that certainly proves useful. 

Still, iOS is more refined than the cut back version of Windows 10 S the Microsoft Surface Go 2 uses, and its App Store offers a more extensive array of apps and games. If you have an iPhone already, many of the apps that work on the iPhone have an iPad counterpart (and are very likely included in the price when you bought the iPhone app).

Ultimately, both devices are very well-made. You just need to plan to buy a keyboard to go alongside them to reap the full benefits, unless you're content sticking with just the touch screen. They'll soon prove easier than digging out your laptop or desktop PC all the time.