Test Drive Gadget Reviews with Bill and Phil

Let’s Examine the iPhone XS and Surface Go

Every autumn we doublecheck our tech budget to make sure we have plenty of resources for all the new device announcements from the big tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Google. Even though the new devices are not groundbreaking in terms of new features or functionality, we are easy marks for the tech barons and usually shell out some of our hard-earned money on the flashy new gadgets like clockwork.
Bill & Phil

First, Microsoft got us with their breathtaking announcement about their new “iPad killer,” the Surface Go. Then, Apple always ensnares us with each new iPhone model, regardless if it looks almost exactly like the last model. This year, it got us with the new iPhone XS. So off to the tech store we went, cold hard cash firmly in hand, and we came home with two of the most heralded products of the season. Here’s what we discovered when we got home.


First, it should be said that we are huge fans of Microsoft’s Surface line of tablets and computers. So when we heard that Microsoft was releasing a new variant of the Surface that would be more akin to an iPad than a laptop, we immediately were intrigued. When we heard these new Surface Go tablets were going to start at a $399 price point, we didn’t think twice and bought one on the very day it was released.

So what is so novel about the Surface Go? It is the compact size that differentiates the Go from its larger and more laptop-like cousins, the Surface Pros. The Go touchscreen measures just 10 inches and, to us, actually seems even smaller probably because of the large bezel that surrounds the screen. The Go has the patented built-in kickstand found on other Surface devices, which is a big plus. However, a big minus is the absence of a keyboard for the stated price. As with the Surface Pro, we had to pay extra ($99) for the keyboard that attaches magnetically to the Go. Our small investment in a low-cost computer was beginning to grow. And, in our opinion, the keyboard leaves a lot to be desired.

The positive aspect of the Surface Go is that you are getting the full-blown Windows 10 operating system (it ships with Windows 10S that can be upgraded for free to full Windows 10). This means that unlike an iPad or a Chromebook, you can theoretically run any application that you currently run on a Windows desktop on the Surface Go. The downside is that the small keyboard and tiny screen make the Go less attractive as a "work" device.

We see the Surface Go positioned as a light and compact travel tablet that can double as a work laptop in a pinch. We really think that Microsoft is going after the school market with a device that is priced competitively against Chromebooks and iPads. For a good business computer, however, we think professionals would be better served spending a little extra for the larger and more laptop-like Surface Pro.

We are easy marks for the tech barons and usually shell out some of our hard-earned money on the flashy new gadgets like clockwork.


Our next purchase was the much-heralded iPhone XS. We were determined to be TC (technically correct) in pronouncing the name as iPhone “Ten S” (which Apple insists is correct) when we went to the Verizon store. The store clerk looked at us blankly and said, you mean iPhone “Ex S”? So much for being TC.

We looked at both the XS with its 5.8-inch screen and the XS Max with its gigantic 6.5-inch screen (the largest iPhone ever). We both already have oversized phones as our personal phones and our tech budget was dwindling fast, so we opted for the cheaper (but not cheap) iPhone XS. After unboxing this $999 rectangle of metal and glass, we couldn't tell a whole lot of difference outwardly between this new iPhone and the original iPhone X, introduced last year. It's essentially the same phone outwardly with some internal upgrades.

Of course, the first thing you notice about any of the newer iPhones is that the screen resolution, and clarity is outstanding. We quickly set up the Face ID authentication module that debuted in the X model last year. Face ID works great and is a welcome feature.

Under the hood is where you see most of the significant upgrades on the XS. The processor is more powerful, meaning you can do things more quickly and use less battery. The camera has been upgraded as well. We typically take just one type of photo (point and click), but for those who are more advanced there are new features that can take your photos to the next level. The durability of the XS has been enhanced significantly. The device can survive a dunk in 6 feet of water and spills of soda or beer. We haven't tested that feature yet, but it's probably just a matter of time.

We really do love the iPhone XS. We’re just not sure it is enough of a change to justify spending the money to upgrade if you already have the iPhone X (or even the iPhone 8). If you have an older phone and you want a premium smartphone that is top of the line, the iPhone XS is an excellent choice. If you are having sticker shock at the prices on these new iPhone models, you might hang on to check out yet another lower cost iPhone, the XR. We’ll have to check it out and talk about that model later.