Like many of us I have been using portable computing solutions for most of my portable radio operations. Being a big fan of digital modes means I have to have a computer at the heart of my radio station.
You probably know that I have used the Raspberry Pi in the past and it is a great single board computer is ultra portable and has low power requirements, the drawback is that you need a display for it many of us use an apple or android tablet which isn’t a real problem as they have their own battery and generally have great battery life, more than enough for a good portable radio session with enough power left to post on social media on the way home, but wouldn’t a device the same size as an iPad but with a full desktop operating system be a great idea?
As a professional software developer I have a few laptops available that I can use but the problem with these is the weight and the high replacement value and that the battery life is nowhere near that of an iPad or android tablet. I’m always on the lookout for a good all in one portable computer to use in the field so Ive had my eye on the Surface Go since it was released. I took what many youtubers were saying about its performance with a pinch of salt, most of us dont want a portable computer to edit a 4K video on or run photoshop to import all the pictures from our latest trip etc.
No, we need the computer to simultaneously decode a bunch of JS8 messages, or if we really have nothing better to do with our time, a whole load of FT4/8 😉 by comparison to other uses for a computer that doesnt take much processing power. So I had already decided I was going to get one when I was chatting to my buddy Julian OH8STN and discovered that he had bought the Surface Go 2 with the Pentium CPU and he was very happy with it’s performance. So I decided that I would just need to get the entry level and most importantly the cheapest model available.
So I bought the top of the range M3 CPU model with the 128GB SSD, I later found out that it also had a sim card slot for an LTE internet connection. In my defence I was really going to buy the chepest model but I found the M3 one used and the price was the same as I would have paid for a new base model, so money wasn’t wasted. But I do have a habit of over-specifying everything so at least I’m consistent with my other purchases 😉
The Surface Go 2 has a 10.5 inch touch screen is small and light and claims to have a 10 hour battery life, I usually find that in normal use we never see the full battery life but its a good indication that I can use it for a decent amount time when out portable, and as its not a power hungry high performance laptop I will be able to recharge it a few times using the same batteries I take to power my radio equipment, I bought a power adapter that plugs into a standard 12volt socket so I can also charge it when in the car.
if you read the website blurb you will find that it’s 64% faster than the original Surface Go, what does that mean to us? do we even care? no, no we don’t. We want to know if it will run our Amateur Radio software don’t we. Will it? Yes. Yes it will, with ease and on all models. I’ve loaded the following on to mine.
JS8Call, Ham Radio Deluxe, FLRIG, FLDIGI, Winlink Express, Vara HF Modem, Icom RSBA1, Icom Remote Utility and finally WSJT-X.
I have tried JS8Call with FLRIG and Ham Radio Deluxe for rig control and all work as expected. JS8Call decodes all the signals I see on the waterfall instantly as I expect and the Surface Go 2 does not get hot which indicates that its not working too hard.
The screen is bright and easily viewable in daylight, but as you expect the screen is very reflective so you need a bit of shade in bright sunlight in order to view it properly.
The keyboard (bought separately from the Go 2) works very well and there is good travel on the keys to give you some tactile feedback when typing. The backlit keyboard is easy to view at night for those that cant remember where all the keys are 😉
The Surface Go 2 has a build in kickstand that adjusts to multiple angles so you can adjust to the best view even if you don’t have a level surface to put it on.
The Surface Go 2 is small and light enough (approx 500grams or just over 1lb) it fits perfectly in my Icom LC-192 backpack. Its ultra portable so is a perfect match for my Icom IC-705 but will obvously work just as well with any radio, note that has only one USB C port so you will need an adapter to connect to a radio via USB. but who’s doing that these days? thats just sooo last year 😉
I’m being very picky about what is going into my portable radio station this year, and the Surface Go 2 is the perfect fit for portable digital ops so it’s found a place in the LC-192 backpack.
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