Microsoft Surface Go 2
Is Microsoft’s second attempt at a price conscious ultra-portable 2-in-1 a Go-er?
As our most used work applications continue to be integrated into web browsers, our files become increasingly stored in the cloud, and the advanced processing power required for gaming or technical work can now be easily outsourced via remote desktop subscription, the need for having a really powerful laptop is decreasing by the day. Well-priced compact devices like Microsoft’s Surface Go 2 are perfectly positioned to cater to that seemingly inevitable future, and we honestly couldn’t be happier about it.
The price and performance balance
The most affordable Surface Go 2 you can grab locally starts at $598 and comes with an Intel Pentium 4425Y processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage, which is an offering that seriously competes with some of the best Chromebooks available. While this model only offers Wi-Fi networking and doesn’t carry a heap of space, the Surface Go 2 does feature a MicroSD card expansion slot, which allows you to add cost effective storage to it as you see fit.
The next tier up doubles the RAM and storage allocations for a total of $879. This clearly moves the device out of the budget Chromebook-like space, but we’d recommend considering it if you intend to update to Windows 10 Home from the device’s stock Windows 10 S OS, since it has that extra processing headroom for full Windows software and some additional space for all the non-Microsoft Store apps you’ll have access to.
The last variation comes with an 8th generation Intel Core m3 processor, a CPU that was once used to power the Surface Pro lineup. Backing this up is the same 8/128GB RAM storage combo from the more powerful Wi-Fi offering, but the most important distinction here is that the Core m3 model comes with 4G LTE connectivity so you can access the internet from anywhere through a mobile data plan. This powerful configuration lands at a more expensive $1,199, which is on par with the entry level Surface Pro 7s, but when you have to fork out a few hundred dollars more for comparable constantly-connected professional 2-in-1s like the Galaxy Book S, it’s actually a really competitive offering.
We tested the middle configuration here and although it has a less powerful processor it seemed to work exceptionally well for basic web browsing and light document processing. In Geekbench 4 performance was around 35 percent lower than we saw on a Samsung Galaxy Book S using a Snapdragon 8xc processor, which makes sense when you consider the 8xc is intended to be the mobile architecture equivalent of a 10th-gen Intel Core i5. We haven’t compared it with the Surface Pro 7 Core i3-1005G1 CPU model, but we imagine they would stack up similarly and online reports suggest that it is only 10% behind the Apple iPad Pro 2020 in Geekbench 4 multi-core CPU benchmarks.
In addition to this considerable performance upgrade, which is reported by Microsoft to be up to 64% more powerful than the previous iteration, the Surface Go 2 has a bigger 10.5-inch 1920 x
1280 (3:2) PixelSense display that is really vibrant for a budget screen. With a peak brightness of 280nits it’s not really in the league of the 600nit HDR Apple iPad Pro, but it’s more than enough to give media and documents the colour and clarity they deserve, even in direct sunlight.
Putting it to work, and play
For those wanting to do a bit of light gaming, all models come with an Intel UHD Graphics 615 GPU, which is enough to play 2D indie games at full resolution or even titles like Rocket League at around 42fps if you dial down the graphics to High Performance 1152x864p settings. This aspect ratio is actually 4:3 rather than the Surface’s signature 3:2, so it didn’t look perfect on the Surface Go 2, but you are somewhat limited by the number of titles that will have a wide selection of resolutions in the 3:2 aspect ratio.
Microsoft spent some time bolstering the web conference capabilities by adding two new far field studio microphones to improve voice recognition and vocal clarity in web calls. This marries with the capable 8MP rear and 5MP front-facing cameras to offer solid 1080p online meeting capabilities (which seems to be critical these days). Microsoft has included a new free Photo app that allows you to take pictures, scan documents and capture whiteboard notes quickly and easily.
While the screen is half an inch bigger, the overall size of the device is identical to its predecessor at 24.5cm by 17.5cm high and just 8.5mm thick, which means the screen to bezel ratio is better on the new device. The tablet itself is also only 544g (553g for LTE) and even if you add the 245g of the Surface Go type cover, you’ve got a 2-in-1 device weighing in at under 800g, which is just about impossible to beat.
It’s hard to imagine a use case for this device without the need for the Surface Go Signature Type Cover, so you’ll have to plan for that extra $199.95 outlay. This does push the device into the top end of the budget Chromebookequivalent category, but this compact keyboard benefits from all the learnings of the longstanding Surface Pro cover range. The Surface Go 2 Signature Type Cover is undoubtedly compact, but the typing experience is good enough that you’ll quickly adapt and the trackpad is silky and a nice size for scrolling, selection and gesture control.
All systems go
The Surface Go 2 ships in Windows 10 S, but Microsoft has made it easier than ever to swap over to full Windows 10 Home through a simple update that doesn’t even need a restart. While you may have seen better battery life from Windows 10 S, once updated to Windows 10 Home the 26.8Wh battery lasts five hours and five minutes in PCMark 8 Home battery and around 8 hours in 1080p media playback, so there’s no real battery benefit from keeping it in Windows 10 S anymore.
The USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack and Surface Port offer a well rounded selection of interface options that make it easy to connect wired headphones on flights or plug modern docks and devices directly into the unit. You’ve also got the microSD card slot for affordable storage expansion and the latest Wi-Fi 6 networking capabilities for a fully untethered experience.
A powerful, affordable and lightweight computing device that’s perfect for students and professionals who only need light document processing and web browsing.
“It’s hard to imagine a use case for this device without the need for the Surface Go Signature Type Cover, so you’ll have to plan for that extra $199.95 outlay.”