Microsoft Surface Go 2
Surface Go 2 is perfectly portable, with a bigger 10.5” touchscreen, better resolution, and long battery life designed to keep up with you and your family. Use it like a laptop or tablet for everyday tasks. Surface Go Type Cover and Surface Pen sold separately.
Sometimes, it takes a second try to make a thing go right. The Surface Go 2 takes aim at all the flaws of the predecessor and knocks them all down. First of all, thinner bezels make way for a bigger screen, arguably the most important part of a tablet. The Surface Go 2 has a 10.5-inch display, compared to 10 inches for the previous model.
The biggest upgrade is the Surface Go 2’s 11 hours and 39 minutes of battery life, which is over 5 hours longer than the original Surface Go.. Microsoft also answered my prayers for a laptop with a great webcam. The 5-megapixel 1080p camera in its top bezel is great for the era of online video calls, and its second front camera sensor adds Windows Hello biometric login. Finally, get the Surface Go 2 with the 8th Gen Intel Core m3 upgrade, it’s a little pricier at $629, but it’s definitely the model for multitaskers.
The second iteration of Microsoft’s tablet PC for the masses is vastly improved and one of the best midrange Windows tablets we’ve tested in years. The Surface Go 2 (starts at $399.99; $729.99 as tested) is a worthy competitor to both conventional laptops and the Apple iPad in ways that its 2018 predecessor is not. Key improvements include better battery life, a slightly bigger display that results in a sleeker look, and more computing performance. While it’s certainly not cheap, the Surface Go 2 is more capable than an iPad and more versatile than a traditional laptop. It easily earns our Editors’ Choice for best midrange Windows tablet.
|Tablet Model Name||Microsoft Surface Go 2|
|Display Screen||10.5-inch PixelSense (1,920 x 1,280)|
|CPU||Pentium Gold, 8th Gen Intel Core m3|
|Camera Resolution||8MP (rear), 5MP (front)|
|Storage & Memory||64GB, 128GB, 256GB Storage & 4GB, 8GB Memory|
|Battery Life||Up to 13 hours battery life|
|Weight||1.22 pounds (1.75 pounds with type cover)|
|Ports||Headphone Jack, USB-C, MicroSD,|
Surface Connect port, Surface Type Cover Port
We saw OK multitasking performance out of the Surface Go 2, which is equipped with the Intel Core m3-8100Y and 8GB of RAM that’s rated for 64% higher CPU performance over the entry-level Pentium Gold chip.
I saw no lag when I split my screen between a dozen Chrome tabs (including this review in a Google Doc) and a 1080p YouTube video with Slack and Spotify open in the background. Once I added a couple more tabs, though, I saw a little lag as the system loaded older pages as I opened them.
On the Geekbench 4.3 general performance benchmark, the Surface Go 2 eked out a mere 6,815. That’ well behind the 11,471 from the iPad Air (A12 Bionic), the 10,387 from the Galaxy Tab S6 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 855) and the 17,225 from the Surface Pro 7 (which sports a much more powerful Core i5-1035G4 CPU).
The Surface Go 2’s 128GB SSD took 28.2 seconds to complete our file duplication test, which translates to a speed of 180 MBps. The Surface Pro 7 ate its lunch again, with its 256GB SSD posting a speed of 267 MBps.Advertisement
Similarly, the Surface Go 2’s integrated Intel UHD 615 Graphics didn’t wow on the Dirt 3 racing game test, hitting a less-than-playable 16.37 frames per second. The Surface Pro 7’s Intel Iris Plus graphics helped it exceed our 30 fps smoothness threshold at 36 fps.
The Surface Go 2’s 10.5-inch PixelSense display measures 1920 x 1280 pixels and is a notable upgrade from the Surface Go’s 1800 x 1200 10-inch panel. The additional screen space makes the tablet look a bit more modern, and closer to the thinner bezels of the Galaxy Tab S6.
Producing 107% of the sRGB spectrum, the Surface Go 2’s panel is slightly more colorful than that of the Surface Pro 7 (97%). However, the iPad Air (132%) and Galaxy Tab S6 (122%) are even more colorful.
According to our light gun, the Surface Go 2 maxes out at an average of 408 nits. Again, that’s slightly brighter than the 395-nit Surface Pro 7, while the 425-nit iPad Air and 473-nit Galaxy Tab S6 get even brighter.
DESIGN and PORTS
The Surface Go 2 is nearly identical to its predecessor, at least until you turn it on and see the trimmed-down bezels surrounding its 10.5-inch screen. It’s amazing what a little tweak can do.
Aside from that, the Go 2 is a lot like a smaller Microsoft Surface Pro 7. You’ve got a kickstand in the back that moves from 0 degrees (flat, in tablet mode) to 135 degrees, and there’s a small notch for your finger tips to slide into to easily open it.
The Surface Go 2 measures 0.3 inches thick and weighs 1.25 pounds, making it lighter than the Surface Pro 7 (0.3 inches, 1.7 pounds). It’s also a hair thicker and heavier than the Galaxy Tab S6 (0.2 inches, 0.95 pounds) and the iPad Air (0.2 inches, 1 pound). Attaching the Type Cover brings its thickness to 0.5 inches and adds a half pound, making it a still-light 1.75 pounds.
The Surface Go 2 looks a lot like its big brother, the Surface Pro, with a silver magnesium shell and reflective Microsoft logo on the back. It’s nice that the Surface Go Type Covers are available in an Ice Blue (seen here), Poppy Red, Platinum and Black. But we wish Microsoft also offered similar striking colors for the Surface Go’s chassis.
Most of the Surface Go 2’s ports — the USB-C port, headphone jack and Surface connector — are on the right side, while the power and volume buttons sit on the top edge and the microSD reader is on the left. We’d love a USB-A port, which the Surface Pro 7 has, but alas.
CAMERA and WINDOWS HELLO
The Surface Go 2 sports a pair of cameras, and while you get great results from one, the other has significant flaws. Let’s start with the most important: the 5-megapixel front-facing camera that kicks the butt of practically every single laptop webcam I’ve tested in 5-plus years of being a tech journalist.
Most laptop webcams range from 0.9 to 1.2MP, and create blurry photos that lack detail. With the Surface Go 2, though, I looked clear enough that I had to make sure to comb my ever-lengthening hair and wipe the sleep from the corners of my eyes. Your friends, family and colleagues on Zoom will actually see you clearly, and they can thank the Surface Go 2 for that.
The other big perk of the Surface Go 2’s front camera is even more-seamless Windows Hello support. I’ve been consistently impressed at how fast the biometric security tool unlocks Windows 10 whenever I lower the Surface Go 2’s Type Cover.
Its rear 8-MP camera, however, is more of a mixed bag. When shooting closeups of plants (both real and otherwise) around downtown NYC, the sensor captured accurate hues and fine textures.
Lots of natural lighting, however, proved to be its Achilles’ heel. Taking wide photos of facades and vistas, anything bright repeatedly got blown out. For example, some photos that contained both the sky and a row of buildings had one of those two blown out and illegible. Fortunately, the phone in your pocket can probably do better with natural lighting.
The Surface Go 2 has solved its predecessor’s battery life problem, and offers all day endurance. On our web-surfing test (at 150 nits of brightness), the Surface Go 2 made it 11 hours and 39 minutes, beating the Surface Go (6:06), Surface Pro 7 (7:52) and Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 (8:58). It’s even within spitting distance of the iPad Air (11:54).
The Microsoft Surface Go 2 finally realizes the promise of the original Surface Go. Its bigger screen, smaller bezels and longer battery life (with an optional performance boost from the Core m3 CPU) add up to a sub-$800 2-in-1 that can handle a lot. Power users may think twice when looking at how it stacks up against the Pro 7 and the iPad Air.
The Surface Pro 7 can be customized for much faster performance (the model we compared here costs $1,119, before Type Cover) though you’re trading away hours of battery life. If you can be productive in iPadOS, you get a better screen, more speed and storage with the iPad Air, but it too costs more ($808 with Smart Keyboard).
But as you’ve seen in this Microsoft Surface Go 2 review, Microsoft’s made a solid Surface 2-in-1 for those who don’t want to pay Pro prices. And, importantly for everyone working from home right now, it’s got a webcam made for today, not a decade ago.
Should you buy it?
Buy it if…
You want an affordable Windows 10 tablet
The Surface Go 2 is one of the best budget Windows tablets around thanks to its low price and excellent build quality.
You’re a student
Thanks to the Surface Go 2’s price, portability and flexibility, it’s a fantastic choice for students.
You’re after a Windows 10 device for kids
The Surface Go 2 is a good choice for kids as well. Windows 10 S mode offers plenty of parental controls, and they can’t download apps from the internet, offering improved security.
Don’t buy it if…
You want a budget laptop
While the Surface Go 2 is a brilliant budget Windows 10 tablet, if you want to use it as a laptop, it means you need to pay extra for the Type Cover. This raises the price above some brilliant budget laptops that you’d be better off buying.
You want a powerful device
The Surface Go 2, especially at its base configuration, is not a powerful device, which means you need to make sure you keep your expectations in check. If you’re after something powerful that can also play games, this isn’t it.
You want the cheapest tablet out there
If you’re after the absolute cheapest tablet out there, then there are much more affordable Android tablets that will do what you need for a lot less. You miss out on Windows 10, but Android has more apps available than the Microsoft Store.
- Thin, light design with excellent build quality
- Nifty built-in kickstand
- Impressive audio volume
- Face-recognition camera with 1080p quality
- Fanless, silent operation
- Very good battery life
- Pricey once kitted up with accessories and ideal components
- Not a powerful laptop
- No Touch Cover or stylus included
- Base model's specs are weak
- Windows Store still too bare