"The Surface Go 2 still doesn't live up to its infinite potential."

  • Nice, bright screen

  • Light but robust

  • Runs a full version of Windows 10

  • Intel Core m3 offers solid performance

  • Too expensive

  • Using tablets is still difficult

  • The battery life is missing

The Surface Go 2 is the clumsy teenager in the Surface family.

The Surface Pro is grown up, confident and goal-oriented. The upcoming Surface Duo and Surface Neo are the children of the family, full of promises that have yet to be proven. But the Go 2 surface? It pushes in between. It's smart and has an idea of ​​what to do, but it doesn't seem to be sure.

Starting at $ 400, the iPad is the most direct competitor at $ 329. However, you will have to pay an additional $ 70 for the Type Cover keyboard connector. My updated Surface Go 2 tester with type coverage costs $ 700 (without type coverage $ 399).

Has Microsoft optimized the formula so far that Go 2 finds its place?

Design and display

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The Go 2 is the latest in a long line of Microsoft attempts to make a small Surface device. The Surface Go was first launched in 2018, but preceded the original Surface, which started in Windows RT in 2012.

The size of the screen is the most notable change in the formula. It now measures diagonally at 10.5 inches, by 10 inches. It's only 5% more screen, but on smaller devices every half inch counts.

The screen itself is beautiful, especially for a device for $ 399.

Despite the enlarged screen size, Microsoft added only 0.05 pounds to the weight of the device, which is important. The Go 2's portability differs from the Surface Pro and allows it to compete with the iPad. The ability to hold and operate the device in one hand is crucial.

To avoid enlargement, the Surface Go 2 has slightly smaller side panels than its predecessor. I like this change, although I want more. I am spoiled by the current number of tablets and laptops, which do much more to improve the screen-to-body ratio. The lower panel of course allows the Type Cover keyboard to sit at its angle.

From the port's perspective, nothing has changed. Like the original, the Surface Go 2 has a USB-C port, a Surface Connect dock, a headphone jack and a microSD card slot. You can charge using either the USB-C port or the Surface Connect dock. This is useful if you want to charge when connecting USB accessories.

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The screen itself is beautiful, especially for a device for $ 399. A laptop at this price is probably not even 1080p and is likely to be dark and saturated. Not the Surface Go 2. The 1,920 x 1,280 panel is lively, bright and sharp. There are laptops and tablets with more accurate colors or higher contrast, but none at this price.

That is, of course, with the exception of the 10.2-inch iPad for $ 329. The 2,160 x 1,620 display has a higher pixel density and is also a bit brighter. But let's be honest – the real advantage of the iPad over the Surface Go 2 is not the build quality or the display. It's in the software department.

Software problems galore

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The Surface Go 2 is delivered with "Windows 10 in S mode". This is the first problem of the tablet with software. Not many Windows devices are sold with this unfortunate version of Windows 10, which prevents you from installing EXE files from the Internet.

Do you think it doesn't concern you? I quickly reached the limits of S mode when I asked about our morning editorial crush on Zoom. The Surface Go 2 comes with a 1080p, 5 megapixel webcam that is perfect for video conferencing. However, I found that S mode was preventing me from downloading the app and instead referred me to the Microsoft Store.

Fine. I click the store – only to find that zoom is nowhere to be found. It is such situation ties that make S mode a problematic idea.

And yes, leaving S mode is easy. A restart is not even necessary. But "S mode" is not a phrase that even the most tech-savvy people know, and they certainly don't know why they should turn it on or off. The warning Microsoft is giving about performance and battery life is enough to keep most people from switching to normal Windows 10.

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Except for S mode, the status of Windows 10 tablet mode has not improved in the past five years. It's still not a touch-friendly software experience. Most of the gestures are not intuitive. It works, but it is rough.

The Surface Go 2 is in a strange transition from Windows 10 to Windows 10X.

Obviously, Microsoft has no interest in improving tablet mode as it is actively working on its replacement Windows 10X. The company recently announced that the touch-friendly interface for single-screen devices will be available before the more experimental two-screen devices.

A computer is only as good as the software it runs. The Surface Go 2 is unfortunately stuck in the transition from Windows 10 to Windows 10X.

Keyboard and touchpad

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The Surface Go 2 was introduced in the middle of the change of the iPad. Apple's tablets now offer full cursor and mouse support and a fancy Magic Keyboard attachment. This makes the iPad Pro feel more like a serious laptop replacement.

In terms of price, however, the real competition for the Surface Go 2 is the $ 329 iPad from 2019. If this iPad could use the Magic keyboard, the Surface Go 2 would be in trouble. However, this doesn't mean that the $ 329 iPad doesn't have the old smart keyboard, which lacks a touchpad. Alternatively, you can try a third-party keyboard case, such as the Logitech Combo Touch.

The Surface Go 2 has a solid keyboard, but is not perfect. For example, typing with the touch feels a little uncomfortable. The layout of the QWERTY line is a bit too far to the left, making it difficult to reach the "R" key without lifting the rest of my fingers. This is exactly where the T button should be.

I had the same problem with the original Surface Go, although I was able to re-familiarize myself within a few hours. The solution? I hover my fingers over the buttons instead of resting them on a standard layout.

The touchpad isn't huge, but it does respond. Other Windows 10 laptops at this price usually have textured plastic touchpads that are nowhere near as smooth as the Type Cover.

Because of its small size, typing feels a little uncomfortable when touched.

Although the Surface Go 2 doesn't come with the Type Cover, Microsoft currently only charges $ 70 for the attachment. Apple charges $ 160 for its Smart Keyboard and Magic Keyboard from $ 250.

The Surface Go 2 is also compatible with the $ 100 Surface Pen, although Microsoft hasn't bundled it with our review sample. I was satisfied with the Surface Pen in the past and I assume that this will also be the case with the Surface Go 2. For some, this may be a primary reason to buy the device because the Surface Go 2 is the cheapest compatible device with the Surface Pen.


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The Surface Go 2 is available in two versions. Both have dual-core processors, but the big news is the more expensive variant, which is powered by an Intel Core m3-8100Y. This is a premiere for the Surface Go, which in the past only offered Intel Pentium Gold chips.

It's a big change for the better. The Surface Go 2 is almost 50% faster than its predecessor in benchmarks. Apps load faster, multitasking is smoother, and reaching the performance limit is much more difficult. It's not impossible, but it now goes beyond what many people want to do with this device.

The best part? The Surface Go 2 is fan-free, remains quiet and surprisingly cool with a variety of workloads.

However, the Core m3 model costs $ 630. It also comes with 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. That's not a terrible price for the specs, but you can buy an Intel Core i5 or a new AMD Ryzen 7 chip for the same price. Just don't expect it to be as slim and slim as the Go 2.

The Surface Go 2 is fan-free and therefore remains completely noiseless and cool.

The new MacBook Air is a good reference. It was recently updated with a 10th generation Core i3 processor that only contains two cores and four threads. The air benchmarks are 15% faster in the single-core area and 20% in the multi-core area than in the Surface Go 2. This is not a big gap, and the launch of the Air is much more expensive at $ 1,000 .

It's a pity that the Intel Core m3 is not a standard. The basic Surface Go 2 comes with the Pentium 4425Y, a small step up from the Pentium 4415Y in the original Surface Go. I haven't tested it yet, but expect performance similar to the original Go with some issues.

This is the version most people are likely to buy, and that's a problem. It offers less headroom for multitasking, especially if you want to connect an external monitor. If you match memory and storage, the Intel Core m3 option is only $ 80 more expensive, but offers a significant increase in performance.

Battery life

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There are situations when the Surface Go 2 is a fantastic companion. It is the perfect size to use recipes and videos in the kitchen or to travel as a work and media device. However, these tasks require long battery life, and the original Surface Go lacked endurance. It only took about five hours on a single charge.

The Surface Go 2 is even worse thanks to the faster Core m3 chip and the 27 watt-hour battery. When surfing the Internet lightly, it only took about 4 hours and 13 minutes. I won about five hours with my standard mix of multitasking, music streaming, web apps and office. I even tried my normal routine in Microsoft's new Edge browser, but that didn't help.

My local video playback test was the only bright spot. It lasted an impressive 11 hours and 15 minutes and even exceeded Microsoft's own 10 hour requirement. Unfortunately, if you do something more essential, that number will drop significantly.

Budget laptops often don't offer much more battery life, but the iPad is a longer-lasting device and offers 7 to 8 hours in many situations.

More expensive Surface devices also do better. While consuming more power, they make up for it with much larger batteries.

Our opinion

The Surface Go 2 is a device that I want to love. In many ways, it's the 2-in-1 I've always wanted. With the right software running, a more comfortable keyboard and thinner bezel, and better battery life, I can consider using both a tablet and a laptop to ensure the life of a single device.

This dream device is a completely different device than today's Surface Go 2. The next iteration may be the one that reaches the next level, but the Surface Go 2 doesn't make the cut.

Are there alternatives?

Among the tablets, the iPad is the best alternative for $ 329. It's lighter, has a better screen, and destroys the Surface Go in the software experience.

Good alternatives for laptops are the $ 650 Pixelbook Go, which offers a better laptop experience, and the $ 650 Acer Swift 3 with Ryzen, which offers a lot more power.

How long it will take?

The Surface Go 2 may feel chunkier earlier than other laptops and 2-in-1 devices you can buy in 2020. The internals were already a year or two ago. Microsoft grants a standard one-year warranty on its Surface products.

Should you buy it

No. It's a solid device for people who want Surface functionality at low UVP, but most people will be better off with the Surface Pro, an iPad, or a Chromebook.

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