With the Microsoft Surface Go 2, we’re finally getting a new version of this small Windows tablet. Starting at 400 US Dollars the tablet offers a bigger screen, a faster processor, and the same Surface Pen and Type Cover like its predecessor. Well, in this Surface Go 2 review you’ll learn everything you need to know about this tablet.
Display & Surface Pen
Compared to its predecessor, the screen of the Surface Go 2 got bigger from exactly 10 inches to 10.5-inch. That also means that its black bezels got quite a bit slimmer which makes it look more modern. I like that Microsoft continues to use an aspect ratio of 3:2 because that format is much better suited for working than standard 16:10 screens.
The display has a full HD resolution with 1920 x 1280 pixels. For a 10-inch device, I always think that this resolution is high enough – texts do look sharp. It’s a good display overall. It’s certainly bright enough to work outside with. Viewing angles and color reproduction is excellent too. Unlike the iPad 7, this screen is fully laminated.
On the right and left side of the screen, Microsoft placed a speaker each. The sound quality is good and I like that they’re placed towards the front. But sure, the iPad Pro or Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 have better speakers. The sound quality is fine for some Netflix though.
Surface Pen: The Microsoft Stylus
What makes the Surface Go 2 interesting for many is its stylus which is called Microsoft Surface Pen. It’s the same pen that Microsoft has been offering for the Surface Pro 7, Pro 6, and the first Surface Go. You can use the ones from previous generations too, but also the Slim Pen from the Surface Pro X. Yes, unlike Apple, all the pens are interchangeable here. That’s great because it means that once you enter Microsoft’s ecosystem, you don’t have to buy accessories twice.
The Surface Pen works fantastic, just as we are used to. It is premium-feeling thanks to its metal build, it’s not too thin, and it has a button on its side and one on its top. Occasionally you’ll have to replace a battery. It does not have a rechargeable one, but you can attach it magnetically to the side of the tablet.
Windows in general and Microsoft’s apps in particular support the pen very well. You can use it to annotate PDFs in Microsoft Edge, for instance, or write down handwritten notes in OneNote. In Microsoft Word, you can use the pen for notes or add some sketches. Handwriting recognition is built into Windows as well.
Third-party apps often support the stylus surprisingly well too. You can find lots of drawing apps that are great for kids and artists. The Surface Pen works well in Adobe Photoshop, although the Surface Go 2 is a bit weak for that. But it’s certainly fine for fast and easy tasks.
The Surface Pen gets most interesting if you combine it with OneNote. That’s the note-taking app from Microsoft and the Surface Go 2 seems to be made especially for that program in combination with the Surface Pen. I used it as my daily notebook for a while and it’s fantastic for that. If you’re a heavy OneNote user, you might love the Surface Go 2.
Hardware & Performance
You can get the Microsoft Surface Go 2 with an Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y processor and with an Intel Core m3 8th generation chip. Also, you can choose between 4GB and 8GB of RAM and between a 64GB eMMC storage and a 128GB SSD. LTE 4G is an option too.
For my test of the first Surface Go, I got the Intel Pentium Gold back then. Compared to that one the entry-level Surface Go 2 didn’t change much. If you want to see a Pentium Gold in action, you can look at my review from its predecessor. This time I decided to get the highest-end version with a Core m3, 8GB RAM, the 128GB SSD, and LTE.
If you are willing to invest much more, you will get a much better experience with the pricier versions. My benchmark comparison shows that the single-core, the multi-core and the graphics performance of the Core m3 is much better than the Pentium Gold from the first Go. As I said, this years Pentium Gold version should get similar results.
You should also keep in mind, that even the older Surface Pro 6 with a Core i5 continues to be much faster. So, if you want to get as much performance as possible for your money, the Go 2 is not the device for you. If that’s most important for you, you should just get a traditional laptop.
That also means that this is not a gaming tablet. Yes, you can play some simpler games, of course. Cuphead runs great. I tried Fortnite as well and you can kind of play it with the lowest settings – but I wouldn’t recommend it. Fortnite runs much better on the cheaper iPad 7, for instance. In fact, even if you want to edit videos, you get better performance on the cheap Apple tablet. I did a video-render test in Adobe Premiere Rush and even the Core m3 version performs poorly.
If you decide to get the cheapest one with the Intel Pentium Gold, the performance should be fine for Office work and normal web browsing. I even used Photoshop on the first Surface Go and it did run.
With the pricier one with the Core m3 and 8GB of RAM, all of that runs too, of course, but the performance is much better. Especially if you do some multitasking. With that one, you can switch between Chrome, Word, and Photoshop quite well. I noticed that it can get hot when doing demanding work – on the touchscreen too. That’s to be expected because this is a passively cooled device. So, it’s completely silent.
I think it’s important that you know what kind of tablet you’re getting here. You’re paying a premium price for a premium design and a small form factor. But if you’re getting the highest-end version and are expecting to get the same performance as with a similarly priced ultrabook, you will be disappointed.
Design & Build
Microsoft didn’t change the design of the Surface Go 2 compared to its predecessor. Well, except for the screen which got a bit bigger. Since the body stayed the same, it also means that the black bezels got smaller which makes it look more modern.
I like the design of the Surface Go 2 a lot. Basically, it’s a smaller version of the Surface Pro with the same magnesium alloy body and a kickstand which can be opened very wide. The tablet looks modern and is premium-feeling. With 8.3mm, it’s a bit thicker than similar competitors from Apple and Samsung though – and it’s a bit heavier with 544g.
On the bottom, it has a magnetic connector for the official keyboard cover. If you get the LTE version, you’ll see a SIM card slot on its left side. On the top, we get the power button and volume controls and there’s a headphone jack on the right. That’s where you can find a USB C port too. You can use it to charge the tablet but also connect external monitors.
With that being said, the included charger is for the Surface Connect port which sits below the USB C one. Microsoft also included a microSD card slot that is hidden underneath the kickstand.
The main camera on the back has a resolution of 8 megapixels and takes decent photos. It supports full HD videos only. The front-facing 5-megapixel camera is good for a tablet. This webcam is not just a bit, but a lot better than most webcams of almost every pricier laptop.
Microsoft included an infrared sensor next to the camera which you can use to unlock it using Windows Hello and facial recognition. That works as good as Apple’s Face ID.
Most people who get the Surface Go 2 probably want to have the Type Cover too. You’ll have to buy it separately. On the positive side, it’s the same one that worked with the predecessor which means that some shops offer it as a discount, and you can get used ones already.
The Type Cover is excellent – just as we’re used to from Microsoft. We get good, solid keys that have real travel. I was able to type with it blind and without any errors very fast. This keyboard is fantastic, especially if you compare it to the ones of other 10-inch tablets. It has a background light as well.
Below the keyboard, Microsoft placed a touchpad. That works great and supports all the multitouch gestures of Windows 10. But sure, it’s smaller than the ones of a standard notebook. At home, I’d recommend using a normal mouse.
Microsoft is offering the Type Cover in different colors which all are made of an Alcantara material. The cheapest one is black, however, and is made of a different plastic. All of them have a magnetic bar that you can use to use the keyboard at an angle. That way it does not lay flat on a table.
Windows 10 & S Mode
The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is shipping with Windows 10. Of course, it is. However, it’s not normal Windows 10 but Windows 10 in S Mode. That means that out of the box, you can only install apps out of the Microsoft Store. The system should be more secure this way because you can’t install malware from the web. While that sounds great, it also means that you can’t install programs like Google Chrome, Adobe Photoshop, and pretty much every driver.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to use Windows 10 in S Mode. In fact, it just takes a couple of clicks and seconds to switch to normal Windows 10 Home. Once you do that, the tablet behaves just like any other Windows device.
Surface Go 2 With LTE 4G
Microsoft is selling the Surface Go 2 with LTE as an option. The Nano-SIM-Slot of that version sits on the left side. I’ve used it with a SIM card of the German Telecom in Germany and as far as I was able to test, the reception was as good as the one of my phone.
Windows has quite a lot of settings that you should look at if you’re getting the LTE version. You can set a data limit, for instance.
Sure, if you want to use the tablet outside, you can just open a hotspot with your phone and go online that way. But if you don’t mind the extra costs and are on the go a lot, it can be very convenient to have it build-in. Yes, most coffee shops and so on do offer WiFi nowadays. But many have terrible WiFi.
When watching HD videos at maximum brightness in Chrome on YouTube, the battery lasts 5.5 hours which is surprisingly good for a Windows tablet. This is my newest test which is more accurate for most users, but I don’t have Windows devices to compare it too yet. Well, if you watch an HD video locally at medium brightness, the Surface Go 2 can last up to 11.5 hours which is quite a lot too.
Microsoft Surface Go 2 Review: Final Verdict
I think my Surface Go 2 review is very clear: It is the best and one of very few 10-inch Windows tablets you can buy right now. Compared to its predecessor, it did improve a bit and I think it’s much higher-end than pretty much all Windows competitors in this size. We get a nice screen, good build quality, and solid performance – especially for Office work.
The Type Cover and Surface Pen are fantastic, just as we are used to. I think Surface Go 2 can be a great second device, for developers for instance, but also for students that need Windows. Especially if you want to write down handwritten notes or annotate PDFs. Because of its weak performance, I can’t recommend it to anyone as their main device, though. Personally, I would not replace a Desktop PC or a laptop with it.
As I said, I like the Surface Go 2 a lot. But with that being said, I think most should get an iPad or an Android tablet. The Surface Go 2 is an interesting choice if you want to work with it only and if you need Windows. Everybody else will have a better experience with an iPad or Android tablet – especially if you mostly want to watch movies, surf the web, and play games.
Let’s check out some alternatives.
If you need more performance, you should check out the Microsoft Surface Pro 7. Sure, it’s bigger but it’s much faster because you can get it with a Core i5 or Core i7. If you’re using demanding apps, you’ll be much happier with it. It is much pricier though.
If you want to spend as little money as possible, but you need Windows, then you can check out the Lenovo IdeaPad D330. It’s as old as the first Surface Go and has a plastic body. But the keyboard is included and depending on the version, it can be much cheaper. Lenovo just announced a successor to that one but it’s not out yet.
The Apple iPad 7 is a better choice if you don’t need Windows. You can get it with a keyboard and pen too and the Microsoft Office apps run very well. At the same time, it’s a better gaming tablet and the performance is better for photo and video editing. And much better for gaming.
- Premium build
- Good 10.5-inch display
- Core m3 powerful enough
- Optional pen & keyboard
- Integrated kickstand
- Optional 4G LTE
- Very pricey
- Few touchscreen apps only
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