Microsoft is back with the second generation of the Surface Go, the Surface Go 2. Design-wise, the Surface Go 2 looks exactly the same as the Surface Go. It has the same magnesium construction that not only looks great but feels good as well.
The moment you hold it in your hands, you can tell that Microsoft paid attention to the details. It just feels that premium, and with it being matte, it doesn’t pick up fingerprints at all, so it stays looking fresh, no matter how you use it.
Included, of course, is the kickstand, which allows you to prop up the Surface Go 2 at almost any angle. It feels really durable and solid, just like in the Surface Go, and is probably the best kickstand in the market.
Now one thing to note, not only is the design the same, but the physical dimensions as well. This means that if you have an original keyboard for the Surface Go, it’ll fit.
You get your power button and volume rocker on the sides, which is the bare minimum you should have for a 2-in-1 device.
We now come to the main difference between the Surface Go 2, and the first generation Surface Go, and that’s the display. Despite keeping the same physical dimensions, Microsoft has managed to cram half an inch more of display in. This in turn, also means that those clunky bezels of old are gone, and are now slightly thinner.
While it isn’t that thin, like say on the iPad Pro, that slight reduction does make a noticeable difference when you’re just using it, so it’s a huge welcome.
Along with the slight increase in display, is also a bump in resolution. The Surface Go 2 now sports a resolution of 1920 x 1280, which also increases the pixels per inch just slightly, while keeping to that same 3:2 aspect ratio. The IPS panel does also cover 100% sRGB while hitting a max brightness of about 400 nits.
In short, it’s a slightly bigger display that’s great for enjoying content with its rich and vibrant colours and has a high enough resolution that makes simple tasks like browsing great. Text is sharp and you can also see slightly more information since there’s more vertical space.
Next is the webcam, and this is what a webcam should be. Microsoft has set the bar, and every other brand should be ashamed.
The 5-megapixel front-facing camera on the Surface Go 2 is by far, leaps and bounds better than most laptops out there. It can record a full 1080p, and the image is just really clean. The automatic white balance is great and the highlights and shadows are really well controlled. The microphones are also decent, good enough for a business meeting. It’s just that good.
Of course, you also get facial recognition with Windows Hello for unlocking your device, so that’s great.
You do also get an 8-megapixel camera in the rear, which you can use to take quick snapshots or make it easier to show an item of interest to your friend through a video call.
Now, you can, of course, use the Surface Go 2 by itself, and it’ll simply be a Windows tablet. But I’ll say that most of us who are looking at the Surface Go 2 would want to use it with the Type Cover.
Unfortunately, like before, it’s a separate purchase. If you just want a Type Cover, you can get the standard black which will set you back about S$150, or you can fork out an additional S$50 for the Alcantara option, which is available in a variety of colours.
Personally, I do enjoy the Alcantara, but remember, it’s a whole S$200 more that you have to take into consideration, and Microsoft isn’t really giving you an option here, because the whole reason you would want to get a Surface Go 2 is to use full-blown Windows, which would require a keyboard to make full use of in the first place.
But in any case, it’s a great keyboard that’s fully backlit and whenever I use one, I’m always surprised by the amount of travel the keys have, despite being so thin. Of course, it’s a small keyboard for a small 2-in-1, so it might feel a little cramped at first, but you’ll eventually get used to it.
As mentioned before, I consider Surface devices, in general, to have the best trackpads in the Windows market and this doesn’t disappoint. It’s smooth, tracks great, and is of a good enough size for such a small device. In fact, I use it more often than the touchscreen, so I think that says quite a lot.
With the Type Cover, you can also prop it up slightly at an angle depending on your preference, and of course, it’ll protect the display as you carry the Surface Go 2 around.
Ports wise, you get just a single USB-C which does support display output, data transfer and charging, along with a headphone jack, the Surface Connect port and a MicroSD card reader.
For our model, we also get LTE support, and thus you’ll also see a slot for your SIM card on the opposite side.
We now come to the performance, and it’s honestly a mixed bag.
Our review unit is actually the top-end model, which has an Intel Core m3-8100Y, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage.
The Core m3 is the new addition to the Surface Go 2, and while it definitely is snappier than the Intel Pentium Gold, it’s not going to win any awards.
In Cinebench, it only achieved 373 on the Multi-Core score and 197 on the Single-Core.
Now, I usually would do video editing benchmarks, but of course, just don’t. You can already tell from the Cinebench scores, and even if you were to try photo editing in say Lightroom or Photoshop, it’s gonna chug.
Now it can launch those apps, no issues at all, it’s a full-blown Windows 10 PC after all, but you’re better off not doing so. The Surface Go 2 is designed for just basic productivity tasks, like editing Word documents, Google Slides and just plain browsing.
But even then, I have to mention that, you’ll have to use the Better Performance mode in Windows when you’re off the grid. Using it in Better Battery or Battery Saving is possible, but you must be really patient with it.
On those modes, even clicking to pause or start a video on YouTube has a delay of a few seconds. Webpages take much longer to load and scrolling is slightly more clunky. It just wasn’t a good experience.
With that in mind, battery life is also a concern on the Surface Go 2. On the Better Performance mode, it only lasted me about 5 hours of actual usage, with the brightness at 50%, volume at 50%, and the keyboard backlight turned off.
The thing is this; the Surface Go 2 is meant to be an ultraportable full-fledged Windows PC that you can basically carry around anywhere without breaking your back. For such a device, you would want long battery life, at least 9 hours or more.
But it just isn’t.
If you’re coming from something like an iPad, the battery life is downright terrible, especially if you’re considering to do the exact same things that you would on the iPad on the Surface Go 2.
This is by far the weakest point of the Surface Go 2. I’m actually still okay with the performance, but the battery life is by far the worse issue between the two.
Lastly, we come to price, and this is where you really need to ask yourself.
The top-end model of the Surface Go 2 which I have right here, is ideally the one to get. You get decent performance, LTE support, but more importantly, an actual SSD instead of the eMMC storage of the base model.
But this variant costs almost S$1,200 and if you add the Alcantara Type Cover in, that adds another S$200, bringing the total cost up to around S$1,400.
That’s getting a little expensive.
To be fair, it’s a great 2-in-1 device and I personally do like it, but you have to ask yourself. Are you willing to spend this much cash for a device that can pretty much only do basic tasks? How much are you willing to fork out just to get the full Windows experience, and is it that important to you?
Now if it is, then, by all means. But if it isn’t, you can get the same performance from much more affordable laptops, you can get an iPad or you can spend the same amount and get a refurbished or second-hand Surface Pro, which will perform much better.
Well, I personally bought the first-generation Surface Laptop new when the Surface Go first launched, and even with that 7th-generation Intel Core i7, it still performs better than the Surface Go 2, and heck, I got it for even cheaper, at just S$1000 on Amazon back then.
Again, the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is a really nice and compact 2-in-1 device, but it just isn’t for everybody out there. Now if it fits the bill for you, just remember to keep it within its limits.
More information and purchase options for the Microsoft Surface Go 2 (starting from S$648) is available on Microsoft’s website.
Written by Soon Kai Hong