Surface Go 2 review: Limited Appeal
The original Surface Go was always pitched as a Windows-based alternative to the likes of the iPad. It’s not as powerful as a full-blown laptop or desktop but if you want to keep the mobility of a tablet and gain the versatility of the Windows operating system, it was something of an obvious choice. So long as you couldn’t justify spending a little more to get a full-blown Surface, anyway.
In our review of the original Surface Go, we said that “The Surface Go is the goldilocks of convertible PCs. Even if it’s not too powerful and lacks legacy ports, it’s portable enough to draw the right kind of attention and cheap enough to open wallets.”
Unfortunately, time has not been kind to the fortunes of Microsoft’s smallest and most affordable Surface PC. The arrival of iPadOS has seen Apple’s tablet become more of a workhorse and a viable alternative to the ultrabooks of the tech world.
The Surface Go 2 is a little more powerful than its predecessor but doesn’t radically tinker with formula - and that’s kinda the problem.
In Australia, pricing for the Microsoft Surface Go starts at AU$629.
Processor: Pentium 4425Y
Operating System: Windows 10 S
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615
MicroSD slot: N/A
Display: 10.5-inch PixelSense Display
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Front-Facing Camera: 5.0MP
Dimensions: 245 mm x 175 mm x 8.3 mm
At a glance, most people will probably struggle to tell the difference between the new Surface Go 2 and the original tablet. The screen is a little larger at 10.5-inches and the processor is a little faster but the ports are laid out the same way. There’s a volume rocker and standby button the top, while the ports hang off the right-most side.
Unsurprisingly, the form-factor of the Surface Go 2 is subject to almost all of the same pros and cons as the first. The material design is nice, the built-in kickstand rocks. It sucks that you have to pay extra for a good mouse and keyboard (or stylus) setup but there’s a real sense of identity and polish here that you don’t get from similarly-barebones solutions from other PC makers.
Like its predecessor, the Surface Go includes a few neat quality-of-life features like Instant On and a Windows Hello Camera biometrics. None of these are new but they’re all appreciated at this particular price-point.
Unfortunately, the Surface Go 2 has brought little improvement when it comes to the port situation. Like the original, it’s not exactly flush with ports. There’s only three to be counted here, one of which is the Surface Connect port. There’s also a headphone jack and a USB Type-C interface.
Still, when we’re talking about the look and feel of the thing, the second generation Surface Go embodies much of the same appeal made manifest by the original. Like Apple’s glitziest iPads, Microsoft’s most affordable Surface comes across as sleek and self-contained. It’s deliciously light but doesn’t feel like it’s going to break apart in your hands.
Unfortunately, in practice, I found that the Surface Go 2 struggled to keep up.
When we’re talking web browsing, it’ll handle a single tab or two fine but once you get above four or so simultaneous things happening at once, the level of performance offered by the Pentium CPU powering the Surface Go 2 sinks fast. Apps hitch and the limits on what a PC this compact can offer are very much felt. Rather than augment my workflow, the Surface Go actively felt like it held me back.
Part of this is down to the performance but the 10.5-inch screen here doesn’t always play nice with the scale at which Windows app and web pages are intended. In addition to running slowly, everything I did on the Surface Go 2 felt cramped.
The keyboard that Microsoft offers as a premium accessory for the piece didn’t help much. The keys here felt super cramped and I worry about the durability of the fabric involved. I mean, it looks and feels gorgeous to handle but there’s a good reason that Microsoft have moved away from this specific approach when it comes to their other Surface devices: it doesn’t age well.
These shortcomings only seem more upsetting when I factor in the reality that a good chunk of my time with the Surface Go 2 was spent in Windows 10’s S-Mode. If you’re going to use anything but the most basic Windows apps, you’re gonna need to disable S-Mode and abandon any of the optimised performance it offers.
PC Mark - 1767
Geekbench Single - 424
Geekbench Multi - 990
Geekbench Compute - 4180
When it comes to battery life, the Surface Go 2 delivered about the same as its predecessors.
Subjected to the battery eater test, which we use on all PCs we review and measure the minimum battery life you can expect from the device, the Surface Go 2 lasted 3 hours and 31 minutes to go from 100% to zero. In context, this result is actually an improvement on what the previous Surface Go offered.
Overall, battery life here is pretty good but it definitely feels like that quality is borne out of the limited performance that the processor is able to deliver more than anything else.
The Bottom Line
The Surface Go 2 addresses one of the original’s biggest issues, an upgrade but that minimalist approach to iteration only draws attention to the ways in which Microsoft's MicroPC has failed to evolve with the times.
Where Apple has invested in making the pitch to treat their tablets as real PCs more compelling than ever, the Surface Go 2 settles for a tired refrain. Like the original, the Surface Go 2 is a decent enough first computer but it's not one you'll want to stick with for too long.
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