The Surface Go 2 is Microsoft’s second iteration of its low-cost, smaller tablet computer and continues to prove that cheap Windows PCs don’t have to be terrible.
The Surface Go 2 starts at £399, but for that you don’t get the £100 Type Cover keyboard, which is a must-have. That places the Surface Go 2 in the low-end PC bracket and makes it Microsoft’s cheapest current PC, the Surface Pro 7, by £300.
Tested here is the £529 Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of faster SSD storage with the £125 Alcantara Type Cover.
Not a lot has changed since the original. The Surface Go 2 has a slightly larger 10.5in screen, which helps boost the real estate you have on there. Other than an extra 22g in weight, the magnesium body of the machine is identical to the original Surface Go, at 8.3mm thick, 245mm long and 175mm tall. It weighs in at 544g.
By any metric the Surface Go 2 is a tiny portable PC, that’s easy to carry or fit in a bag, much like Apple’s similarly priced and sized iPad Air.
The 10.5in LCD touchscreen is great. Crisp, bright, good looking and responsive. The kickstand on the back continues to be fantastic, while the build quality is top notch.
The kickstand on the back of Microsoft’s Surface tablets is fantastic and the Surface Go 2 is no exception. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
Screen: 10.5in LCD 1920 x 1280 (220 PPI)
Processor: Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y or 8th-gen Core m3
RAM: 4 or 8GB
Storage: 64GB eMMC or 128 SSD
Graphics: Intel UHD 615
Operating system: Windows 10 Home (in S Mode) with device encryption
Camera: 8MP rear, 5MP front-facing, Windows Hello
Connectivity: Wifi 6, Bluetooth 5, USB-C, Surface Connector, TPM, microSD, headphone socket
Dimensions: 245 x 175 x 8.3 mm
Weight: 544g or 553g (without keyboard)
Gutsy performance and five-hour battery life
The headphones socket, USB-C and Surface Connect ports line the right side of the tablet. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The Surface Go 2 comes with either an Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y or an eighth-generation Core m3 processor, the latter of which Microsoft says is 64% faster than the previous version.
The new Pentium Gold 4425Y performs more or less the same as the Pentium Gold 4415Y in the original Surface Go, according to both benchmarks and real-world experience. That means it’s not exactly fast, but is capable of more than you might imagine.
Photo editing in Affinity Photo was a just little slow for complex tasks, word processing and general office duties were no bother, while the new Chromium-based Edge browser handled 10+ tabs with ease. Only a little slowdown was noticeable when you tried to do too much at once, such as updating apps, browsing and using a word processor all at the same time.
The tablet even managed to power a 4K display at 60Hz via USB-C without issue.
The microSD card reader for transferring photos or adding more storage is hidden under the kickstand. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The Surface Go 2 lasts over five hours between charges at 50% brightness and recommended battery mode, which is just under an hour longer than the original Surface Go. That’s with fairly heavy usage, including using six tabs in Edge, two tabs in Chrome, Typora, Windows Mail, Google Chat, Slack, Signal, Evernote, plus a little photo editing in Affinity Photo.
When just used for video playback the Surface Go 2 lasted closer to eight hours, streaming video via Netflix.
Fully charging the Surface Go 2 while in use with the included 24W charger took two hours 25 minutes from flat, reaching 55% in an hour. A 45W power adapter cut the full-charge time by about an hour. The tablet can also be charged via USB-C with any USB-PD charger.
Like the recent Surface Pro X and Surface Laptop 3, the Surface Go 2 continues Microsoft’s trend of more repairable devices, and was awarded a score of three out of 10 by repair specialists iFixit, which is two-points better than the previous generation Surface Go.
Some of the components are modular but not user-replaceable, except for the detachable keyboard, and repairs must be performed by authorised service providers. The out-of-warranty service fee for the Surface Go 2 from Microsoft is £236.40.
The company operates trade-in and recycling schemes for old machines, however.
Windows 10 Home S mode
The Surface Go 2 ships in S mode, but disabling it for full Windows 10 Home is just a few clicks enabling you to install apps from outside of the Microsoft Store. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The Surface Go 2 ships with Windows 10 Home in S mode, which restricts the installation of apps to those from the Microsoft Store for greater security. Turning off S mode is a one-time operation that cannot be reversed, but it takes just a couple of clicks.
S mode is great if you live within Microsoft’s ecosystem, or if everything you need is in the Microsoft Store, but it blocks the installation of programs such as Chrome, WhatsApp desktop and Signal, which aren’t available.
As a productivity machine the Surface Go 2 is solid. It managed everything I do as a journalist without much fuss, including simple word processing, spreadsheet-wrangling, browsing, note taking, image editing and video conferencing. It would struggle with serious video editing.
The slightly larger 10.5in screen helps with split-screen multi-tasking, such as Evernote on the right and PDFs on the left of the screen, but still requires lots of sideways scrolling in documents and websites.
As a home-entertainment machine, things are little trickier. The great screen and good speakers make the Surface Go 2 good for video, but there’s still an large app gap compared to Apple’s iPad.
The Microsoft Store sells movies and TV shows, and has a great Netflix app, including offline downloads, Virgin TV Go, Demand 5 and iTunes. But others such as Disney+, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, ITV Hub, BBC iPlayer, All4 and Sky Go have to be viewed in a browser.
BBC iPlayer and Sky Go have fairly clunky programs that allow offline downloads, but they are not in the Microsoft Store, so not accessible in S mode.
Reading apps are equally few and far between, with no Kindle, Comixology or Marvel Unlimited apps at all.
One big advantage Windows 10 has over Apple’s iPad OS is support for multiple users. This includes limited and monitored kids’ accounts, which work great with Windows Hello face recognition.
The Type Cover is excellent, with a great keyboard and trackpad rivalling some of the very best, but isn’t included in the base price of the Surface Go 2. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The Surface Go 2’s Type Cover keyboard is the same as the previous version and is cross-compatible, costing £100 or £125, depending on the material.
The Type Cover is one of the best keyboards available on any laptop or tablet, matching those available for the larger Surface Pro 7, but with a slightly smaller layout, which took about five minutes to get used to.
The keys feel great and the trackpad is smooth, responsive and accurate. It will beat any keyboard and trackpad fitted to any Windows laptop or Chromebook under £500, and should have been included in the price of the tablet.
The Surface Go 2 also supports the Surface Pen stylus (£99.99), with magnets to stick it to the left side of the tablet, and the Surface Dial (£89.99) for off-screen interactions.
Windows Hello uses an IR face-recognition camera mounted above the screen to log you in, no password or pin required. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
Windows Hello face recognition is great
The webcam and mics are pretty good, far better than you’d usually get at this price
Occasionally the Surface Go would only charge to 50% via USB-C
The Surface Go 2 starts at £399 / $399 with an Intel Pentium 4425Y processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage or £529 / $529 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of faster SSD storage.
The version with the faster Intel Core m3 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD costs £619 / $629 or £719 / $729 with 4G connectivity.
The Surface Go Type Cover costs £99.99 / $99.99 or £124.99 / $129.99 depending on colour and material.
For comparison, the Surface Pro 7 starts at £719, Apple’s iPad starts at £349 and the iPad Air starts at £479. Similarly sized Chromebooks start at around £250-300.
The Surface Go 2 once again proves that budget Windows PCs can be good.
It won’t win any awards for speed, but it will handle most things without locking up or driving you nuts. The magnesium body and 10.5in screen are far better than what you’ll get elsewhere for under £400, while the kickstand and range of accessories are great.
As with the original, the app gap means the Surface Go 2 is a better productivity machine than media-consumption tablet. But it’s also good for sharing with the family, and is up to being your only computer or used as an ultraportable second computer.
The 64GB version will be slower as it uses eMMC storage instead of the faster SSD technology. And while £399 is an extremely attractive starting price, it doesn’t include the essential £100 Type Cover keyboard.
Other than wifi 6 and Bluetooth 5 support, only the slightly larger 10.5in screen really separates the lower-end Pentium Gold Surface Go 2 models from the equally excellent original, so look out for cut-price deals.
At the real price of £499 or more, you can certainly get a more powerful Windows laptop, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better experience. The gutsy little Surface Go 2 is simply great.
Pros: slim, light, great screen, great kickstand, good speakers, USB-C, Windows Hello, great keyboard, full Windows 10 Home, microSD card reader, wifi 6, Bluetooth 5
Cons: relatively short battery life, no USB-A ports, £100 keyboard essential but not included, relatively slow performance
The back of the Surface Go 2 is one solid piece of magnesium and feels rock-solid and nice in the hand. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
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