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- Surface Go 2 prices, specs and features
- Surface Go 2: Solid build, brilliant display
- Surface Go 2’s webcam: A definite selling point
- Surface Go 2 typing experience: Still unpleasant
- Surface Go 2’s LTE performance
- Surface Go 2: That S Mode...
- Surface Go 2: Performance
- Conclusion: Should you buy the Surface Go 2?
Surface Go 2: That S Mode...
The Surface Go 2's default operating system of Windows 10 in S Mode isn't doing you any favors. Windows 10 S restricts you to using apps from the Microsoft Store, a somewhat meager supply compared to the rich app ecosystems on iOS and Android.
Fortunately, it’s now incredibly, incredibly simple to swap from Windows 10 in S Mode to Windows 10 Home, though it’s a one-way street. All you’ll need to do is visit the Windows 10 Settings menu, click the appropriate link to take you to the Windows Store, and then click the option to switch out of Windows 10 S. The process takes a moment, and it doesn’t even require a reboot. Beautiful!
Surface Go 2: Performance
Given the energy-efficient Y-class processor in our Surface Go 2 unit, you shouldn't expect much of its performance. Our benchmarks bear that out, as it posted middling to lower scores on most tests.
We include results for the original Surface Go we tested. Because it has a Pentium chip, it gives some indication of how the Pentium-based Surface Go 2 would perform if we tested it.
Though we expect the majority of users will convert the Surface Go 2 from Windows 10 Home in S Mode to Windows 10 Home, we tested the Surface Go 2 (red bars below) in S Mode first, against older cross-platform hardware. This allowed us to include the results for the original Surface Go (orange bars below), which finished near the bottom against a pile of devices including Apple Macs, PCs, tablets, and so on. These older benchmarks are from our database, but we re-ran the Surface Go and Go 2 numbers for a more direct comparison, and also used the new Microsoft Edge browser.
Speedometer is another longstanding web benchmark. We show results both for version 1.0 (lighter bar) and version 2.0 (darker bar). In both cases, the Surface Go 2 scores at or near the top, an impressive feat.
The Surface Go 2 falls back to earth in the Octane 2.0 broad-based web test, landing squarely in the middle of the pack.
After upgrading to Windows 10 Home, we were able to use pseudo-real-world test suites like the PCMark 8 and PCMark 10. Both tests tend to also run on Qualcomm Snapdragon machines, another option in the tablet space. We were also able to add laptops in the same price range as the Surface Go 2: the Walmart Motile M142 and Acer Aspire 5, both traditional laptops, and the latest $650 Ryzen Mobile 4000-powered Swift 3, a clamshell PC that delivers insane performance for less money than the Surface Go 2.
For PCMark 8 we ran the Work and Creative tests, which mimic the way in which (older) PCs run, testing spreadsheet work, video call performance, light gaming, and more. The Surface Go 2 lands in the middle.
PCMark 10’s Apps benchmark (blue bars above) goes further by actually interacting with Microsoft Edge, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, testing app startup, and how well the machine handles large spreadsheets and surfs the web. It’s a real-world test that puts significant emphasis on startup times and general responsiveness. The Surface Go 2 did well here, too.
By now, you’re probably familiar with Cinebench, Maxon’s CPU stress test. The dual-core Core m will never keep up with its quad-core rivals, but it keeps well ahead of the Pentium-based Surface Go.
HandBrake is a video conversion tool that transcodes a feature-length movie into a format suitable for a tablet. As a fanless device, the only way for the Surface Go 2 to keep up is to throttle down or try to passively vent as much heat as it can. It struggles.
In graphics, we turn to a cross-platform benchmark, 3DMark’s Night Raid test. It’s the only graphics benchmark that manages to run on both Core and Qualcomm Snapdragon platforms, so we can compare a breadth of offerings. The Surface Go 2 labors in the lower middle of the results.
While the Surface Go 2's benchmarks are mostly average, the biggest limitation I found in real-world usage was the small primary display, which made viewing spreadsheets or loading dozens of browser tabs unwieldy. After hooking up an external monitor, I was able to do most of my work without a hitch. The Surface Go 2 does noticeably drop frames when playing back 4K/60 video, at higher bitrates than most use, but it handles 1080p and 1440p video just fine. We wouldn’t recommend the Go 2 for gaming or graphics-intensive rendering, though image manipulation is within its grasp.
Finally, there’s battery life. The Surface Go 2 is relatively tiny, and the battery is too: 26.8Wh, versus 26.1Wh in the first-generation Surface Go. With a slightly more efficient chip and a bit larger display, we expected a wash with the original Surface Go. That’s about right. About 7 hours and 20 minutes of batter is acceptable.
Conclusion: Should you buy the Surface Go 2?
The Surface Go 2 debuts at an uncertain time. When everyone is sheltering in place, an ultramobile tablet for travelers isn’t especially valuable. On the other hand, students attending classes online could use a relatively low-cost Surface that’s optimized for videoconferencing as well as everyday web and office work.
But the Surface Go 2 is pricey. For $170 more than our review unit, you can buy a 8GB RAM/128GB SSD version of the Surface Pro 7, with a bigger screen and keyboard and a more powerful processor, though without LTE.
Our rating reflects how we feel about the Microsoft Surface Go 2. We give it polite applause for its design and features, with reservations about its performance and especially its price. You won't be unhappy when you buy it, but you probably won't be thrilled either. That's the difference between a good product and a great one.
Microsoft Surface Go 2
Microsoft's Surface Go 2 is the most inexpensive, compact Surface Microsoft offers. This 10.5-inch tablet offers improved performance, though the optional keyboard is extra and is uncomfortable to use.
- Compact size, light weight
- One of the best webcams in any laptop
- Solid productivity performance
- Bright, high-resolution display
- Cramped keyboard makes prolonged typing awkward
- Cheap for a Surface, but not necessarily compared to other tablets
- Battery life is just average
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