The Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2 is an update to the popular Microsoft 2018 Surface Go. This time around the difference, while subtle is substantial.
I should start Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2 review as I did for the Surface Go (review here):
The Surface Go is back to its roots – a smaller lighter version of the original Surface RT/3 that was missing from the range. It is for those on the go offering a full-fat Windows 10 experience in a smaller Surface device. By that we mean it runs Office 365, Outlook, browsers, connects to networks, printers and a vast array of USB devices. It is also more than a strong competitor for the iPad Pro – only it runs Windows.
Well, that has not changed. But the Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2 is well, subtly different.
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Optional Keyboard Type Cover ($199.95), Pen ($139.95) and a range of accessories
While you will buy the new model, I have the old one, so I want to use that as a comparison.
Gone are the huge bezels – this now sports a 10.5” against the old 10.”
Option for a more powerful Intel 8th Gen Core m3 processor over the previous Pentium Gold variety
And it has put on a little weight
Not gone are
The angular chassis edges that defined ‘Surface’
The amazing kick stand
The eye wateringly expensive optional Keyboard Type Cover ($199.95), Pen ($139.95) and a range of accessories
The terrific 3:2 ratio Pixel Sense screen although it seems a little brighter
The proprietary Surface ribbon connector (power and data) but the USB-C port gets a kick up to 3.2 Gen 2
So, it is a 10.5” Windows 10 tablet with an optional magnetic clip-on keyboard and stylus. And Windows is on about 85% of the world’s laptops!
OK, enough reminiscing – every bit of tech is out of date as soon as you buy it.
At least the 2018 Surface Go still does what I need it to do – travel and content consumption in a full Windows environment. What the hell- here is a comparison!
Surface Go 2
Pentium Gold 4415Y
Pentium Gold 4425Y OR 8th Generation Core m3-8100Y
Intel UHD Graphics 615
4GB / 8GB
64GB (eMMC) / 128GB (SSD)
10-inch PixelSense 1,800 x 1,200 dots 217ppi, 1,500:1
10.5-inch PixelSense 1,920 x 1,280 dots, 220ppi, 1,500:1
Touch / Surface Pen
5MP (front, Windows Hello compatible) 8MP (rear)
USB-C 3.1 gen 1 5Gbps
USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps
Micro-SDXC to 1TB
3.5 mm and a single mic Stereo front-firing with Dolby premium
3.5mm and dual mic Same but Dolby Premium seems to be missing
Surface Connect ribbon
Wi-Fi 5 AC (Atheros QCA6174A)
Wi-Fi 6 AX (Intel AX200)
Snapdragon X16 LTE
Precision TouchPad on optional keyboard
245 x 175 x 8.3 mm
522g (Wi-Fi) / 532g (LTE)
544g (Wi-Fi) / 553g (LTE)
Windows 10 Home (S mode) with a free one-time upgrade to Home, general model) OR Windows 10 Pro (corporate model)
And that leads us to use cases!
Who buys this?
Well, as it turns out, there are lots of use cases. And it is equally for work and play.
Students because its light and powerful enough – it also has USB-C Alt DP for external monitors and Miracast
Women – because it fits in their Tardis-like handbags and is a great Kindle e-book reader and content device. Ditto on Miracast to display content on TVs
Commuters – it is perfect for content consumption and plays torrents (take that Apple!)
Road warriors – it is quite rugged, has a great 3:2 productivity, daylight readable screen
People that want full-fat Windows to connect to networks, printers, USB devices and more without driver or setup issues
People on the move that will never go to macOS or iOS
Me – it is a mini version of my Surface Pro 7 that I can chuck in the backpack and later plug into the Surface Dock at each of my homes and have the same work environment. It does not get indigestion changing networks, printers, NAS and more – it just works!
And some can afford to pay mobile data charges that like the LTE version. If you watch Magnum PI and Huawei 5-0 (sadly ended) everyone in Hawaii uses these. How is that for product placement?
We use the terms fail, pass and exceed against all test paradigms below
Windows S Mode – PASS for average users
While I immediately use the free one-time upgrade to Windows 10 Home, others may be happy with S-mode. It limits you to apps from the Microsoft Store and can give better battery life and responsiveness.
Screen – EXCEED
10.5” 1920 x 1280, 220ppi, 3:2 ratio PixelSense IPS display under Gorilla Glass 3.
It is a bright 400+ nit screen with a 1500:1 contrast ratio – perfect for indoor or outdoor use. MS claim 130% sRGB and we measured 110% sRGB. It has bright and vibrant colours.
BOE make the panel – model NV105WAM-N31 that is different from the Surface Go from Sharp. Still, it appears to be a great panel.
If you have not used a Surface device, these have a 3:2 ratio – not the usual 16:9. It is more usable for productivity like Word and Excel, as it is closer to the A4 sheet ratio.
The GPU is an Intel HD Graphics 615 that supports up to three displays (internal and two external) – either 2 x [email protected] or one x [email protected] If you intend to run dual screens, I suggest the 8GB RAM version as it shares system memory with video memory.
Processor – PASSable
You need to understand that neither option is a power-house processor. The Core m3 has a 64% speed lift in full turbo mode – for a few seconds! These processors are for portability and the fabled 10-hour-battery life. The Pentium Gold 4425Y is about 10% faster than the 2019 Surface Go 4415Y.
We ran a 15-minute throttling test on the Pentium Gold version. On mains power, it did not throttle at all (nor did we expect it to) and on battery gave similar results as it is a fixed speed processor.
We did not test the Core m3 version, but we expect it would not throttle on power and probably sits at 80% on battery.
Disk- EXCEED, but you will need more space
It has a Toshiba KBG40ZPZ 128GB PCIe NVMe 2/4 lanes SSD. Its quite fast a 1767/853MBps sequential read/write and has excellent large file speeds as well.
The Micro-SDXC slot can take up to 1TB, but that is slower flash memory. The great thing is that Windows sees it as a fully operational drive – not just slow storage.
Battery – EXCEED for its dual charging
Video loop at 50% screen brightness, aeroplane mode and power mode set for best battery life – just over ten hours.
Under office use – Wi-Fi, BT, Browsing and the screen at 60% – nine hours
Battery recharge from 0-100%
MS 15V/1.6A (24W) – two hours
USB-C PC 3.0 20V/3.25 (65W) – just over one hour
USB-C 5V/2A (10W) – just under five hours
These are excellent figures, and the ability to use a USB-C charger, power bank, car lighter charger or even a 10W solar panel is excellent.
Keyboard – EXCEED for a portable device
We noticed that the optional Alcantara keyboard (same as the Gen 1) does not quite magnetically sit up as well on the smaller bezel – it is not an issue, but on occasion, the keyboard simply flops down.
It has a 1mm travel and about 40g activation. Keys are approximately 15mm square but more tightly spaced. It’s smaller than you expect and will slow a touch typist down a tad. Keyboard bounce is well controlled.
The precise touchpad is capable of a right/left top/bottom swipe reducing the need for a mouse.
Pen – EXCEED if a tad expensive
The magnetic Pen is an active (AAAA battery) stylus (HB tip supplied but are changeable). You can use any Windows Ink compatible pen but only if it interfaces with the N-Trig digitiser in the screen.
Those 4096 pressure levels and 12g actuation force add a new dimension to pen use and things like tilt (for a wider line) make it intuitive to use. It has right-click and erases as well as configurable functionality.
Wi-Fi 6 AX and BT 5.0 – EXCEED – the fastest yet
It uses an Intel AX200 adapter that gives 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, 2×2 MU-MIMO, Wi-Fi 6 AX in up to VHT160 – 2.4Gbps on our reference NETGEAR AX12 router. That is seriously fast.
BT 5.0 LE is also fast at 3Mbps, and it has a good 20-30 metre transmit strength.
LTE – EXCEED
We did not get an 4G LTE version to test but it supports a huge range of bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66 and is 4GX compatible.
The LTE option also includes dual-band GPS for three-metre accuracy.
It has one USB-C port. Our tests show its 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps).
Both cameras shoot [email protected] and give a good sharp image for video conferencing.
Sound – PASS – where is Dolby Audio Premium?
There is a 3.5mm combo jack for buds and dual mics.
Now the Go 2 is supposed to support Dolby Audio Premium, but the app is missing. We found it free on the Microsoft Store, but it would not download. This appears to be a known issue.
Without the app, it gives a mid-centric sound signature. No equaliser means that this is all you are going to get when it should do more.
Maximum volume is 73dB, and while that is fine for personal use, we would like to see that closer to 80dB. But it has improved over the Surface Go. It now has some bass and is flat from 100Hz to nearly 10kHz.
Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – none
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – building
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – flat
Low-mid: 200-400Hz – flat
Mid: 400-1000Hz – flat
High-mid: 1-2kHz – flat
Low-treble: 2-4kHz – flat
Treble:4-6kHz – flat
High Treble: 6-10kHz – flat
Dog whistle: 10-20kHz – off the cliff as 12kHz
It has a Realtek DAC and the BT 5.0 SBC codec. It is clear and loud with our Sony WH-1000xM3 reference headphones, but we were under the impression that it should also support the AAC codec.
The hinged kickstand is a Surface signature and can bend back to 165° (nearly flat). Because of its smaller footprint, it is easier to use on a plane.
Gorilla Glass 3 is for scratch resistance – not drop resistance. You may find that a tempered glass screen protector is an asset, and in our tests (on the Surface Go) it did not affect maximum brightness.
GadgetGuy’s take – Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2 is an impressive 10.5″ Windows tablet with benefits
It is both a great content consumption device as well as a productivity device when you need it.
It is for those that want Windows 10 on the go and don’t want to stuff around with an Android or iOS tablet trying to get them to work. For example, all I had to do was enter the IP address of the My Cloud NAS, and it was sharing it – try that on iOS or Android. It found my HP printer, recognised by Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and everything I used with it. Interoperability is the key benefit of Windows.
It is everything you expect from a Surface device – only smaller.
The Core m3 at $1199 is a lot for a 10.5” 8/128GB LTE device, so it is for a specific use case.
The performance of the 4/64GB is perfectly adequate at $629, but you will inevitably add a micro-SD card, so my pick is the 8/12GB at $879. Of course, these exclude the keyboard and accessories.
If you own a Surface Go, then there is no compelling reason to upgrade. But if you want a Windows tablet (not an iPad), then this is the way to go.
The issue here is how we rate it
Is it a Windows alternative to an iPad Pro? Absolutely
Is it capable of performing all productivity and content consumption related tasks? Absolutely
What about the Microsoft price premium? Learn to live with it as you have Apple
Do you like the Surface style? Yes
So, it is going to rate well unless you expect i5/i7 performance from a 10.5” tablet.
Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Well built - thin and light
Bright, accurate colours and crisp text display
Full-Windows 10 Home offer (convert from 10S for free)
Best Wi-Fi tested so far
Ribbon connector and USB-C for expansion
Good battery life and two ways to charge
Love the integrated kickstand
The keyboard is a must buy at extra cost
USB-C means often expensive ‘dongle-land’