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Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2 – more of the same, just better
4.5Overall Score
Name: Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2
Price (RRP): $from 629-1199
Manufacturer: Microsoft

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.

  • Australian Website here
  • 12-months ACL compliant warranty
  • Country of Manufacture: China
  • Microsoft is an American multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services
  • Price: Pentium 4425Y 4/64/Wi-Fi $629, 8/128/Wi-Fi $879, and Core m3 8/128/LTE $1199
  • 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OK, enough reminiscing – every bit of tech is out of date as soon as you buy it.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!

NameSurface GoSurface Go 2
CPUPentium Gold 4415YPentium Gold 4425Y OR
8th Generation Core m3-8100Y
GPUIntel UHD Graphics 615Same
Memory4GB / 8GBSame
Storage64GB (eMMC) / 128GB (SSD)Same
Display10-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/penTouch / Surface PenSame
Camera5MP (front, Windows Hello compatible)
8MP (rear)
Same
USB Type-CUSB-C 3.1 gen 1
5Gbps
USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps
Card readerMicro-SDXC to 1TBSame
Audio3.5 mm and a single mic
Stereo front-firing with Dolby premium
3.5mm and dual mic
Same but Dolby Premium seems to be missing
Other portsSurface Connect ribbonSame
Wi-FiWi-Fi 5 AC
(Atheros QCA6174A)
Wi-Fi 6 AX
(Intel AX200)
BluetoothBT 4.1BT5.0
LTESnapdragon X16 LTESame
KeyboardSold separatelySame
Pointing devicePrecision TouchPad
on optional keyboard
Same
AC adapter24W24W
Battery26.1Wh26.8Wh
ColourSilverSame
Size HxWxD245 x 175 x 8.3 mmSame
Weight522g (Wi-Fi) / 532g (LTE)544g (Wi-Fi) / 553g (LTE)
OSWindows 10 Home (S mode) with a free one-time upgrade to Home, general model) OR Windows 10 Pro (corporate model)Same

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.

Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2

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.

ItemCore m3-8100YPentium Gold 4425Y
Development code nameAmber Lake-YSame
GraphicsIntel UHD 615
900Mhz
[email protected]
Same
850Mhz
Same
CPU core/thread2/4Same
Turbo Boost compatibleYesNo
Base/Max frequency1.1/3.7GHz1.7 GHz
L3 cache4MB2MB
TDPFrom 4-8WFrom 4.5-6W
PassMark29902223

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.

Ports

It has one USB-C port. Our tests show its 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps).

Expansion requires a dongle or hub.

It also has a USB-C Travel Hub at $159.95 that supports

  • HDMI 2.0 [email protected]
  • VGA 1920×1080
  • USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps (power upstream to the host or downstream to a device)
  • USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps (power downstream to a device)
  • It has a captive USB-C cable to the host.

MS has also released its Dock 2 at $419.95 which uses the Surface Connect port that is at least 10Gbps (if not more). It is cable of supporting

  • [email protected] x 2 monitors (via 2 USB-C)
  • USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps PD 5V/3A x 2
  • USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps 5V/1.5A x 2
  • USB-A 3.2 Geb 2 10Gpbs 5V/1.5A x 2
  • Gigabit ethernet
  • It has a 199W power supply

The Dock 2 is for all Surface products so we suspect that is will at best support a single [email protected] monitor or dual [email protected] monitors on the Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2.

Camera – PASS

Front: 5-megapixel with IR for Windows Hello sign-in

Rear: 8MP lens.

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.

Build- EXCEED

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.

Kensington has a Blackbelt rugged case that accommodates the keyboard – highly recommended.

Accessories – Too damned expensive!

Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2

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.

Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2 – more of the same, just better
Name: Microsoft 2020 Surface Go 2 Price (RRP): $from 629-1199 Manufacturer: Microsoft
Well built - thin and lightBright, accurate colours and crisp text displayFull-Windows 10 Home offer (convert from 10S for free)Best Wi-Fi tested so farRibbon connector and USB-C for expansionGood battery life and two ways to chargeLove the integrated kickstand
The keyboard is a must buy at extra costUSB-C means often expensive ‘dongle-land’
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating 0 Votes