Microsoft’s highly anticipated Surface Go 2 is here, and early reviews from platforms like CNET, Tom’s Guide, and The Verge are surprisingly positive. The Go 2 sports an updated design and better performance than its predecessor, but is it worth the steep $400 to $760 price tag? The answer is yes, but only if you’re looking for a casual device.
What’s New with the Hardware?
It’s hard to criticize the Surface Go 2’s design, which is the same shape and size as the original Go. Its aluminum backside looks sexy and minimal, and its updated 1920 x 1280 UHD display (up from the last generation’s 1800 x 1200 display) is bright, expressive, and just the right size. Microsoft shaved half an inch off the Go 2’s bezels, stretching the original Surface Go’s 10-inch screen to a cool 10.5 inches —the same size as the iPad Air. At just over a pound, the Surface Go 2 is (arguably) the only Surface product that really looks and feels like a lightweight, portable tablet.
The Surface Go 2’s design is exciting and eye catching. But style isn’t everything. For Windows to work in this form-factor, Microsoft has to make sure that all the details line up. The Surface Go 2 needs to be easy and fun to use, and its cameras need to compete with what you’d find in a similarly-priced Apple or Android tablet.
And that’s exactly what Microsoft did. Like all Surface tablets, the Go 2 has a fantastic built-in kickstand that allows you to quickly bounce between typing, browsing, watching Netflix, and frantically reading recipes. The detachable Surface Type Cover (keyboard) is comfortable to use in spite of its small size, and now has an extra built-in magnet to keep from flopping around while the Go 2 is closed. That said, the original Surface Go Type Cover and any original Surface Go cases will fit on the new Go 2.
Through some sort of witchcraft (or light sensors), the Surface Tablets automatically turns on when they’re opened, but the Go 2 turns on faster than its predecessor due to a better implementation of Microsoft Instant-On that was introduced with last year’s Surface Pro 7 . And if you set up Windows Hello, you can quickly log into the Go 2 without typing in a password. Just hold your face in front of the selfie camera and you’re ready to go.
Speaking of cameras, the Surface Go 2 uses the same 5-megapixel selfie camera and 8-megapixel rear camera as its forebear. Both cameras can shoot video in HD and have optional image stabilization tools built-in. These cameras come with an updated dual-microphone system (as opposed to original GO’s signal microphone) for enhanced audio in calls and recordings. Sara Dietshy spends a few minutes testing the Go 2’s cameras and microphones in her early video review, and the results are impressive.
Finally, I get to tell you about the Go 2’s ports and buttons. Don’t get too excited! They’re the same as the original Go. The Go 2 has a 10-hour battery (up from the original Go’s 9-hour battery) and charges over the included magnetic power cable or USB-C cable. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack and a small MicroSD reader for up to 2 TB of expandable storage.
One last note: The Go 2 doesn’t come with a keyboard. Microsoft sells them for an extra $130, which is a bit of a shame. If you want to save some cash, you could always buy a first generation Surface Go Type Cover for about $70. The only difference here is that the second-gen keyboard has built-in magnets to hold steady when you close the tablet.
It Has Better Performance With a Killer Upgrade Option
When the original Surface Go released in 2018, reviewers praised it for its form-factor but panned it for its performance. The old Surface Go ran on a Pentium Gold 4415Y processor, and its base model was packed with just 4 GB of RAM. This configuration was fine for simple tasks, like browsing the web or writing documents, but it wasn’t good enough for multi-tasking, professional software, or games. Compared to the average $400 to $500 laptop, the original Surface Go was severely underpowered.
Looking at the Surface Go 2’s specs, I get the feeling that Microsoft is trying to listen to critics without jeopardizing the price or style of their tiny tablet. The base model Go 2 is still a bit underpowered, but it’s more usable than its forebear, especially if you shell out for the upgraded Core M3 model.
Let’s start with a look at the $400 base model ($530 with the keyboard). It sports just 4 GB of RAM and an upgraded Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y processor. I don’t want to go too deep into the confusing world of specs, but the new 4425Y chip has a nearly-fixed 1.7 GHZ clock speed, which is slightly faster than the old 4415Y’s 1.6 GHZ speed (otherwise, the chips are basically identical). Pair this new processor with year’s worth of OS optimization, and you have a tablet that’s better at light activities and multi-tasking than its predecessor. Still, the base Surface Go 2 will struggle with professional software and games.
And then there’s the upgraded Surface Go 2, which wears a $630 price tag ($760 with the keyboard). Spec-wise, it’s a leap from the Go 2’s base model. Its Intel Core M3 processor reaches 3.4 GHz clock speeds, with early benchmark scores are comparable to the 2015 Surface Pro 4 (which is still a very usable computer, by the way). With the M3 model’s standard 8 GB of RAM and slightly boosted GPU, it’ll perform like a regular laptop. It may struggle to run resource-intensive software, like video editing suites and AAA games, but the Go 2 will work with most professional software, older games, and emulators.
I should also note that you can buy the Pentium Gold Surface Go 2 with 8 GB of RAM—a $150 upgrade that results in more consistent performance during multitasking. I have a feeling that this 8 GB Go 2 will be the most popular model, as it costs less than the Core M3 model but will offer better multitasking performance than the 4 GB base model. Microsoft offered the original Surface Go in an 8 GB configuration, and it proved to be the most popular option among reviewers for this very reason.
If You Really Want It, the Surface Go 2 Is Worth It
By now, you’re well aware the Surface Go 2 isn’t a “performance” machine. It just can’t compete with other laptops in its price range. When paired with the Surface keyboard, the entry-level Go 2 costs $530, and the Core M3 model reaches a hot $760. If you’re just looking for performance, it’s better to spend that money on a last year’s Dell XPS 13 or a base model Surface Pro 7 if you’re practicing brand loyalty.
But if performance isn’t your number one interest, then the Surface Go 2 has a lot to offer. It’s the only Windows machine that has a small tablet form-factor, and its exterior design, display, and cameras are totally badass. Yes, the Surface Go 2 is expensive and lacks the processing power that you’d expect at this price, but it’s a unique and well-designed product that’s good for browsing, writing, streaming, and chilling out on the couch. If that’s what you want, then the Go 2 is worth buying.
I know that I’ve spent a lot of time harping on how expensive the Go 2 is, but I want to mention that it’s technically a better value than the first-gen Surface Go tablet was when it launched for $400 in 2018. The base model offers better performance than its predecessor and you have the option to shell out for the powerhouse M3 configuration. If you were tempted to buy a Go in 2018, then now’s your time to buy a Go 2.
The Surface Go 2 is available for order now and starts shipping on May 12th. Microsoft offers special discounts for some students, parents, teachers, and military personnel, but you have to make a Microsoft account to check your eligibility.