Microsoft Surface Go 2 Review: Better Than IPad With A Keyboard For Most Use Cases

By Patrick Moorhead - June 12, 2020

Earlier this month Microsoft launched a plethora of new devices in their Surface lineup including the Surface Go 2 the Surface Book 3, the Surface Headphones 2, and the Surface Earbuds. I wrote a high-level overview of the launch announcement which you can access here. The device that I am focusing on for this review is the Surface Go 2. I wrote about the original Surface Go launch back in 2018 which you can access here. I am going to drill into the device's design, display, performance, and connectivity. If the Surface Go 2 builds on the good qualities of the original Surface Go then this device could be a real winner.

Microsoft Surface Go 2


The 10.5” Surface Go 2 is Microsoft’s second iteration of a Windows 10 detachable 2:1 computer that starts at $399. The device is slim at .3 inches thick and light weighing in at 1.2lbs. The Surface Go 2 is positioned to compete against Apples 10.2” iPad (starting at $329) and Apples 10.5” iPad Air (starting at $499). The device feels like what you would expect from the premium Surface line, a sleek magnesium design. The device comes standard with USB-C, MicroSD reader, headphone jack, Surface Type Cover port, and a Surface Connect port for accessories. I would like to point out that the ability to add up to 1TB of storage instantly via MicroSD is a great addition. Microsoft stuck with the power button and audio level control buttons on the top of the device. The Surface Go 2 has a built-in kickstand for propping up the device as well as an optional Type Cover Alcantara keyboard that easily connects to the device. I have become quite fond of the Alcantara fabric if I am not eating food close to my PC. The device is slimmer with a large display than the last generation. Overall, the design of the Surface Go 2 feels premium and remains sleek for great portability.


The display on the Surface Go 2 is in 1920 x 1280 resolution which equates to 220 PPI with a 3:2 aspect ratio. This is a slight improvement from the last-gen Surface Go that was 1800 x 1200 resolution or 217 PPI. The resolution on the display is lacking a little behind its competitors which both versions of the Apple iPad & iPad Air boasts a 264 PPI display. The display on the Surface Go 2 is crisp, responsive, and bright. The brightness on the display hits an impressive 408 nits.

I did not have any issues touching small icons or existing out of browser tabs with a good degree of accuracy. The panel is great for viewing videos and images as well. When you pair the Surface Go 2’s bigger, brighter display and new support for Dolby Audio it positions the device as well for video and entertainment consumption.

The Surface 2 was great for video conferencing and watching the occasional video on YouTube or Netflix. The Surface Pen with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity remained responsive while I used it to take notes in OneNote on the display during meetings. All in all, the display seems like a step up from the original Surface Go due to the increased size, better resolution, and increased brightness.

Performance & Connectivity

The entry-level $399 version of the Surface Go 2 is equipped with the Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. For $549 you can double the amount of RAM to 8GB and double the storage to a 128GB SSD. The $629 version of the Surface Go 2 is equipped with the Intel m3-8100Y processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD.

If you opt for the 4G LTE version of the system, which I tested, it will start at $729. Microsoft loaned me the top bin Intel m3-8100Y option for testing. The Intel m3 supposedly offers up to 64% faster performance compared to last generation's 8th Gen Core M options and I felt it. I continued to use the Windows Hello feature for secure and quick login on the Surface Go 2 which was super fast and responsive. I found that the device was responsive in my typical PC use case which includes creating PowerPoint slide decks, using Word to write articles, and browsing multi explorer Edge tabs conducting web research. This isn’t the device for power use cases like video editing but not wimpy that you can’t do what I did above.

LTE from many vendors worked solidly by swapping SIMs, but I’m still wanting the very simple, iPad-like sign-in to your favorite service. For the life of me, I just can’t figure out why carriers can’t support Microsoft and Intel in this use case.

I will note that the system has improved connectivity with Wi-Fi 802.11ax compared to 802.11ac of Apple iPad competing systems and I felt it. Another improvement within the Surface Go 2 is the upgrade to Bluetooth 5.0. This will give users more wireless range for Bluetooth devices and faster connectivity speeds. The Surface Go 2 provides a comparably level of performance to a notebook, but I will say the Type Cover keyboard felt small to me at 9.47”. I was hitting several keys at once even when I made a conscious effort to avoid typos. I was not able to complete the same level of work I normally would on a notebook but not due to the performance, only because of the condensed keyboard size.

Apple iPad

Battery Life

The 10 hours of video playback time is slightly better than 9 hours offered by the original Surface Go. The Surface Go 2 had plenty enough juice to stream several hours of video and dig into some work and got me through a full workday. It is worth noting that Microsoft has developed a more balanced metric for testing battery life. The new Surface battery test includes:

·        consist of full battery discharge with a mixture of active use and modern standby 

·        web browsing test accessing eight popular websites over multiple open tabs 

·        productivity test utilizing Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook 

·        a portion of time with the device in use with idle applications. 

·        all settings were default except screen brightness was set to 150nits with Auto-Brightness disabled 

·        Wi-Fi was connected to a network 

New features

In a work from home and school from home environment the Surface Go 2’s added dual Studio Mics and 5MP front and read facing cameras was a real value add in a critical time. I used the Surface Go 2 as a video conferencing device and the camera was sharp for video and great in low light. The dual Studio Mics increased the clarity in my voice and reduced background noise considerably. I was especially happy with the audio and video performance when considering many notebooks are almost unusable for video conferencing due to echo and poor microphone quality. The enhanced audio and video capabilities in the Surface Go 2 offers a big step up in performance at an affordable price point.

The other thing about the camera to point out is that it’s in the right place, the top, if you want to use the keyboard horizontally. This compares to the iPad which is on the wrong side when used as a keyboard.  

Wrapping up

The Surface Go 2 offers a higher performance ceiling, a slightly larger display, and better features and connectivity than the last generation Surface Go. At $399, the Surface Go gives users a meaningful tablet alternative with full access to Windows OS when compared to the Apple iPad and iPad Air. In a work from home and school from home environment, the Surface Go 2 could provide some meaningful performance and features upgrades for schools, families, and businesses.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.