Microsoft Surface Go 2: Good for Many, Great for Some


The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is good. Or, it’s great. Determining which depends largely on the user, perhaps more so than for any tablet I’ve ever reviewed. For that reason, I tend to think of the Surface Go 2 as being particular. It’s idiosyncratic. If your needs align with the Surface Go 2’s specific feature set, it’s nothing short of magic. If they don’t, then it’s less of a revelation, but still quite good. To determine where I fell on the good-to-great spectrum, I tested Surface Go 2 out for a couple of days. Here’s how it went.

Microsoft 10.5" Multi-Touch Surface Go 2

Microsoft 10.5" Multi-Touch Surface Go 2

The Greater Goods

Before we jump into what makes the Surface Go 2 good for some, great for others, let’s talk about what makes it awesome for everyone—i.e., those features that every user can get behind. The most conspicuous place to start is the screen.

The Surface Go 2 features a 10.5" PixelSense™ display with 1920 x 1280 resolution. It’s a good-looking screen, no doubt, and an upgrade from the previous model in terms of size and screen resolution. Even though the display is a significant half-inch larger, it feels even bigger because the screen bezels have been dramatically reduced, giving the display the emphasis it deserves.

The camera setup is also a universal positive. Similar to its predecessor, the Surface Go 2’s array consists of a 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p and an 8.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video. Microsoft didn’t update the cameras this time around (likely because it didn’t need to), but did boost the internal mics, so you get better call audio than the previous generation.

Now, under normal conditions, the Surface Go 2’s camera setup would be a big plus. The picture quality is excellent, the orientation is perfect, and whether you’re video conferencing for work or for pleasure, you’re not going to find a better experience in such a convenient setup. However, with the pandemic keeping us apart and more reliant than ever on a good teleconferencing solution, the Surface Go 2’s camera is a godsend. I’d argue it’s enough to warrant the cost of the base model all by itself.

In addition to the screen and camera, the other thing the Surface Go 2 has going for it is its design. On the—ahem—surface, the Surface Go 2 has a traditional look that echoes the original (with the aforementioned improved bezel design). The curved corners look nice, and although it feels a little heavier than what I’m accustomed to, the Surface Go 2 isn’t anywhere near cumbersome. In fact, that feeling of well-built sturdiness is something I really appreciated. But my favorite thing about the Surface Go 2’s design is its built-in kickstand, which is such an obvious feature, I’m kind of annoyed that more tablet makers don’t include it or do it nearly as well as Microsoft. It’s such a small thing, but it works so well and makes the entire viewing experience that much easier, the way it should be.

In the Details

Display, design, and camera—those are three great features the Surface Go 2 has going for it. And if that’s all you need, and you’re thinking about purchasing the relatively inexpensive base model, then I would say go for it. But some people need more, and that’s where things get tricky. Or rather, that’s where things get more particular.

Let’s start with the different configurations. The base model gives you a 1.7 GHz Intel® Pentium Gold™ processor, 64GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. Combined with the display, camera, and pleasing design, that makes for a solid purchase at its price. You can stream, surf, do all of the basics and more, and do it quickly, so long as you don’t overtax the system with too many tasks running simultaneously.

But what if you want to do more? What if you want to draw on the tablet or write? What if you want the Surface Go 2 to become your next laptop?

Well, the good news is that you can do all those things, but you’re going to need to upgrade. If you want to type effectively, you’ll need to opt for the Go Keyboard, which, in my opinion, is a must-have. Same for the Surface Pen. And if you’re looking to run the Surface Go 2 as a functional laptop, you’re going to need the Pentium Gold™ 8GB RAM variant at the minimum, but the m3 Core™ model is a better option.

Those upgrades do make the Surface Go 2 a very functional 2-in-1 tablet, one that is highly capable, convenient, and provides a unique set of advantages you won’t find anywhere else. But they also up its price point, which adds a different layer of context. Specifically, it forces you to consider what else you can get for the same cost as an upgraded Surface Go 2, and whether or not that’s a better deal for you.

Which brings us to Windows 10. To me, the Surface Go 2’s most defining feature is that it gives you the full Windows experience on such a small computer—a tablet. I think the way Windows 10 in S Mode works is nothing short of brilliant. It’s familiar, easy to use, and works seamlessly with my other Windows devices. In short, it gives you exactly what was promised, with no glaring compromise.

But if it’s such a good feature, why mention it last? Well, because ironically enough, while Windows might be the Surface Go 2’s most defining feature, it’s also the feature that will likely determine whether or not the Surface Go 2 is right for you. Specifically, how much do you want Windows 10 on your tablet? If your answer ranges from “I would very much prefer it” to “I have to have it,” then the Surface Go 2 is probably a good fit for you. If you’re not beholden to any one operating system, or if it’s not that high on your list of priorities, then you might have better alternatives, some of which are in the Microsoft Surface family, and some that aren’t.

The Verdict

As far as my own recommendation goes, I think the Surface Go 2 is closer to great than good. In a tablet this size, what I’m looking for is something that does the basics very well, has a great screen, and allows me to draw and illustrate on the go using the Windows interface I know and like. The Surface Go 2 emphatically checks all those boxes, so it’s an excellent tablet for me. I could get by just fine with the base model if I were using it as my around-the-house tablet, but for something I want to carry with me every day, I’d likely go in for the next model up. It’s a little bit more expensive, but in my mind, definitely well worth it.

Any questions? Post them in the Comments section, below.

1 Comment

Thanks for this article.  Although I have a handful of Apple devices, I always thought that being able to put a keyboard on the Surface and turn it into a REAL laptop was its big advantage over Apple (where the O/S is different on tablet and laptop).  I'm surprised they haven't pushed this more in their advertising.