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The Microsoft Surface Go 2 Might Be the Best Mini Laptop Yet

Brandon Carte
Photo credit: Microsoft

From Best Products

We judge laptops on a scale of 10, analyzing the categories we think are most important: design, display, and performance. Here’s how the Microsoft Surface Go 2 stacks up.

On the surface, there aren’t a whole lot of differences between Microsoft’s latest 2-in-1 laptop and its predecessor.

As you’d expect, the all-new Surface Go 2 is a nicer machine overall that packs a more powerful processor and a larger 10.5-inch touchscreen — fortunately without increasing the base model’s $399 asking price.

Key Specs

• Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y or eighth-generation Intel Core m3 dual-core processor
• 10.5-inch PixelSense display
• 4/8 GB of RAM; 64 GB eMMC or 128 GB SSD
• One USB-C port, Surface Connector, MicroSD card reader, headphone jack
• LTE connectivity available for extra charge




I spent a few days testing the Microsoft Surface Go 2. Although I couldn’t use it on the go like the name implies I should, I did my best to use it for the tasks you’d likely be using it for. I used it to stay in touch with family and colleagues, to get some work done away from my desk, and for entertainment purposes.

There is a lot I like about the Surface Go 2 — it’s arguably one of the best mini laptops out there, but I still have my reservations about it. Here's our full review to help you decide if it’s the right computer for you.

Design: 8/10

The Perfect Go-Anywhere Design

  • 9.65 inches by 6.9 inches (about the size of a magazine)
  • 0.33-inches thick
  • Weighs 1.2 pounds

Microsoft created the Surface Go 2 to serve as a more affordable and portable 2-in-1 computer. The slate is about the size of a magazine, but it’s twice as thick and only weighs a pound.

The second-generation Surface Go doesn’t look much different than the original model. It has the same silver magnesium alloy finish, a sturdy integrated stand, and the magnetic Surface connector that lets you quickly attach and detach a keyboard cover (sold separately) depending on if you want to use it like a laptop or a tablet.

Despite its petite size, the Surface Go 2 feels solid and looks expensive. You can tuck it away in a purse and it’s small enough to sit on the tiniest of airplane trays. The tablet is easy to hold and is a great computer for web browsing or for keeping yourself connected on the go. And since it has Windows Hello, you can quickly log in by just looking at its integrated webcam — no password needed!

Display: 8/10

The Battery and Display are Bigger, Better

  • 10.5-inch touch-screen display
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • 5 MP crystal clear webcam

The new Surface Go 2 has a larger 10.5-inch touchscreen display, compared to the original’s 10-inch one. I know a half-inch doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but the newer model has slimmer bezels, which makes the screen seem bigger than it actually is.

With a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, and a pixel density of 220 ppi, its screen is vivid and very bright. I had no issues scrolling on my Twitter feed and reading news articles in the bright Texas sun on my patio. The screen is beautiful, colors are accurate, and no laptop at this price can beat the Surface Go 2’s display.

The tablet is wonderful for watching videos, reviewing documents, or drawing. If you edit large photos and videos or frequently work with lengthy spreadsheets, you’ll probably want a more powerful machine with a bigger display, though.

Microsoft says the Surface Go 2 offers improved battery life, but because of the tablet’s small size, I didn’t have high hopes for a long runtime. I wouldn’t call the Surface Go 2’s battery life great, but I wouldn’t say it’s bad, either. If you’re using the computer for work and have several apps open simultaneously, you can expect around 7 hours of battery life. For those who will primarily use it to watch videos and to do minimal web browsing, you’ll reach closer to 10 hours.

As you already know, most of us are staying inside and can’t communicate face-to-face as much as we’d like to. The Surface Go 2 is a wonderful video chat companion. It features dual 5 MP front- and rear-facing cameras that are even clearer than the $1,700 Dell XPS 13’s webcam I most recently tested. Not only that, this computer has twin microphones that help increase clarity and reduce background noise, which definitely came in handy when my puppy was barking at the UPS guy while I was on a video call.

Performance: 6/10

Good Performance If You Pay a Premium for It

  • Choice of Intel Pentium 4425Y or Intel Core m3 processor
  • Up to 128 GB of storage
  • Up to 8 GB of RAM
  • Optional LTE connectivity

We like that Microsoft offers buyers three separate configuration options to cater toward users’ needs and budget constraints. However, we wish that the base model had a bit more power. The $399 Surface Go 2 uses an Intel Pentium 4425Y processor, which offers a similar performance to the 3.5-year-old iPhone 7 chipset. It only has just 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage space via its eMMC drive.

My colleague Stefan Vazharov and I both agreed that 64 GB of storage can feel restrictive and that buyers should probably opt for a model that has 128 GB of storage space, especially since the larger model has a more reliable and faster solid-state drive. That way you can store plenty of apps, documents, photos, music, and videos.

If you can afford it, consider opting for the model with the Intel Core m3 processor, too. That’s the variant I tested. It starts at $649 and has twice as much memory, which means you can multitask a lot more efficiently. The cheapest model unfortunately won’t run nearly as smoothly or quickly as the Core m3 model, especially if you plan to hook the computer up to an external display. It’ll also feel more sluggish when you multitask and run several apps simultaneously.

Slow processor aside, all Surface Go 2 models have a single Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. For $100 more, you can get LTE network connectivity.

Additional Features

Keyboard Is a Must-Have, Operating System Should Be Swapped

  • Keyboard is nice, but unfortunately is not included
  • Original operating system lacks diverse app selection
  • Kickstand comes in handy more than you'd think it would

The Surface Go 2 runs an odd operating system called “Windows 10 Home in S mode.” Basically, it’s watered-down software that works exclusively with apps from the Microsoft Store. The app selection is much narrower than the iPad’s extensive App Store. Fortunately, the computer doesn’t have much bloatware and S mode can easily be disabled for running the full-fledged version of Windows 10. That way you’ll be able to download a better web browser and run a wider variety of applications.

Annoyingly enough, the Surface Go 2 does not come with the keyboard cover.

That’ll set you back another extra hundred dollars. It’s a fantastic keyboard that feels a little cramped but is still easy to get used to. I’m a firm believer that Microsoft’s Surface line of computers are the most lap-friendly tablets. The Surface Go 2 keyboard was even comfortable to type on when I was lounging in bed or on the couch. The touchpad on it works really well, too.

The Surface Go’s built-in stand is a nice design touch that would come in handy for watching videos on an airplane. The stand opens up to 165 degrees, which is a great angle for drawing or writing. When paired with the Surface Pen, you can quickly jot down notes, create sketches, draw diagrams, or mark up documents with the touchscreen.

Wrap-Up

When you factor in its sleek looks, versatility, and incredibly small form factor you’ll quickly realize that there are not many computers like the Microsoft Surface Go 2. And although the 2-in-1’s entry price seems quite compelling, after spending a couple extra hundred dollars on more storage space, a faster processor, and accessories, everything starts to add up really quickly.

Next thing you know, you’re spending close to $1,000 — which is a far cry from that original $400 asking price. It’s tough recommending the base model because of its dismal specs and mediocre performance, but if you’re able to sacrifice performance in the name of portability or are willing to splurge for one of the more powerful models, we think you’ll be happy with the Surface Go 2.

SHOP THE MICROSOFT SURFACE GO 2

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