Microsoft's Surface Go 2 Is The Ipad Alternative Worth Caring About
Thinking of getting a new tablet? Then you’re best off with an iPad. At least, that’s been the status quo for years now, mainly because Apple’s tablets are well made, increasingly affordable and have a wealth of games and apps for pretty much everything. In contrast, any Android-powered alternative is nowhere near as compelling.
Luckily, the new Microsoft Surface Go 2 is not an Android tablet. It runs on Windows 10, is well made, good enough value for money and has a decent library of apps. All of which adds up to the kind of slate that may well be worth your time – even over an iPad. At least the first Surface Go was. So what about its successor? We gave a Microsoft Surface Go 2 the runaround for the past fortnight to find out.
The Surface Lite
If you’ve seen a Microsoft Surface device before then you’ll know these computers tend to be great and are nothing without their accompanying keyboards. So although you can get the Surface Go 2 for £399 on its lonesome with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, there is almost no point in doing so. Just like the bigger and more powerful Surface Pro 7, you'll want to marry this tablet with a keyboard case. Combined with a Type Cover ($153), the Go 2 will set you back just over $617.
That’s about the same price as a budget-friendly Windows laptop or a particularly expensive Chromebook, which should give you a decent idea of who this device is for: school kids, students and people after a cheap(ish)-and-cheerful portable computer. In effect, it's a Surface Lite and that status is very much reflected in its internals. Powered by an Intel Pentium Gold processor in its entry-level incarnation, the Surface Go 2 is hardly a powerhouse. If all you need it to be is a glorified typewriter that can run Netflix and Spotify, that won’t be a problem. Otherwise, this device will chug between browser tabs and programmes like an Orlando Magic player trying to keep up with Michael Jordan in the mid-1990s.
If you can make peace with the fact you won’t get your entire nine-to-five done on the Surface Go 2, there is a whole lot to like about it. As a sort of transitional device – either between university and your first job or the office and elsewhere – it hits a sweet spot the iPad simply can’t, even after Apple's recent iPadOS update brought cursor support (ie both mouse and keyboard functionality) to the iconic device.
Windows 10's S mode explained
This turn of events largely comes down to Windows 10’s inherent strengths when you’re using it with a decent keyboard. While the Surface Go Type Cover is a little too shallow and squished together to offer a great typing experience, it is fundamentally fine for emails, googling and spewing out 1,000 words into a semi-coherent review. Any Apple-made tablet that isn’t the iPad Pro shines best as a more passive device for consuming content: apps such as Google Docs won’t even format your work properly and it's a lot harder to drag and drop files around between projects.
To get the best out of its mid-range internals, the Surface Go 2 runs on Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system in its app-based S mode, which comes with the caveat of not being able to install programmes that aren’t available on the admittedly well-stocked Windows Store. Want to get hold of Chrome, Photoshop, Steam and any other programme that isn’t on the Windows Store? You can transition the Surface Go 2 to run on plain old Windows 10 for free on a one-time basis.
In theory, this gives you added flexibility over how you use this computer. In reality, it’ll make this tablet slower to run, lessen its battery life and underline the reality you probably should have gotten a laptop instead. And we say this from first-hand experience.
Fun for all the family
As fundamental as the Surface Go 2’s caveats are, they shouldn’t be deal breakers for the people it’s aimed at. This might be a unique device, but most of the time this one-of-a-kind ethos plays in its favour. At 789 grams in its Wi-Fi-only variant with a keyboard attached – that’s roughly two thirds the weight of a MacBook Air – this tablet travels ludicrously well. Whenever the world gets back to commuting, it’ll barely register in a rucksack.
In the meantime, you can pass it between your family members safe in the knowledge that its magnesium body will survive the odd knock or two. Really, that kind of shared usage scenario is where the Surface Go 2 makes most sense, especially since it now features a slightly bigger 10.5-inch screen than its predecessor alongside the use of superior Wi-Fi and Bluetooth standards.
When you only had a ten-inch screen to start with, that extra half inch is nothing to be sniffed at, especially when its visuals are generally spot on. Text is sharp and easy to read without squinting, colours are well-judged and it can keep up with the explosive movement of your average blockbuster. Basically, it’s good for both a binge and the boring stuff. In our demanding hands, it trundled on for more than five hours of battery life as well. A decent result for a computer of this size.
Microsoft Surface Go 2 verdict
Small and mighty enough for most people, the Microsoft Surface Go 2 adds up to a rather charming computer despite a few shortcomings. Crucially, the things that this tablet is good at aren’t matched by the iPad. So if you like the idea of a diminutive computer that’s good for Netflix, YouTube and a decent chunk of your office work, then look no further. Not only is the Surface Go 2 another flex of Microsoft’s hardware credentials, it’s pretty much one of a kind. At a time when an extra screen around the house is never going to go amiss, this tablet's utility is especially worthwhile.
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