The Microsoft Surface Go 2 tackles its predecessor's flaws with limited success.
The entry-level model in the Surface line of two-in-one Windows convertibles, the Go 2 adds the option for a more powerful processor and has a slightly larger screen than last year's model.
The processor option - an Intel Core m3 chip - is found in my souped-up review set, which also comes with LTE 4G connectivity.
Microsoft says the Core m3 variant offers up to 64 per cent faster performance than the Surface Go. The newer version certainly showed much improvement in the PCMark 10 benchmark - it scored 2,881 compared with 1,902 for its predecessor.
The Go 2 feels snappy while browsing the Internet and watching Netflix videos. But it slows down if I open too many apps at the same time.
But you may not feel much of a speed boost if you opt for the base model of the Surface Go 2, which comes with an Intel Pentium 4425Y chip. While I did not test it, this chip appears to be just 100MHz faster in clock speed than the one in the Surface Go.
The 10.5-inch screen on the Surface Go 2 does not seem like much of an upgrade compared with the previous model's 10-inch display. But the slight bump in screen size, coupled with slimmer screen bezels, makes the Go 2's display look more modern. Its 1,920 x 1,280-pixel resolution looks sharp for its size and the colours look accurate.
Like other Surface devices, the screen has a 3:2 aspect ratio that is more suited for editing documents as it offers more vertical screen space.
Apart from the screen and processor, the Surface Go 2 is very similar to the older version. Both have a grey magnesium chassis that weighs around 500g.
They also have the same ports, which include a USB Type-C port, the proprietary Surface Connect port and a microSD card slot.
For biometric security, the Surface Go 2 relies on an infrared Web camera with the Windows Hello facial recognition feature.
• Slightly larger screen
• Light for a two-in-one convertible
• Core M3 variant is faster than the previous version
• M3 version is expensive, especially with accessories
• Cramped keyboard
• Windows 10 S mode
PROCESSOR: Intel Core m3-8100Y (1.1GHz)
GRAPHICS: Intel UHD Graphics 615
RAM: 8GB DDR3
SCREEN SIZE: 10.5 inches, 1,920 x 1,280 pixels
CONNECTIVITY: USB Type-C, Surface Connect port, MicroSD card slot, headphone jack
BATTERY: 27 watt-hour
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5
BATTERY LIFE: 4.5/5
More importantly, it retains the integrated kickstand that opens up to 165 degrees and enables the convertible to switch between tablet and laptop forms - with a detachable keyboard accessory for the latter.
This Type Cover keyboard (from $148, sold separately), which attaches to the Surface Go 2 magnetically, is backlit and has good key travel and a smooth touchpad.
But compared with a standard keyboard, the keys on the Type Cover seem to have been shifted slightly to the left, which threw me off initially. Given its relatively compact size, the keyboard is predictably cramped and exhibits some flex in the middle.
Like the previous model, the Go 2 comes with a restricted version of Windows 10 Home (S mode) that limits users to verified apps from the Microsoft Store, akin to a smartphone. I highly recommend switching to the proper version of Windows 10 in the settings immediately - an irreversible but necessary process.
This is because S mode restricts executable files such as the installation files for desktop apps such as the Chrome browser. In addition, you cannot change the Bing search engine to another provider in the Microsoft Edge browser in S mode.
Despite its modest 27-watt-hour battery, the Go 2 managed a decent 6hr 9min in The Straits Times' video-loop battery test. While this result is not quite up to the seven to eight hours clocked by top ultrabooks, it is still respectable.
While the base model may be priced attractively ($648), I would recommend the m3 variant ($1,168) for all but the most casual of users.
Add in the cost of the accessories (from $148 for the keyboard and $148 for the Surface Pen) and the Surface Go 2 can easily cost more than a decent ultrabook that is better in almost every way except for weight and LTE connectivity.