[Academic Tech] – Microsoft Surface Go 2 (m3), the new best companion device?

I have previously waxed lyrical about the original Surface Go, claiming it was the perfect companion device. I stand by that statement – the size and power was great for travelling around, writing and reading documents, and just generally having by your side. But, the Surface Go came out in 2018, and it’s starting to show it’s age. The biggest problem for me was trying to work with two word documents side-by-side; the screen real estate just wasn’t cutting it. The giant bezels didn’t help. And, it was starting to feel sluggish, things just took a while to open, scrolling wasn’t perfectly smooth.

So, I gave the Surface Pro X a run for it’s money. I fell in love with the design, and didn’t really have too many issues with compatibility, especially with the Windows 10 insider previews. I almost kept that device, because it was such a joy to use. Trouble was, by the time the keyboard is attached, it’s a pretty big thing. Keyboard down and kickstand out, it’s footprint is larger than many laptops. Used as a tablet, the Pro X was just a little too large, a little too heavy, and the buttons made resting it in portrait awkward. Initially, I thought that in lockdown, when I’m just in the house, the larger size wouldn’t matter as much. But, in the end, I decided the size was just too big for me to keep it, and so I sold the Pro X with the intention of getting a Surface Go 2.

Looks exactly the same as the firs one, except with less obnoxious bezels.

This is my review of the Go 2. I bought the LTE version with intel core m3. I actually don’t need the LTE capability, but it was the only way to make sure I got an m3 version from CEX (who are selling Go 2 LTE versions for less than they sell for on ebay!). The Surface Go 2 is available with 4 or 8GB of RAM, and 64 or 128 GB of disk space. There are also options for an Intel Pentium 4425Y or an Intel Core m3. You do not want the 4GB/64GB version, and from what I can tell, you don’t want the Pentium either.

Still using my Go 1 keyboard, and the Rennaisser 520 BT Pen.

I don’t want to talk about the nitty gritty of the specs, suffice to say the chassis is identical to the original Go, but the screen is larger, half an inch larger, because the bezels are significantly smaller. I know it sounds ridiculous, but that extra half inch makes a world of difference. The device just looks more modern, and reading papers on it, or using it in general, I find I’m no longer distracted by the largest bezels on any modern device.

It’s only half an inch difference in diagonal screen real-estate, but it really does make a difference for reading PDFs, browsing the net, and writing Word documents

The other big change from the original Surface Go is the processor. I still have 8GB of ram, and 128GB SSD (expandable with a microSD), but where the Go 1 had an Intel Gold 4415Y at 1.6Ghz, the Go 2’s Core m3 runs between 1.1Ghz and 3Ghz with turbo boost. This means it can run lighter when you’re not doing much, extending battery life, and it can speed up significantly, in short bursts, when you want to push the little machine. The m3 does throttle after a little while, and settles around 2.4Ghz comfortably. The Go 2 does get warmer than the Surface Pro X with it’s ARM processor ever did.

I put both the original Go, and the new Go 2 through their paces, side by side, running some of the programs I use on the go, including Affinity Photo, Blender, Zotero, and Xodo PDF reader. You can see them running these things in the video below, but the summary is that everything was just snappier on the Go 2, from programs starting up, to interacting with them. The simple render in Blender, using cycles, took 1 minute 16 on the Go 2, and 2 minutes 18 on the original Go (I mean, these are not great times for such a simple scene – for reference my desktop computer uses the GPU and does this in 1.47 seconds, but then you really shouldn’t be buying a Surface Go primarily for 3D rendering)

You can clearly see from the video that everything just runs better on the Go 2. You can also clearly see from the video that the screen continues to be waay too reflective and that Microsoft really needs to get itself in gear and start adding anti-reflective coatings.

I haven’t done any systematic testing of battery life. The Go 2 is clearly superior to the Go, especially if just reading/browsing, but it’s no where near what the Pro X was capable of.

The screen, as well as being a bit larger on the Go 2, is also capable of displaying HDR content, according to Windows display settings (If I recall, this is ‘just’ HDR 400, which isn’t ‘full’ HDR). It looks nice, though not noticeably that much better than the Go.

The Go 2 hasn’t changed my life – it’s just the original Go only better; smaller bezels/larger screen, and a bit more ooomph to make everything feel more comfortably quick. The size means it’s the best portable companion device for writing/reading manuscripts, making and delivering lectures, and occasionally doing some 3D modelling or remote terminal work on the move.

If Microsoft ever make a Surface Go X, a device the size of the Go with an ARM processor and the design of the X, I’ll jump on it in a heartbeat. But for now, the Go 2 is the device I carry around the house and into work (on the rare occasion I go at the moment). Working on it is a joy, and I’m no longer affronted by the big bezels around the screen that the first Go had.

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