Surface Go 2 hands-on impressions: Core m3 smokes the Pentium in early benchmarks

Surface Go 2
Surface Go 2 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The Surface Go 2 is now official, and Microsoft will begin shipping the device on May 12th in more than 20 different markets. Now with a more prominent display, smaller bezels, and new processor options, the Surface Go 2 looks to be a significant bump over its predecessor, so long as you shell out the extra cash.

I have had the Surface Go 2 for nearly the last 24 hours. While it is way too early for battery life estimates, I have been able to run some synthetic benchmarks to add some perspective to that "new" Intel Core m3-8100Y processor.

Here are five things I have noticed with the new Surface Go 2, so far.

Intel Core m3 makes a big difference

Surface Go 2

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Compared to the Pentium processor in both the older 4415Y and newer 4425Y models, the Core m3-8100Y delivers a significant step up in performance. The Go 2 now feels much more like a regular laptop.

The Core m3 runs at 5 watts versus the 6 watts of the Pentium chip with a lower base frequency (1.1 GHz, vs. 1.7 GHz, respectively). But the Pentium is effectively fixed at 1.7Ghz, whereas the Core m3 can use turbo to 3.4GHz. That's the big difference.

The Intel UHD 615 GPU is also tweaked by 50MHz, which adds a little boost, too.

The early benchmarks speak for themselves when compared to the original Surface Go:

Geekbench 5

Geekbench 5.0 (CPU) (Higher is better)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Surface Go 2Core m38471,609
Surface GoPentium376947
Surface Pro XSQ17252,819
Surface Laptop 3 13.5i5-1035G71,1774,413
Surface Laptop 2i5-8250U9093,372
Surface Pro 7i5-1035G41,1914,441
Surface Pro 6i7-8650U1,1133,519
Surface Pro 6i5-8250U9043,440

Geekbench 4

Geekbench 4.0 (CPU) (Higher is better)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Surface Go 2Core m34,0286,804
Surface GoPentium2,0783,934
Surface 3Atom x71,0782,777
Surface Pro X (ARM)SQ13,50511,727
Surface Pro X (x86)SQ12,1826,822
Samsung Galaxy Book2 (ARM)SD8502,2627,405
Samsung Galaxy Book2 (x86)SD8501,3454,164
HP Envy x2 (ARM)SD8352,1116,314
Surface Laptop 3 13.5i5-1035G75,26517,345
Surface Laptop 2i5-8250U4,20313,233
Surface Laptopi5-7200U3,7257,523
Surface Pro 7i5-1035G45,24517,350
Surface Pro 6i7-8650U5,03713,864
Surface Pro 6i5-8250U4,28714,031
Surface Pro 5i7-7660U4,5139,346
Surface Pro 5i5-7300U4,3028,482
Surface Pro 4i5-6300U3,3196,950


Geekbench 4.0 OpenCL (higher is better)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Surface Go 2UHD 61519,488
Surface GoHD 61516,490
Surface 3Intel HD8,055
Surface Pro 4 (m3)HD 51514,650
Surface Pro 4HD 52017,395
Surface BookHD 52018,197
Surface Laptop i5HD 62019,256
Surface Pro 2017HD6 2020,688
Surface Pro 2017Iris 64030,678
Surface Laptop i7Iris 64031,010


PCMark 10 (higher is better)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Surface Go 22,554
Surface Go1,808


CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Surface Go 2 (SSD)1,630 MB/s373 MB/s
Surface Go (SSD)1,185 MB/s133 MB/s
Surface Go (eMMC)260 MB/s145 MB/s
Surface 3149 MB/s33 MB/s
Surface Pro X2,023 MB/s832 MB/s
Samsung Galaxy Book2722 MB/s205 MB/s
HP Envy x2513 MB/s197 MB/s
Surface Laptop 3 13.52,338 MB/s1,583 MB/s
Surface Laptop 3 152,028 MB/s806 MB/s
Surface Laptop 21,509 MB/s811 MB/s
Surface Laptop486 MB/s244 MB/s
Surface Pro 72,040 MB/s809 MB/s
Surface Pro 61,632 MB/s814 MB/s
Surface Pro 5847MB/s801 MB/s
Surface Book1,018 MB/s967 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 73902,400 MB/s1,228 MB/s


The heat is also well contained despite the higher CPU clockspeed. The Surface Go 2 with Core m3 is a fanless system, like before, but it doesn't get scorching either in my early tests.

The back of the Go 2 gets warm to around 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), which is well below what most laptops get on their top decks. You can see in my thermal image just how the heat is dispersed throughout the chassis.

Of course, the Intel Core m3-8100Y retails for roughly $120 more than the Pentium chip, and that is reflected in the slightly higher price point of the Surface Go 2. That said, the performance boost – when combined with the faster SSD in the Go 2 – makes a big difference in the user experience.

This is an excellent display

Surface Go 2 Display Angle

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Even though the Surface Go 2 can creep up in price, that $399 model is still impressive, especially the screen for this class of device.

Sure, it's still glossier than I would prefer, but it is pulling in 99 percent Adobe sRGB with nearly 400 nits of brightness with outstanding viewing angles.

That extra half-inch of screen realestate is undoubtedly much nicer too. It's still a small device, but it's a bit better now.

The thinner bezels now look ordinary. They're not crazy Dell-InfinityEdge-thin, but there's a reason for that. The Surface keyboard now comes right up to the bottom of the display. Were the bezels to be any thinner, either the keyboard would overlap onto the screen (not good), or Microsoft would have to have a larger bezel just on the bottom of the Surface Go 2, which would ruin the symmetry and make it look goofy.

Instant On, magnets, LTE, and more

Surface Go 2 Camera Mics

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Some smaller changes with the Surface Go 2 get less attention, but here are a few.

There is now a better implementation of Microsoft's Instant-On technology that came to the Surface Laptop 3 (Intel versions) and Surface Pro 7 last year. Flipping the keyboard open now turns on the Surface Go 2 much faster without it going into hibernation as quickly. When combined with the zippy Windows Hello, it's very fluid.

Like Surface Pro X there are now small magnets at the top of the display that helps keep the keyboard from flopping around.

Microsoft is hyping the camera and microphones in its new sizzler video for the Go 2. It is right to do so as Surfaces have always had the best web cameras around, and this 1080P one is great. It's the same camera as the Surface Go, but now it has two Studio Microphones flanking it instead of one, making it even better for that online digital meeting life we're all doing in 2020. Compared to every premium Ultrabook on the market, the Go 2 smokes them.

The model I am testing also has 4G LTE, and Wi-Fi 6 is now standard. So far, the wireless abilities have been excellent. It is an unlocked LTE device, as expected. I'm using it with Verizon and have tried Sprint with no issue. There is also a secondary eSIM option letting you switch between a physical and electronic SIM on the fly.

Surface Go 2: More to come

Surface Go Vs Surface Go2 Bezelskeyboard

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

As usual, I'll be spending the next few days with the Surface Go 2 before my review to get a better idea of battery life and performance.

So far, out-of-the-box impressions are great. The 128GB SSD has about 81GB of free space after the initial setup. The Surface Go 2 ships with Windows 10 version 1909 (build 18363.15) in S Mode. Switching out of S-Mode is very easy with a simple button click in the Microsoft Store – you don't even have to reboot. The new Microsoft Edge came pre-installed to and pinned to the taskbar along with a few Office applications.

The Surface Go 2 arrives on May 12 with a starting price of $399. The model I'm testing with LTE, and the Core m3 tops out at $729. You can get all the pricing and full specifications in our announcement post here.

Have any questions? Leave them in comments, and I'll answer them for the review.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.