For the first time, Microsoft will release an affordable laptop in the Surface line this fall. The Surface Laptop Go does not have the powerful specifications of its bigger brothers, but should nevertheless offer a very good user experience for little money. In this review we find out whether that works.
Microsoft has previously released tablets in the Surface Go line, with the Microsoft Surface Go 2 as the latest addition earlier this year. The Surface Laptop Go continues the portable, affordable and easy-to-use Go line, but in laptop size. Where the Surface Go is quite unique in its price range purely because of the tablet form factor and full Windows integration, the Surface Laptop Go ends up in a busy market full of affordable laptops. Microsoft hopes to compete mainly with a streamlined user experience and a relatively luxurious appearance.
The design of the Surface Laptop Go is typical of a Surface product and therefore a clear asset for this laptop. In general, affordable laptops are made of plastic, feature hefty bezels, and are a bit cluttered in appearance. The Surface Laptop Go is the opposite of that.
The screen edges of the Surface Laptop Go are very small. Even smaller than that of the Surface Laptop 3, which is quite special in this class. The design is sleek and well finished, as you are used to from a Surface product. In the Netherlands, the laptop is only available in the color platinum and only has a subtle glossy Microsoft logo on the otherwise sleek matte lid.
The laptop is largely made of metal; only the bottom is plastic. However, you don’t notice that much, and it even makes the laptop a bit lighter. With its 1110 grams, it is even the lightest laptop from Microsoft to date and you can easily take it with you wherever you go.
Functionally in order
Functionally, the Surface Laptop Go’s design is okay, but not much more than that. On the right side is only the Surface Connect port, which you will use primarily for charging. On the left are a single USB-A and USB-C port along with the 3.5mm audio jack. The USB-C port does not support Thunderbolt, but can of course be used to connect the laptop to a display and / or dock. The presence of only one of the two types of USB ports means that if you want to use the Laptop Go at the office, you will soon have to work with such a dock.
The Windows Hello camera that we know from most Surface products has disappeared and has been replaced by a fingerprint scanner. This is incorporated in the power button in the keyboard, and ensures that you can still use Windows Hello for easy unlocking and authentication.
The keyboard itself is remarkably pleasant. Despite the size of the laptop, we were used to typing after an hour and we managed to write large pieces of text on the Laptop Go. The keys feel nice and have quite a bit key travel and give sufficient feedback. The only drawback is that the keyboard is not backlit. The trackpad, just like the keyboard, is small but nice. It is sensitive, supports multi-touch gestures and feels nice. Of course it is not as pleasant as the trackpads in larger laptops, but for the size it is not that bad.
Standard with touchscreen
The size is not that big. The Surface Laptop Go has a 12.4-inch screen, which makes it smaller than many competitors. The screen is the same in all versions and always touch-sensitive. That is also quite special for an affordable laptop.
The panel has an aspect ratio of 3: 2, which does justice to basic productivity tasks. Great, because that is mainly what you will probably use this laptop for. It is less for split-screen multitasking and graphics applications, but that does not seem like a problem for us when using this laptop. The image quality of the display is not disappointing: the viewing angle is good, the brightness more than sufficient and the calibration neat. Unfortunately, the resolution falls short. Where most laptops nowadays have at least a full HD screen, the Surface Laptop Go has to do with 1536 × 1024 pixels. That results in a pixel density of 148 ppi, which is not very much.
Powerful in easy use
Microsoft advertises a low starting price of the Surface Laptop Go: from 629 euros you can already get the device at home. Then you immediately get a 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor, which is included in all versions of the Surface Laptop Go. Apart from that, it is very sparse: the basic version of the Surface Laptop Go has only 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage space. According to Microsoft, roughly half of this remains after the installation of Windows. In addition, this version is not available in the business market, so it only ships with Windows 10 Home.
Business the laptop starts at 899 euros. Then you get the same Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage space and Windows 10 Pro. Still not very spacious, but sufficient for light use. We have the most expensive configuration of the Surface Laptop Go at home; equipped with 16GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. You pay 1349 euros for this and then the price creeps dangerously close to that of more powerful and more extensive ultrabooks such as the new MacBook Air and Dell XPS 13. As far as we are concerned, the Surface Laptop Go should therefore mainly rely on the somewhat lighter configurations.
If we look at the practical performance, the image that the Surface Laptop Go is mainly aimed at people who do not want to do too much on their laptop continues. If you mainly e-mail, work with documents and use software such as Slack or Teams, the Surface Laptop Go performs well. It all goes smoothly and without problems. If you work with large files or try to edit a few photos, for example, the – admittedly quite quiet – fan of the Laptop Go will work overtime and things will slow down a bit.
This heavy load also has repercussions on the battery. Microsoft claims a battery life of 12 hours for the laptop. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but if you don’t make it too crazy, you will get through the working day. If you load the laptop heavier, the battery life will deteriorate relatively quickly. Thanks to the fast charge support, the laptop is quickly full again: barely an hour and a half for a full charge.
Focused on video conferencing
Working from home and video meetings are the norm nowadays due to corona, and we are expected to continue doing so later. Microsoft cleverly responds to this by properly equipping the Surface Laptop Go for video conferencing. The laptop has two far-field microphones that can still be heard well even if you are a bit further away from the laptop. The 720p webcam is not brilliant, but enough to get a good picture of you.
The speakers of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go sound a bit hollow when you play music on it and the higher tones are reproduced shrilly. Voices, on the other hand, are played quite well and above all clearly. There, too, the focus is on video calling.
Where many affordable laptops mainly want to offer as much performance and functionality as possible for their price, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go takes a different approach. The entire device is built to provide the best possible user experience for those who are on the road a lot and do not want to perform heavy tasks.
This means that you have to sacrifice some functionality and memory. The Surface Laptop Go has a limited set of connections and the basic version comes with rather little memory and storage space. Things that do not bother you very much if you mainly work with smaller documents and are on the road a lot. Due to its particularly compact, sleek and well-finished design, fine keyboard, good video calling options and excellent battery life with light use, it is ideal for simple and mobile use. The fact that the laptop is equipped with a touchscreen as standard is a nice extra.
Only the fairly low screen resolution is a real disadvantage for the intended user of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go. It is also good to ask yourself how much RAM and storage space you need. If that’s more than 8GB and 128GB, the price of this laptop is pretty close to more advanced models and may be a better choice.
- Sleek and luxurious design
- Light and portable
- Works fine with light use
- Limited connections
- Screen resolution
- Low on memory and storage in basic versions