A premium laptop at an affordable price point; Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go is a fantastic mid-range laptop with one major shortcoming
With the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go, Microsoft breaks from the premium-only strategy employed by Apple to bring consumers a more affordable option. It is, dare I say, a courageous move, engineering a mainstream laptop that adheres to the principles of Microsoft’s pricier Surface products.
In the end, Microsoft made the right choices when deciding how to keep the price down. Most* of the tradeoffs are easily overlooked, allowing the more premium aspects of the Surface Laptop Go to shine.
Most Microsoft Surface products tend to be high end and expensive, but the Surface Laptop Go bucks this stereotype by offering an attractive and competent laptop at an affordable price point. This is a premium quality ultrabook designed to go head to head with the MacBook Air and other ultraportable laptops, but for a lot less money. I put it to the test for 20 hours, evaluating its design, screen quality, performance, battery life, and more.
What We Like
Thin and lightweight
Attractive design with great color options
3:2 aspect ratio screen is great for productivity
Excellent keyboard and trackpad
What We Don’t Like
Not very powerful
Very limited port selection
Not much storage capacity
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is an affordable ultraportable laptop with a premium build quality. It’s an ideal device for students or people travelling for business.
Here’s a quick recap of the Surface Laptop Go review in 5 points, that will be handy for you if you are short on time.
Point 1: To start off, we believe that the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go design is one thing that can put it on each must buy laptop lists on the Internet. It is lightweight, and the 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen display feels apt. However, we will talk more about the display in a bit. The aluminium chassis feels durable and justifies the price. As we already mentioned, the lightweight design makes it a great companion for people on the go. We have also to point out that the price is also very aggressive for the Surface Laptop Go. Though we would recommend giving the Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM and 64GB storage variant a miss (cheapest version) and instead go for the i5, 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage that comes at Rs 71,999.
Point 2: The second biggest strength of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is its keyboard. Despite packing a small 12.4-inch PixelSense display, the laptop features a full-size keyboard with 1.3mm key travel that offers accurate and comfortable typing experience. We can confidently say that the Surface Laptop Go comes with one of the best keyboards in the segment and we found it more comfortable for typing than the new M1-based MacBook Air. The Surface Laptop Go also comes with a decent size trackpad that offers good precision during the review period. Microsoft has made sure that users will have a satisfying time during everyday use.
Point 3: Talking about some of the other factors favouring the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go, the webcam needs a special mention. The 720p HD webcam offered good clarity and didn’t at any point offered a pixelated quality during video calls. Next are the speakers, the Surface Laptop Go comes with Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio, and we loved the sound quality for a laptop of this size. It is not very loud but good enough for meetings or watching a movie or show on the laptop. Not many laptops in India support fast charging, and that’s where the Surface Laptop Go scores. It is not very quick like modern-day smartphones, but a 45 minutes charging will push the battery from 20 per cent to 80 per cent, which is impressive in our opinion. Another smart integration is the One Touch sign-in that’s embedded with the power button. The fingerprint reader is quick, and we had no issues unlocking the laptop at any point.
Point 4: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is a great package, but it has some factors that could have been better like battery life. While Microsoft markets the Surface Laptop Go to deliver “all-day battery life”, we found that it delivers average battery life. The Surface Laptop Go delivered a maximum of five hours on battery, and then we had the exclamation mark icon on the battery prompting us to connect the battery. Another department where we wish we could get more is the number of ports. The Surface Laptop Go comes with a USB Type-C and USB-A ports while also packs a 3.5mm audio jack. During the review, we felt the need for at least one more USB-A port on the laptop. Again, it is not something that makes or breaks the deal but a feature that’s always better to have.
Point 5: Display was one of the Surface Laptop Go’s disappointing factors because of the low-resolution display. The laptop comes with an unusual 3:2 aspect ratio which looked promising. However, the screen resolution of 1536×1024 pixels at times during the review felt way too low for a laptop at this price point. We wish Microsoft chose a slightly higher screen resolution for the Surface Laptop Go. Another factor that we wished was present on the laptop was backlighting for the keyboard. It gets tough to work on the laptop in spaces where there is not enough light on the keyboard. This has steadily become a norm across laptops in India, and we still wonder why Microsoft chose not to include keyboard backlighting on the keyboard.
Design: Sleek and beautiful
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is certainly a looker. Its solid metal and plastic construction feels both durable and lightweight, and it’s available in Ice Blue, Sandstone, and Platinum. I find Sandstone to be particularly attractive for making the Laptop Go stand out from the crowd. It’s also remarkably thin, and will fit in just about any bag.
The keyboard and trackpad really steal the show here, as they are exceptionally high quality for a laptop in this price range. The keyboard is quiet and tactile with soft, almost luxurious keycaps. I was able to write this review on it quite comfortably. The trackpad is one of the best I’ve seen on a laptop of this size. It’s large, easy to use, and compares very well to the top-notch trackpads on the Dell XPS 13. For navigation, the Surface Laptop Go also has a touchscreen, which I found to be responsive and accurate.
The audio quality of the built-in speakers in the Surface Laptop Go is remarkably good for such a thin and light device.
Port selection is rather limited, with a USB-C port, a USB-A port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a Surface Connect port which is used for power but can also be used to connect to a Surface Dock. This is really the bare minimum for I/O, and was one of the most frustrating issues for me when using the device.
Display: Ideal for productivity
The 12.4-inch display on the Surface Laptop Go seems larger than the size would suggest, thanks to its 3:2 aspect ratio. Because of that aspect ratio, this laptop is purpose-built for productivity. In fact, it was the ideal device for typing out this article. The 1536×1024 resolution is quite sharp, and colors are sharp and accurate with great contrast. Due to the 3:2 aspect ratio, you get black bars on the top and bottom when watching movies and shows, but they still look great due to the quality of the screen.
Speakers: Loud and proud
The audio quality of the built-in speakers in the Surface Laptop Go is remarkably good for such a thin and light device. I always play 2Cellos cover of “Thunderstruck” to test the capabilities of speakers and was pleased with how well this laptop performed in the mids and highs.
Bass was underwhelming, but that’s really to be expected in any laptop, particularly one with this form factor. It still provided a pleasant listening experience for both rock and classical music and provided excellent audio for watching movies and shows.
Camera: Low quality
Cameras on laptops are never very good, but the one on the Surface Laptop Go is particularly poor. It’s only capable of 720p, but it’s not the low resolution itself that really lets it down. Even in decent lighting conditions the video and still images produced by this camera are extremely grainy and low quality so it’s not a great option even for Zoom meetings.
The Surface Laptop Go is certainly not the most powerful laptop around, but with 8GB of RAM, an Intel Core i5-1035G1 CPU, and a fast solid-state drive for storage it feels zippy and responsive.
Performance: Decent power for the price
The Surface Laptop Go is certainly not the most powerful laptop around, but with 8GB of RAM, an Intel Core i5-1035G1 CPU, and a fast solid-state drive for storage it feels zippy and responsive. It’s competent for most productivity tasks, including light photo editing, word processing, and web browsing, essentially filling the same niche as a Chromebook.
However, due to its lack of a dedicated graphics card, the Laptop Go is no gaming or video editing rig. It achieved a score of 5,378 in GFXBench, which is about what I’d expect from a laptop with these specifications. One issue I did run into is that the Surface Laptop Go does tend to grow rather hot due to the lack of ventilation in its frame.
Another limiting factor is the storage capacity of the Surface Laptop Go. The configuration I tested only had 128GB of space on its solid-state drive, and the maximum configuration only comes with 256GB. You’re not going to be storing a lot of data locally on this machine forcing you to resort to cloud storage most of the time.
Connectivity: Modern hardware
With Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, the Surface Laptop Go is equipped with a competent range of communications capabilities. I had no issues utilizing the full power of my home Wi-Fi network or connecting Bluetooth devices.
Battery Life: Long-lasting
A well-advertised feature of the Surface Laptop Go is its 13-hour battery life.
Damn, this one hurts. Until our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits), the Surface Laptop Go was destined for mid-range laptop greatness. But with 7 hours and 42 minutes of runtime, I struggle to recommend it ahead of its competitors. Those rivals, the Pixelbook Go (11:29), ZenBook 13 UX325UA (13:47), Surface Go 2 (11:39) and Envy x360 13 (11:51), lasted for several hours longer.
I found this to be a pretty accurate estimate and was able to use it all day without having to recharge. It’ll comfortably fill out a workday or last for a long plane flight.
Software: A decision to make
The Surface Laptop Go ships with Windows 10 in S mode. This means that the device gains an extra degree of security, but also that it’s limited to apps available in the Windows Store. However, you can take the computer out of S mode to use a fully-functional version of Windows 10. However, think carefully before doing so because there’s no going back.
The 12.4-inch display on the Surface Laptop Go seems larger than the size would suggest, thanks to its 3:2 aspect ratio.
In terms of bloatware, the laptop came with a few pre-installed apps: a Microsoft Office trial, Adobe Photoshop Express, and a few other odds and ends. However, it’s all easily removed if you so choose, and doesn’t really get in the way.
Price: Reasonable Value
Microsoft’s least expensive laptop, the Surface Laptop Go starts at $549. It’s a headline-capturing price for sure, but the base model underwhelms on the specs sheet with an Intel Core i5-1035G1 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage.
We recommend, if your budget allows it, upgrading to the $699 mid-tier model which gets you 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Our $899 review unit, the priciest of the bunch, doubles the storage to 256GB.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go Final Verdict
An ultra-portable laptop with premium build quality at an affordable price point.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go looks and feels like a much more expensive device. It’s thin and light, with a great keyboard and trackpad paired with fast and responsive components. This is an ideal option for anyone who needs an affordable ultra-portable laptop for work, school, or travel.
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