Microsoft's Go Laptop Is Lighter, Cheaper, Smaller, Newer

But is it worth the tradeoffs?

Key Takeaways

  • Starting at only $549, Microsoft’s new Surface Go laptops are making a play for the Chromebook market. 
  • The Go is slim and light at only 2.45 pounds. 
  • The meager RAM included with the lower end models may end up leaving the system sluggish.
Microsoft Surface Go sitting on a person's lap
Microsoft

Microsoft’s newly announced lineup of Surface Go laptops offer a compelling mix of features and portability starting at $549, but the cheaper models fall short on components, observers say.

With its low price point, the Surface Go is designed to compete with mid-range Chromebooks, but can be configured with fancier specs. The Go is a change in course from Microsoft’s higher-end focus, and the inexpensive laptop is being released as many consumers are looking for budget computing power during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Microsoft Go laptop is best for people who are always on the go, such as students and traveling business people,” Yaniv Masjedi, CMO at Nextiva, said in an email interview. “It’s lightweight, compact, and allows people to become productive without carrying a standard laptop’s heaviness.”

Lighter Than Air

When the Go releases on October 13, it will compete with Apple’s lower end Macbook models that start at $999. Microsoft is touting the Go’s light weight at 2.45 pounds that compares favorably to the Macbook Air’s 2.8 pounds. The Go also boasts a purported battery life of 13 hours. Apple doesn’t specify the Air’s battery life other than to say it’s “all day.”

Some models of the Go also offer fingerprint sign in, meaning users won’t have to enter or remember a password. The Go is packaged in Microsoft’s usual sleek design and comes in a choice of several colors.

Web developer Catherine Consiglio said in an email interview that she was attracted to the Go’s small form factor, adding, “you can toss it in your bag and take it to a cafe, class, or study session without feeling like you're weighed down.”

“The Microsoft Go laptop is best for people who are always on the go, such as students and traveling business people.”

However, specifications for lower-end Go models imply performance will lag, observers say.

“I'm not really impressed by the new Surface Laptop Go,” Michael Miller, CEO of VPN Online, said in an email interview. “It's smaller and lighter, and that's about it. For a price tag that starts at $549, you get an average [12.4-inch display] with only 148 ppi, a 10th gen Core i5, and a 720p webcam.”

Consiglio likes the specs, though, saying that “a lot of small form factor laptops opt for less powerful processors to bring the cost down, however, they've opted to include the 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor.”

RAM-Challenged

The amount of RAM Microsoft includes with the Go was less impressive to Consiglio. 

“Even phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra offer 12GB of RAM, whereas even the most expensive configuration of the Surface Go Laptop, priced at $899.99, only offers 8GB of RAM,” she said. “I'd have loved to see more RAM in the device, as that would make it a portable powerhouse for multi-tasking.”

Miller was also left wanting more with the Go’s memory offerings.

“The worst part is it comes with just 4GB of memory,” he said. “In this day and age, 4GB barely puts you above the minimum. After 2 to 4 years, it's way below the standard. Thus, by that time, you'll have an obsolete laptop in your hands. It also comes with just a 64GB eMMC storage. Other companies can put in an SSD storage at that starting price, so why can't you, Microsoft?”

Surface Laptop Go pre-order and configuration screen

Despite concerns about performance, Tal Shelef, realtor and co-founder of Condo Wizard, said in an email interview that he’s planning to buy the new Go because of its “extreme portability” and “stylish looks.”

Microsoft is clearly aiming to take on the low-end market with its new Go line. The question remains how many people it can win away from Chromebooks, which have become the default low-end option for millions of students and other users with limited computing needs.