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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Thin and lightweight
Attractive design with great color options
3:2 aspect ratio screen is great for productivity
Excellent keyboard and trackpad
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.
We purchased the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
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.
The 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.
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 1536x1024 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A well-advertised feature of the Surface Laptop Go is its 13-hour battery life. 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.
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.
With an MSRP of $549, the Surface Laptop Go offers high-end build quality at a mid-range price point. It’s hard to find a laptop in this price range that looks this good and is so eminently usable. Of course, that price might be higher depending upon the configuration you go with.
If you need more ports and storage, you might consider the HP Pavilion 14 HD, which also has a larger 14-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. However, it’s a little long in the tooth with a 7th gen Core i5 and no touchscreen capability. Also, the Surface Laptop Go has a superior keyboard and trackpad and is considerably more portable due to its superior battery life.
Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best laptops article.
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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