Microsoft Surface Go 2 Review
Let’s get this out of the way right now: Microsoft’s new Surface Go 2 isn’t a gaming laptop. Even though I can dream of how much fun it’d be to drop in on Warzone or Apex Legends on the Go 2, it’s just not meant for that. It’s designed with students and mobile – er, remote workers – of all ages in mind. Its crisp display, ultra-portable design, and detachable keyboard make it a versatile 2-in-1, indeed.
For the last week or so I’ve been testing the Go 2, using it as a tablet and laptop replacement, triaging emails, writing far too much, and catching my favorite Twitch streams. I’ve tried gaming on it, too, and while the results weren’t always what I wanted, it is possible to do some.
Surface Go 2 – Specs
There are four configurations of the Surface Go 2, ranging in price from 399 to 729. The main component differences boil down to processor, memory, and storage. Oh, and at the high-end, you’ll get LTE connectivity.
Here are the specifications of the 729 Surface Go 2 I’ve been testing:
- Model: Microsoft Surface Go 2 (1927)
- Display: 10.5-inch PixelSense FHD (1920×1080)
- Processor: 8th Generation Intel Core m3-8100Y 1.1 GHz (4M Cache, up to 3.4 GHz)
- Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615
- Memory: 8GB DDR3
- OS: Windows 10 in S Mode
- Storage: 128GB SSD
- Webcam: 1080p 5-megapixel
- Ports: 1 x USB-C, 1 x Surface Connect port, 1 x microSD Card reader, 1 x 3.5mm audio
- Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, Optional LTE Advanced
- Dimensions: 9.65 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches (WxDxH)
- Weight: 1.2 pounds (without Type Cover)
- Price: 729
On the low end, you can expect to spend 399 for 4GB of memory and 64GB of eMMC storage or 549 for 8GB of memory and a 128GB SSD. Both configurations come with an Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y processor. For 629, you get a Wi-Fi, Intel Core m3 processor, and 8GB/128GB configuration.
That’s just for the Go 2 itself. The Type Cover keyboard and trackpad combo adds 129 to the overall cost.
Surface Go 2 – Design
If you’re having a hard time telling the Surface Go 2 apart from the Surface Go, you’re not alone. With the exception of a slightly larger display, the two devices are identical in design. In fact, they’re even the same exact size, meaning if you’re upgrading from the original Go and you already have a Type Cover or a case, it’ll work with the Go 2.
The 10.5-inch PixelSense display is a half-inch larger than the previous model. Microsoft shrunk the bezels and moved some parts around inside to make room for the larger screen. The end result is a device that measures 9.65 x 6.9 x 0.33-inches and weighs just 1.2 pounds (1.22 pounds for the LTE model).
Centered above the screen is a 5-megapixel 1080p camera, along with all the necessary components to enable Windows Hello facial recognition for signing into the Go 2. There’s an 8-megapixel camera on the back as well.
On the right side of the Go 2 are the Surface Connect port, a USB-C port, and the 3.5mm headphone jack. Microsoft’s proprietary Connect port is used to charge the Go 2 with the included 24W power supply, as well as connect Microsoft accessories to the Go 2 – like the Surface Dock.
On the left side is the SIM card tray. Along the top of the Go 2 is the power button, along with volume rocker.
A kickstand folds out from the back of the housing, revealing the microSD card reader on the right side. The kickstand allows for multiple viewing angles, including placing the Go 2 far enough back that it’s comfortable to write or sketch on with the Surface Pen. I didn’t have a Pen to test with, but I can say that the viewing angle makes it easy to glance over at a document or streaming video while working.
On the bottom of the Go 2 is the Surface Type Cover port that connects the optional keyboard with trackpad accessory to the Go 2. The Type Cover magnetically snaps into place when it gets close, eliminating the need for precise alignment on your part.
When connected, the keyboard is backlit, sits at an ergonomic typing angle, and converts the Go 2 into a laptop. I liked typing on the Type Cover. The keys are evenly spaced, albeit somewhat cramped due to the overall size of the Go 2, but after a few minutes of adjustment, I was able to type without issue.
Overall, I really dig the design of the Go 2. I never had a chance to use the original Go, but the smaller form factor and easy transition from tablet to laptop and back around the home is one that I think a lot of us can relate to.
Surface Go 2 – Software
Out of the box, the Go 2 runs Windows 10 in S Mode. Essentially, S Mode is a streamlined version of Windows 10 that limits the installation of apps to those from the Microsoft Store and limits you to using only the Edge browser. The promise of such limitations, at least from Microsoft, is peace of mind on the security front, and better performance.
For some users, Edge and apps from the Microsoft Store will be more than sufficient. However, I found that even though I had installed apps from the Store in S Mode, not everything worked as it should. For example, the app Tweeten installed without issue, but after opening it, I clicked on the button to connect my account, and nothing happened. I uninstalled, reinstalled, tried again and still, nothing.
Another oddity was repeatedly being prompted by Edge to set it as my default browser, even though it’s not possible to use another browser while in S Mode. The option to set a default browser simply doesn’t exist.
I tested the Go 2 in S Mode for a couple of days – and as you’ll see below, battery life was better – but, for me at least, I needed to have the full experience of Windows 10. Thankfully, you only have to click a couple of buttons to switch out of S Mode to the full-fat version of Windows 10. Just be sure that’s what you want to do – it’s a permanent and one-way change. You can’t go back to S Mode. And, yes, after switching out of S Mode, I was able to sign into Tweeten.
Outside of S Mode, there’s nothing special or overbearing about what comes preinstalled on the Go 2. Microsoft’s Surface app shows specifications and support details. It’s nothing you’ll use on a regular basis.
Surface Go 2 – Performance and Gaming
Inside the review unit I received is Intel’s 8th Generation Core m3-8100Y, 8GB of DDR3 memory, 128 GB SSD, and LTE connectivity. With eSIM support you don’t have to worry about fussing with the SIM card tray or getting an extra card from your provider – you can sign up for service directly on the Go 2 and ditch your Wi-Fi connection whenever necessary.
To be clear, the unit I’ve been testing is Microsoft’s top-of-the-line model. For 100 less, you can ditch LTE, but keep the rest of the internals.
I ran our usual set of benchmark tests on the Go 2 just to be thorough, and the results aren’t pretty when compared to far more powerful processors and Nvidia’s latest GPUs. So instead of unfairly comparing them in a spreadsheet, here they are:
From a gaming point of view, those numbers are horrible. But, again, this isn’t a gaming device.
Of course, I still tried to game. I installed Roblox, Minecraft, Forza Street, and Modern Combat 5 before leaving S Mode. Roblox and Minecraft were playable, with no sluggishness or performance issues running at a steady 30fps. Forza and Modern Combat played and felt more like a mobile game, with the latter requiring me to use touch controls to work through missions.
After leaving S Mode, I installed the Xbox Game Pass for PC beta and downloaded some games. I started with Gears Tactics, which installed just fine, but the moment I tried to launch it I was greeted with a message saying the GPU stopped responding.
I backed off the hardcore games and gave Overcooked 2, Moving Out, and Astroneer a shot. The first two games run at 30 fps and are actually quite a bit of fun, while Astroneer never got above 4 fps.
Outside of gaming, the Go 2 has handled every common computing task I’ve thrown at it. Be it managing my inbox in the Mail app, chatting with coworkers in Slack, or bouncing between far too many tabs in Edge. There were times when I would have to wait for the Go 2 to catch up with me, like when using Alt-Tab to quickly switch between apps or swiping across the trackpad to multitask.
Performance is sufficient, but not going to blow you away, and certainly nothing you want to rely on for heavy photo or video editing.
Surface Go 2 – Battery Life
Battery life has been a mixed experience. Using the Surface Go 2 as my main laptop, I was able to get through most of a workday, right around 7 hours, before I had to plug it back in. That’s with mixed usage, and adjusting display brightness throughout the day.
Putting it through our battery life benchmark, which consists of looping the same video in VLC with the display set to 50% brightness, keyboard backlight turned off, Wi-Fi enabled, and Bluetooth, cellular and location disabled, we failed to reach the 10-hour mark Microsoft advertises.
In S Mode, with the Type Cover attached, the Go 2 lasted for 218 minutes or 3 hours and 37 minutes. After leaving S Mode, with the Type Cover attached to the Go 2 the battery lasted 257 minutes or 4 hours and 18 minutes of use. And, finally, without the Type Cover connected, the Go 2 lasted 385 minutes or 6 hours and 25 minutes.
Moral of the story? For best battery life when watching a movie, disconnect the keyboard.
There are four Surface Go 2 configurations, ranging in price from 399 for an Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y processor, 4GB of memory and 64GB of eMMC storage up to 729 for an Intel Core m3 CPU, 8GB memory and an 128GB SSD. The Type Cover keyboard costs an additional 129. It’s available at Amazon or direct from Microsoft.
When you look at the Go 2 through the lens of what it’s designed for, it’s clear that Microsoft has done a fantastic job. The slight display increase, reliable performance and small footprint make it a fun device to use, be it on the kitchen counter as you walk through a new recipe, or while sitting outside doing damage control on your inbox. Most people will want to skip the 399 entry-level model with its slower processor and slower storage, opting instead for the 549 configuration. For someone who’s looking to get a full Windows 10 device in a compact 2-in-1, the Go 2 makes for a compelling option.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review. is it worth buying?
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is an affordable mid-range laptop with a stylish design, premium build quality and an excellent display. This lightweight laptop is available in a range of colour options and is well suited to price conscious shoppers looking for a laptop to run light computing tasks. The Surface Laptop Go will appeal to students, office workers and home users who want a sturdy, compact laptop for everyday use.
You’ll find a number of models in the Surface Laptop Go range. The entry level version comes with a 10th Gen Core i5 processor, 4Gb of RAM and 64Gb of flash storage which is fine for super lightweight use such as basic web browsing and social media. For better performance, we’d recommend picking the next model up which comes with 8Gb of RAM and 128Gb of SSD storage. You can also select a Go model with 256Gb of SSD storage built-in.
All models feature a 12.4 inch touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio which is taller and narrower than the more common 16:9 which means you can fit more detail to fit onto the screen. Handy when working with documents or spreadsheets. Resolution is just under Full HD (1,536 x 1,024) but you won’t really notice this due to the screen’s dimensions, good colour range coverage and excellent brightness levels.
A front-facing, widescreen 720p HD camera is built into the top narrow bezel which is ok but not as good as 1080p versions found on other Surface laptop models. The speakers are situated under the keyboard and pump out clear sound at decent volume levels albeit a bit tinny which you tend to find with most laptops.
The keyboard is comfortable to use and there’s a fingerprint reader built into the power button for one touch sign in (not included on the entry level model though). The keys aren’t backlit though which may be an issue if you work in low lighting locations. The integrated touchpad is generously sized with good accuracy and responsiveness.
There’s a good selection of ports for external connections including both a USB-A and USB-C port plus a proprietary Surface Connect port which powers the laptop and can also be used to connect a Microsoft docking station. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 offer wireless connectivity.
Comfortable keyboard touchpad
Entry level model lacks oomph
Maximum of 256Gb local storage
Processor: 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i5 processor
Operating System: Windows 10 Home in S mode
Display: 12.4” PixelSense™ touchscreen display with a 1536 x 1024 resolution Memory: 4GB or 8GB LPDDR4x RAM
Storage: eMMC: 64GB ; SSD: 128GB, 256GB
Battery Life: Up to 13 hours of typical device usage
Camera: 720p HD f2.0 camera (front-facing)
Audio: DDual far-field Studio Mics. Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby® Audio™
Wireless: Wi-Fi 6; Bluetooth 5
Weight: From 1.11Kg
Dimensions: 27.8 cm x 20.57 cm x 1.57 cm ( w x d x h)
Warranty : 1 year limited hardware warranty
- 1 x USB-C
- 1 x USB-A
- Headphone/microphone combo jack
- 1 x Surface Connect port
Customers have commented favourably on the Go’s solid build quality and appealing design. Many people rate the laptop as easy to set up and use with the keyboard often singled out as excellent.
Other characteristics that consistently come up in reviews include the laptop’s portability with lots of customers happy with its compact and lightweight chassis.
Criticisms include the lack of a Full HD screen which some people have said makes some images appear grainy. Other niggles often mentioned are the non-HD webcam, average battery life and the absence of a backlit keyboard.
Unique selling points
The Surface Laptop Go’s stylish, premium design and choice of colours elevate it above comparably priced laptops which have similar specifications. The keyboard stands out from those found on other laptops in this category. It’s made from aluminium rather than the more typical plastic and has a comfortable premium feel which users who do a lot of typing will appreciate.
The laptop has 300 nits of brightness and 102.6% sRGB coverage which means that despite a sub HD resolution, it produces vivid images, even in bright settings. It’s got a good selection of ports for a laptop with such a small size. You’ll find both a USB-A and USB-C port which allows you to connect the vast majority of peripherals that are currently available.
A lot of laptops ship with a load of preinstalled software trials most of which are typically not wanted and just bloat the system with unnecessary files. Other than Windows 10, the Surface Laptop Go just comes with a trial for Microsoft 365 so that’s another plus point.
Alternative products to consider
There are a number of comparable laptops you can consider as alternatives that offer similar specs for a similar budget. The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 is a 14” convertible mainstream laptop with decent specs at an affordable price. Like the Surface Go, it has a touchscreen display but is more flexible since the screen can be rotated 360 degrees. It has a more powerful processor and bigger screen than the Go but is heavier and doesn’t have a USB-C port.
If your budget stretches a little higher, midrange ultraportables like the Surface Laptop 3 or entry level MacBook Air are also worth a look. The Surface Laptop 3 has similar design and build quality to the Surface Go and is also available in a choice of colours. It has a superior battery to the Go and there’s a choice of models with more powerful processors in the Laptop 3 range. Unlike the Go, there’s no fingerprint reader but the Laptop 3 webcam does support facial recognition. a feature that the Go lacks. The MacBook Air (2020 version) is a streamlined, lightweight laptop that comes in a choice of colours and has excellent battery life. It has a superb display but no touchscreen, fewer ports and is pricier than the Go.
Changes from the previous model
The Surface Laptop Go is a new introduction to Microsoft’s Surface product family. The Go aims to attract budget and mid-range shoppers who are looking for a well designed, sturdy and capable laptop for everyday use without breaking the bank. Not to be confused with the Surface Go which is Microsoft’s 2-in-1 range of products, Surface Laptop Go laptops are bigger and have more computing power. The next step up in Microsoft’s product catalogue is the Surface Laptop 3 which is a bigger, more powerful but also more expensive laptop.
If you want a compact laptop that blends performance, build quality and affordability, the Surface Laptop Go ticks all these boxes and looks good as well. If you do processor intensive work like serious photo or video editing or need a laptop with a big screen, we’d recommend looking at alternatives. If you want a lightweight device you can rely on every day for routine office work or education, the Surface Go could be a great fit.
The more-affordable Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is stuck with some drawbacks
Tom’s Guide Verdict
The Surface Laptop Go looks like a Surface, but it doesn’t impress like some of its bigger brothers.
- Elegant aluminum lid and deck
- Thin bezels and 3:2 display
- Wonderful typing experience
- Both USB-C and USB-A ports
- – Highly disappointing battery life
- – Display could be brighter
- – Gets a little warm
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The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is made for a wide audience with modest needs, who want an elegant laptop that doesn’t cost four figures. But it still looks a lot like a premium laptop, thanks to its aluminum lid and keyboard deck, as well as thinner bezels than you find in Apple’s laptops.
You won’t call the Surface Laptop Go a powerhouse (at any configuration), but its general performance gives enough speed for general multitasking. Plus, its port selection strikes a great balance between modern and legacy ports. Unfortunately, the Surface Laptop Go’s battery life is shorter than expected, and its display could stand to be a bit brighter, which keeps this system from earning a spot on our best laptops list.
Oh and one note: this Surface Laptop Go review uses benchmarks taken after removing S Mode, because we can’t run any of our tests in that situation — as none of our tests are in the Windows App Store.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Price and availability
The Surface Laptop Go starts at 549 with a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage (likely slower than the SSDs in the other models). This model doesn’t give you the fingerprint reader seen in the high-end models.
Starting Price: 549 CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G1 GPU: Intel UHD Graphics RAM: 4GB / 8GB Storage: 64GB (eMMC), 128/256GB (SSD) Display: 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen, 1536 x 1024 Battery: Estimated 13 hours Size: 10.95 x 8.1 x 0.62 inches Weight: 2.45 pounds
We tested the maxed out Surface Laptop Go, which costs 899 and packs an Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. But when that model is so much pricier than the entry-level model, it may not be the version most will be looking to buy.
I’d gently nudge folks to the 699 Surface Laptop Go, which has the same CPU, but with 8GB of memory and 128GB of SSD storage.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Design
While the Surface Laptop Go is cheaper than the Surface Laptop, it sure doesn’t looks like it (in most places). Its machined aluminum lid and keyboard deck — seen here in a sleek Ice Blue — give it the air of class you see in its siblings. Microsoft also sells it in Sandstone (sort of like a pink or rose gold) and Platinum (silver, essentially). They’re all nice, light and elegant hues, but I’d probably go with Ice Blue.
On the undercarriage, Microsoft is using a polycarbonate composite resin system, that includes glass fiber and (for an eco-friendly touch) 30% post-consumer recycled content. It’s got such a nice feel that I don’t feel irked it’s not an all-aluminum chassis like the Surface Laptop 3.
Weighing in at 2.5 pounds and measuring 0.6 inches thick, the Surface Laptop Go is a little thicker than the Asus Zenbook 13 UX325EA (2.5 pounds, 0.5 inches) and slightly heavier than the Google Pixelbook Go (2.3 pounds, 0.5 inches).
The Surface Laptop Go packs both USB-A and USB-C ports, plus a 3.5 mm headphone jack on its left side. I’d normally think that was a little light, but on the right side, you’ve got a Surface Connect port for powering the Surface Laptop Go, meaning your USB-C port is free for whatever accessories you want to add.
The Pixelbook Go only has dual USB-C’s, and you’re going to use one for charging. The ZenBook 13 offers a strong selection, with one Type-A port, a microSD card slot, HDMI, dual Thunderbolt 4 ports, but it lacks a headphone jack.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Display
The Surface Laptop Go’s 12.4-inch 1536 x 1024-pixel display is a mixed bag. Its 3:2 aspect ratio is great for reading the web and working in documents. Unfortunately, its sub-Full HD resolution, which is 148-ppi, isn’t as pixel-dense as the 166-ppi Pixelbook Go and Asus ZenBook 13. If you squint, you may be able to tell that this display isn’t as sharp as your average Full HD display, but I’m not sure many will notice without looking for it.
Watching a clip from The Boys season 2 on the Surface Laptop Go, I noticed that the show’s slightly-tweaked colors reproduced correctly. Homelander’s red-white-and-blue cape appeared with the correct darkness, and the beams shooting from his eyes hit with a proper mix of red and white. But as I took photos of the Surface Laptop Go for this review, I noted a lot of myself in the reflections from the screen.
According to our Klein K10-A colorimeter, the Surface Laptop Go produces 103% of the sRGB spectrum, a respectable rate that beats the 91% mainstream laptop average. It’s slightly below those of the Zenbook 13 (108%), Pixelbook Go (108%), but not to a point where I’d deduct points.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go doesn’t really match up on brightness, maxing out at 319 nits, which isn’t as bright as the 370-nit Zenbook 13 or the 368-nit Pixelbook Go. Still, it beats the 303-nit mainstream category average by a slight margin. That being said, if this panel got a bit brighter, I’m sure the aforementioned reflection wouldn’t have been so noticable, and that it would have a wider range of viewing angles, as the panel darkens at around 35 degrees to the left and right.
The Surface Laptop Go’s 12.4-inch touchscreen display provided snappy reaction times to my taps and swipes as I adjusted Windows and opened the Start menu and Action Center.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Keyboard and touchpad
While its keys are a little smaller than you get with most other laptops, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go offers a joyous typing experience. Each key quietly clicks down under pressure, making the Surface Laptop Go perfect for typing around others. The keys offer a pleasant, but subtle, amount of feedback as well.
Taking the Surface Laptop Go for a spin on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, my first score of 69 words per minute was a little below my 80wpm average. But with a little practice, I got pretty close, clicking at 77 words per minute. I attribute the learning curve to the size of the keys, which are 0.6-inch squares, whereas I’m primarily used to typing on the 0.7-inch square keys of the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
The Surface Laptop Go’s 3.9 x 2.6-inch trackpad accurately registered my input as I navigated around the desktop. It also speedily responded to Windows 10’s navigation gestures.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Audio
The Surface Laptop Go’s speakers (which emit sound from under the keyboard) sound pretty great, and much better than you’d expect from audio coming through your keys. As I listened to Rage Against the Machine‘s Guerilla Radio, and the rest of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 12 soundtrack, I noticed that Zack de la Rocha’s vocals came through clear, while the guitar riffs, drums and synths all sounded accurate and correct. The Surface Laptop Go also produces solid bass, as I heard on A Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It?
The Surface Laptop Go gets loud enough for my medium-sized home office, but even at max volume I couldn’t hear much sound in adjacent rooms.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Performance
I got some decent multitasking speeds out of the Surface Laptop Go’s 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor and 8GB of RAM. When I split the Surface Laptop Go’s screen between a dozen Chrome tabs and a 1080p YouTube video, everything stayed snappy and responsive, even as I played an album from Spotify in the background. That being said, those who buy the entry-level 4GB Surface Laptop Go should probably get ready to manage their tabs a little more than I did.
On the Geekbench 5 overall performance benchmark, our Surface Laptop Go notched a middling 3,117, which is less than the 3,662 mainstream notebook average, but beats the 1,356 from the Google Pixelbook Go (Intel Core i5-8200Y, 8GB of RAM). The more-expensive Asus Zenbook 13 UX325EA (11th Gen Core i7-1165G7 and 16GB of RAM) did much better, landing a score of 5,084.
The 256GB SSD in the Surface Laptop Go — which is half of why you’re paying more for the model we tested — copied 25GB of various multimedia and productivity files in 1 minute and 41 seconds, for a rate of 266.31 MBps. That’s well below the 411.6 MBps mainstream category average, and speedy 1TB M.2 PCI 3.0 SSD in the Asus Zenbook 13 (583.6 MBps).
The bad news continued on our Handbrake video test, where we time how long a laptop needs to convert a 6.5GB 4K video to 1080, with the Surface Laptop Go taking 25 minutes and 55 seconds, more than 25% longer than the 20:19 mainstream laptop average.
On the 3DMark Fire Strike graphics test, the Surface Laptop Go’s integrated Intel UHD graphics chip (an aging component) performed about where I expected, with a 1,229 that’s a fraction of the 3,228 mainstream laptop average. The new Intel Xe graphics helped the Asus Zenbook 13 (4,407) do better.
When we ran Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm on the Surface Laptop Go, it ran at an unplayable 9 fps, and that’s at the laptop’s 1536 x 1024 native resolution, less than the 14fps category average (also below our 30 fps smoothness threshold). The Asus Zenbook 13 (21 fps) did better (but not good enough) at 1920 x 1080p.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Battery Life
I’ve got some bad news for those wanting to spend lots of time with the Surface Laptop Go untethered. While Microsoft rates the Surface Laptop Go for up to 13 hours of life on a charge, the Tom’s Guide web surfing battery test drained it in 7 hours and 31 minutes. That’s about an hour and a half less than the 8:42 mainstream laptop average. The Asus Zenbook 13 (13:47) and Google Pixelbook Go (11:29) lasted longer.
Microsoft’s claims of better battery life involve the Surface Laptop Go being in Windows 10 S Mode, and involve a varied set of usage, including standby mode.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Webcam
The Surface Laptop Go’s internal 0.9-megapixel/720p webcam is about average for the world of laptops. You’ll look better well-lit, but photos I shot in both natural light and in my secluded desk space had the same grainy quality, where I only clearly saw errant split ends than any detail in my actual hair. My skin tones are reproduced relatively clearly in both shots.
My main frustration is that it doesn’t have the 1080p webcam that’s inside the Surface Go. I don’t know why Microsoft made this decision — the Surface Go is cheaper — but the Surface Laptop Go has thinner bezels, and it might have been harder to fit a better webcam in.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Heat
After we streamed 15 minutes of Full HD video on the Surface Laptop Go, it started to get a little warm. Our heat gun registered temperatures on its keyboard and underside (96 and 116 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively), that exceeded our 95-degree comfort threshold. Its touchpad (82.5 degrees) stayed cool.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review: Verdict
I love the Surface Laptop Go as the sleek mid-range laptop that it almost is. You can get its great keyboard, elegant chassis and decent performance at a respectable price — if you choose the 699 model. Its display isn’t bright enough, nor does its battery last as long, though, for the 900 model to make sense for most folks.
Those who are looking to spend that much should check out the 949 Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA, which beats the Surface Laptop Go on performance and endurance, giving you the proper bang for your buck (unless you want a headphone jack).
All in all, this Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review gets a lot of things right, but the battery life could be better. It’s a good productivity laptop for a reasonable price.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Battery Life, Thermals And Review Conclusions
For battery life testing of the new Microsoft Surface Laptop Go, we ran a custom 1080p HD video loop test developed in-house, to prove out endurance versus our test group of laptops in our database. In all tests, Windows 10 Quiet Hours has been enabled and the displays are calibrated with lux meters on pure white screens to as close to 115 lux as possible. For the average laptop this is somewhere between a 40-60 percent brightness setting.
While we couldn’t get inside easily to look at the battery’s markings, the ever-trusty HWMonitor was able to derive that the battery is rated for 39.7 Watt-hours, around 20% lower than many 13 notebooks we test, including several members of the XPS 13 and ThinkPad X1 lineup. With that in mind, the system performed respectably on battery, surviving well over six hours of video playback. That’s right in the middle of the pack despite the Surface Laptop Go’s relatively diminutive power pack size, which works out to being generally efficient on the whole. That small battery is obviously part of the reason why the system is so lightweight, too.
The Surface Laptop Go comes with a 39W AC adapter which uses Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect port on the right side of the laptop. Rather than rely on friction to hold the connector in place, the system uses magnets. This can be very useful if someone trips on the cord, since the magnet should pull out of the laptop before the PC comes tumbling down to the floor. After we had totally drained the Surface Laptop Go, the charger was able to get it back to full power in about 90 minutes.
Surface Laptop Go Thermal And Cooling Performance
The Surface Laptop Go is actively cooled, but when the system is idle, the fan can spin down entirely. That’s a good thing, because when the fan spins up, it can get loud enough to grab attention and high-pitched enough to be slightly annoying. While many systems push plenty of air with just a whirring sound from air rushing between their heat sink fins, the Surface Laptop Go whistled while it worked.
In fact, browsing the internet with a small handful of tabs open, the fans hardly spun up. After around 30 minutes of YouTube videos, we could hear the fan working, but it wasn’t anywhere near full volume and didn’t really get annoying at that low speed. It was only when we pushed the system harder did fan noise start to become a factor.
Temperatures under load were manageable
To push the system to its limit, we fired up Cinebench R20 and monitored internal temperatures with HWMonitor. In addition, we also checked out fan noise with our trusty sound meter and measured Surface (heh) temperatures with our handy laser thermometer. To really make the system work, we had to run multiple Cinebench runs until thermals and performance leveled out. After two runs, we’d done just that, but we ran Cinebench two more times just to be certain.
Surface Laptop Go Thermal And Acoustic Testing Under Duress
For a performance profile, the first run was around 1,130, as our benchmark result recorded. A second run immediately following saw performance drop off around 12%, down to an even 1,000. A third and fourth run of Cinebench R20 didn’t vary much, with each subsequent run resulting in a score of around 990. At that point we figured the system had bottomed out from a performance perspective. After around 10 minutes of cool-down, performance returned and the score popped up over 1,100 once again. The Surface Laptop Go’s cooling system does its job both over the long haul and with respect to returning thermals to nominal levels after being taxed.
Early on in the first run, the Surface Laptop Go’s Core i5-1035G1 temperatures would peak in the mid-90 degrees Celsius range while peaking at 3.4 GHz. Soon after that high, the frequency dropped down to 2.6 GHz. However, that burst of energy quickly faded as the system favored longevity over peak performance. It seems Microsoft tuned the cooling system and processor performance to favor quiet and cool over absolute performance, a decision we agree with. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter where on the power profile slider the system was set; this behavior was quiet consistent throughout testing.
Over the remainder of the first run, temperatures actually dropped down into the mid-70s Celsius and held there throughout two more Cinebench runs. To keep temperatures lower, the CPU dropped down all the way to 1.8 GHz for two more subsequent runs while temperatures held steady. The surface temperature never really got out of control, though, and we measured 101 degrees F (38.3 degrees Celsius) on the outside, and it never really increased higher than that.
To keep the temperatures lower, the fan ran at full blast. Despite the whiny characteristic, it wasn’t really all that loud. Our sound meter only registered 43 to 44 dBA around 20 from the display. That’s loud enough to be heard, but not so loud that we couldn’t hear our own thoughts. It’s certainly not the volume of the Surface Laptop Go’s fan that bothers us, it was the pitch of its fan noise. Beyond that, we really can’t complain too much because overall acoustic output here is still relatively modest.
While, we’d like a bit less whine with our Cinebench, that’s not a load we’d run on a laptop very often and as a result we don’t think people will run into it all that often. Gaming is amore likely scenario where the fans can really spin up and get annoying. To be certain, the fan can be heard over game sounds, but headphones go a long way towards fixing that.
Surface Laptop Go Performance Overview
Despite its low to mid-budget price, the performance of the Surface Laptop Go was impressive. The Intel Core i5-1035G1-powered system never beat out a Core i7-equipped machine of course, but in this price range it doesn’t have to. What the system needed to do was provide plenty of productivity pop, and that it did. This isn’t the fastest web browsing machine on the planet or the most adept PCMark-busting productivity laptop, but the price to performance ratio hits a sweet spot on the curve. The Surface Laptop Go’s price is aggressive enough that it’s hard to object too much with respect to its lower-end performance.
While Microsoft‘s justification for skipping Ryzen seemed to throw a bit of shade at Renoir, we can’t help but note the poor 3D performance. The integrated Radeon GPU in a Ryzen 5 4600U would, for example, have been enough to make the system a nice casual games machine. Unfortunately, whether it’s a product of Intel integrated graphics, or just adequate system memory, the Surface Laptop Go was incapable of playing some lighter duty Gears Tactics, and didn’t turn in playable frame rates in either of the games we were able to test. We didn’t expect to be able to game much on the Surface Laptop Go, however, and best to set your expectations on light-duty, casual gaming best.
Surface Laptop Go Review Summary And Conclusions
The Surface Laptop Go is a very interesting notebook not for its performance, but for its industrial design, form factor and price. Microsoft put together a very handsome-looking laptop with a premium anodized aluminum lid and keyboard deck. Between the more squared-off display aspect ratio of its 12.3 display and the laptop’s diminutive footprint, it kind of reminded us of an updated, colorful version of Apple’s 13 PowerBook G4 in a classy aluminum-clad sort of way. The Surface Laptop Go is built from a classic formula that never went out of style.
That classy chassis could fool us into thinking it was a much more expensive ultra-portable notebook, too. While the 549 base model with its 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of eMMC storage won’t knock anybody’s socks off, it’s enough performance to justify the price. Better still, the 699 step-up model’s 8 GB of memory will ensure that the system is viable for years to come while its 128 GB of NVMe storage will speed up anything that relies on the disk. In this case, the price increase is quite justified.
We just have a much harder time swallowing another 200 for 128 GB of extra storage without any other benefits. Surely Microsoft could have endowed the system with 16 GB of memory (or otherwise a bigger SSD) for a laptop that costs 899. For instance, a 256 GB NVMe SSD only costs 1/3 of that at retail, and we know manufacturers aren’t paying retail for components in laptops. At 900 we would be tempted to look at a Lenovo ThinkPad X13 with the same memory and storage, but sporting a nicer 1080p display and more graphics horsepower in the Ryzen 5 4650U instead.
For 100 less, the 256 GB version of the Surface Laptop Go could have been a huge win for Microsoft, but in the end we think most users would be better off saving some cash and getting the 128 GB model at 699. There’s enough performance on tap and storage for the apps most people need without breaking the bank on a high-end portable. For that reason, we’ll tip the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go with our Recommended Award. Just keep in mind that we think its midrange configuration is the best value in the Surface Laptop Go line-up, for most people other than power users.