Review: Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2 has a lot of problems, but I like it anyway

enlarge / Surface laptop Go2 from Microsoft.

Andrew Cunningham

Anyone buying a Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 should be fully aware of the laptop’s shortcomings.

The first and most important is that the base model, the model that gives it its attractive $600 starting price, comes with just 4GB of non-upgradable RAM and should be ignored by pretty much everyone. Seriously, don’t buy it and don’t try to talk yourself into it just to save money.

Act like the actual starting price is $700, the amount it will cost to get the configuration with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This is still closer to “budget” than “high-end” as ultrabooks go, but the list of omissions, flaws, and weird decisions gets harder to overlook the more you spend. The generation-old processor. The keyboard without backlight. The small port selection. A touchscreen that is not particularly high resolution and also not very colorful. A 128GB SSD that will feel cramped to many people, and a 256GB option that (1) isn’t everything That much larger and (2) adds another $100 to the price.

None of these issues should be glossed over or ignored. But as frustrating as some of them may be, the fact remains that the Laptop Go 2 is a cute, lightweight, competent laptop that is a joy to use. Microsoft gets most of the important stuff here, and there’s no laptop in this price range that doesn’t come with some kind of compromise.

Especially if you can find it on sale — and the old Laptop Go was regularly discounted by Microsoft, Best Buy, and others who sold it — the Laptop Go 2 is an inexpensive budget laptop worth considering if you can live with its flaws.

Thoughtful design, minimalist features

The Surface Laptop Go 2 doesn't have a backlit keyboard, although the fingerprint reader mounted on the power button is a nice touch.
enlarge / The Surface Laptop Go 2 doesn’t have a backlit keyboard, although the fingerprint reader mounted on the power button is a nice touch.

Andrew Cunningham

Specifications at a glance: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2
Screen 12.4-inch 1536 × 1024 touchscreen (148 PPI)
OS Windows 11 Home
Processor 4-core/8-thread Intel Core i5-1135G7
GPU Intel Iris Xe Graphics Card (80 EUs)
Storage 128GB or 256GB NVMe SSD
Battery 41 Whr
Networking Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.1
Ports USB-A, USB Type-C, Surface Connect, 3.5mm Headphone
Mate 10.95 × 8.12 × 0.62 inches (278.2 × 206.2 × 15.7mm)
Weight 2.48 lb (1.12 kg)
Guarantee 1 year
Price as rated $799.99
Other benefits 720p webcam, fingerprint reader on power button in 8GB models

Externally, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is indistinguishable from the original. Microsoft has not changed the keyboard, trackpad, screen or chassis at all, but has only chosen to replace the internal parts. The only outward difference is the addition of a color called “Sage”, a faint green-tinted silver finish that complements the returning pink-toned Sandstone, blue-toned Ice Blue and non-tinted Platinum options. Weighing less than 2.5 pounds, it’s super easy to pick up and carry, whether you’re carrying it in a bag to travel or simply moving between rooms in your house.

If you’re not familiar with the original Laptop Go, here’s a quick summary: The laptop has a lightweight aluminum lid and palm rest, combined with a plastic bottom cover. The combination is lightweight and feels fairly sturdy, even if the thin aluminum feels a little more pliable than what you get with a MacBook, a Dell XPS, or Microsoft’s own more expensive Surface and Surface Laptop devices. The trackpad is on the small side, but it’s accurate and responsive. And while the keyboard isn’t backlit, the key spacing and travel both feel nice, and the fingerprint sensor mounted on the power button is a welcome addition.

The laptop’s biggest premise over other laptops in this price range is a 12.5-inch 1536×1024 display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, making it narrower but much larger than the 16:9 or 16:10 displays. in most ultrabooks. The 376-nit peak brightness of the display, the contrast ratio of 1,159:1 and the color gamut coverage (94 percent of the sRGB gamut, just 68.5 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut) are all fine for the price.

Screen brightness comparisons.  The Laptop Go 2 is on the lower end of things, but it's also a lot cheaper than most of the hardware here.
enlarge / Screen brightness comparisons. The Laptop Go 2 is on the lower end of things, but it’s also a lot cheaper than most of the hardware here.

Andrew Cunningham

But the screen isn’t quite as compact as a more typical 13.3-inch 1080p or 1920×1200 display (about 149 PPI, less than the mid-to-high 160s), which makes text look a bit erratic in comparison, especially in smaller sizes and lighter weights. But the screen size and aspect ratio are great for a laptop this small and light. If you happen to replace an older 11.6-inch 16:9 netbook-y budget laptop with the Laptop Go 2, the difference is night and day.

It’s harder to like the Laptop Go 2’s port selection, though it shares this shortcoming with the larger Surface Laptop. You get a single USB-A port, a single USB-C port, a headphone jack and the patented Surface Connect port – and that’s it. It’s nice to charge the laptop without blocking any of the USB ports, and it’s convenient to charge via the USB-C port if you need or want to. It’s only a minimal selection of ports, and we’d trade Surface Connect for a different USB-C port any day.

And while it doesn’t really make much of a difference in day-to-day use of the device, there’s something to be said for getting some of the perks of Surface ownership in a less expensive laptop. There are many Windows devices that cannot seamlessly remove UEFI firmware updates or other hardware/firmware-level security features through Windows Update, and most budget devices are lucky enough to get a lot of these types of updates. To Microsoft’s credit, budget-minded devices like the Surface Go or Surface Laptop Go are regularly updated.

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