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Surface Laptop Go review: Microsoft delivers a decent budget PC

The Surface Laptop Go is Microsoft’s second try at an affordable Surface, and it hits the mark better than the original Surface Go tablet did. It still offers compromises, with strategic cuts to keep the price competitive with a Chromebook. Still, they’re mostly smart decisions—even a sub-1080p display and Windows 10 in S Mode didn’t turn us off. Although the Surface Laptop Go lacks the easy expansion of some competing laptops, it’s otherwise a solid budget offering.

Still, be picky in what you consider buying. We wouldn’t recommend the Surface Laptop Go’s minimum $549 configuration, but the middle $699 option (which we didn’t test) seems like the best bang for the buck. At $899, the 12.5-inch Surface Laptop Go review unit we tested bobs up to the very top of the “budget” category, though it shows off this new product at its best. 

Mark Hachman / IDG

This photo highlights how visually interesting the new Ice Blue finish is: in the right light, the chassis can look either metallic or tend toward blue.

Surface Laptop Go: Specs and features

  • Display: 12.45-inch (1536×1024, 148 ppi, 330 nits rated) multitouch PixelSense display (Microsoft says there is no pen support.)
  • Processor: Core i5-1035G1
  • Graphics: UHD Graphics
  • Memory:  4GB-8GB LPDDR4x (8GB as tested)
  • Storage: 64GB eMMC, 128GB-256GB SSD (256GB SSD as tested)
  • Ports: 1 USB-C, 1 USB-A, Surface Connect, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Camera: 720p f2.0 (user-facing)
  • Battery: 39.7Wh (design), 41Wh (full charge)
  • Wireless: WiFi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home in S Mode
  • Dimensions (inches): 10.95 x 8.10 x 0.62 inches
  • Weight: 2.45 pounds
  • Chassis: Aluminum, with plastic resin
  • Colors: Ice Blue, Sandstone, Platinum
  • Price: Beginning at $549 (Microsoft), $899 as tested (Amazon)

Surface Laptop Go: Prices and configurations

All Surface Laptop Go models being selling October 13. Microsoft is offering overlapping configurations of the Surface Laptop Go for consumers, education, and business. The Business models upgrade the OS to Windows 10 Pro and offer (in supported markets) a $100 warranty service that includes expedited device replacement. Finally, Microsoft’s education channel offers an additional model not shown here. 

  • Core i5/4GB RAM/64GB SSD: $549 Consumer/Education (Platinum only)
  • Core i5/8GB RAM/128GB SSD: $699 Consumer/Education, $799 Business
  • Core i5/8GB RAM/256GB SSD: $899 Consumer/Education, $999 Business
  • Core i5/16GB RAM/256GB SSD: $1,099 Education, $1,199 Business

While that $549 starting price is appealing, the basic Core i5/4GB RAM/64GB configuration should probably be passed over in favor of more powerful options. The $699 Core i5/8GB RAM/128GB SSD (which we haven’t tested) appears to offer the most value of all the Surface Laptop Go configuration, especially when paired with Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage.  

It’s a better deal than our review unit, given the $200(!) premium Microsoft charges for an additional 128GB worth of storage. Unlike the Surface Pro X or Surface Laptop 3, the SSD does not appear to be user-accessible, leaving upgrades out of the picture.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go surface laptop go 15 inch surface laptop Mark Hachman / IDG

The Surface Laptop Go, nestled into the lap of the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3. My younger son uses Chromebooks, so what better place to show off the Surface Laptop Go than his desk?

Solid build quality

Our Surface Laptop Go review unit was the new Ice Blue configuration, which looks a lot less blue than Microsoft’s imagery would suggest. In fact, the chassis looks almost like the Sandstone color under the right light, but with a deeper blue paint coating the keyboard. The lid is made of anodized aluminum, but the keyboard deck and base are made of plastic resin, with 40 percent glass fiber and 30 percent post-consumer resin. It’s all designed to reduce weight while still maintaining rigidity. 

If it matters, Microsoft is using a different paint on top of the plastic resin of the keyboard, which gives it a different feel. (More on that in a bit.) The Laptop Go reclines to about the same angle as the other Surface Laptops, or a comfortable 50 degrees off of the horizontal. At 2.45 pounds, it feels light and comfortable in the hand.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go right side Mark Hachman / IDG

The Surface Laptop Go holds no surprises in terms of port layout: there’s a Surface Connector port on tie right side of the laptop…

The Surface Laptop Go isn’t afraid to spin up its fan, which is noticeable though not annoying, even in a quiet room. Other Surface Laptops pulled air in and then pushed it out through a hidden exhaust port in the hinge. Microsoft’s tweaked that, so that both the intake and the exhaust are hidden inside the hinge. I favor a brutalist approach—who cares what the bottom of a laptop looks like?—but perhaps Microsoft was worried about crumbs or dust. The Laptop Go doesn’t get hot, but it does stay warm for long periods.

Mark Hachman

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