Microsoft Surface Go: Not Good Enough & Not Cheap Enough

by Nicole on January 20, 2021
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
Positives
  • Compact and light
  • 3:2 aspect ratio
  • It has a real processor
Negatives
  • It's Expensive for what it is
  • No backlit keyboard
  • Low-resolution screen
  • Limited port selection
  • Fan can be very loud when pushed

Microsoft’s newest Surface device is a stripped down, dare I say cute, a little laptop. The “Go” is focused on it’s portability, not its power. The Surface Laptop Go won’t wow you by acing benchmark tests, I loaded Adobe Premiere and it sounded like it was getting ready for lift off. It eventually settled down to a reasonably loud volume rather than concerningly loud. I didn’t want to use the Go for editing, but changes came through on a project unexpectedly while on Christmas break and the Surface Go came through in a pinch.

It’s small and svelte, with clean lines and a nice solid feel, this sturdy feeling is something that’s rare at this price. The top is aluminum and the bottom is polycarbonate resin, which is stiffer and stronger than your typical laptop plastic.

It feels like a $1,000 laptop.

There are several compromises to keep the price down. The screen is not not even HD (1080p) resolution, it’s 12.4″ LCD with a resolution of 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI). That means text can appear slightly pixelated. The keyboard is not backlit, but provides a best in class typing experience like all Microsoft devices.

A bunch of little things also showed us it wasn’t the highend that the Surface line seemed to always stand for. The speakers are a bit tinny. The webcam is ok, but not as good as the Surface Laptop 3, which in business meetings these days really matters! It can be difficult to get the power connector to fit properly without lifting the laptop due to the angle of its side. This is a design moment that you know they would never stand for on their flagship product.

The Laptop Go ships with just one choice of processor, the 10th-generation Intel Core i5-1035G1 and a choice of 4 or 8GB of RAM, depending on the version. If you compare this to the Surface 3, it’s using a similar processor but with weaker graphics. The laptop is generally snappy, handling most tasks easily with similar performance to rivals, but note that the Intel chip is last-generation, not the current 11th-generation. It also runs hot, meaning the fans were frequently audible and the bottom became noticeably warm, particularly when updating.

Size and weight are the most noticeable advantages of the Surface Laptop Go. We think the series could be even smaller in the future since its bezels are still a bit thicker than most other subnotebooks including the XPS 13 or Spectre 13.

The Surface Go ships Windows 10 S Mode – which restricts what you can install, I got about 7 hours of battery life in this mode and in Window Home where I installed Adobe Premiere, I got about 6. We won’t look at battery life times when I exported that video, because I was definitely working plugged in to give it every advantage. In general, I was underwhelmed by the battery life.

Fully charging the Laptop Go with the included 39W Surface Connect power adaptor took 2 hours 15 minutes from dead, hitting 70% in a little over an hour. It can also be charged via USB-C with a third-party charger.

Windows 10 Home in S mode

The Laptop Go ships with Windows 10 Home in S mode, which restricts what you can install to apps from the Microsoft Store. Many more apps are available from the Microsoft Store, so some may be tempted to leave it in S mode. But if, like me, you need tools such as Google Chrome, you’ll need to switch to the standard Windows 10 Home experience, which takes just a few clicks in the Microsoft Store.

Windows 10 on the Laptop Go runs just like any other Surface, which is typically a good, bloat- and trialware-free experience. I’ve had fewer issues with Windows on Microsoft laptops than any other Windows 10 devices, which I why I tend to be loyal to the Surface Book line.

Still, if you like the portability of the Surface Go hybrid, but want the more traditional clamshell design, the Surface Laptop Go is an excellent option. There are three configurations available, all using the same Intel i5 chip, but varying in RAM and SSD size. The middle option is the best value, offering 8 gigabytes of RAM and a 128 gigabyte SSD. The low end model is $550, but only has 4 gigabytes of RAM, which won’t get you far these days.

Microsoft Surface Laptop
ComponentLaptop Go
CPUIntel Core i5-1035G1
4C / 8T 1.0-3.6 GHz
Gen 10 Graphics with 32 Eus
15W TDP
Memory4 / 8 GB LPDDR4x
16 GB LPDDR4x Available on Commercial Model
Display12.45-inch PixelSense
1536 x 1024 Resolution 148 PPI
3:2 Aspect Ratio
10-Point multitouch
Storage64 GB eMMC
128 GB or 256 GB SSDs
WirelessWi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
I/O1 x USB Type-C
1 x USB Type-A
Headset jack
Surface Connect
Webcam720p f2.0
BatteryUp to 13 hours
39-Watt adapter
Dimensions278 x 206 x 15.7 mm
10.95 x 8.10 x 0.62 inches
Weight1110 grams
2.45 lbs
[mg-amzlist type="search" search="Microsoft Surface Laptop Go"][/mg-amzlist]
Rating
Design / 8
Camera / 7
Performance / 7
Battery Life / 7
Software / 7.5
Price / 6
Editor's Choice / 8
Hardware / 7.5
Display / 7
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

The Microsoft Surface Go is a solid more affordable laptop than the rest of the Surface lineup.

It has many of the right elements: a great keyboard, good trackpad, nice look with amazing build quality and reasonable performance. But it also runs hot, has weak battery life, and the specs dont really make sense for the price, even if the performance is fine.

The entry model costing 649EUR has only 64GB of slow eMMC storage, 4GB of RAM and no fingerprint scanner. It should be avoided, 64GB is far too small for anyone. So the first usable device starts at 799EUR with 8GB (much more reasonable for 2021) and 128GB of storage. The version we tested had 8GB and 256GB for 999EUR, for what it is, that's too expensive. Considering you can get a Laptop 3 on sale for 980EUR, it is worth keeping an eye of for specials on the Laptop 3, rather than go for the Go. It's a substantially better machine, the Laptop Go is caught between not being good enough and not being cheap enough.

The Surface Laptop Go isn’t a bad machine by any stretch, it’s just not that good either, which is a real shame.

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