Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: Cheaper, faster and better compact laptop | Microsoft Surface

Microsoft’s second attempt at a lower-cost Surface Laptop is faster, quieter, and cheaper than its predecessor, while still retaining all of its great features.

The Surface Laptop Go 2 starts at £529 ($599 / A$1,099) and costs £20-£170 less than the first iteration depending on the version. The starter model has been upgraded with modern components, which also makes it much more tempting, although it’s still mid-priced rather than a truly budget laptop.

The good bits of the original have been retained. It has a large, nearly full keyboard and a large, precise trackpad. The 12.4-inch LCD touchscreen is smaller but still very usable for work thanks to its larger 3:2 ratio than widescreen laptops.

The Laptop Go 2 looks great in the new “sage” color, with an aluminum lid and tray, but a 30% recycled plastic bottom. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The screen has good colors and contrast but isn’t too bright and noticeably less sharp than its higher resolution rivals, including Microsoft’s other machines. Unfortunately, the keyboard is not backlit. The fingerprint sensor in the power button is good, although it’s not included on the cheaper model.

Above the screen is an improved 720p webcam, which, combined with an excellent mic, allows for crisp video calls. The speakers are powerful and good for watching a quick video, but won’t even replace a cheap speaker for music.

Features

  • Filter: 12.4-inch 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI) LCD

  • Processor: Quad-Core Intel Core i5-1135G7 (11th Gen)

  • RAM: 4 or 8 GB

  • Storage: 128 GB or 256 GB SSD

  • Chart: Intel Iris Xe

  • Operating system: Windows 11 Home

  • Camera: 720P front facing

  • Connectivity: wifi 6 (ax), Bluetooth 5.1, USB-A, USB-C, headphones, Surface Connect, fingerprint sensor

  • Dimensions: 278.18×205.67×15.69mm

  • Lester: 1.127g

Faster and cooler performance

Ports on the side of Surface Laptop Go 2.
Laptop Go 2 fully charges with the included 39W Surface Connect Power Adapter in two hours, reaching 70% in one hour. It can also be charged via USB-C with a third-party charger up to 60W. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Laptop Go 2 comes with an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor and 4GB or 8GB of RAM, making it up to 23% faster than the previous version, although competitors are already using chips 12th Generation Intel.

As tested with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, the Laptop Go 2 is certainly capable enough for a compact machine, and ran noticeably quieter and cooler than previous versions. It’s quick to switch between browser, text editor, and email apps, but a little slow when doing complex edits on large image files.

As with its predecessor, battery life is disappointing. It only takes about 6.5 hours of work, mostly in browsers, basic text editing, and using various chat apps. Taking a video call in the browser hammered the battery, using around 1% per minute. The battery life might be enough for intermittent use as a laptop, but you’ll probably also need to carry a charger, just in case.

The Laptop 4 lasts over eight hours, while Apple’s MacBook Air lasts over 16 hours with more demanding workloads.

Sustainability

The Surface Laptop Go 2 keyboard and trackpad.
The keyboard and trackpad are excellent, while the new modular parts make it easier to repair. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Microsoft doesn’t provide an expected lifespan for the battery, but it should last over 500 full charge cycles from at least 80 per cent of its original capacity and can be replaced by Microsoft for £203.94. The SSD is removable and several spare parts and a service guide are available for repair technicians. The out-of-warranty service charge for the Microsoft Laptop Go 2 is £339.06.

The Laptop Go base contains 30% post-consumer recycled plastic. Microsoft runs recycling programs for older machines. It also publishes a company-wide sustainability report and a breakdown of each product’s environmental impact.

Windows 11 Home

Surface Laptop Go 2 showing the new widget panel in Windows 11.
Windows 11 is constantly improving and will be mostly familiar to Windows 10 users. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Laptop Go 2 runs Windows 11, which like other Surface devices is free of trials for antivirus programs and other unwanted software that can often cause problems, except for a pre-installed trial of Microsoft Office.

It works great on the machine with no issues such as inability to sleep or other issues often found on third-party Windows machines. Windows 11’s more modern style and interface suits the compact laptop well, and many of the software’s rougher edges have been smoothed over in the last year of updates.

Price

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 starts at £529 ($599/$1,099) with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage, £629 ($699/$1,199) with 8GB and 128GB or £729 ($799 $ / $1,299) with 8 GB and 256 GB.

For comparison, the Surface Laptop 4 costs £899, the Surface Pro 8 costs £849 and the Surface Go 3 costs £349. Similar models from Dell start at £500, the Framework laptop starts at £899 and Apple’s MacBook Air M1 is £999.

Verdict

The Surface Laptop Go 2 is an improvement over its predecessor in almost every way. It’s faster, runs cooler and quieter, has a better webcam, is easier to fix, and best of all, it’s cheaper. It’s still not a “budget” machine, but its price is more appropriate for what it offers.

It retains the basics of a compact, well-designed laptop: it has an excellent keyboard and trackpad, solid performance and fast charging. The screen is nice but not as sharp or bright as I would like. Relatively poor battery life is the biggest issue – the best ones can handle three times as long.

Few compact laptops are as usable and well-designed. Despite some flaws, it’s worth considering, but note that the £529 starter model is temptingly priced, but only 4GB of RAM, which really isn’t enough for more than very light use .

Advantages: solid performance, fairly quiet, good keyboard and trackpad, good webcam and mics, fingerprint scanner in medium or tall model, USB-C, nice looks, solid construction, recycled material, modular components.

The inconvenients: poor battery life, no backlit keys, screen not very sharp, video calls consume battery

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 lid.
The aluminum lid and solid construction feel more luxurious and upscale compared to some competitors. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Other reviews

Comments are closed.