The Surface Laptop Go is Microsoft’s second time making a low-cost Surface. It is better than the first Surface Go tablet. The company made careful cuts to keep the price competitive with a Chromebook. These are all good decisions, even if the sub-1080p display and Windows 10 in S Mode didn’t turn us away. But not having an easy way to expand it makes this otherwise decent budget laptop.
Still, you do not have to pick the cheapest one. The Surface Laptop Go is not a good choice since it’s only $549. But the more expensive one, at $699, seems to be a better choice. We did not test this one but it looks like a good deal for that price. The review unit we tested cost $899 and had this new technology in it on high settings.
Surface Laptop Go: Specs and features
- 12.4in 1536×1024 PixelSense display, 3:2 aspect ratio
- Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor
- Intel UHD Graphics
- 4/8GB RAM
- 64/128/256GB storage (eMMC/SSD)
- Windows 10 in S mode (free upgrade to Windows 10 Home)
- 0.9Mp front-facing camera with face unlock
- Fingerprint scanner
- 1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, Surface Connect
- Wi-Fi 6
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Up to 13 hours battery life (quoted)
- Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
- Multiple color options
- Attractive styling and excellent build quality
- USB Type-A port
- Less-than-1080p display
- No face recognition camera or keyboard backlighting
- Internal storage tops out at 256GB
- Middling audio quality
Surface Laptop Go: Prices and configurations
Now the Surface Laptop Go is available. There are many versions you can get. Schools, companies, and consumers can buy a laptop that works best for them. The company models have Windows 10 Professional and a warranty service that will replace the device if there is a problem in some markets.
- 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
The starting price of $549 is tempting, but the entry-level Core i5/4GB RAM/64GB configuration should be avoided because it’s not powerful enough for what you need. We recommend the $699 Core i5/8GB RAM/128G SSD (which we haven’t tested) instead, especially when coupled with Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage.
If you buy a laptop with a lot of storage, it can cost more money. But if you buy this laptop, the extra storage is only $200. The Surface Pro X and Surface Laptop 3 do not have extra storage that we could see. That means we couldn’t upgrade it later on.
Solid build quality
The new Ice Blue Surface Laptop Go review unit that we supplied for this article was the newest Ice Blue model. It looked a lot different in reality than it did in photos. The keyboard deck and base are made of polyurethane resin with 40 percent glass fiber and 30 percent post-consumer waste, which reduces the weight while keeping it stiff. The lid is made of anodized aluminum.
It also looks like Microsoft switched to a different paint on top of the keyboard’s plastic resin, which gives it a distinct feel. (More about that later.) The Laptop Go reclines to about the same angle as other Surface Laptops or a comfortable 50 degrees off of the horizontal. It weighs just over 2 pounds and feels light and pleasant in your grasp.
The Surface Laptop Go is not afraid to spin up its fan if it is in a quiet area. Other Surface Laptops sucked air in before blowing it out through a concealed exhaust port near the hinge. Microsoft changed things so that both intake and exhaust are hidden within the hinge, according to PC Mag. I like a minimalist design—who cares what the bottom of the laptop looks like?—but perhaps Microsoft was concerned about crumbs or dust getting into the ports of their laptop. The Laptop Go does not get hot, although it does remain warm for lengthy periods.
One possible issue with the Surface Laptop Go is that it might not charge. The problem seems to be that the connector might not go in all the way, or dirt can get in it. You can tell if this is happening because there will be a light on the connector when it’s plugged in, but if there isn’t one when you look at your computer screen, then you might have a problem.
I told Microsoft about the problem, and then I used an older charger for my Surface. You can also charge the Surface Laptop Go through the USB-C connection or with a hub.
The new Surface Laptop Go has two features that make it different from other Surface or laptop computers. One is the lower-resolution display. The other is a fingerprint reader. Let’s take a closer look at each one separately.
Meet the new fingerprint reader
Microsoft was the first company to popularize biometric identification with Windows Hello. Microsoft has an outstanding depth camera, which can identify you and unlock your computer in a matter of seconds. Some other companies, use fingerprint sensors (like the Huawei Matebook X Pro).
This laptop has a power button that looks like a rectangle, but it hides the fingerprint reader. The landing pad is lit up with an LED light when the laptop is locked. I found that it worked as well as a depth camera.
If your finger is not in the right place, it will ask you to move it again. A fingerprint reader saves your print for a long time. If you press the power button with your finger, remove it, and still want to be logged in after the Surface Laptop Go finishes its quick boot cycle, then the fingerprint reader will work.
Fingerprint readers may get dirty after a while. They are like cameras that don’t recognize changes in my facial hair. One time, they wouldn’t let me in until I dried my hands on the doorknob. But Microsoft’s fingerprint system has some potential.
Is the Surface Laptop Go’s 1024p display worth it?
We found that the Laptop Go’s screen was not very good in our initial study. We also found that it has a resolution of 1536 x 1024 PPI, which is below 1080P. But we didn’t know if people with smaller screens would notice the difference when they use it.
Yes…and no. Working on a laptop with 720p is not ideal, but it is better than working on one with just 1080p. The Surface Laptop Go has the same number of pixels as an inexpensive two-inch laptop if you compare them by size.
In this part, you will see pictures of the Surface Laptop Go’s display. The images were taken with a camera from a phone. The size of the screen is different and that made it hard to take pictures. But I hope that these give some insight into what Surface Laptop Go is like to use.
You can’t see pixels with your eyes. When I look at clouds there are many different parts. The lower resolution of the screen slightly contradicts the smoothness of typefaces, showing their rough edges. If you compare to other screens like Surface Laptops or Surfaces, you’ll notice the difference more clearly.
The differences between the two screens are not as big as those seen on the Surface Pro 4 with a 1080p display. The brightness level of the Surface Laptop Go is 330 nits, which is greater than what we feel comfortable with. This helps when looking at text or images that have lots of small details.
This may be because the Surface is usually bright and colorful. Microsoft has adjusted the colors at their factory. Our 4K/60-fps YouTube test video looked fine, but since the Surface Laptop Go’s smaller, lower-resolution display limits it to 1536×864 pixels, YouTube only delivered a 1536×864 viewport.
The Surface Laptop Go had a good display and I liked it even more when I was connecting to my home’s 4K monitor. This is because the Surface Laptop Go has no technical problems and the wallpaper that Microsoft designed looked worse on a 4K monitor than it does on a regular one.
You can connect a single external display with the USB-C port. You need a USB-C hub that also has an HDMI connection if you want to use that type of display.
If you want to get more technical, I like having two displays on my laptop. One is 4K and one is 1080p. It can be done when you have the right type of equipment. The Surface Laptop Go will not work with 4K unless you use a USB-C hub or HDMI cables in some way. That might not be what people like to do, but it is possible.
The keyboard is nice to type on. The keys are springy. This means that they feel rubbery. I was not sure if there was anything different about the keyboard, but Microsoft said it has nothing special other than paint on top of the green stuff. It is comfortable to use and you cannot see the letters when it gets dark so you can type with lights off in your room at night.
The touchpad is one of the most important features of a laptop. This Surface Laptop Go has a really good touchpad, which is built into the laptop. I like it because my fingers always worked well on it. It’s easy to click and you need to push harder as you go higher up.
The Surface Laptop Go has speakers that are just as good as Microsoft’s other devices. The Dell Latitude 9510 and the XPS have rich, deep sound, but the Surface Laptop Go also has good sound. It is not too loud or too quiet. Dolby Atmos is available on some of Microsoft’s other devices called the Surface Book line.
The Laptop Go is a computer that does not have any speakers built-in. It has Dolby-enhanced speakers, but you can’t use them if you are listening to music or videos on the laptop’s internal sound system.
The Surface Laptop has a 720p camera. This is lower than 1080p cameras you can find in other Surface devices. But it is still good for photos. The Zoom calls will be acceptable too because Microsoft’s cameras are not available anymore. Microsoft did not include a sliding camera shield or button to disable the microphone as they have on other models before this one, but there are two near-field mics used for voice recognition instead.
Microsoft offers a Surface Laptop Go with Windows 10. But it is not loaded with bloatware, because it has no Candy Crush or other software that might slow down your computer. There are only two things pre-installed on the device – Spotify and Microsoft 365 Family. You can try Microsoft 365 Family for free for 30 days when you buy the Surface Laptop Go.
Microsoft has created an app called the Surface Diagnostic Toolkit. It is for finding any problems with your Surface, but it also tells you about what the apps do and how to find help. You can also find out how many times you have charged your battery and other important statistics.
What Windows 10 in S Mode means for you
Microsoft has made the Surface Laptop Go, which is like a Chromebook because it has Windows 10 S. This means that the Surface Laptop Go will only be able to download apps from the Microsoft Store. If you want to download apps outside of this store, for example for work or school, then you need to switch out of S Mode.
Even some Windows programs are disabled. For example, you can’t use the Command Shell. The only apps that you can use are those that Microsoft has approved. Antivirus software and other services that run because of this might also be disabled and not working.
Windows 10 S is not different than Windows on ARM. You may not be able to install some programs that you need.
Microsoft can’t put filters on the Store. When you open it, all Windows 10 PC software will show up. But the Surface Laptop Go isn’t a full-functioning PC. Many apps have a gray “Install” button and a tiny note that says they cannot be installed because it’s not a Windows 10 PC.
All things considered, this Surface Laptop has many applications and games. There is the Office suite, but also popular apps like Spotify. You can even play Minecraft for Windows 10 here. Minecraft Dungeons isn’t available yet though. Is there a Halo game on board?
However, there is a wrinkle. The option to Move to Windows 10 Home may be accessed in the Windows 10 Settings menu (Update & Security > Activation). Switching from Windows 10 S mode to Windows 10 Home is a one-way street that results in the loss of Windows 10 S protection. You will, however, have access to all.
In S Mode, Windows 10’s battery life is better. You can have a brighter battery with this mode of Windows 10. But the difference in the two modes has narrowed over time. The Go’s battery lasted a little bit longer in S Mode than it did when we switched to Windows 10 Home Mode.
Performance: Windows 10 in S Mode
We could not use our usual benchmarks for Windows 10 S. So we used browser-based tests instead. We tested a lot of products with Microsoft to see how they work. (To skip ahead to our testing of Windows 10 Home on a wider range of devices.)
WebXPRT tests are good for real-world purposes, both the current version and the old one. The tasks they test are modern, web-based operations. We have a big database of scores, but Principled Technologies has also published a ChromeOS-specific edition. Unfortunately, it requires ChromeOS to run. The Surface Laptop Go got a good score against the competition.
The JetStream benchmark tests how fast your browser starts up, how quickly it can execute code, and if it runs smoothly. The test was done on Chrome and the legacy Edge browser. These browsers have evolved which is why there are some differences. It’s still a good way to test website performance, though. If you compare these benchmarks to Chromebook competitors, they are an important standard.
The Speedometer measures how quickly websites react to different things people do, for example adding to-do items. The Surface Laptop Go got one of the best marks in this category.
To see how the Surface Laptop Go will work on a game, I played two games. One is a “tear everything down” game with minimal settings. The other is a simple tank simulation that ran at 60 fps when it had Medium settings turned off.
I found some things about this computer annoying. One of the things was that there was very loud fan noise. This sounds like a plane taking off when starting a large download. Lots of new computers are not noisy, so, strangely, Microsoft didn’t make an improved way to keep this laptop cool. It never gets too hot to touch, but at what cost?
Windows 10 is a great OS. The computer has Windows 10 Home. This means you can’t install other apps from somewhere else, but it’s easy to switch to Windows 10 Home from the Microsoft Store. I would recommend switching as soon as possible unless you want to give the device to kids or students.
Performance: Windows 10 Home
In the real world, the Surface Laptop Go is a great computer for you to do school work at home. You can use it for Zoom and Teams conversations, streaming video, messaging coworkers, and more. It was really easy to use!
Benchmarks resume after I switched out of S Mode. You can do activities like word processing, data manipulation within spreadsheets, videoconferencing, and more on the Surface Laptop Go. We use UL’s PCMark 8 tests to measure these benchmarks. The PCMark 8 Work suite was used to calculate these measurements. We also use the Creative test suite to add in light and mainstream gaming, as well as more complex photo and video editing. In terms of performance, the Surface Laptop Go ranked near the middle among its rivals.
Maxon’s Cinebench benchmark tests the Surface Laptop Go. The benchmark stresses all four cores and eight instruction threads of the Surface Laptop Go’s Core i5 processor, assigning each thread a small portion of a complex 2D image that the software renders. The Surface Laptop Go does not do as well as other laptops in this test but doesn’t score very low.
The HandBrake benchmark is different from the Cinebench sprint. Converting a Hollywood film takes time—more than an hour, in this case—and it can show how well your laptop can handle extended loads. Here, processing power is important, as well as how cool the laptop remains while it’s operating. The Surface Laptop Go placed last in our middle-class laptops list and we measure this with a score that tells us how long, in seconds, the conversion will take and lower numbers are better.
There are many tests to evaluate a laptop’s graphics. We use a test called Sky Diver, which is for laptops with integrated graphics. The Surface Laptop Go’s high-definition GPU isn’t powerful enough to achieve a good score, so the mid-range score is fine.
Finally, we tested the battery life. In a 4K video, we played it until the computer’s battery ran out. The screen was 150 nits light. That is less than what I think is acceptable.
The Surface Laptop Go is good for its size. It lasted 495 minutes (8 hours, 15 minutes) in Windows 10 Home. We tested the battery before we switched to Windows 10 S and it was a little better at 521 minutes (8 hours, 41 minutes). If that isn’t enough, the Surface Laptop Go includes rapid charging which Microsoft claims will charge the battery to around 80% in an hour. In about an hour, according to Windows’ battery meter, the Laptop Go went from 4 percent to 54% and from 4 percent to 82%.
The laptop battery life is not very good. Microsoft does not say how long it lasts, but says that “you can use your laptop for up to 13 hours straight.”
I streamed 1080p videos for ten hours and 47 minutes. I didn’t move my laptop at all. It is not like people spend their days working on one thing, so it’s ok if the brightness is lower than 120 nits (63%).
During my typical workday, which includes a lot of internet surfing, email, word documents, and Slack, I struggled to complete a full 7 hours without the need for a recharge. But you may be able to squeeze out a little more time if you optimize battery life by having it set to “better performance.”
If you are using the Surface Laptop Go as a laptop, then make sure that you have an electric plug near where you are going. If your laptop is not plugged in and it runs out of power, it will stop working. I was able to use the 39W adaptor to get 37% of battery power in 30 minutes. That equals about 2 hours and 40 minutes with a full charge.
Price and value for money
The Surface Laptop Go has a lot of things to consider. I will talk about it in the Hardware and Performance section. On all of the versions, you get an i5 processor and UHD graphics. The RAM and storage vary depending on the version of the laptop.
The price of the advertised phone is not including 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. So you have to spend more money on a better phone if you want it. The high-end 8 GB / 256 GB device I tested will cost you around £899 / US$899.
The Xbox One X is the most powerful console. You can get it for £809 in the Microsoft Store, but you can also get it for £764 on Amazon.
The Surface Laptop 3’s most affordable configuration costs £999. This is only £100 more than the price of other laptops in our chart. It is a tough decision to sell your laptop.
Unless you are satisfied with the entry-level model, you will get better value for money somewhere else.
Conclusion: Good, not great
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go is a good laptop for your budget. But it’s not the best. AMD’s mobile Ryzen is better than Intel and its partners’ Tiger Lake devices.
Some people on the Amazon website are grumbling about how hot it is. But this Acer Swift 3-SF314-42-R9YN is still affordable, and even if they complain about the website, it shouldn’t stop you from buying it. The Motile M142 from Walmart was also pretty good at $500. Costco has an option for the Acer Spin 3 which costs $650; it’s better than the Surface Laptop Go and less expensive too.
You should read all of the reviews that we have on our website. We recommend a specific configuration. It is $699 and has 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD memory.
Microsoft is trying to sell the Surface Laptop Go as one of the “every day, everywhere” laptops. I think there will be an “every day, everywhere, everyone” laptop someday. Right now Microsoft is selling the Surface Laptop Go. It is on track to be that kind of laptop.
Surface Laptop Go 2021
Intel Quad-Core i5-1035G1, 4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC, Webcam, Win 10, Bluetooth, Online Class Ready - Platinum
Product Brand: Microsoft
Product Currency: USD
Product Price: $619.00
Product In-Stock: InStock