Since 2012, Surface has led the way as the Microsoft PC brand. Microsoft Surface offers a range of premium notebooks, including the Surface Book, Surface Laptop, and as of earlier this month, the newest addition, the Surface Laptop Go. The Surface Laptop Go is Microsoft’s lightest and most affordable notebook it has ever launched at 2.45 pounds and starting at $549.99.
Surface notebooks are some of the industry’s most premium systems and usually sport $1000+ price tags to show for it. Before the Surface Laptop Go, Microsoft had never touched the market’s entry-level, which is systems under $600. The Surface Laptop Go is Microsoft’s first crack at the entry-level notebook market, and it is looking to provide exceptional design at an entry-level price. If you know anything about the notebook market, you know that cost-saving always comes with compromise. With the holidays approaching and schools and businesses continuing to operate remotely, the Surface Laptop Go could be well-positioned to sell boatloads throughout this fall. I spent a few days using the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go as my primary productivity device, and I wanted to share my thoughts. I also wrote about the recent updates to Microsoft’s Surface line, and you can access that here.
Build quality and initial thoughts
Out of the box, the Surface Laptop Go’s aluminum body feels premium. I immediately noticed that the device is thin, and the exterior is cool to the touch. It feels like what I have come to expect out of a Surface Laptop, ultra-premium, and excellent build quality. The Surface Laptop Go only 2.45 pounds and 0.62 inches thick when closed, which is impressive. My device came in the platinum color option, but it is available in Ice Blue and Sandstone color options. When I opened the notebook’s lid, I was surprised by the full-size keyboard and large precision trackpad. The precision trackpad was very accurate to the touch and provided a fair amount of feedback with each click. The keyboard had 1.3mm of key travel, and it was easy to type on. I was able to knock out this entire article while using the Laptop Go’s keyboard with ease. The power button on the keyboard’s top right also doubles as a fingerprint sensor for easy login. It took less than a minute to get my fingerprint scanned in and ready to use.
Dolby’s OmniSonic speakers were quite loud and rich, which is great because I wasn’t expecting great audio in a notebook at this price point. I’ve heard people in public blaring videos over the speakers of an entry-level laptop and, let’s say I have had more fun listening to someone hitting pots and pans together. I watched Netflix and streamed music on Spotify at any volume level, and it remained sharp throughout it all.
The display on the Surface Laptop Go is a 12.4″ PixelSense touchscreen display. It is bright, responsive, and almost borderless. I was able to scroll through webpages and click through videos with a high degree of accuracy. The display resolution is a bit of an odd one at 1536 x 1024, respectively, and I will say that the display looks more tall than wide. The display is a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is different from the typical 16:9 aspect ratio you will see on the average notebook. Nonetheless, it was great for a “mild” productivity use case like browsing the web, streaming, or using Office365 applications. I prefer 3:1 versus 16:9 for work.
The Surface Laptop Go also has a 720p webcam on the top of the display. Like most notebook webcams, the camera is good, but not great. I did appreciate the face tracking abilities of the webcam while I took a selfie. It will also work well for video conferencing applications. I want 1080P but then again this starts at $549 and even Apple at $1,999 are stuck with 720p.
All in all, my initial impressions of the Surface Laptop Go is that there is no way a notebook this sleek and premium starts at $549.99. The notebook feels like a mini version of the ultra-premium Surface Laptop. I see the Surface Laptop Go as Microsoft’s long-awaited bridge from entry-level laptop land to Surface’s premium designs. Anyone that is picking up this laptop is going to be happy with the look and feel.
The entry-level Surface Laptop Go configuration sports an Intel i5-1035G1 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB eMMC storage and costs $549.99. I’d consider this only versus a Chromebook. The mid-tier configuration has the same processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of SSD storage and costs $699.99. My loaner system came with an Intel i5-1035G1 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage and cost $899.99.
Through my standard productivity use case, I took my system through it, including 10+ browser instances, editing presentations in PowerPoint, analyzing data in Excel, writing articles in Word, and taking video calls on Teams and WebEx. The system performed well in my use cases, but I did encounter a high amount of RAM utilization on the notebook. I think any more strenuous use than what I was doing will result in a drop in performance. For the entry-level configuration, the system is more likely to be bottlenecked by RAM than CPU. There is plenty of CPU horsepower for anything you want to do on a notebook apart from rendering videos or playing demanding games. As for those worrying about the small amount of storage, you will likely have to resort to some cloud storage options for entry-level configurations after some use. My Surface Laptop Go reserved around 36GB of storage just to run Windows properly.
While I can’t speak to the Surface Laptop Go’s real entry-level performance, I can say that the system will likely compete with Chromebooks and bulkier Windows systems at the same price points. The difference is, although some of those systems may have slightly better specs and performance, none of them are going to provide a premium aluminum chassis that is sleek, thin, and weighs 2.45 pounds. The Surface Laptop Go will be one of the only systems at the $549.99 price point that will be able to boast a truly premium build quality.
Ports & I/O
The Surface Laptop Go has a fair amount of ports and I/O to support a productivity use case. It has a USB-A port, USB-C port, audio jack, and a charging port. There isn’t a ton of ports to work with here, but for an entry-level notebook to have both a USB-C and a USB-A port is excellent. A simple workaround for the small number of ports is to pair the Surface Laptop Go with a Surface docking station.
The Surface Laptop Go comes with an advertised 13 hours of battery life. I was getting closer to 9 hours of battery life on a typical workday, which was still plenty for a full day’s use. I mean this is really good. When I mixed in video streaming at a mid-level brightness setting, the battery life fell a little more to around 7 hours. For a system that weighs just 2.45 pounds, I am happy with the battery life I got while using the Surface Laptop Go. What the notebook lacks in battery life, it makes up for with portability. It is also worth mentioning that the Surface Laptop Go also supports fast charging and comes with a 39W power supply.
All in all, the Surface Laptop Go is the best budget laptop I have ever used. The system’s build quality is top-notch. It has an excellent keyboard and a bright, responsive display. In my mind, there isn’t much more you could ask for at the $549.99 price point. The Surface Laptop Go brings the Surface line’s premium look and feels to an affordable price point for the average consumer buying a notebook. Despite having limited RAM and storage in the entry-level configuration, I believe the Surface team hit it out of the park with the Surface Laptop Go. With a sleek and modern design, Surface is now addressing an utterly different notebook price point that historically lacks systems with the premium build quality. With the holidays approaching and school and work from home extending, I bet Microsoft will sell a ton of these notebooks this fall. Great work, Microsoft.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.
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