Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: cheaper, faster, better compact notebook

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The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 pictured half open on a table.

Microsoft’s second attempt at a less expensive Surface Laptop is faster, quieter, and less expensive while maintaining all of its positive attributes.

Depending on the variant, the Surface Laptop Go 2 starts at £529 ($599/A$1,099), which is between £20-£170 less expensive than the original model. Even though the entry-level model has been upgraded with contemporary components, it is still more expensive than a laptop that is truly affordable.

The original’s strong points have been kept. It features a fantastic, nearly full-sized keyboard and a sizable, accurate trackpad. Despite being on the smaller side, the 12.4-inch LCD touchscreen is nevertheless highly functional for work because of its taller 3:2 ratio compared to widescreen notebooks.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 pictured half open on a table.
The Laptop Go 2 looks great in the new ‘sage’ color, with an aluminum lid and deck, but a 30% recycled plastic bottom. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Though not too bright and clearly less crisp than higher-resolution competitors, including Microsoft’s other devices, the display has acceptable colors and contrast. Uncomfortably, the keyboard lacks backlighting. Although it is absent from the most affordable model, the fingerprint sensor in the power button is good.

An upgraded 720p webcam located above the screen, together with a top-notch microphone, allows for clear video calls. The speakers are strong and suitable for watching brief videos, but they cannot take the place of even a low-cost speaker for music.

Specifications

  • Screen: 12.4in LCD 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI)
  • Processor: quad-core Intel Core i5-1135G7 (11th generation)
  • RAM: 4 or 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB or 256GB SSD
  • Graphics: 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 x 205.67 x 15.69 mm
  • Weight: 1,127g
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Faster and cooler performance

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

Although competitors are now employing 12th-generation Intel chips, 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 percent faster than the prior model.

The Laptop Go 2, which was tested with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, is undoubtedly competent for a little machine and operated noticeably quieter and cooler than earlier models. While moving between the browser, text editor, and messaging apps is quick, making intricate modifications to huge image files takes a little longer.

Battery life is dismal, much like with its predecessor. Only 6.5 hours are spent working on it, mostly in browsers, doing simple text editing, and utilizing different chat programs. Using a video call while in the browser depleted the battery at a rate of 1% per minute. The battery life may be sufficient for sporadic usage as a portable computer, but you should also bring a charger just in case.

The Apple MacBook Air lasts more than 16 hours with heavier workloads compared to the Laptop 4’s more than eight hours.

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Sustainability

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

Microsoft does not provide an expected lifespan for the battery but it should last in excess of 500 full charge cycles with at least 80% of its original capacity and can be replaced by Microsoft for £203.94. The SSD is removable and several replacement parts and a service guide are available for repair technicians. The out-of-warranty service fee for the Laptop Go 2 from Microsoft is £339.06.

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

Windows 11 Home

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

The Laptop Go 2 is powered by Windows 11, which, like other Surface devices, is free of trials for anti-virus software and other unwanted programmes that can frequently create issues, with the exception of a trial version of Microsoft Office that comes pre-installed.

It functions flawlessly on the machine, free of problems like sleeping problems or other annoyances frequent in Windows PCs made by third parties. Windows 11’s more contemporary design and user interface work nicely on the small laptop, and many of the program’s sharper edges have been rounded off during the past year of updates.

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Price

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

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

Verdict

In almost every respect, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is an improvement over its predecessor. It is more affordable and, most significantly, quicker. It also runs cooler and quieter and has a better webcam. Although it is still not a “cheap” machine, the pricing is more reasonable given what it offers.

It still does a terrific job of meeting the requirements for a sturdy, small laptop: superb keyboard and trackpad, reliable performance, and quick charging. Although the screen seems nice, it isn’t as sharp or bright as I would want. The major issue is the rather short battery life; the best can last three times as long.

Few compact laptops are as usable and well made. Despite a few flaws it is worth considering, but note the starting £529 model has a tempting price, but only 4GB of RAM, which is really not enough for more than very light use.

Pros: solid performance, fairly quiet, good keyboard and trackpad, good webcam and mics, fingerprint scanner in mid-or-high model, USB-C, nice look, solid build, recycled material, modular components.

Cons: weak battery life, no backlit keys, screen not that crisp, video calls eat battery

The lid of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2.
The aluminium lid and solid build feel more luxurious and premium compared with some competitors. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian