Reviews

The Surface Laptop Go is a fantastic surprise

With a touchscreen, a great keyboard, and a real OS, Microsoft's $700 Laptop Go is the new college laptop. It's a way better value than an iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard combo that costs $1,350.

Baby Surface Laptop

What's there even to say? The Surface Laptop Go is a smaller version of the 13-inch Laptop 3, which is a smaller version of the 15-inch Laptop 3 I reviewed last year. If you like small gadgets and you like them to be as minimal as possible — there's no gimmicky flippy hinges or tacky materials here — you'll like the Laptop Go.

2.45 LBS

The Surface Laptop Go is lighter than a 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard and a 12-inch MacBook.

The top cover is made of aluminum. It's pretty sturdy, but there is a small amount of flex if. I've been testing the "Ice Blue" version, but the laptop also comes in Platinum (silver) and Sandstone (pinkish gold).

The base is made of a "hybrid polycarbonate composite resin system with glass fiber and 30 percent consumer recycled content" (Microsoft's words). Translation: it's smooth with a little bit of grip and it repels fingerprints (me likey).

There's no better proof the Laptop Go is well-made than the "can you open it with one finger without lifting the whole thing up" test. The Laptop Go passes with flying colors.

Fast fingerprint reader

The power button also hides a fingerprint reader. It lights up as soon as you open the lid and unlocks quickly. It rarely failed to read my fingerprint.

Touchscreen

The 3:2 aspect ratio display measures 12.45 inches (1,536 x 1024). It's not the sharpest display and it doesn't get very bright. The viewing angles are also not great if you don't look at it from the center, but it is a touchscreen!

I like that the bezels on the top and sides are relatively thin. However, it took me a few days to get used to the rounded display corners. It's strange when the windows in Windows 10 aren't rounded off to match.

Turn S Mode off

The Laptop Go comes with Windows 10 S Mode turned on. I recommend turning it off and upgrading to Windows 10 Home for free. S Mode may be good for security (it only allows you to install apps from the Microsoft Store) and battery life, but it also limits what you can do with your computer.

Good enough power

I didn't mince words when I said the Surface Go was "a terrible iPad and a bad laptop." The Laptop Go is miles better and that's mainly due to its 10th-gen Intel Core i5 CPU. I've been testing the $899 model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD and performance is so much faster than the sluggish Surface Go. The $699 should perform exactly the same since it's also got 8GB of RAM.

It sounds silly, but you can actually run Chrome with a half dozen tabs and juggle multiple apps without Windows 10 having a meltdown. Of course, you don't get very powerful graphics so gaming of any kind beyond casual games like Solitaire is out of the question. But, oh thank god, regular laptop stuff works well!

The small volume does mean limited cooling, though. Heavy workloads will kick up the fan.

Terrific keyboard

As Apple is all too familiar with, a good keyboard is central to a good laptop. Thankfully, the keyboard on the Laptop Go is excellent. It's full size, there's a row of function keys instead of a gimmicky Touch Bar, and there's a solid amount of travel. It's a smidge stiffer than other Surface keyboards, but you won't notice unless you're comparing them.

The only downside... the keys aren't backlit.

This really sucks if you like to work in the dark like I do.

1.3mm

How much travel each key has.

Great trackpad

The trackpad is made of plastic instead of the glass on the Surface Pro and larger Surface Laptops. But don't freak: it's every bit as smooth and responsive. It's easily one of the better trackpads compared to what you'd get on other Windows laptops.

Ports are usually the first to go when smaller versions of devices are introduced. Microsoft wisely didn't cut any ports from the Surface Laptop 3. You get one USB-A, USB-C, and a headphone jack.

Trip-proof

On the right side is a Surface Connect port. This port rules. Not only because the charging cable attaches magnetically just like MagSafe (RIP) did on old MacBooks — which makes it klutz-proof — but because you can connect to a Surface Dock that hooks up to a display and adds more USB ports and ethernet.

6 HRS

Microsoft advertises up to 13 hours of battery life. Yeah... about that. Realistically, you'll get about 6 hours. Maybe 8 hours with lighter use.

The webcam is 720p. It's fine for most video calls. It works. It's nothing special.

Solid Surface

Whereas the Surface Go is — I'm sorry — trash, the Laptop Go is the affordable Surface that everyone's been waiting for. It's not as powerful as a Surface Pro 7 or a Surface Laptop 3 and that's okay because it doesn't cost as much.

Do not buy the $549 version. The limited 4GB of RAM and 64GB of slower eMMC storage (versus SSD in the other two models) isn't good enough for doing much. You will feel the slowness and hate yourself for not listening to me. The price may be tempting, but don't do it.

$699

This is the model you should get if you're considering the Laptop Go.

The $699 version is the sweet spot with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The $899 Laptop Go doubles the storage to 256GB, but I think that's way too expensive. If you need more storage, you can easily increase it with an external memory card (with an adapter, of course, since there's no built-in slot) or a hard drive. High-capacity external storage is dirt cheap these days.

$700 is still nothing to sneeze at for a laptop. Look hard enough and you can find laptops with better specs for about the same amount. But you also have to consider less-than-stellar keyboards, janky trackpads, bad speakers, and garbage webcams. Compared to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard, which totals up to $1,350, the $700 Laptop Go is a bargain and a better laptop, especially since it runs a proper desktop OS.

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