The Surface Laptop Go is a fantastic device at a super-affordable price. It offers decent performance and a comfortable keyboard that’s ideal for students, office workers and social media addicts alike. The low-resolution display means it isn’t the best for streaming Netflix, but it will be tough to find better value elsewhere.
- Incredible value
- Small and classy design
- Excellent performance
- Comfortable keyboard
- Low-resolution display
- No keyboard backlight
- No fingerprint scanner on base configuration
The Surface Laptop Go launched back in 2020, kickstarting Microsoft’s new budget range of Windows laptops.
With a 12.4-inch screen, it’s incredibly smaller than the average 13-inch ultrabook, but that only makes the device easier to carry to and from the office on your daily commute.
The Surface Laptop Go has been around for two years, with the newer Surface Laptop Go 2 since replacing it. But it still proves to be a fantastic value option, proving to be one of the best value student laptops available if you’re happy to settle for a basic productivity portable.
Price and availability
Microsoft is no longer selling the original Surface Laptop Go on its online store, focusing on the new Surface Laptop 2 instead. It’s also difficult to find on leading retailers such as Amazon.
But it is still available to buy in select stores. For example, Currys is offering the base model (64GB storage) for just £459, significantly undercutting the £529 starting price of the Surface Laptop 2.
I also recommend you look out for the Surface Laptop in big sales such as Prime Day and Black Friday. It’s the kind of laptop that retailers are keen to clear stock for given its age and popularity.
The Surface Laptop Go is one of the smallest laptops I’ve ever reviewed, measuring in at just 278mm tall and 206mm wide compared to the 308mm x 223mm dimensions of the Surface Laptop 5. This means it’s incredibly easy to slot in a rucksack, or even a handbag.
It isn’t quite as thin as high-end Ultrabooks, though, with Microsoft evidently feeding it too many sugary snacks. This also means it weighs 1.11kg, which is surprisingly hefty for such a small laptop. Nevertheless, picking it up with one hand and lugging it around town remains an effortless experience.
Microsoft says the base of the laptop is made of “polycarbonate composite resin system with glass fiber” – which is a posh way of saying plastic. Don’t let that deter you, however. The Surface Laptop Go still feels great next to the budget-feel of sub-£200 Chromebooks. The keyboard cover and top of the lid are both made of aluminium, ensuring a better build quality than most laptops at this price point.
Microsoft offers the laptop in three colour options – Ice Blue, Sandstone and Platinum – that all impress in their own right. The Blue option is my favourite, since it makes a refreshing change from the horde of blacks, greys and silvers sitting on the shelves of PC World.
The Surface Laptop Go features a decent selection of ports with 1 x USB-C (still no Thunderbolt), 1 x USB-A, a headphone jack and Surface Connect port. Personally, I’d rather see Microsoft ditch the Surface Connect port and opt for a second USB-C port, since its own proprietary cable would often slip out of place. But the offering here should just about be adequate for typical users.
The 720p webcam can be found nestled in the top bezel. Video quality is a little pixelated, but it’s adequate enough for Zoom calls. Microsoft has also introduced dual far-field studio microphones, which are well equipped to pick up your voice with clarity.
The speakers are located below the keyboard, which may sound like an odd placement, but it prevents the audio from being muffled by a desk. I watched a few episodes of Umbrella Academy on the laptop, and the audio was easily clear and loud enough for me to follow the dialogue without issue.
It would be fair to assume the Surface Laptop Go features a condensed keyboard due to its dinky proportions, but Microsoft has been able to fit in a full-sized unit. Of course, there’s no number pad – but it would be near-impossible to squeeze that in here.
The keys offer enough travel to ensure comfortable typing. In fact, I can’t think of another laptop at this price point that features such a well-made keyboard.
A fingerprint scanner has been embedded into the power button, which flashes a bright white when on the login screen. It’s incredibly responsive, making it very easy and quick to turn the laptop on in the morning. Unfortunately, the fingerprint scanner isn’t available on the base device, so you’ll need to pay at least £699 – which seems pretty harsh.
The biggest issue with the keyboard is the lack of backlight. This is an odd omission, even for a budget-friendly laptop such as this. But, so long as you don’t use it in the dark, you probably won’t notice its absence.
There isn’t much to say about the trackpad, other than it’s reasonably sized, super-responsive and satisfyingly smooth to the touch.
The Surface Laptop Go sees a 12.4-inch touchscreen display, which is one of the smallest you’ll find on a laptop these days. Personally, I didn’t find the size problematic, especially since it makes the laptop easier to stow in a bag. It was still perfectly big enough for watching Netflix, too.
The biggest issue with the display is its low resolution, coming in at 1536 x 1024. This is noticeably below the typical Full HD quality. As a result, pixels were noticeably visible when I was watching Umbrella Academy on Netflix, giving it an unflattering grainy look.
That said, I still enjoyed using the Surface Laptop Go for video streaming. The high 400-nit brightness and decent 1184:1 contrast ensured a punchy picture, while colours were accurately displayed with little to no distortion. The visible pixels are distracting, but there aren’t a great many Window laptops at the Surface Laptop Go’s starting price that look substantially better – although that certainly isn’t the case when you plump for the £899 configuration.
With a 3:2 aspect ratio, the Surface Laptop Go is best suited for productivity tasks. Its tall size means it’s well equipped for websites and social media, squeezing more text and images onto the screen than the typical 16:9 screen. The consequence of this is you’ll get black bars sandwiching video content on the likes of Netflix, further emphasising this isn’t the best laptop option for video purists.
The Surface Laptop Go sees the same 10th-Gen Intel Core i5 processor across all of the available configurations, with 4GB of RAM provided with the £549 model and 8GB of RAM featuring in the two pricier alternatives.
That’s incredibly outdated in 2022, with Intel on the verge of switching over to its 13th-Generation chips. It’s also a generation behind the 11th Gen chip inside the Surface Laptop Go 2. This all means the original Surface Laptop Go will be noticeably slower than other Windows laptops released in 2022.
Will that be a problem? It really depends on what kind of work you intend on doing. This laptop is well suited to basic productivity tasks such as web browsing, opening emails and running lifestyle apps such as Netflix and Spotify. But this laptop is not powerful enough for more intensive work such as editing video.
|Surface Laptop Go||Surface Laptop Go 2||Surface Laptop 5|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-1035G1||Intel Core i5-1135G7||Intel Core i7-1255U|
|Geekbench 5 Single Core||1205||1364||1206|
|GeekBench 5 Multi Core||3386||3899||6649|
It’s worth noting that the Go starts up in Windows 10 in S Mode. This operating system is very similar to ChromeOS in that it restricts downloads to the app store. This is useful for young students or grandparents who may accidentally download something malicious; but, otherwise, I strongly recommend you to take advantage of Microsoft’s free upgrade to full-fat Windows 10, since it’s more user-friendly and offers significantly more freedom.
Back to performance, I was disappointed by the SSD read and write speeds, coming in at 1956MB/s and 706MB/s respectively. This can result in slow boot up times, as well as longer waiting times for app installations.
I also think the SSD storage capacity is pretty stingy, with the base model offering only 64GB of space, which is pitiful. The £699 is a far better option with 128GB of storage capacity, but that still isn’t much room if you like to store your photo and video collection to the drive.
The Surface Laptop Go managed to last 8hrs 44mins in our battery test, which includes turning the brightness down to 150 nits and cycling though the PCMark 10 office benchmark test until shutdown.
This result is fine, but not spectacular. The Go surpassed its bigger and more powerful Surface Laptop 3 sibling and saw a similar result to the Honor MagicBook 14. This means it’s round about the norm for a Windows laptop at this price, getting you through a work day away from the mains.
It’s difficult not to compare this result to the MacBook Air, though, which is capable of lasting around 18 hours on a single charge.
Should you buy it?
You want a cheap and compact Windows laptop:
The Surface Laptop Go is one of the smallest Windows laptops you can buy, and is also available at a low price.
You want a powerful performance:
The Surface Laptop Go is packing an outdated processor, which is only really capable of basic workloads.
The Surface Laptop Go is a fantastic little laptop, hitting a price point we rarely ever see for a Windows 10 Intel-powered laptop.
Its dinky size and comfortable keyboard make it an absolute bargain for those who want an ultra-portable productivity machine; it’s ideal for students, office workers and social media snoopers.
However, the newer Surface Laptop Go 2 offers a faster performance at a similar price, and so is the better option for most people. But if you want a bargain, keep an eye out for the original Surface Laptop in future sales.
How we test
Every laptop we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, performance, screen quality and battery life.
These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real-world checks, such as how well it runs the most frequently used apps.
We also make sure to use every laptop we review as our primary device for at least a week to ensure our review is as accurate as possible.
Spent a week with the laptop.
Used benchmark tests and real-time use to judge performance.
Used professional equipment to test the screen quality.
Used benchmark software to test the battery life.
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The Surface Laptop Go launched in 2020, so is over two years old now.
Yes, the Surface Laptop Go is a laptop.