Surface Laptop Go 2 Review
With the back-to-school season kicking off, many are wondering what the best laptops and notebooks are. Regardless if you’re a student or looking for a new device to use while on the go, the price and form factor likely plays a large role. For me, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2 has quickly become a favoured device in this space.
Modern laptops can provide quick a lot of horsepower under the hood. Premium devices can be found around every corner. Though, alongside a higher-end price tag, they fall short of being compact. Looking at Apple’s MacBook Air lineup, the smallest device offered sports a 13.3-inch display. Even Microsoft’s own Surface Laptop 4 is available in a 13.5-inch model. However, both competitive devices can cost upwards of $1,100 CAD or more. The price can be subjectively worth the investment depending on the needs of the user.
However, for those working on a tighter budget or may just need a reliable browsing machine for docs, the Surface Laptop Go 2 and its 12.4-inch display adds a nice bit of variety to the mix. It introduces a lower price point, starting at $739.99 CAD. As expected, there are some notable concessions to take into account if you’re on the hunt for your next laptop.
Out of the box
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2 is a compact and stylish laptop. As soon as I picked it up, I could tell that portability was a definitive focus when developing this model. It measures in at 10.95 x 8.12 x 0.62-inches. For comparison, the M1 MacBook Air sports slightly larger dimensions of 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches. The Surface Laptop Go 2 is exceedingly light as well, weighing only 2.48lbs. All of it is wrapped up in a sleek design offered in a variety of colours including ‘Platinum,’ ‘Sage,’ ‘Ice Blue,’ and ‘Sandstone.’ All of the edges are squared off nicely and it feels like a nice iteration of the 2020 Go from Microsoft. The size and weight alone speak to the portability of the unit. Surface Laptop Go 2 is perfect to throw in a backpack or workbag and is light enough to not be a hindrance during travel and commutes.
Aside from design aesthetics, the Surface Laptop Go 2 provides a 12.4-inch PixelSense Display, with a resolution of 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI). While primarily functioning as a traditional laptop or notebook, the device does support 10-point multi-touch functionality. As with its predecessor, the device features a single USB-C port, a USB-A port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a Surface Connect port for charging. Much of this should sound familiar if you currently use the original Surface Laptop Go. While so much has rightfully been taken and adapted from the previous model, I wish Microsoft expanded the available ports available. USB-C has become a ubiquitous port for external displays, charging devices, etc. so it’s great to have this inclusion. However, the lack of Thunderbolt is a letdown and I would have preferred another USB port or two, personally.
It’s also important to take a look at what’s underneath the hood. The Surface Laptop Go 2 offers 4GB or 8GB LPDDR4x RAM options. It’s powered by an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor. Microsoft also offers 128GB and 256GB storage options. Just based on this alone, the Surface Laptop Go 2 isn’t the most powerful option on the market. However, it certainly is a dependable unit when tackling certain projects and tasks. However, it does fall short of being a modern gaming laptop or video editing workhorse.
A dream for notes, docs, and browsing
One thing I’ve grown to appreciate throughout my time working from home is mobility and portability options. Not being tied to a desk and having the option to move around while still being productive has helped my mental health and has been quite beneficial. This is where the Surface Laptop Go 2 excels. Throughout my time reviewing the device, I’ve constantly gone to it when wanting a break from my desk. Whether I’m answering emails on my couch or drafting up parts of this very review from bed, its use is very flexible.
A large part of why I’m so attracted to the Surface Laptop Go 2 is down to its keyboard. As a big fan of Apple’s Magic Keyboard, I was genuinely surprised by how quickly I adopted the keyboard of Microsoft’s compact laptop. It’s comfortable to use despite the smaller real estate. The keys are very responsive and tactile. The downside is that the keyboard does not offer any sort of backlighting. This glaring omission is something I hope Microsoft mitigates in future iterations as other competitive products do offer backlighting for low-light settings. One of the key features provided by the keyboard is the fingerprint scanner for Windows Hello authentication. While the Surface Laptop Go 2 lacks facial recognition, I found the fingerprint scanner to be a snappy and reliable method to unlock the device and keep it secure when not in use.
While I largely enjoy the use of the keyboard, the trackpad has left me wanting more. The size of it is smaller than what you’ll find on a MacBook. Yet, I don’t mind the size. It’s actually quite suitable for scrolling, navigating, and multifinger gestures. However, I’ve consistently found that its sensitivity is a bit too high. Oftentimes, my palm will accidentally tap it, leading me to click on the screen or lose my spot within my document. Do note that the trackpad isn’t the only way to navigate the screen. The 10-point multi-touch display offers scrolling and navigation abilities. However, I’ve never been accustomed to that usage. So while a novel addition for those who wish to have it, I largely ignored its integration.
Multitasking with limitations
For students, workers, and the like, Surface Laptop Go 2 can offer a ton of support for multitasking. Keeping in mind that the device runs off a Core i5-1135G7 processor, the laptop can easily offer usage for social media, email, Slack, Discord, and even Zoom calls. The Surface Laptop Go 2 uses a 720p f2.0 camera with dual far-field studio mics. Although it doesn’t offer the same 1080p camera support as the Surface Laptop 4, the 720p sensor provides enough fidelity for your everyday Zoom meeting or conference call.
The extent of its workload caps out with these sorts of tasks. The Surface Laptop Go 2 is not built to support intensive Photoshop projects of 4K video editing. While the device is very portable, don’t expect this to be your on-the-go Steam machine either. AAA gaming with high-intensive graphic settings is not this machine’s bread and butter. Even during Zoom calls or slightly intensive tasks, the fan kicked into high gear, creating an audible sound.
Surface Laptop Go 2 isn’t designed to only be used for work. It serves as a good streaming device as long as you have a WiFi connection. Its 12.5-inch, 1536 x 1024 display offers 3:2 aspect ratio. Its colour accuracy is pretty respectable with a brightness better than I’ve experienced on other mid-range laptops. The display supports a peak brightness of 360 nits, which is great for outdoors, removed from direct sunlight. Microsoft also includes automatic screen dimming depending on what’s being displayed. This has saved my eyeballs a few times when using the Surface Laptop Go 2 in the dark.
Although I have minor grievances with some aspects of the Surface Laptop Go 2, the elephant in the room is the battery. Even when keeping in mind that it offers a budgetary price tag compared to other devices, the battery life is disappointing. On average, I’d be able to milk five to six hours of use from the device before I needed a charge. I might be able to wring out a bit more by adjusting brightness levels. However, it’s a far cry away from Microsoft’s estimated 13.5 hours of “typical device usage.”
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2 offers portability and mobility options with a more approachable price tag than the Surface Laptop 4 and competitive devices. It’s lightweight enough to pack in a bag and take to school or bring to the office. Even if you work remotely, its portability has it serve as a worthy companion to a coffee shop for a change of scenery. As a mid-range device, obvious concessions are to be expected. The Surface Laptop Go 2 unfortunately won’t become your next video editor or gaming laptop. Instead, the device is a suitable home for work on docs, Zoom calls, and Netflix sessions. Though, you may want to keep the charger nearby.