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You could be forgiven for struggling to keep up with all the different models in Microsoft's Surface range, but the updated Surface Laptop Go 2 stands out by virtue of being the smallest, lightest and most affordable of the clamshell laptops now on offer.
The 2022 edition isn't a major upgrade, primarily focusing on its new 11th generation Core i5 processor and enhanced security features for business users. However, the Surface Laptop Go 2's lightweight and stylish design should appeal to those seeking an ultraportable laptop for general, daily use. It covers a lot of bases too, providing both consumer and business variants aimed at users ranging from budget-limited students to business travellers.
Design & features
Like its 2020 predecessor, the Surface Laptop Go 2 opts for a 12.4-inch touch-enabled display that helps to keep the device's weight down to just 1.13kg, while the slimline profile measures just 15.7mm thick. It's easy to pick up with one hand and slip into a backpack or briefcase when you're ready to hit the road. The build quality is impeccable, despite the competitive price. Available in a variety of colours (Sage, Ice Blue, Sandstone and Platinum), the aluminum casing of the Laptop Go 2 feels sturdy enough to cope with a few bumps when you're travelling.
The keyboard panel feels surprisingly firm and comfortable. Microsoft claims that it "provides 30% more key travel than the MacBook Air", and the keyboard certainly feels satisfyingly responsive when typing. That said, it's odd that there's no backlight built into the keyboard for use in darkened rooms or airplane cabins.
The small screen has its drawbacks, providing a resolution of just 1536 by 1024 pixels (148dpi). Opting for a 3:2 aspect ratio is a good decision, as it means the display is tall enough to provide good visibility when reading or scrolling through documents or web pages. However, the screen does quickly start to feel a bit cluttered as soon as you have a few overlapping windows or apps open at once. The screen is bright and colourful -- in fact, to my naked eye sometimes too much so -- with the colours seeming slightly oversaturated at times, especially on the red end of the spectrum.
Microsoft's spec sheet makes no mention of the screen's brightness or colour gamut support, but the company tells us it is 330 nits and 100% of sRGB. Clearly the Surface Laptop Go 2 is not intended for professional-level graphics work, but its display works perfectly well for viewing documents, web pages or watching video.
The Surface Laptop Go 2's compact design means that connectivity is somewhat limited. On the wireless side there's Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, but physical connectors are limited to just one USB-C and one USB-A port, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack and Microsoft's Surface Connect port for charging and docking. Thankfully, the USB-C port did allow me to connect the Laptop Go 2 to an external 4K display -- Microsoft's website seems to imply that this requires the additional Surface Dock 2 ($259.99). However, business users who want to use the Laptop Go 2 as part of their office setup may still need an additional dock or hub to provide features such as Ethernet for an office network, or additional USB ports.
And the one obvious sign of cost-cutting with the Surface Laptop Go 2 is its 720p webcam, although Microsoft states that there's a new camera module providing improved brightness, contrast and colour balance. The image is certainly bright enough, even on a gloomy British summer day, but there's still a slightly grainy quality to it, so business users who need a high-quality webcam for video calls and meetings might prefer to buy a 1080p webcam along with their desktop hub.
Pricing & options
As mentioned, the Surface Laptop Laptop Go 2 is available in both consumer and business editions, with the latter including Windows 11 Pro, and providing Secured-Core PC security features, including a physical TPM 2.0 chip (rather than implementing TPM in firmware as the consumer model does).
Business users also benefit from Microsoft's 'advance exchange' warranty, which allows them to request a replacement unit even before their faulty Surface device has been collected for repair. We'll focus on the business pricing here, but consumer pricing is generally just $100 cheaper for each individual configuration.
Business prices for the Surface Laptop Go 2 start at $699.99 for a model with a quad-core Core i5-1135G7 processor running at 2.4GHz (up to 4.2GHz with Turbo Boost), along with a rather miserly 4GB of RAM and 128GB of solid-state storage. The base model doesn't include a fingerprint sensor, although the sensor is built into the power button on all other configurations.
Our review unit had 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, bringing the price to $899.99; there's also a $1099.99 model with 16GB of RAM, which seems rather expensive for a simple memory upgrade. There are no additional processor or other upgrade options, and all configurations rely on the Core i5's integrated Iris Xe Graphics.
You can't accuse Microsoft of over-hyping the performance of the Surface Laptop Go 2, as its website simply states that it provides "performance to run everyday apps".
That's an accurate description of the performance provided by the 11th-generation Core i5 processor, which achieves scores of 1345 (single core) and 4140 (multi core) in the Geekbench 5 CPU benchmark. In contrast, Apple's current M1-based MacBook Air ($999.99) scores 1730 and 7590 respectively.
That modest CPU performance is also reflected in the PCMark 10 application tests, with a score of 4466 that only just lifts it out of the lowest third of the results table. To be fair, the Surface Laptop Go 2 will handle standard productivity software such as Microsoft Office without any trouble, along with web browsing, email and video calls.
The integrated Iris Xe Graphics is perhaps the stand-out performer here, providing a PCMark 10 score of 7508 for photo-editing work, so the Laptop Go 2 should be able to manage some basic photo editing for presentations work if required. It won't be able to handle much in the way of video editing or gaming, though, with a PCMark 10 video score of 4341, while its gaming score of 10,820 in the 3DMark Night Raid test puts it firmly in the 'less than 20fps' category.
The one real disappointment with the Surface Laptop Go 2 is its battery life. Microsoft quotes up to 13.5 hours of 'typical device usage', but our review unit only managed half that during our video streaming test, lasting for a modest six hours and forty minutes even with the screen brightness turned down to 50%. You might be able to stretch that to a full eight-hour working day if you're not using the Wi-Fi all day long, but that's still far behind the outstanding 17 hours provided by the M1 MacBook Air.
Microsoft's Surface Laptop Go 2 is something of a mixed bag. Judged on its performance and battery life alone, this is an entry-level laptop with a distinctly mid-range price -- and some rather expensive memory upgrades.
The Surface Laptop Go 2's saving grace is its sleek, ultraportable design, which is both stylish and sturdy, and well suited to hybrid and mobile working. If you value portability above everything else, then the lightweight Laptop Go 2 is certainly tempting.
However, business users who need to do more than just run Microsoft Office may prefer one of the more powerful models in the Surface range, or one of its many ultraportable rivals.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 specifications
278.2mm x 206.2mm x 15.7mm (10.95in. x 8.12in. x 0.62in.)
aluminium (top), aluminum and polycarbonate composite resin system with glass fiber and 30% post-consumer recycled content (base)
Sage, Ice Blue, Sandstone, Platinum
Windows 11 Home (consumer) • Windows 11 Pro or 10 Pro (business)