As a lightweight laptop for browsing and typing, the Surface Laptop Go 2 succeeds in spades. It’s light, weighing in at just 1.1 kg, but the sturdy aluminium and polycarbonate composite resin build means it’s not flexing under your fingers. The keyboard has a satisfying movement to it and the fingerprint login, once a somewhat fiddly setup is complete, works lightning-fast.
Where it falls down, however, is in its lower-than-average screen resolution. At 1536x1024, rather than the standard 1080p, users hoping to use it for graphic design will find themselves underwhelmed, and the 720p resolution on the webcam is merely ordinary for a budget laptop, making it less suited to Zoom calls than many of its peers.
The Surface Laptop Go 2 also has an environmental twist; at a time when tech is being sent to landfill at an alarming rate, the Surface Laptop Go 2 sports more replaceable parts than its predecessors; parts can easily be switched out (by Microsoft, rather than by the home user) meaning that it’s potentially upgradable and far more easily fixable than your average laptop.
For this review I used the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 for a week, putting it through its paces and figuring out whether it’s worth the hype.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2: Power and Performance
Microsoft’s Surface Series all feature touchscreens, ranging from PCs to interactive whiteboards to tablets. Introduced in 2012, the range has expanded continuously to cover a broad range of users. The Surface Laptop Go, introduced in 2020, was created to fill the budget side of the Surface Series, and its descendent, the Microsoft Laptop Go 2, follows closely in its footsteps, with similar specs and an almost identical appearance. The key differences are in the screen, which now has an antireflective coating, and under the bonnet; the Surface Laptop Go 2 sports a slightly faster processor and more memory options than the original model.
There are three options for the Surface Laptop Go 2 and four colour options. The cheapest base model (only available in platinum) has 4GB RAM and 128 GB of Storage and will set you back £529. The mid-range model has 8GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, a choice of four colours (platinum, sage, ice blue and sandstone) and an incredibly fast fingerprint scanner, and costs £629. At the top of the range — the laptop tested for this review — we have 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, in addition to the fingerprint scanner and, of course, the full range of colours, for £729. All three have the same processor, a quad-core Intel Core i5-1135G7.
Putting the Surface Laptop Go 2 through its benchmarking paces, the laptop scored 1918 on Cinebench, higher than its sibling the Surface Laptop Studio, and its overall score on PCMark10 was 4472, with 4443 for Digital Content Creation, 7447 for Photo Editing and 4332 for Video Editing. While the benchmarks look good, it’s worth bearing in mind that the low-res screen will get in the way of video and photo editing.
While memory constraints are more likely in the 4GB RAM version, in the 8GB I didn’t find any real lag to speak of when doing basic tasks in graphics and vector programs, although if you’re intending to do anything more complicated than the occasional tweak you’d probably be better off checking out our guides to laptops for graphic design and photoshop.
While the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 did handle smoothly running a relatively processor-heavy game (Factory Town, via Steam), the fans did kick into gear quite quickly and the whole unit heated up, so users may want to invest in a riser.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2: Price and Target Audience
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Pro is targeted more at the consumer than the prosumer or professional, and has a price to match. But does it live up to its price point or is it defeated by its rivals? And while it’s touted as a great choice for students seeking a portable laptop for essays and social media, does it have enough functionality to become a student staple?
For word processing and social media, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is perfect. I’m a sucker for a 3:2 display when I’m writing; the extra height gives the screen a roomier feel and makes the word-processing top bar far less obtrusive, which can be a problem on smaller screens. The laptop’s lightweight nature means it can be carried about all day without causing back strain and its miniscule dimensions mean it can slip into a wide variety of handbags, rucksacks and messenger bags without any real difficulty. For a roundup of other student-friendly laptops, check out our guide to the best laptops for students.
The Surface Laptop Go 2 has strong rivals in the HP Pavilion 14 (£649.99) and the Acer Swift 5 (£549.99), both of which also port a Quad-Core i5 processor but additionally benefit from an HD touchscreen. And, of course, there’s always the question of whether, if you’re going to be working entirely in the cloud, you might be better off checking out our buying guide for Chromebooks.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2: Touchscreen and Display
While the Surface Laptop Go 2’s 3:2 screen may feel a little odd for some, and certainly isn’t ideal for streaming standard 16:9 shows, where it shines is in document composition and website browsing. The 12.4 inch 1536x1024 PixelSense Touch Display is pretty pleasing to look at, and has great touch sensitivity, but the loss of resolution will bother creatives working in graphic design or video. And anyone hoping to use the Surface Laptop Go 2 like its tablet siblings is also going to be disappointed, as the screen isn’t compatible with Surface Pens.
Users looking to upgrade their screen experience with the Surface Laptop Go 2, however, need look no further than the Microsoft Surface Dock (£189.99). Via the Connect Port (which is also where the charger plugs in), it can support an additional two displays, either one 4K and one 1080p, or two 1080ps, both at 60Hz.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2: Build and Peripherals
The build of the Surface Laptop Go 2 is visually appealing. The aluminium shell is a strong base for the full-scale keyboard, which has a really satisfying movement and sound under your fingers. The touchpad is large and easy to use out of the box. The fingerprint reader situated on the power button is fiddly to set up — expect several “fingerprint not detected” errors — but when it’s done it logs in at lightning-fast speed.
When it comes to audio, small laptops often fall short but we were pleasantly surprised by the Surface Laptop Go 2’s speakers. Like most small laptop speakers, it is very exaggerated in the high frequency range but does have a nice open midrange and, surprisingly for the scale of the speakers, the bass is low-level but not completely absent. The Surface Laptop Go 2 also provides a much more balanced sound when listening to music moving around a room.
Also notable are the ‘swappable’ elements of the design; while not hot-swappable, the build of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 allows for many elements to be replaced by Microsoft, extending the life of the laptop and lessening its environmental impact. The aluminium-polycarbonate composite resin also contains 30% post-consumer recycled content.
The downsides of the build are mainly in the screen resolution, the webcam, which is a very ordinary 720p, the lack of backlighting in the keyboard and the lack of available ports. The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 features a single USB-A, a single USB-C and a headphone jack, with no Thunderbird support or HDMI.
One upside of the connections, however, is that the laptop can also be powered by a USB-C charger (with enough power), meaning that if the proprietary Surface charger is lost or damaged, you’ll still be able to charge your laptop.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2: Should you buy it?
While the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is a great little machine, well up to the challenge of being battered about in a student rucksack and perfect for admin, writing and browsing, the resolution stands in the way of it being used more seriously by visual creatives. The price point is reasonable (although we’d recommend splashing out the extra £100 to go from 4GB to 8GB RAM) but users wanting to work visually on a regular basis will want something far more specialised.