The Microsoft Surface family is something to behold. The designs are stylish and the builds immaculate, and they seem to be going from strength to strength.
As a long time user of first a Surface Pro 4, and then a Surface Go 2 I’ve grown to love their convertible nature. They allow for easy reading of PDFs etc in tablet mode with a quick switch into laptop mode for productivity purposes, albeit with a relatively flimsy keyboard.
In recent years they’ve branched out into fully fledged laptops and have become known for some of the best built laptops on the market.
The latest laptop they’ve released is the Surface Laptop Go 2. This is obviously an update to the first generation Surface Go laptop – an entry-level laptop, just as the Surface Go is an entry level 2-in-1 PC/laptop. We got sent one of their higher specced Surface Laptop Go 2 to test out and we put it through its paces and came away extremely impressed although there are of course areas where it could be improved,
Hardware and build quality
Before we start this section let’s just remind ourselves that this is meant to be Microsoft’s entry-level laptop and as such we should not expect it to come fully featured.
The Surface Laptop Go 2 is powered by an 11th Gen Intel Core i5 processor partnered with 8GB of RAM which is what this is loaded with – there is also a 4GB version which might be really pushing it when it comes to running Windows 11. Storage options include 128GB and 256GB SSD’s and if you live mostly in the cloud like myself, 128GB might just be enough.
The laptop, as you’d expect from Microsoft given their apparent dislike for ports, suffers from a lack of ports but to be honest, it’s enough. There is the usual Surface Connect port to power the laptop (and to connect it to your Surface Dock) but the bonus is that you can also charge it using the included USB-C port on the opposite side of the laptop which also supports video out.
Accompanying the USB-C port on the left side of the laptop is a USB-A port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. In the end, that is enough ports for me. This is a device to be used on the go so I’m not sure how many people need more ports than this when out and about but I certainly don’t.
Above the display is the webcam, which is a bit disappointing. The camera is apparently an improvement on the first-generation camera but it still isn’t great. The 720P webcam is decent but, and Microsoft are not alone here, the resolution makes it look a bit like a spudcam at times. I know it is designed to fit a more affordable price range but surely a 1080P webcam would not add that much to the cost of the device?
The webcam also lacks any form of IR recognition for Windows Hello compatibility – something my Surface Go 2 has so that is a disappointment – I love using Windows Hello. Instead, it has a fingerprint sensor built into the power button which worked nearly every time. Occasionally it did require a small adjustment of finger position on it to have it register it but that isn’t out of the ordinary for most physical fingerprint sensors in laptops.
One of the reasons the Surface Laptop Go 2 excels is its size and weight. It is incredibly slim at 15.7mm at its thickest and XY dimensions of 278.2mm x 206.2mm, weighing in at just 1.127kg. Its size and weight (or lack thereof) hits a sweet spot for me. It is incredibly portable while still having a decent-sized display and keyboard that makes using it comfortable.
The display, on paper, doesn’t sound impressive with its 1536 x 1024 resolution but its 3:2 aspect ratio combined with a bright and colourful display offers a decent experience. The display will go up to 330 nits but seems brighter and it does offer 100% of sRGB hence the enjoyable colours.
The low resolution of the display has been incorporated into Windows 11 so well that the icons, text etc are actually quite small on the display. The test isn’t as sharp as it could be, but I found myself having to enlarge the text in Google Docs at times to be able to see everything properly.
The display is also a touch display is extremely responsive and is a welcome addition – I just wish that the display would flip around 360 degrees and give a tablet experience as well. That convertible 2-in-1 experience is something Microsoft may work on in the future. The reason I’d prefer a convertible laptop over a Surface Go with the detachable keyboard is that the keyboard on this Surface Laptop Go 2 is a joy to behold.
The display, although touch sensitive, did not register any touches from my surface pen so if you use that you are out of luck — although I’m not convinced of its value on a laptop where the hinge does not allow 180 or 360 degrees opening. It’s not a deal breaker for me as I can’t see where I’d prefer to use a pen over a mouse on a laptop like this.
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard seems to be close to full size, the keys have a solid feel and the key travel is quite impressive given the thinness of the laptop. Typing on it is a great experience, and I could easily spend hours and hours on end of typing without any issues with accuracy of the keyboard.
One big miss here from Microsoft though is the lack of a backlit keyboard. It is extremely disappointing that a laptop that costs over $1,000 does not have it. The Surface Laptop Go 2 is meant to be their affordable Surface laptop but the inclusion backlit keyboard would add so much value to it and surely wouldn’t cost that much?
The touchpad is a decent size – once again considering the size of the device – clicks and move smoothly, easily and accurately. What more could you want?
The Surface Laptop Go 2 offers a great experience using it on the go – pun not intended. But what about sitting down at home and using it on a bigger monitor? There you will have no issues is using USB-C.
I was able to project the display to my 4K 32-inch monitor and have them work seamlessly together using the USB-C connection. I also have a Surface Dock but unfortunately connecting the Surface Laptop Go 2 to it did not produce any signal on the external monitor. Apparently, you need the Surface Dock 2 with USB-C out ports to get the dock experience. As I said above though, it works with a straight USB-C connection and that was good enough for me but if you are planning to sit down at a desk for extended periods and want the use of Ethernet connection along with multiple USB inputs you will need to have the Surface Dock 2.
Battery and performance
With a laptop so thin and other great features embedd ed into it you would think battery size and life would suffer? According to Microsoft nothing gives, and the battery life is expected to last you 13.5 hours of “typical device usage”. I’m not sure what their “typical device usage” is but it’s not the same as mine.
I was still able to get a full day of use out of the laptop but certainly not 13.5 hours. My usage with some video, Wi-Fi on all the time and brightness at 50% topped the battery out at around the 10-hour mark. The battery will charge from empty to full in just an hour and a half so charge it overnight if required.
Should you buy one?
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is a product that sits pretty much all by itself with little competition. It is an extremely small laptop but with a decent sized display that even though doesn’t have the greatest resolution is bright and colourful.
The keyboard is extremely nice to use and is so much better than the detachable keyboards on the Surface Go 2-in-1 devices. If only the keyboard was backlit, the device would be close to perfect.
The build on the device continues with the premium build quality that Microsoft use for all their Surface Laptops, making you feel like you are using a top-notch product – without having to pay crazy money for.
If you are looking for a laptop that is easy to use and is most of all lightweight and easily portable then you should most definitely look at the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2. With prices beginning at $1,099AU it is not the cheapest device around but is still a lot cheaper than many of the ultrabooks that compete with it in size and weight. When my Surface Go 2 gives up the ghost I know where I will be looking – directly at a Surface Laptop Go 2.