Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: Surface charm - MrLiambi's blog


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Monday, 29 August 2022

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: Surface charm

The Surface Laptop Go 2 is Microsoft's MacBook Air. But not the MacBook Air of today. It's like the Air we had years ago that mid-range buyers could actually afford to buy. 

This is a portable laptop you can imagine in the hands of students and those who don't consider tech to be a hobby. The Surface Laptop Go 2 offers fantastic portability, enough gloss to make it seem like an expensive style laptop, with a starting price of £529 instead of, well, a lot more. 

The fancy version of this laptop is the Surface Laptop 4, which starts at £1269 with the same class of CPU seen here. 


Microsoft mostly makes high-end laptops. When a cheaper model like the Surface Laptop Go 2 comes out, the first question is: where are the cuts?

From a quick look they are not obvious. The Surface Laptop Go 2 has a lovely anodised aluminium keyboard surround and lid. Microsoft usually favours magnesium, but aluminium actually feels more metallic to our fingers. 

Just don't look underneath as it looks much like a super-pricey non-Go Surface Laptop. But the base is plastic, just like the original Surface Laptop Go. 

Microsoft hasn't tried to make this plastic bottom fit in with the metal. It instead matches the sort of milky coffee beige of the touchpad and keyboard keys. The base has a lovely soft touch finish too. 

A combo of aluminium and plastic helps keep the Surface Laptop Go 2's weight low. It weighs just 1.129kg according to our scales. It's portability perfection. 

Now, you don't get everything you'll find in some other style-driven mid-range laptops. The hinge doesn't let the screen tilt back all that far. It's no hybrid or fold-flat design. And the connectivity is limited. You get one fat USB-A port, one USB-C and a headphone socket. 

Thankfully the charger has its own port, the same magnetic style seen in pricier Surface laptops that falls out if you accidentally snag the cable. The USB-C can also be used to charge - a huge convenience bonus if your phone has a fast charging USB-PD adapter.

The tech nerds out there will probably be mad the USB-C port doesn't support Thunderbolt. It has just a quarter the bandwidth, 10Gbps. However, it's enough to power a 4K monitor at 60fps. If you want to hook dual 4K monitors up to this thing, are you sure it's the right laptop for you?


The Surface Laptop Go 2 has a 12.4-inch 3:2 aspect display. This tall shape is one of the classic Surface characteristics, and it makes the display seem particularly spacious, per screen inch, when you run productivity apps. 

It's less good for games, some of which freak out at the resolution, and movies. But this is Microsoft, the folks behind Office. It makes sense work is largely the focus. 

Brightness is the highlight here. At 400 nits it's a good 10-20% brighter than what we consider decent for a mid-range laptop, and double the brightness of the dreck you'll find when you really go cheap. 

The Surface Laptop Go 2 has a glossy touchscreen, one that reflects your face right back at you when out in the sun. But we used it to write much of this review outdoors, and the Go held up well enough. 

Other aspects aren't quite on the same level as the top-tier Surface Laptops. Colour is slightly undersaturated. It's not so bad that you can notice it at a glance, like the Acer Vero, but take it on board if you'll be doing a lot of image or video editing work. 

The weird-sounding resolution of 1536 x 1024 pixels is a bit like hemmed-in 1080p, and it's enough to make small text appear a bit scraggly. Still, for this money you're likely to end up with 1080p elsewhere anyway. 

Contrast is a bit below the bog-standard 1000:1, which will make blacks look a bit greyish in a dim room. All that said, you'll have a tough time finding a traditional laptop with a dramatically better screen for £529, short of an end-of-line sale. Nice touches like the rounded corners of the display are unusual in such a conspicuously affordable model too. 

Keyboard and touchpad

There are also some compromises in the keyboard and touchpad. However, the keys themselves feel fairly good.  

Like other Surface laptops, the Surface Laptop Go 2's key action is a little shallow. Key feel is also more mellow than a MacBook's, but within a day or so you bed into the style. It's a quality keyboard with no hint of a "budget" feel, although Microsoft has had to use a slightly crammed layout to suit the frame. 

While it's only a few millimetres less wide than a standard keyboard from the Q button to the P along that top line of keys, those sensitive to shrunken keys may not like it. 

The Surface Laptop Go 2 does not have a keyboard backlight either. Almost every other good £729 laptop with a Core i5 CPU and 256GB RAM has one of these, and it makes typing in dim lighting easier. No backlight may make sense in a £500 laptop, but not a £700-plus one like our review model. 

The touchpad is also a significant downgrade from the non-Go Surface laptops. They use a textured glass panel, this one is soft-touch plastic that emulates glass. 

Several comparable Lenovo laptops at the price have glass pads, like the Lenovo Yoga 7 Slim. 

Still, this is one of the best plastic pads you'll find in any laptop. The clicker feel is excellent, and Microsoft has clearly put a lot of effort into making it seem like glass. It's a far less squeaky, less high-friction surface than most. Would we prefer glass? Absolutely.


The various prices of the Surface Laptop Go 2 models all hinge around the core specs. Microsoft uses the cheapo model as a lure. Around £500 for a metal laptop - sounds good, right?

However, we have significant reservations about all models bar the £729 one reviewed here. At the bottom end you only get 4GB RAM. Most other manufacturers wouldn't even make a 4GB version of a laptop like this. 

Windows 11 may run like a dog once you open up a few too many browser tabs. You've been warned.  

The middle-rung version has 8GB RAM. Great. But it also only has 128GB storage. We have games in our Steam library bigger than that, and even if you have no interest in gaming or data-sapping video editing, bear in mind you don't actually get 128GB to play with. Windows 11 eats up a chunk. 

After just a couple of days we only has 160GB left on our 256GB version, for example. We'd only recommend the 128GB model to folks who aren't going to install anything data-heavy. 

Then we get to the "just right" spec, with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. Except it's also just wrong because we end up paying £200 for 4GB RAM and an extra 128GB of space. Other manufacturers would charge (relative) peanuts for these upgrades. Most wouldn't offer them at all, as the baseline for most design-led models laptops is 8GB/256GB, a measure that saves money-saving buyers from themselves. 

Rant over, the Surface Laptop Go 2 we have runs Windows 11 beautifully. All versions of the Surface Laptop Go 2 have Intel's Core i5-1135G7 processor, a punchy CPU designed to use relatively little power. You'll find it in loads of laptops from 2021 and 2022. 

As is often the case, Microsoft's timing is a bit off here, mind. Many laptops with 12th Generation Intel chipsets have recently started arriving, and they'll have far more CPU power than the Surface Laptop Go 2.

They don't gain as much for gaming, though, as both 11th and 12th Gen chipsets at this level use Intel's Xe chipset. It's a nimble little thing that lets you play most games from the Xbox One and PS4 era pretty well. We took in a few laps of the Nurburgring in Project Cars, and while the Surface Laptop Go 2 didn't make it clip along at 60fps with most settings maxed, it was entirely playable. 

The Surface Laptop Go 2 isn't really made to be a true performance machine. It's here for "everyday" performance, and this plays out in the laptop's cooling. 

There are no air vents on the bottom, no exhausts on the side or back. Everything happens through the little gap in the screen hinge. Simply write documents and the Surface Laptop Go 2 will usually be totally silent. 

However, a few large file downloads can be enough to get the fan running. If you took out a sound meter while this thing is maxed-out, the Surface Laptop Go 2 wouldn't move the dial much. But the character of the fan noise is exactly what we don't want to hear, a high-pitch whine more noticeable than a lower tone that might technically be louder. 

Battery life

The Surface Laptop Go 2 has a fairly small 41Wh battery, but Microsoft claims it can still last up to 13.5 hours. 

This is a way off what we saw. It lasted 7.5 hours of YouTube streaming at 62% brightness, the sort of level you might use indoors. A stint outdoors suggested it will last around 5 hours when the display is maxed-out, and the Surface Laptop Go 2 is used to charge your phone at the same time. 

Switch on Battery Saver and use the laptop for no more than writing docs and it will last around  11 hours, much closer to Microsoft's claims. You'll have to use this mode to get close to all-day use, making remembering to do so the main hurdle. 

The laptop's speakers are decent for a low-price laptop, with a fairly even tone. However, they don't have anything like the bass or volume of the more capable arrays available in the big names that cost a lot more. 

Unusually, the Surface Laptop Go 2's speakers also appear to use the gaps in the keyboard to let sound out, rather than vents on the sides. This leads to a narrower sound, but it makes sense when you think about it. Such speakers often rely on bouncing sound off a hard surface to reach your ears as intended, where the Go 2's will sound the same whether the laptop is on your knees or a desk. 

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