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Surface Laptop Go 2 review: A good $599 laptop for travelers on a budget

Microsoft’s Surface laptop lineup offers a range of options for different types of users. There’s a Surface Laptop Studio for creatives, or the Surface Pro 8 for digital nomads, or the Surface Go 3 for those who just need the basics.

The latest update to the Surface lineup is the Surface Laptop Go 2. At $599, it’s a budget laptop that’s a great entry-point for teenagers or someone who just needs a device for basic word processing. But I’ll be upfront: you should probably go for the $699 model. Why? Well, I don’t want to spoil it just yet. Let’s dive in.

A good budget laptop

A great choice for younger users or someone who just needs the basics. The $599 Go 2 laptop offers good performance and a great design for the price.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

I didn’t get a chance to use the original Surface Laptop Go, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of overall build quality. When I unpacked the Laptop Go 2, I was pleasantly surprised by every aspect of its design.

From the colorful aluminum top with a matching aluminum part and plastic part, the Laptop Go 2 feels sturdy to hold or rest your wrist while typing. There are four different color options in total, including sage (the color I used), sandstone, platinum, and ice blue.

This is largely a Microsoft product. By that I mean the fit and finish you would see on a more expensive Surface Laptop Studio or Surface Pro is present on the Laptop Go 2. For example, the model I received is equipped with a fingerprint sensor that doubles as the power button. Whenever Windows 11 is ready to scan your finger, e.g. B. when you open the lid and log into your account, there is a glowing ring surrounding the power button. It’s a subtle and nice touch letting the user know they can use the fingerprint reader and I appreciate the hint.

The overall size of the Laptop Go 2 lives up to its name. It’s small enough to remind me of a tablet-first device like the Pro 8 or iPad Pro, but it flips open to reveal a full-fledged computer running Windows 11.

Overall, the Laptop Go 2 measures 10.95 x 8.12 x 0.62 inches and weighs just under 2.5 pounds. It’s the ideal size for someone who travels a lot and doesn’t need a large, overly powerful laptop, or for students who are constantly moving from one classroom to another.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

Microsoft has made a major upgrade in every build of the Laptop Go 2 in terms of performance. Instead of using eMMC storage in the base model – storage technology that is slow and negatively impacts performance – Microsoft uses SSD storage throughout. That means the $599 configuration drops eMMC storage and instead comes with a faster SSD for your storage needs.

But performance isn’t just about storage. The 11th Gen Intel Core i5 processor in the Laptop Go 2 is fast enough to handle routine tasks. During my testing, I had no trouble checking my email, monitoring Slack channels, and streaming a YouTube or Twitch video. If I wanted to quickly edit a video in the default Windows 11 apps, the Laptop Go 2 could handle that as well.

To be clear, you won’t want to use the Laptop Go 2 for intense video or photo editing sessions, or serious PC gaming. However, you can definitely stream Xbox Game Pass titles from the cloud or play less resource-intensive games like Fall Guys without noticing a drop in performance. My experience of the Laptop Go 2’s performance is corroborated by its Geekbench 5 scores, which place it between the performance scores of the Surface Go 3 and Surface Pro 8. In other words, it’s faster than the Go 3 but doesn’t quite match the Pro 8.

Battery life doesn’t live up to the 13.5 hours that Microsoft says Laptop Go 2 users should get, but that’s usually the case with laptop manufacturers’ estimates. Instead, the Go 2 laptop was able to play a 4K video clip repeatedly for 7 hours and 36 minutes. That’s still very good for an entry-level laptop and is in line with what I’ve experienced in everyday use. However, the smaller Surface Go 3 outlasted the Laptop Go 2, lasting about 45 minutes longer in the same test.

The 720p webcam won’t impress classmates or colleagues for its quality, but it gets the job done and is on par with an iPad Pro or even the Surface Pro 8. And, let’s face it, almost two years away it works, cares no one knows if you have a high-quality webcam. This trend is over.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

The base configuration of the Laptop Go 2 costs $599. At that price, you’re getting a build that includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory, and 128GB of storage. You don’t get a fingerprint sensor that can be used with Windows Hello to log into the laptop or sign into apps and approve administrative requests.

For the fingerprint option, you need to start your Laptop Go 2 shopping experience by looking at the $699 model, which comes with the same Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128B of storage. Perhaps storage capacity is a limiting factor? Or maybe it’s just an excuse for upselling.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

One of my favorite features of the entire Surface line is the premium display that they all have. The display of the Surface Laptop Go 2 is good, but not outstanding. The Laptop Go 2 has a 12.4-inch PixelSense display with a resolution of 1536 x 1024. That’s not quite high-definition and it shows in everyday use, especially when looking at the text in a document or photos – neither looks as sharp and crisp as on a standard Surface laptop or Surface Pro 8, for example.

That’s not to say the display is terrible and unusable; the exact opposite. The touchscreen is responsive and performs as you would expect from a modern touchscreen. I just wish it was at least a full HD screen.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

Connections are sparse on the Surface Laptop Go 2. On the right side of the case is a Surface Connect port, which is used for charging. On the left is a single USB port, a USB-C port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s it.

While I appreciate that there is a dedicated charging port that frees up the USB-C port to connect different devices, it would have been nice to have an additional port – USB or USB-C – on the right side of the laptop. However, you can easily add more ports to the Laptop Go 2 with a USB-C hub or docking station.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

The Surface Laptop Go 2 is a solid laptop for its price. At $599 you’re not giving up much when it comes to performance, although a strong case can be made that 4GB of storage isn’t enough in 2022. But for someone who needs a barebones laptop, the Laptop Go 2, the most affordable model, is sure to get the job done. However, I urge you to at least consider the $699 model, which comes with a fingerprint reader and dual storage.

If you’re looking for something with more power and are on a budget with more space, then the convertible Surface Pro 8 or even the standard Surface Laptop 4 are two of the best Surface models you can buy. And if you want something cheaper, the Dell Inspiron 14 is our pick for best budget laptop. For under $500, it offers a 14-inch display, plenty of ports, and 256GB of storage. It’s a great choice for someone who wants a larger display than what the Go 2 offers.

advertisement 12.4 inch, 1536 x 1024 PixelSense touch display 13.5-inch 2256 x 1503 PixelSense Touch Display / 15-inch 2496 x 1664 PixelSense Touch Display 10.5 inches. 1920 x 1280 PixelSense touch display
processor Intel Core i5 Intel Core i5, i7 or AMD Ryzen 5/Intel Core i7, AMD Ryzen 7 Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y/Intel Core i3
memory 4GB/8GB 8GB/16GB/32GB 4GB/8GB
storage 128GB/256GB 256GB/512GB/1TB 64GB/128GB
ports USB-C, USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, Surface Connect USB-C, USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, Surface Connect USB-C, MicroSDXC card reader, Surface Connect, 3.5mm headphone jack
Dimensions 10.95 x 8.12 x 0.62 in; 2.48 pounds 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 in; 2.79 lbs/13.4 x 9.6 x 0.58 in; 3.4 pounds 9.65 x 6.9 x 0.33 in; 1.2 pounds
software Windows 11 Home Windows 10 Home Windows 11 Home (S mode)
cam 720p 720p 5 megapixel 1080p front camera with Windows Hello; 8 megapixel rear camera
Price

$599

$779

$399

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