May 09,2024

Microsoft Surface Go 2

by Kolbowicz Marek

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 Release Date, Pricing & Specs

Microsoft typically announces its most significant new hardware in the second half of the year. Any new products in the first six months are usually minor refreshes, and that’s the case again in 2022.

In fact, there’s just one new addition to the Surface family: the Surface Laptop Go 2. Microsoft’s student laptop arrives 20 months after the original, but there aren’t many changes to report. The starting price has changed, but it still just about qualifies as a budget laptop.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Laptop Go 2, Microsoft’s latest affordable clamshell laptop.

When will the Surface Laptop Go 2 be released?

Microsoft didn’t hold an event to launch the Surface Laptop Go 2, announcing it via an official blog post on 1 June 2022.

The device is now available to buy in several countries around the world (including the UK & US), having gone on sale from 7 June.

How much does the Surface Laptop Go 2 cost?

The Laptop Go starting price is $50 higher in the US, but £20 lower in the UK. It starts at £529/$599, with the entry-level model with 64GB of eMMC storage ditched for a 128GB SSD. Here’s the full breakdown:

Core i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD – £529/US$599.99

Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD – £629/US$699.99

Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD – £729/US$799.99

For context, here’s how much the original Surface Laptop Go cost at launch:

Core i5, 4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC – £549/US$549

Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD – £699/US$699

Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD – £899/US$899

What specs and features does the Surface Laptop Go 2 have?

New 11th-gen Intel CPU and integrated GPU

New ‘Sage’ colour option and Windows 11 pre-installed

No other changes of note

Microsoft often follows the release of a brand-new product with a more iterative second-gen update, and that’s no different here. The Surface Laptop Go 2 is very much in the mould of its predecessor, but there are few changes worth highlighting.

The biggest of these is a move to Intel’s 11th-gen CPUs, with the Core i5-1135G7 used across all configurations. It’s disappointing not to see 12th-gen chips here, but the component shortage may be to blame. That’s what Windows Central’s Zac Bowden suggested in a tweet prior to the device’s launch:

Yep, also component shortage means 12th-gen chips are hard to get and super expensive. — Zac Bowden (@zacbowden) April 12, 2022

However, the move to Tiger Lake means the Laptop Go 2 now features Iris Xe integrated graphics, a significant upgrade over the UHD version found in the original device. Starting RAM remains at just 4GB, but most configurations offer 8GB instead.

Choosing the cheapest model no longer means being stuck with 64GB of eMMC storage. You now get a removable 128GB SSD, with 256GB still available on more expensive models.

There are also now four colour options to choose from, with the existing Ice Blue, Sandstone and Platinum joined by a new Sage. This subtle green hue may prove popular with the Laptop Go 2’s student target market.

Image: Microsoft

You also now have Windows 11 Home pre-installed (provided you opt for the consumer version), but the upgrades end there. The touchscreen display is still a 12.4in, 1536×1024 LCD display at the standard 60Hz refresh rate.

Microsoft says the webcam is “upgraded”, but it remains limited to 720p resolution. With no separate IR sensor, the Laptop Go 2 it can’t be used for Windows Hello face unlock. Your best alternative is the fingerprint sensor built into the power button, although that’s not available on the entry-level model.

Image: Microsoft

Surface Connect is still the main charging method, and Microsoft says it’ll get from 0-100% in just over an hour. It’s joined by just one USB-C, one USB-A and a 3.5mm headphone jack, all within a 15.7mm chassis.

As usual, we don’t know exactly how big the Surface Laptop Go 2’s battery is. Microsoft’s claim of 13.5 hours of “typical device usage” is slightly higher than the 13-hour claim on the original, but that’s probably due to the improved power efficiency of 11th-gen Intel chips. The actual battery capacity is unlikely to have changed.

See more in our separate news story covering the Laptop Go 2 launch.

Despite some changes in pricing, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is still more expensive than most entries in our budget laptop chart. The device is designed with students in mind, but there are plenty of other Surface computers to choose from.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 Review

Consider it a successful compromise computer. Microsoft has refreshed its in-between portable, the Laptop Go, which occupies the middle ground between its small Surface Go 3 tablet and the conventional Surface Laptop 4. The Surface Laptop Go 2 (starts at $599.99; $799.99 as tested) is a modest update to the original, replacing the processor with a faster Intel 11th Generation chip and tweaking a few components. Offering features like a 3:2-aspect-ratio display (rarely found on budget laptops), this Microsoft mini is more stylish and better made than many of its affordable rivals.

A Portable Design in a Fresh Coat of Paint

Microsoft has populated just about every potential price and size point in the Surface line. The original Surface Laptop Go, as its name implied, combined the DNA of the petite Surface Go detachable and the traditional Surface Laptop. Smaller than the latter, this portability-first laptop targets everyday productivity users on the, well, go.

(Photo: Joseph Maldonado)

The first thing you notice about our review unit (though it's less visible in our photos than in person) is the lovely new sage green color. A pale shade of green, it's very pleasing to the eye, stands out from the crowd, and adds some style to a machine you'll be seen carrying out and about. One of four color options (the others are ice blue, sandstone, and platinum), it's quite Apple-like in style, as the Surface devices have always represented Windows alternatives to the MacBook and iPad concepts.

Physically, the Surface Laptop Go 2 measures 0.62 by 11 by 8.1 inches and weighs 2.48 pounds, just as slim and portable as the original. The same premium aluminum is used on the lid, promoting the MacBook feel, though as an economy notebook the system isn't all metal—the base mixes aluminum and polycarbonate composite resin with glass fiber, 30% of which is post-consumer recycled material.

(Photo: Joseph Maldonado)

The bottom portion does feel more like plastic than metal, but it doesn't feel cheap or flimsy. Between its size and materials, the Surface Laptop Go 2 delivers a near-premium experience despite its low price point.

The display, somewhat disappointingly, is also unchanged. I say that because the 12.4-inch PixelSense screen's resolution falls short of full HD at 1,536 by 1,024 pixels. From the pixel count I figured it would be close enough to mimic full HD or 1080p, but just as my colleague Tom Brant did when reviewing the first Surface Laptop Go, I found some text appeared blurry or grainy compared to the higher resolutions to which most laptop users are accustomed.

(Photo: Joseph Maldonado)

The screen offers touch support and is fairly bright at its maximum setting, so it's not a total loss. On average, its color and quality are okay, but as I'm writing this I have to say the text in Google Docs doesn't look super-sharp.

Another disappointment is the lack of a backlit keyboard. I realize this is a budget laptop, but even many low-priced Windows notebooks and Chromebooks offer backlighting these days. I did some work in a dim room and instantly missed the option for key illumination. Otherwise, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is quite enjoyable to use: The keycaps are maybe a touch small, depending on your fingertip size, but the keyboard has satisfying travel. And the touchpad is relatively roomy, and pans and clicks smoothly.

Fingerprints, Cameras, and Connectivity

A fingerprint reader comes integrated into the power button, allowing easy sign-ins with Windows Hello. The webcam lacks IR face recognition, so fingerprints are the only way to use Windows Hello, but that's acceptable at this price. The camera itself has been improved for today's video-call culture; Microsoft improved the sensor and added dual-field microphones to upgrade the conferencing experience. Unfortunately, the webcam hasn't been promoted to 1080p resolution; it's still a 720p device.

(Photo: Joseph Maldonado)

The webcam's video quality is decent, but its low resolution shows, and it doesn't handle low light especially well. In fairness, many much more expensive laptops are still stuck with cheap 720p cameras, but a sharper webcam would have been nice.

As far as connectivity, you'll find one USB 3.2 Type-A port, one USB Type-C port, and a headphone jack. The laptop is charged via the proprietary Surface Connector on its right flank. This, too, is the same loadout as the previous model. The lack of an HDMI port for plugging in an external monitor is a letdown.

(Photo: Joseph Maldonado)

One change to this model is the inclusion of replaceable parts. Like the use of recycled materials, this is partially a sustainability endeavor, letting users at least partially rejuvenate an aging system. A more serviceable mass-production laptop is always a plus for consumers and office users alike.

(Photo: Joseph Maldonado)

Which parts are replaceable? The solid-state drive is again swappable (Microsoft provides a guide to SSD replacement), but it's now joined by the "C-Cover," which includes the keyboard and touchpad; the "AB-Cover," which is the display; the battery; and the Surflink internal connector cable.

(Photo: Joseph Maldonado)

One other addition: The Surface Laptop Go 2 is the first secured-core Intel PC in Microsoft's lineup with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 support. That may appeal to enterprise shoppers, and Microsoft has issued a blog post(Opens in a new window) outlining the advantages to IT departments.

Surface Laptop Go 2: Configuration Options

Despite the admittedly somewhat minor revisions, new processor, and generally rising PC costs, Microsoft has kept the Surface Laptop Go 2's starting price pretty close to that of the original. The base model has risen $50 to $599.99, which trends out of the extreme-value range but is still well under four figures. Let's dive into what the different configurations entail.

(Photo: Joseph Maldonado)

The base unit is pretty modest, pairing a quad-core Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU with an inadequate 4GB of memory and 128GB solid-state drive. It's only offered in the platinum color. Spending another $100 gets you the middle model, which hikes memory to 8GB and lets you choose the other colors. Finally, another $100 step up (to $799.99) doubles the SSD storage to 256GB. This is the model reviewed here.

No, you can't buy a Surface Laptop Go 2 with a faster Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, or a 512GB or 1TB drive. If you're looking for something more robust, Microsoft steers you to the 13.5-inch or 15-inch Surface Laptop 4.

Testing the Surface Laptop Go 2: Smooth Sailing (Among Budget Laptops)

We put our Surface Laptop Go 2 to the test with our standard benchmark suite, comparing its results to those of the following systems:

This is mainly a group of other budget machines, some of them a bit less expensive than the Surface Laptop Go 2. Lenovo's IdeaPad Flex 5i 14 convertible is equivalent in price to today's Microsoft laptop; the IdeaPad 3 14 costs less; and the Surface Go 3 detachable occupies a tier below its stablemate in power and price. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 13 is a more expensive laptop but in some aspects similar to the Surface to show what a few hundred dollars more can get you.

Productivity Tests

The main benchmark of UL's PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10's Full System Drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop's storage.

Three more benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon's Cinebench R23 uses that company's Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs' Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).

Our final productivity test is workstation maker Puget Systems' PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe's famous image editor to rate a PC's performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It's an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.

It's worth keeping in mind that in this quintet only the Surface Go 3 is at a real CPU disadvantage. Two rivals have the same processor as the Surface Laptop Go 2, and the IdeaPad 3's chip is an AMD equivalent. Overall, the Surface Laptop Go 2 came off well, more or less landing in the middle of the pack but close enough to the lead. It's more than capable for everyday operations; it costs more than some rivals with the same CPU, but has arguably superior build quality.

Graphics and Gaming Tests

We test Windows PCs' graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL's 3DMark: Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs). Two more tests from GFXBench 5.0, run offscreen to allow for different display resolutions, wring out OpenGL operations.

All of these systems rely on their processors' integrated graphics rather than a discrete GPU as you'd find in a gaming laptop, so there's a hard upper limit to their results. The Surface Laptop Go 2 managed to separate itself from all but the Samsung, but none of these PCs pretends to be suited for demanding games or professional graphics applications. Stick to streaming media and casual or strategy games with any of them.

Battery and Display Tests

We test laptops' battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender short Tears of Steel) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100% until the system quits. We make sure the battery is fully charged before the test, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off.

The Surface Laptop Go 2 isn't a battery record-setter, but it avoids the budget-laptop pitfall of too-brief battery life. The Galaxy Book Pro's unplugged runtime topped the chart, but that's part of what you get for its higher price. You should be able to get through a day of classes or commuting without worrying about where the nearest AC outlet is. The display proved middling in terms of color coverage, but was one of the brightest at its peak setting.

A Modest Improvement for 2022

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is a moderate improvement on its predecessor, though significant changes are few. The quicker processor is the main step forward, joined by minor improvements to the webcam and a more sustainable design with some replaceable parts.

Otherwise, it's the same nice budget notebook we saw the first time around, which isn't a bad thing. The build is more premium than many in this tier, and the starting price is attractive (even our bumped-up configuration is reasonable). There are a few shortcomings, but that's true for any laptop at this price. If it's a good match for your budget and you like its extra bit of style, the Surface Laptop Go 2 could be one of your best budget buys.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 4.0 (Opens in a new window) See It $599.99 at Microsoft Store (Opens in a new window) Starts at $599.99 Pros Competitive performance from updated CPU

Stylish, colorful design

Quality build and comfortable keyboard

Reasonably priced

Swappable SSD and chassis parts for longevity View More Cons Less-than-1080p display with nonstandard resolution

Updated (but still ho-hum) webcam The Bottom Line The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 doesn't reinvent the original, but some minor upgrades and a new CPU put this affordable, stylish notebook back among your best budget options for 2022.

Microsoft Surface Go 2

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  • Kolbowicz Marek
  • May 09,2024

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