Floor Laptop computer Go Evaluation: Floor Meets Chromebook

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

"Surface Laptop Go is an affordable way to stay productive and enjoy world-class Surface design without breaking the bank."

  • Thin and light

  • Comfortable keyboard and trackpad

  • Good choice of ports

  • Good performance

  • No backlit keyboard

  • The display's pixel density is low

  • No Surface Pen support

Nowadays there is a surface device for everything. You can create and play one, travel with one, or just enjoy daily productivity in a tablet form factor. However, what most Surface devices have in common is that there is often a steep price to buying a device. Microsoft has started fixing this with the Surface Go first. Now there's a device for people who want a traditional clamshell laptop too.

The Surface Laptop Go is a gorgeous 12.4-inch laptop from Microsoft that starts at $ 550 and rivals the best Chromebooks and even some of the best budget Windows laptops.

Conceptually, the newest entry to the Surface family takes all of the lessons Microsoft learned from the larger Surface Laptop 3 into a smaller, cheaper package. It's also specially designed for those looking for a Surface device with a balance between performance and premium design.

Does that mean Microsoft has to make too many cuts? Or does the Surface Laptop Go have everything you need to be your new productivity laptop?

Surface meets Chromebook

The new $ 550 Surface Laptop Go may look like a smaller version of the 13-inch Surface laptop, but once I took it out of the box, it felt very different.

The top lid and keyboard of the Surface Laptop Go glow brightly with a familiar aluminum finish, but the rest of the laptop doesn't. The lower part of the Surface Laptop Go is made of a polycarbonate composite resin made from fiberglass and 30% post-consumer recycled content.

Although Microsoft says this is a durable material that won't scratch, the Surface Laptop Go feels more like an HP Chromebook 14 or a Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 made of plastic here.

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Still, Microsoft paid attention to the most important parts of the Surface Laptop Go. This includes both the keyboard deck and the screen. There is no bend when typing, and when I tried to bend the screen it didn't bend either. Each of them is made of aluminum.

I think Microsoft was smart at keeping the top half out of aluminum. Surface fans would have been annoyed if Microsoft released an all-plastic Surface laptop.

Microsoft had to make changes to the Surface Laptop Go design to match the price. One of them is the choice of case material.

The partially plastic construction has an advantage. The Surface Laptop Go is a featherweight at 2.45 pounds and just 0.62 inches thick. I can hold the laptop over my desk between two fingers and let it dangle almost like a sheet of paper. I can also open the lid with one hand. Its weight is under the 2.84 pounds of the standard Surface 3 laptop and close to the 2.3 pounds of the Pixelbook Go.

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The Surface Laptop Go has what some other premium laptops these days lack in a USB-A port. Just like the larger 13-inch sibling, the main ports are on the left side of the device. In addition to USB-A, there is a USB-C port, which is not Thunderbolt compatible for security reasons. There is also a headphone jack.

Elsewhere on the right is the proprietary Surface Connect. It is only for charging and does not contain any data. According to Microsoft, you can charge the device to 80% in just an hour using the included charger, but the device is also charged via USB-C. A great thing to boot up with power banks on the go.

Those who care about speed should be pleased that the Surface Laptop Go has the latest in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. The mix includes Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, giving this affordable laptop the latest in wireless technology.

Type in a storm, but don't type in a storm

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The Surface Laptop Go has a full-size keyboard similar to the Surface Laptop 3. We already found it comfortable when we reviewed the original and our minds haven't changed. This is thanks to the keycaps with soft touch and the 1.3 mm key travel. Simply put, the typing is accurate – as long as you're in the light.

The Surface Laptop Go has no keyboard backlight. That's not too unusual for the $ 550 price tag. Similar budget Windows laptops like the Acer Spire 5 don't have backlights, but a $ 650 Chromebook like the Pixelbook Go does.

Still, I wish Microsoft hadn't turned off the lights. This is a very useful feature for students who have to deal with nightly study sessions.

If you can see it, the keyboard should hold your typing correctly. I hit 73 words per minute in Bing's writing test. That's the same thing I get when I type on my go-to device, which is a 15-inch Surface Laptop 3.

Microsoft also has a fingerprint reader on the power button. However, you can only find it on select models. It is not included in the base model but is offered on our midrange devices and top tier models. I would recommend it as it makes logging in to the laptop very quick. Windows Hello facial recognition login is not supported.

Unlike the Surface Laptop 3, the trackpad is not made of glass. It's Mylar, supports Microsoft's five-finger multitouch gestures, and is a nice size of 115mm x 76.66mm. Usually laptop manufacturers shrink the touchpad when they shrink the screen size, but Microsoft knows better. The laptop Go's trackpad is buttery soft and has a nice slippery surface. Scrolling through web pages was pretty fun.

The input is accurate and the trackpad is fluid.

I would also like to mention the speakers and microphones. Just like the Surface Laptop 3, the Laptop Go has Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio. There are even two far-field microphones that sit on top of the screens.

The speakers are still in the device on the keyboard deck, but they are very loud. I enjoyed jamming to Clean Bandi & # 39; s Rather Be. Even when the volume was set to 70%, the lyrics were clear and a distinct bass was heard in the introductory sequence with the violins.

With the microphones and 720p webcam, my colleagues were happy with my voice and video quality when I used the Surface Laptop Go during a team video call. This is especially important in our current environment where we spend more time sticking to our displays in web conferencing.

Not enough pixels

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Speaking of displays, if you're looking for a budget laptop these days, you will likely see all kinds of display options. The most common is a 1080p or 1920 x 1080 resolution, but that's not what you'll find on the Surface Laptop Go.

While the 13-inch Surface Laptop 3 has an impressive display with a resolution of 2256 x 1504 (201 PPI), the Surface Laptop Go is the opposite. Instead, Microsoft opts for a 12.4-inch display with a resolution of 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI). This control panel has 10-point multi-touch support, but no Surface Pen support. It even has Microsoft's 3: 2 aspect ratio.

But don't let that fool you. You can find the 1080p panel on a competing $ 550 or $ 650 laptop like the Pixelbook Go, as well as an Asus Vivobook 15, but not the Laptop Go. Even Microsoft's Surface Go 2 has a higher definition 1080p display and is also quite cheap if you don't consider the keyboard cover.

While the 3: 2 aspect ratio offers more vertical space for scrolling and a touchscreen is appreciated for this low price, the bottom of the Surface Laptop Go is flanked by ugly frames. Microsoft downsized the side bezels on the Surface Laptop Go to 7mm (and bent the screen edges for the first time), but this isn't exactly an XPS 13.

While the 13-inch Surface laptop has a pixel-punching display, the Surface Laptop Go is exactly the opposite.

However, this is not all a loss to Microsoft. Microsoft intends to use this laptop for productivity and I was able to do so despite the low resolution panel. I stacked two Edge windows side by side and enjoyed my usual workflow like on my 15-inch Surface Laptop 3, but with limited screen space. This is the advantage of the unusual aspect ratio of 3: 2.

Arif Bacchus / Digital Trends

The panel itself is just as good as the Surface Laptop 3. According to our colorimeter, it achieves a brightness of around 383 nits and an average color error of only 2.3. This roughly corresponds to the laptop 3 (372 nits, 2.4 color errors). However, we can't directly compare this to a Chromebook because our colorimeter doesn't work on ChromeOS. However, Microsoft does not visually sacrifice display or image quality.

The pixels may not be there, but the display quality is. I've seen episodes of Netflix's Designated Survivor and scenes with the exterior and rose garden of the White House were alive and well as expected in real life. And when I looked at the cosmos of National Geographic, I was sunk pretty deep into space thanks to the impressive contrast levels of the display.

Ice Lake is good for the price, just not for playing

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Like the Surface Laptop 3, Ice Lake is back on the Surface Laptop Go this year. While they're not the latest Tiger Lake chips from Intel, they do make a performance difference.

Our device was configured with the Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor, 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB NVMe SSD. This is the midrange model, but the cheaper $ 550 version has the same processor but 4GB of RAM and slower eMMC storage. This slower storage can prove to be a more serious disadvantage if you choose the entry-level model.

You probably won't experience the faster read and write speeds of the SSD on our device. We achieved a read speed of 590 and a write speed of 674. It is about standard for a surface. The Surface Laptop 2 saw similar speeds on the 950 and 617.

Regardless of which model you choose, there is only one processor choice, namely the Intel Core i5-1035G1. It is a quad-core processor running at 1.00 GHz. This processor is great for multitasking and general productivity. It can be found on a similar budget or business laptop like the Acer Swift 3 or the Dell Inspiron 14.5000.

There is no doubt that this chipset is great for both internet surfing and everyday tasks. You can tell by the single-core and multi-core Geekbench 4 scores of 1,176 and 3,459. These results are below most laptops, but are certainly more than adequate for everyday use.

I didn't have any issues with multiple Microsoft Edge tabs. Over 10 tabs didn't slow down the Surface Laptop Go. Multiple instances of YouTube weren't opened either. Given most budget Chromebooks as the Pixelbook Go comes with outdated dual-core Core i3 or Core m3 processors, this is very much appreciated. It almost feels like a ThinkPad-class performance. Even the entry-level version of Apple's MacBook Air has a slower dual-core processor, and that's over $ 1,000.

The Surface Laptop Go is a further development of the Surface Go 2 with slower Intel Pentium Gold or Core m3 processors. This time around, Microsoft got the right performance for its budget PC, although it would have been nice if Microsoft had tried AMD's Ryzen 5 chips. This was previously the case in the larger 15-inch versions of the Surface Laptop 3. These new processors are found in laptops like the Asus Vivobook 15.

Note, however, that the Surface Laptop Go is not suitable for gaming as it has Intel HD graphics and not the newer Iris Plus that you might find on a premium laptop.

Only 1,508 points were achieved in the 3DMark Fire Strike test. That is far behind the 3,947 of the Asus Zenbook Flip S, which has the new Iris Xe graphics from Intel. Fortnite was basically not playable on the Laptop Go, with frames around 15 at low settings. You have to stick to simple 2D games and very old 3D titles.

Battery life that lasts all day

Battery life is crucial as you don't want to be plugged into an electrical outlet all day. Microsoft claims that their Surface Laptop Go has what it takes, as it can last up to 13 hours on a single charge – but is that true?

The answer is yes. While this manufacturer's information is usually doubtful, the Surface Laptop Go gets great battery life. With a screen around 60% brightness, the Surface Laptop Go lasted around 585 minutes in our iMacro web browser test in Microsoft Edge, which runs a continuous loop of web pages.

That is better than the Dell Inspiron 14 (282 minutes) and the Acer Aspire 5 (258 minutes). It even outperforms the MacBook Air (576 minutes). The 783 minutes set by the Pixelbook Go are still a long way off.

When we streamed a loop of video, the Laptop Go pulled out and lasted well over 11 hours and 3 minutes. That's almost the same level as the Pixelbook Go's 13 hours.

All in all, don't worry. The battery in the Surface Laptop Go is indeed designed to last.

Our opinion

Starting at $ 550, the Surface Laptop Go is a great Surface version of the Chromebook. However, there are many price cuts on a Surface device, including screen resolution and the lack of a keyboard backlight. Under the hood, the Surface Laptop Go with its 10th generation Intel Core i5 quad-core processor offers a lot of value and performance. This type of processor is rarely found in a budget laptop, even when paired with entry-level models with just 4GB of RAM and slower eMMC storage. There is a difference that you will feel as you try to get your job done.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes, there are many alternatives. If you are a student on a budget, consider buying the Pixelbook Go. If Windows is a must, there is the bulkier and more powerful Asus Vivobook 15, Acer Swift 3 or even the Dell Inspiron 14.5000. If a budget Surface is a must, the Surface Go 2 might also be a better choice because of its higher resolution display and support for Surface Pen.

How long it will take?

The Surface Laptop Go lasts a while. The internals meet specifications and the design and build quality are robust. You get a 60-day right of return via the Microsoft Store, a one-year hardware guarantee and 90 days of technical support.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The Surface Laptop Go makes sacrifices to get a low price, but its 3: 2 aspect ratio, solid processor, and good battery life make it stand out from the crowd.

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