Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: a lightweight laptop for students

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is a compact laptop for getting work done wherever you need to go

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: woman working with a laptop on her lap
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is a great choice for anyone who needs a reliable, compact and portable laptop to use day-to-day. Students, in particular, will get on well with it even if it's not quite powerful enough for some more demanding tasks.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Compact and portable

  • +

    12.4-inch touchscreen

  • +

    Effective 720p webcam

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Weak battery life

  • -

    Average performance

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This Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review comes to the conclusion that this is one of the best student laptops you can buy because it’s affordable, it’s portable and it’s powerful enough for most productivity tasks.

Microsoft makes a lot of reliable personal computers, that’s for sure. Previous high-scorers on T3 include the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio, the Microsoft Surface Book 2 and of course, the more affordable Microsoft Surface Laptop Go, which was released in 2020 and preceded this laptop. At the time, we thought that it was perfect for day-to-day computing, and the second version follows on from that well. 

Here you can find out everything you need to know about this mid-range PC from Microsoft including details on its design and screen as well as how it performs day to day and how long you can expect the battery to last. By the end, you should be able to figure out whether it's the right choice for you, or not. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: price and what’s new  

You can buy the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 starting from about $700 in the US, £610 in the UK and AU$1,200 in Australia. The widgets on this page list the best deals on it right now from across the web in your region. 

The second version of the laptop improves on the first in a number of ways. While they’re a similar size, shape and design, under the hood things are looking quite different and you’ll now find an 11th Generation Intel Core processor alongside Intel Iris Xe graphics, whereas the last model had 10th Gen processors with Intel UHD graphics.

The battery life has also been slightly boosted, and the PC now runs on the latest Windows 11 as opposed to Windows 10. The only other change worth mentioning is the new Sage colourway which has been added to the mix. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: design and screen 

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: laptop keyboard close up on a transparent table

(Image credit: Future)

Impressively compact, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2  is well suited to those who plan to work on the go a lot. It measures 278.2 x 206.2 x 15.7mm and weighs 1.13kg which means it will fit into even smaller bags - you could carry it around all the time without feeling too weighed down. 

Because of that, it will be ideal for both students but also for office workers who need something small to take back and forth on their commute. 

As you’d expect from Microsoft, the more general design is stripped back but stylish. You can buy it in 3 different colours including Platinum, Sage, Ice Blue and Sandstone - the model I took a look at was the Sandstone which has a slight rose gold tone to it and is made from matte aluminium with a mirrored Microsoft logo on the lid. I get the impression that this would survive being knocked about a bit, it doesn't easily pick up scratches or even fingerprint marks. 

Inside, the rubberised plastic keys match the body in colour, with white letters, characters and numbers. Because they’re spaced quite closely together, the keys took me a bit of getting used to and I did sometimes end up mistyping, especially when I was bashing out a long document. You will struggle to use this at night as well because there's no backlighting on the keys.

In terms of connectivity, there are a few different ports around the frame including a USB-C, a USB-A, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and the Surface Connect port which it uses for charging. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: laptop closed on a garden table

(Image credit: Future)

It’s a shame that the included charger isn’t USB-C like you’d now get with a lot of other laptops, it makes things a lot easier if you were to damage or lose the cable.

Another issue I had with the charger is that it doesn’t magnetically snap in so it takes a bit of fiddling with when you go to hook it up to power. Some people might also be looking for a few more ports, like an HDMI or a MicroSD card slot, for example.

The power button doubles up as a fingerprint sensor which you can use to unlock the PC. I thought it worked well, I got into the desktop quickly each time I went to use it. If you're hoping for facial recognition as well then unfortunately you won't get that here.

Now onto the screen. The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 has a 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen display with a resolution of 1536 x 1024p and a 3:2 aspect ratio. Clear and bright, the screen is very accurate, with sharp lettering, vibrant colours and dark blacks. It's also quite bright. I could actually still see it sitting outside on a sunny day.

I liked the shape of the screen because it meant I could see a lot of the document I was working on. On the flip side, it won’t be so well suited to streaming TV shows when you want to relax in the evening and the size isn’t necessarily going to give you enough space for more detailed creative work either.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: performance and battery 

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: laptop screen close up by a fence

(Image credit: Future)

Powering the PC is an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor alongside Intel Iris Xe graphics. You get a choice of either 4GB or 6GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of SSD storage. Modest mid-range specs are what keep the price so low. 

The laptop I tested out was the higher-spec model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of memory. 

While you can’t expect huge things from the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 in terms of performance, it’ll still be a good little workhorse for less demanding tasks, like word processing or web searching. I had a few different tabs open at once and it didn't seem to have any problems with that. 

If you plan to play PC games during your downtime or use software like Adobe Photoshop then this won’t be right for you but if you need something to write your essays on then this definitely has enough power to support you. 

The benchmark tests back up my findings. On 3DMark’s Time Spy test, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 picked up a score of 973 while on the Geekbench 5 performance test, it managed 1,365 in single-core and 4,037 in multi-core. Both scores place it firmly amongst other mid-range laptops like the Acer Aspire Vero

In terms of battery life, things could be a lot better. I was on just under 50% as I started a video call and 45 minutes later, the battery was running out so I had to run for the charger. 

To test it out a bit more accurately I downloaded and ran an HD video over the space of two hours, in that time, the battery dropped by 42% which suggests it would have lasted a total of about 5 hours which won’t get you very far at all. On the bright side, it only took about an hour and a half to recharge the battery from flat to full. 

The 720p webcam may not sound like much but I thought it was actually quite good for video calling. Glancing occasionally at myself in the bottom of the screen, I looked clear, bright and relatively sharp. Of course, it would be great to see a 1080p camera in that top bezel but you don't really need it. 

To go alongside that, the omnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio Premium ensure you can hear the person on the other end of your call, and they're also great for streaming video because they’re so loud and clear. You’ll be able to use them to listen to music as well, but I did find that there was a small amount of distortion which made my tracks sound a little off. 

Thanks to Windows 11, this computer is very easy to use and comes with a few features that will help you to work more efficiently. 

New widgets for the desktop can show you the information from your calendar or give you quick access to your photos, you can work more smoothly across your phone and computer simultaneously and you can even download your Android apps onto it.

There are also handy Snap Layouts to help you organise your screen better when you have multiple windows open, although admittedly, given the size of the screen you’re somewhat limited with how many you can actually have open at once.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: verdict

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: laptop on a white background

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Compact and portable, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is a fantastic laptop for anyone who plans to carry it around a lot, whether that's for work, school or university. 

Almost everything about this is well set up for more basic computing, you'll be able to write up assignments, fill in spreadsheets or browse the web without any issues. Admittedly it won’t be so well versed at more creative work, like photo or video editing, nor will it be suitable for gaming because it just doesn’t have the power needed to cope with that. 

Another downside is the battery life, there’s no way it will get you through an entire day of work so if you were to buy this, you’d need to keep your charger nearby when you can. 

Other than that, this is a great piece of kit with a stunning sharp 12.4-inch touchscreen, decent speakers and a good HD webcam. But perhaps the very best thing about it is its price, and from the outside, you would never guess it’s just a mid-range laptop. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: also consider  

The HP Pavilion 14 is another similarly-priced laptop to consider, especially if you are a student. It’s a solid all-rounder with an impressive HD touchscreen and Bang & Olufsen tuned speakers built in - it’ll be great for working during the day and streaming Netflix in the evening. It also comes with a few of the ports that the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is missing including an HDMI and a MicroSD card slot. 

For those with a much bigger budget, you can’t get better than the Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020). Lightweight and portable, it will easily slip into your backpack. You can also expect fast performance, a dazzling display and excellent battery life. The only downsides are the webcam which isn’t quite up to scratch and the fact that there aren’t many ports around the frame. 

Yasmine Crossland
Freelance Tech Expert

Yasmine is the former Reviews Writer for T3, so she's been knee-deep in the latest tech products for reviewing and curating into the best buying guides since she started in 2019. She keeps a finger on the pulse when it comes to the most exciting and innovative tech and is happy to tell you exactly what she thinks about it too. In her free time, you'll catch her travelling the globe – the perks of being a freelance tech expert – tending to her plants when at home and, but of course, planning her next big trip.