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

Give the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go a look if you want affordable quality

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
(Image credit: Microsoft)
T3 Verdict

With the Surface Laptop Go, Microsoft has tried to make an affordable laptop for the masses – or at least for students. While performance and battery life are underwhelming, the laptop is well built and designed, and will serve you well for day-to-day computing.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Well-built and lightweight

  • +

    Impressive 12.4-inch, 3:2 aspect ratio display

  • +

    Copes with most tasks comfortably

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Average battery life

  • -

    Average specs on the cheapest configuration

  • -

    Average performance

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Like the Surface Go (and Surface Go 2) before it, the Surface Laptop Go marks an attempt by Microsoft to offer a more affordable alternative to its line of premium products – and in this case those premium products are the Surface Laptop 3 and the Surface Book 3.

It's a laptop aimed at school and college students, or indeed anyone who wants an inexpensive laptop that's going to take care of the basics. Emailing, essay writing, web browsing, movie watching... the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go handles all this very well.

What you're not going to get here is any kind of serious performance for high-end video and image editing projects, or gaming. If you need a laptop that works at top speed for more demanding tasks, then you're going to have to spend a little bit more money.

If you think this might be the laptop for you, our full Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review should be able to help you decide one way or the other: we'll cover the laptop's performance, battery life, build quality and everything else that you need to know.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review: screen and design

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

(Image credit: Future)

The Surface Laptop Go comes with a bright, sharp 12.4-inch display, running at a resolution of 1536 x 1024 pixels – you'll notice that's a 3:2 aspect ratio, which makes it great for scrolling down long documents and webpages, and less great for sitting back and watching widescreen movies. We had absolutely no problem with the screen, which is easy on the eyes and which supports touch input too.

The display bezels aren't the thinnest we've ever seen, but they're respectably svelte, and we also found the build quality more generally to be really good too. All of Microsoft's Surface laptops have a certain style and polish to them, and the Laptop Go is no different – even if some of the materials used are less than premium in this case. The chassis is plastic and not aluminium, for example, and there's no keyboard backlighting.

For the price you're paying though, we're impressed with the aesthetics of the Surface Laptop Go, whether it's open or closed. The typing experience is comfortable and snappy, while the trackpad hits the required level of responsiveness for a smooth working experience. Tipping the scales at 1.11 kg or 2.45 lbs, the laptop is light enough to carry around with one hand while you're on the go.

You don't get a number pad because of the compactness of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go, and around the sides there's a USB-C port, a USB-A port, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a Surface Connect port – this can be used for connecting a variety of peripherals. There's a 720p webcam embedded at the top of the monitor, and we're also pleased to see a fingerprint sensor built into the power button to make logging in easier (though this isn't available on the cheapest configuration).

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review: performance and features

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

(Image credit: Future)

Our review unit came with a 10th-gen Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage. You can drop that storage down to 128GB as well, with 8GB of RAM, but the cheapest configuration only gives you 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Considering affordability is one of the Laptop Go's strong suits, that's quite a low level in terms of internal specs.

We can only talk about the laptop we had to test, and it was absolutely no slouch in terms of browsing the web, streaming music, watching movies and so on. Even when working with large images or multiple browser tabs, the Surface Laptop Go still sped along without a stutter, though we did notice the underside of the laptop getting very warm on several occasions (perhaps part of the reason the battery life here isn't amazing).

You're not going to be able to run any kind of serious game on this laptop, and more demanding tasks like video encoding are likely to be frustratingly slow, but for everyday use it's fine, thanks to that i5 processor. If you can afford the extra RAM and storage we'd say it's worth the upgrade, though at the more expensive configurations the performance of the Surface Laptop Go doesn't stand up as well against laptops at a similar price point.

Battery life is reasonable without being spectacular – our two-hour video streaming test at maximum brightness drained the battery from 100 percent to 73 percent, which works out at around 6 hours of video streaming (or more if you dim the screen a bit). In general use, we were getting 6-7 hours as well, so you might just be able to spend a day away from the desk – but not much more than that.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review: price and verdict

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The name of the Surface Laptop Go tells you exactly what to expect from this Windows 10 computer: a lightweight laptop that sticks to the basics and covers them well. While the specs and performance are pretty par for the course at these price points, we think the build quality, finish, and screen of the Surface Laptop Go help it stand out from the pack.

It's a laptop that's a pleasure to use, and that counts for a lot: the typing experience is comfortable, the 3:2 display shows off everything well, and with an integrated fingerprint sensor (on the two pricier models) and a built-in webcam you've got everything you need to do your day-to-day computing. It's a great choice for students or for anyone who needs a lightweight, affordable laptop.

Battery life isn't fantastic in our experience, and of course the performance isn't what you would get from more expensive mid-range or premium laptops – in terms of raw speed you can probably find better value elsewhere. However, if the Microsoft Surface aesthetic appeals and you don't want to spend over the odds, then we don't think you're going to be disappointed with the Surface Laptop Go.

Check the widgets on this page for the latest online deals, but official pricing for the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go stands at £549 / $549.99, £699 / $699.99 and £899 / $899.99 depending on the configuration you pick, with platinum, sandstone and ice blue your colour choices. We'd recommend keeping an eye out for discounts on the web to make the Surface Laptop Go even better value.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.