The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go comes loaded with reliable hardware, comfortable software, and a convenient package. It’s small but capable, light, and easy to carry around, so — as their advertising states — you can turn any place into your workspace. It’s not a perfect machine, but if your demands are low and your budget is flexible, it’ll happily get the job done.
The design is compact with a 12.4” touchscreen, measures in at 0.95” x 8.10” x 0.62”, and weighs in at an easy, breezy 2.45lbs. As a Surface Laptop Go, it really puts the emphasis on the “go”; it’s a great size to just toss in your bag and run out the door. Though the Go has an aluminum top, its polycarbonate base feels durable and ready for action. Perhaps a bit disappointing for those who like a full metal jacket on their laptop, but it does the trick if you’re not too picky.
Right out of the box, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is fully charged and ready to rock, but you’ll have to take some time to get everything set up. Compared to the quick, google-account-friendly initialization of the Asus Chromebook Flip c436, this was a bit of a slog. It really wants you to enter an Outlook email address to help set it up, so if you have shifted from Hotmail to Gmail, be prepared to make some adjustments.
Obviously, because it’s a Microsoft product, it’s really optimized for use with their apps and software. Once it is ready to go, it immediately defaults to S mode, which only allows you to download and install apps from the Microsoft Store. It also requires Microsoft Edge (the new Internet Explorer) for safe browsing. Thankfully, if you so choose, you can turn this feature off (after receiving a very foreboding warning that — once off — there’s no turning back to S mode).
So, now that you’ve got your Microsoft Surface Laptop Go up, running, and off to the races, it’s time to see how it performs. Right out of the gate, I noticed that the keyboard isn’t backlit (which is disappointing). But it’s comfortable to hammer away on for hours at a time, and reasonably quiet! While it doesn’t have the satisfying clickety-clack of most keyboards, it’s discreet, and with the smaller size it feels kind of… stealthy. There’s also a dedicated search button, so like with a chromebook, it’s easy to search up some facts at the drop of a hat.
Depending on the model you get, the Surface Go comes with a fingerprint sensor that is used to unlock the computer after it’s closed down. This is pretty neat, and very convenient, but it’s not offered on the base model, so you do have to upgrade to the mid-range version in order to… unlock… that feature (I’m sorry, but pun fully intended).
The trackpad — much like the laptop itself — feels a bit narrow, and I found myself taking advantage of the touchscreen a bit more than I perhaps normally would, just out of the sake of convenience. It feels great, it’s very responsive, but it’s perhaps a tad crowded. The touchscreen is a very nice option, though it feels like the sort of laptop that should fold to different formations (tent, stand, etc). Unfortunately, it stays firmly in laptop mode.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go comes equipped with a USB-C and standard USB-A port, along with an auxiliary port for headphones and a special Surface Connect port for charging. The two USB ports don’t offer a ton of space if you want to plug in any more than a USB mouse and a flash drive, and you won’t be able to HDMI-port your way onto a second monitor. But you could always invest in a USB-C hub or adapter, if you want to open up your options.
The smaller screen size (12.4”), while conveniently compact, may be a downside when using the laptop to work from home. If you’ve got several browser tabs open or are working with a large spreadsheet, it starts to feel cluttered. And with the smaller screen, you don’t get the same screen resolution that you’d get if this was a larger model. With a 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI) screen resolution, it’s not bad, but compared to most HD laptops that have 1920 x 1080, it’s not great either. That said, if your needs are less complex it’s still completely passable.
If you decide to take the plunge and make a purchase, you have three slightly different models to choose from. The base model comes in Platinum with a modest 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage, and is priced at $759.99 CDN. Keep in mind that the Windows 10 OS takes up quite a bit of space, so if you’re gearing towards the base model, be prepared to be more conservative with your storage. And as previously mentioned, if you’re looking to connect to an external drive to beef things up a bit, you’ll want to be mindful of the limited USB ports.
If you want to step it up a notch (and I recommend you do — the fingerprint sensor and extra RAM is worth it), you can go up to 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage, priced at $959.99 CDN. The extra cost also gives you a choice of three model colours, Ice Blue, Sandstone, and Platinum. If that’s still not enough for you, you can hop up to 256GB of storage with your choice of the three colour models for $1,229.99 CDN.
Equipped with a 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i5 processor, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go feels kind of like a Chromebook competitor that’s comfortable with a little more heavy lifting, making it a solid option for students who need a little more performance from their laptop, or for those who find themselves unexpectedly working from home. Basically, if you’re web browsing, word processing, researching, or doing any basic work tasks, the Surface Go has got you covered. But if you push it too far, don’t be surprised if it’s a bit slow to keep up.
So, after all that, let’s be honest. For a budget-friendly option, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is on the higher end of the financial spectrum and the more conservative side when it comes to tech specs. If you do a little research, you can likely find something with comparable specs at a better price. Of course, there’s a certain comfort and confidence found in the Microsoft name. That said, when looking under the hood of this machine, it does feel like you’re paying more for the name (and the handy, dandy, on-the-go size).
Overall, I wasn’t fully taken with the Surface Go. It’s pretty simple, and nothing about it really impressed me. There’s certainly an audience for this laptop; If you’re looking for something safe for a student or someone less computer-savvy, it’s a nice, light, easy — if not pricey — option. Especially if you keep it in S mode, which would benefit a grandparent or youth who might not be as world-wide-web-weary. It’s easy to use, it’s fast enough, and it feels sturdy enough to be handled with a little less delicate care. It offers more versatility than a Chromebook (the Chrome OS can be somewhat limiting) and better offline functionality.
So, while it’s a great little machine, the price for the base model seems high, considering the specs you’re working with. With 4GB Ram and 64GB of storage, $759.99 seems a bit steep. Yes, at its base level — with its small size — the Surface Go is designed to take you there. But if you’re hoping to cover a lot of ground, you might not get very far.