Award: SEK 10,099 at Microsoft (tested model, 8/256 GB)
When we tested Microsoft’s smallest and cheapest laptop Surface Laptop Go in the fall of 2020, we were not completely convinced. It had the right performance for a small and affordable laptop, but a format we didn’t like, a low-resolution screen, unconvincing battery life and a host of other minor issues. Now Microsoft has finally released a sequel, the Surface Laptop Go 2. Have they succeeded better this time?
Much is the same. Design, chassis and format are the same, a compact laptop with a chassis that combines aluminum with scratch-free and easy-to-grip plastic. Although outwardly it is the same, there have been some changes in the way the chassis is constructed, so that it will be easier to maintain. Previously, it was only possible to change the ssd. Now, among other things, the battery and screen are also replaceable, for better service life.
The computer is pleasantly thin and weighs 1.13 kilos, but still feels convincingly solid to grip, carry and use. Nothing that fails or cracks, and nothing that feels fragile. What distinguishes it from a “regular” ultralight 13-incher is the width. The Surface Laptop Go 2 and its predecessors have a 12.4-inch screen, with Microsoft’s typical 2:3 aspect ratio.
That makes it about 2.5 centimeters narrower than a slim 13-incher. Despite that, the keyboard is not unbearably cramped to work on, and also excellently well built. It lacks backlighting, but is otherwise top class. The mouse pad is also of excellent quality.
Same cramped screen, but better interface
The screen also seems to be the same as in the Surface Laptop Go, and is the computer’s weakest point. It has a resolution of 1536 x 1024 pixels. So not even full 1080p resolution at height. This means that space on the screen quickly becomes crowded. Having two programs or browser windows side by side is no big deal, but Windows 11 looks to be a better interface for that resolution than Windows 10 was, we get rid of some of the things that bothered us with it in the previous model.
The screen otherwise maintains good basic quality with color in srgb class, brightness of just over 350 cd/m2 and even light distribution. Contrast shifts at narrow viewing angles, but we can’t tell if it’s due to the display panel or the glass surface in front. But then we are picky, this is a solidly good screen for surfing and office work, as well as simpler movie streaming. If you only look at image quality, then, we are still not fond of the format.
Of course it’s a touch screen, that’s one of the main points of a Surface, and the touch control can’t be complained about. It is unclear whether it is possible to use a pen. Microsoft’s own Surface Pen and its functions are not supported by the Surface Laptop Go 2 in any case.
Trimmed sound and usb ports
It also appears to be the same computer speaker as in the predecessor. But Microsoft seems to have tweaked the audio routines and fixed the overly muffled treble that made the sound feel closed. Now we get a well-balanced and surprisingly full sound, which also provides fine detail reproduction in the higher frequencies.
The computer seemingly has the same ports as its predecessor, usb c, usb a, headphone and the proprietary Surface Connect port, which connects chargers or Microsoft’s own docking solutions. The usb c port also has good docking properties, with power supply and monitor support.
Microsoft is not very clear on this point, in the specifications on their website it only says “usb c”, so it could have been a usb 2 port. With after digging we find it’s usb3 gen 2 with 10 gigabit on both usb ports. It is a step up from usb3 gen 1 in the predecessor. Double speed we don’t say no to. Incidentally, the type c port, just like before, supports displayport alt mode for monitor, as well as supports usb power delivery for power supply.
The operating system is of course Windows 11. This time it’s not the restrictive S mode, but the Surface Laptop Go 2 comes with standard Windows 11 Home. We think that is absolutely right in a computer like this one, which has office performance and the possibility of varied use. And as we previously mentioned, it visually fits better in the small screen.
Small with significant upgrade
The big upgrade is of course a new processor, the 11th generation Intel Core i5 instead of the 10th generation. Sure, the latest 12th generation would have been preferable, but this is typical Surface, always a step behind hardware development. It still provides stable and energy-efficient performance for web and office work, around 20 percent better than the processor in the previous Surface Laptop Go. Not least, the Iris Xe graphics in the new processor is significantly faster than the UHD Graphics G1.
With the new processor, and perhaps thanks to a new internal design that changes the air flow inside the computer, it has received noticeably more subdued cooling. It can still start with a loud hiss on occasion, but most of the time it’s idle, or runs at a discreet half speed.
The battery life has also received a lift, although not a big one. Now we can actually almost get the promised 13 hours under gentle use, with a dimly lit display, where before we only managed nine hours. But these are figures that do not represent practical normal use. You absolutely need to have a charger with you, for a day on the go.
The trimmed price is surprising
Despite the upgrades, Microsoft has managed to cut the price. The new price for the first Laptop Go with eight gigabytes of RAM was SEK 9,499 with a 128 gigabyte ssd or SEK 11,699 with a 256 gigabyte ssd. The Surface Laptop Go 2, with the same amount of memory and storage, costs SEK 8,799 and SEK 10,099, respectively. This despite two years of inflation and a component price that has increased at an even higher rate. Hats off to that.
They have now also skipped the emmc storage, which the cheapest model of the last generation of the computer had. Now it’s ssd in all models 128 or 256 gigabytes. But we still recommend that you stay away from the cheapest model, which only has four gigabytes of RAM. Our tested model has eight gigabytes.
Then you also don’t get a fingerprint reader in that model. As the webcam does not have IR, it cannot be used for biometrics, and then you will not get a Windows Hello login. The webcam delivers faithful 720p with 30 frames per second and has approved light and color automation. But the image is both noisy and gives us hard compression artifacts that smear details. However, we like the microphone with fine voice focus and effective noise filter, even if we get a bit of a metallic sound in the voice.
In the Surface Laptop Go, there was too much that felt unfinished, unpolished or unthought out. In generation two, Microsoft has filed away several annoyances, and Windows 11 proves to be interface-wise better suited to the still impractically cramped screen format. It’s not revolutionary news or upgrades, but Microsoft manages to go from a mediocre whole to a good one. When they also lower the price, it becomes a recommendation.
Product name: Surface Laptop Go 2
Tested: June 2022
Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7, 2.4 GHz quad core
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics G7
Memory: 4/8 GB ddr4
Storage: 128/256 GB ssd
Screen: 12.4 inch glossy ips, 1536 x 1024 pixels, multitouch
Connections: Usb 3 gen 2 type c with display port, usb 2 gen 2 type a, headset, Surface Connect
Wireless: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1
Operating system: Windows 11 Home
Miscellaneous: Fingerprint reader
Sound level: 0-39 dBa
Battery life: 2 h 50 min (high load), 11 h 20 min (low load)
Size: 27.8 x 20.6 x 1.6 cm
Weight: 1.13 kg
Rec. Award: SEK 7,499 (4/128 GB), SEK 8,799 (8/128 GB), SEK 10,099 (8/256 GB)
Award: SEK 10,099 at Microsoft (tested model, 8/256 GB)
Cinebench R23, cpu: 4,522 points
Cinebench R23, cpu single core: 1,339 points
Geekbench 5, cpu: 4,237 points
Geekbench 5, cpu single core: 1,344 points
Geekbench 5, gpu: 15,168 points
Disk, reading: up to 2,392.37 MB/s
Disk, writing: up to 1,579.92 MB/s