Surface Laptop Go 2 review: Faster, longer battery life, and now more affordable

Microsoft iterates on the already great Surface Laptop Go 2, making it a better deal with substantially better performance for this charming little notebook.

The new Surface Laptop Go 2 for 2022.
(Image: © Daniel Rubino)

Windows Central Verdict

Although Microsoft only made minor changes, the new Surface Laptop Go 2 is still as fun as the original, now with more performance, longer battery life, and a lower top-tier price.

Pros

  • +

    Excellent, compact design

  • +

    11th Gen CPU brings a substantial improvement

  • +

    Nice display and feature set

  • +

    New pricing makes more sense

  • +

    Decent 720P webcam

Cons

  • -

    Still no keyboard backlighting

  • -

    Battery life is OK

  • -

    Probably best to avoid entry-level model

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In October 2020, Microsoft announced the original Surface Laptop Go – a nod to the “Go” theme that started with 2018’s Surface Go tablet PC. By “Go,” Microsoft means smaller, lighter, and more affordable than the bigger Pro models. It’s an excellent play on words, and it matches expectations.

The company is back with the Surface Laptop Go 2, and Microsoft thankfully doesn’t mess with a winning formula. While it can be considered a minor update, all the small changes, including differences in pricing, make it a much better value today.

What does that new 11th Gen Core i5 processor deliver compared to 2020’s 10th Gen? Is battery life any better? And what do I mean by a better value? Let’s find out.

Price, availability, specs, and what’s new

Surface Laptop Go 2 (2022) in new "Sage." (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Surface Laptop Go 2 is now available from Microsoft.com, Best Buy, and Amazon.com.

There is only one processor type for Surface Laptop Go 2: Intel Core i5-1135G7 with Intel Iris Xe graphics for the GPU.

Pricing begins at $599.99 for the model with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage with no fingerprint reader. That is a higher price than $549.99 for the original Laptop Go, but there is a big difference: You now get twice as much storage (128GB vs. just 64GB), and it is a PCIe SSD, which is much faster than the original 64GB eMMC. For an extra $50, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is a much better deal and experience.

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Price list
PriceSKU
$599Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD
$699Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD
$799Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD

The mid-tier model is the same price as before: $699 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

The top tier, the same as our review unit, features 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It’s now just $799, which is $100 cheaper than the $899 for the 2020 Surface Laptop Go with the same configuration.

From left to right: Platinum, Sage, Sandstone, Ice Blue. (Image credit: Microsoft)

There are four color options for Surface Laptop Go 2: Platinum, Ice Blue, Sandstone, and new for 2022, Sage (reviewed here).

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Surface Laptop Go 2 specifications
CategorySpec
OSWindows 11 Home
ProcessorIntel Core i5-1135G7
RAM4GB or 8GB LPDDR4x
GraphicsIntel Iris Xe Graphics
Storage128GB or 256GB SSD
Display12.4-inch 1536 x 1024 (148 ppi) 3:2 PixelSense Touch display
Ports1x USB-A, 1x USB-C, 3.5mm audio jack, Surface Connect port
AudioOmnisonic Speakers with Dolby-Audio Premium
WirelessWi-Fi 6: 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.1
Camera720p HD f2.0 camera
SecurityWindows Hello fingerprint
BatteryUp to 13.5 hours
Dimensions10.95 x 8.12 x 0.62 inches
Weight2.48 lbs (1,127g)
ColorPlatinum, Ice Blue, Sandstone, Sage
AvailabilityJune 7
Price$599, $699, $799

While everyone will focus on the newer processor, quite a few cascading effects and new features summarize the differences between Surface Laptop Go and Surace Laptop Go 2. Here are all the changes:

  • Bluetooth 5.1 (instead of 5.0)
  • No 64GB eMMC version, just 128/256GB PCIe 3.0 SSD
  • Intel Core i5-1135G7 (up from i5-1035G1)
  • Intel Iris Xe graphics (instead of UHD)
  • Improved 720P HD f/2.0 webcam
  • Better repairability for display and keyboard
  • New Sage colorway
  • Secured-Core (Kernel direct access memory protection)
  • Windows 11 Home (instead of Windows 10 in S mode)

While those are not earth-shattering, they are all welcomed changes, as we’ll see when comparing benchmarks between the older and newer Surface Laptop Go models.

Design and features

Surface Laptop Go (Ice Blue) and Surface Laptop Go 2 (Sage). (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Surface Laptop Go 2 is relatively easy to describe: It’s a smaller, lighter version of the premium Surface Laptop series, and it’s a traditional clamshell laptop but with a touch display. While the look is very similar to Surface Laptop, the Surface Laptop Go 2 drops many top-tier features like a high-resolution display, better audio, and webcam but does so without sacrificing the overall experience especially at this price point.

Surface Laptop Go 2 ships with full Windows 11 Home out of the box. That’s a difference from 2020 when it shipped with Windows 10 in S mode – a slightly locked-down version of the older OS.

About 50 percent of the Surface Laptop Go chassis is aluminum (lid and keyboard deck), but the bottom half is a soft-touch polycarbonate. That choice works well as the material offsets costs, make it more durable, and reduces the weight to just 2.48lbs (1.12kg), which is up a hair from the original’s 2.45 pounds (1.1kg) weight.

Surface Laptop Go 2: The top is metal, but the bottom is soft polycarbonate.  (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The use of sage green for 2022 is a welcomed option. Like the other colors, including ice blue, it’s a subtle color that is not overwhelming and won’t draw much attention, but just enough for those who want a little flair. In specific lighting, it looks darker; other times, it seems almost like platinum, and it has a lovely shimmer.

The new processor is the star of the show here. While both the 10th Gen and 11th Gen Intel processors feature four cores with eight threads, the speed improvement is significant with the newer model. For the older Core i5-1035G1, the base frequency is 1GHz and can turbo to 3.60GHz with up to 25W TDP. The newer Core i5-1135G7 has a higher base frequency of 2.4GHz but can now turbo to 4.20GHz with up to 28W TDP.

Connectivity is basic but modern. Microsoft updated the Bluetooth stack to 5.1 instead of 5.0, which should help with battery life and the quality of the connection. Wi-Fi 6 AX is on board, too, and while not the most recent (and minor) Wi-Fi 6E revision, it is more than adequate for this laptop class.

There aren't many ports, but the selection is decent.  (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

A similar story is told for the onboard Intel graphics. The older model used Intel UHD with 32 execution units, while the 11th Gen Iris Xe almost triples that to 80. Though Surface Laptop Go 2 is far from a gaming PC, the new Xe GPU means you can output to 7680x4320@60Hz instead of just 5120x3200@60Hz and power up to four displays instead of just three. You also now get DirectX 12.1 support (instead of 12.0) for light gaming.

Ports are few but standard, with just three on the left side: Type-A (10MB/s), Type-C, and one headphone/mic jack. Type-C supports display out, data, and charging. The expected Surface Connect charge port is on the right side, which also supports fast charging. There is no Thunderbolt 4

For power, Microsoft includes a 39-watt Surface Connect charger. You can also use any Type-C charger, as Laptop Go can handle up to 60-watts and supports Fast Charge by either method.

There’s no way else to say that the fit and finish of the Surface Laptop Go 2 are fantastic. There’s no flex in the keyboard deck, the materials feel premium (especially the aluminum), and it looks clean with no labels or stickers. You can even open the lid with one hand.

Display, audio, and camera

The 12.5-inch display is brighter than expected. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The 12.5-inch 1536x1024 touch display with 148 pixels-per-inch (PPI) pales compared to the premium Surface Laptop 4, but when keeping in mind that $599 starting price, it’s pretty good.

Microsoft rates the display for a modest 330 nits of brightness, but we garnered a better 363 nits. While that number is just below higher-end premium laptops, it’s not by much and is good enough to use outdoors in some shade. It’s worth noting that this screen can drop to two nits at zero percent, making it perfect for use in bed at night (which you’ll want to do because of its size) as it won’t blind you.

Color accuracy is the same as the first model: 98% sRGB, 74% AdobeRGB, and 78% DCI-P3. The display does look slightly punchier once calibrated, where 99% sRGB can be attained. This display is more than fine for web browsing, email, non-professional photo editing, watching movies, and more, but it is still miles behind third-gen OLED displays shipping in many high-end 2022 laptops.

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The bezels are also very thin and aesthetically pleasing, especially when compared to other laptops in this price range. There is a bit of a chin, but that helps make the keyboard deck longer and more comfortable for typing.

The audio is very good, thanks to Microsoft’s “Omnisonic” speakers. The speakers are cleverly located below the keyboard deck, allowing no visible speaker grills to tarnish Laptop Go 2’s clean design. No other company does this, and it’s an impressive feat. The speakers are clear and can reach more than sufficient volume. There is no Dolby Atmos to optimize the sound with more spatial presence due to the price point, but it has Dolby Premium Audio.

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Microsoft puts a lot of effort into webcam usage. There are two microphones, each flanking the 720P webcam, and that camera is slightly improved, according to Microsoft. As to what exactly is new, here is what Microsoft tells us this:

"Laptop Go 2 uses a new camera computing unit. Combined with additional tuning we improved the overall camera experiences, including Improved skin tone, brightness, contrast, color, Auto-Exposure, Auto White Balance, texture, and noise reduction."

In our use, the 720P camera does look a bit sharper with more detail. However, it is still below the now industry-standard full HD (1080P) cameras for more expensive laptops. But, again, comparatively, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is untouched at this price level for camera and audio quality, and it’s not even close.

Keyboard, touchpad, fingerprint

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The keyboard on Surface Laptop Go 2 is outstanding, and 1.3mm of key travel is close to the ideal 1.4mm found in many Lenovo laptops. Compared to Surface Go 3, the keys are slightly larger, and typing feels less cramped as the Surface Laptop Go 2’s deck is a significant 1.25-inches (31.75mm) wider.  

And like the 2020 model, there is one keyboard sore spot: There is no backlighting. Indeed, this was the one major issue we had with the original Surface Laptop Go, and Microsoft did not address it with this newer model. No backlight helps keep that cost down (and battery life up), and while it’s far from a dealbreaker, it would have been great to see it here.

The touchpad and keyboard are both decently sized.  (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The Precision touchpad is large, glass, smooth, has an excellent click, and feels very premium. It works well, is accurate, and we had no issues with it. 

When on the lock screen the fingerprint reader lights up to let you know it's ready.  (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Like its predecessor, the Surface Laptop Go 2 does not have an infrared sensor for Windows Hello to log you into Windows 11 without a password. Instead, it relies on a fingerprint reader built into the power button. That button has an LED that lights up when the laptop is turned on, cleverly calling your attention. It works better than most laptop fingerprint readers and has never failed during our testing.

The entry-level $599 Surface Laptop Go 2 model omits the fingerprint reader. That's a shame as not using a password is very convenient. 

Performance and battery

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Unlike the Surface Go series, which are fanless and are powered by lower-end 10th Gen Pentium Gold or a Core i3 processor, the Surface Laptop Go 2 has a single fan to cool it and a much more powerful 11th Gen Core i5. That processor is also a significant bump over the 10th Gen Core i5 from the first model, although it still falls short of other premium laptops that use the same CPU.

On Cinebench 23, which taxes only the CPU in single-core and multi-core benchmarks, the Core i5-1135G7 earned 3,982 compared to the 3,237 on multi-core from the Core i5-1035G1, a 23% improvement. Likewise, single-core saw a 21% jump with the newer chip. On Geekbench 5, a CPU-focused task, the Surface Laptop Go 2 earns 4,214 compared to the original 3,237 — a 30% improvement.

Turning to PCMark 10, which utilizes both the improved CPU and greatly enhanced Iris Xe GPU plus the SSD, Surface Laptop Go 2 peaks at 4,537 compared to Surface Laptop Go’s 3,163 — an impressive 43% bump in overall system performance.