Surface Laptop Go review: A solid starter PC, with limits

It’s interesting to see how Microsoft balanced delivering a premium-feeling notebook while staying cost conscious. The Laptop Go’s keyboard and trackpad, for example, are comparable to the more expensive Surface devices. The keyboard is full-sized, not shrunken down like we’ve come to expect from compact notebooks, and it offers a healthy 1.3 millimeters of key travel. It’s a joy to type on, but unfortunately there’s no backlighting. That makes it much harder to work on the Laptop Go in low light. Similarly, the trackpad feels smooth and accurate to use, but it’s noticeably smaller than the jumbo-sized pads we’ve seen on other ultraportables.

Geekbench 5 CPU

PC Mark 10

3DMark (Sky Diver)

ATTO (top reads/writes)

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go (Core i5-1035G1, Intel UHD)

1,135/3,486

3,122

5,734

1.6 GB/s / 700 Mb/s

Microsoft Surface Go 2 (Core m3-8100Y, Intel UHD)

800/1,590

2,737

3,582

1.6 GB/s / 265 MB/s

Microsoft Surface Go (Intel Pentium Gold)

N/A

N/A

3,058

1.25 GB/s / 118 MB/s

Dell XPS 13 (2020, Core i7-1065G7, Iris Plus)

982/4,659

4,005

9,502

2.7 GB/s / 1 GB/s

Thankfully, Microsoft didn’t skimp in one key area: the Surface Laptop Go’s processor. Every model is powered by Intel’s Core i5-1035G1, a quad-core chip capable of speeds up to 3.6GHz. The company could have gone with Intel’s low-powered Y-series chips, but Microsoft reps tell us that they wanted to ensure a solid base level of performance. Intel’s Y-series CPUs are useful for plugging into ultra-thin machines like the Surface Go 2, but they sacrifice performance for efficiency. Consumers can equip the Surface Laptop Go with up to 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, both of which make it clear this isn’t a machine aimed at power users. (Commercial buyers can also configure it with 16GB of RAM for $1,200.)

My main takeaway from testing the Surface Laptop Go for the past week: It’s fast enough. It had no trouble surviving my usual workflow, which involves hopping between dozens of tabs across multiple browsers, Slack, Spotify, Evernote and multiple video call services. At times I felt the limits of my review unit’s 8GB of RAM, and its tiny 256GB SSD was restrictive even before I started installing apps. But for a machine that’s mainly used for schoolwork and streaming video, it’s just fine. It’s worth noting that the Laptop Go ships with Windows 10 S mode turned on, something I promptly disabled to run benchmarks. It also lasted an impressive twelve and a half hours in our battery test.