Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 (2023) – perfect for Windows travellers (laptop review)
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 is perfect for travellers. But it has grown up with a 12.4” touch screen screen and an Intel i5-1235U processor that has enough grunt to run full-fat Windows and productivity tools.
We say grown up because the alternative Surface Go 3 has been a 10.5” tablet format running Windows S on lower-powered Pentium or i3 processors. Great for content consumption and light work on the go.
So forget any comparisons – this laptop is for students, home users and travellers. And with a USB-C 3.2 Dock can support external monitors and more devices.
Australian Review: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3
|8/256 $1,429 (special price 20/11/23 $1143)|
16/256 $1,729 (special price 20/11/23 $1383)
Special prices for students, parents teachers
|Colours||Platinum, Ice Blue, Sage, Sandstone over magnesium alloy|
|Microsoft Store, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, and other major retailers|
|Warranty||One-year ACL with optional 2/3/4 Accidental Damage coverage|
|Company||Microsoft is an American multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services.|
|More||CyberShack Microsoft news and reviews|
We use Fail (below expectations), Passable (meets low expectations), Pass (meets expectations), Pass+ (near Exceed but not class-leading) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. You can click on most images for an enlargement.
First Impression – Pass
I am a Surface Pro tablet aficionado and/or prefer laptops with 360° hinges that fold back to tablets. I also think Windows without a touchscreen is an anathema.
This is a traditional clamshell (135° screen fold back) with a touch screen, and personal preference aside, it does that very well. It is 278 x 206 x 15.7mm x 1.13kg – light.
The review unit was Sage, which perhaps softens the laptop’s otherwise hard edges. The base is made from glass fibre-reinforced aluminium and polycarbonate composite resin, and the top deck and LCD screen cover are aluminium.
Underneath, it has everything you expect for the price. Intel Core i5-1235U, 8GB or 16GB, decent but non-backlit keyboard/largish trackpad, 12.4” 1536 x 1024 touch screen and Wi-Fi 6 AX/BT 5.1.
Screen –12.4” 1536×1024, 148ppi, 3:2 Pixel sense – Pass
It uses an LG display model LP125WX172403. We cannot find the exact specs, but it is a 3:2, 60Hz, WLED backlit, a-Si TFT-LCD touchscreen panel.
It is an 8-bit, 16.7m individually calibrated, reaching about 97% sRGB (65% DCI-P3 in Enhanced mode) colour gamut with a Delta E of <2. The panel is capable of 330 nits. Our tests showed it can reach 340 nits and 1000:1 contrast.
If you view it off-angle, it has an almost ethereal and grainy feel – probably due to the anti-reflective finish. It has a very high 60kHz PWM flicker frequency that will not affect those susceptible to PWM.
Processor – Intel Core i5-1235U 10nm – Pass
It is a 10-core, 12-thread, 1.34/4.4MHz with a 15-55W TDP (Thermal Design Power). Geekbench 5 single/multi-core is 1118/4732. This is a low-wattage processor that extends battery life, but you can push it on mains power. The fan reaches 40dB under load.
It has integrated Intel Xe 1.2Ghz 80EU graphics. Geekbench 6 OpenCL/Vulkan scores are a respectable 1,151/13,335.
Throttling appears to be well controlled (80% on battery and 100% in performance mode on mains power), and the vent temperature reached 41° (well within tolerance) and 48dB (still quiet).
Full benchmarks here.
Best use: Suitable for office productivity and even some light gaming. The 16GB version would be my choice.
Ram/Storage – Pass for 8/256GB and Pass+ for 16/256GB.
Our test unit has 16GB (soldered to the motherboard) – 37% is used at idle. A lot is going on in Windows, and you can get significant RAM and storage back via Five free Windows programs that will save your bacon (guide), and Remove Windows Bloatware and get back heaps of memory and CPU resources (guide) to maximise performance on 8GB.
It has a Koxia KBG50ZNS256G M.2 2230 PCIe 3.0 x4 lane SSD. The disk is replaceable by a qualified technician, and we understand it can handle up to 1TB.
CPDT (Cross Platform Disk Test measures sustained throughput) gave a sequential read/write result of 2110/666MBps, which is in the Tier 2 SSD performance range. Crystal Disk Mark gives it 3397/2002MBps using a different testing regimen.
There is no microSD storage, but backup to a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 external SSD is pretty quick. CPDT shows sequential read/write 862/563MBps and Crystal disk Mark 1067.26/1016.59MBps. One nice thing about Windows is the drive is automatically mounted, e.g., D:, so you can use it for live recording.
Da Vinci resolve – video rendering test
We have included DaVinci Resolve 18 Raw speed test as a reference, as it tests not only disk speeds but CPU and GPU and gives a result showing maximum video rendering. It is excellent to compare relative PC performance.
Ports – limited but Passable
- USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps 5V/3A/15W downstream (or for use with a dock)
- USB-A 3.0 5Gbps 5V/1.5A/7.5W
- 3.5mm dual pole headphone/mic socket
- Microsoft Surface Connect ribbon (handy to charge independently of USB-C)
While we don’t expect Thunderbolt 4 for this price, the port configuration affects expandability. If you use an unpowered dongle like the OWC USB-C Travel Dock Gen 2 with 4K and 100W pass-through (review), you get a single 4K@24/30Hz or 1080p@50/60Hz as it also has to allocate bandwidth to two USB-A 3.0, an SD card reader and 100W power pass-through charging.
The Microsoft Audio Dock – low-cost USB-C dock with conference sound (not tested) can support dual monitors in Windows (not Mac) via HDMI and USB-C.
Battery – Pass
It has approx. 40 WH battery that Microsoft claims gives 15 hours under its typical use test. The PC Mark Modern Office battery test shows around 11 hours 31 minutes.
Our video loop test was for seven hours at 50% brightness/volume and Wi-Fi off.
Microsoft claims an 80% charge in one hour. Our tests show battery charge time using the 15V/2.6A/39W ribbon charger was close to 2 hours, reaching 62% in the first hour.
It will charge with any higher rating USB-C PD charger (up to 230V/3A/60W) if you have a 3W USB-C cable.
Sound – Pass
There are no visible speaker grills, and the X-ray reveals dual left and right speakers under the Cap’s Lock and Enter keys.
Microsoft calls these Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby Audio Premium (not Atmos). We could not find any Dolby Audio Premium settings or an App. The sound is straight Intel Realtek 16-bit/48Hz with no EQ or adjustments.
It appears you must separately download Realtek Audio Console free from the Windows Store only. Please note that the Store could not serve the App (we tried with multiple Surface devices), so we cannot test it. Also, note that this is not the paid Dolby Access App.
The maximum volume is 80dB with acceptable distortion.
White Noise test
This tests the speakers’ native frequency response free from any EQ or processing.
|Deep Bass 20-40Hz||No|
|Middle Bass 40-100Hz||No – just starting to gently build from 85Hz|
|High Bass 100-200Hz||Building|
|Low Mid 200-400Hz||Building|
|Low Treble 2-4kHz||Flat|
|Mid Treble 4-6kHz||Flat|
|High Treble 6-10kHz||Starting to descend|
|Dog Whistle 10-20kHz||Gradual descent to 20Hz|
|Sound Signature type||It is missing any real bass, still building through mids, flattening around the clear voice 1-4kHz and then reasonable treble. It is called an Analytical sound signature – (bass/mid recessed; treble boosted) – crisp but not pleasant for most music.|
|Soundstage||Given the under-keyboard up-firing speakers, it has a narrow sound stage with limited left/right directionality.|
|Comment||If you like late-mid, treble-heavy music, then OK (most don’t) – it is tuned for clear voice.|
Camera and mics – Pass(able)
I am so over 720p cameras, and this is no exception. It’s a .9MP camera that delivers a low dynamic range, 1280 x 720p video. Get a decent 1080p or 4K webcam if you do a lot of video conferencing.
The dual mics (also standard Realtek array) do a passable job, but you need to be within 2 metres of them.
Wi-Fi – Pass
Its Wi-Fi 6 AX uses an Intel AX201 HE160 card. It is capable of 2400Mbps full-duplex (as the Surface Pro 9 and Laptop 3 are), and our tests get 2042Mbps.
Bluetooth is 5.1 and supports Windows fast connect.
Keyboard, trackpad – Pass+
It has an excellent keyboard like the rest of the Surface Laptop range. This has a 1.3mm throw and injection moulded lettering (that won’t wear off). We would love a little more throw, but overall, the 45g actuation pressure is spot on – typists won’t swear at this keyboard. Our only gripe is that it is not backlit.
The Microsoft Precision trackpad is, as usual, responsive and easy to navigate. There is an integrated fingerprint reader in the power button.
Repairability – yes, but not by the user
Microsoft states that the following are replaceable.
- Keyboard (with or without fingerprint reader)
- Solid-state drive (SSD)
- Surface Connect
But the fine print states: This device does not contain user-serviceable parts. The hard drive is only removable by an authorised technician following Microsoft provided instructions. What this means is that you need to use an authorised MS repairer.
CyberShack’s view – Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 (2023) is a competent performer
Compared to the 2022 Laptop Go 2, it has a later processor, and pretty much everything else is the same. The processor has 10-cores/12 threads versus 4-cores/8 threads. This gives better battery life (15 vs 13.5 hours) but at a minor performance trade-off. Still, users won’t notice the difference between similarly spaced 2022 and 2023 units.
Due to the extremely weak Australian dollar, the RRP went up considerably over the 2022 model, but you can shop around and may find a bargain. But we are starting to see excellent ASUS Vivo and Zenbook 13th Gen Intel, with OLED screens for not much more.
It is perfect for students, home users, travellers and more who want fit-for-purpose performance at a reasonable price.
Surface Laptop Go 3 rating
- Features: 80 – Update to Laptop Go 2 with no new features
- Value: 80 – the weak Aussie dollar is impacting this (and all other brands and models)
- Performance: 80 – better battery life but middling performance
- Ease of Use: 90 – It is a Microsoft Surface running Windows!
- Design: 80 – it is still a clamshell, albeit one of the best made!
Choice of four colours
Great keyboard and touchpad
Reasonable battery life
Reasonable productivity level performance
No keyboard backlight
Still a 720p .9MP camera
The sound profile is off – needs work
Limited port expandability
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 – base Specs
|Dimensions||278 x 206 x 15.7mm x 1.137kg|
|Display||Screen: 12.4” 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI), 3:2 Touch, 330nits, 1000:1 contrast|
|Memory/Storage||8 or 16GB LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB PCIe 3.0 SSD|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-1235U and Iris Xe graphics|
|Connections||1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps|
1 × USB-A 3.0 5Gbps
3.5 mm headphone jack
1 × Surface Connect port for charging and Microsoft Dock use
|Cameras, video and audio||720p HD f2.0 camera (front-facing)|
Dual far-field Studio Mics
Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby Audio Premium (not Atmos)
It does not have Windows Hello camera recognition but does have fingerprint recognition on the power key.
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 6 AX Bluetooth 5.1|
|Exterior||Top: Aluminium Base: Aluminium and polycarbonate composite resin system with glass fibre and 30% post-consumer recycled content. Colours: Sage, Ice Blue, Sandstone and Platinum|
|Battery capacities||40WH for up to 15 hours of use (test closer to 11.5 hours) 39W power supply and USB-C PD chargeable|
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 (2023)8/256GB $1429 and 16/256GB $1729
- Choice of four colours
- Great keyboard and touchpad
- Reasonable battery life
- Reasonable productivity level performance
- No keyboard backlight
- Still a 720p .9MP camera
- Limited port expandability
- Getting expensive