Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 – good entry-level (review)

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is a well-made, solid Intel i5-1135G7 Core, 12.4” touch screen laptop weighing 1.127kg. It is perfect for those on the go.

Even though it comes in four colours – Platinum, Sage, Ice Blue, Sandstone – it is a tad plain, but hey, arch-nemesis Apple has been making bland space grey MacBook’s for yonks. This is the Microsoft equivalent – a safe, average performance, student or consumer laptop running full-fat Windows 11 with all the benefits like touch screen, easy networking, USB device support, externally mountable drives, etc.

Let’s explore Windows 11 further, as I am impressed with it. I have upgraded a dozen PCs now, including a Windows on ARM tablet, and without fail, these perform better. It is a mix of new code to extract the most from the hardware and better memory management. For example, where a Windows 10 PC idled at 10% CPU and 40% utilisation, the same PC now sits at 5% and 18%, respectively. It feels faster.

So, think of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 as a good, reliable laptop. Not pretentious, but not too Apple-like bland either.

Australian review: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

WebsiteProduct Page
Price
Ram/SSD
4/128 $1099
8/128 $1199
8/256 $1229
Special prices for students
ColoursPlatinum, Sage, Ice Blue, Sandstone over magnesium alloy
 Microsoft Store and Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, and other major retailers
WarrantyOne year ACL with optional 2/3/4 Accidental Damage coverage
Country of OriginChina
CompanyMicrosoft 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.
MoreCyberShack Microsoft news and reviews

We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed.

First impression – Pass

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 i5-1135G7, 4 or 8GB (forget the 4GB model), decent but non-backlit keyboard/largish trackpad, 12.4” touch screen (about the size of the Surface Pro 8) 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 LPW125WX162403. We cannot find the exact specs, but it is a 60Hz, WLED backlit, a-Si TFT-LCD panel. It is 8-bit, 16.7m, and about 97% sRGB (75% DCI-P3, 71% NTSC) colour gamut. The panel is capable of 330 nits. Our tests showed it can reach 370 nits and 1000:1 contrast.

If you view it too far off-angle, it has an almost ethereal feel– probably due to the anti-reflective finish.

Processor – Intel Core i5-1135G7 10nm – Pass

It is a four-core, eight-thread, 2.4/4.2MHz with a 12-28W TDP (Thermal Design Power). Geekbench 5 single/multi-core is 1309/4207. It is a low-wattage processor that extends battery life, but you can push it on mains power.

It has integrated Intel Xe 1.3Ghz 80EU graphics. OpenCL/Vulkan scores are a respectable 15070/15029.

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).

Best use: Suitable for office productivity and even some light gaming IF you get the 8GB version.

Ram/Storage – Pass for 8GB and 128 or 256GB.

Our test unit has 8GB, and 50% is used with four MS Edge tabs and a few test programs, idle but open. A lot is going on in Windows, and after removing Teams and some useless background functions, it returned to a respectable 35% and 1% CPU.

We recommend you read 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. We can’t recommend 4GB as it would be almost all used out of the box.

It has a SK Hynix HFM256GD3GX013H 255GB 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) gave a sequential read/write result of 2320/1250MBps which is in the Tier 2 SSD performance range. Crystal Disk Mark gives it 3415/1590MBps 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 939/681MBps and Crystal disk Mark 1064.54/1032MBps. One nice thing about Windows is the drive is automatically mounted, e.g., D: so you can use it for live recording.

Ports – Pass(able)

  • USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps 5V/3A/15W downstream
  • USB-A 3.0 5Gbps 5V/1.5A/7.5W
  • 3.5mm dual pole headphone/mic socket
  • Microsoft Surface Connect ribbon

While we don’t expect Thunderbolt 4 for this price, the port configuration affects expandability. You can run an external 4K@50/60Hz (or 180p@50/60Hz). If you use an unpowered dongle like the OWC USB-C Travel Dock Gen 2 with 4K and 100W pass-through (review), you get 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.

Under Windows, most USB-C Powered Docks (not dongles) will support dual monitors, 3.5mm and USB-A ports.

Battery – Pass

It has approx. 40 WH battery that Microsoft claims gives 13.5 hours under its typical use test. The PC Mark Modern Office battery test shows around 9 hours. Our video loop test at 150 nits, 50% volume, and Wi-Fi off was 12 hours and 12 minutes.

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) as long as 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.

The White Noise test reveals:

Deep Bass 20-40HzNo
Middle Bass 40-100HzNo – just starting to gently build from 85Hz
High Bass 100-200HzBuilding
Low Mid 200-400HzBuilding
Mid 4000-1000HzBuilding
High-Mid 1-2kHzFlat
Low Treble 2-4kHzFlat
Mid Treble 4-6kHzFlat
High Treble 6-10kHzStarting to descend
Dog Whistle 10-20kHzGradual descent to 20Hz
Sound Signature typeIt 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.
 SoundstageGiven the under-keyboard, up-firing speakers, it has a narrow sound stage with limited left/right directionality.
CommentIf 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 really need to be well 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 8 and Laptop 2 are) and our tests gets 2042Mbps.

Bluetooth is 5.1 and supports Windows fast connect.

Keyboard, trackpad – Pass+

Like the rest of the Surface Laptop range, it has an excellent keyboard with 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.

Surface Laptop Go 2 for business

Business users should note that a version with 16GB, Windows Hello face ID, Fingerprint scanner, Surface Management Portal and Windows 11 Pro/Enterprise is available.

Repairability – Pass

Components including feet, SSD, Keyboard Cover, Top Assembly, battery and SurfLink connectors can be replaced by Microsoft Authorised Service Providers.

Post review update

After we had completed the review tests, Microsoft issued a swag of updates, including Bios and firmware. We did not have time to retest everything, but we noticed faster Wi-Fi connection speeds.

CyberShack’s view – Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is a competent budget device

I got excited with the Surface Pro 8, Laptop Studio and even the Go 3, but this is not overly exciting. It is competent, does the job it was intended for and has a great build quality for the price.

We can’t recommend the 4/128GB version. It is only $100/200 for the 8/128GB or 8/256GB version.

This is perfect for secondary and tertiary students, travellers and consumers that don’t want a larger laptop.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 – base Specs

Dimensions278.2 x 206.2 x 15.7mm x 1.127kg
DisplayScreen: 12.4” 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI), 3:2 Touch, 330nits, 1000:1 contrast
Memory/Storage4GB or 8GB LPDDR4x RAM and 128 or 256GB
ProcessorIntel Core i5-1135G7 and Iris Xe graphics
Connections1 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 audio720p HD f2.0 camera (front-facing) Dual far-field Studio Mics Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby Audio Premium (not Atmos)
WirelessWi-Fi 6: AX Bluetooth 5.1
ExteriorTop: Aluminium Base: Aluminium and polycarbonate composite resin system with glass fibre and 30% post-consumer recycled content. Colours: Sage, Ice Blue, Sandstone and Platinum
Warranty1-year ACL
Battery capacities40WH for up to 13.5 hours of use (test closer to 9 hours) 39W power supply and USB-C PD chargeable

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

From $1099
8.2

Features

8.0/10

Value

8.0/10

Performance

8.0/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Design

8.0/10

Pros

  • Choice of four colours
  • Great keyboard and touchpad
  • Reasonable battery life
  • Reasonable productivity level performance

Cons

  • No keyboard backlight
  • Still a 720p .9MP camera
  • Sound profile is off – needs work
  • Limited port expandability


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