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Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review: it has its charms, but is not for everyone

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 has its charms. It’s a compact, lightweight machine adequate for most basic tasks, including document creation, web surfing, and playing videos. However, it’s not for everyone (few machines are); we took a look to see where it would suit.

The review unit we received had a 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen display, with a 1536 x 1024 resolution, a quad-core Intel 11th-gen Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM (the base model has 4 GB), and a 256 GB SSD (base is 128 GB – don’t bother with it). The system comes loaded with Windows 11 Home.

Source: Microsoft.

It’s an attractive device, coming in multiple colours including Sage, Ice Blue, Sandstone, and Platinum, and constructed with a base of aluminum and polycarbonate composite resin with glass fibre and post-consumer recycled content. It feels sturdy; there’s no flexing when you pick it up.

It weighs just over 1 kg, including the same power brick that has run Surface devices since day one. The only difference is the connector: a magnetically attached connection that fits into the Surface Connect slot on the side of the device. The original merely adhered to the edge of the top cover.

It plays videos (such as my favourite test, the 1982 Stratford Festival Mikado) smoothly, with quite respectable speakers and Dolby Audio Premium sound that handled the music effortlessly. Although the screen dimensions sound small, its resolution ensures that, unless you’re viewing large spreadsheets, you can see what you need to without scrolling. The 4:3 aspect ratio helps with that too.

The generously-sized trackpad performs well; I had no trouble selecting or clicking on what I wanted. But the keyboard is not backlit, which may be awkward when note-taking in a dark environment. The only key that lights up is the power button, and that is only when it is encouraging you to use the integrated fingerprint reader for Windows Hello sign-in. The device does not support the facial recognition version of Windows Hello. Since fingerprint readers and I have a troubled relationship, I usually relied on PIN authentication.

The Surface Laptop Go 2’s power button has an integrated fingerprint reader. Source: Microsoft.

I’m not fond of the keyboard either, but that’s my personal preference. The chiclet keys have a very short throw. They’re spaced far enough apart so you don’t hit two at once, which is good for touch typing, but while I find the keyboard usable, it’s not my favourite. Try it out before deciding.

Another keyboard annoyance is the position of the power and Del buttons. Del is at the far right of the top row, above backspace, and the power button is beside it, which makes it all too easy to hit by accident. Microsoft isn’t the only vendor to do this, alas.

As far as connectivity goes, the Surface Laptop Go 2 only offers a single USB-A port, one USB-C port, and a microphone jack, in addition to the Surface Connect port used for power or to hook up to an optional Surface Dock. It offers the latest Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 wireless connectivity, but bear in mind that your router also needs to support Wi-Fi 6 to enjoy its full benefit.

The front-facing 720p camera can manage online meetings just fine, and Microsoft has included dual far-field Studio Mics to ensure people can hear you.

Battery life comes nowhere near the time given in the specs, which claim up to 13.5 hours. In a couple of months of testing, the Surface Laptop Go 2 has consistently demanded more juice at around the 5-hour mark. I always used it online – perhaps with the Wi-Fi radios turned off it would do better – but it won’t last all day without plugging it in, even if you can squeeze out a couple more hours by staying offline. That’s disappointing.

Prices start at C$739.99; our review unit configuration goes for C$999.99, with free delivery. It comes with a 60-day return policy, so there’s adequate time to decide whether it suits your application, and has a one-year warranty. Microsoft also offers free help, digital workshops, and remote learning opportunities. And depending on the configuration you choose, you can select from discounted bundles of Microsoft 365 software, services, and accessories.

Overall, underwhelming battery life aside, if you like the keyboard (as I said, a very personal thing) and can cope with its lack of backlighting, you’ll find the Surface Laptop Go 2 a decent little machine, as long as you don’t need to do heavy-duty tasks like graphics creation. Although it’s often positioned as a student laptop, it will serve business users with basic needs very well.

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