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Microsoft’s Surface laptop lineup has a number of options for different types of users. There’s a Surface Laptop Studio for creatives, or the Surface Pro 8 for digital nomads, or the Surface Go 3 for those who just need the basics.

The most recent update to the Surface lineup comes in the form of the Surface Laptop Go 2. At $599 it’s an affordably priced laptop that’s a great entry point for a teen or someone who only needs a device for basic word processing. But I’ll be upfront: You should probably opt for the $699 model. Why? Well, I don’t want to spoil it just yet. Let’s dive in.

A good budget laptop

A great pick for younger users or someone who just needs the basics, the $599 Laptop Go 2 offers good performance and a great design for the price.

What we like

A modern Surface design for less

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I didn’t get a chance to use the original Surface Laptop Go, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in regards to the overall build quality. When I unboxed the Laptop Go 2, I was pleasantly surprised at just about every aspect of its design.

From the colorful aluminum top, with a matching part aluminum and part plastic bottom, the Laptop Go 2 feels sturdy to hold or rest your wrist on when typing. There are a total of four different color options: Sage (the color I’ve been using), Sandstone, Platinum and Ice Blue.

This is very much a Microsoft product. What I mean by that is that the fit and finish you’d see on a more expensive Surface Laptop Studio or Surface Pro is present on the Laptop Go 2. For instance, the model I received is equipped with a fingerprint sensor that doubles as the power button. Whenever Windows 11 is ready to scan your finger, such as when you open the lid and log in to your account, there’s a light-up ring that encircles the power button. It’s a subtle and nice touch that lets the user know they can use the fingerprint reader, and I appreciate the heads-up.

The overall size of the Laptop Go 2 lives up to its name. It’s small enough to remind me of a tablet-first device like the Pro 8 or iPad Pro, but it folds open to reveal a full-fledged computer that runs Windows 11.

In total, the Laptop Go 2 measures 10.95 inches by 8.12 inches by 0.62 inches and weighs just shy of 2.5 pounds. It’s the ideal size for someone who is always on the go and doesn’t need a large, overly powerful laptop, or for students who are constantly moving from one classroom to another.

Performance matches the price

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Microsoft made a key upgrade to every build of the Laptop Go 2 when it comes to performance. Instead of using eMMC storage in the base model — storage tech that’s slow and negatively impacts performance — Microsoft is using solid-state drive (SSD) storage across the board. That means the $599 configuration ditches eMMC storage and instead goes with a faster SSD for your storage needs.

But performance isn’t all about storage. The 11th Generation Intel Core i5 processor in the Laptop Go 2 is plenty fast enough to handle routine tasks. I had no issues checking my email, monitoring Slack channels and streaming a YouTube or Twitch video during my testing. If I wanted to quickly edit a video in Windows 11’s default apps, that was something the Laptop Go 2 could handle as well.

To be clear, you’re not going to want to use the Laptop Go 2 for intense video or photo editing sessions or to do any serious PC gaming. However, you can definitely get away with streaming Xbox Game Pass titles from the cloud or playing less resource-intensive games like Fall Guys without noticing any performance hiccups. My experience with the Laptop Go 2’s performance is confirmed by its Geekbench 5 scores, putting it between the performance scores of the Surface Go 3 and the Surface Pro 8. In other words, it’s faster than the Go 3 but can’t quite keep up with the Pro 8.

Battery life doesn’t live up to the 13.5 hours that Microsoft claims Laptop Go 2 users should get, but that’s typically the case with laptop manufacturer estimates. Instead, the Laptop Go 2 was able to get through seven hours and 36 minutes of playing a 4K video clip on repeat. That’s still really good for an entry-level laptop, and it matches what I experienced during my day-to-day use. However, the smaller Surface Go 3 outlasted the Laptop Go 2, lasting roughly 45 minutes longer in the same test.

The 720p webcam isn’t going to impress any classmates or colleagues due to its quality, but it gets the job done and is on par with an iPad Pro or even the Surface Pro 8. And, let’s be real, nearly two years into remote working, no one truly cares if you have a high-quality webcam anymore. That trend has passed.

What we didn’t like

You need to pay more for a fingerprint sensor

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The base configuration of the Laptop Go 2 is $599. At that price, you get a build that includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage. You don’t get a fingerprint sensor that can be used with Windows Hello to log into the laptop or sign into apps and approve administrative requests.

For the fingerprint option, you’ll need to start your Laptop Go 2 shopping experience by looking at the $699 model that comes with the same Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and 128B of storage. Maybe the amount of memory is a limiting factor? Or maybe it’s just an excuse to upsell.

The screen is just OK

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One of my favorite features of the Surface lineup as a whole is the premium display that they all have. With the Surface Laptop Go 2, the display is good but not great. The Laptop Go 2 has a 12.4-inch PixelSense Display with a resolution of 1536 x 1024. That’s not quite full high definition, and it shows in daily use, especially when looking at the text in a document or photos — neither of which looks as sharp and crisp as they do on a standard Surface Laptop or Surface Pro 8, for example.

That’s not to say the display is horrible and unusable. The touchscreen is responsive and works as you’d expect any modern touchscreen to work. I just wish it were a full high-definition screen at a minimum.

Where are the ports?

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The Surface Laptop Go 2 is sparse on ports. On the right side of the housing is a Surface Connect port that’s used for charging. On the left side is a single USB port, a USB-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s it.

While I do appreciate that there’s a dedicated charging port that frees up the USB-C port to connect various devices, it would have been nice to have an additional port — USB or USB-C — on the right side of the laptop. That said, you can easily add more ports to the Laptop Go 2 using a USB-C hub or docking station.

Bottom line

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The Surface Laptop Go 2 is a solid laptop for its price. At $599 you’re not giving up a whole lot when it comes to performance, although a strong argument can be made that 4GB of memory isn’t enough in 2022. But for someone who needs a bare-bones laptop, the Laptop Go 2’s most affordable model is sure to get the job done. However, I’d urge you to consider, at a minimum, going with the $699 model that comes with a fingerprint reader and double the memory.

If you’re looking for something with more power and you have a budget with more room, then the convertible Surface Pro 8 or even the standard Surface Laptop 4 are two of the best Surface models to buy. And if you want something a little cheaper, the Dell Inspiron 14 is our pick for the best budget laptop. At under $500, it comes with a 14-inch display, plenty of ports and 256GB of storage. It’s a great pick for someone who wants a bigger display than what the Go 2 offers.

How the Surface Laptop Go 2 compares

Display

12.4-inch, 1536 x 1024 PixelSense touch display

13.5-inch, 2256 x 1503 PixelSense touch display/15-inch, 2496 x 1664 PixelSense touch display

10.5-inch. 1920 x 1280 PixelSense touch display

Processor

Intel Core i5

Intel Core i5, i7 or AMD Ryzen 5/Intel Core i7, AMD Ryzen 7

Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y/Intel Core i3

Memory

4GB/8GB

8GB/16GB/32GB

4GB/8GB

Storage

128GB/256GB

256GB/512GB/1TB

64GB/128GB

Ports

USB-C, USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, Surface Connect

USB-C, USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, Surface Connect

USB-C, MicroSDXC card reader, Surface Connect, 3.5mm headphone jack

Dimensions

10.95 x 8.12 x 0.62 inches; 2.48 pounds

12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches; 2.79 pounds/13.4 x 9.6 x 0.58-inches; 3.4 pounds

9.65 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches; 1.2 pounds

Software

Windows 11 Home

Windows 10 Home

Windows 11 Home (S Mode)

Webcam

720p

720p

5-megapixel 1080p front camera with Windows Hello; 8-megapixel rear camera

Price $599 $779 $399