Surface Laptop Go 2 hands-on: An upgrade worth the extra money

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Two years after the original debuted, Microsoft is now updating the Surface ALptop Go 2 with refreshed specs, louder speakers and more.

The Surface Laptop Go range occupies an interesting position in Microsoft’s line of notebooks. It’s not quite as cheap or portable as the Surface Go 3, and it’s not as powerful or flexible as the Surface Studio. But a recent component update has breathed new life into a very travel-friendly system.

Starting at $600, the Surface Laptop Go 2 costs $50 more than the previous model. That gets you an 11th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Now it might seem strange that Microsoft didn’t opt ​​for a newer 12th-gen chip, but the company says it really wanted to keep the cost of the base model down, and using a slightly older processor could have taken that into account. The big upgrade, though, is that Microsoft has finally ditched the 64GB of eMMC storage that came with the original Surface Laptop Go, which alone is worth a $50 price increase.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if the choice of an 11th Gen CPU was made based on battery life and thermal considerations. Many 12th Gen chips tend to run hot and are a bit power hungry. For the Surface Laptop Go 2, Microsoft says it was able to easily increase the notebook’s total runtime on one charge by 30 minutes to 13.5 hours, while reducing fan noise by up to 10 decibels at maximum speed. And in my experience, that noise reduction is quite significant as the system rarely goes beyond a whisper unless you’re doing something more intense like gaming or editing a video.

The new Surface Laptop Go 2 shares many features with the previous model. The design is basically the same, which I like – the clean lines and minimalist aesthetic still look great. There’s a new sage green finish that I quite like. But if that hue doesn’t do it for you, the laptop is still available in Platinum, Ice Blue, and Sandstone.

The ports on the Surface Laptop Go 2 remain the same as before: a USB-C port, a USB-C port, a headphone jack, and a magnetic Surface Connect port.

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The Surface Laptop Go 2’s 720p webcam has the same resolution as last year. However, Microsoft says it has switched to a new sensor that offers improved image quality. And so far I’ve found that while the camera isn’t Full HD (which should be the bare minimum these days) you get better color saturation and contrast. While it’s not ideal for live streaming, it’s good enough for an average video call.

The other area where I wish Microsoft had upgraded a bit more is the Laptop Go 2’s screen. It’s still the 12.4-inch, 1536 x 1024 PixelSense display, which is way behind Full HD lags behind. On a smaller screen like this, the lower resolution looks good at normal viewing distances, although people with good eyesight will probably still be able to make out individual pixels. Thankfully the colors are punchy and with 330 nits of brightness you won’t have much trouble seeing it in a sunny room.

Unfortunately, just like the original, the new Surface Laptop Go 2 still doesn't have a backlit keyboard.
Unfortunately, just like the original, the new Surface Laptop Go 2 still doesn’t have a backlit keyboard.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Microsoft also says the Surface Laptop Go 2’s speakers are 24 percent louder. As before, the drivers are hidden under the keyboard (which unfortunately is still not backlit). And while I have no doubts about those loudness claims, its audio profile sounds a bit flat, lacking punch in both the highs and lows.

As before, there’s also a fingerprint sensor that works with Windows Hello. It’s important to note, however, that you only get this option on pricier configurations – it’s not available on the base $600 model. Another small bonus is that the Laptop Go 2 is more repairable than before. For regular folks, Microsoft says the Laptop Go 2’s SSD, Aurlink cable, keyboard and trackpad, and even the display are user-swappable. The battery can also be replaced, but only by authorized service providers.

Most ports on the Surface Laptop Go 2 are on the left, aside from the magnetic Surface Connect slot.

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Finally, the port selection has remained the same on the Surface Laptop Go 2, with a USB-A and a USB-C port, as well as a headphone jack and a Surface Connect port. And unfortunately, unlike pricier Surfaces, the Laptop Go 2’s power brick doesn’t have an additional USB-A port for charging peripherals, which would have been very handy on a system with only two USB ports.

OK, so that’s it. Not much has changed on the outside, but inside the Surface Laptop Go 2 has seen some much-needed updates. The new 11th Gen Intel chip should provide a noticeable performance boost, and an extra half hour of battery life is always nice. But I’ll need a little more time to see how this thing really holds up as a primary work machine, so stay tuned for a full review coming soon.

For 2022, Microsoft is adding a new sage green version to the previous three color options.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

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