The Surface Laptop Go 2 is an iterative upgrade from the previous model, there’s no doubt about that. But as a device that prioritizes design, portability, and usability, it may just be a shrewd decision that keeps the price of this posh pocket laptop within a student’s range.
Cutting to the chase, this laptop is an absolute joy to use. Those who may not be able to afford a pricier MacBook but have long wanted to buy one should absolutely look to the Surface Laptop Go 2. It’s the closest thing you can get to a cut-price Apple clamshell device.
It’s super slim, and much of the laptop is finished in stylish and lightweight aluminum. But unlike the MacBook, it also comes in a colorful set of hues. It is largely the same selection as last time, with one delightful Sage addition. I’ve been testing the Ice Blue, which is understated, but the tint gives it a refreshing pop. This is a device that you’ll be happy to pack in and out of a bag each day, secure in the knowledge that you’ve got something that looks good and feels built to last.
Working on this laptop is a breeze, with a keyboard that is one of the best for getting your essays and musings down. The keys have a great amount of travel for a device this thin, and a good level of feedback that keeps just on the right side of mushy to remain satisfying.
The trackpad isn’t the largest, but then again it’s not a large device, and thankfully it’s accurate and clicky from corner to corner. What lets the bottom half of this laptop down is a lack of backlighting, which might make things tricky in a darkened lecture hall. The fingerprint button—available on the two 8-GB RAM models but not the 4-GB—does get some lighting, so you’ll be able to sign in promptly at least. Somewhat surprisingly, this Surface device does not offer Microsoft’s Windows Hello facial sign in, but the webcam quality is half-decent nonetheless.
Along with the lack of keyboard backlighting, there are a few other compromises with varying levels of impact. The display sits between 1080p and 720p resolutions, and you’d think this would be a major hurdle, but it’s not in person. Assisted by the small 12.4-inch screen size, it wraps the low resolution in vibrant colors and a good level of detail. Its 3:2 aspect ratio enhances the laptop’s productivity chops as well. The screen brightness is okay: You won’t have trouble working in most scenarios. But use outside is a no-no, and the glossy display doesn’t help either.
You also only get an Intel 11th Gen chip, rather than one from the latest 12th generation. For a device costing you upwards of $500, you might expect the very latest components, but the results don’t make this much of a compromise at all. Combined with 8-GB RAM—the model I tested—the chip provides more than enough for note-taking and web browsers alike. The low price is a big part of the attraction of the Surface Laptop Go 2, and given how it plays out in reality, a 12th Gen processor doesn’t seem worth the likely bump in cost.