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Microsoft's Surface Laptop Go 2 promises all-day battery life for $599 — a perfect college laptop?

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2
(Image credit: Microsoft)

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go arrived in October 2020 as the most affordable member of the Surface family. It delivered a premium design and a gorgeous 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen display, but disappointing battery life and a weak base configuration marred the experience.

Almost 18 months later, Microsoft is ready to give this another shot with the Surface Laptop Go 2. The ultra-thin design hasn't changed much, but inside Microsoft has given it a full overhaul. Let's see if it can justify the new $599 starting price and perhaps land a position among the best college laptops once we get it in for review.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 price and how to pre-order

The Surface Laptop Go 2 starts at $599 and while you don't love to see the price on the "affordable" model going up, Microsoft delivered more than $50 worth of upgrades compared to the $549 original.

For $599, the Go 2 features an Intel 11th Gen Core i5-1135G7 processor, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 4GB of LPDDR4x RAM, a removable 128GB SSD, and that same 12.4-inch PixelSense display with a 1,536 x 1,024 resolution.

That's the only CPU option for the Go 2, but users can upgrade to a 256GB SSD and double the RAM to 8GB. The commercial model alone offers a 16GB RAM configuration. 

Pre-orders for the Surface Laptop Go 2 start today at Microsoft.com and Best Buy and orders will ship on June 7.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 design

At first glance, little has changed on Surface Laptop Go 2. It retains the same stylish and premium exterior as its predecessor and fits in well with the rest of the Surface lineup, which for a laptop at this price is a solid achievement. The Windows logo centered on the aluminum lid is the lone branding on the exterior of the laptop and inside you have some of the comfortable Alcantara finishings that Microsoft is known for. The bottom is the same durable soft-touch plastic as last year's model, which is a reasonable price-cutting measure.

You can choose from an array of colors this year with the Sage, Ice Blue and Sandstone joining the traditional Platinum. The chiclet-style keys and touchpad are all color-matched to the exterior of the laptop. Unfortunately, the keyboard isn't backlit, which still feels like an oversight even at this price.

The port selection isn't bad given its size with a USB-C port, a USB-A port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a Surface Connect Port. Windows Hello support is once again available via the fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button on the keyboard.

At 11 x 8.1 x 0.6-inches and 2.48 pounds, the Surface Laptop Go 2 makes a great case for itself as a college laptop due to its ability to easily fit in any laptop bag without weighing you down.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 display and camera

The 3:2 aspect ratio of the 12.4-inch PixelSense display gives you the feel of a larger laptop despite its small size with a more expansive vertical view for productivity or gaming. Video is the one area where you won't appreciate it as much with black bars at the top or bottom to fit traditional 16:9 content.

The original Surface Laptop Go impressed our reviewer with its vibrant and reasonably bright and sharp display. The resolution remains the same, but we'll have to see once we get it in our labs if Microsoft has managed to deliver any improvements elsewhere.

While the Laptop Go 2 has traditional clamshell styling, it also offers a multi-touch display so you can tap or swipe on the display instead of using the touchpad. There's no stylus support, but given the form factor, that would be of limited use anyway.

The webcam on the Surface Laptop Go 2 is still just 720p, but Microsoft has upgraded it to an f/2.0, which could make a meaningful difference despite the lower resolution. Dual far-field Studio Mics and Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby Audio Premium round out your video conferencing specs. We'll put them all through their paces soon.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 performance and battery life

Microsoft once again is dipping into the previous generation for the CPU on the Surface Laptop Go 2, opting for an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7, rather than a newer 12th Gen option. It's still a marked improvement from the base model in 2020 and should deliver solid performance.

The 4GB of RAM in the base model would be my largest concern about this year's model. We recommend 8GB of RAM for most users and particularly for college students that may find themselves swapping between a large number of browser tabs — the base model could start to bog down under that load. 

While we have thoroughly debunked the Intel Iris Xe as a viable option for AAA gaming, it will deal with standard tasks and casual gaming just fine.

Microsoft is claiming 13.5 hours of battery life for the Surface Laptop Go 2, which would be a considerable upgrade from the 7 hours and 42 minutes that the Laptop Go made it in our testing. This could be the make or break factor for this laptop as the expectation is that it should at least make it to ten hours. 

Outlook

Microsoft's Surface Laptop Go 2 still looks every bit as premium as a MacBook Air and at $599, that's an impressive achievement. The question is whether the internal upgrades have brought it at least closer to its more luxe competition. Surpassing devices priced from $999 and up is naturally out of the question, but if it can actually deliver all-day battery life and enough performance to handle a typical workload, then the $400 in savings would certainly feel good.

The spec sheet can't tell the full story, so we'll just have to wait and see how the Surface Laptop Go 2 fares in our rigorous testing. If you're in the market for an affordable ultra-thin laptop, then stay tuned for that review in the coming weeks.

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.