Microsoft Surface Go 3
PAT PILCHER is a fan of earlier Surface laptops but this time, Microsoft has failed to figure out an apt price for performance ratio.
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2 (see my review here) featured a slick design, reasonable price and bang-per-buck value, so when Microsoft launched the third generation and asked if I wanted to review it, I leapt at the chance.
The Surface Laptop Go was originally designed as an affordable Surface option aimed at students and other users for whom cost was an issue. This is a tad ironic with the Surface 3, given that its sticker price is now a whopping $1484.
Price aside, Microsoft is still on-form when it comes to design. Where many similarly priced laptops feel flimsy and cheap, the Surface Laptop Go 3 feels solid and well-built. Its design might not be the most exciting, but it is well executed. Everything works, and its ergonomics are spot-on, just as you’d expect from Microsoft.
The Surface Laptop Go 3 has been built around a 12.4-inch display. Its bezels are slim, and it weighs in at 1.1 kg, making it one of the lighter laptops around. While this makes it an ideal travel companion, it also makes for a more cramped typing experience. It sports an alloy lid and deck, but its bottom and underside are all plastic. It’s attractive, with a sleek design that can be had in Platinum (grey), Ice Blue, Sage (green), and Sandstone (tan). Microsoft has kept Surface DNA in the Surface Laptop Go 3, giving it more visual appeal than other similarly priced alternatives.
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It comes in two configurations. The $1489 base specs consist of an Intel Core i5-1235U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 12.4-inch IPS display. It’s a fairly basic spec considering what you can buy from competing brands for the same sort of money. The other configuration sees RAM doubled to 16GB for an additional $300, while its 256GB of storage is unchanged. Considering the Surface Laptop Go 3’s sticker price, this is disappointing, especially when it also packs a last-generation Intel CPU.
The 12.4-inch PixelSense IPS display has a 3:2 aspect ratio, making it ideal for reading and scrolling through documents, but its resolution is sub-1080p at 1,536 x 1,024. While the screen looks fine, the lack of a 1080p display at this price point is a surprise.
I normally rate Surface keyboards. They’ve traditionally delivered an excellent typing experience. However, this time around, I found the narrow design of the Surface Laptop Go 3 made for a difficult typing experience. Even though its Scrabble tile keycaps were a good size, there was not enough spacing between them, which made for more typos. That said, the lack of keyboard backlighting is understandable, considering the Surface Laptop Go 3 is at the bottom of Microsoft’s range, and the light-up fingerprint sensor is (in theory) a handy addition. I say in theory, as it rarely recognised my dabs – even after multiple fingerprint enrolment sessions.
As you’d expect, connectivity options are limited. You have a single USB-C port and a single USB-A port. Power is supplied via a separate proprietary port, which keeps the USB-C port available. On the wireless front, you get Bluetooth 5.1 and Wi-Fi 6, but no Wi-Fi 6E. With the addition of a USB hub, connectivity isn’t a show-stopper and is typical for most low-end notebook PCs.
The integrated webcam is also only 720p, while 1080p is now the default on competing laptops. This is an odd omission given the relatively tiny price difference between 720 and 1080p image sensors and the fact that webcams are now a key spec for laptop buyers, many of whom are still working/studying remotely with video meetings a daily part of their lives.
While I can live with these limitations, the Surface Laptop Go 3’s performance proved to be a deal breaker. After setting it up, I popped over to Facebook only to experience a significant lag between typing and text appearing on-screen. The lag was so severe that Facebook was effectively rendered unusable. Performance across multiple web services and apps varied widely, even though I could wring out better performance by switching to Best Performance modes using the power slider and killing all background apps. Curious to see if my network or Facebook was the issue, I powered up my Surface Book and there were no lags on Facebook or anywhere else. While the Surface laptop Go 3 did handle basic productivity tasks (web, email, MS Office), its performance with particularly demanding apps or heavy multitasking isn’t up to snuff, which I suspect is in part due to thermal throttling slowing everything down while I was running in performance mode.
While the blurb says the Surface laptop Go will run for around 15 hours before needing to spend some quality time with its supplied charger, I found that by having to run it in performance mode, I’d effectively reduced this to just over 6 hours, which again at this price point is well below what is available elsewhere.
The Surface Laptop Go 3 needs a price drop before it can even begin to compete. Simply put, laptops from other brands simply offer more for less money. Even though its build quality and design are excellent, there are just too many issues for me to recommend the Surface Go 3 at its current sticker price.