A £549 computer that's not an achingly slow breeze-block? That's the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
It's not often that you'll read about a £549 laptop on GQ, mainly because tech makers always want to shout loudest about their most expensive kit, since their more budget-minded models aren't anywhere near as capable. Chunky, heavy and slow, that's the basic ethos you get around this price point, unless you opt for the all-new Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: an affordable laptop that delivers in a big way.
Of course, the timing couldn't be better for this kind of computer. We're all stuck at home, often with computers that have several years worth of mileage on their clock, but spending big money on an upgrade can be too much of an ask. So your options are either get a new breeze-block or a slick but limited Chromebook, both of which have their obvious downsides. Even though the Surface Laptop Go is by no means perfect, it's a really compelling alternative.
For starters it looks a whole lot more premium than it actually is. Marrying an aluminium lid and keyboard cover with a plastic underbelly, the Laptop Go gives off heavy MacBook Air vibes in a good way. At 1.1kg it's the kind of product you can happily chuck in a rucksack and schlep around town or campus with and the combination of an Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB means it's well-suited to basic computing fare.
So if your average workday consists of Google Docs, Zoom, Slack, Trello and the like then you are going to get on just fine here, especially since the keyboard you're handed is super comfy to type on over extended periods, with none of the awkward wobble or flimsiness you'll find with comparable rivals. While you'll be able to get away with a spot of photo tinkering with the Laptop Go, anything video editing or gaming related is pretty much off the table. There's just not enough power here to get the job done.
Also, the Laptop Go runs on the app-based Windows 10 S mode out of the box, which limits your ability to download anything that's not available on the admittedly well-stocked Microsoft Store, which covers everything from Spotify to Netflix and WhatsApp desktop. If you're happy to sacrifice a little in the way of performance to use whichever programmes you please, you can make the switch to full-fat Windows 10 for gratis.
Ok, so what are the shortcomings here? Basically they all boil down to a sub-HD 12.5-inch screen, which isn't quite as crisp as we'd like when editing text and delivers muted colours when you're watching anything remotely cinematic. So while the display itself is big enough in size, its actual fidelity is passable, but nothing to write home about. Aside from a meagre selection of one USB-C port, a "traditional" USB 3.0 port and a headphone jack, the Laptop Go's screen is its one feature where you get exactly your money's worth and not a jot more.
On the plus side, having a lower resolution screen does help a lot with battery life. Microsoft promises up to 13 hours of usage, but that number is probably closer to eleven hours in reality – still a good result that'll see you through the working day. While it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, you're also stuck with a proprietary Surface charger cable when you do need a top-up. Why Microsoft can't make the move over to USB-C like everyone else remains a mystery.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go verdict
So the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go isn't flawless, but the few shortfalls it does have are tolerable and balanced out by its many benefits. From a shapely design to a sturdy performance and day-long battery life, this computer can go toe-to-toe with your nine-to-five and make it through to the other side. Really, that's all you should be asking for when looking for a new laptop at this kind of price. That the Laptop Go hits the mark with such panache puts it head and shoulders among its budget-friendly brethren.