Microsoft Launches New $549 Surface Laptop Go, Refreshes Surface Pro X
Microsoft made a pair of hardware announcements today. First, the company debuted a surprise $549 Surface Laptop Go. This is the first time we’ve seen Microsoft push the Surface Laptop family to a price point this low, though there are some hefty compromises that may make this a limited-utility purchase. Second, the company announced a refreshed Surface Pro X, based on its new SQ2 processor.
Let’s talk about the Surface Laptop Go first. It starts at $549 and offers a smaller, 12.4-inch display, with a 1536×1024 resolution. That works out to 148 PPI, and it’s definitely a step down compared with the 1920×1080 panels that are more common these days. But Microsoft has a reputation for building excellent displays into its Surface products, and I’m willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt in terms of how good the overall screen experience will be.
The keyboard is full-sized and has 1.3mm of travel, while the included CPU is a midrange Ice Lake chip — the Core i5-1035G1. The CPU side of the Core i5-1035G1 is perfectly reasonable, with 4C/8T, 1GHz base, and a 3.6GHz boost clock. The GPU side, unfortunately, is much weaker. According to tests performed by NotebookCheck, G1 Ice Lake graphics, which offer just 32 EUs, are only very slightly faster than the five-year-old Intel UHD graphics the company has been shipping since it launched Skylake.
$549 laptops are not known for being great gaming machines, but the RAM and storage solutions are a little tougher to swallow. That price only gets you 64GB of storage, and it’s eMMC storage at that. 64GB of base storage works out to roughly 50GB usable, and according to Microsoft, Windows alone takes up 20GB. 4GB of RAM is fine for a $350 laptop, but a $550 system ought to have a bit more RAM — or at least the option to expand both memory and storage, which the Surface Laptop Go lacks.
Out of the various Surface Laptop Go configurations, I think the $700 machine is probably the best overall deal. 128GB of storage is still low, but at least it’s a true SSD, not eMMC, and I wouldn’t want to buy a laptop I intended to use for 4-5 years with just 4GB of RAM. RAM usage has not increased dramatically in recent years, but it still grows slowly over time.
By $899, I expect stronger graphics performance in a system than Microsoft appears willing to sell, but there’s an interesting split between the Surface Laptop Go and the Surface Laptop 3 at the $899/$962 price point. The Surface Laptop Go saves you about $60 and offers twice the HDD space and the same amount of RAM, but has a smaller display. The Surface Laptop 3 base model has just 128GB of storage but sports a Core i5-1035G7 and a 13.5-inch screen. GPU performance on this system will be much stronger than the Surface Laptop Go, but storage capacity is lower.
Surface Pro X Refresh
In addition to the Surface Laptop Go, Microsoft has refreshed the Surface Pro X. Reviews of that device gave it high praise for design and low marks in actual performance or desirability. Takes like PCMag’s were common: “The Pro X is a well-designed Windows tablet that will thrill Microsoft’s Surface superfans, but its cost and app-compatibility caveats throttle its aim to be a go-anywhere, do-anything PC.”
Now, Microsoft is adding a refreshed model at the top of the product stack while telling us virtually nothing about it. The company only states: “For our customers who need more power, we’ve refreshed our top end SKUs by adding the new Microsoft SQ 2 processor – the fastest processor in its class.”
Given that Qualcomm just announced its 8cx Gen 2 platform, it’s a safe bet Microsoft is using this design. It’s assumed to be a 4+4 Kryo 495 configuration like the first SQ1, but with slightly higher clocks. Now, Microsoft has also recently announced 64-bit emulation support is coming to Surface Pro X, but if the SQ2 is just a clock-boosted SQ1, it probably won’t rewrite any reviews on how we should think about Surface Pro X’s performance relative to current x86 systems.