Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go line has always served as a middle ground for students and young professionals who want a high-quality laptop without having to pay a high price. Of course, those affordably priced Go machines inevitably come with some compromises.
Both of the older laptops in the line—the Surface Laptop Go () and Surface Laptop Go 2 ( )—were criticized by us and others for their low-resolution screens, middling battery life, and lack of a backlit keyboard. But those things are easy to overlook when you’re also getting a luxurious build, solid performance, and an extremely portable design in a package that costs as low as $700. It’s been easy to recommend these laptops in the past few years despite their flaws.
The Surface Laptop 3, however, is a tough sell—particularly because the cheapest configuration now starts at $800. Microsoft nixed the 4-GB RAM and 128-SSD options, so you’ll only have the choice between 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM with a 256-GB SSD for both. The latter will set you back $1,000. The company also threw in a 12th-generation Intel chip with a Core i5 processor.
That’s it for upgrades, though. Typically, I’d still consider this a great, affordable laptop, but the lack of new features, zero effort on Microsoft’s part to address the issues with its predecessors, and the elimination of cheaper options feels absolutely criminal.
As with past models, the Surface Laptop Go 3 retains its excellent design. The top half is made of anodized aluminum, which is supposed to be better at resisting scratches and nicks than untreated aluminum. The bottom half is a mix of aluminum and polycarbonate resin. It looks and feels extremely lavish, especially in the Sage color that Microsoft sent me. It’s also available in Platinum, Ice Blue, and Sandstone, but storage configurations vary depending on which color you choose.
The third-generation Laptop Go also remains lightweight at just 2.49 pounds and compact, measuring 10.95 inches wide, 8.12 inches deep, and 0.62 inches thick. Like its predecessors, it’s a great-size notebook for students carting a PC to class or workers who commute to the office, because it won’t weigh your bag down. It was small enough to fit into my, allowing me to ditch the backpack and tote bag I often switch between.
The full-size keyboard lives up to the hype too. Having reviewed Microsoft’s 2-in-1 devices (like the Surface Go 2 and, I’ve only had experience with the Type Cover’s mushy keys. But the Laptop Go 3 is super satisfying to type on, with excellent key travel and springy feedback. It’s been a joy to use for typing emails, Slack messages, and this review.
There’s one glaring error: the lack of a keyboard backlight. It’s comical that a keyboard marketed to students and Gen-Z buyers is missing such a crucial feature. I found it particularly annoying when I was trying to find volume and brightness controls in the dark while streaming a TV show before bedtime. I can only imagine how frustrating it might be for someone to use this laptop to study or type up essays in their dorm late at night while their roommate is asleep, or to take notes in a dark classroom when the professor is using a projector.