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Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 review: Stunning, but bad price

The Surface Laptop Go was introduced in 2020 as a more affordable and portable version of the popular mainline Surface Laptop. It’s basically designed to be the MacBook Air of Microsoft’s Surface lineup. In 2022, Microsoft released the Laptop Go 2 model, which added an updated 11th Gen Intel processor, a fetching green colorway, and not much else. For the Surface Laptop Go 3, the story is much the same, with the same tried-and-true chassis benefiting from a jump to Intel’s Core i5 1235U processor.

I wanted to find out what the latest Laptop Go is like to live with, so I put it to the test for a few weeks. Here’s how it went.

Surface Laptop Go 3

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 is a compact and attractive notebook that feels as good as it looks. With a high price tag, though, it doesn’t do enough to keep up with the competition, making it hard to recommend.


  • Gorgeous design
  • Superb build quality
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Improved performance

  • Very overpriced
  • 720p webcam
  • No keyboard backlight

Price, specs, and availability

One of the pain points

The Surface Laptop Go 3 was released in October 2023 and starts at $799. It’s widely available to purchase either directly from Microsoft or from an authorized reseller.

There are two main configurations to choose between: the Core i5 1235U and a 256GB SSD, with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM. The latter option will cost you $999.

This is a price increase of $200 over the starting price of the Laptop Go 2, which began at $599. However, that base model came with only 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM, so there is at least some justification for this price jump.

Surface Laptop Go 3

Operating System
Windows 11

12th Gen Intel Core i5

Intel Iris Xe

Up to 16GB

Up to 256GB SSD

Up to 15 hours

Display (Size, Resolution)
12.4-inch, 1536 x 1024


Omnisonic with Dolby Audio

Platinum, Ice Blue, Sage, Sandstone

2.49 pounds

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3-1Design

A very familiar face, but a pleasant one

The Surface Laptop Go 3 is identical to its predecessors, so there’s not much new ground to tread when discussing its design. We were very fond of the design when we reviewed the second-generation device; the same is true of the newer model.

While this chassis design has been around for a while, it was my first time working with it for an extended period, and I was immediately charmed. I’ve been using its bigger brother, the Surface Laptop 4, as my daily driver for several years, so I was expecting a high level of fit and finish, and the Laptop Go 3 does not disappoint in that regard.

What surprised me, though, is how tiny the Go 3 is. With a 12.4-inch display, it’s the smallest laptop that I have used in a while, and I love the portability. It’s extremely convenient to carry about, and while there are some compromises when it comes to how much information you can fit on the screen, it’s a trade-off I was happy to make for the convenience.

The number and type of ports are unchanged on this model, which means you get a headphone/microphone combo socket, a USB-A port and a USB-C port, along with Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect port. I’m used to it. I’ve been living with it for ages, and you can get by with a couple of adapters in your arsenal, but it’s very minimal. I’d certainly like to see an HDMI port or card reader when the chassis is eventually refreshed.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 (4)-1

The Surface Laptop keyboard is one of my favorites, and I enjoyed using the keyboard on the Surface Laptop Go 3 almost as much. There’s no deck flex, sensible spacing and plenty of key travel. It took no time to adapt to it at all.

However, there’s a big sacrifice that you have to make with this model: there’s no backlighting — aside from an illuminated ring that encircles the power button/fingerprint reader. I touch type 90% of the time, so it wasn’t an immediate hassle, but it became quite frustrating whenever I needed to use a less common character in the dark. When the price starts at $799, leaving out basic creature comforts like an illuminated keyboard feels almost criminal.

Some corners were cut with a plastic trackpad, too, rather than using a glass-topped pad, as you see on most similarly priced laptops. In truth, though, I have very few complaints about its functionality; it’s responsive and has a lovely tactile click. There’s just the tiniest bit more friction than you’d experience with a trackpad — most users are unlikely to be bothered by it.

Display, webcam and speakers

It’s a similar story with these bits, too

The display is the same 12.4-inch 16:10 touchscreen panel that we saw in the last generation. It has a humble 1536×1024 resolution and a 60Hz refresh rate. Despite the unimpressive specifications, though, it looks decent in use, and the relatively low-resolution panel didn’t bother me as much as I expected. It’s probably a side effect of how physically small it is.

It covers about 95% of the sRGB spectrum, and it’s fairly bright and able to output around 400 nits. The glass front enhances the perceived contrast, which is quoted as 1000:1, and as someone who has become accustomed to having a touchscreen, I was pleased to see it included in this model, too.

The webcam has supposedly been upgraded on this model, but that doesn’t mean it’s particularly impressive. It’s only 720p resolution, again lagging behind most of its competitors, and the results are as grainy and underwhelming as you might expect. It’s far from the worst I’ve seen, but it’s definitely not a selling point.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 (18)

The speakers are a bit more impressive, and I’d say they’re above average for a laptop in this category. Don’t expect to have your mind blown, but there’s some weight to the sound that stops it from coming across as tinny. They’re nowhere near as loud or impactful as the Surface Laptop 5, but they get the job done around the house; some extra volume wouldn’t go amiss, though.

Performance and battery life

A new processor, but not the newest

The Surface Laptop Go 3 is powered by a 12th-Gen Intel processor, which means that it has a healthy boost over the previous model, but also means it’s running a chip that’s already outdated. Most of the competition at this price point is running on 13th-gen chips, and Intel’s 14th-gen chips are shipping, as well.

I tested the model with 16GB of RAM, and despite the older mid-range processor, it performed just fine for the majority of my needs. You can happily edit images in Photoshop and multitask with loads of Chrome tabs and Spotify blaring away. In reality, it’s enough for most people’s needs.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 (15)

The problem is, that’s true of a slew of laptops around the $500 mark, too. In benchmarks, it becomes apparent that the Surface Laptop Go 3 does not provide a level of performance that competes with similarly priced products. There are plenty of options that come with 13th Gen Core i7 processors for less money, and obviously, they’ll be more impressive when it comes to heavy workloads.

The Laptop Go 3 throttled quite heavily during graphically intensive tasks, like running 3DMark Time Spy, but that’s not too surprising given the slim chassis. I was impressed with how quiet the fans remained as this machine was pushed to its limits, and while it does get pretty toasty towards the left-hand side of the keyboard, it never got hot to a concerning level.

The Go 3 comes with a wall adapter with a useful compact power brick and charges via the Surface Connect port, but it can also be charged via USB-C if you have a suitably powerful charger. It charges quite quickly, reaching 80% in about an hour, making keeping it topped up less of a hassle.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 (2)

You can realistically expect about 10 to 12 hours of light use, doing things like web browsing or watching videos, but that will obviously decrease if you attempt something more taxing. It’s a decent showing, likely thanks to the relatively low-resolution IPS panel, which sips juice compared to some of the power-hungry OLED laptops that we’ve seen recently, but it’s still a long way behind the likes of the MacBook Air.


surface laptop go 3 square

For all its flaws, the truth is, I do like the Surface Laptop Go 3. It’s a beautifully designed laptop that feels high quality throughout, and the 12-inch size is extremely convenient. I’ve really enjoyed using it.

The problem is all to do with the pricing. The model I was sent for review retails for $999, and a laptop at that price should not feature a last-gen processor, a 720p webcam, a sub 1080p display, and a non-backlit keyboard. It’s perfectly understandable to pay a bit extra for fit and finish, but I don’t think there’s an easy way to justify the cost of this machine.

If you see an amazing discount, it may be worth considering, but for most people, there’s better value to be found elsewhere. The Asus Zenbook 14 OLED and Dell XPS 13 spring to mind as strong contenders in the price range, and of course, there’s the 13-inch MacBook Air if you fancy venturing outside of Windows.

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