By Dan Ackerman
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 carves out a unique space in the crowded budget laptop market and it's become one of my go-to travel laptops over the past few months. Yes, with an official starting price of $799, it nudges the ceiling of what's traditionally considered a budget laptop, but it looks and feels like a more expensive machine.
Even better, as of this writing, the Surface Laptop Go 3 is on sale for $599, making it an even better budget pick.
Much of that is because of the aluminum and polycarbonate body, which is both sturdy and lightweight. Weighing in at just under 2.5 pounds, the Surface Laptop Go 3 is even lighter than the MacBook Air. In a laptop meant for easy travel, that's key, and I'd take a lighter laptop over a thinner one any day. The system as a whole is very compact, with a footprint smaller than a 13-inch laptop thanks to its 12.4-inch screen.
Even though the screen is on the smaller side, the 3:2 aspect ratio gives it a spacious feel. And, this is also a touchscreen, which is something of a rarity in a budget Windows laptop and adds an extra layer of versatility. The trade-off is that the screen resolution is on the lower side, at 1,536x1,024, but on the smaller 12-inch screen that's less noticeable.
Internally, the laptop is powered by a 12th gen Intel Core i5 processor, paired with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. That's pretty standard in this price range and provides decent performance for everyday tasks like browsing, office applications, and media consumption. I've even done some Photoshop editing on the system with no problems. Some basic benchmarks and comparisons are below (higher scores are better).
The keyboard is a real highlight, with excellent travel and responsiveness and a premium feel. The fingerprint reader built into the power button is one of the better Windows laptop fingerprint readers I've used, and it's part of Microsoft's Windows Hello security standard. Other laptops can use webcams for Windows Hello facial recognition, but with only a 720p webcam here, the Surface Laptop Go 3 uses the fingerprint option instead.
The webcam itself is fine, although more and more mainstream laptops are moving to full-HD 1080p webcams, a trend that started during the Covid era of non-stop Zoom meetings. If you want to hook up a high-res external webcam, like the Logitech C920S (my go-to recommendation for an affordable 1080p webcam), there's one USB-A and one USB-C port for that or any other peripherals. There's also still a 1/8-inch headphone jack, which is increasingly rare.
Microsoft includes its proprietary Surface Connect port, a magnetic power connector similar to Apple's MagSafe, but the system can also be charged via the USB-C. If you're anything like me, with tons of USB-C-powered gear, that's probably what you'll end up using most of the time.
From its excellent build quality to its portability and security features, the Surface Laptop Go 3 stands out in the sea of budget laptops, even if it's the top-end of what I'd consider "budget." And with the current sale price of $599, it punches above its weight and makes for a great secondary or travel laptop.
Micro Center Editor-in-Chief Dan Ackerman is a veteran of tech news publications including CNET and Gizmodo and has been testing and reviewing laptops for almost 20 years.
I love the Laptop Go 3. Great little laptop. Can't wait to see where Microsoft takes the lineup.
The surfaces build quality has always been top notch.
I always say, as far as build quality goes, the surface is most comparable to mac. Great products!
Very stylish laptop. College students who care about the appearance of their laptop always pick this unit!
the Go 3 is such a great laptop
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