Microsoft Launches Surface Laptop Go And Improves Windows 10 On ARM User Experience

By Patrick Moorhead - October 22, 2020

The Microsoft Surface brand continues to be an industry leader in premium devices and peripherals. The brand has a firm foot in premium devices with 2-in-1's, notebooks, tablets, earbuds, headphones, all-in-one's, and more. Under the leadership of Panos Panay, the Surface team has $7 billion in annual revenue run rate to show for their efforts. The interactions that I have had with the Surface team always feel unique. The team is tuned into its specific target market and use cases, and demands and many times make decisions counter to the general market like the slower roll of Thunderbolt and USB-C. What’s clear based on its revenue run is that it’s making many of the right moves. As customer demands change, so does the hardware and software that helps users stay productive and connected. The Surface team is continuously launching new devices and peripherals to provide better user experiences, and this month is no different.

Earlier this week, Microsoft unveiled its newest addition to the Surface lineup, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go. According to Microsoft, the Surface Laptop Go comes packed with new hardware and is the lightest and most affordable Surface laptop it has ever produced. Also included within the announcement were updates to the Surface Pro X, new device accessories, and some optimizations for Windows 10 on ARM-powered devices. 

I wrote a three-week review of the Surface Pro X when the device launched last October, and you can access that here. I also wrote an announcement summary in May, which covered the Surface Book 3, Surface Go 2, Surface Headphones 2, and Surface Earbuds, and you can access that here. Finally, I wrote about the Surface Duo, Microsoft's new Android dual-screen smartphone, and you can access that here. Let's dive into Microsoft's new device announcements and Windows 10 on ARM improvements. 

New Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 

The newest addition to the Surface lineup is the Surface Laptop Go. According to Microsoft, this notebook is the smallest, lightest, and most affordable version of a Surface Laptop currently available. The device comes in three metal finishes, including Ice Blue, Sandstone, and Platinum. The Surface Laptop Go has a 12.4" PixelSense touchscreen display, large trackpad, and to my surprise, a full-size keyboard. The keyboard has 1.3mm of key travel, and if this keyboard feels anything like other Surface laptops, I am sure it will provide a superb typing experience. The power button on the device's keyboard also doubles as a fingerprint sensor for quick biometric login.

New Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 

The notebook starts at $549.99, comes with 10th Gen Intel Core i5 Quad-Core processor, up to 16GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. From a hardware perspective, the notebook looks like it would perform well and have good battery life, but I will wait to get my hands on one to comment further. The device advertises 13 hours of battery life, which, if true, would get you through a full day's use. The Surface Laptop Go also supports fast charging, but I am not entirely sure how quickly you can get the device back to 100% battery life. In terms of Ports and I/O, the Surface Laptop Go comes with USB-A and USB-C ports, an audio jack, and a Surface connector. The device also comes with a 720 HD camera display and studio mics for video conferencing and staying connected. The Surface Laptop Go also comes with Omnisonic speakers and Dolby Audio for video conferencing or streaming Netflix or YouTube. 

Initially, I like the addition of the Surface Laptop Go to the Surface lineup. The Surface Laptop Go seems like a great productivity device for work, school, or play. It will also be no slouch in terms of performance and battery life. What is compelling about this device is the $549.99 entry price point. That lowers the barrier to entry into the Surface lineup and gives the user the option to get a premium device for an affordable price. While I’m personally not s fan of 12”, I’m not the target market, and this system will fly off the shelves.

Updated Surface Pro X 

The second part of the Surface announcement was a new configuration for the 2-in-1 Surface Pro X. Last October, when the original Surface Pro X launched, I spent three weeks reviewing the system, and it performed well for my productivity use case. I expect the new version of the Surface Pro X to upgrade from the device I handled a year ago. The Surface Pro X's most recent configuration includes an original platinum finish, more x64 app support, longer battery life, and a next generation custom processor. There are three new color options for the signature detachable keyboard, including Platinum, Ice Blue, and Poppy Red. The device also supports Windows Hello, Instant On, and sports dual USB-C ports.

New Microsoft Surface Pro X 

The most exciting part of the Surface Pro X announcement is the new, custom SQ 2 processor co-developed with Qualcomm technologies. Power users that push their devices to the limits will enjoy the expanded performance ceiling from this processor. The SQ 2 will come standard in only the top configurations of the Surface Pro X. The new increased performance ceiling comes with a hefty but competitive price tag of $1499.99 at the entry-level.

The new SQ 2 processor is a compelling reason to test the new Surface Pro X, and I am excited to get my hands on one and provide a full review later. The device is also part of Windows 10 on ARM, which Microsoft is continuing its momentum with app developers to create better user experiences. I will touch a little more on that later. 

Microsoft is claiming up to 15 hours of battery life across the Surface Pro X lineup. As always, I will test that claim when I receive a review unit. Each device will also come standard with Gigabit LTE connectivity, which is becoming essential. In a "work from anywhere" environment, having a PC that can remain connected without requiring Wi-Fi is a game-changer. Lastly, the new Surface Pro X will be available for purchase on October 13th. 

Continued support for Windows 10 on ARM devices

The Surface team also announced continued support for more applications on Windows 10 on ARM. Surface Pro X is one of the devices that will benefit from the backing. Microsoft announced that it has made Microsoft Edge faster and completed a new Arm optimized version of Microsoft Teams. What is probably more exciting is Microsoft announced expanded support for running x64 apps with x64 emulation. This support means that customer devices like the Surface Pro X should run virtually any Windows application that's currently available. For organizations running Windows 10 on ARM, Microsoft has App Assure with Fast Track, which means it will work with you directly if any Windows 10 or Microsoft 365 application issue arises. 

New accessories and peripherals 

In addition to the other announcements, Microsoft also announced some new Surface and Microsoft accessories to pair with new or existing devices. I listed the new accessories below.

  • Microsoft Designer Compact Keyboard is a slim and modern Bluetooth keyboard for productivity. It has a 2-year battery life, two color options, and costs $69.99.
  • Microsoft Number Pad is a small number pad outfitted with Bluetooth connectivity and costs $29.99.
  • Microsoft 4K Wireless Display Adapter is an easy way to project the PC screen to other large screens. The devices support 4K resolution and cost $69.99.
  • Microsoft Bluetooth Ergonomic Mouse has a new wireless ergonomic design with two customizable buttons. It is available in several different color options and costs $49.99.
  • Microsoft Modern Mobile Mouse is now available in the Sandstone color option.
New accessories and peripherals 

Wrapping up 

The Surface team continues to launch new hardware while improving user experience across existing devices like the Surface Pro X with Windows 10 on ARM. All in all, I was impressed with the new Surface Laptop Go with its killer price point and the hardware and software improvements the Surface Pro X. The Surface Laptop Go seems like a sleek, premium device with a performance ceiling and battery life to power productivity and intensive applications. The new SQ 2 processors co-designed with Qualcomm within the Surface Pro X seem to be a meaningful improvement from the first generation SQ 1 processor. I will wait till I get my hands on both devices to provide my analyst take, but as the announcement goes, I thought the additions to the Surface lineup were meaningful.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.