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Surface Laptop Go 3 hands-on: Microsoft makes a better case for its cheap PC

It feels snappier than ever with an Intel 12th-gen CPU.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The Surface Laptop Go has always been an interesting experiment for Microsoft: What if you took the basic design of the Surface Laptop, but diminished its specs to make it far more affordable? We've always found them intriguing, but with the Surface Laptop Go 3, Microsoft has finally transformed its cheap PC into a potentially great computer. Mostly, that's due to the new Intel 12th-gen CPU, which makes the entire computing experience feels far zippier than before. It feels so good, you might not even notice that the Laptop Go 3's screen doesn't quite hit 1080p (it's still 1,536 by 1,024, like before).

Other than the internals, the Surface Laptop Go 3 is pretty much the same as before. The 12.4-inch PixelSense screen is decently bright at 300 nits, the keyboard has enough depth and responsiveness to handle my furious typing, and the trackpad is wonderfully smooth and responsive. It would have been nice to see some port upgrades this year; it's still equipped with a single USB-C connection, one USB Type A port and a slot for the Surface charger.

If you can live with some of those compromises, though, the Surface Laptop Go 3 is a compelling machine for $799. Zipping around the web and launching multiple apps felt no different than a typical ultraportable. I was even able to get some gaming on, thanks to Xbox cloud gaming. I played several minutes of Need for Speed Unbound and was surprised that it felt no different than being played locally. That was especially surprising since I was playing over Wi-Fi in a crowded event space with over a hundred attendees. You can probably get some local gameplay in too, thanks to Intel's Iris Xe graphics, but certainly not Need for Speed.

Our demo unit was also configured with 16GB of RAM, a first for the Surface Laptop Go line. That upgrade, along with the CPU bump, further erodes the line between the Surface Laptop Go and the more powerful Surface Laptops. It'll be interesting to see how Microsoft upgrades those machines next. For now, though, the Surface Laptop Go 3 may be all the PC some users need.

Follow all of the news live from Microsoft’s 2023 Surface event right here.