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Microsoft Unveils Surface Laptop Go, a 12.4-Inch Notebook for $549

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The company is also refreshing the higher-end models of the Surface Pro X with a new ‘Microsoft SQ2’ processor. Both products go on sale Oct. 13.

If you thought the Surface Laptop was nice, but a little expensive, good news: Microsoft is introducing a new, albeit smaller, version that chops the starting price by nearly half.

Today, the company introduced the Surface Laptop Go, which will start at $549.99. In addition, Microsoft is refreshing the higher-end models of its Surface Pro X tablet with a new custom processor that, according to the company, should enable even longer battery life. Both products go on sale Oct. 13.

A More Affordable Surface Clamshell

“With Surface Laptop Go, we are bringing the features most loved by our Surface Laptop customers to a smaller, more affordable design,” the company said in today’s announcement.

Indeed, the $549.99 price is a pretty significant discount from the Surface Laptop 3, which starts at $999.99. However, to bring down the price, the company made the Laptop Go model a 12.4-inch laptop, while the standard model can be purchased with a larger 13.5- or 15-inch display. (Note: This clamshell-design machine is not to be confused with Microsoft’s Surface Go and Surface Go 2, which are scaled-down versions of the company’s Surface Pro detachable-screen tablets.)

In an unusual stroke for a modern laptop, the Laptop Go’s display has a native resolution of 1,536 by 1,024 pixels. That works out to 148 pixels per inch, and the resolution is a step down from the 1,920-by-1,080-pixel (aka 1080p) panels that have become more or less standard in mainstream laptops with 13-inch and larger screens. On the plus side, the display can function as a touch screen. The keyboard also remains full-size, and each key has vertical travel of 1.3 millimeters, according to Microsoft’s specs.

You also won’t be getting Intel’s new 11th-generation “Tiger Lake” Core processors. Instead, the product is based on an Intel 10th-generation (“Ice Lake”) Core i5-1035G1 processor, which has four cores and was launched a year ago.

What makes the Laptop Go look less appealing, at least on paper, are the main system memory and storage schemes. The base $549.99 model comes with only 4GB of RAM and 64GB of slower eMMC storage. You’ll have to pay $699.99 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB for “true” SSD storage.

Models with 256GB of SSD space start at $899.99. To get 16GB of RAM, you’ll have to spend more than $1,000 for one of the top-end commercial or education versions of the Laptop Go.

The laptop comes with Windows 10 Home in S Mode, which you can convert over to Windows 10 Pro if you need more functionality.

Expect the Laptop Go to weigh in at 2.45 pounds. The top portion of the clamshell is made out of aluminum, but the casing around the base is crafted of plastic, glass fiber, and recycled materials. Three color schemes will be on offer: Platinum, Ice Blue, and Poppy Red.

According to Microsoft, the Surface Laptop Go should last for up to 13 hours on a single charge. On the web-conferencing front, the Go model comes with a 720p camera, dual microphones, and speakers. On the left side are three ports: USB Type-A, USB Type-C, and a headphone/mic jack. Buyers can also get the Laptop Go in certain configurations with a fingerprint sensor fitted on the power button.

A New SQ2 Chip for the Surface Pro X

Microsoft has also tweaked last year’s Surface Pro X, a Windows 10 tablet that ditches Intel silicon for an ARM-based processor.

The Surface Pro X starts at $999 in a version with the existing SQ1 processor, but it now scales up to $1,899. For the higher-end Surface Pro X configurations, the company is refreshing the specs with a second-generation “Microsoft SQ2” processor, paired with 16GB of RAM. SQ1-based models, with 8GB, will continue to be available.

The company didn’t provide detailed specs on the new SQ2 chip. But according to Microsoft, the new silicon will give the Surface Pro X a boost in battery life and performance.

We’ll have to wait and see if the processor helps address one of our main gripes with the original product: the lack of compatibility with third-party apps. Because the Surface Pro X uses an ARM-based processor, it has to rely on emulation to run 32-bit traditional x86 Windows 10-based apps, which can create a sluggish experience.

The other downside is how the Surface Pro X hasn’t been able to run 64-bit x86 Windows apps. But that’ll start to change in November, when Microsoft releases an emulator to run the 64-bit apps on ARM-powered Windows PCs.

The company has also been optimizing Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Teams to run faster over the tablet while using less battery life. As a result, the Surface Pro X can now last for up to 15 hours on a single charge, whether using the new SQ2 processor or last year’s SQ1.

Microsoft plans on selling the new products on the company’s online store and through major retailers. Preorders for the Surface Laptop Go and new Surface Pro X begin today.

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