The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 doesn't have an Intel Alder Lake chip, and that's just so smart

A woman using a Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 on a bed
(Image credit: Microsoft)

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 was announced this week, and the new laptop is sure to excite fans of the original Surface Laptop Go, but some might be surprised that a new laptop released this late into 2022 isn't upgrading to Intel's latest Alder Lake processor.

Intel Alder Lake is definitely an impressive release and has totally shaken up the AMD vs Intel rivalry, one where Intel had been struggling to push back against a resurgent AMD. The Intel Alder Lake Core i9-12900K is arguably one of the best processors ever released, and not just in terms of raw power.

The performance jump between Intel Rocket Lake (desktop processors) and Intel Tiger Lake (mobile processors) and Intel Alder Lake is substantial, much more than your typical generation-over-generation increase.

With that, it might seem weird for Microsoft to go with a last-gen processor, but it actually makes a lot of sense given what the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is supposed to do.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2: It's in the name

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is meant to be an exceptionally mobile device, more so than even your typical laptop (hence the name).

Similar to the best Chromebooks, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is not meant to be a high-performance computer like a gaming laptop or a creative workstation. It's meant to be something light and portable that you can toss (carefully) in a bag and head out to the coffee shop or park, or maybe get some work done on a long flight.

For that kind of device, performance is a very relative metric. You can get that kind of performance on even a cheap Chromebook, so a Core i5 is plenty of power under the lid – at least for a few years, anyway.

This has to be balanced very carefully against the battery life of the laptop since the idea is that this kind of device liberates you from being chained to a wall outlet if you plan on using it for more than a few hours.

The Surface Laptop Go 2 is rated for 13.5 hours of battery life, and while we haven't tested this, something along those lines is definitely possible – especially given the fact that Microsoft did not go with a newer Intel Alder Lake chip.

Intel Alder Lake is fantastic, unless you care about battery life

The new Intel Alder Lake chips really are fantastic, but we should be clear that it's not all upside.

In order to achieve the kinds of performance gains we saw in Alder Lake, there is no getting around the fact that they simply consume more power, which is something we saw in both our Asus ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition review and our Razer Blade 15 (2022) review.

Both of these laptops saw a noticeable decline in battery life while providing outstanding performance. For this generation, it seems, performance rather than efficiency was the priority.

That isn't good for a laptop like the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2. This isn't a device that needs heavy-duty performance, but it does need to last for several hours of use. 

Intel Tiger Lake chips are excellent for this, while Alder Lake chips aren't as good (at least from what we've seen so far), so it doesn't just make sense, it'll probably even help with availability. 

Tiger Lake chips aren't nearly as in demand now that Alder Lake mobile processors have been released, so they should be much more plentiful. This will help prevent the kinds of silicon and supply chain crunches we've seen in the past year, something that will definitely help Microsoft with its launch on June 7. 

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.

Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).