While the laptop market is ever blooming with more new models every day, there are a few types of laptop that benefit from more development and marketing than others. At the top resides the classic 15.6”, of which you can find a few thousand models, while the second place is taken by the 14-inch laptops. How come, one may ask, that a laptop so close in size to the normal 15-incher gets such a large share of the market?
We think it’s because although the size is not altogether that different, the user experience is. It’s about a couple of other details than sheer diagonal size: for instance, 14-inch laptops do not have a numeric keypad. Some may have a problem with that, especially if they work a lot with numbers. Others, on the other hand, are happy to have the keyboard and touchpad in a central position relative to the screen. There’s also more room for the normal keyboard, which allows for more freedom of movement, and more room for the forgotten sound system. On top of all that, 14” laptops are obviously lighter and more portable than their 15” counterparts. As you can see, it’s not all the same, and apparently, there’s a whole lot of people for whom these details make all the difference. Speaking of which, we’d like to introduce you to a couple of our personal choices. Here’s the list of our favorite 14-inch laptops:
1. Razer Blade 14 RZ09-01952E32-R3U1
Razer is not one of the best-known companies on the computer manufacturing market. In fact, it’s only just recently started to create laptop models, having previously dealt with accessories such as keyboards, mice, headsets, and so on. This 14-inch model is one of the two main products (the other being the 17-inch Blade Pro), and we think it’s the best 14-inch gaming computer you can get. It looks beautiful and, unlike most other gaming models, it’s very slim and light, at only 0.7” and 4.16lbs.
This venomous beast is powered by an i7-6700HQ, 2.6 and up to 3.5GHz, and a fantastic nVidia GTX 1060M, which powers a QHD+ touchscreen display. With the 16GB DDR4 and 512GB SSD, it’s completely ready for any and all games on the market and can accommodate Virtual Reality items such as Oculus Rift.
2. Lenovo ThinkPad P40 Yoga 2-in-1
It’s really difficult to find a proper workstation among 14-inch laptops, but we believe this Lenovo model does manage to fill in those shoes pretty well. It’s an example of classic design being given a modern twist, literally: the ThinkPad which probably everyone can recognize, with the trademark red TrackPoint, was combined with the 360o Yoga hinges. It’s an FHD touchscreen, and also comes with a pen for drawing and such.
The processor on this one is an Intel i7-6500U, 2.5GHz, overclocked up to 3.1GHz. It has a workstation-specific discrete graphics card, a nVidia Quadro M500M, with 2GB GDDR3, as well as 8GB DDR3 RAM. The 256GB SSD completes a setup which we believe will allow you to run a couple of the more demanding applications no problem.
3. HP Elitebook 840 G3
HP is a company with a long tradition, and you can see that from the very start. There is little that can go wrong with this 14-inch model – it’s a classic design, although some would probably call it “outdated”, it features an FHD display, it’s slim and light, and it has every component of a good laptop.
Speaking of components, this Elitebook is based on an i5-6200U, 2.3GHz and up to 2.8GHz with Turbo Boost, which comes with the integrated video chip Intel HD 520. It has 8GB DDR4, as well as a 256 GB SSD, which is exactly what you should expect from this kind of laptop. A nifty feature is the spill-proof keyboard – something you may find useful if your coffee isn’t very stable in your hand after a long meeting.
4. Asus VivoBook R416SA-EH21
An excellent budget model, this VivoBook proves that when Asus approached every single area of the market, they didn’t do it by creating poor-quality products. In fact, for this price, this is quite an excellent laptop and, as far as we’re concerned, it looks more premium than both the Lenovo and the HP models on this list. It also features an FHD screen, and it’s very slim and light, at only 0.7” and 3.3lbs.
This time, there isn’t an Intel Core processor available, but instead a quad-core Intel Pentium N3700, 1.6 GHz and up to 2.4GHz with Intel Burst, with Intel HD graphics. It has 4GB DDR3 RAM, as well as a nice 128GB eMMC, which is pretty great for such a low price (larger flash memory units are hardly ever available in computers under $500).
5. Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 14
Another budget model, this one is much cheaper than the VivoBook. It doesn’t exactly look cheap, however, and it’s just as tiny and light as our other cheap laptop. The best thing about it, besides the great price, is that the battery lasts for an outstanding 12 hours, more than all of the models here.
The Cloudbook 14 is powered by an Intel Celeron N3050, 1.6GHz, up to 2.16GHz with Intel Burst, with Intel HD integrated graphics chip. It has 2GB DDR3, as well as a 64GB eMMC, something to be expected in this price range.
6. Acer Chromebook 14 CB3-431-C5FM
We just had to include a Chromebook here, and here it is. This laptop was also included on our “Best Chromebooks” list, for excellent reasons – it’s one of the best around and, at 14”, it’s also bigger than most. Its price may seem a bit high for a Google laptop, but it’s explained by the beautiful brushed aluminum chassis and the Full HD display.
This model features an Intel Celeron N3160, quad-core, 1.6GHz and up to 2.24GHz, with Intel HD graphics. It has 4GB LPDDR3, which is very nice, and the only problem with it is the non-extendable 32GB flash storage. It is understandable, however, given that you’re supposed to use cloud storage for the bulk of your files. At any rate, if you like traveling and writing, this is the thing you should go for – just like the other Acer model on this list, it has a 12-hour rated battery, enough for an intercontinental flight.
How to pick a 14-inch laptop? Well, the purpose for which you’re buying it is the most important factor (besides your budget, of course). It makes no sense spending upwards of $1500 for a laptop you will only use for online shopping and watching movies. On the other hand, you will probably regret not spending that much on a gaming laptop, especially if you’re a more hardcore gamer. If you do video editing, graphic design, or other similar tasks, you’ll probably need a workstation or at least something that can work well with more challenging visual processing. If your job involves a lot of writing, you may want something with a comfortable keyboard and a good display, as well as portability – just in case you want to do your thing outside where it’s nice. Finally, if you’re a businessperson, you will need something slim and classy, which also performs flawlessly for any and all office and multimedia tasks.
The performance criterion is always the first and foremost thing you must consider, lest you buy a possibly expensive piece of equipment which will fail you in 5 days’ time. For gaming purposes, you must consider an i7 CPU, possibly the i7-6700HQ if you can afford, as well as a GTX 960M graphics card at the very least, and 16GB DDR4 RAM. It will be expensive, but let’s be honest: you can’t have both performance and a full wallet. For a workstation, the same processor is recommended. Certain integrated video chips such as the Intel Iris 550 are good for the visual arts, but find a dedicated graphics card such as the nVidia Quadro models if at all possible, and as much RAM as you can get. Even smaller 13-inchers can get such good specs, so it comes as no surprise that you will find them in 14” laptops as well.
For every other task, an i3 or i5 processor will do the job perfectly fine and so will a more modern Celeron such as the 3060 or the 3850; 4GB RAM or more should be enough as well. As far as the storage is concerned, we recommend that you find something with an SSD as opposed to the classic HDD. It won’t be as big, and it’s a bit more expensive, but the speed and the relative lack of errors are completely worth the money. It’s also that an HDD requires a bit more room for installation and room is not exactly a lot inside a 14-inch laptop.
A high-quality display is essential when you’re a visual artist of whatever sort. If you can afford it, do not be satisfied with anything less than a QHD IPS display which will show perfect colors from every angle. For gaming purposes and anything else, an FHD screen is all you need; you won’t notice the difference, trust us. What you will notice, however, is the lack of ports, if that’s the case. Certain models (we’re looking at you, Apple) only have one or two USBs, and that’s it. Really? Try to find something with as many and as diverse external connection possibilities you can find, including USB 3.0 and 3.1 Type A and C, HDMI or mini-HDMI, VGA, RJ-45, 3.5mm audio combo, SD or micro-SD card slot, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 or 4.1, and so on. The more, the merrier. You will notice the difference when you will be able to plug in your wireless mouse, speakers, external display, and USB fan at the same time.
Don’t forget about battery life either. It’s genuinely not possible for a gaming laptop to have a superior battery life; the highly demanding components will drain your battery in 3-4 hours, tops. Same for workstations, because of the display. On the other hand, if you just get something with average components, you will be happy to know that it’s quite common to find 14-inch laptops you can use for 8, 10, or even 12 hours.
These are the main issues to consider when you’re buying a 14-inch laptop. There’s also the overall design, of course, but that’s a matter of taste. If you’re a businessperson, you should pick something slim, classy, and preferably not electric blue, but other than that it’s your personal choice.
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