When you say “laptop,” you say “portability without sacrificing comfort.” In other words, what you get is something that can be transported without too much bother and used on the go, unlike a desktop, but also with a physical keyboard and a couple of other perks a tablet could never offer you. It seems to be the perfect blend of portability and comfort, but that’s only at first glance. That’s because when you say “laptop,” you also mean “a whole range of devices varying a whole lot in size, shape, and weight.”
While the average laptop is usually 15.6” and around 4.4lbs (2kg), more hardcore devices can reach 17.6” and 11lbs (~5kg), while a lightweight laptop can go as low as 11” and less than 2lbs (0.9kg). What’s the reason for such a difference? Simply put, it’s about performance, comfort, and portability. The higher the performance and the user support, the higher the weight; conversely, the slimmer and easier to carry, the lower the performance. This is because it’s tough to squeeze high-spec components inside a thinner frame, to begin with; even more importantly, laptops used for highly demanding tasks tend to overheat a lot, and you simply can’t fit a big cooler inside a device that’s 11mm thin.
Of course, that is not to say that lightweight laptops are necessarily low-performance. While there are, indeed, no gaming laptops under 4.5lbs or so, certain MacBook models can even be used as workstations without a problem. What’s the catch here? The price tag. Not surprisingly, something that is both light and well-performing will also be, without a doubt, pretty expensive. Then again, if you’re planning to edit 4K video while you’re on a road trip, you pretty much have to be prepared to pay for it in cold, hard cash.
In order to give you a bit of concrete advice as well, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite small models. Here’s what we liked:
1. Apple MacBook Pro 13 MNQG2LL/A with Touch Bar
There’s no list of slim and lightweight laptops which doesn’t feature a MacBook. We admit it’s expensive.However, if you want high and consistent performance, as well as the light weight you’re here for, this is one of the best choices you can get.
This minimalistic beast features an Intel i5 clocked at 2.9GHz, overclocked up to 3.3GHz, with the Iris 550 integrated video chip. This is a really good start for a photo/video editing or graphic design laptop, especially since 512GB is, in fact, enough for whatever you do on the go. The screen is a beautiful 13.3”FHD, and the 8GB DDR3 SDRAM are enough for all practical purposes. You also get the Touch Bar, which is great for multitasking, and no fewer than four Thunderbolt USB-C ports.
2. Asus ZenBook UX305UA
If your wallet is not yet ready to dish out $2000, this ZenBook can very well be the proper alternative. It’s amazingly thin and light, at only 0.47” and 2.65lbs (12mm and 1.2kg), and it can successfully replace a whole bunch of notebooks and textbooks in your backpack. The screen is somewhat similar to the MacBook Pro 13, a 13.3” FHD IPS display.
This Asus model is powered by an i5-6200U, 2.3GHz and overclocked up to 2.8GHz, Intel HD 400 integrated graphics and 8GB LPDDR3 RAM. With a 256GB SSD installed, it offers plenty of space for all but the most pretentious media collectors. All in all, it’s an amazing bargain compared to the MacBook Pro, and still, has very good performance. Oh, and the battery life is also epic: 10 full hours of web browsing and such.
3. Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15 – NP940Z5L-X01US
While this laptop is full-size, at 15.6”, we wanted to include it here as well, as the “biggest small laptop.” In spite of its size, it’s fairly lightweight, being only 0.7” thick and weighing less than 4.4lbs (1.8mm and 2kg). However, this laptop is a true monster, especially considering the price tag. It even has a UHD LED screen, which is amazing for something cheaper than $1500.
The Notebook 9 Pro contains the same high-end processor used by Dell on most Alienware models: an i7-6700HQ, quad-core, 2.6GHz and up to 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost. It has 8GB LPDDR3, a nVidia GTX 950M discrete graphics card with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM, as well as a 254GB SSD. All things considered, this laptop is truly a powerhouse in its weight and price class.
4. Samsung Notebook 9 Spin 13 – NP940X3L-K01US
Another Samsung model, this is an excellent choice if you prefer a lightweight 2-in-1 tablet/laptop instead of a typical laptop build.
This laptop features an Intel i7-6500U, which is not far behind the 6700HQ, at 2.5GHz base frequency and 3.1GHz Turbo Boost. It doesn’t have a discrete graphics card like its bigger brother, but has an Intel HD 520 instead, as well as the same 8GB LPDDR3 and 256GB SSD. At 0.6” thickness and weighing only 2.85lbs (15mm and 1.3kg), it’s one of the best 2-in-1 models on the market.
5. Acer Chromebook R 11 CB5-132T-C1LK
This laptop is quite unlike the others in that it’s a lot smaller, incomparably cheaper, not necessarily super-high performance but still quite reliable, a Chromebook, AND a 2-in-1. This “Chromebook that bends over backward” is an excellent budget choice, particularly if you have tiny hands.
The Chromebook R11 has an Intel Celeron N3150, 1.6GHz and up to 2.08GHz overclocked 4GB DDR3L SDRAM, and 32GB storage. It’s not for gaming, nor is it for 3D rendering, but it will certainly do its job if you’re just doing your everyday things.
6. HP Spectre x360-13t
A beautiful design from a consecrated company, this model is exactly why people still love HP after all this time. It’s unquestionably the best convertible HP has to offer, as well as one of the best overall, and it’s also one of the most modern, being the only model on this list to include a latest-generation Intel CPU.
This Spectre 13 has a 13.3” UWVA WLED-backlit touchscreen, powered by an Intel HD 620 integrated graphics chip. It comes with an i5-7200U, 2.6GHz and up to 3.1GHz with Turbo Boost, 8GB DDR4, and a 256GB SSD.
7. Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook
While part of the classic ThinkPad series, this model is in fact quite modern, being part of the Lenovo Chromebook line. It’s yet another budget model, and it’s only 0.78” and 3.2lbs (19.8mm and 1.4kg). It is also up to the very strict Military Specifications standard, which means it’s designed to resist. And resist. And resist.
This model features an Intel Celeron 3855U, dual-core, 1.6GHz, 2MB cache, and Intel HD 520 graphics. It has 4GB DDR3 SDRAM and only 16GB storage, which is a bit less than we’d like. Then again, it’s a Chromebook, and that means you’ll use cloud storage for most purposes.
What to look for when you’re buying a lightweight laptop? We’ve compiled a list of things you should be on the lookout for when making such a purchase. Here are the issues you may have to face:
Performance vs. budget
We’re not all named Rothschild or Gates, and our bank accounts show that. However, when you need performance, you need performance. A very slim and lightweight laptop with the same performance as a $500 classic laptop will probably cost $150 more, while high-end devices like the latest MacBooks go well beyond the $2000 price tag.
The bottom line is that if you need performance on a budget, you may want to go for a standard laptop. If you’re only planning to use it for day-to-day tasks or your bank account balance looks positively high, you’re good to go for a slim and portable laptop.
Screen and keyboard size
You physically can’t get a big screen or a full-size keyboard on an 11-incher. As such, you have to pick: an overall bigger laptop or a cinema for ants? A laptop that doesn’t fit in your small backpack or a keyboard for ants?
If you’re planning to watch a whole lot of movies and you want good quality, you’ll need a 15.6” display. The same goes if you’re a writer, an accountant, or whatever other kind of job that requires accurate and comfortable typing and a numeric keyboard, especially if your hands are on the bigger side.
Finally, a bit of luck! Due to the general lack of a dedicated graphics card, among other things, lightweight laptops usually have longer battery life than their heavier counterparts. In fact, while traditional and gaming laptops average 6 hours of Internet browsing, movie watching, and light gaming, there are plenty of skinnier models passing the 8-hour milestone. Even better, some of them reach beyond 10 hours and a selected few even hit an extreme 14-hours mark.
Most lightweight laptops use Windows or MacOS, which makes them no different from any desktop or standard laptop. However, there are also a few exceptions. Notably, Chromebooks use Google’s OS, ChromeOS, which is a version of Linux.
What’s the catch? If you want something you’re already used to, you may want to get a Windows or Mac machine, the former in particular if you also want to game a bit. If all you do is reading, writing, web browsing, movie watching, and so on, Chromebooks are a strong choice. The OS takes up very little of the available resources, which makes for an overall much faster and error-free laptop. On the downside, it’s incompatible with a whole lot of apps, and it may take a bit to get used to.
Due to the physical limitations on HDD size, most laptops 13.3” or smaller feature flash memory instead. While it’s indeed incomparably faster and you’ll see your OS boot in 3 seconds (yes, really), lower-end SSDs have limited capacity, usually 16, 32, or 64GB.
If you’re doing nothing but daily tasks and office chores, that won’t be a problem at all. However, if you work with media, it’s counterproductive to have such little storage space. If you really want a small laptop, you’ll have to pay $1500 for a MacBook with a 256GB SSD or simply get a huge external HDD.
These are the main things you have to decide on before buying or not a lightweight laptop. We hope you found our guide useful and chose the perfect laptop for your need from those in our top.
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