You’re incredibly busy, so only the best small laptops will do. Whether you are running from home to the office, or from school to work, only to get off work and pull late nights studying, you need a laptop that is as portable, powerful and resilient as you.
There are a lot of mini laptop choices out there. We mean a lot, and there is a ton of information to wade through. Are you a Mac or PC person? If you’re a PC person, what brands offer the best laptop performance in 2021? Dell alone has a huge lineup of great laptop options. Are you a gamer or someone who casually uses a laptop to surf the web and check emails? There’s a lot to process before you make a purchase decision, let alone one that is going to cost you a few hundred dollars — or more.
So how do you ensure you’re buying the best small laptop for your needs?
We aren’t here to stress you out about buying a laptop. We wanted to make it simple to find the best small laptops by showing you what we look for in a mini laptop and how we evaluate the best products. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know before buying your new laptop, and our favorite models for sale right now. Plus, if you’re looking for a great deal on a new laptop, then check out our guide to the best laptop deals. We’ve also got a separate shopping guide for students looking for the best laptops for college students.
How We Chose the Best Small Laptops
When selecting the best small laptops for sale in 2021, we considered a range of factors including price, size, weight, battery life, hardware, display quality and customer reviews. For our purposes, we chose not to include budget Chromebooks and focused instead on true laptops and 2-in-1 convertibles. A few things you should look for to ensure you are getting a powerful-yet-portable small laptop:
One with a 14-inch screen or smaller
One that weighs 3-pounds or less
At least 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage
The best small laptops have at least 10 hours of battery life
Most of the laptops on this list have a 13-inch or 13.3-inch display, although some are even smaller. At the outer limit, we included laptops with 15.6-inch displays, which is the largest size that can still fairly be described as a small laptop. In our experience, 13-inch laptops offer much better portability and convenience on the go.
Speaking of being on the go, battery life is paramount when selecting the best small laptop for you. Some people literally don’t have enough time to sit down by a plug and wait for their laptop to charge. And if you work long hours, you are going to want a computer that can last the duration of your workday. Finding one with at least ten hours of battery life is a good baseline, because more than likely, with non-stop use, a 10-hour battery life will more likely be closer to eight hours, depending on your settings and usage patterns.
Finally, it’s worth considering brand reliability, especially if you’re looking for a product that will last four years or more. There are certain brands we trust more than others — Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft and Apple laptops are at the top of that list — and you’ll find these brands well represented below.
1. M1 MacBook Air
BEST SMALL LAPTOP OVERALL
The new M1 Macbook Air might just be the best laptop ever created, and we’re not the only ones who think so. The new MacBook Air keeps its signature slim and sleek profile all while adding the new M1 chip (which is faster than virtually any laptop CPU out there) and better battery life than its predecessors. The battery life lasts all day without a charge, and this thing has so much horsepower that you won’t have to worry about it slowing down for a long time. People used to see the MacBook Air as a cheaper MacBook Pro alternative for people who only casually surf the web because it didn’t have enough power for content creators — the people who generally choose Mac over PC. But with all of the extra power and storage, the M1 Air is no longer MacBook Pro’s wimpy little brother. In fact, there are few reasons why you should buy a MacBook Pro at all right now — that’s how good this small laptop is.
Seriously, unless you have strong feelings about the Windows vs. Apple debate, there’s no reason to keep reading. For college students, creatives and business professionals alike, this is the laptop we’ve been waiting for. Best of all, the top laptop of 2021 costs under $1000, and Amazon has periodically dropped it to $850 — watch this space for those deals — far less than less impressive laptops from Dell and Microsoft.
ON SALE NOW!
2. Dell XPS 13
The update to the Dell XPS 13 not only makes it one of the best small laptops in terms of size and performance but also a premium choice for laptops of any size. With excellent reviews for its performance and an elegant and compact design, this mini laptop establishes itself as one to consider when looking for a smaller machine. Beyond impressive performance, it also has an impressive battery life of 11 hours with the 4K UHD display configuration. It’s got a 13.4-inch 4K FHD InfinityEdge Touchscreen with Intel HD Graphics, an 11th Generation InteI Core i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM. All of this performance is packed in a machine that weighs less than 2.6 pounds (which is lighter than a MacBook Air), making it as portable as it is impressive. It’s a little more expensive than other small laptop options, but the computing power is certainly worth it if you prefer Windows.
3. LG Gram 16
We recently had the chance to test and review the new LG Gram 16, recently refreshed for 2021. Normally, we wouldn’t consider a 16-inch laptop as a viable product in the small laptop category, but the LG Gram was designed to be super lightweight and portable, and it’s got so many attractive features that we couldn’t resist including this “game-changing laptop.” Seriously, this thing is light, weighing in at 2.6 pounds. It’s also incredibly thin, measuring just 0.66 inches in thickness. Despite this, it will stay charged for an entire day at a time, which is deeply impressive.
In terms of specs, the 2021 LG Gram comes fully loaded. Inside you’ll find an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 quad-core processor and 16 GB of RAM. Because of this, the Gram boots up in seconds and boasts touch sign-in. In terms of ports, you get a Thunderbolt 4 port, one USB-C port, a headphone jack, an HDMI port, two USB Type-A ports, and a microSD card slot as well. All of this is contained within a lean and mean magnesium alloy body that’s ideal for commuting, so long as your laptop backpack is big enough for a 16-inch laptop.
While it’s more expensive than the Dell XPS 13, it does offer more computing power and a bigger screen, so if you’re looking for a top-performing Windows alternative to the MacBook Air, then this would be our top recommendation for you.
LOW IN STOCK!
4. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
SMALL AND POWERFUL
There is a lot of power packed into this mini laptop. For only weighing 2.4 pounds, it’s surprising how much oomph is included. At the base level, you can expect 8GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, which is more than enough for school or work. But if you want to go really hard in the paint, it can be maxed out to 16GB and 1TB of storage. Plus there’s plenty of connectivity to supply all of your peripherals. And not to mention, the black chassis just downright looks sleek, too.
5. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano
In the unlikely event that you feel the 2.4 pounds is a little too heavy, consider the ThinkPad X1 Nano over the Carbon. Like the Carbon, it is scary powerful and incredibly light, only weighing in at 1.99 pounds. You get powerful internals — 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, plus a great-looking 2,160 x 1,350-pixel 13-inch display. This is a rare combination of size and power. If you are Team Lenovo, you can’t go wrong with the Carbon or the Nano.
6. Samsung Galaxy Book Flex2 Alpha
FLEXIBLE YET FAST
Many buyers approach touchscreen laptops with trepidation, thinking they’re sacrificing quality for gimmickry. But the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex2 Alpha puts that notion to rest, especially when it comes to display and speed. Vibrant colors backed by an Intel Iris Xe graphics card, and a fast Intel Core i7 2.8 GHz processor make this anything but a middling tablet with a keyboard. The 17-hour battery life pushes the Galaxy Book Flex2 Alpha further toward the head of the class.
7. Acer Swift 7
The Acer Swift 7 is about certainly light weighing in at 2.6 pounds — not having a fan certainly helps keep the weight down and the noise to a minimum. The processing is comprised of an 8th Gen i7 processor and 8GB of RAM — plenty for daily work and school tasks. And if privacy is a concern, a cool design feature conceals the webcam in the body of a laptop when it’s not in use, so hackers don’t get a single peep. This is an excellent choice for anyone who prefers a PC to Mac, and is looking for a portable mini laptop.
8. Samsung Galaxy Book Pro
Coming in at the slightest bit over three pounds is the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro. Even though it is right at the limit we’d consider for a small laptop, the specs are too good to leave it out. Powered by an 11th Gen i7 processor, 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, this can be your daily driver, work computer and school workhorse. Plus the 15.6-inch full-HD display provides plenty of screen real estate and looks great while you’re at work on it. Not to mention the Mystic Navy color looks about as stylish as a laptop can get.
9. HP Spectre x360 14
GREAT FEATURES AND BATTERY LIFE
If you have the extra cash, this small laptop can be your workhorse for school and at the job. The bright 14-inch display automatically adjusts to your surroundings to give you bright, clear, and vibrant imagery on the screen. HP Quickdrop also allows you to quickly send pictures or video from your phone to your laptop — think Airdrop for PC — without the hassle of emailing files back and forth. The small laptop has an impressive 17-hour battery life and can quick charge up to 50% on just a 45-minute charge.
10. HP Pavilion Aero 13Z-BE000
At a mere 2.1 pounds, the HP Pavilion Aero is one of the lighter laptops on the list, and it sacrifices nothing in the way of speed or performance to make that lower weight. Everything from word processing and spreadsheet crunching to web browsing and editing videos happens quickly and smoothly on this little powerhouse laptop, driven by an AMD Ryzen 5 processor, and the 14-hour battery life is above average. Better still, HP has just marked down the Pavilion Aero to a very reasonable $669.99 entry price.
11. Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2
ON SALE NOW
Released on March 1st, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 promises to offer big performance at a price that is anything but. Running on an Intel Celeron CPU may not sound impressive, but since Chrome OS requires less horsepower to run smoothly, an Intel Core i5 CPU is not as necessary. Combined with a form factor that comes in at 2.7 pounds and 0.55 inches, 4 GB of RAM and a highly desirable 13-inch 4K display, you’re likely to find that this laptop will suit all your needs, and it’s currently on sale at Best Buy for $100 off.
12. Microsoft Surface Book 3
BEST 2-IN-1 SMALL LAPTOP
Microsoft Surface Book laptops have always been solid overall computing devices, and the long-awaited Surface 3 is no lightweight. Released around the same time as the new Macbooks, Microsoft’s premium laptop packs plenty of power for multimedia editing with software like Photoshop and Premiere, all while providing up to 15.5 hours of battery life in low power mode (customers report that the actual battery life is closer to seven or eight hours). Plus, if you like using touchscreen tablets, you can detach the Surface Book screen from the keyboard and turn your laptop into the ultimate entertainment device. For anyone who prefers Windows to Mac OS, Microsoft has finally released a laptop to rival the MacBook Pro.
Read More: Best Laptops for Photo Editing
13. Razer Blade Stealth
BEST SMALL RAZER LAPTOP
You may have noticed that gaming laptops tend to have a very specific aesthetic, and it isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea. But if you’re looking for a small laptop that makes no compromises when it comes to looks or performance, the Razer Blade Stealth is unquestionably the way to go. This 13-inch laptop might not have as powerful a graphics card as the Zephyrus G14, and it will cost a little more if you want the 120 Hz FHD display (yeah, you totally want that), but it’s nearly half a pound lighter than the Zephyrus G14 and it also won’t scream “GAMER” every time you use it in public. Still, with a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU, we think the performance and quality on display here are worth the cash.
Read More: Best Laptop Deals
14. Asus ZenBook 13
BEST BUDGET BUY
This is a great budget option that doesn’t skimp out on performance. It’s a hair more compact and lightweight than the Dell XPS 13 and with a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, there’s plenty of power to handle all the tasks you throw at it. The battery life is rated for up to 22 hours of use, though you likely won’t get quite that much in actual practice. And you don’t trade portability for connectivity either. The ZenBook 13 has an HDMI port, Micro SD reader and three USB ports. Plus, the laptop features an intelligent trackpad that will ignore errant palm grazes that send the cursor from one side of the screen to another. There is plenty to like about this mini laptop, especially the price.
15. M1 MacBook Pro 13
If the MacBook Air happens to be sold out, or you think you’ll really be maxing your laptop out with 4K video editing, go with the all-new 13-inch MacBook Pro. This device definitely qualifies as a small laptop, has a great 10-hour battery life and a vivid Retina display that’s great for multimedia editing and creative work. Like the M1 MacBook Air, the Pro has the new M1 chip which offers mindblowing performance, but it also has a fan that keeps the internals cooler and will allow it to run at higher speeds for longer if you do manage to find a way to push this laptop to its (which, currently, is not easy). That fan will essentially cost you an extra $250, which begs the question: Is it worth it? Well, that will ultimately be for you to decide.
Why You Should Go With a Small Laptop
Needless to say, it’s a good time to be a laptop user. With so many options these days, it’s never been easier to find the perfect laptop at the perfect price. Students looking for a budget laptop under $300 can find high-quality Chromebooks and two-in-one convertibles, while designers and professionals can benefit from the latest generation of MacBook Air laptops. But while there are now more laptops brands and models to choose from, you’ll want to do a little research before settling on the right mini laptop. When reviewing the best small laptops, you need to consider price, expected lifespan, battery life and function.
When portability is a must, it’s important to choose a laptop that’s both lightweight and reliable. That’s the beauty of the best small laptops — the tiny footprint doesn’t equate to poor performance. The 2020 MacBook Air can be configured to have up to 2TB of SSD storage, has all-day battery life, and is still one of the most lightweight laptops available. Even better, it costs less than $1,000. Some of the more lightweight models like the Air or Dell XPS 13 are almost as light and slim as some tablets, but with the full functionality that a powerful laptop provides.
The MacBook Air and Dell XPS models aren’t your only options. There are a lot of top-rated laptops available right now, but some of the larger models will be a major pain if you need to use them on the go or throw them in your backpack. We worked hard to select the mini laptops featured above, and you can make a purchase confident that all of our favorite small laptops are great for students, adventurers, gamers and everyone in between.
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