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.
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 Proo 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 2020 only costs $1000, far less than less impressive laptops from Dell and Microsoft.
2. Dell XPS 13
The 2020 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. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga
BEST SMALL LAPTOP FOR WORK
Weighing just 2.54 pounds and possessing a frame that’s only 0.43 inches thick, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga is an amazingly portable tw-in-one device, as well as our favorite laptop of CES 2021. It’s thinner and lighter than a MacBook Pro, but still packs specs that can stand up to any of the best small laptops on this list thanks to an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 CPU and 8 GB of RAM. But this isn’t just built for impressive benchmarks. In our work-from-home times, it comes with a pressure-sensing trackpad developed by Sensel, the same company that makes one of the most futuristic MIDI controllers for music production. This trackpad not only provides added functionality with multitouch sensors that can detect how hard you press down but also helps to make the laptop thinner since the trackpad has no moving parts.
The X1 Titanium Yoga also comes Dolby Atmos speakers, four 360-degree mics and an HD camera to make video conferencing less of a struggle. But what we love most is the 13.5-inch QHD display, which comes in a spacious 3:2 aspect ratio (which is the best aspect ratio for a laptop) and is rated for 450 nits of brightness, which goes a long way towards enabling its Dolby Vision capabilities.
4. Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2
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.
5. 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.
6. Asus Rog Zephyrus G14
BEST SMALL LAPTOP FOR GAMING
This is a powerful laptop that is not only great for your office or schoolwork but robust enough to use for gaming thanks to its AMD Ryzen 9 CPU, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, 16 GB of RAM and a 120 Hz display. All that power (and it’s a LOT of power) is packed in a 3.5-pound package, which is a hair on the heavy side among the best mini laptops, but still impressive for a laptop that you can game with. You can expect around nine hours of battery life — good enough to get you through your workday. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a webcam, so if you’re video conferencing for work or school, you’ll need additional hardware.
7. Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 Laptop
IMPRESSIVE HARD DRIVE
This is a great value option, especially for a touchscreen laptop. It provides plenty of utility with its foldable design, creating great viewing and working angles in tent mode. Beyond utility comes plenty of power with 3.4GHz processing, 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage. If you want to save a little coin, but still get an overall solid laptop, this is another smart choice from Dell. Students and professionals will appreciate both the security features and the Express Charge technology, while entertainment lovers will appreciate the display.
8. HP Spectre x360 13
If you’re looking for a premium 2-in-1 laptop with crystal clear displays that go right up to the edge, then look to HP’s line of Spectre x360 convertible laptops. The x360 line of laptops is available in a variety of configurations starting at $1,049, but the one pictured below boasts an 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB memory and 512 GB SSD storage and an HP stylus pen. (Check out the ultra-modern copper-on-black colorway). No matter which configuration you choose, the 13.3-inch foldable Spectre x360 laptop has great utility, especially when you use the stylus to draw right on the touchscreen display. The hardware inside this device would be impressive in any laptop, but it’s especially noteworthy in such a portable and compact computer.
9. 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 a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU, we think the performance and quality on display here is worth the cash.
10. HP Envy 13
BEST UNDER $800
Another impressive small laptop from HP, the Envy 13 has great features and powerful computing ability. For starters, the 1080p display looks incredible as well as allows you to get really hands-on with your projects. And with a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU and up to 16 GB of RAM, this thing can handle virtually any office task you throw its way. Speaking of handling tasks, it’s 12-hour battery life can handle even your most hectic days. If you’re looking for a reliable PC, the Envy is a solid choice.
11. LG Gram
BEST BATTERY LIFE
The LG Gram comes in many configurations, but regardless of the configuration you choose, you’re going to get a lightweight and powerful small laptop. The LG Gram only weighs 2.41 pounds, making it one of the most portable options you can find, although the 15.6-inch screen makes this computer slightly less portable than other options on this list. Compared to our other picks for the best small laptops of 2021, the LG Gram has a seriously impressive battery life. The 18.5 hours of battery life is enough to last you through the entire work or school day, and then some.
Even though this small laptop is lightweight and portable, it still provides plenty of connectivity options. It features an ever-so-useful HDMI port, three 3.1 USB ports as well as a Micro SD reader and headphone jack. It’s is a smart option if you are looking for a laptop that leaves a small footprint, but doesn’t compromise on connectivity.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. Acer Spin 5
BEST BUDGET 2-IN-1
The Acer Spin 5 is an affordable 2-in-1 convertible laptop option for those who like the idea of being able to switch between a laptop and tablet at will. But for added versatility, the 13-inch Spin 5 also lets you flip the screen around and use the laptop in “tent mode,” which is a great way to watch video when space is minimal (airplane table trays anyone?).
The Acer Spin 5 has plenty of processing power with a 10th generation Intel Core i5 CPU, 8 GB of RAM and a QHD display, which is similar to the specs found in comparable laptops. If there is one downside, it’s that the Acer Spin 5 weighs 3.31 pounds, which is on the heavier side compared to our other best small laptops. If you don’t mind the extra weight, you’ll enjoy the extra convertible features this small laptop boasts.
15. Google Pixelbook Go
The Google Pixelbook Go is not only Google’s most accessible Chromebook to date, but it’s also one of the smallest. For starters, at 2.3 pounds, it’s super lightweight, and the 12.2 by 8.1 by 0.5-inch dimensions mean it leaves a tiny footprint. It’s small, but the battery life is anything but. You can expect around 12 hours of battery life on a single charge. And if you need a quick charge-up before you hop on a flight, you can get two hours of battery life from a quick 20-minute charge.
But despite the assumptions surrounding Chrome OS, this laptop isn’t a lightweight. Equipped with an Intel Core i7 CPU and 16 GB of RAM, this computer will absolutely handle your most demanding tasks, as long as you can do them within the Chrome web browser. Equally as impressive is the 1080p touch display along with a 1080p camera, which is a better camera than the brand new 16-inch MacBook, which only boasts a 720p camera. One area where the Pixelbook lags in is connectivity, which only has two USB-C ports and a headphone jack. If you think that’s all you need, this is an impressive mini laptop at an affordable price.
16. Asus Vivobook S13 Laptop
Sophistication meets style with this ultra-thin (and lightweight) Asus laptop. The 13.3-inch screen is on the large side but features a beautiful four-sided NanoEdge display, which really helps make all those colors and images pop. With a powerful 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM, it offers more than enough data and storage for most of your everyday needs. And because it’s so thin and lightweight, it makes a great travel laptop, too.
17. Lenovo X1 Carbon
BEST SMALL LAPTOP FOR WORK
You might take one look at the Lenovo X1 Carbon’s subdued design and just assume that this is an unexceptional laptop. But for those who need something that can handle the demands of working on the go, this is the best small laptop for professionals. This impressive machine is only 2.4-pounds and 0.58-inches thick. The X1 Carbon comes with the essential specs that you need from a laptop as you head into 2021, which includes a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, 8 GB of RAM and a 14-inch 1080p display. But it’s the features specifically designed for road warriors that make this laptop stand out.
The Lenovo X1 Carbon has LTE so that you can always have access to the internet anywhere with a cell signal. It has a dedicated keyboard button to quickly launch Zoom calls. It has hardware encryption and a physical webcam cover for extra security. And to top it off, this laptop is rated to handle drops, spills and dust in case you’re working in extreme environments (or at a busy cafe). And if you really want to take things up a notch, you can even outfit this laptop with a 4K screen that will give you Dolby Vision on the go. There’s a lot to love here, and if a work-oriented device is a top priority, this laptop should be one of the first you check out. Along with the M1 MacBook Air, it’s easily one of the best laptops under $1000.
18. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
DISCOUNTED BY 30%
The Microsoft Surface Pro is still considered the standard of tablets with keyboards, and the Surface Pro 7 makes small improvements on the already impressive mini laptop. The Surface Pro 7 features an i7-8032U CPU, 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of flash storage. The battery life gets an upgrade for the Surface Pro 7, which results in roughly 10.5 full hours of continuous use without a recharge, which should get you through an entire workday plus a little time to spare. The battery can also charge to 80% in less than an hour, getting you back on your feet quickly. It’s got more ways to connect, with both USB-C and USB-A ports for connecting to multiple displays and accessory charging. It also won’t weigh you down with all the extra power, as it weighs in at 1.7 pounds total.
19. Acer Chromebook R11 Convertible Laptop
When looking for small, simple, convenient small laptops there’s no one better than the Chromebook. This machine gets down to it and eliminates all fluff so you have a dependable laptop that boots up quickly and lasts for nearly 10 hours on a single charge. It runs on the Chrome OS operating system by Google with virus protection, automatic updates and a consistently fast connection so you can worry about what you’re working on and not your WiFi connection. All of the powerful Google apps you already use come pre-loaded and with the Google store you can access their whole library of games, shows, movies, etc. It’s got 100 GB of storage space and an 11.6-inch touchscreen display.
Featuring a 360-degree hinge, you can easily turn this Chromebook into a tablet. What’s more, this Chromebook Convertible is incredibly efficient — the 802.11ac wireless provides connection speeds up to three times faster than previous models. Throw in a beautiful HD display and you have one heck of a powerful, portable laptop and one of the best small laptops available under $500. While it’s slightly more expensive, this version of the R11 is slightly more compact and lightweight, although the differences are small.
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 only costs $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.