Surprisingly, the world of laptops is ever-changing. Compared to phones, which have all converged toward a few standards across the industry, laptop computers are an expanding frontier.
It’s full of measurements, specs, and data points that may be hard enough to follow just one at a time. Put them all together, and you’ve got quite the search on your hands to find the right laptop. On the plus side, there’s likely a best laptop out there for everyone.
Even if you’re checking out the lower end of the spectrum, small laptops are a great choice balancing value, portability, and capability.
What Is Considered a Small Laptop?
- Generally, they have a screen size between 10 and 13 ½ inches and weighing around 3 pounds or less.
- They are a step down from the standard, midsize laptop many people may be familiar with– the heavier 15-inch models.
- Small laptops are sometimes referred to as ultraportables, mini laptops, netbooks, or even notebooks (although “notebook” is often just a synonym for any laptop).
- They include categories like convertible and Chromebook — laptops that can act like tablets, and laptops that run on the Chrome operating system, respectively. Many companies offer 13-inch and 15-inch varieties of the same model, allowing consumers to pick between small or standard.
- Flagship examples are the Apple MacBook, Microsoft Surface, and Google Pixelbook.
Small Laptops Pros
- Small Size
Although all our personal machines are becoming thinner and lighter as time goes on, a smaller, lightweight laptop is simply going to be more portable.
It will fit compactly in your bag, even your low profile ones, taking up less space and causing you fewer back and shoulder aches. You can pull it out discreetly and place it down where larger laptops dare not try to balance.
- Small Price
Lower-end and smallest footprint models can easily be had for under $300. And it’s not always both small footprint and low-end specs. Some inexpensive small laptops still pack a lot of punch per inch, capable of handling the average user’s everyday needs without anything feeling lacking.
Regardless, even higher-end models have a less expensive entry point than their 14-16 inch counterparts so that you can stretch your budget a bit further.
- Big Convenience
If you make the switch from standard to a small laptop, you may find yourself having a hard time going back up a size even if the opportunity should arise. The best small laptops have more merits than compromises. They run cooler and quieter, ideally, and don’t slouch on battery runtime.
Smaller laptops are also more readily available in tough shells, which are impact-resistant and splash-proof because younger children are more likely to get access to a mini laptop than a full-size.
Good things come in small packages, and the best mini laptops are so good you won’t want to be without one.
Small Laptops Cons
- Small Size
On the flip side of the first pro, some people just won’t be able to overcome having such a small machine. Not every small laptop comes equipped with a standard, full-sized keyboard, and smaller screens equal less visibility and sometimes even lower resolution.
And if you’re setting up to mostly use your laptop in a single space, where you won’t need to worry about carrying it often, the biggest pro of a small laptop becomes a sizeable detraction.
- Big Price
On the flip side of the second pro, consumers can be put off upon discovering how expensive small laptops can get. If you were taking a look but weren’t sure what to expect exactly, seeing $1000+ price tags mixed in might give you sticker shock.
It also may not be a sound choice if the prices between your small and midsize laptop choices are especially close. When keeping size down isn’t your foremost concern, there is plenty of value to be found among standard, midsize offerings.
- Less Specialization
Finally, only a handful of small laptops come geared towards a functional specialty (at least at small laptop prices), while midsize laptops have enough wiggle room in price and physical space to specialize however they so choose.
If you need a laptop computer with particular ports or an optical disk drive, for gaming, or for handling high workloads like rendering, computing, or editing, small laptops may not fit the bill. And if they can squeeze all that performance into that miniature package, prepare to fit a different kind of bill into your life.
The Best Mini Laptops Today
1. Apple MacBook
An ultraportable laptop staple, MacBooks don’t come cheap, relatively speaking, but they truly deliver. The Pro variant would be a small machine capable of some serious heavy lifting without having to lift anything heavy while the Air is slightly cheaper and a bit smaller.
2. Microsoft Surface Pro
Microsoft Surface tablet laptops are extremely recognizable — versatile and capable by design. Their screen with the Wacom-sourced digitizer layer is fantastic for artists, and the more powerful Pro is a perfect non-Apple machine for creators.
3. Lenovo Flex 11
This 11-inch, 2-in-1 laptop is convertible between use as a traditional laptop and use as a tablet laptop. Lenovo is known for its dependable, no-nonsense computers, and the Flex has great reviews at a super affordable price.
4. HP ProBook 11 x360
This 2-in-1 convertible with an 11.6-inch screen isn’t the cheapest and isn’t the most expensive, a nice mid-tier offering. For an additional charge, HP does allow customization of your particular machine, however.
5. ASUS ZenBook 13
Billed by ASUS as the world’s smallest 13-inch laptop, this little laptop is actually their smallest ZenBook model available, too. It touts the standard size features of its siblings but with a sub-$1000 price tag and very slim package.
6. Samsung Notebook Pro
This is a premium, 13-inch 2-in-1, perhaps the spiritual opposite of the steadfast, economical Lenovo. Samsung’s Notebook is similarly sensible but on the pricier side, although it boasts excellent battery life and power to show for it.
7. Dell XPS 13
One of Dell’s top offerings and absolutely one of the best small laptops on the market. The biggest drawback of the 13-inch XPS is that it’s expensive, soaring to almost $2000. But in this case, it’s worth more than its weight in performance and usability.
What Is a Mini Laptop?
You may want to consider a mini laptop, specifically some of the smallest laptops available from the crop. The high-end Dell XPS, for example, with its 13-inches and steep price, would certainly fall in the realm of the small laptop computers but not a mini laptop computer. Although some of the smallest machines do still come wrapped in quite a price tag.
But if you’re seeking a solid machine in a small size, on an economical budget, look no further.
The Best Mini Laptops
Available as small as a tiny 10 inches (and up to full, standard sizes), Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome operating system and are manufactured by several companies in a number of configurations. Lenovo, ASUS, Acer, Toshiba, and Dell all compete in the space.
They’re sold as 2-in-1 convertibles or traditional little laptops. Storage isn’t usually a strong point, but battery life, stylus capability, and affordability are.
2. Lenovo IdeaPad 130S
This 11.6-inch superstar is a traditional small laptop that gets rave reviews. Lenovo offers plenty of more expensive business-ready laptops and even cheap but full-sized laptops, but the IdeaPad 130S combines a low price with a low profile and no funny business.
3. Dell Inspiron
Dell’s Inspiron line has had stalwart entry-level 11-inchers for years and continues on today. Available as either a traditional laptop or 2-in-1, these offer good prices and specs but are on the heavier side for mini laptops.
4. ASUS Vivobook
Another 11.6-inch choice, the ASUS is a sleek pick, extra thin and light. On their traditional model, the screen is capable of lying flat, while the touchscreen variant has a 360-degree hinge.