The evolution of laptops has always been driven by the push for thinner, lighter, and more power-efficient designs, and whatever the year, these demands coalesce into the perfect expressions of leading-edge laptop design: ultraportable. In this article, let us talk about Best Lightweight Laptops.
What exactly defines this category Best Lightweight Laptops? In general, ultraportables weigh 3 pounds or less, have screen 14 inches or smaller, and offer enough battery life to survive most of a workday off-plug. These systems are now faster than ever, are well-suit to travel, and come with a variety of features and display resolutions wide enough to fit anyone’s needs. You may have seen laptops of this breed refer to over the years as “ultrabooks” or “stream books,” but those were primarily attempting to attach some branding to the same basic template of “ultralight laptop.” The design always comes back to the same foundational elements: thin, light, and long-running.
How Much Should You Spend on Best Lightweight Laptops?
Although Best Lightweight Laptops as a class may look sleek, quite a few key differentiators distinguish models from one another. The first to consider is the price. There’s a huge difference between a system that costs $400 and one that costs $1,300, even if they boast the same brand name, and similar looks and features.
At the low end are entry-level systems that generally run $500 or less. For many casual users, this is the only price range worth looking at, but there are some caveats to keep in mind. The processing power, display resolution, and storage capacities are usually lower on inexpensive ultraportables, as they’re built for basic web browsing, word processing, and media viewing purposes, and the construction can be on the flimsy side. The weight for these models also ranges up to 4 pounds.
Entry-level Best Lightweight Laptops make solid systems for younger family members to use for homework or watching movies around the house since they are both highly portable and relatively inexpensive. Value is a big factor in this category, as plenty of budget ultraportables can entice you with a low price. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself let down by a system that’s only a bargain because its manufacturer cut too many corners.
That said, the spec floor has risen in this category. As faster base parts become less expensive and more common, cheaper systems with decent build quality are more capable of completing day-to-day tasks. Your average $500 laptop has become quite adequate for simple tasks such as web browsing and word processing on the go.
Midrange systems are better, but by definition they also cost more, ranging from about $500 to $1,250. Materials and specs that were once exclusive to high-end ultraportables are now the norms in midrange systems, including features such as full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) or even QHD (2,560-by-1,440-pixel) resolutions, touch displays, and metal chassis. Battery life and storage have improved, as well, making it easier to get better bang for your buck in this price range. You’ll still have to compromise in one or two areas (such as storage capacity, port options, and resolution) compared with the high-end systems, but for most shoppers, this price range represents the best mix of price and performance.
At the top of the price, ladder are premium systems, which we categorize as anything costing $1,250 or more. With these high-end systems come choice materials, cutting-edge components and features, and top performance that will speed up photo editing and other productivity tasks. Here, you’ll also see 3K- or 4K-resolution displays, quality sound hardware (often from familiar brands like Bang & Olufsen), spacious and speedy storage, and other exciting features, all while the system’s form factor remains slim and compact.
Many premium business laptops also fall into this class, due to specialized remote-management and corporate features. This pricing tier yields the best overall user experience, the most features, and port options, and the fastest internal hardware, but not every premium system is created equal. And when you’re spending this much money, do you really want second best? If you have the budget and will be spending a lot of time on your laptop, it may very well pay to invest in quality.
Processors in Laptops
For smooth performance and good user experience Best Lightweight Laptops, you’ll want to be choosy about your processor. Even in a less-expensive system, the average processor is more capable than ever of handling routine tasks, but if you need speed, select carefully. At the top of the heap are Intel’s Core i5 and Core i7 processors, which can be found in midrange and premium models. Most ultraportables from 2019 use Intel’s 9th Generation Core CPUs, while the newer releases have move to Intel’s latest 10th Generation Core processors, divided into “Ice Lake” and “Comet Lake” varieties. Some 8th Generation ultraportables are still out there, but most have shift to 9th, if not 10th Generation chips here in the middle of 2020. The CPU is typically pair with 8GB of memory, though some premium systems boast 16GB of RAM.
The processors in ultraportables will usually be classified as U-series CPUs, which are designed for Best Lightweight Laptops. A few middle-of-the-pack models will opt for processors in Intel’s power-saving Y series. These chips, from the Core families, are identified by the “Y” in their model number and are capable but ultra-low-powered, intended to bridge the gap between U-series chips and the Intel Atom processors you find in inexpensive Windows tablets and extreme budget laptops. With 8th Generation Core, you’ll find Core i5 and i7 Y-series chips, as well as one that still holds the previous generation’s “Core m3” designation; Intel has been downplaying Core M of late. (In earlier generations, Core m3, m5, and m7 were synonymous with extremely low-power CPUs and the Y series.)
The design of a Y-series CPU allows for processing power that approaches that of Core i5 chips, but with lower power consumption and often no need for cooling fans. This results in slimmer laptop designs, quieter operation (in some designs, no fans means no fan noise), and longer battery life, often extending past 8 hours. Y-series systems are a good choice if you want the most portable ultraportable. They aren’t usually less expensive, though, and you may find yourself paying more than you would for a machine that’s more powerful, but also slightly thicker and heavier.
Many of the faster, higher-end ultraportables will opt for the U-series chips regardless, which also focus on power saving. You’ll have to look at some machines in person to find the right balance of physical design and performance to fit your needs.
1. ACER SWIFT 7
There’s a certain magic about this laptop. Weighing just 1.2kg thanks to its fanless design and ultrathin battery, the Swift 7 feels nothing short of futuristic. The 14-inch touch display covered by Corning Gorilla Glass provides great color density, with a bezel that is almost non-existent. In fact, when the screen is showing off its excellent true blacks, it’s difficult to tell where the display ends and the bezel begins. The Swift 7 only comes in black, too; Henry Ford would be proud.
Inside, there’s an 8th-gen i7 processor with integrated graphics and 8GB of RAM, optimised to produce minimum heat so the passive cooling system never gets overwhelmed. It’s a relatively modest laptop performance-wise, not best suited for demanding tasks such as video editing, but for on-the-go office work there’s scarcely anything better. Folded down, it’s just nine millimetres thick.
In addition to the stylish design, this laptop comes packing some nifty security features. The power button doubles as a fingerprint scanner for secure booting, and webcam hacks are a fear of the past thanks to a spring mechanism that conceals the camera within the body of the laptop when not in use. Overall, it’s not cheap, but there are few ultralight laptops as elegant as this.
2. APPLE MACBOOK AIR (2020)
After years of neglect, the MacBook Air line got relaunched and now, a couple of years down the road, this model is just about as fine thin and light laptop as you could hope to find, which is why it is our recommendation for those shopping with a premium budget.
First and foremost, its all-round useability is just first-rate, with it absolutely nailing the core laptop stuff and that means it is comfortable and super easy to use in any circumstance or location. From home to office to commute, the MacBook Air performs brilliantly.
Next up is the upgraded internal components, which now include the super fast and efficient dual-core 10th-gen Intel processors, double the storage of the outgoing model (up to 256GB from 128GB), and healthy block of 8GB of RAM, too. All these are delivered at the base price, too, meaning that if you want you can add in more RAM, a quad-core CPU or even bigger storage you can do.
The crisp and vibrant 13-inch Retina display is also really nice and paired with the systems impressive stereo speakers, make enjoying streaming content or editing images and video easy.
3. LENOVO IDEAPAD S130
The IdeaPad S130 isn’t going to win any benchmarking races and shouldn’t be used for intensive tasks like video editing or gaming, but as light computing Windows laptops go, it’s really hard to beat.
What really stands out here, and why the S130 ranks so high in our best lightweight laptops list, is the price: this laptop comes in cheaper than even a lot of Chromebooks. As such, if the amount you’re spending is important, then it might be worth putting the IdeaPad S130 on your shortlist.
The screen isn’t the biggest at just 11.6-inches (you can upgrade to the 14-inch version if that’s a problem), but that does mean this is a super small and portable lightweight laptop that you can take pretty much anywhere – and it’s designed to be bumped around a bit, too, with the solid build quality.
With ultraportables available now that are thinner, lighter, and more powerful than ever, there’s something in this vibrant class of laptops to suit everyone’s usage habits and travel needs. Below are 10 of the top ultraportables we’ve tested. We refresh the list constantly to include the newest products, but because of the large number of laptops we review every year, not every top-rated product makes the cut. Rest assured, though: These are all winners.