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a man holding a lightweight laptop in one hand and gesturing at the screen with the other

Best Lightweight Laptops

Looking for a portable computer? Here are a few standouts from our lab tests.


Computer portability has changed dramatically over the years. When I was a boy, I once wheeled my desktop PC to a friend's house in a rolling suitcase. Today, I carry a laptop that slides neatly into a messenger bag—alongside a book and lunch.

It's a good 12 pounds lighter than the monitor from my youth.

But weight is not the only way to measure a laptop's portability. The lightest model in our ratings—a Samsung Notebook 9—tips the scales at 1.9 pounds, for example. And yet, it doesn't have the battery life to get you through a full 8-hour workday.

If you're looking for a nimble travel companion, a computer with the energy and processing power to complement your busy lifestyle, here are some of the best lightweight laptops to pass through our labs.

All are significantly trimmer than the heaviest machines in our ratings: a 17.3-inch Lenovo Ideapad and a 17.3-inch Dell Inspiron that both log in at 7.6 pounds.

More to the point, they're all recommended for performance, too.

1
A 2.1-pound champ for Apple fans
Apple MacBook 12-inch MLHE2LL/A

Apple MacBook 12-inch MLHE2LL/A

This 12-inch laptop delivers a full 17 hours of battery life, plus above-average speakers and an excellent (non-touchscreen) display. With 8GB of memory and a 256GB solid-state drive, it'll handle Mac OS and everyday tasks with ease.

As a reminder, solid-state drives use less power and access data more quickly than traditional spinning hard disk drives—and they tend to last longer, too.

If the laptop has one drawback, it's that it only offers a single USB Type C port. And that's an inconvenience for anyone with accessories—a mouse, external hard drive, speakers, that sort of thing—that require a wired connection. For those who have fully embraced the wireless world of Bluetooth technology, though, it may not pose a problem.

    2
    A 2.4-pound option for Windows folks
    Microsoft Surface Pro 4

    Microsoft Surface Pro 4

    Microsoft's Surface line is all about versatility—combining the functionality of a laptop with the ease of a tablet.

    This two-in-one has a very good 12.3-inch touchscreen display that detaches from the keyboard. The built-in kickstand holds it upright for web-browsing and movie-watching. And the wide viewing angles and brightness levels are conducive to outdoor screenings for family and friends. 

    Better yet, the computer, which sells for about $650, is among the faster models we've tested. It has a respectable 128GB solid-state hard drive and 4GB of memory, which is more than enough muscle to run most of the software out there.

    And, according to our testers, the Surface Pro 4's battery lasts 9 hours.

      3
      A 2.9-pound bargain
      Acer Aspire S5-371-52JR

      Acer Aspire S5-371-52JR

      Priced at about $600, the 13.3-inch Aspire S5 impressed our testers with its excellent performance, handling even tough tasks like video editing and mid-range gaming with admirable speed.

      And the 13.5 hours' worth of battery life can carry you through the day, even when you're traveling coast-to-coast.

      Acer offers a touchscreen model, too, but that one runs closer to $1,000.

        4
        2.9 pounds' worth of raw muscle
        Vaio Z Flip

        Vaio Z Flip

        It comes at a premium price (roughly $1,800), but the 13.3-inch Vaio Z Flip earned a spot at the top of our ratings with 14 hours of battery life and excellent marks for ergonomics, portability, and performance.

        Outfitted with 8GB of memory and a 256GB solid-state hard drive, it's among the fastest models we've seen for creating spreadsheets, conducting video chats, editing photos and music, and even playing demanding video games.  

        Toss in the included stylus, a charger with a built-in USB port for powering up accessories, and a very good touchscreen display that flips over to serve as a tablet, and you're looking at a well-designed, high-end laptop for on-the-go executives, art and video producers, and, yes, diehard gamers.

          5
          3.4 pounds with a larger screen
          Lenovo Yoga 710 80V6000PUS

          Lenovo Yoga 710 80V6000PUS

          With excellent performance, long battery life (13.5 hours), and a $1,000 price tag, this 14-inch Lenovo handily earns its Best Buy designation in our ratings.

          The 256GB solid-state hard drive and 8GB of memory provide plenty of firepower for demanding software such as Photoshop and Final Cut Pro. And the touchscreen display folds all the way back to serve as a tablet with all the power of a premium laptop.

          Our testers gave the laptop excellent grades for ergonomics, too.

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            Tercius Bufete

            I'm an avid photographer and tech nerd with a passion for writing about gadgets and consumer technology. Originally from Los Angeles, I'm now an East Coast transplant searching for the perfect burrito in Brooklyn. Follow me on Twitter @terciusbufete