Today, everything is a computer. Your phone, your watch, your television, even an increasing number of refrigerators and coffee makers have processors and memory installed in order to do their jobs. Computational systems are so small they can fit into devices of all sizes, which makes it all the more mysterious why many laptops these days suffer from Severe Clunkiness Syndrome (SCS). Small and streamlined is what we like in our computers, which is why, using a cutoff of about 3 lbs., we sought out laptops that are light enough to be part of your EDC gear, give you all of the convenience of a more traditional laptop, and are sturdy in spite of their diminutive weight.
We desired featherweight laptops for every kind of person: From thinking machines that were all business for the mobile professional to hybrids for the budding graphic artist who just needed a mobile, digital canvas, we’ve seen them all. Besides weight, we checked specs, we examined their usability and added features, we found out their resiliency, and we decided which were simply the most pleasurable to use. When the showdown was over, there was only the 7 best lightweight laptops.
Toshiba Chromebook 2
Pro: Never gets too hot for your lap
Con: Only about 4 hours of battery life
Weight: 2.9 lbs
Pure Chrome: Chromebooks have really proven themselves to be the mobile notebook computers of choice for business users on the move, students, and cloud computers. While many of Chromebooks are stripped down to the barest essentials, bearing very little difference from your tablet or even your smartphone, the Chromebook 2 from Toshiba has an Core i3-5015U processor backed by 4GB of RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, loads of USB ports of both the 3.0 and 2.0 variety, HDMI, and a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel display that makes the 13-inch screen work. This is a Chromebook that looks to be better than just a typical web-browser, and provides laptop-level functionality at a price that undercuts similar standard machines by a fair margin. Not the biggest of the baddest, but a prince among the paupers of the Chromebook world.
Pro: 178-degree viewing angle
Con: Keybaord feels cheap and lack back-lighting
Weight: 2.6 lbs
Most for the Money: Asus has done a lot of stumbling when it comes to laptops. Either you would get a quality processor with enough power in a bulky, awkward body that would swallow batteries without chewing, or you’d get something slick and sleek and simple which was also sluggish and horrible. Whoever was behind this iteration of the Zenbook is not being paid enough, because they put all the power you could want in a body that looks tremendous, all at a price and weight the average commuting computer-lover can handle. It runs like a gazelle with the 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U taking center stage, backed by 8GB of RAM with no upgrades needed. An SSD, about 10-hours of runtime, and barely over half-an-inch thick, your only issue is going to be Asus’ notoriously dicey warranty.
Dell XPS 13
Pro: SSD is standard
Con: No HDMI port
Weight: 2.9 lbs
Dream Design: Though only 13 inches in size, you’ll still be getting an impressive display since Dell has cut out the borders and bezels for more screen space. The body is closer to an 11-inch, but thanks to smart construction the machine still packs a punch with plenty of the latest choices in processors, all while looking smoother than a MacBook Air. You can get it with a touch-display, if you’re still using Windows 8, and load it up with RAM for better processing time. Even if you just stick with the most basic specs, the XPS 13 will run cleanly out of the box and make you feel like you’re handling a much bigger machine. Dell stripped the resolution a little on the cheapest model, so it won’t dazzle unless you upgrade, but the trade-off for less pixel-popping visuals is many hours (about 12 hours vs. 7 for high-res) of battery life.
Apple MacBook Air
Pro: Flash memory allows for a much faster boot
Con: Native resolution is not HD, nor does it have the Retina display
Weight: 3 lbs
Forbidden Fruit: Originally the Air was meant to be the lightweight laptop for taking work on the road, but as emerging technology improved, it’s become a real powerhouse. 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM along with an Intel i5 processor allows the Air to scream along. If you so choose you can get it in an 11-inch model or up to 13-inches, with both offering up a 1440 x 900 resolution attached to an integrated Intel 5000 graphic chip. It won’t blow your mind, but will permit you to work without straining your eyes or working too hard to make out what you’re doing on the tiny screen. Apple dumped out the hard-drive in favor of flash storage, which is markedly quicker, giving you a fast SSD feel and rapid boot cycle.
Lenovo Yoga 900
Pro: 4K display
Con: Display is a little dim and dark
Weight: 2.8 lbs
Switch-Hitter: We were leery of the Yoga because the price was so heavy for a hybrid. Ultimately we discovered that there were a load of specs on the 900 that give cause for the additional money. First, its a hybrid laptop and tablet, so you can shelve one of your other EDC technological devices. You’ll have a true Intel i7 processor working for you, which is as close to future-proofed as you can get in this day in age. Underneath the lightning-fast 2.5 gigahertz processor is 8 gigs worth of RAM, so lag never crops up during working, browsing, or light gaming. Dolby DAX2 technology makes the speakers earn their money and will give you a reasonably good multimedia experience; though it’s still going to only be 13 inches in size (with a dense 3200 x 1800 resolution).
Microsoft Surface Book
Pro: 3000 x 2000 resolution
Con: Warranty will be voided if you install any non-MS operating system
Weight: 3.5 lbs
Weighing In: We break our own rule with the Surface Book. It’s three-and-a-half pounds instead of keeping it under exactly 3, but with all the features, you’re not going to notice that extra half pound when you’re lugging it around. You’re going to be thinking about everything you can do with the slick body and detachable touchscreen monitor. If you really need to cut ounces, just take the tablet portion with you, since that’s certainly under 3 lbs. The most basic model has an i5 processor, with the elite bearing an i7 with a stunning NVIDIA graphics card and 16GB of RAM. You’ll have loads of upgrade options if you get the Surface Book. You’ll also get a desktop replacement computer, a hybrid, and even the Surface Pen. It’s another great Surface that reminds us Microsoft isn’t always evil.
LG Gram 15
Pro: Attractive gold coloration
Con: Costly and some specs are still question marks
Weight: 2.1 lbs
Fight & Flight: If you want a big, 15-inch computer that has a beastly i7 running the show and knocking down detractors, along with weight that makes it closer to a frisbee than a laptop, then you want the gram15 from LG. The magnesium alloy body bears a striking look and quality impact resistance. The fully HD IPS display is lovely high-def, though it doesn’t pop like the 4K’s that more and more competitors have out, but if weight and power are your primary issues, then you are home with the gram15. It’s literally the lightest laptop in the world (as of publication) at barely over a couple of pounds. The 8GB of RAM and half-gig worth of storage are fine, but unremarkable. It’s a little overpriced at the moment, coming off the heels of lots of attention at the 2016 CES. Give it time, and the market will adjust it to where it belongs.