Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect new selections for 2016.
Though the tablet’s stolen a bit of the laptop’s thunder, true productivity hounds know that getting stuff done still happens more effortlessly on the latter. Today, laptop users enjoy the twin perks of thin and powerful devices, and with modern, svelte designs, outstanding battery life and sinking price tags, the lightweight laptop’s entering its golden age.
If your laptop happens to be entering its golden years, look to these new, shiny, skinny power players. The current crop of laptops offer ultralight, ultra-potent computing that cranks with even the most demanding key tappers.
-Additional contribution by Tucker Bowe
Apple’s MacBook Air redefined what a thin and powerful laptop could be, and years into its run (it’s in its fifth generation), it’s still the one to beat. With dual-display support via a single Thunderbolt port, USB 3.0 on both sides, and upwards of 12 hours of battery life, the latest Air is an ideal workhorse for those who need to keep their burden to a minimum. The only obvious downside is that there’s no Retina Display as there is on the MacBook Pro and MacBook.
Samsung ATIV Book 9
The 12.2-inch machine is more compact than many of its Windows-based contemporaries, weighing just 2.09 pounds and measuring 0.46 inches thick. The 2,560 x 1,600-pixel resolution brings Retina-class visuals to the Windows side of things, while Samsung claims that you can eke out 6.2 hours of battery life if you take it easy.
Asus ZenBook UX305CA
You’ll typically be asked to pay a premium for a thin laptop — conventional wisdom would have you believe that the thinner the frame, the more expensive the machine. Asus is bucking that trend with its Zenbook UX305CA, which runs on Intel’s power-sipping Core M chip and offers a 3200 x 1800-pixel display for under $800. Not bad for a rig with 10 hours of battery life and a chassis that’s just half an inch thick.
Lenovo Yoga 700
Lenovo’s latest Yoga model is both thin and versatile. Its 360-degree hinge and the 1,920 x 1,080-pixel touchscreen are the selling points — it’s a tablet when you want, and a laptop when you don’t. Beyond that, you’ll find other bells and whistles like 802.11ac wi-fi, a 256GB SSD and a battery capable of around 7 hours with medium use.
An ultrabook developed primarily for Internet use might not sound enticing, but for those heavily committed to web browsing and cloud computing (we know you’re out there), Google’s fancy computer should hit the spot. Backed by great hardware, the 3.3-pound Pixel is spearheaded by a 13-inch, 2,560 x 1,700-pixel resolution display that delivers 239 PPI and makes viewing multimedia truly exciting. One of the more promising attributes found on the Pixel is the trackpad, which is built to sustain heavy wear and tear and provides fluid feedback.
HP EliteBook Folio 1040
HP claims their EliteBook Folio 1040 is the “world’s thinnest 14-inch diagonal business-class notebook,” which to be fair, is pretty specific. Yes, at 0.62 inches, it’s thin. And at 3.15 pounds, it’s also lightweight. But the EliteBook Folio 1040 is really a businessperson’s weapon. Perfect for important Skype sessions, it has a 1920 x 1080-pixel display and crisp audio by Bang & Olufsen. Additionally, it comes decked out with a super fast, 6th Generation Intel Core processor.
Toshiba Portégé Z20t
Increasingly, laptop-makers are crafting two-in-one devices in an attempt to reach a wider segment of the buying populace, but Toshiba is offering something that no other unit of its ilk can: a 17-hour battery life when paired with the included keyboard dock. To boot, the 12.5-inch display has an optional Wacom-made digitizer for those who prefer pens over keys, and while the 1080p resolution isn’t the best in class, it’s certainly passable.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is roughly the same size as the Surface Pro 3, but boasts a slightly larger (12.3-inch) and higher-resolution (2736 x 1824-inch, 267 PPI) display. Its keyboard is upgraded as well, with a larger touchpad and keys that are more spread out, more similar to traditional keyboards. And unlike past models, it comes fully decked out with Windows 10 Pro software.
Dell XPS 13 with Infinity Display
Back as a private company, Dell’s latest offerings are better than ever before. The latest XPS 13 is touted as the world’s smallest 13-inch laptop, and it starts at a reasonable $800. The design is worth remarking on, as there’s effectively no screen bezel to speak of, and you can opt for a sumptuous 3,200 x 1,800-pixel panel if 1080p isn’t dense enough for your liking. The bantam size cuts into the battery life, but it’s still respectable at over seven hours with normal use.
Updated for 2015, the 14-inch Blade is easily the lightweight laptop of choice for the avid gamer. Somehow, Razer has shoved NVIDIA’s GTX 970M GPU in here to push plenty of pixels into your favorite games, not to mention a more powerful Intel Core i7-4720HQ CPU. You’ll also find 16GB of RAM and a 3,200 x 1,800-pixel resolution on the flagship model. While it’s possible to order one of these for as little as $2,100, the one you’ll really want will end up costing nearly a grand more than that.