In laptops, lightweight used to mean sacrificing performance and battery life, but that’s less true every year. Consumers can now expect more than 10 hours of use with most ultraportable laptops, almost double the number from five years ago. As an example, in 2011 the 11-inch MacBook Air achieved just 5.2 hours of battery life in Consumer Reports testing—the current version gets 13.5 hours.
Here are some of our favorite laptops under 3 pounds for students, road warriors, and anyone else who wants a lightweight machine.
Lenovo Yoga 900S
The 13-inch Convertible
Yoga owners can use this convertible featherweight as a laptop, a flat-on-their-lap tablet, or a movie specialist when the computer is in “tent mode.” It's not cheap, at around $1,100, but the 12.5-inch laptop packs a 128GB solid-state drive and 4GB of memory for fast performance.
The 1920x1080 LCD display is very good, with colors that are accurately reproduced and natural looking. With more than 15 hours of battery life, it can make it through a couple of days of work.
And for those who care about looks, that performance comes in a snazzy gold package.
Samsung Notebook 9 NP900X5L-K02US
The 15-inch Workhorse
Samsung's $1,200 Notebook 9 provides excellent performance in an extremely portable package, with a svelte design and weight of just under 3 pounds. The display is bright, the viewing angles are wide, and color reproduction is admirable, making the Notebook 9 a great choice for watching movies and photo editing. Power users will appreciate typing on its full-sized keyboard.
Though it lacks an optical drive, the Samsung Notebook 9 does have a built-in memory card reader, an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, a USB Type-C port, and an Ethernet port.
Apple MacBook 12-inch MLHE2LL/A
The Feathery MacBook
The 12-inch MacBook weighs just 2.1 pounds, making it one of the lightest laptops on the market. It's super-thin, has good speakers and an exemplary display, and puts in a full couple of days of work with 17 hours of battery life in Consumer Reports testing.
Notably, there’s a single USB Type-C port on this machine, which users may find inconvenient—Apple may imagine its customers working completely wirelessly, but many Mac users will probably end up traveling with a quiver of dongles.
Microsoft Surface 3
The Productivity Tablet
Microsoft’s third Surface aims at users who want the productivity of a PC combined with the super-portability of a tablet. The keyboard frustratingly remains an additional purchase, but this $600 tablet does pack a back-facing camera, stylus compatibility, an accelerometer, and the ability to use mobile data service.
The Surface isn't hindered by confusing file management systems like similarly priced Android and iOS tablets: It packs the authentic Windows OS experience and runs full-bore applications. Despite its thin form factor and weight of less than 1.4 pounds, the Surface can last more than 10 hours on a charge. Performance is excellent.
Asus Chromebook C201PA-DS01
The Chromebook Choice
Though it doesn't boast the same kind of power under the hood as Windows and Mac laptops, this web-only computer will do the job for many users. With the Google Play Store and many of its Android apps coming to Chromebooks, there’s never been a more interesting time for products like this one, which runs off Google's Chrome OS.
A 1.8GHz processor, 16GB solid-state drive, and 2GB of memory may seem paltry, but for browsing the web, email, and watching videos, this Asus is a capable option. And it weighs just a bit more than 2 pounds.
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