Best Mini Laptops

Updated July 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

31 Models Considered
9 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
587 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best mini laptops

Last Updated July 2020

Perhaps you’re a businessperson who wants to be able to get work done at the airport. Perhaps you’re a traveler who prefers the feel of a keyboard under your fingers to the flat-screen feel of a tablet keyboard. Regardless of who you are and what you do, a laptop is a handy tool to have in your digital arsenal.

Sometimes, though, a full-size laptop is overkill for what you want to do. Whether it’s the expense, the problems with battery power, or the large size, you may not want a full-size laptop. Instead, consider a mini laptop. These smaller laptops share many features with traditional laptops, but they are smaller and have a bit less power.

Indeed, a mini laptop is not going to give you the processing power, screen size, or overall performance of a full-size laptop. For someone who just needs the basics in a portable computer, however, a mini laptop may be ideal. In this buying guide, we explore various mini laptops and provide advice to help you find the right mini laptop for your needs.

If your mini laptop has built-in Bluetooth connectivity, you could add a full size wireless keyboard for more comfortable typing.

Key considerations

Mini laptop configuration varies a bit from machine to machine. Although mini laptops don’t have much processing power, they do have varying options when it comes to components such as the processor, RAM, and storage.

Processor

The processor, or CPU, handles the primary processing tasks of a mini laptop computer. Think of it as the brain of the computer. When it operates at a faster speed, the computer can perform more tasks in a shorter amount of time. You’ll have to spend a bit more money for a powerful CPU in the mini laptop, though.

A lot of mini laptops have low-power Intel Celeron or Intel Atom processors. The Celeron doesn’t quite have the processing power or speed of Core processors from Intel, but Celeron is faster than Atom.

Clock speed

The speed of a CPU is called the clock speed. A faster CPU is able to process commands more quickly than a slower CPU, allowing it to perform more functions in the same amount of time. Manufacturers use GHz to measure a CPU’s processing speed. The slowest mini laptop CPUs run a little better than 1GHz. Some of these CPUs can reach 2GHz or faster.

RAM

Random access memory, or RAM, is the temporary storage area where the laptop stores data currently in use. This gives the computer quick access to the data. The more RAM a mini laptop has, the faster it can perform. Notably, having more RAM will increase the price of a mini laptop.

Inexpensive mini laptops may only have 1 or 2GB of RAM. Pricier mini laptops may have 4 to 8GB of RAM.

Storage

A mini laptop may use a few different sizes and formats of hard drive storage. The most common storage in a mini laptop is flash storage, either through a memory card or a solid-state drive, also known as SSD.

This type of memory does not require a lot of storage space — at least compared to a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) with spinning platters. However, some mini laptops do use HDD for storage.

Solid all-around performer

At just 2 pounds, this mini laptop is an excellent choice for those who need on-the-go computing. The battery has a 10-hour lifespan, meaning you can work the majority of the day without needing a recharge. With a Celeron processor, it’s not the most powerful machine, but it can handle basic computing tasks nicely.

Features

Mini laptops are available in several configurations. Once you know the types of components you want in a mini laptop, you can select the configuration and design features you want.

2-in-1: A 2-in-1 mini laptop has a detachable display screen with touch capabilities. You can use the machine as a standalone tablet or a traditional laptop. Other mini laptops do not offer touch screens and work only as traditional laptops.

Operating system: Mini laptops typically use the Windows operating system. Some units use the Chrome OS. Occasionally, you’ll find a mini laptop running Linux or an Android OS.

Color: Mini laptops are available in several different colors, but black and gray are common colors for the case.

Wireless capabilities: The majority of mini laptops have built-in WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity capabilities.

Display screen size: The manufacturer measures the size of the display screen in inches from one corner to the opposite diagonal corner. Mini laptops have screens of 11.6 inches or less.

Display screen resolution: The manufacturer lists screen resolution as horizontal pixels by vertical pixels. A wide variety of resolution options are available, from full HD (1920x1080) to a resolution significantly lower than HD.

EXPERT TIP

Mini laptops are great for running web apps and simple software, but they struggle with complex software.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Some mini laptops have very little internal storage, so you may want to set up a cloud storage option.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

To conserve battery power in your mini laptop, turn down the brightness level for the display screen.


Staff  | BestReviews

Mini laptop prices

Inexpensive: The least-expensive mini laptops cost $100 to $200. They have very simple processors and are designed primarily to run web apps. Screen resolution is less than HD.

Mid-range: You could spend $200 to $400 for a mid-range mini laptop. Some of these designs have a 2-in-1 format, meaning they can work like a standard laptop or a touchscreen tablet. These machines provide decent battery life and processing power without breaking the bank.

Expensive: The priciest mini laptops cost between $400 and $1,000. These machines offer processing power or an amount of RAM that’s much better than the average mini laptop. Some mini laptops in this price range give you an additional special feature, such as a high-resolution display screen or a rugged case that stands up to tough environmental conditions.

Simple and inexpensive

This RCA mini laptop has some drawbacks, but it performs adequately for those with basic computing needs. It works as a 2-in-1 computer, as the display screen detaches from the keyboard whenever desired. The display screen resolution is less than HD, and the laptop only has seven hours of battery life, but the low price is tough to beat.

 

Tips

If you are wondering whether a full-size laptop would serve your needs better than a mini laptop (or vice versa), here are some tips to help you decide.

  • Know your screen size preferences. Mini laptops have a screen size of roughly 11.6 inches, while full-size laptops have larger screens of up to 17+ inches diagonally.
  • Determine what kind of processor you need. Full-size laptops often contain high-end processors made to handle all kinds of software-processing needs. Mini laptops have processors that don’t need much electrical power to operate. Mini laptops sacrifice processing speed to be more power efficient.
  • Think about weight. Mini laptops weigh only a few pounds, which means you’d be able to carry one with you without feeling bogged down. Full-size laptops are also quite portable, but they can weigh several pounds.
  • Assess the battery life of any product you’re considering. A mini laptop’s battery may last 8 to 12 hours. Full-size laptops typically have a battery life of 4 to 8 hours. Indeed, battery life is one of the biggest advantages a mini laptop offers over a full-size laptop.
  • Examine the computer’s durability features. Some mini laptops have extra padding around the case. Some are made of high-quality plastic or metal, allowing them to survive in rough environmental conditions. Full-size laptops rarely come with these extra protective features.
The cost of a mini laptop depends in large part on the quality of the display screen and the amount of RAM the unit contains.

FAQ

Q. What does HD resolution mean?
A.
Technically, any screen that has at least 720x1280 pixels has HD resolution. However, the majority of television programming is 1080x1920 pixels, or full HD. If you purchase a mini laptop with HD resolution, that could mean it has anything from 720x1280 pixels to 1080x1920 pixels. Check the product specs for more details.
 

Q. Why does a mini laptop have such good battery life?
A.
There are several reasons. For one thing, the below-average size of the display screen reduces power requirements for the machine. The mini laptop uses processors that conserve power, as they run at a slower speed than the latest top-end processors. The manufacturer tunes the entire system to use as little power as possible, enhancing portability.
 

Q. Does a mini laptop make a strong gaming machine?
A.
Not really. Mini laptops have small display screens, often with less than full-HD resolution, so they do not work well for the complex graphics found in games. Mini laptops have minimal processing power and limited graphics processing power, reducing their ability to work with high-end gaming software. They will work fine for simple gaming needs, though.
 

Q. How difficult is it to type on a mini laptop keyboard?
A.
Some people find the smaller-than-average size of a mini laptop keyboard uncomfortable. Those who are accustomed to a full-size keyboard may find it particularly difficult to adjust. The coverage size of an individual key on a mini laptop keyboard is a bit less than what you’d find on a full-size keyboard key. Mini laptops also have a bit less space between keys, which could lead to typing errors.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
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