TechStage | Light and yet strong: Compact laptops from 500 euros

A light and compact laptop is particularly suitable if you often work in different places. At least since the global pandemic, the home office has established itself as an alternative to the classic office. “Work from home” and remote work are an integral part of many people in Germany. If you often travel with your laptop or change location, you don’t want to carry a heavy and bulky computer with you.

Such notebooks used to be called “Ultrabooks” – this term is a registered trademark of Intel. At the time, PC manufacturers had to meet certain requirements in order to use the term, such as Intel processors, a maximum thickness of 20 mm and a battery life of at least 6 hours. The label is now obsolete, and the successor at Intel is now “Evo”. For the Evo certification, notebooks must use an Intel Core i5 or Core i7, offer Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6 and must not be thicker than 15 mm. Full HD resolution and a battery life of 9 hours are also mandatory.

Laptops are becoming lighter and lighter due to a light aluminum housing and other materials such as carbon fiber or magnesium. For less than 1000 euros you get a light and small laptop with sufficient performance for working and surfing. In the past, compact netbooks were almost useless in everyday life, today the small notebooks are on the level of a classic 15.6-inch device or desktop computer in terms of performance. Only with gaming laptops (guide) the devices mostly cannot (yet) keep up.

This guide is part of the Laptop theme world. In this article, we present the most popular notebooks up to a maximum of 1.3 kilograms and explain what you can expect from them. In this overview we also look at laptops with CPUs from AMD as well as Chromebooks and Macbooks from Apple.

The laptops usually buy themselves the light weight through their compact size. This affects the displays. More than 14 inches are not to be found in lightweight computers. This is an exception LG Gram 16 (Review). Despite the 16-inch display, the notebook only weighs about 1.28 kg.

Popular screen diagonals in this class are between 13.3 inches and 14 inches. Sizes of 12.5, 13 or 13.5 inches are more exotic. In addition to the usual 16:9 or 16:10 format, there is also an increasing number of 3:2: It offers more space in height, which is an advantage when working. However, users have to reckon with small black bars at the top and bottom when playing movies.

Resolutions lower than Full HD (1920 × 1080 pixels) can hardly be found with the exception of Chromebooks and very cheap 11.6-inch Windows devices. Some models offer higher resolutions of 2560×1600 pixels or even 3000×2000 pixels. There are big differences in the brightness of the display – from 250 cd/m² to 500 cd/m². The brighter a screen, the more suitable it is for outdoor use.

In order for a lightweight laptop to be fully usable, it needs a minimum level of performance. For Windows, we recommend processors such as the eleventh generation Intel Core i5-1135G7 (Tiger Lake architecture) or alternatively AMD chips from Ryzen 5 5500U or Ryzen 7 5600U. We advise against Intel Core i3, Pentium or Celeron.

The Intel Core i7-1260P is used quite often. The chipset is based on the Alder Lake architecture (12th generation), but it is not as powerful as the Intel Core i7-12800H, which is rarely found in lightweight laptops. The Intel Core i7-1165G7 is still widespread, but far beyond the 1000 euro mark. A small drop of bitterness: Small laptops are rarely suitable for gamers due to the lack of powerful graphics chips. Up to 1 kg there are only graphics chips from Intel, you can get a Geforce or AMD Radeon up to 1.3 kg and only for a lot of money.

The main memory should offer at least 8 GB – 16 GB would be even better. Because a subsequent upgrade is almost impossible with the compact models, since the RAM is usually soldered. Even if more and more data ends up in the cloud and external data carriers no longer cost the earth – it shouldn’t be less than 256 GB of memory for the SSD in a Windows system.

It gets more difficult when it comes to the USB ports. A USB-C port is now standard, but USB-A ports or an HDMI port are becoming increasingly rare – especially in small laptops up to 14 inches. Thunderbolt 4, which looks like USB-C and supports DisplayPort for monitors, is becoming increasingly popular.

The question of the right system comes close to a question of faith. Comparing the operating systems is like comparing apples to oranges. Ultimately, it remains a matter of personal preference.

The largest selection of laptops and convertible PCs can be found with Windows. Thanks to processors such as the Core i5, Core i7 or Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 from AMD, the compact notebooks already offer a lot of computing power. Apple is also well represented among the light laptops with the Macbook Air. The quality, longevity and stability of the system speak for the computers from the brand with the apple. Chromebooks, on the other hand, are primarily aimed at bargain hunters – there are already devices from 130 euros. This also includes convertibles.

Among the laptops with a maximum weight of 1 kg, there are almost exclusively Windows notebooks. The price range goes from 390 euros to over 3400 euros. Already for 534 euros you get with the Gigabyte U4 a 14 inch laptop just under 1 kg with Intel Core i5 1155G7.

Most CPUs are from Intel, Core i5 and Core i7 balance each other out. The most common displays are 13.3 inches, followed by 14 inches. This is currently the lightest notebook Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 13. It weighs just 870 grams and is one of the most popular devices up to 1 kg.

The 13.3-inch OLED display shines brightly with 500 cd/m² and otherwise offers great picture quality. The notebook is about the size of a sheet of DIN A4 and just under 11 mm thick. Compared to LCDs with IPS, OLED is clearly superior in black levels and contrasts. With smartphones, the technology is becoming more and more standard, with notebooks the first devices are currently coming onto the market.

They are just as compact HP Pavilion Aero, HP ProBook 635 Aero G7, Fujitsu LifeBook and the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon (Review). The recommended devices with a 14-inch screen weighing up to 1 kg include this Acer TravelMate P6, Asus expert book or that LG Gram 14.

If you are willing to accept a little more weight, you get a much larger selection of laptops with Windows. This is very popular here Asus Zenbook 13 OLED for just under 800 euros with powerful AMD Ryzen 7.

It is also well equipped Samsung Galaxy Book2 360, the convertible version of the lightweight notebook. This is also a good choice Lenovo Thinkbook 13s G3 with AMD Ryzen 5 as well as that Dell XPS 13 9305 with Intel Core i5. As mentioned at the beginning, this takes LG Gram 16 (test report) plays a special role. It’s the only 16-inch notebook that weighs less than 1.3 kg.

This in particular offers a strong price-performance ratio Acer Swift 3 (test report) with 14 inches, which also convinced us in the test. That is also cheap to have Microsoft Surface Laptop Go with touchscreen and Intel Core i5 from 600 euros. With a size of 28 x 21 centimeters, it is one of the smallest laptops in this overview.

Chromebooks are an extremely inexpensive alternative for anyone who primarily wants to surf or email with the end device and does not need special software for Windows. The devices only work without restrictions with an Internet connection, even if there is an offline mode. What you should pay attention to, we explain in the guide Chromebooks from 145 euros: Inexpensive alternative to the Windows PC.

The only Chromebook under 1kg is the very cheap one Asus Chromebook C223NA-GJ0077 for 129 euros. You shouldn’t expect much from the hardware: 11.6-inch display with HD resolution, Intel Celeron and 32 GB of flash memory. Chromebooks are interesting as convertible PCs. They are cheaper compared to their Windows counterparts, and most Android apps run on them. A clear example of this is the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 (test report) from 299 euros.

The Macbook Air is the lightest and most compact model from Apple – even if it weighs almost 1.3 kilograms and is more of a “heavyweight” compared to the other devices presented here.

Thanks to the powerful M1 and M2 processors, the newer models don’t have to hide behind the Macbook Pro or Windows devices. The chipset is based on ARM technology and offers a lot of performance with high energy efficiency. The Macbook Air can even do without a fan and works whisper-quiet, which is a blessing. You can get the 2020 model for less than 1000 euros.

Particularly light and compact laptops have great advantages if they are to be used often in different places. You can get notebooks weighing between 1 and 1.3 kg for less than 1000 euros.

These are mostly devices with 13.3 or 14 inches. The performance is more than sufficient for most requirements. The compact models are just not suitable for gaming, unless you find a variant with Nvidia Geforce. The only large, lightweight laptop currently available is this LG Gram 16 (Review)

More advice on the subject of laptops can be found here:

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