mini laptop
Compact, lightweight and ultra-portable, mini laptops are perfect for students and executives on the go. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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All laptops are built to be portable, especially when compared to their desktop counterparts. But some laptops take convenience to the next level, by packing excellent features into a compact frame.

These mini laptops are smaller than the standard 15-inch laptop, with screen dimensions between 11 and 13 inches. They’re extremely light, often maxing out at 1.3kg, and disappear into backpacks and handbags without weighing you down. Still, they run as smoothly as larger laptops for most tasks, and often offer multifunctional capabilities for presentations and productivity on the go.

We spoke with Shahbaz Khan, a systems administrator for a Canadian software company, with over 10 years of experience in the information technology (IT) industry. He offered insight into who should buy these devices, and the features you could look out for. Scroll down to check out his advice.

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1. Best Overall: Microsoft Surface Go 3 

Pros

  • Lightweight, compact device
  • Vibrant display
  • Integrated kickstand
  • SD card reader for easy storage expansion

Cons

  • Battery drains quickly

The latest iteration of Microsoft Surface Go came out in October 2023, and is available only for business professionals, but its predecessor, the Surface Go 3, offers an equally competent alternative to the Apple iPad, for all kinds of consumers. Khan recommends this laptop, saying it “has a great form factor”. The device can be used as a tablet with no accessories, but snap on a Go 3 keyboard and it becomes a mini laptop, complete with a high-res, 10.5-inch touchscreen and an Intel Core i3 processor. The device boasts 8GB of RAM and a Windows 11 operating system that is ideal for professionals and students in need of a fast device that can easily handle video conferences, notes and other productivity tasks. It comes with an adjustable kickstand, and a surprising number of ports, including a USB-C port, microSDXC card reader and 3.5mm headphone jack. Reviewers love its slim, portable form factor, but say the battery drains quickly, so you might find yourself charging it at least twice a day.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent installments and pay Dh243.38 for 12 months with select banks. You can also trade in your old device and get up to Dh4,000.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty by Salama Care for Dh171, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh285, and two-year damage protection with one-year extended warranty for Dh363.

2. Best Hybrid: Lenovo Chromebook Duet 

Pros

  • Slim, lightweight device
  • Bright, FHD screen
  • Integrated kickstand
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Limited connectivity options

With a convenient two-in-one form factor, Lenovo Chromebook Duet weighs less than a kilogramme, and is just 18.3mm thin. Its 10.1-inch multi-touch display offers excellent clarity with Full HD resolution and MediaTek integrated graphics. The device is exactly what you need if you’re a multitasker, since you can work on the magnetic keyboard, then easily detach it and use the device as a tablet to surf the web or stream videos. The touchscreen is also compatible with a pen for drawing or jotting down notes. The Chromebook Duet has an integrated kickstand and up to 10 hours of battery life. However, some reviewers complain that there is no in-built audio jack, and only one USB-C port, so you may have to buy an external port hub.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent installments and pay Dh208.25 for 12 months with select banks. You can also trade in your old device and get up to Dh4,000.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty by Salama Care for Dh312, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh238, and two-year damage protection with one-year extended warranty for Dh303.

3. Best for Business: Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 

Pros

  • Fast processor
  • Stunning 3.5K OLED display
  • Excellent audio

Cons

  • Middling battery performance
  • No headset jack

Another recommendation by Khan, Dell’s XPS 13 is well suited for executives looking for a fast, reliable device. Although it’s considered to be a large mini laptop, with a screen size of 13.4 inches, it comes packed with fantastic features and specifications. Firstly, its Intel Evo Core i7 central processing unit (CPU) offers blazing fast performance, and its gorgeous 3.5K OLED screen offers crisp, clear visuals. The laptop looks luxe, too, with its zero-lattice keyboard and seamless glass haptic touchpad. Both are built to be highly precise and responsive. There’s also a capacitive touch function row, which is basically a backlit row of quick keys to toggle between media and function buttons. Reviewers say there are limited ports on the device – there’s no headphone jack or USB-A port – but it makes up for it with 512GB of storage capacity and a whopping 16GB of RAM. Overall, it’s a powerhouse, making it a mini laptop with a distinctive edge over its competitors.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent installments and pay Dh492.50 for 12 months with select banks. You can also trade in your old device and get up to Dh4,000.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty by Salama Care for Dh511, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh569, and two-year damage protection with one-year extended warranty for Dh726.

4. Best for Students: ASUS VivoBook Go 12 L210 

Pros

  • Ultra-light and slim
  • Can lay completely flat
  • Expandable storage
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Only 4GB RAM

With an 11.6-inch HD display, and weighing just 1.04kg, the ultra-slim and portable ASUS VivoBook Go 12 is an efficient and affordable mini laptop. The device has some unique features that students may find useful, like a 180° hinge that allows it to lay completely flat, so you can create a presentation or collaborate with others. Calculations are far easier on this laptop, too, since the keyboard has an integrated number pad – a quick tap activates it instantly. You can also expand its storage (currently at 64GB) by adding up to 1TB of memory via its SSD (solid-state drive) slot. But its main highlight is probably its stellar battery life. Reviewers say it easily runs for up to 12 hours with no charge, making it ideal for study sessions and school work. Do note that it has limited 4GB RAM, so it’s best suited for productivity tasks.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent installments and pay Dh74.92 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year accidental damage protection for Dh95, and one-year extended warranty for Dh227.

5. Best for Apple Users: Apple MacBook Air 

Pros

  • Best-in-class performance
  • Crisp screen resolution
  • Sleek design
  • Improved webcam
  • All-day battery life

Cons

  • Larger than most mini laptops
  • Limited connectivity options

Apple users looking for a mini laptop can’t get anything better than the MacBook Air, which is available in four metallic shades. Although it features a 13-inch screen, which is larger than most of the other products listed here, it still qualifies as a mini laptop. The device offers excellent performance, whether you’re shopping, watching TV shows, working on projects, or editing videos. Its M2 chip is 1.4 times faster than its predecessor, which positively affects all of its functions, from its long battery life to its touch ID to its 1080p HD camera for video conferences. Reviewers praise the laptop’s long battery life, of up to 18 hours, but wish there were more ports – it just has two Thunderbolt ports, a headphone jack and a DisplayPort. Keeping an external port hub on hand may be a good option.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent installments and pay Dh416.58 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty by Salama Care for Dh454, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh475, and two-year damage protection with one-year extended warranty for Dh605.

What makes a mini laptop different from other laptops?

mini laptops
Since they're best suited to productivity tasks, bear in mind that these devices won't be able to handle heavy loads like video games and the editing of large audio-visual files. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The biggest advantage of mini laptops is their unbeatable compact size and form factor. They’re lighter, smaller and easier to manage than most laptops. But this convenience does come at a cost.

Shahbaz Khan, a systems administrator for a Canadian software company, explained: “The leaner the laptop, the fewer items of hardware that manufacturers manage to squeeze into its chassis.” It’s why some mini laptops offer external USB and HDMI ports, or external SD card readers, rather than in-built connectivity, for instance.

Additionally, because mini laptops have limited internal real estate, their processing power may not be as powerful as that of their larger counterparts. Khan said: “Large graphics cards and processing units tend to heat up laptops, and they require additional systems to cool the device down, which ends up taking more space.” To avoid overheating, most mini laptops have decent processors and operating systems that are more than sufficient for productivity tasks, but are not necessarily powerful enough for gaming or video editing.

What features should I look out for, in a mini laptop?

In other factors, though, mini laptops serve just as well as larger devices. Khan said: “Nowadays, there’s not much difference in terms of screen display. The resolution is pretty good, with many mini laptops offering 1080p and Full HD resolution, comparable to bigger laptops.”

However, he advised paying attention to the RAM – the temporary storage that enables the mini laptop to have both power and speed – and to pick the maximum available RAM, if possible. This would allow you to open multiple tabs simultaneously and switch easily between apps.

Also keep an eye out for how many ports are available on the laptop, making sure you have multiple access points. Choose a mini laptop with at least 64GB of storage space, and consider using it alongside an external SSD (solid-state drive), to store extra files.

Who would benefit from a mini laptop?

At the end of the day, laptop selection comes down to your priorities and preferences. According to Khan, mini laptops are best suited to business employees and students. He said: “Since they’re much lighter than regular laptops, you’d mainly use these devices for their portability and convenience. They are great for students and for business purposes since they smoothly manage productivity tasks. Hybrid laptops can be flipped over by 360 degrees and converted into tablets, so they also work well for on-the-go presentations.”

Our expert doesn’t recommend mini laptops for designers and gamers, however, since they require devices that can handle more intensive loads.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.