Top 10 Best Small Laptops for Students 2017

When considering laptops for students, it’s important to take stock of what they’ll need to do with it. While there are plenty of areas of study that might require a higher-end machine, at the end of the day, most people just need a portal for research and paper writing. Anything that connects to the internet with a modern browser and can run a word processor should do the job.

Almost all peripherals are USB-based now, removing that compatibility concern. Perhaps more significant, files are likely to be stored on cloud services like Dropbox and Drive, which means you can opt for a smaller hard drive if you make careful use of selective syncing. All this adds up to the fact that you can get by for most academic study with a small laptop.

I had a 13 inch laptop in college and loved it. It didn’t take up too much space on any desk and fit easily in a backpack with my other materials. Since it was cheap, I didn’t mind dragging it around with me everywhere I went, either. I could still watch Netflix, even if it wasn’t the world’s best viewing experience (in fact, if you go for a small laptop, you might want a dorm room TV). Mostly I used it for writing papers and doing research, which makes up the bulk of the college workload.

If you’re really bargain hunting, you might take a peek at our Black Friday sales from years past. We have a 2016 Black Friday laptop sales post as well as one from 2015. Sure, they’re not exactly current, but you never know what kind of deal you might find lurking amongst older, potentially discounted units.

For this list, we’ve focused on laptops that are 14 inches or smaller. We chose a few Chromebooks for their excellent value, but we’ve included a couple of two-in-ones, touchscreen options, and others. We also included a few high-end machines in case you happen to have a bit more to spend and want to go all out.

To get the most out of portability, convenience, and value, here’s our list of the top ten best small laptops for students.


1. Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ 11.6-Inch Laptop

Acer

This cheap and cheerful option represents the best of the barebones Chromebooks. This is as entry-level as it gets, though you’d be surprised what a cheap dual core processor can do, even in the year 2017. The Chrome OS was developed to be fast and light, and is basically a Chrome browser launcher. We do almost everything in-browser these days, and this machine is perfectly suited to that end. You get all the connectivity options you need, including one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0, an SD card reader, and an HDMI out. The last of these you could use to connect to the aforementioned dorm room TV for a better viewing experience. In case you missed the announcement last year, Chromebooks have access to the Google Play store now, so you can use things like Skype, Minecraft, and so on. As a platform, Chromebooks are a pretty complete option at a very low price. For $30 more, you can double the RAM.

Why you would choose this one: You need something simple and inexpensive.

Price: $169.99 (6 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ 11.6-Inch Laptop here.


Specs:

  • Operating system: Google Chrome OS
  • Processor: Intel Celeron N2840 2.16 GHz (dual core)
  • Screen size: 11.6 inches
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Hard drive: 16GB SSD
  • Battery life: 9 hours
  • Wireless capabilities: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wifi

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Aluminum top panel
  • SD card reader
  • HDMI port

Cons:

  • Only one USB 3.0 port (second port is USB 2.0)
  • Slow processor relative to modern chips
  • Chrome OS means apps must come from Google Play
  • Sporadic battery issues on some units

Find more Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ 11.6-Inch Laptop information and reviews here.



2. Samsung Chromebook 3

Samsung

For the trade-off of some processor speed, you can get double as much RAM on this Samsung as the Acer above. That probably about washes out as Chrome is certainly a RAM hog. The battery life on this one is a bit better, as well, which is really the key function of these laptops, in addition to being cheap. As with the one above, Google Play access means you’ll have all the necessities available to you within the Chrome OS. The port options are the same with one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, HDMI, and a micro SD reader. This laptop has sleep-and-charge, so you can continue charging your other devices when this is closed. If you think you could get by with 2GB of RAM, you can save $10.

Why you would choose this one: Doubling the RAM may help it contend with many Chrome tabs at once.

Price: $169 (11 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Samsung Chromebook 3 here.


Specs:

  • Operating system: Google Chrome OS
  • Processor: Intel Celeron N3060 1.6 GHz (dual core)
  • Screen size: 11.6 inches
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3
  • Hard drive: 16GB SSD
  • Battery life: 11 hours
  • Wireless capabilities: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wifi

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Spill-resistant keyboard
  • Micro SD card reader
  • HDMI port

Cons:

  • Slow processor
  • Keyboard isn’t backlit
  • Chrome OS means apps must come from Google Play
  • eMMC drive slower than SSD drives

Find more Samsung Chromebook 3 information and reviews here.



3. ASUS VivoBook E200HA 11.6-inch Laptop

ASUS

Suppose you’re just too used to Windows to switch to Chrome OS. ASUS has a Windows 10 computer available at a Chromebook price point. They achieve this partly with the use of an eMMC storage configuration, which is akin to old-style flash drives. They aren’t as fast as modern SSDs, but they’re still a bit quicker than an old SATA drive. Upgrading from the previous options on this list, the processor is a quad core, which should alleviate some processing issues in some cases. Reviews still complain about speed, and that’s likely due to the needs of Windows. Still, this is incredibly cheap for a Windows machine and it’s got a proper keyboard on it, as well. It’s thin and light at 2.2 pounds. One year of Office 365 is included so you can use it right out of the box.

Why you would choose this one: You must have Windows 10 on a shoestring budget.

Price: $199 (20 percent off MSRP)

Buy the ASUS VivoBook E200HA 11.6-inch Laptop here.


Specs:

  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Processor: Intel Quad-Core Atom Z8350 1.44 GHz
  • Screen size: 11.6 inches
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3
  • Hard drive: 32GB eMMC
  • Battery life: 13 hours
  • Wireless capabilities: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wifi

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • 13 hour battery
  • Full size keyboard
  • Gesture-based trackpad

Cons:

  • eMMC drive slower than SSD drives
  • RAM and hard drive not upgradeable
  • Windows install may eat up limited hard drive space (expandable with micro SD card)
  • Longevity may be questionable (protection plan recommended)

Find more ASUS VivoBook E200HA 11.6-inch Laptop information and reviews here.



4. ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6-inch Ruggedized and Water Resistant Laptop

ASUS

Whether your student is 11 or nearing 21, school isn’t a technology-friendly environment. It’s only a matter of time before a laptop gets pulled off a table or has something spilled on it. This tough little Chromebook can withstand a drop of about four feet and resist water poured right into the keyboard. If it should get damaged, the parts are modular and easily replaced so repairs are quick and easy. Under the hood, it’s basically the Samsung above, except that both USB ports are 3.0. For $20 less, you could opt to ditch the damage resistance and grab the ASUS C201 which features a quad core processor and retains the splash of navy blue coloration.

Why you would choose this one: Ruggedized features help this inexpensive laptop cope with school environments.

Price: $196.80

Buy the ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6-inch Ruggedized and Water Resistant Laptop here.


Specs:

  • Operating system: Google Chrome OS
  • Processor: Intel Celeron N3060 1.6 GHz (dual core)
  • Screen size: 11.6 inches
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3
  • Hard drive: 16GB eMMC
  • Battery life: 10 hours
  • Wireless capabilities: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wifi

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Rugged design prevents damage from drops, while water resistance protects from spills and rain
  • 180-degree screen hinge
  • Teardown quick and easy when parts need to be replaced

Cons:

  • Not great for low-light situations
  • Slow processor
  • Chrome OS means apps must come from Google Play
  • eMMC drive slower than SSD drives

Find more ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6-inch Ruggedized and Water Resistant Laptop information and reviews here.



5. HP 14-an013nr 14-Inch Notebook

HP

By breaking the $200 barrier, you can go right up to our limit for size at 14 inches, complete with Windows 10 installed. Along with it is a full size keyboard to make your life easier while you crank out those term papers. Because of the screen size, the battery life is necessarily reduced, as much of the longevity on the previous units comes thanks to the savings on powering the screen. Still, five hours is enough for a class, so this should serve you well. Reliability on this one seems to be a touch better than the Windows ASUS machine above. I/O options include one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, VGA, SD card reader, HDMI, and an Ethernet port. Another option at the same price, which is available in Aqua Blue or Violet is the HP Stream, which can be had in an 11 inch size.

Why you would choose this one: Nearly a full-size Windows laptop at a Chromebook price.

Price: $219.99

Buy the HP 14-an013nr 14-Inch Notebook here.


Specs:

  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Processor: AMD Quad-Core E2-7110 APU 1.8 GHz
  • Screen size: 14 inches
  • RAM: 4GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
  • Hard drive: 32GB eMMC
  • Battery life: 5 hours
  • Wireless capabilities: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wifi

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Full size keyboard
  • 14 inch screen with 178 degree viewing angle
  • RAM can be increased

Cons:

  • Keyboard isn’t backlit
  • eMMC drive slower than SSD drives
  • Short battery life
  • Some might think you’re taking a risk on the AMD processor

Find more HP 14-an013nr 14-Inch Notebook information and reviews here.



6. Acer Chromebook R 11 CB5-132T-C1LK Convertible

Acer

This Acer model introduces both a more modern-looking design than some of the ones above, in addition to a touchscreen for use as a tablet. The screen rotates 360 degrees, facilitating this usage. While the Chrome OS isn’t necessarily optimized for use with a touchscreen, it’ll still do the job and give you that input option. The port options are fairly standard for Chromebooks with one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, an SD reader, and HDMI. Great for collaboration and flexible use.

Why you would choose this one: You have a need for tablet-style use as often as you need a laptop with a keyboard.

Price: $279.99 (7 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Acer Chromebook R 11 CB5-132T-C1LK Convertible here.


Specs:

  • Operating system: Google Chrome OS
  • Processor: Intel Celeron N3150 1.6GHz (quad core)
  • Screen size: 11.6 inches
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3L
  • Hard drive: 32GB SSD
  • Battery life: 10 hours
  • Wireless capabilities: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wifi

Pros:

  • Laptop/tablet hybrid with multi-touch screen
  • 360-degree screen hinge
  • Two years of Google Drive included free
  • Aluminum top panel

Cons:

  • Chrome OS means apps must come from Google Play
  • Navigating with touchscreen can be tricky
  • Screen is highly reflective, making it less than ideal for outdoor use
  • Windows 10 machines compete in price with better flexibility and touchscreen optimization

Find more Acer Chromebook R 11 CB5-132T-C1LK Convertible information and reviews here.



7. Dell i5378-3031GRY-PUS Inspiron 13.3-inch 2-in-1 Laptop

Dell

Taking a step up from the Acer, this Dell is another two-in-one option for those who appreciate that functionality. Unlike the Chromebook, Windows 10 is indeed optimized to be used with your finger, so navigation will be easier on this machine, especially thanks to the larger screen. If the extremely limited hard drives of the Chromebooks aren’t for you, the terabyte of space on this should do that job, though it relies on the older style SATA drive to accomplish it. Ports include two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, SD card reader, and HDMI. The i3-equipped computer I bought a few years ago cost $479, so considering the upgrades, this is a pretty good deal.

Why you would choose this one: Large hard drive plus touchscreen combination make this a compelling offer.

Price: $388.10 (33 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Dell i5378-3031GRY-PUS Inspiron 13.3-inch 2-in-1 Laptop here.


Specs:

  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-7100U Processor 2.4GHz (logical quad core)
  • Screen size: 13.3 inches
  • RAM: 4GB DDR4
  • Hard drive: 1TB SATA
  • Battery life: 4 hours
  • Wireless capabilities: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wifi

Pros:

  • Large storage capacity
  • 360-degree screen hinge with touchscreen
  • RAM upgradable to 16GB
  • Nice HD screen

Cons:

  • Noisy fan
  • SATA drive slower than modern SSD drives
  • Middling battery life
  • Some quality control issues

Find more Dell i5378-3031GRY-PUS Inspiron 13.3-inch 2-in-1 Laptop information and reviews here.



8. Acer Spin 5

Acer

If the options preceding this one were all too slow, you’ll have to spend a bit more to get moving. This machine doubles the RAM and has the faster i5 Intel architecture. In addition, it uses the first of the usably-sized solid state drives on this list. With an assist from cloud storage and the micro SD slot, 256 gigabytes should suffice for most people. The 10 hour battery life and HD multi-touch screen round out this fully modern, mid-range computer. Ports aside from the SD reader include a USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, and an HDMI. The speakers in this are pretty nice for the price point, too.

Why you would choose this one: You can spend a little more to get current-generation speeds in your workhorse.

Price: $591.54 (9 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Acer Spin 5 here.


Specs:

  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-7200U 2.5GHz (logical quad core)
  • Screen size: 13.3 inches
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Hard drive: 256GB SSD
  • Battery life: 10 hours
  • Wireless capabilities: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wifi

Pros:

  • Large SSD drive for balance of space and speed
  • Multi-touch display with 360-degree hinge
  • Ten hours of battery life
  • Vivid display with blue light filter

Cons:

  • Getting pricey for a student computer
  • i5 processor will still struggle to play some games
  • Keyboard backlighting is dim
  • Noisy fan

Find more Acer Spin 5 information and reviews here.



9. ASUS ZenBook UX303UB Touchscreen Laptop

ASUS

Based on the spec sheet of this laptop, it appears to be filling a void in the MacBook Pro line, where you have to go up to a 15 inch in order to get an Intel i7 processor. At $100 less than the cheapest Pro, ASUS gives you twice the hard drive space, a touchscreen, and more RAM. Clearly, folks still opt for the Apple, but for the price, this ZenBook more than holds its own. While this is quite expensive for a school laptop, it’ll also last for awhile with these specs. The combination of the fast processor, large size solid state drive, and plentiful RAM means this will keep up with you for awhile — at least until the next computing sea change. The hinges on the ZenBook line are pretty suspect, but a one year coverage plan is included, and of course you can always extend that with a SquareTrade warranty. Depending on where you read, the battery life on this is somewhere between seven and 12 hours, but we’re guessing it’s at the lower end of that range, as with all advertised battery life. Ports include three USB 3.0, HDMI, SD card reader, and mini DisplayPort. If you’re prepared to make the investment, you’re getting a lot in this model.

Why you would choose this one: You’ve been looking at MacBooks but want top-of-the-line specs in a smaller form factor.

Price: $1,199 (8 percent off MSRP)

Buy the ASUS ZenBook UX303UB Touchscreen Laptop here.


Specs:

  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6500U 2.5 GHz (logical quad core)
  • Screen size: 13.3 inches
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Hard drive: 512GB SSD
  • Battery life: 7 hours
  • Wireless capabilities: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wifi

Pros:

  • High-end, modern look
  • Speedy Intel i7 processor
  • QHD multi-touch screen with NVIDIA GT 940M discrete graphics
  • Premium Bang & Olufsen audio

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Sporadic issues with the screen hinge
  • Middling battery life
  • As of late 2016, there appears to be a driver conflict with the NVIDIA card

Find more ASUS ZenBook UX303UB Touchscreen Laptop information and reviews here.



10. Microsoft Surface Book PA9-00001 13.5-Inch Multi-Touch 2-in-1 Notebook

Microsoft

Admittedly, this choice is probably reserved for design, engineering, or students of other intensive areas of study. We debated putting something from Apple here, but as time goes on, this Microsoft offering continues to rival for one of the best out there. The exorbitant price buys dedicated functionality as either a laptop or a very powerful tablet, with an advanced, 10-point multi-touch screen with robust 3000 by 2000 resolution. The inclusion of the Surface Pen unlocks the full power of this device aimed at creatives (or just anyone who wants to write really, really fancy notes). There’s only one USB 3.0 port (which puts you in dongle-and-hub city), as well as a mini DisplayPort and an SD card reader. To be sure, this is far more computer than most will ever need in their entire lives, let alone at school, but if you must seek out the top of the line, this would make a strong contender. Those of you who plan to game with your laptop may still want to look elsewhere, but the dedicated NIVIDA GPU will satisfy the vast majority of folks.

Why you would choose this one: You want a fully modern, legitimately two-in-one laptop solution with all the bells and whistles.

Price: $3,199

Buy the Microsoft Surface Book PA9-00001 13.5-Inch Multi-Touch 2-in-1 Notebook here.


Specs:

  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6600U 2.6 GHz (logical quad core)
  • Screen size: 13.5 inches
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Hard drive: 1TB SSD
  • Battery life: 12 hours
  • Wireless capabilities: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wifi

Pros:

  • Premium build and materials
  • PixelDense display with 10-point multi-touch
  • Equally usable as laptop or tablet
  • Includes Surface Pen

Cons:

  • Very, very expensive
  • Processor still not quite to gaming laptop proportions
  • Long charging time
  • Only one USB port, mini DisplayPort instead of HDMI

Find more Microsoft Surface Book PA9-00001 13.5-Inch Multi-Touch 2-in-1 Notebook information and reviews here.


Looking for more things on your Back to School list? Our Back to School category features posts from our whole team covering everything from pens to lunch bags.


Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.

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