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Light Notebooks - Review of 5 Lightest Laptops

Updated on December 17, 2011

Review: 5 Lightest Notebooks Available

For many years you have paid a premium for lightness and portability in a laptop, the less they hurt your shoulder the more they were going to damage your wallet.

For the key considerations when buying a light laptop check out: Light Laptops A Buyer's Guide

However recently thanks to improved technology allowing processors to run faster but not overheat, small no longer always equate to expensive. Admittedly the first 3 laptops reviewed : the Toshiba Protégé R500, Sony VAIO TZ150 and Apple MacBook Air are all going to cost you over US$2000 mark. However the Averatec is priced well under US$1500 and the innovative Asus Eee PC will set you back less than US$500! So now is an exciting time to be buying a truly ultraportable laptop!

Toshiba Portege R500

Toshiba Protege R500

Toshiba Protege R500

This laptop manages to fit a full sized keyboard with a 12.1-inch screen and a native resolution of 1,280x800 and that's a matt screen too. This well-known brand doesn't come cheap but Toshiba's reputation is well deserved for reliable, well-engineered laptops.

Price point: an expensive laptop where you are paying for the convenience and lightness. Main Competitors: Sony VAIO, Fujistsu Lifebooks

Aimed at: the corporate/business market which requires a big name brand, excellent support and backup and can afford to pay for it.

The Good:

  • 12-inch display but lighter than some 11-inch notebooks.

  • Avoids the annoying ultraportable trick of eliminating important keys, squeezing in separate page-up and page-down keys

  • Better performance than the Sony VAIO

  • A fingerprint reader

  • Excellent battery life of 5 hours under standard conditions.

  • Standard 3 year mail-in warranty.

The Bad:

  • Lack of mobile broadband antenna EV-DO

  • Only an SD card slot not a multifunction card reader

  • No WebCam

  • Only quicklaunch buttons are brightness mode and a button for launching Toshiba's proprietary help utility.

Toshiba Portege R500 At a glance:

Processor 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7600

Memory 1GB, 667MHz DDR2

Hard drive 120GB 5,400rpm

Chipset Intel 965 Graphics Mobile Intel Express 950GM (integrated)

Operating system Windows Vista Premium

Dimensions (WDH) 11.1 x 8.5 x .77 inches

Screen size (diagonal) 12.1 inches

System weight / Weight with AC adapter [pounds] 2.4/3.1 pounds

Sony VAIO TZ150


Sony Vaio TZ150

A beautiful design which gives even the style icons at Apple a run for their money. Just manages to beat the Toshiba R500 on battery life and size. The 11.1-inch laptop combines an ultrathin, LED-backlit display and even with an optical drive, this system is amazingly only about an inch thick. However the Toshiba does weigh slightly less. With a native resolution of 1,366x768 the text is small and hard to see, but that's the trade-off for such a small screen. The screen is matt which is a nice change for the currently popular shiny screens.

Like the Toshiba R500 the Sony is aimed for: the corporate/business market which requires a big name brand, excellent support and backup and can afford to pay for it.

Adding a solid state drive will push the price over $3000. Unless you are prepared to pay for a lot for the design aesthetic the Toshiba is probably a better deal.

Sony's standard one-year warranty can be extended a number of ways at extra cost to include up to 4 years on-site and accidental damage protection

The good:

  • Extremely slim and light with a stunning good looks.

  • Almost impossibly slim, the body of the Sony VAIO TZ measures just less than an inch thick. Adding the standard battery raises the rear of the laptop slightly, to 1.17 inches thick, but this is still one of the smallest laptops you're find.

  • Fantastic battery life at over 5 hours.

  • Includes integrated WWAN with EV-DO for web surfing via hot-spots.
  • Includes an integrated DVD burner.

  • Includes an integrated Webcam.
  • Includes a Firewire port.

The bad:

  • Slow performance the slower processor 1GB memory and slower disk are not helped by the bloat ware which clutters the hard drive

  • Only 2 USB ports.

Sony VAIO TZ10 At a Glance:

Processor 1.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Ultra Low Voltage U7500

Memory 1GB, 533MHz DDR2

Hard drive 250GB 4,200rpm

Chipset Intel 945GMS Graphics Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 (integrated)

Operating System Windows Vista Premium

Dimensions (WDH) 10.9x7.8x0.8 inches (1.2 inches in rear)

Screen size (diagonal) 11.1 inches

System weight / Weight with AC adapter (in pounds) 2.7/3.3 pounds

Mac Air

MacBook Air

MacBook Air

Although not the as light as the Toshiba R500 the Air it still easily breaks new ground for small laptops.

Mimicking the 13-inch silhouette of the current MacBook line, it's only 0.76 inch thick at its thickest part, and Apple calls it the "world's thinnest notebook".

The MacBook Air is certainly a sexy, stylish, thin laptop. It does however come at a substantial price and costs significantly more than the MacBook Pro's which offer more connectivity and speed for less money, though with more weight.

The innovative touch pad gesture controls will win some fans as will the ability to wirelessly "borrow" optical drives attached to nearby desktops. Alterntaively you can purchase the USB-powered superdrive at an additional US$99.

While the MacBook Air's configuration is inferior to those found on the cheaper MacBook, they compare more favorably when you look at other ultraportables. . Both the Toshiba Portege R500 and Sony VAIO TZ150 cost hundreds more than the MacBook Air and feature slower CPUs and half the RAM as the Air.

One thing to be aware of though is that the custom battery is not replaceable by the user, which means if you want longer than the approximately 5 hours of battery life carrying a spare is not an option.

The MacBook Air is covered by a standard 1 year parts and labor warranty.

The Good Points

  • Includes integrated webcam and mike,
  • LED backlit display that responds to room brightness.

  • Full size backlite keyboard

The Bad Points:

  • Lack of connectivity is the biggest negative - only 1 USB no firewire FireWire, Ethernet, or mobile broadband

  • No media card reader

  • No optical drive

MacBook Air At a Glance

Processor 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo

Memory 2GB, 667MHz DDR2

Hard drive 80GB 4,200rpm Graphics Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)

Operating System Apple Mac OS X Leopard

Dimensions (WDH) 14.2 x 10.5 x 1.9 inches

Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches

System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.0 / 3.4 pounds

Averatec 1579

Averatec 1579

A good value for money option for those who don't want to spend the top dollars for the Sony Vaio or Toshiba Protégé models. Although costs approximately 25% less than the premium machines the Averatec supplies a robust 11.1-inch ultraportable with good performance, great battery life and solid construction.

At 1.5-inches the Averatec is noticeably thicker than other laptops reviewed but still manages to weight in at 3.4 pounds - just proving yet again than the less weight the more dollars it's going to cost!

The 11.1-inch wide-screen display features a 1,366x768 native resolution, which offers a decent balance of screen real estate and readability

Averatec includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system.

The Good:

  • Reasonable performance in a tidy package at a competitive price.
  • DVD burner included
  • Mini FireWire jack and an ExpressCard slot included

The Bad:

  • Somewhat cramped keyboard.
  • No media control button
  • No webcam

Averatec 1579 at a Glance

Processor 1.06GHz Intel Core Duo Ultra Low Voltage U2400

Memory 1GB, 667MHz DDR2

Hard drive 120GB 5,400rpm

Chipset Intel 945 Graphics Intel Mobile Express 945GM

Operating system Windows Vista Premium

Dimensions (WDH) 10.5 x 8.1 x 1.5 inches Screen size (diagonal) 11.1 inches System weight / Weight with AC adapter [pounds] 3.4 / 4.2 pounds

Asus Eee PC

Asus Eee PC

Asus Eee PC

Starting from under US$200 there has been a sudden rush to the market of these tiny laptops may look and sound like a toy but they aren't. Netbooks are a new option for many people who want to save money and wonder if they should buy a netbook

Instead they are realistic entry point for those who until now couldn't afford a PC, never mind a laptop. Or a child or student who needs a small portable model they can carry everyday without fearing it being stolen or a bad back from the weight. Or a backpacker who wants something light and robust to travel with.

In particular the price includes bundled software for web browsing, FireFox, and office productivity, OpenOffice, so there is absolutely no need to spend more money getting up and running with basic word-processing, spread-sheeting, presentation and web applications. Also included are a generic media player, an instant messaging client that works with popular IM systems, and some preinstalled games.

However the operating system is Linux not Windows so some software won't run at all such as such as iTunes or Photoshop.

The Eee PC has a just 7" screen which obviously means some compromises on keyboard size, particularly for the non-letter keys, but at 2 pounds its great to carry around. The Eee PC's competitors may well be pocket PC's and mobile phones with keyboards, and compared to these the Eee PC's keyboard is a whole lot more functional.

Asus offers a 1 year parts and labor warranty.

The good:

  • Small, light, and inexpensive;
  • Solid-state hard drive is fast and efficient;
  • Well-thought-out preinstalled software package.
  • 3USB ports, a VGA out, and standard headphone and mic jacks
  • SD card slot. allows you to expand the hard-drive capacity.
  • 3.5 hour battery life.

The bad:

  • Cramped keyboard;
  • Little hard drive space;
  • Low screen resolution.
  • No optical drive or firewire port

Asus Eee PC at a Glance

Processor 900MHz Intel Mobile CPU

Memory 512MB RAM

Hard drive 4GB SSD

Chipset/Graphics Intel 910

Operating System Linux (customized by Asus)

Dimensions (WDH) 8.8 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches

Screen size (diagonal) 7.0 inches

System weight / Weight with AC adapter [pounds] 2.0/2.4 pounds

The Author

Lis Sowerbutts has been traveling since age 7, and has to date visited over 55 countries. She firmly believes in traveling for the over-30's and that you are never too late to start traveling. Lis writes on a broad variety of subjects and you may be interested in other articles by her including:


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