Best 12 inch laptops in 2014 / 2015 – small, but punchy

I’ve been using a 12 inch laptop as my main daily driver for a few years now and I’m confident devices in this class offer a proper balance between power and portability. And that’s because 12 inch laptops (with 12.1″ , 12.5″ or similar sized screens) are compact and light enough to easily carry around, but also “spacious” enough to pack a decent keyboard, enough ports and powerful hardware.

Over the past years, there used to be two types of 12 inch laptops on the market: the affordable options, with decent features, but low-power hardware, and the premium ones, with almost anything you’d want, but pricey.

In the meantime, that has somewhat changed, as most of the once affordable 12 inchers have been discontinued, or were pushed towards the smaller 11.6 inch standard, as those slightly more compact devices are cheaper to manufacture. At the same time, the premium entries have grown mostly towards the 13.3 inch standard.

Thus, while we’re going to talk about the remaining 12 inchers in this article, you need to check out my post on 11.6 inch laptops and tablets, this list of compact and affordable Chromebooks if you’re looking for some good budget options, or this other post on the 13.3 inch ultrabooks and ultra-portable laptops available today, if you want a larger range of products to choose from. But not before going through this post, of course, as you came here looking for a 12 inch laptop after all.

The convertible 12/12.5 inch mini laptops

While there are a few standard, classic laptops in this segment, most 12 inch notebooks these days pack touchscreens and some sort of a convertible form factor, which allows us to use them as regular laptops, as tablets, or as different things in between. On top of that, most of the devices mentioned in this chapter are slim, light and powerful enough to bear the “ultrabook” branding, and you can find out more about ultrabooks from my other mobile-technology focused website, .

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist – the “affordable” option

Not many manufacturers ofer 12 inch devices anymore these days, but Lenovo actually has a bunch of them in stores. The most affordable is the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist, which is in fact a hybrid ultrabook, or in other words and sleek and fancy tablet PC. It comes with a convertible screen that rotates to 180 degrees around its mid single-contact-point hinge, much like what we’ve seen on older tablet PCs several years ago. This way, the Twist can be used as a regular laptop, or as a tablet, when rotating the screen and having it lie flat.

There’s a bright IPS HD touchscreen on this ThinkPad, covered by Gorilla Glass, the famous Lenovo Accutype keyboard, a trackpad with independent buttons and the also famous TrackPoint, all tucked inside a solid body (weighs about 3.5 pounds) with a magnesium alloy frame. Hardware wise, Lenovo offers a large array of configurations for this laptop, with Ivy Bridge Core i3/i5 or i7 ULV processors, up to 8 GB of RAM and a few different storage options (HDDs or SSDs). And there’s not much you’re going to miss when it comes to the ports around the sides or the connectivity options, although a cellular modem is not available for this unit.

There is however one potential deal-breaker: the Twist packs a rather small battery and it will only last for about 4 hours of everyday use on a charge. That could be addressed by a future Haswell update, but for the time being, I haven’t heard anything about it.

Even so, if you’re after a strong, compact and fairly priced hybrid, the ThinkPad Twist should be on your list. The average config (Core i5 CPU, 4GB RAM, 500 GB HDD) sells right now for around $750 dollars on Amazon, with some hefty discounts applied, while the other different configurations are several tens of dollars cheaper or more expensive. See the link for more details.

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist - fairly priced convertible tablet

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist – a fairly priced convertible 12 incher

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga – the business hybrid

The ThinkPad Yoga takes the business hybrid concept even further.

While still thin (0.75″) and light (3.5 lbs), the ThinkPad Yoga packs a few extras not available on the Twist. For instance, there’s a digitizer embedded withing the screen, and a matching pen is tucked inside its place within the body. And speaking of the screen, we do have a Full HD IPS panel on this laptop, with a non-glare finishing. It’s still somewhat glossy, but not as reflective as most glass-covered touchscreens.

Then, the Yoga runs on Intel Haswell hardware, with Core i5 and i7 processors to choose from and up to 256 GB SSDs. And it packs a larger 47 Wh battery, which allows it to run for 6-7 hours of daily use on a charge, a clear improvement over the Twist.

And then there’s the form factor. The Yoga’s screen flips 360 degrees over its hinges, towards the back, thus you get a few different modes for you to use this, besides the classic tablet and laptops ones. I’m not a big fan of this approach, because it leaves the keyboard exposed in tablet mode, but Lenovo found a smart way to block the keys completely in this case, as you’ll see from the video below.

All in all, the ThinkPad Yoga is a versatile convertible, powerful and long lasting. All these don’t come cheap though, as this laptop starts at around $1300 and the top configurations will quickly get even more expensive.

Dell XPS 12 – the stylish ultrabook

The Dell XPS 12 is another great device in this category. It comes with a Full HD IPS touchscreen, Intel ULV hardware inside (either Haswell or Ivy Bridge platforms), good keyboard and all the standard goodies (although there’s no SD card slot on this one).

Unlike other convertible ultrabooks though, on the Dell XPS the screen rotates inside its own frame, and the entire solution feels imh more robust than any of the others I’ve seen. Besides that, the XPS 12 is one of the most beautiful and solid built ultrabooks on the market. However, the battery life on the Ivy Bridge isn’t impressive, averaging around 4.5 hours of everyday use. The Haswell upgrade performs better, going for 6+ hours of use on a charge.

On top of these, the Dell XPS 12 is well priced for what it has to offer. The Haswell version starts at $999, while the base IvyBridge model starts at $899, with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD.  And of course, you can find all of these slightly discounted online.

Dell XPS 12 - a solid and beautiful convertible ultrabook

Dell XPS 12 – a solid and beautiful convertible ultrabook

Toshiba Satellite U925T

The Toshiba U925T is another 12.5-inch tablet/laptop hybrid with a slightly different design, as its screen slides and folds on top of the body when used in tablet mode, or the other way around when used as a laptop. The entire mechanism feels a bit flimsy and you’ll need some time to actually get used to how it should work without breaking it.

Other than that, the entire laptop looks alright, despite its weird form factor, but having the screen always exposed like that doesn’t make me very comfortable, although it is covered by a layer of protective glass.

What else? Well, the hardware inside this Toshiba is standard, with Intel Ivy Bridge processors and SSD storage. The keyboard is alright, while the trackpad is way too small. The screen is also rather bad, especially when compared to that awesome display on the Dell XPS 12, with only HD ready resolution. And given that it can’t bend forward, you might have problems viewing the content on it. And then there’s the battery life, around 4 hours of daily use, which is once again short of impressive.

So are you willing to spend around $900 for all these (or even less)? Well, you could and you’d get yourself an unique looking device, but different is not necessarily better, that’s why I do feel that your money could be better spent on other similar devices.

Toshiba U920T hybrid ultrabook - different, but not necesarily better

Toshiba U920T hybrid ultrabook – different, but not necesarily better

The Panasonic Toughbook C2

Last but not necessarily least in this category comes the ToughBook C2 from Panasonic, a truly rugged 12.5 inch laptop built for the harsher of conditions.

The rugged Panasonic Toughbook C2

The rugged Panasonic Toughbook C2

Hardware wise, this is a tablet PC built on Intel’s latest mobile hardware solution, like the ThinkPad X230 Convertible tablet mentioned earlier. It comes with a bright IPS toushcreen and a pen, LTE modem embedded, decent keyboard and 10+ hours of battery life with an extra battery.

Hardware and software aside though, the Toughbook C2 is a beast. Its magnesium frame and chassis is designed to last, and the laptop can survive falls from around 2 m high, is waterproof, dust-proof and so on. You can even step on it and it won’t care. And then come all the security software and hardware features built into this machine.

Of course, it’s obvious that this is not a laptop meant for the average Joe, it’s meant for those who need a tough business laptop in the most difficult conditions, like in the Arctics, in mines, on constructions sites or Oil rigs. And those in fact will not mind paying $3000 or more for the Panasonic ToughBook C2, as they get an awesome product with 3 year warranty and Panasonic’s unbeatable customer support. See Panasonic’s website for more details on this unit.

The classics – old style 12 inch laptops

If you’re after a simple, classic business 12 inch machine, you should know that there aren’t many left out these, but I’ve gathered the few available in this chapter, and I’m going to tell you a few things about each one of them.

Lenovo ThinkPad X240

This is Lenovo’s latest business ultra-portable, succeeding the X230 and the X220 before it (which is the laptop I’ve been using for the last 2 years).

Aesthetically, this is a simple and classy machine, with a matte rugged exterior. It’s designed to withstand the daily hassle characteristic to business environments and tested against different parameters, like vibrations, high humidity, dust and others. Now, this is not something you can take in a mine or at a building site, it’s still mostly a laptop for indoor use, but it’s stronger and more reliable than most others.

All these were achieved without sacrificing portability. The ThinkPad X240 is compact and weighs just around 3 pounds, but is a bit thicker than other ultrabooks, with a 0.9 inches height, mainly because it has to accommodate a large selection of full-sized ports. There’s also an embedded 3 Cell battery (23Wh) inside the case, plus room for an extra one, with up to 6 more cells(72Wh). According to Lenovo, the X240 with the largest battery combo can go for 17 hours on a charge, in practice you should expect around 12 or so, but that’s still impressive.

Moving on, I should also mention the screen options for this ThinkPad. The base model gets a matte 1366 x 768 TN panel, but you also get a similar resolution IPS panel or a Full HD non-glare option, plus two Touch Versions for all these IPS models, if you’re interested in them.

Last but not least, the ThinkPad X240 packs Intel Haswell hardware, with Core i3/i5 or i7 ULV processors and optional vPro support, up to 8 GB of RAM and various types of storage drives (including mSATA modules support). And to make the bundle complete, you also get Wi-Fi AC, a fingerprint-reader and a 4G/LTE modem (again, as an option).

OK, all these being said, we should finally talk about the prices. However, given the multitude of options, I’ll tell you that the X240 starts at around $900 these days and if you want to create your own configuration, you can play with this tool on Lenovo’s website.

Dell Latitude E7240

This is Dell’s business 12 incher. Like the Lenovo above, it also packs a 12.5 inch screen and a rugged, heavily tested body, ready for a tough corporate life. It’s also available in a multitude of configurations, both when it comes to the screens (HD and FHD resolutions, matte or touch) and to the hardware options. And of course, the Latitude E7240 does pack the latest Intel Haswell platform, with up to Core i7 processors with vPro, up to 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSDs for storage.

The E7240 is also compact and thin, tipping the scales just under 3 pounds. And it bundles a fingerprint-reader, the optional 3G/4G modem and most of the needed ports on the sides (with some extras that are not available on the X240).

In other words, these two business laptops are fairly similar in many ways. Of course, they don’t look the same and pack slightly different and keyboards and trackpads. I for one do find the ThinkPad more appealing and the AccuType keyboard more comfortable to use, but you might see things different. On the other hand, I do appreciate the multitude of accessories available for this Latitude, including slice batteries and docking units, which can prove quite useful.

Bottom point, Dell put up a great 12 inch ultrabook with the Latitude E7240. However, it is significantly more expensive than the Thinkpad X240, starting at around $1150 for what Lenovo asks less than $900. And frankly, I don’t see why anyone would pay that much for this Latitude, when the X240 is just as good and much more affordable. So Dell, a word of advice: work on your pricings if you want our hard earned bucks with this little fellow.


Ok, that’s about it with my list of recommended 12 inch laptops, for now.

Like I already said, these days you don’t get as many laptops in this class as you used to, especially in the affordable sub 800 dollars price category. Most manufacturers migrated their cheap entries towards the smaller 11.6 inch class, while the premium 12 inchers got slightly bigger 12.5 inch screens, but do pack solid performances and sleek looks, alongside quite hefty price tags. And I believe that we’ll be seeing even less 12 inch mini laptops in the future.

In the end, if you’re looking for more affordable mini laptops, i would also suggest taking a look at the list of recommended 11.6 inch devices. And if you’re just after a compact and portable laptop, you might also want to check out my list of the best ultrabooks you can buy these days.

As for this post, I’m going to be constantly update it each couple of weeks, so be sure to check it out periodically for changes.  Also, feel free to add your comments, remarks and questions below and I’ll be around to reply.

About The Author

Andrei Girbea, aka "Mike", Editor-in-Chief at I absolutely hate carrying around heavy stuff, that's why I'm fond of mini-laptops and portable computers. I'm primarily using such devices and have been testing them for many years now. Get in touch in the comments section below.


  1. Ahmad February 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Hey Mike. Is the Asus VX6 a worthy upgrade over the 1215N? I am looking to buy something by the end of April. Do you think anything will change by then?

    • Mike February 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      It’s the same in terms of hardware. Only a few things differ so i would say no, but hey, if you got the money and want the fancy stuff, why not

  2. Ahmad February 1, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks Mike. Quick follow up. Are we looking at something new and exciting come May?

    • Mike February 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      Yea, we should see new devices with AMD inside starting from March. Stay tuned for updates

  3. jigsaw February 9, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    There are some fascinating time limits on this article but I don’t know if I see all of them heart to heart. There may be some validity but I will take maintain opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want extra! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

  4. Suz February 20, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Hey Mike. I’m also thinking about buying the asus vx6. But it would be awful if a few months later was released a 12 inch netbook with i3 processor and nvidia grafics in the same pricerange. Should I wait? Will Asus launch a 12 incher with the above specs soon?

    Keep up the great work.


    • Mike February 21, 2011 at 1:18 am

      I wish I’d know Suz. No rumors about such a 12 incher yet. There’s the Ul20FT already on the market with Core I3/I5 processors but without the graphics, so it really depends if you plan on playing games or not…

  5. Suz February 20, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Ohh and the vx6 has B&O ICE speakers plus two usb 3.0
    But then again it’s 200 dollars more in price…hmmmm……

  6. Napz Almario March 8, 2011 at 3:03 am

    thank you for this Mike. it really helps. am planning to buy a new one @ 12-13 inches with best specs coz am working more on SEO so there were lots of software need to be installed. budget price is 20-28K. what can u suggest? right now am using Lenovo but its only 1GB. better if i could find a 4gb. i’l go for Lenovo, Toshiba, or HP if there is.

    • Mike March 8, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      napz, 20-28K what? pls state an USD budget

  7. Frank March 28, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Cant decide between the Asus 1215N (1.8ghz atom dual core) or the Ul20FT which has a 1.2ghz processor.
    How is this a faster processor then the 1.8ghz?
    Id like a 12inch laptop for use in everyday tasks and the occasional game here and there. But more for business use and some multitasking. Which would you prefer mike?

    • Mike March 28, 2011 at 11:17 am

      Frank, the ul20Ft seems better for you. There is quite a big difference in terms of everyday speed between the two and if you won’t play any games than there’s no point going for the device with ION

  8. Frank March 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    After research, in Australia the ul20FT isnt available, so would the 1215N still be ok for my usage mike?

    • Mike March 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      Well… I wouldn’t go for it and better wait for the Asus 1215B (search for the review here on the site) or any of the other devices with AMD Zacate on board. There are a couple of 11.6 inchers already available, like the vaio yb, hp pavilion dm1, lenovo ideapad s205 and lenovo thinkpad x120e. Those offer overall better performances than the 1215N and come with good graphics and battery life as well. Don’t know which one of those are available Down Under but you should check… Of course, in terms of CPU none are as good as the Ul20FT though but should be enough for most everyday tasks.

  9. Frank March 28, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks for that mike, unfortunatly all the units u listed arent available here in aussie, which means i prob be waiting forever for the 1215B. so im prob gonna have to just take my chance with the 1215N or maybe even the VX6. Is performance really that bad on these units, like i wouldnt be playing any full on 3d games, its more for just multitasking and doing invoices on the go.
    If u really think its not worth it, il just wait until something else hopefully pops up in the 12inch range???

  10. Frank March 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Hi mike, what do you think of the MSI u270. Because that has the AMD Zacate and That is available in aussie but just a matter of finding one! :)

    • Mike March 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm

      That one should do… however i would look for more reviews of it before buying. Haven’t seen that many poping along and although hardware platform is the same, there are those little details that make all the difference, like screen, battery, build quality.

      Not, the 1215N ain’t bad at all. However, when I had my test unit, I had problems with 1080p clips and games. That was an rearly sample and drivers were defective at that time. Not sure if this has changed in the meantime but I do believe it did… Still, based entirely on my expeirence with both the 1215n and the 1215B, my money are on the later. Not to mention that it’s cheaper as well. The 1215B though ain’t yet available but was announced for April in Europe and US. So should reach you as well in the next months.

  11. Drathale April 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    ASUS 1215 T is a very good affordable 12 inch laptop- stating from my own use.
    It certainly deserves a review.

    • Mike April 1, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      Didn’t have the chance to ever get my hands on this one so there’s nothing I can say about it :(

  12. Gaby April 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Hi Mike!!
    I think you are doing and amazing job, by using all your knolewdge and experience to help us 😀 Congratulations about that!
    I would like to make you a quick question, i want to buy a netbook and i want it to fast: wich one of this would you recommend me? HP DM1-3090 or ASUS 1215B? or another one that you consider that is about that price, but always with AMD.
    Thank you so much 😉 and congrats again!

    • Mike April 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      Gaby, both of them are very good so I would go for the one you like best and can find cheaper

  13. Varun Thakkar April 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Hey Mike, I heard that the real model 1215B is deprived of a LAN port. Is it true?

    • Mike April 12, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      Not from what i know

  14. Andre May 7, 2011 at 5:52 am

    I am wondering if there are portable laptops/netbooks with internal optical (DVD drive) available other than sky-highly priced Vaio entries.

    And on another topic entirely, which is the largest (maybe around 12-13 inch) AND lightest portable laptop/netbook available? Which, among them, comes with dedicated graphics?

    Thanks for your kind response.

    • Mike May 7, 2011 at 8:09 am

      Andre, you’ll hardly find any 12 incher with DVD unit these days and also anything with dedicated graphics (except for the 1215N – sort of – and the Dell Alienware M11X) . You’ll have to go to 13.3 or even 14.1 devices to find these for an affordable price

  15. Fh June 14, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Hi Mike. Opposite to your recommendation above in your 1215B review you say it tops the N. Which is the better choice? Thanks

    • Mike June 15, 2011 at 9:38 am

      yea, i should fix that. Like I said in the review , the 1215N is theoretically slightly faster on paper, but in practice the 1215B performed better, because of the graphic bottlenecks of the Atom + ION architecture. I will write a post that will explain the differences between these two pretty soon, but if you guys have any more questions, just leave a comment or contact me by email

  16. Nicmazza87 September 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    hi, love your reviews
    i am looking for the right netbook. i will use it manly to browse, writing and watching movies on a hd tv. I was going to buy an ul20ft but i read on many reviews that a 1215b is better suited for watching movies because of its discrete graphics, what do you think?
    Another question: which model of the 1215b has the 1.66 cpu and which one has the 1.0 one? i live in italy, in case its something country-based

    • Mike September 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm

      e AMD The 1215B can play 1080P movies smoothly, while the UL20Ft cannot.

      Also, on the 1215B, i would ge tthe version with the AMD E350 APU clocked at 1.66 Ghz. The version with the AMD C-50 APU is clocked at 1.0 GHz and also has poorer graphics, as this processor is developed for smaller 10 inch devices.

  17. Andre September 27, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Man that U260 design is sooooo funky! Love it! But what’s with battery life (only 4 hrs)? It isn’t like it sports a discrete graphics there…

    The Series 4 is rather nice also, although not as drool-inducing as Series 9.

    What about the rumored orange, new and faster Lambo VX6? Is there any new news?

    Which one in 11.1-12.5 inch range that comes (or soon comes!) with great graphics?

    But for now, I’d just stick to Asus UL20FT. Best one all around.

    Thanks and kudos!

    • Mike September 27, 2011 at 9:00 am

      No word on the new VX6X but I do know Asus is working on new 12 inchers, including the UX21 and some others. So stay tuned

  18. Bruno Dantas March 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Any word about the Asus 1225 series?

    • Mike March 12, 2012 at 12:22 am

      The new Asus 1225 laptops are actually 11.6 inchers now, and you can read my reviews of the two in the dedicated section (see the menu on top of this page)

  19. Vivek Kumar May 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm


    Can you review or give comments regarding HP Pro book 4230s? Whatever I have seen on HP website seems to be impressive. Although about 1 year old now, I feel that is also a good alternative to all these mentioned above.

  20. Tina May 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    I am looking for mini laptop
    My brother has recommended me Asus
    My desire that it s comfortable to carry and I think I just use it for playing game or entertain but not net book ^__^

    Could you recommend me anything else?

    Thank you for future ^__*

    • Mike June 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      TIne, the post above is upo to date and thois are my recommendation. You can also see my post on the Top 11.6 inch mini laptops, you can find it on the front page of this website.

  21. gaurav July 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    hii mike…i want to buy samsung series 3 mini laptop 12.5 inch..But i am little scared as i heard i3 processor not go well with small it true?
    also Amd processor i headr they got heating problem too

    • Mike July 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      I wouldn’t say that. I don’t get what you are trying to say with the Core I3s not going well with Small screens, but these processors are fast and will work fine on any of these small laptops or bigger ones.

      As for AMD APUs, I didn’t encountered overheating problems when using them

  22. natalia January 15, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Hi Mike, I would like to buy a 12 inch laptop, my budget is $550. I spotted this Dell Inspiron 14z and the HP Folio 13-1029wm. Which one is better? Please advice me.

  23. HJay April 6, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    “I’ve been using a 12 inch laptop as my main daily driver”……. I thought drivers sat behind the wheel of a car..? In what way is a 12 inch laptop a driver?

    Speak the Queen’s English, there’s a good chap!

  24. Alkasel July 6, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    I would link to buy a pc for handwriting.
    Therefore, I’d like to know if these pc have resistive or capacitive touchscreen. Or is ips a type of touchscreen different from the previous? and if it’s the case, is ips touchscreen good for handwriting, as much as resistive touchscreen?

    Lastly, when you say “the battery last for about x hours of everyday use” what do you mean with “every day use”? using pc with wi-fi on, medium brightness etc?

    thank you very much

  25. Vlad August 21, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Running a 12.5″ HP Elitebook 2570p with an upgraded CPU (i7-3740QM instead of i5-3360M), upgraded storage (256GB SSD + 2TB HDD in optical caddy), upgraded RAM (incoming 16GB 2133 CL11 RAM), and the option of external GPU through ExpressCard.
    Food for thought.

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