Which 14-inch laptop is best?
Notebook computers used to come in three sizes: 13-, 15- and 17-inches. Smaller laptops were more portable, bigger laptops were better for gaming and the 15-inch option worked well for everything in between. With the constant rise in commuting, remote working and traveling, many premium manufacturers now produce 14-inch models that give users the same ability to tote their laptop as a 13-inch option, but a slightly bigger screen for work and play.
What to know before you buy a 14-inch laptop
A 14-inch laptop won’t necessarily replace a desktop. They almost exclusively have high-efficiency CPUs meant to maximize battery life instead of processing power. Few have discrete graphics cards, either.
A clear advantage of a laptop is portability. Some models are thicker and slightly heavier than others, but they should all fit in most backpacks and briefcases.
Some 14-inch models are built for peak performance with advanced features. For example, the Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 is a premium laptop on the market, but models like it are the minority in the 14-inch class. While there are some premium models with high costs, many are engineered with affordability in mind.
What to look for in a quality 14-inch laptop
Thunderbolt 4 connectivity
In 2021, just about all new laptops have versatile USB-C ports. The new gold standard for high-speed wired data transmission is the Thunderbolt protocol, currently in its 4th generation. Thunderbolt 4 improves upon the previous version not by raising the peak bandwidth or capabilities, but instead by increasing speed and compatibility requirements. PCs with Thunderbolt 4 certification must offer USB-PD charging over at least one port and must correctly wake from sleep when connected to a compatible laptop dock.
There’s also a minimum speed required when communicating with the laptop’s internal PCIe bus, which means that laptops with Thunderbolt 4 can quickly move 1s and 0s to external drives and displays. Thunderbolt 4 promises dual display compatibility and helps to bring everything closer to the reality of truly universal 40Gbps cables.
In terms of storage, you need at least 128GB on a solid-state drive to have a good Windows experience, even though that’s double Microsoft’s official recommendation. A 256GB or greater amount of storage is worthwhile for most users.
System memory is in a similar position. You can run Windows with 4GB of RAM, but 8GB makes for a much smoother experience and power users will want the entire 16GB.
Intel Evo certification
The successor to the Ultrabook classification, Intel’s Evo program denotes a laptop that’s fast, efficient, portable and has certain premium features. If you see the Evo certification on a laptop, it has a multi-core Intel i5 or i7 processor, a powerful Intel Xe integrated GPU, a slim design and an all-day battery life. It also guarantees advanced connectivity options like Thunderbolt 4 and WiFi 6. Intel Evo laptops even promise to wake from sleep in about one second and offer biometric login for added security.
Evo-certified laptops must be in roughly the 12- to 16-inch size range, so several measure 14 inches. One excellent example of Evo implementation is the LG Gram 14, which is one of the lightest full-featured laptops.
How much you can expect to spend on a 14-inch laptop
You can get a great 14-inch laptop for around $500 or as much as $4,000. A top-of-the-line 14-inch notebook from a quality manufacturer may be around $2,000.
14-inch laptop FAQ
Are Chromebooks any good?
A. Chromebooks can be great for school or freelance writing, so long as all the apps you need are available on the Google Play store. For heavy workloads, Chromebooks fall short in processing power, storage space and compatibility.
If you’re sure Chrome OS can get the job done, the HP Chromebook 14 is an excellent choice that performs well thanks to a relatively modern CPU. The Asus Chrome C423 is pretty impressive due to its remarkably low price and surprisingly slim bezel.
Can I play games on a 14-inch laptop?
A. Casual games or browser-based games will run great on just about any laptop. If you like to play resource-intensive games like first-person shooters or immersive stealth RPGs, a 14-inch screen is too small and very few laptops in this size range have powerful enough GPUs.
Are there any 14-inch MacBooks?
A. There are currently no 14-inch MacBook on the market but that could change with Apple’s upcoming releases.
What’s the best 14-inch laptop to buy?
Top 14-inch laptop
What you need to know: This is an ultra-premium notebook PC with a good-looking screen and full feature set.
What you’ll love: The ZenBook S line is a great example of a manufacturer going the extra mile and using a keyboard that’s responsive and satisfying to type on. But one of the neatest features is its screen, which sports an impressive 3,300 by 2,200 resolution, a whopping 500 nits of peak brightness and 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space to ensure a bold and bright picture on any content.
What you should consider: This high-end laptop has a high-end price.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top 14-inch laptop for the money
What you need to know: Despite its entry-level price, this is a mid-range laptop that performs better than many expensive options.
What you’ll love: Its Ryzen 5 5500U CPU and 512GB high-speed SSD provide powerful levels and it has convenient features like a backlit keyboard and fingerprint reader.
What you should consider: It’s limited to 8GB of RAM and doesn’t offer Thunderbolt 3 or 4 support.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: One of HP’s most versatile offerings, this 2-in-1 convertible offers above-average performance and responsive touch controls at a moderate price.
What you’ll love: Bridging the gap between laptops and tablets, convertibles are becoming more popular and increasingly powerful. It offers a Full HD resolution and above-average battery life plus HP Fast Charge technology that can deliver a 50% charge in just 45 minutes.
What you should consider: Although the display looks great in many settings, it is made of glass and therefore has significant glare issues when used in the sun.
Where to buy: Sold by HP
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.