Best overall

Microsoft Surface Pro

Microsoft Surface Pro

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The latest Surface Pro (starting at about $800) from Microsoft takes a great design and makes it better. Get inside up to an Intel Core i7-7660U processor (CPU), 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD). The chassis is as strong as always, but has smoother, rounded edges, redesigned radial vents, and a kickstand that bends back to 165 degrees for a better inking experience. The display has a 2,736 x 1,824 resolution, and above it is an IR camera for Windows Hello logins. Grab a Surface Pen and Type Cover separately to complete the package.

Bottom line: The Surface Pro is the best laptop you'll find at 12 inches or under.

One more thing: Our review of the Surface Pro contains much more information on what's new and what makes the Surface Pro so great.

Why the Surface Pro is the best 12-inch laptop

Buying a small laptop doesn't mean you have to cut performance.

Microsoft's Surface lineup is meant to set the bar high so that other laptop manufacturers can follow suit with their own products. As a result, we get premium products that, while costly, will hardly disappoint.

The newest Surface Pro (which dropped the numeral, which would have been 5) takes a good thing and runs with it, making only small changes. The chassis is slightly more streamlined, and the kickstand now allows the tablet to sit flatter on a table, perfect for anyone with inking in mind. The new Surface Pen is about as good as they get, and the detachable keyboard turns a tablet into a laptop in seconds.

Inside, you can choose from plenty of hardware to ensure you're getting a laptop that you need. Choose from up to a seventh-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The 12.3-inch display is absolutely gorgeous, and the 3:2 ratio is perfect for this type of device. If you need the best 12-inch laptop out there, go with the Surface Pro.

Runner Up

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

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Despite the new Surface Pro taking most of the spotlight, the Surface Pro 4 (starting at about $800) is still an exceptional device that can be had for an overall cheaper price. Get up to an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD for a truly powerful machine. Most configurations include a Surface Pen, but you'll still want to grab an attachable Type Cover to boost productivity.

Bottom line: The Surface Pro 4 is still an amazing device despite there being a new version available.

One more thing: Check out the Surface Dock for when you want to connect your Surface Pro 4 to a couple of external monitors and a bunch of peripherals.

Best Budget

CHUWI LapBook 12.3

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Budget laptops usually suffer from a dismal display, but not the CHUWI LapBook (starting at about $330). Here we have a 12.3-inch IPS display with a 2,736 x 1,824 resolution and a matte finish. Inside is a seventh-generation Intel Celeron N3450 CPU, 64GB of Toshiba eMMC storage, and 6GB of DDR3 RAM. The all-metal chassis can take a beating, and a fanless design keeps it running quiet, even under load.

Bottom line: The best budget 12-inch laptop is the CHUWI LapBook 12.3.

One more thing: Have a look at our review for much more information on what makes the 12.3-inch LapBook so great.

Best Gaming

Razer Blade Stealth

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Razer laptops strive to be the thinnest gaming devices out there, and with a name like Stealth, you should expect nothing different. For about $1,200, you can get a 12.5-inch 4K display, an Intel Core i7-6500U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. All in all, the laptop weighs under three pounds and is only about a half-inch thick. If you love to game and need something ultraportable, this is the device for you.

Bottom line: The Razer Blade Stealth is the best gaming laptop in the 12-inch range.

One more thing: Consider adding a Razer Core to the mix for some insane graphics power.

Best Ultrabook

ASUS ZenBook 3

See at Amazon

ASUS has created something special in the ZenBook 3 (starting at about $750); it's slim, it's light, and it has great hardware inside. Get an Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD for a decent amount of power, and enjoy the 12.5-inch IPS display at 1080p. This device weighs just two pounds and is under a half-inch thick, making it ultraportable. If you love the idea of a notebook and don't need a touch screen or convertible design, seriously consider this laptop.

Bottom line: If you're not interested in a convertible design, the ZenBook 3 should be your first choice.

One more thing: Our review of the ZenBook 3 explains why we love this laptop so much.

Best Business

Lenovo ThinkPad X270

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ThinkPads are known for their business-focused design, and the X270 from Lenovo (starting at about $780) is made for portability. The 12.5-inch display is available in an HD or FHD configuration, and inside you can get up to an Intel Core i7-7600 vPro CPU, a 512GB PCIe SSD, and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Plenty of ports allow you to connect a wide range of peripherals, and an optional WWAN chip means you can stay in touch when out in the field. The classic ThinkPad keyboard is here, along with the TrackPoint and physical buttons.

Bottom line: The best 12-inch laptop for the business oriented is the Lenovo ThinkPad X270.

One more thing: Check out our review for more information about the ThinkPad X270.

Best Tablet

Huawei MateBook

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Huawei's MateBook (starting at about $850) is first and foremost a 12-inch tablet with a Full HD touchscreen and a beautiful slim design. It weighs just 1.4 pounds, yet has inside some decent hardware that can help you through a workday. Get up to an Intel Core m5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, and enjoy a battery that can last up to about seven or eight hours. A fingerprint reader built into the side of the tablet ensure secure logins through Windows Hello.

Bottom line: For a great tablet experience, check out the Huawei MateBook.

One more thing: Make sure you pick up the MateBook's companion keyboard at the same time; get it in beige or orange.

Conclusion

For the best 12-inch laptop out there, go with the Surface Pro, but remember that the Surface Pro 4 isn't far behind. CHUWI's LapBook is great budget option, and if you love to game, check out the Razer Blade Stealth. Need a business partner? The ThinkPad X270 is a strong option, and if you love the idea of a notebook, and ASUS ZenBook 3 is thin and light. If you'd just like a great tablet experience, the Huawei MateBook will do you well.

Best overall

Microsoft Surface Pro

Microsoft Surface Pro

See at Microsoft

The latest Surface Pro (starting at about $800) from Microsoft takes a great design and makes it better. Get inside up to an Intel Core i7-7660U processor (CPU), 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD). The chassis is as strong as always, but has smoother, rounded edges, redesigned radial vents, and a kickstand that bends back to 165 degrees for a better inking experience. The display has a 2,736 x 1,824 resolution, and above it is an IR camera for Windows Hello logins. Grab a Surface Pen and Type Cover separately to complete the package.

Bottom line: The Surface Pro is the best laptop you'll find at 12 inches or under.

One more thing: Our review of the Surface Pro contains much more information on what's new and what makes the Surface Pro so great.

Updated September 21, 2017: We've refreshed this list with some new laptops to ensure you're still getting the absolute best laptops that are on the smaller side of the spectrum.