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The best laptops

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Best Laptops

The best laptops have to do it all. They need to be light, portable, powerful, beautiful, and reasonably affordable. Choosing one of them isn’t easy though, as there are a handful of fantastic options that fulfill all or most of those, depending on your needs.

Below you’ll find our picks for best overall laptop, as well as the best MacBook for Apple die-hards, the best Chromebook for those who desire an affordable laptop with a super-light OS, and the best budget laptops. We’ve also selected the best 15-inch laptop, best 2-in-1, and the best gaming laptop.

At a glance

ProductCategoryRating
Dell XPS 13Best laptop overall4.5 out of 5
MacBook Pro 13-inchBest MacBook3 out of 5
HP Chromebook x2Best Chromebook4 out of 5
Surface ProBest 2-in-1 laptop4 out of 5
Asus ZenBook UX330UABest budget laptop4 out of 5
Razer BladeBest gaming laptop4.5 out of 5
Dell XPS 15Best 15-inch laptop4.5 out of 5

Dell XPS 13

The best laptop

Dell XPS 13 9370 review |
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s portable, fast, attractive, and reasonably priced.

Who’s it for: Everyone except gamers.

How much will it cost: Starts at $900

Why we picked the Dell XPS 13:

Dell’s XPS 13 has a great look that blends a metallic exterior with a white woven-fiberglass interior. It feels premium, yet inviting — the kind of cool new toy you’ll be itching to show off to anyone willing to look. The super-thin InfinityEdge bezel is another highlight of the design. Although a lot of laptops have copied it, the XPS 13 did it first and did it best with less than a quarter of an inch around each side. It’s as functional as it is beautiful, making the overall footprint of the system smaller and lighter.

Does that make the XPS 13 too small? Nope. The touchpad is as large as the competition and the keyboard is a breeze to use. The system is also energy efficient with a respectable battery size, so it can last all day on a charge in most situations and handle pretty much anything you throw at it. The only bit we’re not so fond of is the webcam. The bezels are so thin there’s no room for it, so it’s below the display rather than above. It makes for quite an awkward angle.

The two models we tested, the i5 and i7 versions, start at $1,000 and $1,350 respectively. Both feature 8th-generation processors, alongside a selection of solid state drives and up to 16GB of RAM. If you want to opt for something cheaper, Dell now offers an 8th-gen Core i3 model starting at $900 as well.

Read our full Dell XPS 13 (2018) review

MacBook Pro 13-inch (without Touch Bar)

The best MacBook

Best Laptops macbook pro 13 inch with touch bar
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: You need MacOS and Windows just won’t cut it.

Who’s it for: Anyone who doesn’t mind paying the “Apple Tax.”

How much will it cost: Starts at $1,300

Why we picked the MacBook Pro 13-inch (without Touch Bar):

The MacBook Pro is a beautiful laptop, but it has a few controversial features (such as the Touch Bar) and downright missteps (the faulty keyboard). That’s why the best we could do was recommend the non-Touch Bar version to Mac lovers looking for the best value.

Things were complicated further recently, though, as Apple launched its 2018 MacBook Pro refresh that highlights the addition of Intel’s latest quad-core and six-core 8th-generation CPUs. The problem? Only MacBook Pros with Touch Bar are included this time around, and the MacBook Pro 13 without Touch Bar was relegated to old processors. That means Apple is sticking with 7th-generation Intel Core processors for the entry-level model, not even packing in the quad-core version that provides a real boost in performance.

We stand by our recommendation of the non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro or now, while lamenting the fact that Apple left it out in the cold. We’re still hoping for an affordable MacBook Air redesign we can recommend.

Read our full MacBook Pro 13-inch review (with Touch Bar)

HP Chromebook x2

The best Chromebook

best chromebooks hp chromebook x2 1

Why should you buy this: You want an inexpensive, but well-built 2-in-1.

Who’s it for: Students, people who need only basic functionality, anyone who wants a cheap laptop to use as a second PC.

How much will it cost: $600

Why we picked the HP Chromebook x2:

The Chromebook x2 is the first of a new wave of innovative and premium Chromebook form factors, as a detachable tablet in the Microsoft Surface Book 2 mold. That is, the lovely and well-built “Ceramic White” slate portion, which holds all of the actual PC components, slots into magnetic tabs on a relatively heavy keyboard base. That creates a clamshell notebook that is stable on the lap (with just a little wobble) while serving in movie mode with the display reversed and as a stand-alone tablet for pen use and media consumption.

Based around a 12.3-inch IPS display running at 2,400 x 1,600 or 235 PPI and sporting the productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio, the Chromebook x2 incorporates a 7th-generation Intel Core m3-7Y30 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC storage. Those components are plenty fast for Chrome OS, and the Chromebook x2 takes full advantage. As icing on the top, the 48 watt-hour battery keeps the 2-in-1 going for a full workday — and then some.

Chrome OS, which is designed around Google’s Chrome web browser, is wonderfully simple and intuitive. While it used to only run extensions and web apps, that has been expanded to now include everything in the Google Play Store.

Read our full HP Chromebook x2 review

Surface Pro

The best 2-in-1 laptop

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: You want a great laptop and a good tablet.

Who’s it for: Anyone who needs versatility on top of performance.

How much will this cost: Starts at $900

Why we picked the Surface Pro:

If you’re not sure about laptops-as-tablets though, the Surface Pro is the one to change your mind. First and foremost, it’s a stylish, lightweight, and powerful tablet that pulls double duty as a laptop. Worried about the Surface Pro as a laptop replacement? Think of it as a laptop with a detachable keyboard. Seriously, this thing has the power to do anything you need a laptop to do and more. While we’ve yet to review the newest Surface Pro 6, it’s virtually guaranteed to offer the same great design, only with faster internals.

No matter which configuration you choose, you now get an 8th-generation Kaby Lake processor under the hood — our review unit was one of the top-spec 7th-generation machines. While that was a capable processor in its day, it’s been superseded by Intel’s 8th-generation processors that have made their way to the latest version. We’re looking forward to testing the Surface Pro 6 to see just how much faster it’s become. In addition, the smaller, $400 Surface Go provides an interesting alternative for buyers with a lower budget.

As it is, the previous version of the Surface Pro performed well enough in our benchmarks for typical productivity tasks, and it remains excellent as an everyday workhorse. It’s quick, snappy, and versatile, everything you could want out of an ultra-portable laptop — plus it’s the best tablet around when you need it to be.

Read our full Surface Pro (2017) review

Asus ZenBook UX330UA

The best budget laptop

Best laptops Asus Zenbook UX330
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: You want an affordable Windows PC that’s also a joy to use.

Who’s it for: Everyone except gamers, other power users.

How much will it cost: $750

Why we picked the Asus ZenBook UX330UA:

If you don’t want to pay the full price of a laptop like the Del XPS 13, then we suggest the Asus ZenBook UX330UA, another ultrabook that received our coveted Editor’s Choice award. The ZenBook isn’t as powerful as the Dell XPS 13, and it doesn’t emulate the Dell’s strikingly thin bezels. But otherwise, it’s a powerful machine, worthy of our best laptops list.

And its value is incredible. The base model, which is routinely priced at $750 on Amazon, has an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive. That’s twice the memory and storage of the $800 Dell XPS 13 — and better battery life than what you’ll find in other competitors. Though you can still buy the UX330UA on Amazon, Asus has followed it up with the UX331UA, which has thinner bezels, a lighter chassis, and improved battery life.

Read our full Asus ZenBook UX330UA review

Razer Blade

The best gaming laptop

Razer Blade (2018) fortnite
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It provides a fantastic gaming experience on the go.

Who’s it for: People who want a fantastic laptop that can also game.

How much will it cost: $1,800+

Why we picked the Razer Blade:

From the exterior, you might not even know the Razer Blade is a gaming laptop. It’s as light and thin as a MacBook Pro, with thin bezels, a world-class keyboard and touchpad, as well as a bright, vivid, 15-inch display. Even if it weren’t a gaming laptop, the Razer Blade would be a contender for one of the best 15-inch laptops. The fact that it can play games at respectable framerates makes it a bit of a miracle.

With a GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics card and supremely powerful processor, the Razer Blade made short work of just about everything we threw at it — as long as you’re staying in 1080p, of course. Razer redesigned its thermal system to ensure that despite some throttling, the Blade can play nearly any game with settings maxed. That includes heavy loads like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

This is the most elegant, beautiful gaming laptop you’ve ever seen. The Alienware 17 R5 or Predator Helios 500 might perform better, but for our money, this is the gaming laptop we’d choose every time.

Read our full Razer Blade review

Dell XPS 15

The best 15-inch laptop

Dell XPS 15 9570 right angle
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: You want a sleek PC, but also need excellent performance.

Who’s it for: Power users and those who want a big, beautiful display.

How much will this cost: $1,000+

Why we picked the Dell XPS 15:

The XPS 13 is great, but you may want something with a larger display. You’re not alone. Sales figures have continually shown 15-inch systems beating their smaller rivals. We think this is partially because good, small laptops aren’t cheap — but also because some people just want a bigger display.

Fortunately, Dell also has the XPS 15. It’s great for all the same reasons as the XPS 13, and because it’s larger, it can be optioned with the fastest hardware available today — up to a blazing-fast six-core 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8750H processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics, a beautiful display, and fantastic battery life. It’s easily the best all-around 15-inch laptop on the market today.

The XPS 15 was recently refreshed with the fastest 8th-gen processors, as well as with a more powerful GTX 1050 Ti in the higher-end configurations. These new components make the XPS 15 an even better value.

Read our full Dell XPS 15 (2018) review

How we test

You’ve read our laptop reviews. You’ve read our conclusions. And now you’re wondering how we came to them.

Good question. Reviews often lack context, which is evident in the wildly different scores some laptops receive from different publications. Conflicting opinions can actually make buying a laptop more difficult if the review’s criteria isn’t made clear.

Allow us to lift the veil. Here we’ll explain the benchmarks we use for objective testing and the perspective from which we approach subjective topics. We don’t expect everyone to agree with our opinions, but we hope that sharing our process will leave you better equipped to decide what laptop best fits your needs.


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