When choosing the right laptop it all comes down to what you are willing to spend and what you plan to use it for. If the idea of navigating the countless options out there sounds daunting we’ve got you covered. After looking at several of the best devices this year and analyzing dozens of professional reviews and user opinions, we bring you the best of the best in a handful of popular categories: budget, ultraportables, gaming, workstations and Chromebooks.

Best Workstation

Apple MacBook Pro 15" Retina - Mid 2015

Great | Differentiating Features
Blazing fast storage. Great build quality. OS X looks and works stunningly on a Retina display. The best trackpad on the market, has recently added support for Apple's Force Touch.

Good | Most Have It
Excellent performance, battery life.

Average | Competitors May Be Better
Still using Haswell processors.

The 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is unanimously praised and it’s easy to see why. Combining a beautiful display with blazing performance, long battery life and premium aluminum body that’s pretty much unchanged since 2012 and yet it still looks better than a lot of more recent laptops.

The MacBook Pro’s retina display may not hold the pixel-density record, but it looks stunning when matched with an operating system and apps that are fully optimised for high dpi screens. Under the hood you’ll find a Core i7 processor from Intel’s Haswell family (quad-core Crystal Well to be precise), which may be a couple of generations old, but is still powerful enough to perform anything you throw at it. Our recommendation for most people would be to go with the base configuration starting at $1,999 for a 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of PCIe-based flash storage and Intel Iris Pro HD 5200 Graphics. The step up model includes discrete AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics and double the storage for $2,499, but unless you intend to do a lot of heavy image and video editing on the run, Intel’s integrated graphics handle themselves just fine.

On the storage front, the solid state drive in the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is remarkably fast, reaching throughput speeds up to 2GB/s -- that’s 2.5 times faster than the SSD in the previous-generation 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. Other improvements to this year’s model include longer battery life (~9 hours) and the Force Touch trackpad, which is a revamp of Apple’s notoriously great glass trackpad, adding pressure sensitivity to enable app specific functions depending on how hard you press. It may be a bit gimmicky, however it's third party software implementation that will eventually make it shine (or not), for the time being Apple is integrating Force Touch across all its devices, including the iPhone and Watch.

The 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro is a great all-rounder and a great buy in the workstation and performance enthusiast category. But is it safe to buy now? Apple is on a near-yearly update cycle, and the Pro 15's last update came in May. Although quad-core Broadwell chips with faster Iris Pro graphics have been around for a few months, it's possible Apple will wait a bit longer and jump directly to Skylake chips once those are out later in 2016.

Best Windows Workstation

Lenovo ThinkPad T450s

Great | Differentiating Features
Best-in-class backlit and spill resistant keyboard, great build quality (MIL-SPEC 810G certified), hot swappable battery.

Good | Most Have It
Excellent performance, battery life. Free M.2 slot for expanding storage.

Average | Competitors May Be Better
No display upgrades beyond 1080p.

The legendary Thinkpad T is synonymous with business-minded workstations, and Lenovo’s latest addition to the line continues that tradition with what we believe is the best Thinkpad in years. The T450s brings Intel’s Broadwell chips to the lineup, a redesigned trackpad, an amazing keyboard and a small footprint reduction, among other improvements.

There are three screen options including matte TN and IPS panels as well as glossy IPS, all of them 14-inch full HD with a 16:9 aspect ratio. They’re quite bright with excellent viewing angles and color reproduction. Our recommendation at $1,479 includes the non-touch IPS option, along with an Intel Core i7-5600-U, 256GB SSD and 8GB DDR3L. The T450s also ships with a free M.2 slot so you can expand storage with your own separately bought SSD instead of paying for more expensive manufacturer upgrades, while the RAM module is also easily replaceable (the system board integrates 4GB of non-removable DDR3L plus a single user-upgradable SO-DIMM slot). For graphics you’ll have to make do with the integrated Intel HD 5500 GPU but it’s good enough to deliver 4K content and even some light gaming.

Performance-wise the ThinkPad T450s fared admirably in our tests, while others including PCMag and Notebook Check tested a different configuration also found it to outclass its competition in this category. Battery life is also excellent and you’ll easily get enough juice for an 8-hour work day -- plus the battery is hot swappable if you want to carry around a spare.

Elsewhere you get a beautiful backlit and spill resistant keyboard that’s very comfortable to type on. We actually think it’s the best on any laptop. The redesigned trackpad is another highlight, bringing back physical buttons, while common multi-touch gestures like right-clicking and scrolling by tapping or dragging two fingers finally works reliably. In terms of connectivity, dual video outputs (VGA, Mini DisplayPort), 3 x USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0 and an optional smartcard reader will have the needs of most covered.

If you are familiar with the ThinkPad T series you know what to expect design-wise. Some people love the look, others hate it, but it’s definitely well built and durable. The bottom case and internal rollcage are made of magnesium alloy which eliminates flex but keeps things light, combined with its carbon fiber lid it weighs a total 3.5 pounds. Overall the ThinkPad T450s offers first class value for business professionals in the Windows world.

Best Ultraportable

Dell XPS 13 2015 Edition

Great | Differentiating Features
Near bezel-free display, the XPS 13 redefines small and light with a larger screen. Beautiful aluminum and carbon fiber design, outstanding battery life.

Good | Most Have It
Solid performance, QHD + touch screen display upgrade available.

Average | Competitors May Be Better
Webcam is in an odd position, but the tradeoff is worth it. RAM memory is not user upgradeable.

The new Dell XPS 13 received a lot of praise this year, with our own Tim Schiesser calling it the best Windows laptop you can buy. While your opinion may vary depending on what you are after, it’s definitely a top pick as far as ultraportables are concerned. It has a beautiful aluminum and carbon fiber design that feels premium and is surprisingly tough considering the form factor.

But of course, the standout feature of the XPS 13 is its near bezel-free display that looks stunning. You get a 13.3" ultraportable that is the size of an 11-plus inch laptop and weighs just 2.6 lb.

The display itself is great in terms of quality and color reproduction. You can get it either in a non-touch full HD (1920 x 1080) version, or touch-enabled 3200 x 1800. We found that the former was sharp enough and easier on battery life, and the Windows ecosystem’s support of high resolution displays isn’t quite there yet to make this upgrade a top priority.

The keyboard is comfortable to type on despite the size and it’s backlit which is a nice plus. The trackpad needs some work in our opinion, but others like DigitalTrends found it to be smooth and accurate, “almost Mac-like”. Battery lasts a solid 10 - 12 hours and connectivity-wise you get a couple of USB 3.0 ports, a mini Display Port, SD card reader, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Performance is on par with other laptops in this category, meaning it will work fast and smoothly for normal day-to-day tasks but may struggle with more hardware intensive stuff like gaming. Since we last looked at it, Dell updated the XPS 13 with Skylake processors. The base model starts at $800 and comes with an Intel Core i5 6200U chip, but we recommend springing an extra $300 for double the RAM and storage at 8GB and 256GB, respectively.

Best Ultraportable for Mac Users

Apple MacBook Air 13.3" - Early 2015

Great | Differentiating Features
The standard in thin and light. Outstanding battery life. Great performance. Fast storage.

Good | Most Have It
Comfortable backlit keyboard. All-aluminum design still feels current despite no changes in a few years.

Average | Competitors May Be Better
Outdated 1440 x 900 display.

Apple’s MacBook Air has been at the top of our recommendation list for years and it’s commonly credited with revolutionizing lightweight yet dependable laptops. The Air's design has remained almost unchanged since 2010 but even by today's standards its aluminum unibody construction doesn’t feel dated at all. The 2015 MacBook Air is a very good upgrade over last year's model. You get slightly better performance with new Intel Broadwell processors, improved graphics, Thunderbolt 2 connectivity, faster storage and better battery life (around 13 hours).

One area where we do feel the MacBook Air has fallen behind the times is display resolution. Although it’s not a poor quality display, it has less accurate color reproduction than some of its direct competition -- the Dell XPS 13, for example. Also the 1440 x 900 resolution feels lacking, especially when compared to the MacBook Pro range or the newer (and underpowered) 12-inch MacBook. It doesn't help that most tablets and smartphones also have high DPI displays that look way sharper than this.

Aside from that the MacBook Air is a pretty sweet deal. The backlit keyboard is sturdy and comfortable, Apple’s glass trackpads are on a league of their own, and performance is on par or above its similarly priced peers. The integrated Intel HD Graphics 6000 is fairly powerful, too. It’s definitely not a gaming machine but if you are willing to turn down some settings, casual gaming is well within the MacBook Air's reach. As for connectivity, unlike the 12-inch MacBook, which has just one USB-C port, the 13-inch Air has a Thunderbolt 2 (optional adapters for HDMI or DVI available), two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card slot in addition to 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

The 13-inch model starts at $999 but we recommend the step up model for $1,199, which gets you an extremely fast 256GB PCIe SSD. If you can throw in an extra $100 we would also recommend doubling the RAM to 8GB.

Apple is in an odd place when it comes to ultrabooks right now and thus we’re not too confident next year’s Air will get an upgraded display. Instead, it may remain as the company’s entry level machine while the new 12-inch Retina MacBook becomes its premium thin and light model. The latter looks promising but for now in its underpowered first-gen form we aren’t convinced to recommend it as our ultraportable pick for Mac users.

Best Gaming Laptop

Asus ROG G751JY-DH71

Great | Differentiating Features
Nvidia G-Sync support. Excelllent gaming performance, beautiful display, superb cooling system, blazing-fast SSD, excellent build quality, competitively priced.

Good | Most Have It
Customizable keyboard, decent trackpad and speakers.

Average | Competitors May Be Better
Battery life.

The Asus G751JY combines capable gaming hardware with a bright and vivid G-Sync ready 17.3-inch display, full-size backlit keyboard and better build quality than competitors such as the Clevo P157SM-A and MSI GT60 Dominator Pro. Powered by an Intel Core i7 4710HQ, Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPU and 24GB of RAM, the G751JY will play most modern graphics-intensive games on high settings, while support for G-Sync results in a smoother gameplay experience than the Alienware 17. Best of all it’s currently a very good value at ~$1,900, down from its original price of $2,500.

The G751JY’s display is only 1920 x 1080, but you shouldn’t be too worried about that as current graphics hardware isn’t quite there yet for 4K gaming. The keyboard is outstanding, offering great tactile feedback and gamer friendly features such as mappable keys, macro support and customisable backlighting. Its trackpad doesn’t receive as much praise but its large and serviceable -- most gamers will hook up a mouse anyway.

Another notable highlight is that the G751JY scores well when it comes to cooling. For a laptop with such powerful hardware inside, Asus has done a great job keeping heat under control, all in a well designed and relatively portable package that’s more understated than most (only Razer laptops look considerably better) -- as opposed to overdoing the tacky gamer-y accents. It’s still 8.4 pounds heavy and 0.9” at its thickest point, while battery life is a little below the category average at around three and a half hours.

Our recommended configuration comes with a fast 256GB SSD plus a 1TB hard drive for storage. Connectivity-wise you get the full gamut of ports -- four USB 3.0, HDMI, Thunderbolt, Ethernet, VGA, SD card reader -- as well as 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. All in all you’re getting plenty gaming power and features at a better value than the competition.

Best Budget Laptop

Asus Zenbook UX305 / UX305FA

Great | Differentiating Features
Full HD, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD under $700! Stylish, well built, very light. Fanless design makes it completely silent. Excellent battery life.

Good | Most Have It
Decent port selection, included USB Ethernet adapter.

Average | Competitors May Be Better
Not the fastest processor (Core M).

The Asus Zenbook UX305 is a budget laptop that punches above its weight. For $650 you get a modest, passively cooled 800MHz Intel Core M 5Y10 (Broadwell) with HD Graphics 5300, but you don’t need to compromise on other features as you often do for laptops in this category. The matte-finish IPS display is a full 1920 x 1080 -- with an option to upgrade to QHD -- and it looks great. Not the same color accuracy as displays on more expensive laptops, but great nonetheless with decent outdoors performance.

The keyboard is comfortable to type on with enough space between keys and good tactile feedback, though it’s not backlit. It’s no powerhouse but it can handle office/school work without issues. It’s also paired with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD -- two key features that make it very competitive at this price range.

The Asus Zenbook UX305 looks very similar to the MacBook Air, featuring an all-aluminum body that’s under a half-inch thick and weighs only 2.6 pounds. Battery life test results from TechRadar, TrustedReviews and DigitalTrends vary a bit but you should get somewhere around 7 to 9 hours depending on use.

Whereas many ultrabooks have only two USB ports, the UX305 has three, and they’re all USB 3.0. There’s also a full-size SD card reader, microHDMI, and an included USB Ethernet adapter in addition to 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Overall, this is a stylish and well-built ultraportable that packs a lot of bang for the buck if you are willing to compromise a bit on performance.

Best Chromebook

Toshiba Chromebook 2

Great | Differentiating Features
Full HD, best display in this price range. Solid build quality, great keyboard.

Good | Most Have It
Great battery life.

Average | Competitors May Be Better
Chrome OS is a limited platform, but if you know what want and it's not Windows or OS X, then this doesn't have to be a negative.

Chromebooks have been quietly carving out a piece of the market for themselves the past few years. They are inexpensive, lightweight and if your normal usage is basically limited to the browser window then it might be all you need -- or could be good as a barebones secondary machine. Plus, they're basically zero maintenance since there's no need to stay on top of OS, driver or antivirus updates.

The $300 Toshiba Chromebook 2 strikes the best balance between performance and features among its peers. It has 13.3-inch full HD display offering great contrast and color reproduction, and it’s powered by a 1.7-GHz Intel Celeron 3215U processor with 4GB of RAM. It’s fast enough to stream video or music and handle a reasonable number of tabs without experiencing any lag.

It has a 16GB solid state drive and Google adds 100 GB of free Google Drive storage for two years with your purchase. That will come in handy as you’ll be doing most things online, although it’s worth pointing out that there are now offline options for Gmail, Drive, and Play Movies, plus a variety of offline apps available through the Chrome Web Store.

Connectivity-wise you get dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI output, and an SD Card slot. As far as battery is concerned, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 should last up to 8 hours or so -- that’s a little lower than what the Acer Chromebook 13 and Asus C200 can claim, but still enough to get you through the day.

Build quality is good enough for a laptop in this price range. It actually looks and feels more expensive than it is and its silver-with-black-trim body is easy on the eyes. It also has a good keyboard and trackpad and weighs just 2.97 pounds, about the same as a 13-inch MacBook Air, but a bit thicker at 0.76 inches.

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is affordable and while it’s not the cheapest Chromebook out there, it has the best display on a budget laptop while doing most other things good enough. This is the best Chromebook you can buy today without paying an unreasonable amount for a Chromebook Pixel.

Best Hybrid and Honorable Mentions

There is no hybrid choice above and that's because we already made our pick earlier this month with the Best Tablets of 2015. Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 is the best 'true' hybrid by far, although we consider that device to be tablet first and laptop second.

If you simply want a laptop with a touchscreen, both the Dell XPS 13 and the ZenBook UX305 have variants with a touchscreen. Also, Microsoft's recently released Surface Book is a laptop to consider if you are serious about convertibles, however it's very expensive and while good for a first generation product, it's not necessarily better than our picks above.