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.
Best Windows Ultraportable
The new Razer Blade Stealth – the one released in the middle of 2017, not the one released at the end of 2016 – is the best ultraportable you can currently buy. Thanks to some minor tweaks based on community feedback, this newer Blade Stealth nails almost every aspect and presents potential buyers with a lot of bang in a 13-inch package.
The clear standout to the Blade Stealth is its machined metal unibody design, which is on-par with Apple’s MacBooks for aesthetics and build quality. The Stealth seriously looks awesome, combining a slender body with premium materials. It’s also now available in both black with striking green highlights, and a stealthier gunmetal grey, catering for all sorts of users.
The Blade Stealth is only available in one processor configuration, ensuring that you’re getting top-end hardware. The Core i7-7500U is one of the best CPUs available in this form factor, and it’s paired with 16GB of RAM as standard along with at least a 256GB PCIe SSD. If speed is your thing, the Blade Stealth provides it in spades and doesn’t give you an option to compromise.
There’s plenty of other great stuff about this laptop, too. The display is a vibrant 13.3-inch LCD with a resolution of 3200 x 1800, so it’s both higher resolution and flanked by smaller bezels than before. Plus it’s a touchscreen, for the times when touch input makes sense. The Blade Stealth also rocks Thunderbolt 3, which doubles as a charging port, along with two full-sized USB 3.0 ports and a full HDMI 2.0a port. Battery life may not be the best on the market, but it’s still adequate for a day’s worth of use.
At $1,400, the Blade Stealth is a tad on the expensive side, however it does pack better hardware than most ultraportables that fall closer to $1,000, so keep that in mind. We think it’s worth it though, and that’s why it tops our list.
Best Laptop for Most Mac Users
Choosing the best Mac laptop is relatively straightforward. There are only a few options on the market, and the best for your needs largely comes down to whether you want a smaller or larger machine. The 15-inch MacBook Pro is more powerful and correspondingly more expensive, but the 13-inch model is more portable and still highly capable.
There’s also an ultra-slim but weaker 12-inch MacBook for those that want something small. It's a great little machine but we wouldn't recommend it as your primary machine unless you're a casual user -- you know, the kind that could also survive with an iPad as their primary computing device.
After examining all three options, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is best suited to most consumers. It’s the most versatile laptop of the offerings, and essentially replaces the older MacBook Air by providing the power of a dual-core Intel Kaby Lake processors in a chassis just 15mm thick and 1.4kg heavy (3 pounds). It also has a high resolution 2560 x 1600 retina display, which is a feature that never made it to the Air.
The main issue with all MacBook Pros is their price. The base model is an expensive $1,299, and for that price you’re only getting a Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This variant, which comes without Apple’s Touch Bar controls, has a very limited selection of ports as well, just two Thunderbolt 3 ports. As expensive as the Touch Bar models are, we recommend going for at least the $1,799 Touch Bar model, which bumps you up to a more capable Core i7 and four Thunderbolt 3 ports, plus better graphics and more storage.
Want More Power?
The 15-inch MacBook Pro is also a decent option if you are willing to stomach the $2,399 starting price. It’s much more powerful than the 13-inch model, thanks to quad-core Kaby Lake processors and discrete AMD Radeon Pro graphics. The 15-inch Pro is built for high-performance productivity workloads like video editing, which is why 16GB of RAM is also standard.
Convertible laptops, 2-in-1s, hybrids or whatever you want to call them perhaps haven’t been as popular as PC manufacturers and Microsoft would have liked, but there are still some fantastic options available for those that specifically want the functionality they provide. We feel the best convertibles are ones that succeed strongly as a laptop then provide additional tablet-like features, which is why the HP Spectre x360 is currently the best available.
If you didn’t want to use the 360-degree hinged screen, the HP Spectre x360 would still make for a fantastic ultraportable. The metal design is outstanding, particularly the slim bezels to either side of the display, and there’s a good mix of ports with Thunderbolt 3 and full-sized USB both included. The keyboard’s tactile feedback is excellent as well, and while the system is a little cumbersome when folded into a tablet form factor, it can be handy to have the foldable display at times.
As for hardware, it’s a very similar story to most of the laptops, with powerful Kaby Lake processors and plenty of both RAM and storage depending on your configuration option. The display is a quite good 13.3-inch 1080p LCD touchscreen, and battery life is fantastic for its form factor and performance. Despite the fact the design includes a very flexible hinge, no aspects to the hardware have been compromised, which is fantastic to see.
The x360 is very competitively priced, which makes it a great option for those who don’t necessarily want to spend thousands of dollars. The entry-level model slides in around the $950 mark, which is excellent for what you get, and it’s reasonably cheap to upgrade things like the CPU and storage. We’d still recommend the Spectre x360 over other laptops if it were more expensive, but at this price, it’s hard to ignore.
Best for Business
If you’re after something that’s a bit more business-like than either the Razer Blade Stealth or the HP Spectre x360, look no further than the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. In fact if it wasn’t for the outstanding metal design of the Blade Stealth and a slightly smaller footprint, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon might just have made the top of the ultraportable list.
The great thing about the X1 Carbon is, well, just about everything. Depending on your configuration of choice, this laptop can be kitted out with powerful hardware from Intel’s Kaby Lake line, along with loads of RAM and plenty of storage space. The cooling solution is one of the best we’ve seen, running quiet during most use and preventing the hardware from throttling at any point. And one of the most important aspects of any laptop – battery life – is outstanding from such a slim device.
For business users, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is packed with all of Lenovo’s signature features, including the fantastic keyboard with one of the best layouts and tactile feedback on the market, and the excellent trackpad complemented by a directional toggle. While the laptop is too slim for Ethernet, Lenovo includes a Gigabit Ethernet adapter in the box that makes use of a specific proprietary port on the laptop’s edge. The software is bloatware free, Lenovo’s support for ThinkPad devices is first-class, and the design is extremely robust and lightweight.
It’s not overly surprising that Lenovo charges a premium for their business-oriented products like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, so if you don’t require any of the specific features this 14-inch laptop provides, you will most likely find similar hardware at a slightly lower price. High-spec configurations are particularly pricey, though we still think this is the best option out there for those who want a highly portable workstation.
Best Large Ultrabook
If you want a high-performance 15-inch Ultrabook for work on the go, we recommend the Dell XPS 15. Why? Because it packs powerful components and a large 15.6-inch 1080p or 4K display into a package that’s less than 2kg heavy (4.4 pounds) and 17mm thick. Its price is also quite reasonable for the hardware it provides, offering similar specs to the MacBook Pro 15-inch but at more than $500 less.
In typical Dell fashion, you can discount the $999 entry-level model for its poor value. Jump up to at least $1,199, though, and you get a quad-core Intel Core i5-7300HQ, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and best of all, discrete GeForce GTX 1050 graphics. The package is complemented by a generous 97 Wh battery and Dell’s signature InfinityEdge bezel-free display, in this case a 15.6-inch 1080p LCD.
You only have to spend a few hundred dollars more to get better hardware, like a Core i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM (or more) and a 512GB SSD. No matter what configuration you get, though, you’ll still be equipped with an excellent array of ports that includes full-size HDMI, full-size USB and Thunderbolt 3. Those doing work on the go will appreciate having these ports actually included on the laptop itself, reducing the amount of dongles that are required.
One of the reasons we like the XPS 15 so much, aside from its great hardware, is its footprint. Even though this laptop has a 15.6-inch display, it’s closer in size to traditional 14-inch systems. Carrying around traditional 15-inch laptops can be a bit cumbersome, but Dell solves this with their extremely thin-bezel design. With great hardware, a clear design advantage and a fair price, it’s hard to look past the XPS 15.
Best for Gaming
There is no doubting which laptop is currently the best for gaming: it’s the Asus ROG Zephyrus. This machine combines both performance and portability into an ideal 15-inch package, which is why we had no qualms giving it such a high score in our review.
The ROG Zephyrus is equipped with a top-end array of hardware, headlined by a GeForce GTX 1080 with Max-Q. If you’re wondering what Max-Q is, it’s a new set of design guidelines from Nvidia that gives laptop manufacturers the tools they need to pack powerful GTX 1080 GPUs into chassis less than 18mm thick. The Zephyrus is just 17.8mm thick and 2.3kg heavy (about 5 pounds), making it the slimmest GTX 1080 laptop on the market. It’s similar in size to slim GTX 1060 laptops of 2016, but it’s so much more powerful.
In terms of raw numbers, we’re looking at gaming performance almost exactly between traditional GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 laptops. So yes, it’s not quite as fast as beefier GTX 1080 laptops, but it’s worlds slimmer and lighter. The Intel Core i7-7700HQ and 16GB of RAM are perfect for productivity work on the go, while Max-Q ensures the cooler never exceeds 40 dBA – even in games – for an experience quieter than typical gaming laptops. There’s even a 120 Hz 1080p display so you can make the most of high-refresh gaming.
The obvious downside, aside from the awkward placement of the keyboard and trackpad, is the price. The Zephyrus will set you back $2,700, which is certainly more than most typical gaming laptops. However, you have to pay for quality, and the Zephyrus is actually reasonably priced considering the hardware inside.
If you’d rather not spend more than $2,500 on a gaming laptop, there are some other fantastic options available. The Asus ROG GL502VS is still the cheapest GTX 1070 laptop, and while it’s not nearly as portable as the Zephyrus, it provides great performance for 1080p gaming at $1,700. Rather spend more like $1000? The Acer Predator Helios 300 might be what you’re after, with the power of a GTX 1060 inside.
Beefy Budget Laptop or Cool Ultraportable
This laptop has an absolutely ridiculous product name, but the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4 is the best budget laptop you can get right now. For $580, you get a Core i5-7200U processor, a 15.6-inch 1080p display, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and even dedicated GeForce 940MX graphics. That’s a fantastic collection of hardware for such a low price.
Why this laptop in particular? Well, many laptops around the $500 mark only include a hard drive, or pack lower resolution displays. This Acer Aspire machine bucks the trend by including a fairly generous 256GB SSD at this price, plus a 1080p display. It even includes a dedicated GPU, good enough for light gaming, which is a bonus we feel is worth it over other slightly cheaper Aspire E 15 models that don’t include one.
As a budget laptop, naturally there are compromises. The design is very average, and it won’t be winning any awards for slenderness. It’s quite the opposite: the Aspire E 15 is massive, with a large-bezel 15.6-inch display, 30mm thickness, and weight near 2.4 kg. Something portable will cost you about twice as much, so these sorts of laptops are really only for those that want decent hardware first and foremost.
The Aspire E 15 line is filled with decent budget laptops, so if the model we have suggested here isn’t quite suitable, you can find a wide range of other great budget options with a quick search.
Something Nicer, Slimmer Well Under $1,000
The Asus ZenBook UX330UA may be less capable than the Aspire R 15, but it is also more portable at just 2.6 pounds and overall just nicer to carry around. If you're less concerned about performance for your buck, and simply want an inexpensive ultraportable that will handle day to day tasks without much fuss, this Zenbook is a great choice.
For $699, the UX330A gets you an elegant aluminum build, Kaby Lake Core i5 internals, a decent 1080p display, 8 GB DDR3 memory, a backlit keyboard, integrated fingerprint reader, and a somewhat slow but serviceable 256 GB SSD. Reviewers agree that the Zenbook's trackpad could be improved, but something's gotta give when you have a laptop this affordable also offering good battery life.
What About a Chromebook?
We don’t test a lot of Chromebooks here at TechSpot, but understandably you might want to purchase one over a Windows 10 machine if all you use a laptop for is web browsing and other light tasks. At under $500, the Asus Chromebook Flip C302 is what we’d recommend, providing decent performance from its Core m3 processor and strong enough battery life. It also includes a 12.5-inch 1080p display in a respectable chassis, which is not bad for a budget system.