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 Laptop

Dell XPS 13 - Late 2016

Our favorite Windows laptop has already been upgraded to Intel's 7th generation Kaby Lake processors and comes packing a slightly larger battery. The standout feature of the Dell XPS 13 is of course its near bezel-free display and solid construction that allows the 13-inch panel fit a slick metal and carbon fiber chassis that would normally house a 12" laptop.

The XPS 13 comes in three variants, packing either the Core i3-7100U, Core i5-7200U, or Core i7-7500U — all of which are 15W low-power parts with respectable performance, on par with other laptops in this category, and efficiency gains over Skylake. You can get it either with a non-touch full HD (1920 x 1080) screen, or a touch-enabled 3200 x 1800 res panel. Both are great but the former is easier on battery life and less expensive, so that’s something you’ll want to consider.

Dell claims the 2016 XPS 13 boasts up to 22 hours of battery life if you opt for the 1080p panel, or about 13 hours with the QHD+ variant. In real world tests neither LaptopMag nor Notebook Check were able to squeeze those numbers, but both saw an improvement over last year’s model, which was already one of the longest-lasting ultraportables on the market. The XPS 13 also compared favorably against the Asus UX306UA, Apple MacBook, and HP Spectre.

The only other notable change in this year’s model is the switch from Intel and Dell wireless controllers to a solution from Rivet Networks. Elsewhere there's a single Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C port, up to 1 TB PCIe solid state drives, and up to 16 GB of memory. Dell has kept the same keyboard, which is backlit and comfortable to type on, as well as its soft-touch deck and competent touchpad. The webcam is still in a weird place, but overall, the XPS 13 remains the laptop to beat.

The Dell XPS 13 starts at $799, but we don't think that configuration gives you the most bang for your buck, so we recommend stepping up to a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD for $999, or get the roomier 256GB SSD for a total of $1,149.

Two great alternatives

The sleek HP Spectre is a solid contender to the Dell XPS 13. It's a bit thinner and lighter, has an excellent keyboard, a decent trackpad, a bright, color-accurate screen and can be configured with similar specs for roughly the same price. It doesn't have the thin bezel, battery life or port selection to match our main pick, but it's definitely among the best Windows ultraportables in the market right now.

HP also offers a convertible version of the Spectre, it's not as svelte but it can flip back 360 degrees to turn from laptop to a tablet of sorts. The Spectre x360 was recently updated with new Kaby Lake processors plus an edge-to-edge display and a thinner, lighter design. It has similar specs to those of the XPS 13 and Spectre but costs a little less and has a stronger focus on its 2-in-1 nature.

Best Laptop for Most Mac Users

Apple MacBook Pro 13" - Late 2016

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. But as revolutionary as it once was, it doesn't appear to fit in Apple's future anymore, given the lack of meaningful upgrades since early 2015 and the deliberate decision to keep its display outdated while everything else has moved on to high-DPI retina panels.

If a super-thin and lightweight laptop is your top priority, the 12-inch MacBook is one way to go. But if power and versatility are more important, the brand new 13-inch MacBook Pro is the modern drop-in replacement for the Air. It weights about the same (~3 pounds), but receives a proper 2560 x 1600 display and performance upgrades that the aging Air has been in desperate need of.

The MacBook Pro 13", sans fancy Touch Bar, does not come cheap at $1,499. It sports just two USB ports for external connectivity, and these are of the USB-C variety, so you’ll have to rely on adapters to connect your existing peripherals. Its base configuration includes a 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-6360 processor with Iris Graphics 540, 8GB memory, and a 256GB PCIe SSD. The combination produces respectable performance that's above than what both the MacBook and MacBook Air can offer and on par with competing Windows ultrabooks. Apple continues its recent tradition of shipping really fast storage with its laptops and the new MacBook Pro is no exception.

Battery life is pretty good, coming close to achieve Apple’s claimed 10 hours. Other upgrades over the previous generation MacBook Pro include an oversized trackpad and a redesigned keyboard that uses the flatter keys that were first introduced in the MacBook.

For an extra $300 you can get a slight performance bump, two additional USB-C ports, and the all-new Touch Bar. We can't call this an essential upgrade for most, especially because of how expensive the laptop gets (bringing total cost to $1,800), and while the Touch Bar sure brings some novelty into the equation, its true utility remains to be seen.

Best Windows Workstation

Lenovo ThinkPad T460s

Business notebooks offer a combination of mid- to high-end components, but with an emphasis on durability, long battery life and increased security features that aren't normally found in mainstream consumer laptops. The venerable ThinkPad T series has long been a favorite in this segment and for good reason.

The latest models include the 14-inch T460, the slimmer T460s, the performance-focused T460p, and the 15-inch T560. They all offer similar configuration options with slight variations, but we particularly like the “s” variant for power users and business buyers who need a fine balance of power and mobility. At 3.1 pounds and with a tapered shape ranging from 0.67 to 0.74 inch thick, the T460s is 0.8 pounds lighter and 0.09 inches thinner than last year’s impressive ThinkPad T450s, while still managing to deliver outstanding performance with enough ports for a full business-class PC experience.

As with almost all ThinkPads, the T460s includes both a standard touchpad and a classic red TrackPoint in the middle of the keyboard. Dedicated left, right and center buttons are located above the touchpad. Its spill-resistant island-style keyboard delivers an almost identical look and feel as the previous T450s, which is to say it offers comfortable spacing, gently cupped keys, excellent tactile and audible feedback and just the right amount of travel. It also features a gentle white backlight, with two brightness levels, that glows through the characters so you can type in the dark.

The base model starts at $980 featuring a high-quality IPS display with a 1920x1080 resolution (157 PPI), an Intel Core i5-6200U processor, 4GB DDR4, and a 128 GB SATA 3 SSD. But configuration options are plenty. For about $1,650 you can upgrade to an Intel Core i7-6600U, WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS non-touch display, 12GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256 GB PCIe SSD.

Unfortunately, the new ThinkPad T460s only manages its impressive weight loss by dropping its predecessor’s best-in-class battery life. The battery on the ThinkPad T460s is still good for about 7 hours of use, but can’t be configured with a larger 6-cell unit and the battery is no longer swappable. Despite this trade-off, all told, the ThinkPad T460s is a successful revamp of an already excellent laptop.

Bulkier But Beefier Hardware

The T460s offers enough performance for most office workers, but if you need more powerful 45W Intel Core i5 or i7 quad core processors and discrete graphics the Dell XPS 15 offers a little more flexibility for people with more demanding processing requirements without adding much bulk.

A $1,400 configuration gets you a Core i7-6700HQ quad core processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB PCIe SSD, GeForce GTX 960M graphics, a 15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge panel and 56 WHr 3-Cell Lithium-Ion Battery. For an additional $250 there's the option for a 4K display and a larger battery.

Best macOS Workstation

Apple MacBook Pro 15" - Late 2016

The MacBook Pro has undergone its biggest redesign in years with an all-metal design that's 15.5 millimeters thin, weighting in at just 4 pounds. There’s a new oversized trackpad, a redesigned keyboard, upgraded specs, all Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports (four of them), Touch ID and an OLED touch strip dubbed 'Touch Bar' that replaces the function key row and shows contextual shortcut buttons based on the app you are using.

Reviewers are still undecided about the latter — some see it as gimmicky and others see the potential as long as developers start supporting it. Touch ID on the other hand is definitely a nice addition to the Mac, as logins are faster than entering a password, and it also enables quick Apple Pay purchases.

The new MacBook Pro 15" comes with Intel Skylake Core i5 and Core i7 processors, Intel Iris + Radeon Pro graphics, fast SSD storage and a new cooling system. The display is 67% brighter and shows 25% more color than Apple’s previous generation Pro laptop, while battery life is quoted at 10 hours — though tests show it’s actually closer to about 7 hours for normal use. The 15-inch MacBook Pro will set you back at least $2,399 for a quad-core 2.6 GHz Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, and discrete Radeon Pro 450 graphics.

There’s been a ton of controversy surrounding the new MacBook Pros, specifically with Apple’s design decisions and its vision for the popular laptop family versus the actual needs of pro users. Many things have been said about the decision to make the notebooks incredibly thin at the expense of expandability and battery life, or dropping MagSafe and the SD card reader (but keeping the 3.5mm headphone jack it considered too legacy for the iPhone), and the fact that because all the ports are USB-C now you’ll have to deal with a bunch of dongles to hook up all your peripherals.

At the end of the day if you are invested into the Apple ecosystem, chances are you are not considering a Windows alternative to the MacBook Pro... you’ve already made a platform choice.

These are valid concerns, though Apple defends those decisions as a way to take the lineup a step forward. Even Phil Schiller went on record saying that “the result is the best notebook ever made, but it might not be right for everyone on day one.” This is a sort of transition device and a bet on a standard I/O across the board. Not everyone is ready to endure the inconveniences this will present.

At the end of the day if you are invested into the Apple ecosystem, chances are you are not considering a Windows alternative to the MacBook Pro... you’ve already made a platform choice. And in that scenario if you are in the market for a new workstation you choices are to either wait it out at least a generation — which is a sensible way to go if your current MacBook is 2-3 years old — or go ahead and be an early adopter knowing what that entails right now.

The new MacBook Pro is a great laptop. The hardware is excellent and so is macOS, but it may be a year or two too early for it to fully deliver on the vision of portability mixed with enough processing power for all kinds Pro users (no RAM option above 16GB, for example), one port to rule them all and a peripheral ecosystem that doesn’t require a separate bag for carrying adapters.

Best Portable Gaming Laptop

Razer Blade 14 - 2016

Razer is certainly one of the more fascinating manufacturers when it comes to gaming machines, despite only entering the market a short few years ago. The Blade strikes a blend of portability and power in a chassis that anyone would be proud to own, with a level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that isn’t very common among its peers.

The Razer Blade released in early 2016 was already an excellent contender for anyone looking for a sleek and lightweight gaming notebook, however with the arrival of Nvidia Pascal GPUs, that's become a must-have spec for any prospective gaming laptop purchase. So with a recent upgrade to a GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card the Razer Blade becomes an easy pick.

It has a beautiful, high-resolution display, a stunning chassis that’s just 4.5 pounds with a profile that’s thinner than a dime standing on its side, Thunderbolt 3 with USB Type-C connector, and can support an external desktop GPU via Razer Core. The updated Blade packs 50% more punch than the previous generation GTX 970M, which is enough to hit 60 fps on most games at 1080p with quality settings cranked up. The most demanding titles of today will require some tweaks, but overall the GTX 1060 will provide a great gaming experience.

The Blade starts at $1,799 for the 14” Full HD (1920 x 1080) matte display option and $2,099 if you opt for the QHD+ (3200 x 1800) IGZO panel. It comes standard with a Skylake Core i7-6700HQ processor with Intel HD Graphics 530, 16GB of DDR4 dual-channel memory, the aforementioned GTX 1060, 256GB SSD, a colorful full-size Chroma keyboard and 70 watt-hour battery.

Comparable Specs For Less

While the 2016 Razer Blade is our favorite thin and light gaming laptop it does carry a bit of a premium for its gorgeous design and build quality. For about $150 to $300 less you can get similar specs in the 14-inch MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro with few compromises, such as inferior cooling, a poor quality ELAN trackpad (although most gamers will hook up their own mouse) and a little more bulk.

Best Gaming Powerhouse

Asus ROG G752VS

Asus has been building great gaming laptops as part of their ROG lineup, and with the arrival of Nvidia’s GeForce 10 series we’re seeing desktop-class performance that blows the previous generation out of the water. The Asus G752VS combines capable gaming hardware with a bright and vivid G-Sync ready 17.3-inch display, full-size backlit keyboard, and solid build quality with gamer-style accents — which we’re not big fans of, frankly.

The laptop is powered by an Intel Core i7-6820HK, which is around 25% faster than the i7-6700HQ we typically see in gaming laptops, helped along by a small factory overclock. You also get 32GB of overclocked DDR4 RAM, an NVME PCIe SSD, a 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive, and a GeForce GTX 1070 that packs nearly double the performance of the GTX 980M, and 30% more than the (desktop) GTX 980.

The 17.3-inch 1080p 75 Hz IPS panel is well suited to gaming. While not particularly sharp at this size, it allows you to crank the settings to the maximum in most games, usually delivering well north of 60 fps, and when it doesn't, the gaming experience will remain smooth thanks to G-Sync. If you want a desktop-like gaming experience in a laptop, the GTX 1070 in the G752VS provides this without compromise.

This is a seriously powerful machine and its $2,399 price reflects it. But the G752VS is also functional. There’s a removable panel on the bottom for user-replaceable components such as the RAM and storage. There’s a good selection of ports, including four USB 3.0, a single Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, Ethernet, and HDMI 2.0. And the keyboard is decent thanks to a good layout, extra macro keys and backlighting.

GTX 1080, Less Than an Inch Thick

If you can stretch your budget to get the absolute best in terms of specs and design, the latest Razer Blade Pro manages to squeeze in the GeForce GTX 1080 into a 0.88-inch thick CNC aluminum chassis. That's a serious upgrade in graphics horsepower without increasing the laptop's overall thickness, but it will cost you a hefty $3,700 (!).

The laptop also features a Core i7-6700HQ CPU replacing the Haswell processor in the outgoing model, up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM, up to a 2TB PCIe SSD, and a 17.3-inch 3840x2160 IGZO IPS touch screen display with 100% Adobe RGB coverage, and G-Sync support for silky smooth frame rates while gaming.

An Affordable, Lighter Option

The Asus ROG GL502VS packs the same Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 as our main pick at a more palatable $1,650 price point. It includes a 15.6-inch 1080p display with G-Sync support, a Core i7-­6700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a combination of 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD plus a 1TB HDD for storage. You don't get the same large battery, display quality and cooling system, but overall it is a great value on a considerably thinner/lighter system that doesn't require too many sacrifices.

Best Budget Laptop

Asus Zenbook UX305

The Asus ZenBook UX305 was our budget ultraportable pick last year and Asus has barely altered the formula for the 2016 model. That’s a good thing as this machine packs a remarkable ratio of components and build quality to price. It's super thin at less than 13mm, and reasonably light at 3 pounds.

The most notable difference is the CPU, which is upgraded to Intel's Skylake Core m3-6Y30 and it is still passively cooled for silent operation. The matte-finish IPS display is 1920 x 1080 -- with an option to upgrade to QHD -- but it looks good 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. The UX305 is not meant to be a 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 in the $700 price range.

Although we'd have liked to see USB-C on the UX305, it’s still good to see three USB 3.0 ports, whereas many ultrabooks have only two. 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.

Do note Asus has most recently released a follow up model, the Zenbook UX306, comes standard with a Core i7 6500U processor and a price tag slightly over $1,000. For that price, we'd pick the Dell XPS 13 instead, while the UX305 released in early 2016 remains a better value at $750.

That's Not Budget, Give Me Budget!

The Acer Aspire E5-575G isn't going to win any design awards but its a serviceable laptop that covers all the essentials along with a few extras that are usually outside its price range. For $550 you get a Core i5-6200U processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, a 1080p screen and discrete GTX 940MX graphics. Build quality is adequate for a budget laptop, although it's notably heavier and bulkier than our main pick. It has a decent keyboard and trackpad, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1, and a good array of ports that includes Gigabit Ethernet, one USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, and an SD slot.

Best Chromebook

Dell Chromebook 13 7310

Chromebooks have been quietly carving out a piece of the market for themselves over the past few years. They are relatively inexpensive, lightweight and if most of what you do happens within the browser window then a Chromebook might be all you need. They are also great as affordable, barebones secondary machines. Plus, they're basically zero maintenance since there's no need to stay on top of OS, driver, or antivirus updates.

The Dell Chromebook 13 is a bit on the expensive side for Chromebook standards but makes up for it with class leading 11-hour battery life and build quality that rises above the competition. It also has one of the best keyboards found in any Chromebook.

Measuring between 0.5 and 0.8 inch thick and weighing in at 3.23 pounds, the Dell Chromebook is portable though a bit chunkier than some of its peers. The body is a combination of magnesium alloy on the keyboard tray and aluminum underneath, while the lid is wrapped in a soft-touch, carbon fiber weave coating that feels great. It has 13.3-inch 1080p IPS screen with a matte coating, 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. In terms of connectivity and ports you get HDMI, USB 3.0, a microSD card slot for expanded storage, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

If you are looking for a cheap Chromebook to couch surf from time to time, the Acer Chromebook 14 is a good choice for less than $300, but for a full time Chrome OS laptop, the Dell is worth the extra cash.