We’ve reviewed a ton of laptops and played around with even more. Whether you’re looking for a cheap device or a powerful gaming machine, we’ve combed through our archive to pick the very best portable computer for you.
Buying Forecast for Summer/Fall 2019: While it might seem like the perfect time to buy a laptop for the person headed off to college, this is generally a not great time to buy a general-use laptop. IFA is the first week in September the large European consumer tech show often features a whole lot of new laptops. Intel is also expected to fully launch its latest 10th generation of laptop CPUs around IFA, which means laptops you really like now could be getting a major performance boost very soon like that gorgeous XPS 13 2-in-1 Dell promised in May. If you’re looking to buy a big gaming laptop you’ll probably be okay, but all other people looking to buy a laptop should exercise caution, and wait for refreshes and the huge markdown current laptops will get.
The best all-around laptop
Who are you?
A person who just wants a really good laptop that balances power, price, and design so well you won’t have buyer’s remorse.
Our pick: Dell XPS 13 9380 ($900 - $1,660)
The Dell XPS 13 has always been a fantastic laptop with a great design, some of the thinnest bezels around, and a wide range of builds that allow you to find the perfect laptop for the price you’re willing to pay. Yet the newest iteration, with a smaller 1080p webcam at the top of the display instead of at the bottom, is perhaps the best yet. This laptop will never be confused for an Apple one like our previous pick, and some people might find the blend of aluminum, glass, and carbon fiber garish. Most people will feel just fine, especially if they opt for the $1,200 iteration with a non-touch 1080p display, 256GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, and an i5-8265U CPU. We’d love Dell to provide larger storage or more RAM, but this is still a dang fine deal.
If you’d prefer a Mac we suggest the updated MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, which we found to be the fastest 13-inch laptop we’ve tested, regardless of operating system, and if you really can’t stand the look of the Dell, and don’t mind the various legal battles Huawei is mired in, then the Matebook X Pro is also available.
The good-enough laptop
Who are you?
A person who mostly uses a computer to browse the web, watch some movies, and edits the occasional photo in Lightroom or Photoshop. You don’t want the performance of a budget machine, but don’t mind compromising a little on design or other features.
Our pick: HP Envy 13 ($750-$1,160)
Usually the cheaper the laptop, the heavier and uglier it might be. Not so with the HP Envy 13. HP’s 13-inch device starts at $750 but has a fast enough 8th-gen U-series processor from Intel, plenty of storage, and more style than anything else in the price range. The battery life isn’t quite as good as we would want, but with maxed out specs the HP Envy 13 includes a powerful Nvidia MX250 GPU and 16GB of RAM, making it every bit as nice as more expensive products.
Lenovo’s Yoga 700 series might lack the polish of HP’s Envy, and the 13-inch version doesn’t offer a powerful discrete graphics card upgrade. However, the Yoga 700 series also starts at just $709 for a 15-inch and $760 for a 13-inch. Between the low price and an estimated 10 hours of battery life, it’s a compelling choice for people who prefer better battery life and lower cost to power and style.
The best cheap laptop
Who are you?
Price is the most important consideration when it comes to buying a laptop. You want to pay as little as possible without sacrificing everything.
Our pick: Microsoft Surface Go ($400-$680 without keyboard)
Okay, the Surface Go isn’t the most practical laptop available: It’s definitely a 2-in-1 that converts from tablet to laptop with the use of a keyboard cover, but there is no other device at this price range that will have the same fit and finish as the Surface Go. Windows 10 has also been modified to perform a little better on the slow Pentium 4415Y CPU it and many other $500 and under laptops use.
The Surface Go starts at $400 for 64GB of SSD and 4GB of RAM, but the $550 version with 128GB of SSD and 8GB of RAM is the better buy. Unfortunately, you’ll also have to factor in $120 for the keyboard cover, which brings the price to $680.
If you absolutely need something cheaper we’ve examined the lineup of devices for under $500 here, though we recommend spending $500 or less only as a last resort.
The best laptop for gaming (and work)
Who are you?
A power user who needs extra graphics performance for gaming or some other specialized task.
Our pick: Razer Blade ($1,600-$2400)
It’s a challenge to find a laptop that can crunch video, while also handling games, and lasting more than a couple of hours on a charge. We found the 15-inch Razer Blade up to the task. Its battery life is superior to any other gamer or workstation with discrete graphics that we tried out, and it’s both fast and slim enough that you won’t hate carrying it around in a bag.
It is expensive though. All that performance in a decently small chassis starts at $1,600 for an i7, 16GB of RAM, 128GB of SSD, and a Nvidia 1060 GPU. If you want a more powerful Nvidia 1070 and 256GB of SSD, the price jumps to $2,400.
And if you really want power, and don’t mind lugging around an enormous beast of a laptop with less battery life, then we recommend MSI’s GS75. It starts as low as $2,100 and comes with Nvidia’s newer, and more powerful 20-series of GPUs.
The Best Chromebook
Who are you?
A person who just needs the internet. No muss. No fuss.
Out pick: Asus Chromebook Flip C434 ($570)
In July we asked every major Chromebook maker to send us their best device under $600. The Asus Chromebook Flip C434 was out absolute favorite of the bunch. It’s only $570 but feels like a much more expensive product, and with super-thin bezels around its 14-inch display, you’re bound to forget the early and uglier days of Chromebooks. The Acer didn’t have the best battery life or fastest performance, but it always came in second or third place. That makes it a great all-around device and one we’d happily slot into our book bag.
The more expensive $1,000 Pixelbook is just too pricey for a Chrome OS device, but you can frequently find it for much less than $1,000 both on Google’s store and Amazon. If you can find it for $850 or less, it’s a fantastic deal. Otherwise, we’d recommend the $450 Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1 if you don’t mind an 11-inch display. Its price and 13 hours and 13 minutes of battery life really impressed us.
Who are you?
A person who really wants a computer that can switch between laptop and tablet and back again.
Our pick: Lenovo Yoga c930 ($1400-$1860)
If you really need to be able to draw all over your laptop and then write a few thousand words, the Lenovo Yoga c930 is the best around. Starting at $1,400 for an i5, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage, the c930 is not cheap, but its hinge, with the speaker built right in, and the garage on the back for the stylus make this the most thoughtful laptop with a touch display.
If you’re drawing or designing more than you’re browsing or writing then forget the Yoga c930 and consider the Surface Pro 6. It’s a tablet-first 2-in-1 which means the experience of typing on your actual lap isn’t ideal, but it should be great for drawing and playing touch-based games like Gwent. We haven’t reviewed the 6 yet, but we quite liked the 5. We’re also a fan of Apple’s latest iPads. With Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for iPadOS, as well as the more productivity-focused iPadOS 13 just around the corner, this might finally be the year the iPad goes toe to toe with the best Windows 2-in-1s.
How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:
8/27/2019: We replaced the Lenovo 700 series with the HP Envy 13 (Best good-enough laptop), and the Samsung Chromebook Plus v2 with the Asus Chromebook Flip C434 (best chromebook.
3/8/2019: We’ve replaced the Huawei Matebook X with the Dell XPS 13.