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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 sought out to pick the very best portable computer for you.
Buying Forecast for Winter 2020: The first full week of January is the Consumer Electronics Show—where major laptop makers like Dell, Lenovo, Acer, and Asus show off all the laptops they plan to release later this year. If the laptop you’re interested in came out in 2019, do a quick search to see if a 2020 refresh is imminent. It probably is! A great example is our top-ranked laptop overall—the Dell XPS 13—which just got a new revamp due out on January 7th which includes faster CPUs, smaller bezels, and a claimed battery life of up to 19 hours on a single charge.
CES is also where companies like AMD, Intel, and Nvidia announce faster and better components for laptops. If you want to avoid buyer’s remorse in a few weeks, it’s a good time to wait and check out what’s coming soon.
The one company that won’t be announcing any big laptop news at CES is Apple. Apple just released its 16-inch MacBook Pro in November, so it’s a good time to buy if you’re in the mood for a big, powerful system for content creators for graphics professionals. But people wanting a smaller MacBook should wait to see what the next few months bring.
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 new 16-inch MacBook Pro. It’s the largest and priciest Apple laptop available, but also the fastest and carrying the best upgrades to the line in half a decade. If you want big and Windows we’re also major fans of the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3. The new laptop from Microsoft has a solid GPU and is good for the price, it’s also got a huge screen but none of the annoying weight you expect from a 15-inch laptop. 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.
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.
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.
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.
A person who just needs the internet. No muss. No fuss.
Out pick: Asus Chromebook Flip C434 ($509)
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.
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 7. 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 7 yet, but we quite liked the 5. We’re also a fan of Apple’s latest iPads—though we don’t think they’re quite ready to replace a laptop yet.
1/3/2019: We added a recommendation of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 for best all-around laptop. We removed the Surface Pro 6 and added the Surface Pro 7 as a suggested laptop for people in search of a 2-in-1.
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.