Best & Worst Laptop Brands
Whether you're buying a car, a washing machine or a computer, brands matter. That's why, each year, we evaluate the leading laptop brands to determine which provide the best products and support. While even the lowest-ranked companies offer some quality laptops and the top brands have a few less-than-perfect entries, it's important to know about the manufacturer when you're considering your purchase.
This year, Apple and Dell maintained their positions as the No. 1 and No. 2 rated brands, respectively, while Asus jumped up from seventh place to third, based on some very strong products. By the same token, HP fell from third to sixth, due to a series of mediocre laptops, not much innovation and weak support.
Apple remains our top brand for the seventh year in a row, thanks to its combination of best-in-class laptops and industry-leading tech support. The Cupertino, California-based company also received top scores for its powerful preloaded software and convenient warranty coverage that lets you either mail in a defective product or bring it to a store for service.
For the second consecutive year, Dell is the best PC (i.e., non-Apple) laptop vendor — and No. 2 overall — because of its strong laptop lineup and helpful warranty. The company offers the widest array of laptops, ranging from low-cost Windows systems and Chromebooks to high-end gaming rigs. The XPS 13 is our favorite notebook overall.
Asus climbed the ranks to third place this year because of its attractive, well-built products. Thanks to high-quality laptops like the Asus ZenBook UX305, the Taiwanese manufacturer took third place in the Reviews category. The brand also scored high for value, thanks to aggressively priced products like the Asus F555LA, a sub-$400 laptop with a 1080p screen.
How We Rate Brands
To evaluate the brands, we assign each company a score on a 100-point scale. The scores are broken down into seven categories: Design, Reviews, Tech Support, Warranty, Software, Innovation, and Value and Selection. Here's what each means:
Design (15 points): We absolutely will judge a notebook by its cover — and its sides, deck, bezel and base. Though no two notebooks look exactly the same, each brand has a design language that cuts across its product lines. We look at not only aesthetics but also the materials used and overall build quality.
Reviews (30 points): The most important aspect of any brand is the quality of its products. To determine a company's Reviews category score, we used the ratings we gave its laptops between Feb. 1, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016. We added up the number of stars each laptop received (Laptop Mag grades on a scale of 1 to 5), add a point for every Editors' Choice award and count ratings below 3 stars, which we consider "not recommended," as minus 1. We then divide the score by the number of laptops we reviewed and multiply by 5 to reach our total out of 30 points.
Tech Support (20 points): When you buy a laptop, you want to know that the manufacturer is going to stand behind it and help you with technical problems. We base this score on the ratings from our annual Tech Support Showdown, where we go undercover and pose questions to all of the companies, using their phone, Web and social channels. To reach our score out of 15 points, we divided the last Tech Support Showdown rating, which is out of 100, by 5.
Warranty (5 points): If something goes wrong with your laptop, how easy will it be to get it serviced? Most companies offer a standard one-year warranty; but some make you pay for shipping when you send in a product for repairs, whereas others absorb the cost. The best brands also allow you to upgrade your RAM and storage drive, without voiding their warranties.
Software (5 points): Most laptops come with a few first-party utilities, and many come with at least some bloatware. We give points for providing useful applications and steering clear of unwanted preloaded software.
Innovation (10 points): The laptop 2-in-1 market is moving fast, and if you stand still, you'll get rolled over. For the Innovation category, we award points based on the brand's ability to move the market forward by implementing or developing new technologies.
Value and Selection (15 points): Which market segments does the manufacturer address, and do the products provide a good bang for your buck? For this category, we award points for having a wide range of laptop types (budget, business, gaming, etc.) and for providing aggressive pricing. Providing the ability to configure your own system online is another plus.