Best Laptops 2014

Choosing a laptop for yourself is difficult enough; picking one out as a gift is even harder. Finding the best notebook can feel overwhelming when you're staring at a sea of brands and specs, and the various deals offered around the holidays make matters even more confusing.

Whether it's for you or someone else, there are a few questions you can ask that will help narrow down your choices. How much are you willing to spend? What will it be used for? And how often will it leave the house? Most consumers opt for a notebook with a 15-inch screen. But if portability is important, you'll want a 13- or 14-inch laptop that weighs less than 5 pounds. And if you want a machine for serious gaming, you'll likely prefer a beefier system with powerful discrete graphics.

We put each notebook we review through a bevy of tests that not only measure its performance, but answer the questions that matter most. Does the laptop have a comfortable keyboard? Is the screen colorful or washed out? And does the touchpad work reliably? The notebooks listed below all meet or exceed our requirements, making them the best in their respective categories. 

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Best Laptop Overall: Apple MacBook Air (13 inch)

With a lightweight, 3-pound aluminum frame and blazing fast flash storage, the MacBook Air 13-inch is equal parts performance and portability. The killer feature is the Air's long battery life. This ultraportable lasted more than 12 hours on the Laptop Mag Battery Test. Throw in a comfortable keyboard, industry-leading touchpad and a reasonable sub-$1000 price tag and you have the best laptop on the market today.

Starting Price: $949

MORE: Why the MacBook Air is the Best Laptop You Can Buy 

Best Chromebook: Toshiba CB35-A3120 Chromebook 2

If you want a lightweight, stylish laptop that's easy to use and tote around, the new $329 Toshiba Chromebook 2 is a solid choice. Running Chrome OS smoothly, it lets you check emails, stream music, watch videos and browse the Internet on a stunning 1080p, IPS screen that makes it look like you should have paid much more for this Chromebook. The Chromebook 2 also packs an Intel Celeron processor, strong Skullycandy-tuned speakers and will offer nearly 8 hours of battery life on a single charge -- all at a great value.

Starting Price: $329

Toshiba Chromebook 2 Review

Best Gaming Laptop: Alienware 17 (2014)

The Alienware 17 is now more powerful and just as menacingly beautiful. Alienware's gaming notebook has received some significant upgrades, including a faster Core i7 processor and a blazing Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M GPU. The laptop's rich 1080p display and bevy of keyboard lighting effects continue to impress, as well as the excellent audio system. Among all gaming laptops, the Alienware 17 offers the best combination of design, audio and pure power.

Starting Price: $1,499

Alienware 17 Review

Best Windows Laptop / Ultrabook: Dell XPS 13

One of the fastest ultraportables is also one of the best looking. The lid on this 3.3-pound, 13-inch ultraportable is a sleek aluminum, but turn it over, and you're treated to a slick carbon fiber case. Inside is a soft-touch deck that's comfortable on your palms, and a bright and crisp 1080p display. With a Haswell processor and a 128GB SSD, the XPS 13 is powerful enough for any task, and its 8.5-hour battery life will see you through the day. Those looking for a svelte and sexy ultraportable that also hustles will love this Ultrabook.

Starting Price: $1,049

Dell XPS 13 Review

Best Laptop/Tablet: Asus Transformer Book T100TAM

An update to one of the best 2-in-1 bargains around, the ASUS Transformer Book T100TAM builds on the success of the Transformer Book T100 by delivering a more premium metal design and faster quad-core Intel Bay Trail processor. Like its predecessor, the T100TAM includes a keyboard dock that offers strong tactile feedback, which comes in handy for working with the included copy of Microsoft Office. The original T100 lasted more than 12 hours on our battery test, so you should expect similar all-day endurance from this refresh.

Starting Price: $374

Asus Transformer Book T100 (original model) Review

Best Cheap Laptop: Acer Aspire E1-572-510P

Touchscreen notebooks have never been more affordable, and the Acer Aspire E1-510P delivers a lot for its modes $450 price. You get a vivid 15-inch touch display, a responsive keyboard, and a capable Intel Celeron quad-core processor with 8GB of RAM. Although the 5.5 hours of battery life isn't the longest runtime in this price range, overall the Aspire E1 is a very good value.

Starting Price: $450

Acer Aspire E1-572-510P Review

Best Business Laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad T440s

Lenovo's ThinkPad T series line of business laptops have long been known for their powerful performance, long battery life and superior usability. The 14-inch ThinkPad T440s builds on that rich tradition, offering a gorgeous, 1920 x 1080-pixel touch screen; a durable, MIL-SPEC-tested design; and the most responsive keyboard on the market. With more than 14 hours of endurance with the extended battery, this lightweight powerhouse lets you get your work done in style, anywhere at any time.

Starting Price: $1049

Lenovo ThinkPad T440s Review

Best Battery Life Laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad X240

Have an 18-hour flight to Asia coming up? No problem, if you've got the 12.5-inch Lenovo ThinkPad X240. With its extended battery, this 3.6-pound business system lasts more than 20 hours on a charge -- the longest of any laptop on the market. With an optional 1080p touch screen, responsive keyboard, accurate TrackPoint pointing stick and speedy performance, the ThinkPad X240 helps you make the most of all those minutes.

Starting Price: $860

Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Review

Best Home Laptop: Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W

A multimedia-firendly laptop and tablet in one, the Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W converts with a simple flip of its 15-inch display. In addition to a colorful, full HD screen, this 2-in-1 boasts booming harman/kardon speakers for making the most of those Netflix binge sessions. We also like the sturdy aluminum lid and comfortable keyboard. The Radius P55W boasts a great combination of speed (thanks to its Core i7 CPU) and long battery life, lasting nearly 7 hours on our test.

Starting Price: $899

Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W Review

Best Small Laptop: Dell Inspiron 11 3000

The Inspiron 11 3000 provides a compelling combination of portability and affordability. Not only does this 11-inch system -- starting at $399 -- come wrapped in an attractive silver chassis, but it weighs just over 3 pounds. Plus, the screen folds back on itself, converting this clamshell into a tablet. An Intel N-series CPU, 4GB of RAM and 500 GB hard drive make it more than competent for surfing the Web, writing papers, and checking up on email. Its 6-hour battery life should keep you up and running while away from an outlet.

Starting Price; $399

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Review

Best Video Editing Laptop: Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display

Apple's refreshed 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is ideal for graphics professionals or anyone who needs a notebook with equal doses of speed and endurance. This 4.5-pound juggernaut packs Intel's latest quad-core Core i7 processor, blazing PCIe solid state storage and Nvidia GT750M graphics, making quick work of any task-or multiple tasks at once. Plus, you still get an eye-popping 2880 x 1800-pixel display. With the 15-inch MacBook Pro, your high-res videos and photos will look fantastic, and you can edit and transcode in the blink of an eye. Add about 9 hours of battery life and you have the best mobile workstation money can buy.

Starting Price: $1,999

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display Review