Best Laptops of 2018

Avram Piltch ·
Online Editorial Director
Updated

Whether you're shopping for a sub-$200 laptop for a kid, a lightweight laptop for work or a powerful gaming rig, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. To help you choose, we've listed the best laptops in every major category below, based on our extensive testing, research and comparisons.

 

Best Laptop Overall

Dell XPS 13

If you're looking for the best combination of portability, performance and great design, you'll find it in the Dell XPS 13. Starting at $799 ($999 for the latest model), the XPS 13 weighs a mere 2.7 pounds and measures just 0.46 to 0.6 inches thick (depending on model). It lasts over 12 hours on a charge while delivering amazingly bright, sharp images on a screen that has almost no bezel.
View on Dell.com
US$999@Dell.com
Best Laptop Overall Dell XPS 13
Best Sub-$500 Laptop

Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM)

It's rare to find a laptop with a full HD, 1920 x 1080 screen selling for under $350 and less common to still to see one with this many premium features. In addition its sharp, 15-inch display, the Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) has a 1TB hard drive, a decent 4GB of RAM and a capable Intel Core i3 CPU. If you want more storage or RAM, a bottom panel pops off to allow easy upgrades.
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Best Chromebook

Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA

With its sleek, all-metal chassis, sharp screen and ability to run Android apps, the Flip C302CA offers a truly premium Chromebook experience for under $500. Asus's 12.5-inch convertible is one of the few devices that runs Google's OS on a full HD (1920 x 1080) screen.
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Our Test Results

Product
Price
$1139.25Lenovo
$999.99Dell
$1289Amazon Marketplace
$349Amazon Marketplace
$469.9Amazon
$1399.99Dell
$799microsoftstore
$2259.99Amazon Marketplace
$999.99Dell
OVERALL RATING
10
9
9
8
8
8
8
8
8
Display Size
14
13.3
13.9
15.6
12.5
17.3
12.3
15
15.6
Battery Life (Hours)
11
12.7
12.3
7.8
8.8
8.5
7.5
12.1
8.3
Weight
2.49
2.65
3.05
5.06
2.60
9.60
1.73
4.18
4.60
Size (Thickness)
0.62
0.46
0.55
1.2
0.6
1.2
0.33
0.9
0.45
Display Brightness (Nits)
293
415
284
215
291.8
340
396
417
282
Best Laptop Overall
The razer-thin, Dell XPS 13 has been our favorite consumer laptop for a few years, thanks to its attractive design, gorgeous screen and strong battery life. The latest model, the 9370, offers an even more vibrant display, better sustained performance and a sleek white and gold color scheme.
With the latest Intel 8th Gen Core CPUs and speedy PCIe-NVMe SSDs inside, the XPS 13 offers powerful performance in a very thin design with a new cooling system. Thunderbolt 3 ports on the outside let you connect to eGPUs and other high-speed peripherals to boost your performance. We also still recommend the slightly-older XPS 13 9360, which has the same Intel 8th Gen Core CPU options, but it's a little bit thicker and doesn't have the new cooling system. However, it does offer a full suite of ports, including a USB Type-A connector and over two hours of additional endurance.
Pros
  • Long battery life
  • Stunning, InfinityEdge display
  • Lightweight, attractive design
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Latest (9370) model lacks USB Type-A ports
  • Webcam looks up your nose.
US$999Dell.com
Read the full review
Best Sub-$500 Laptop
For under $350, this 15-inch laptop comes with a vibrant 1080p display, a solid Core i3 CPU, a 1TB hard drive and strong build quality. The Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) also comes with a DVD writer and a ton of ports.
The E 15 is one of the few laptops you can buy that still comes with a built-in DVD burner. It also packs in a plethora of ports, including USB Type-C, Type-A, VGA, Ethernet and HDMI connections. Despite the laptop's budget price, the Aspire E 15's screen can reproduce over 150 percent of the sRGB color gamut. This system also lasts over 8 hours on a charge. At 4.97 pounds, this laptop isn't particularly light, but it makes a great family or student PC that you keep within the home or the dorm.
Pros
  • Great price
  • Colorful, sharp screen
  • Long battery life
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Can't charge over USB Type-C
  • Grainy webcam
$349Amazon
Read the full review
Best Chromebook
This premium 2-in-1 runs Google's browser-centric operating system in style, with an all-metal chassis and a bright, 1080p touch screen. The Chromebook Flip C302CA weighs just 2.6 pounds and lasts nearly 9 hours on a charge. Best of all, it can run Android apps.
While unimpressive in a Windows PC, its Intel Core m processor is a big step up from the Celeron and Pentium CPUs in most Chromebooks. The 2.6-pound 2-in-1 has a generous 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. Its keys provide a deep 1.6 millimeters of travel while its touch screen provides plenty of swiping real estate. The Flip lasts over 8 hours on a charge, which means that you can use it through an entire work or school day.
Pros
  • Sharp display
  • Premium design
  • Good performance
Cons
  • No USB Type-A ports
$485Amazon
Read the full review
Best Value
If you want a premium Ultrabook, but can't afford to spend $1,000 or more, the ZenBook UX330UA is made for you. This 13-inch, 2.7-pound laptop costs less than $750, but finds room for an Intel 8th Gen Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and an aluminum chassis. Its 1920 x 1080 display reproduces a strong 105 percent of sRGB color gamut and emits a luminous 302 nits of brightness.
The ZenBook UX330UA offers a strong typing experience, though its touchpad is a little bit stiff. The laptop also provides powerful audio output, with clear bass, vocals and percussion. Asus's laptop also has a good selection of ports, including USB TYpe-A, USB Type-C and a memory card reader. The laptop lasts nearly 9 hours on a charge and offers strong performance. College students or anyone on a budget will find a lot to like in the Asus ZenBook UX330UA.
Pros
  • Bright, vibrant screen
  • Light weight
  • Above-average battery life
Cons
  • Stiff touchpad
  • Can't charge over USB Type-C
  • Fuzz webcam
$749.00Amazon
Read the full review
Best 2-in-1
With a quad-core, Intel 8th Gen Core i7 CPU and over 12 hours of battery life, the Yoga 920 offers impressive speed and endurance. However, we're even more enamored with this convertible's vibrant 13.9-inch display, which is available in both 1080p and 4K resolutions.
The included active stylus makes drawing or taking notes a breeze. A wide selection of ports ensures that you can connect to both Thunderbolt 3 and standard USB devices. At just 3.05 pounds, this 2-in-1 is easy to carry. However, the Yoga 920's biggest selling point could be its stunning design. The watchband-style hinge adds a level of elegance you won't find on other convertibles and the optional, bronze color is truly an eye opener.
Pros
  • Long battery life
  • Bright, colorful display
  • Attractive design
Cons
  • Shallow keyboard
$1199Lenovo
Read the full review
Best Gaming Laptop
An absolute gaming beast, the Alienware 17 R4 shreds both standard 2D games and VR titles, thanks to its optional Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics chip and overclockable Intel 7th Generation Core i7 CPU.
At 9.6 pounds and 1.2 inches thick, the Alienware 17 isn't made to balance on your lap. But its combination of high-style, gorgeous display and powerful performance make it the best mobile gaming rig around. Alienware's intergalactic aesthetic makes it stand out in a crowd. Customizable RGB lights on the deck, keyboard, touchpad and sides provide added excitement. The comfy keyboard has a deep 2.3 millimeters of travel and a soft touch deck cradles your wrists as you type.
Pros
  • Great performance
  • Sharp, colorful display
  • Attractive design
Cons
  • Bottom gets warm
  • Dim display on base model
$1599Dell
Read the full review
Best Business Laptop
Whether you're toiling away for a large corporation or just trying to get some work done at home, the X1 Carbon is the ultimate productivity laptop. This 2.49-pound Ultrabook has a sleek, carbon fiber chassis, fast performance, long battery life and a beautiful 14-inch display.
The X1 Carbon's snappy, deep keyboard is its best feature. Combined with a soft-touch deck, the responsive keys will make you a faster and more efficient typist. The accurate TrackPoint and touchpad make navigation a pleasure. No matter which of its three screen options you choose, you'll get an extremely bright and colorful panel. However, the high-end, 2K HDR screen is one of the best we've seen on any laptop, providing nearly 500 nits of brightness and covering close to 200 percent of the sRGB color gamut. When you carry the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you don't have to worry about battery life. In our tests, the laptop lasted over 11 hours on a charge.
Pros
  • Long battery life
  • Worldclass keyboard
  • Bright, colorful display
Cons
  • Tinny audio
  • Expensive
$1519Lenovo
Read the full review
Best Laptop for Kids
Young kids may be able to grasp complex topics like reading, math and surfing the web, but most have problems holding onto their hardware. Asus's convertible Chromebook is practically indestructible; our review unit survived 3.9-foot drops onto concrete with only minor scratches to show for it.
Because kids need more than just a device that won't break, the Chromebook Flip C213SA provides more than adequate performance and the ability to run Android apps. Its 11.6-inch screen flips back so they can run it in tablet mode. Young typists will appreciate the C213SA's snappy keyboard, which provides the kind of feedback we normally see on professional productivity laptops. Asus's convertible lasts over 11 hours on a charge which is more than enough for school and after-school activities.
Pros
  • Sharp screen
  • Gorgeous design
  • Great keyboard and pen
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Below-average battery life
  • No USB Type-C port
$307Amazon
Read the full review
Best Detachable
When you want a 2-in-1 that's a tablet first and foremost, there's no match for Microsoft's Surface Pro. This 12.3-inch detachable has a brilliant, 2736 x 1824 screen and a gorgeous magnesium chassis with the best kickstand in the business.
Though you have to pay $129 extra for it, the Surface Pro's Type Cover is a must-have, thanks to its snappy keys and light weight. The optional Surface Pen makes the tablet ideal for drawing or note-taking. The Surface Pro's main drawbacks are its modest battery life (under 8 hours) and the relatively high price you'll pay to get it with solid specs such as a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
Pros
  • Sharp screen
  • Gorgeous design
  • Great keyboard and pen
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Below-average battery life
  • No USB Type-C port
$699Amazon
Read the full review
Best Photo / Video Editing Laptop
Creative professionals will find a lot to like about the 15-inch version of Microsoft's Surface Book 2. Starting at $2,399, this powerful 2-in-1 has GTX 1060 graphics, an 8th Gen Core i7 CPU and a razor-sharp display.
While other laptops with similar specs also provide the performance necessary to edit 4K videos or create 3D animations, they're all clamshells. With the Surface Book 2, you can edit a high-res clip using Adobe Premiere when you're attached to its dock and then pop off the screen so you can sketch a quick drawing while you stand in line. The Surface Book 2 is also the first Microsoft device to provide a USB Type-C port so you can connect to a variety of new peripherals. When connected to its keyboard, this laptop lasts over 12 hours on a charge.
Pros
  • Great performance
  • Unique detachable design
  • Long battery life
Cons
  • Expensive
  • No Thunderbolt 3 port
$2499Best Buy
Read the full review
Best 15-inch Laptop
If you want a powerful, attractive 15-inch laptop for productivity, photo editing or media viewing, the XPS 15 is made for you. Starting at $999, this laptop combines the soft-touch carbon-fiber deck and thin bezel of the XPS 13 with a more powerful CPU, discrete graphics and a larger display.
The laptop's optional 4K display can reproduce an awesome 188 percent of the sRGB color gamut while registering a solid 282 nits of brightness. Its 45-watt Intel H series processor provides much stronger performance than the U series CPU in its smaller sibling while its Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics make it a legitimate content creation machine.
$999Dell.com
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

Laptop Mag has been testing and reviewing laptops for over two decades. We test over 200 different models per year, subjecting each system to a series of rigorous benchmarks that provides a complete picture of performance, battery life and usability.

 
Our expert reviewers also use each product to see how it looks and feels in everyday situations. Because we see so many different notebooks, we can compare each to its direct competitors and give you an idea of how it stacks up to the average laptop in its price band.

How We Test Laptops

When we bring a laptop into our laboratory, our goal is to see how it would work if you brought it into your home or office. While we use a number of industry standard benchmarks such as Geekbench and 3DMark, we focus heavily on real-world tests that we have developed in-house.


To test endurance, the Laptop Mag Battery test surfs the web at 150 nits of brightness until the system runs out of juice. To judge pure processing power, we use a giant spreadsheet macro that matches 65,000 names with their addresses, a video transcoder that converts a 4K video to 1080p and the Geekbench 4 synthetic test. We measure graphics prowess with both 3DMark Ice Storm / Fire Strike and a series of actual game titles. 


We use a colorimeter to measure screen brightness and color gamut while other instruments help us determine a laptop's key travel and ambient heat.  See this page on How We Test Laptops for more details on our benchmarking procedures.

How to Find the Right Laptop

When shopping for a laptop, there's a lot to consider. To help you choose a system, we've put our up-to-date list of favorite notebooks above, along with five points to keep in mind when choosing a system.

Budget: What you get for the money.

You can find good cheap Windows laptops and high-quality Chromebooks for under $500. However, better mainstream laptops usually cost more than $700 and premium Ultrabooks can run over $1,000. The best gaming laptops can cost $2.000 and up, but you can play the latest titles at decent frame rates on gaming laptops under $1,000.

Screen Size: 12 to 14 inches for Portability

Knowing a laptop's screen size tells you a lot about its portability overall. If you want to use your computer on your lap or carry it around a lot, go for one with a 12, 13 or 14-inch display. If you want to use the computer on tables and desks and won't carry it around much, a 15-inch model may give you more value. Some gaming rigs, media machines and workstations even have 17 or 18-inch screens, but those are hardest to carry.

2-in-1 or Clamshell?

More and more of today's laptops are 2-in-1s with screens that either bend back 360 degrees or detach so you can use them as tablets. If you like the idea of using your laptop in slate mode for drawing, media consumption or just using it standing up, a 2-in-1 could be for you. However, you can often get better features or a lower price by going with a traditional clamshell-style laptop.

Battery Life: 8+ Hours for Portability

Unless you only plan to use your laptop on your desk, battery life matters. Even within the home or office, having plenty of juice enables you to work on the couch or at the conference table, without being chained to the nearest outlet. For the best portability, we recommend getting a laptop that lasted over 8 hours on the Laptop Mag Battery Test. The longest-lasting laptops endure for over 10 hours.

Specs: 1080p / Core i5 / 8GB Are Best Bets

You can spend a lot of time delving into specs, but here are the key components to think about. If you just want really good mainstream performance, go for a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1080p screen.

  • Screen Resolution: Unfortunately, 66 percent of consumer laptops and 51 percent of business systems have low-res screens. If at all possible, get a display with a 1920 x 1080 (aka 1080p or full HD) or higher resolution.
  • CPU: An Intel Core i5 provides good mainstream performance. Some budget systems will come with Core i3, Celeron or Pentium CPUs which are good enough for basic tasks, but not heavy mutltiasking. Get a Core i7 or a quad core processor (serial number ends in HQ or HK) for gaming or high-end productivity tasks such as video editing and 3D modeling.
  • RAM: 8GB is ideal for most users. 4GB is acceptable for budget systems. Secondary laptops and Chromebooks may have less.
  • Storage: Unless you're a gamer or a power user, 256GB of internal storage is probably enough. If at all possible, get an SSD (Solid State Drive) rather than a hard drive, because it's going to make your entire computer a lot faster.
  • Graphics Chip: Gamers and creative professionals need to do some research and figure out which discrete GPU is good enough to run their favorite software. Everyone else will be happy with the built-in Intel HD Graphics that come on the CPU.

If you want to learn more about buying a laptop, check out our full Laptop Buying Guide. Gamers should read our Gaming Laptop Buying Guide and list of Best Gaming Laptops.