Best Laptops of 2019

Sherri L. Smith ·
Editor
Updated

Whether you're shopping for a sub-$200 laptop, a lightweight laptop for work and play, a 2-in-1 laptop or a powerful gaming rig, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. To help you choose, we've picked the best laptops for 2019 in every major category, based on our extensive testing, research and comparisons.

Looking for something a bit more specific? We've got guides to the best gaming laptops, best college laptops and best business laptops as well as Chromebooks and 2-in-1s. And if you need something that can last a really long time, check out our roundup of the best laptops with the longest battery life. And creatives should check out our recommendations on laptops for photographers and video editors.

And be sure to check out our deals pages for the best prices on Laptops including Chromebooks and Gaming notebooks including Dell and Lenovo systems.

Here are the best laptops to buy right now.

Updated August 23: We've reviewed the new  13-inch MacBook Pro for 2019, which landed on our best pick list. And be sure to check out the HP Envy 13t our pick for best college laptop and the Razer Blade Pro 17 which earned 4 stars. And don't forget our coverage of Intel's new 10th Gen processors, Ice Lake and Comet Lake.

Best Laptops

Best Laptop Overall
1. Dell XPS 13 (2019)
The Dell XPS 13 serves up a new color, a powerful Intel Whiskey Lake processor, a 4K display (and ditches the ridiculous "nosecam") - all in a slim, lightweight chassis.
View on Dell.com
Best Laptop Under $500
2. Acer Aspire 5 (Core i3, 2019)
The Acer Aspire 5 features strong Core i3 performance, a bright, 1080 display and long battery life -- all for a cheap price.
View on Amazon
Best Apple Laptop
3. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch
The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro delivers the best combination of speed, battery life and display quality for the most reasonable price.
View on Newegg
Best Laptop Overall
The new Dell XPS 13 is a gorgeous thin and light laptop with great performance.
The best laptop just got even better. Not only did Dell outfit the 2019 XPS 13 with a new Intel Whiskey Lake processor, but it also fixed one of the most annoying flaws of its predecessor. No longer does its webcam point up your nose, as Dell's engineers found a way to fit its webcam in a still-small top bezel. While the 4K model we tested offered lower battery life than some may need, we expect longer endurance on the model with a 1080p display.
Pros
  • Slim, lightweight design
  • Strong performance
  • Gorgeous 4K display
  • InfinityEdge bezels with properly placed webcam
Cons
  • Below-average battery life
$899.99Dell.com
Read the full review
Best Laptop Under $500
The Acer Aspire 5 features strong Core i3 performance, a bright, 1080 display and long battery life -- all for a cheap price.
The Aspire 5 is an excellent budget laptop. It features great performance for the price, a display that's brighter than most cheap laptops, and it'll survive longer than your average workday. Despite its sub-$500 price, the laptop still delivers a premium aluminum chassis, a comfortable keyboard and an entry-level discrete graphics chip for more intensive tasks. Despite the laptop's budget price, the Aspire 5 outperformed the category average in display brightness, performance, file transfer and battery average -- all in a slim, lightweight chassis.
Pros
  • Strong performance
  • Long battery life
  • Bright, 1080p display
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Middling graphics
  • Questionable build quality
$428.00Amazon
Read the full review
Best Apple Laptop
The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro delivers the best combination of speed, battery life and display quality for the most reasonable price.
The new MacBook Pro 13-inch packs a much faster 8th Gen Intel Core CPU and both Touch ID and the Touch Bar. And while the keyboard still isn't great, Apple has introduced minor enhancements that will (hopefully) make it more reliable. Add in more than 10 hours of battery life and you have the best Apple laptop for most people -- at least those who want a future-proof system. For the price, you get a much faster processor, brighter display and considerably longer battery life for your money.
Pros
  • Great battery life
  • Very fast performance
  • Bright and colorful display
  • Powerful speakers
  • Touch ID is convenient
Cons
  • Keyboard has shallow travel
  • Just two Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Thick bezels
$1499Newegg
Read the full review
Best Chromebook
If you want a Chromebook that's also convertible, the Asus Chromebook C434 is a fantastic option.
With a larger display, longer battery life and stronger performance, the new Asus Chromebook Flip C434 is one of the best Chromebooks we've ever tested. The 2-in-1 has a sleek, aluminum chassis and a panel that is both vivid and bright. Thanks to its Intel Core m3-8100Y processor, it's a reliable multitasker when combined with ChromeOS. And with over 9 hours and 58 minutes of battery life, this laptop can transition from work to play with ease.
Pros
  • Sleek, premium design
  • Thin display bezels
  • Vivid, 14-inch touch screen
  • Long battery life
Cons
  • Finicky touchpad
  • A tad pricey
$569.99Amazon
Read the full review
Best Laptop for College
Huawei's 14-inch MateBook D packs a solid AMD processor and touch-screen display into a sleek aluminum body for an affordable $629. This MacBook doppelganger also boasts long battery life, a comfortable keyboard and a pair of decent speakers. Its AMD processor and GPU performed well on our tests and also offers a solid keyboard. Its premium build and performance belies its affordable price.
Pros
  • Aluminum chassis
  • Very good graphics performance
  • Punchy keyboard
  • Long battery life
Cons
  • MacBook-look-alike design
  • Display could be brighter
  • Grainy webcam
$799.00HP Store
Read the full review
Best 2-in-1 Laptop
With faceted edges and chamfered corners, the 2019 HP Spectre x360's elegant design is fit for a king. But this ultraportable 2-in-1's brilliance isn't just skin deep. With a vivid display, a comfortable keyboard and fast performance, there is very little we don't like about the 13-inch Spectre x360. But perhaps the best thing about this XPS 13-killer is its outstanding battery life of more than 12 hours.
Pros
  • Luxurious design
  • Long battery life
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Vivid 1080p display
  • Clear speakers
Cons
  • Display could be brighter
  • Bezels are a bit thick
  • Bloatware
$1099Best Buy
Read the full review
Best Gaming Laptop
Sporting a new look and the first-ever design that enables upgradeable graphics Alienware is ready to take its place as the king of semi-mobile gaming. The Area-51m doesn't look like anything we've ever seen from the brand. Armed with a desktop Intel Core i9 processor and one of Nvidia's superpowered RTX GPUs, it absolutely demolished every test we put in front of it with graceful aplomb. It's Alienware's first true desktop replacement and the most powerful and upgradeable laptop we've reviewed to date.
Pros
  • Stunning space station aesthetic
  • Excellent graphics and overall performance
  • Lightning fast SSDs
  • All major components upgradable
Cons
  • Exorbitantly expensive
$2549.99Dell
Read the full review
Best Business Laptop
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
  • Eye-popping HDR display
  • Long battery life
  • Best-in-class keyboard
  • Lightweight
  • Attractive design
Cons
  • Tinny audio
  • Mediocre webcam
$750.00Amazon
Read the full review
Best Laptop for Kids
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
  • Flexible and durable design
  • Long battery life
  • Touch-screen display
  • Good sound
Cons
  • Average performance
  • Poor cameras
$331.73Walmart
Read the full review
Best Detachable
The king of 2-in-1 detachables just got even better. Not only does the Surface Pro 6 last 2 hours longer than its predecessor, but it also boasts faster performance thanks to its 8th-gen quad-core processor. All of those gains are tied together in an elegant matte black design with a bright and colorful 2736 x 1824 display with smooth Surface Pen functionality for drawing and taking notes.
Pros
  • Fast quad-core performance
  • Excellent battery life
  • Bright and colorful display
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Silky-smooth pen input
Cons
  • Still no USB-C/Thunderbolt ports
  • 256GB option is pricey and a bit sluggish
$698.95Amazon
Read the full review
Best Photo / Video Editing Laptop
Apple updated its 15-inch MacBook Pro with faster 9th Gen Intel processors, making it the fastest MacBook ever. In addition you get all-day battery life, with loud, warm audio, and a bright, colorful and sharp display. Throw in some seriously fast SSDs and you’ve got a system just waiting to help you create your next masterpiece. It's blindingly fast and with its improved Butterfly-switches and over 10 hours of battery life, it's also a good system to get some work done.
Pros
  • Superior speed, Sharp, colorful display, Powerful sound, Lots of battery life
Cons
  • Price starts high and gets crazy expensive, Still uses 'Butterfly' keyboard, No USB Type-A ports
$2399Apple
Read the full review
Best 15-inch Laptop
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.
Pros
  • Beautiful display
  • Clear audio
  • Solid battery life
  • Strong performance
Cons
  • Webcam looks up your nose
$979Dell.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.