Just a few years ago, pundits were declaring the death of the PC, no thanks to the introduction of the original iPad in 2010. Fortunately for PC makers and users, that never happened. In fact, Microsoft managed to circumvent the criticisms of the often detested Windows 8 with Windows 8.1 and, later on, Windows 10.
A newly beloved operating system, paired with the best graphics cards and processors from companies like AMD, Nvidia and Intel, revived personal computing back from the dead. Laptops in particular were destined to thrive, albeit with a greater swath of form-factors to choose from. Thin, light and stylish budget notebooks, like the HP Chromebook 13 now make laptops much more affordable for those unfazed by the latest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air offerings.
Even so, higher end, traditional laptop offerings remain for laborious activities such as high-end multimedia rendering and gaming. Meanwhile, you might consider an Ultrabook if you’re drawn more to the idea of lengthy battery lives, fanless designs and light word processing. 2-in-1 laptops, on the other hand, make life easier by acting as both notebooks and tablets.
In the end, finding a laptop that suits your needs doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it’s here that we’ve gathered the best laptops money can buy, narrowing them down to a list of 15 for your convenience.
1. Dell XPS 13
Dell’s latest Ultrabook is a masterpiece ahead of the curve
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 – Intel Iris Graphics 540 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FH (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
Gorgeous bezel-less display
Lightweight, compact frame
Small frame limits battery life
The Dell XPS 13 is, bar none, the best laptop you can buy today. It features a revolutionary design that’s astonishingly thin and light. Fitting a 13.3-inch screen into an 11-inch frame is no small feat; however, Dell has pulled off a miracle creating a nearly borderless Infinity display. It’s a powerful and long lasting machine even by today’s Ultrabook standards. The XPS 13 comes outfitted with Intel’s latest Skylake processors plus lighting, quick storage and memory, all while coming in at a very affordable starting price. For these reasons, it easily takes the top slot as the best Ultrabook, the best Windows laptop and the best overall laptop.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
2. Asus ZenBook UX305
Better than the MacBook and at a fraction of the price
CPU: Intel Core Intel Core M3-6Y30 – M7-6Y75 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3200 x 1800) IPS display | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
Incredibly thin and light
Vibrant, glare-free screen
Weak sauce graphics
If you’re looking for a Windows alternative to Apple’s latest rose-tinted MacBook, the Asus ZenBook UX305 might be more your speed. Though it looks like a MacBook clone from every angle, it’s actually superior in almost every way. From its purple-tinged aluminum design to its sharp display and hearty helping of built-in storage space, the UX305 puts Windows back in style, fanless design, long battery life and all. And, while the low-cost is enticing, if you’re shopping for something with a bit more horsepower (not to mention an even more compact design), look no further than the Asus ZenBook 3.
Read the full review: Asus ZenBook UX305
3. Toshiba Chromebook 2
One of the best looking and most powerful Chromebooks
CPU: Intel Celeron – Core i3-5015U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics – HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,090 | Storage: 16GB eMMC
Gorgeous 1080p screen
Core i3 power
Annoying screen glare
A bit pricey
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is the best pick if you’re looking for a sharp screen and fast machine negating the hassle of Windows. Instead, you’re greeted by the familiar browsing experience of Chrome OS tucked behind a sleek, 1080p display. Powered by an almost unnecessary Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM, we wouldn’t blame you for chasing the lower-end Celeron SKU. Either way, though, you’re in for a treat as Toshiba’s 13-inch Chromebook 2 is one of the best in its class, featuring performance that just about matches the Chromebook Pixel 2.
Read the full review: Toshiba Chromebook 2
4. 13-inch MacBook Air
Light and faster than ever
CPU: Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, LED-backlit glossy display (1,440 x 900) | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
Excellent battery life
When you’re looking for something with rock solid reliability, there’s always the MacBook Air. Although the latest iteration sticks to its guns with a dated design and low-resolution screen, the Air isn’t showing any signs of slowing down on the performance front. Thanks to a capable CPU, this thin and light machine can handle everything from simple web browsing to serious number crunching and even some light gaming. Sure the New MacBook is lighter and thinner, but it does not come with the Air’s spread of full-sized ports nor a 13 hour battery life to last you though an entire day.
Waiting for the MacBook Air 2016 upgrade? It may be right around the corner.
Read the full review: 13-inch MacBook Air (early 2015)
5. Samsung Notebook 9
Greatness doesn’t need to break the bank
CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED anti-reflective display | Storage: 256GB
Nearly perfect display
Micro-sized video ports
Short battery life
The Samsung Notebook 9 may not be the flashiest title on the list, but at $949 it does offer more bang for the buck than you’ll see in most laptops. That’s because unlike much of the competition now, it’s an Ultrabook with a full-fledged Core i5 Skylake processor. That alone makes it effectively more powerful than a MacBook Air with a better screen resolution and price point to boot. On the downside, it’s the battery life that takes a hit as a result.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9
6. Surface Book
The ultimate Windows 10 hybrid laptop
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD graphics 520 – Nvidia GeForce graphics | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 3,000 x 2,000 PixelSense Display | Storage: 128GB – 256GB PCIe3.0 SSD
Seamless tablet separation
Battery life falls well below promises
Major updates are still in tow
If you’re looking for a more traditional notebook, Microsoft knocked it out of the park with its first laptop ever, the Surface Book. Though it has a peculiar 3:2 aspect ratio and 13.5-inch screen that’s outside of the norm for most Ultrabooks, it’s one of the best designed convertible laptops ever created. As a standalone tablet, otherwise known as the Clipboard, it’s the most powerful and thinnest Windows 10 computers in the world. Then docking the screen into the keyboard base affords it even more performance by way of a discrete GPU.
Read the full review: Surface Book
7. HP Spectre
Thin, powerful and delightfully chic
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB LPDDR3 SDRAM | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS UWVA WLED | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
Tasteful glitz and glam
Below average battery life
One glance at the HP Spectre, and you’d think it belongs in a mansion. What you may be surprised to discover is that not only does it boast a premium appearance, but the HP Spectre is actually more powerful than the latest MacBook and for a lower price at that.
From the beautifully designed gold hinge to the optional Intel Core i7 configuration to the trio of USB-C ports, you’ll not only look like you have one of the most capable (not to mention future-proof) laptops around, but you actually will. Although it only boasts a 1080p screen , that criticism is trumped by a work of supreme industrial design.
Read the full review: HP Spectre
8. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
Premium build, affordable price point
CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX (2GB DDR3L); Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 12GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel | Storage: 1 TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD
Graphics narrowly miss the mark
If you’ve ever wanted a MacBook Pro without selling a kidney to afford it, the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin not only delivers the style and glitz of Apple’s professional-level laptops, but it even adds a touchscreen to the mix for an approachable starting price. For a hefty 2-in-1 with a Core i7 CPU, 12GB of RAM and even a discrete Nvidia GPU, the Samsung Notebook 7 provides top of the line specs considering its value. But why stop there?
Samsung even went as far as to include an HDR display despite offering only a 1080p resolution. Though not many services actually support the technology (yet), some argue that it’s more essential than a higher resolution anyway. Deeper blacks, more vibrant color – the works.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
9. HP Spectre x360
Thinner, sexier and faster than ever
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) IPS UWVA-backlit multi-touch | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
Long-lasting and quick charging battery
Lacks SD card reader
Especially thick bottom bezel
HP has nailed its 2016 revision to the Spectre x360, and thanks in part to Kaby Lake, it brings an assortment of new goodies to the table that were previously absent. The battery life, for instance, now exceeds the 8-hour mark, while multi-core processing and low to mid-level graphics have seen dramatic improvements as well. Not only has the battery improved, but so too has the time required to charge the device: USB-C quick charging can see the HP Spectre x360 go from zero to 90 in just 90 minutes. That said, don’t expect more than a single standard USB port on the x360, as we’re faced with yet another effort towards USB-C, this time with a 2-to-1 ratio techies will love despite the inconvenience for most other folks.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360
10. MacBook (2016)
CPU: Intel Core m3 – m5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 12-inch, 2304 x 1,440 LED-backlit IPS display | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
Surprisingly good speakers
Processor is still slow
High cost for low performance
Apple has updated its most attractive laptop yet with an Intel Skylake Core M processor. Still clocking in at 1.1GHz to start, the 2016 MacBook aims at those who don’t need power as much as portability and pizazz. The stylish, aluminum unibody design and the Retina display are all back, too. Aside from a 3.5mm headphone jack, the only connector port remains USB-C, though the reversible interface has gained traction since last year’s debut. If you’re willing to lug cable adapters and take a performance hit in the name of stellar design, the brand new, appetizing Rose Gold finish might be just for you.
Read the full review: MacBook
11. Lenovo Yoga 900
A thoughtfully refined 2-in-1 convertible
CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6560U | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 540 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch QHD+ 3,200 x 1,800 IPS display | Storage: 512GB – 1TB SSD
Display drivers issues
Whereas the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 had a winning design and underwhelming performance, the Yoga 900 is the full package. By integrating more powerful Intel Core i-series processors and a larger battery, Lenovo’s latest flagship convertible can stand toe-to-toe with most Ultrabooks and even Microsoft’s latest Surface Book. All this extra power has only made the Yoga 900 slightly thicker and heavier, however, it still largely retains a very thin and flexible frame for folding back into tablet mode. And, for those looking for the thinnest and lightest convertible machine, Lenovo has made an even more compact Yoga 900S.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 900
12. MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display
Robust and stunning, the MacBook Pro is as good as old reliable
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch IPS, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
Superb battery life
Underdeveloped Force Touch
The MacBook Pro is a tried and true road warrior. Whether you’re a student, graphic designer, desk jockey, photographer, DJ or a simple everyday user, this is one of the most versatile and best laptops ever made. Along with delivering great performance and amazing battery life, this latest MacBook Pro comes with Apple’s new fangled Force Touch trackpad giving you access to more gesture commands. It’s an even more enticing option when you add up all the bundled freebies including office programs and software upgrades.
If you can wait a month or so, though, the rumor mill suggests a MacBook Pro 2016 revision is in the works.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display (early 2015)
13. HP Spectre x2
A budget Windows tablet filled to the gills with tech
CPU: Intel Core m5 – m7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 12-inch, 1,920 x 1,280 WUXGA+ IPS WLED-backlit touchscreen | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
Exceptional Core M performance
While the Surface Pro 4 has established itself as one of the very best Windows 10 tablets in the market, the HP Spectre x2 is another standout device that comes at a very attractive price. This Intel Core M-powered 12-inch tablet is a smidge thinner while offering long battery life. Aesthetically, the Spectre x2 feels like an even more premium device with a solid metal body and stylish bar-shaped kickstand. It also comes jam packed with tech including a quadruple speakers and a total of three cameras – that said, if you’re looking for the best stylus experience, the Surface Pro 4 still takes the cake.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x2
14. HP Chromebook 14
A fun, bright and affordable Chromebook
CPU: 1.83GHz Intel Celeron N2940 processor | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4GB DDR3 | Screen: 14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display | Storage: 16GB eMMC
Excellent keyboard and trackpad
Crisp, vivid screen
Not as powerful as some higher-end Chromebooks
Average battery life
With a 14-inch screen, this HP Chromebook isn’t the smallest or lightest Chrome OS device out there. However, it strikes a good balance between ample screen space and portability. A top-notch keyboard and trackpad, coupled with a great screen, makes the Chromebook 14 a joy to write and browse the web on for very little money at all. On the other hand, if you’re willing to shell out a bit more for an aluminum design and upgraded performance, HP’s Chromebook 13 might be more your style.
Read the full review: HP Chromebook 14
15. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga
A 2-in-1 made for enterprise
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 14-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS touchscreen | Storage: 180GB – 512GB NVMe SSD
Battery life is disappointing
Historically, Lenovo has made itself known for its premium class of business-grade laptops. That continues to be the case with the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, the performance-stacked 2-in-1 complete with a 2,560 x 1,440 (OLED optional) display that’s admittedly difficult to look away from. Though the absence of USB-C is questionable, as is the inclusion of Windows 10 Home in favor of Pro, its 14-inch screen is uncommon enough to keep professionals enticed. Unfortunately, the battery life, which we recorded in our review as a mere 3 hours 29 minutes, is the most concerning factor here. Have you an outlet nearby, though, and that concern is easily mollified.
Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article