We live in a world where smartphones are ubiquitous, tablets are commonplace and even smartwatches are no longer new. But during all these developments, the modest laptop has persisted, and with good reason. When it's time to really get things done – whether it's editing photos, writing a lot of emails, compiling documents, or keeping in touch with colleagues and family – the laptop is often the ideal device for the job.
That does not mean that there has been no progress in the world of laptops or notebook computers. We are no longer dealing with inch-plus-thick clunkers that weigh more than seven pounds and are less than two hours away from a power outlet. The modern laptop is lightweight, slim, efficient, easily portable and powerful enough to handle most computer tasks.
What separates a good laptop from a good one is how to balance power, efficiency, portability and comfort. It must have a fantastic keyboard and trackpad – after all, those are the two main reasons why you would prefer a laptop to a smartphone or tablet. The display should be easy on the eyes, clear and sharp enough not to be distracted by jagged edges and visible pixels. It must be powerful enough for almost everything except intensive video editing and advanced gaming. It must be easy to carry from place to place, and it must last all day without having to be connected. It must increasingly have a touchscreen to offer more flexibility in how you can communicate with the laptop.
Naming "the best laptop" is different from naming the best phone or tablet. The needs for laptops can vary greatly. Some people have to perform intensive video editing and have to play bangs for a professional machine. Others only need a reliable keyboard and a few windows, so a little less power is sufficient. Some may want a super-light laptop that can sometimes be used as a tablet. Some want a portable gaming machine that is capable of running the latest titles. Here we are talking about the best all-round product: a traditional laptop that works well and does most things for most people, and even extends to occasionally perform more intensive tasks.
There are lots of great options in the Windows PC world, complete with the latest processors and designs, but Apple & # 39; s MacBook line-up has been plagued by keyboard reliability issues, making it hard to enthusiastically recommend. But if you are planning to buy a macOS laptop for reasons of fame or compatibility, we also have a choice for you.
This manual does not include gaming laptops; if you are looking for that, we have a separate manual for that. This article is constantly updated when new laptops are released and reviewed, so be sure to come back if you are not currently on the market.
The XPS 13 from Dell is the best overall laptop currently available. It has a very compact and portable design, a reliable keyboard, a great trackpad, excellent performance and a wide range of configurations in different price ranges. It can handle almost any kind of productivity work you need to do, whether it's taking notes throughout the day or puncturing emails at the office. It can also handle photo editing and even some light video editing from time to time.
Dell has been using the same design on the XPS 13 for years, so it is probably quite familiar. But the latest model finally solved the biggest problem with the design of the XPS 13: the placement of the webcam. Dell used to place the webcam under the screen, which would offer horrible unflattering angles for video calls. For the 2019 renewal, Dell has finally moved the camera to the top edge above the screen and it works just as well as any other laptop's webcam. It is also a surprisingly good quality camera, and while it does not support Windows 10 face recognition sign-in system, Dell offers a fast and easy-to-use fingerprint scanner embedded in the XPS 13's power button.
The XPS 13 starts well under $ 1,000, but our recommended configuration probably costs a little more than that. That includes a quad-core Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB storage and a 1080p non-touch display. To get a touchscreen, you have to collect hundreds of more ponies for the high-end 4K screen, which is one of the disadvantages of the XPS 13. Many people will be fine without paying for the touchscreen But in our testing we have found it very handy to have. The other thing that is not worth paying is the advanced Core i7 processor: the XPS 13 is a thin and light computer, which means that it is unable to easily cool more powerful processors and cancel out their advantage to do. (This advice applies to almost every laptop in this segment.)
An advantage of the non-touch screen is the longer battery life. In our 4K panel tests, we saw more than eight hours of use in between charging. If you use the 1080p screen, you can expect an even longer battery life.
In general, the XPS 13 is just a good balance of all the things that make a great laptop, with very few compromises to get there. Dell is likely to renew its XPS line in the near future, but until that happens, you really can't go wrong with the mature and capable XPS 13.
If you are looking for a Mac laptop and cannot or do not want to consider a Windows PC, the best option available now is the latest version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. This model has two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports (which distinguishes it from the more expensive models with four ports) and a quad-core Core i5 processor. Our recommended configuration has 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage and costs a little less than $ 1500.
The MacBook Pro is more expensive than Apple's entry-level laptop, the MacBook Air. But it justifies those costs with much better performance and quieter operation, without adding too much weight or bulk to the design. It can handle many browser tabs, virtual desktops and frequent multitasking with ease, and it can also maintain itself with photo and light video editing. As with the XPS 13, it is not worth spending more to upgrade to the advanced processor; as long as you get a quad-core Core i5 chip, everything will be fine.
The Pro also includes the Touch Bar, a touchscreen strip just above the keyboard that replaces the traditional row of function keys. The opinions on the Touch Bar are certainly mixed, and many owners find it no more useful than the old function keys to adjust the brightness and volume of the screen. There are some nice things you can do with it from third-party apps, and we don't think its existence is enough to refuel the MacBook Pro.
However, the Pro keyboard is a different story. The Pro still has the extremely unobtrusive keyboard switch that can be found on the previous model and every other MacBook you can buy now, but it has been revised with the "new materials" and dust screen that Apple introduced in later iterations. This means that the keyboard is slightly quieter to type on, but these changes are mainly to improve the reliability of the keyboard, so it is less likely that you will collapse for stuck or doubled keys because a small piece of dust in the switch was stuck.
In response to years of reported keyboard problems, Apple now offers a four-year warranty and free repair service for every customer who experiences the following problems with his MacBook keyboard:
- Letters or characters are repeated unexpectedly
- Letters or characters do not appear
- Key (s) feel "sticky" or do not respond in a consistent way
We applaud Apple for recognizing the problem and providing support to customers who suffer from it. But without a clear answer to the question whether the fundamental design that causes these problems has been addressed, it is quite possible that the problems will come back over time. That means you probably have to go through the process of repairing your laptop when the keyboard breaks down at some point, which is a problem, even if it's free.
If you don't like the XPS 13 from Dell or the new MacBook Pro, there are many other laptops to choose from. Some may be better options if you are a gamer or an artist who wants something to record, while others are lighter and more portable than our top choices.
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