Top Ten Laptops of the Year, 2018

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It has been a challenging year for laptops (and for humans, in general—but for laptop aficionados, as well). Between declining sales and an early report that people are hanging on to their laptops for longer than ever, buying a laptop has never been riskier or more challenging. But with more powerful processors being announced monthly, and the dependence on higher-end graphics for a more substantial laptop experience, it may be time you ditched your old laptop for greener tech pastures.

But which laptops shine in a seemingly overcrowded field of contenders? We've rounded up some of the best for 2018 and are proud to say: We stand behind these choices. We had these laptops in hand, rated them on various factors important to laptop users, and even made our suggestions for which type of users would benefit most from them. We rated based on usability, form factor, GPU and display, and that they fall under 14" screen size for maximum portability. This edges out some variants, like the Surface Book 2 15" version, which is superior in many ways to the 13" version, but still holds its own in the under-14" category. Options like storage, ports, and RAM are usually customizable, and we'll give you a handy chart at the end to compare them all. If you're looking to upgrade, buy one as a gift, or simply get a laptop for the first time, here are our suggestions.

1. Best All-Around Windows Laptop

Huawei Matebook X Pro

What isn't there to like about the Huawei Matebook X Pro? Although it doesn't carry the brand name recognition of Apple or Microsoft, it is the David to those Goliaths, taking on their more premier specifications and turning out a surprising contender for laptop of the year. It's lighter than a MacBook Air, it has a dedicated NVIDIA GPU (on the Intel® Core™ i7 model) and the battery life is exceptional in its class (almost two hours longer than the MacBook Air and the Surface series). Also of importance, and noticeable as soon as you fire it up, is the 91% screen-to-body ratio, with only 4.4mm bezels around the 13.9" 3000 x 2000 Multi-Touch IPS display (which is higher than either of the Macs on this list, but, let's not split hairs. At the very least, it's a higher-res screen than some bargain laptops). If you're looking for a laptop that beats all others and still manages to stay within the price range of other portables in this group, we highly recommend the MateBoox X Pro, which is available in a 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core model with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and the step-up version (which we tested) that sports a 1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-8550U Quad-Core processor with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Tread carefully when choosing—the Intel Core i5 version uses integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620, but the Intel Core i7 model has a far more powerful NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card.

Huawei 13.9" MateBook X Pro Multi-Touch Notebook

2. Best Laptop for General Use

The Dell XPS 13 9370 Notebook

Dell once again rises to the top of the category with the XPS 13 9370 laptop that comes in a blinding (but pretty cool) Alpine White finish. The specs on the XPS 13 remain impressive; it can be configured with quad-core 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-8250U or 1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-8550U processors (the latest-gen mobile processors from Intel at the time of this writing), and two screen configurations: an industry-standard 1920 x 1080 FHD screen and a much better 13.3" 3840 x 2160 UHD 4K display. Unfortunately, and taking it down a notch from the Matebook X Pro, it only has integrated Intel HD Graphics 620. At most, this is good for low-level and non-graphics intense gaming, if that's your thing. But the aesthetic improvements and processing speed still make this a great overall laptop if you can't find the Matebook X Pro anywhere.

Dell 13.3" XPS 13 9370 Multi-Touch Notebook

3. Best Student Laptop

Apple MacBook Air with Retina Display (late 2018 edition)

First of all, from the spec sheet, the MacBook Air seems under-qualified when compared to the big boys like the Surface Book 2 and Matebook X Pro. Okay, but the trade-off here is the ultra-portability of the MacBook Air, the clean and focused macOS ecosystem, and the damn sheer unadulterated sleek styling of this laptop. Why best for students? It's lightweight, it's error- and virus free, for the most part, and it doesn't require a tech nerd to install programs. It also has a much-improved screen with a 13.3" 2560 x 1600 Retina IPS Display (non-touch). That non-touch may turn some away (seriously Apple, it's 2018; everyone touches everything these days), as may the underpowered processor. Many were hoping that the processor might reach Core i7 status this year, but it was not to be so. With its 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core (yep, dual core) processor, you may find it hard to justify the rising price of the MacBook Air (the most expensive Air model to date), but we still stand by the fact that it's great for students, non-tech users, and anyone who wants an entry level Mac. The two Thunderbolt™ 3 USB Type-C ports means no more proprietary MagSafe chargers and more compatibility with other devices.

Apple 13.3" MacBook Air with Retina Display (Late 2018)

4. Best Family Laptop

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

When it comes to the standard for smaller laptops, the Surface line stands as the bearer for specs: latest-gen processors, a high-res screen, great design, and ultra-portability. It's the laptop for people who don't want a lot of bells and whistles. They just want something light on which to do their business or entertaining. The Surface line has certainly become as ubiquitous as iPads in the general population. You'll find them in courtroom, on NFL sidelines, in TV shows, and more. As the playing field starts to level out, the Surface Laptop 2 has to step up, and Microsoft needs to listen to its customer's complaints: The lack of USB Type-C ports is still an issue. As a matter of fact, lack of ports (it comes with a USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Mini DisplayPort – again) holds this back from being a better machine. But this 13.5" 2256 x 1504 powerhouse can accomplish some pretty useful tasks; it shines as a model for productivity laptops.

Microsoft 13.5" Multi-Touch Surface Laptop 2

If you need the Microsoft Office suite and little else, this little workhorse does the job admirably. It is probably also the best "family" laptop (and I use the term very broadly) you can purchase, if you don't mind sharing your electronics (I don't share well with others) and is just as comfortable in the kitchen as in your kid's bedroom or at your home office. As with most on this list, you have a choice to upgrade your experience from an Intel Core i5 to Core i7 (8th Gen Coffee Lake™ processors for better speed and functionality than the previous Surface Pro line, but not by much), and you will still have a laptop that can handle all that you throw at it, with the glaring exception of a dedicated graphics card. This will never be a gaming or graphics-intense laptop, but that's not really its intended purpose.

5. Best Business Laptop

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook (6th Gen)

There's sleek and attractive with ultraportables (the XPS 13 and MacBook Air fall into that group), and then there are business laptops, which, like business people, are solid, no-nonsense entities. While many of the laptops on this list can double as business laptops, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is essentially made with business in mind, and you'll be able to spot the differences almost immediately. Also note that the choices for customization in this line are pretty spaced apart, so be careful which you choose. Lenovo offers up not one, but two different Core i5 processors, and two Core i7 processors. Besides small speed gains, the processors are essentially the same in their respective groups, meaning both i5 processors are similar, and both i7 processors are similar, but there is a difference in displays. Some are 14" FHD 1920 x 1080 in touch and non-touch modes, while others are 14" QHD 2560 x 1440 displays in non-touch only. Choosing the right one comes down to what you need advanced graphics for. You won't be able to use them for games, because all units run integrated Intel HD Graphics 620. Storage is business oriented, as well, with faster M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD options. The bezels are thick on the screen (which is how you know this is for business and not for showing colleagues your kid's school play), with 5mm bezels on each side and upper and lower bezels more than 11mm thick. But the 8th-generation processors and solid, rubberized build will complement any business meeting or client presentation.

Lenovo 14" ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

6. Best Creative Workstation

HP ZBook x2 G4 Multi-Touch Mobile Workstation

Like the Surface Book 2, we only looked at the smaller version of the HP ZBook x2 G4. There's a 15" version that is slightly more premier than this version, but under 14", this is a comparable experience. I won't bore you with specs (you can read our review here) but I will say that you can tell you're dealing with a workhorse here when all the configurations start with Intel Core i7 processors. A darling of creative professionals who need added horsepower, the processors are complemented by a 14" 3840 x 2160 UWVA DreamColor Multi-Touch IPS Display, and a dedicated NVIDIA Quadro M620 Graphics Card. Across all models. Graphic designers, photographers, videographers, and more will all find something to love about these workstations.

HP 14" ZBook x2 G4 Multi-Touch 2-in-1 Mobile Workstation

7. Best Video Editing Portable

The Surface Book 2

Again, you must be careful when looking for this model. You want the Surface Book 2, not the original Surface Book, and although they come configured with i5 and i7 processors, you want to place your bets on the i7 version (the i5 version is equipped with integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620). The i7 Surface Book 2 comes with a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM. That's quite nifty for a laptop with a 13.5" 3000 x 2000 PixelSense Display and up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. Lo and behold, Microsoft even had the foresight to include a USB Type-C port, which opens a ton of peripheral possibilities, and although it has a detachable design, you'll probably never use this as a tablet—and the keyboard is included! With a dedicated graphics card and the awesome Surface Pen (sold separately, nullifying my previous excitement about the keyboard), video post-production editing is a breeze and mostly lag free, which means musical post production and photo editing should be equally easy to do. Although not the graphics workhorse that the HP Zbook is, this is still a viable alternative and a great choice if you're a fan of the Surface device design and implementation ethos. I am.

Microsoft 13.5" Surface Book 2 Multi-Touch 2-in-1 Notebook

8. Best Chromebook

Samsung Chromebook Pro

Yes, Chromebooks are still a thing, and for good reason. A good Chromebook under light duty situations (and with constant Internet access) can be reliable, fun and useful, like your gall bladder. But like a gall bladder, it's easy to ignore all that a Chromebook might do because you're way too busy with power and performance, which is why Chromebooks have become the go-to technology for parents with young tech-savvy children. A Chromebook can be an introduction to technology that most kids easily grasp, and the Samsung Chromebook Pro is the gold standard of Chromebooks this year (special shout out to ASUS Chromebook Flip, which runs a very close second). With a 900 MHz Intel Core m3-6Y30 Dual-Core processor, don't expect any CAD applications to run (and if your child is looking at CAD apps, you should be applying to MIT yesterday), and the 4GB of RAM also limits your ability to multitask. Still, for light web surfing and small gaming apps, the Chromebook is perfect for the curious child or to have around in the kitchen to look up recipes or wine pairings.

Samsung 12.3" 32GB Multi-Touch 2-in-1 Chromebook Pro

9. Best Gaming Ultraportable

ASUS ZenBook 13 UX331UN Notebook

There are arguably a ton of gaming laptops out there that can outperform this one, but are any of them as portable as this? Yes, gamers do love themselves some big-screen gaming, but this ASUS ZenBook really does get an "A" for effort. The 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core processor may seem a little underwhelming, as does the 13.3" 1920 x 1080 Multi-Touch Display, but the NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU will rock some of your most intense games (although, honestly, not super pixel crunchers like Far Cry 5 or Witcher 3). But if you just want to spank your GPU and not beat it senseless, you're not going to find a better ultraportable to do it with. If you just want to game until you're gone, check out the ASUS Zenbook UX331UN.

ASUS 13.3" ZenBook 13 UX331UN Multi-Touch Notebook

10. Best All Around Portable Mac Laptop

Apple 13.3" MacBook Pro (Mid 2018)

We couldn't complete a list of best laptops of the year without mentioning the MacBook Pro, still one of the best laptops ever made. Like the Surface series from Microsoft, you'll pay a premium for bragging rights, but this updated MacBook Pro has it all—a great screen, aesthetic chops, and a solid build. Although not the leapfrog in technology some were hoping for, improvements were made that are notable. The quad-core processor (an upgrade from the dual-core processor of previous versions) is slightly faster, with improved performance and energy efficiency that makes the battery life better than previous models. The 13.3" 2560 x 1600 Retina Display (non-touch) is always a welcome sight, and produces vibrancy in color that is especially helpful to designers and photographers. Also reconciled: in previous models, the four Thunderbolt™ 3 ports were throttled, which is not the case with the 2018 version, meaning you can use external devices (like hard drives and eGPUs) plugged in to any port, without the risk of slowdown.

Apple 13.3" MacBook Pro (Mid 2018)

So, the game is afoot, dear reader. You can go out to any tech store with this list in hand and ask your own questions, and see if your neighborhood box store knows what they're talking about (or better yet, head on down to the B&H SuperStore where the experts on the floor are exactly that—experts—and will load you with any advice they can to make your personalized and customized shopping experience as pleasant as possible). Do you think we forgot any favorites? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

Huawaei Matebook X Pro

Processor RAM Display GPU Storage Ports Extras
1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
Quad-Core

1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-8550U
Quad-Core
8/16GB 13.9"
3000 x 2000
Multi-Touch
UHD Graphics 620

NVIDIA GeForce MX150
256/512GB PCIe SSD USB-A
USB-C
Thunderbolt™ 3
Matedock 2 incl

Dell XPS 13 9370 Notebook

Processor RAM Display GPU Storage Ports Extras
1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core

1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-8550U Quad-Core
8/16GB 13.3"
3840 x 2160

13.3"
1920 x 1080 IPS Display
UHD Graphics 620 128/256/512GB

1TB SSD
Thunderbolt™ 3
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
N/A

Apple MacBook Air w/ Retina Display

Processor RAM Display GPU Storage Ports Extras
1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core 8/16GB 13.3"
2560 x 1600 Retina IPS Display (non-touch)
UHD Graphics 617 128/256/512GB

1.5TB SSD
Thunderbolt™ 3
3.5mm Headphone Jack
N/A

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

Processor RAM Display GPU Storage Ports Extras
1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
Quad-Core

1.9 GHz Intel Core i7-8650U
Quad-Core
8/16GB 13.5"
2256 x 1504 Pixelsense Multi-Touch Display
UHD Graphics 620 128/256/512GB/1TB SSD USB Type-A
Mini DP
Alcanatara Fabric-Covered Keyboard

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook (6th Gen)

Processor RAM Display GPU Storage Ports Extras
1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-8250U/8350U

1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-8550U/8650U
Quad Core
8/16GB 14"
2560 x 1440

14"
1920 x 1080 IPS Multi-Touch/Non-Touch Display
UHD Graphics 620 256/512GB

1TB PCI-e SSD
USB Type-A
Thunderbolt™ 3
HDMI
N/A

HP ZBook x2 G4 Multi-Touch Mobile Workstation

Processor RAM Display GPU Storage Ports Extras
2.7 GHz Intel Core i7-7500U
Dual-Core

1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-8550U
Quad-Core
8/16GB 14"
3840 x 2160 UWVA Multi-Touch IPS Display
NVIDIA Quadro M620
Graphics Card
128 M.2 SATA SSD

256/512 PCIe SSD
Thunderbolt™ 3
USB 3.1 Gen 2
HDMI 1.4
N/A

Surface Book 2

Processor RAM Display GPU Storage Ports Extras
2.6 GHz Intel Core i5-7300U
Dual-Core

1.9 GHz Intel Core i7-8650U
Quad-Core
8/16GB 13.5"
3000 x 2000 PixelSense
Multi-Touch Display
UHD Graphics 620

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
256/512GB

1TB SSD
USB Type-C
USB 3.0 Type-A
Detachable

Samsung Chromebook Pro

Processor RAM Display GPU Storage Ports Extras
900 MHz Intel Core m3-6Y30
Dual-Core
4GB 12.3"
2400 x 1600 Multi-Touch Display
UHD Graphics 515 32GB eMMC Storage USB 3.0 Type-C  Detachable

ASUS ZenBook 13 UX331UN Notebook

Processor RAM Display GPU Storage Ports Extras
1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
Quad-Core
8GB 13.3"
1920 x 1080 Multi-Touch Display
NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU 256GB M.2 SATA SSD USB Type-C
USB Type-A
HDMI 1.4
N/A

Apple 13.3" MacBook Pro (Mid 2018)

Processor RAM Display GPU Storage Ports Extras
2.3 GHz Intel Core i5
Quad-Core

2.7 GHz Intel Core i7
Quad-Core
8/16GB 13.3"
2560 x 1600 Retina Display (non-touch)
Intel® Iris Plus Graphics™ 655 256/512GB

1/2TB
4 x Thunderbolt™ 3 (USB Type-C) Ports Touch Bar
Touch ID Sensor

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