The 9 Best Laptops to Buy in 2018

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Apple 13" MacBook Pro (2018)

Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (2018)

 Courtesy of Best Buy

The 13-inch MacBook Pro from Apple has been a solid laptop for the last few years already, but with the most recent upgrades to its processing power, the 2018 model has become an obvious choice for our top pick. Whether you're a creative professional or just in the market for a reliable and powerful laptop, the latest version of the MacBook Pro corrects users' complaints about the older versions while enhancing the display and adding a few cool pieces of new technology.

This laptop is outfitted with an 8th-generation, quad-core Intel i5 processor that gives you sustained speeds up to 2.3 GHz and turbo-charged speeds up to 3.8 GHz, plus 8Gb of RAM and a choice of solid state hard drives in 256GB or 512GB. It has four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, a solid aluminum construction, and the dazzling Retina Display that is now the gold standard for Apple machines. As part of the latest upgrade, Apple has also included True Tone technology, which reads the color of the ambient light in the room and optimizes the screen colors accordingly. (It’s a great extra feature for visual artists, but those just looking to consume media will appreciate it, too.)

The 2018 MacBook Pro also includes Apple's new Touch Bar feature, which replaces the top row of function keys with a touch-sensitive panel that integrates app controls into your keyboard and allows you to unlock your laptop with Touch ID. All in all, it’s an amazing machine that gives you a good amount of screen real estate, especially for a device that weighs just over three pounds. 

Best Under $400: Acer Chromebook R 13

Often overlooked in favor of its Windows and Mac counterparts, the Acer Chrome R 13 is an extremely underrated machine and an incredible value at under $400. Powered by Google’s Chromebook OS, the entire system is based on the Google Chrome browser and features built-in virus protection, lightning-fast boot speeds, and regular auto-updates from Google that continually enhance its performance. With thousands of downloadable apps available in the Google Play Store, the Chromebook environment can easily mimic a Windows or Mac laptop with downloadable versions of ubiquitously used apps like Microsoft Office, along with popular photo and video editing apps. It's also a lot more versatile than a typical laptop — with 360 degrees of flexibility, the R 13 can switch between tablet mode, laptop mode or presentation mode for screen sharing.

Internally, the Chromebook R 13 runs a MediaTek quad-core CPU and has 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage (that's not including the 100GB of Google Drive space that’s provided with every Chromebook purchase). The 12-hour battery life far outpaces competitive models in this price range. Additionally, Acer keeps things moving quickly with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and 2x2 MIMO for catching the best signal.

Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Go

Microsoft Surface Go
Courtesy of Best Buy 

The most recent additions to the Surface line have been powerhouse machines, but the smaller, 10-inch Surface Go is a lighter and more compact model with a more wallet-friendly price tag. Microsoft keeps costs down by equipping this with a Pentium Gold Processor rather than a more powerful i-series processor. But you still get a lot of bang for your buck with this versatile little device. The clip-on Type Cover (sold separately) has a keyboard and trackpad to give you full 2-in-1 functionality.

The tablet-sized 10-inch display sports Microsoft’s impressive PixelSense density with a great touchscreen response. And that responsiveness is important because it's built to support Microsoft's Surface Pen stylus (sold separately). Forget heavy, cumbersome laptops: weighing in at barely over a pound, the Surface Go can slide right into a bag or briefcase, and it's so unobtrusive you might just forget it’s there. With up to nine hours of promised battery life, when you do remember it’s there, it’ll probably still have some juice.

There are some great multitasking features on the latest Windows 10 Home (though you might be a bit limited by the processor if you're doing anything very heavy-duty), and it is compatible with Microsoft Office. There’s even an adjustable kickstand to set up the device at whatever angle you need. This configuration offers 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. So, if you’re looking for a 2-in-1 with the function of a laptop but the size and form factor of a tablet, this might just be for you.

Want to take a look at some other options? Read through our best 2-in-1 laptops​ article.

Runner-Up, Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Book (Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB)

It’s odd to call this souped up Surface Book a runner-up because it certainly holds its own against other devices. Though we’ve snuck it into the 2-in-1 category, it’s really a 3-in-1, functioning equally beautifully in laptop mode, clipboard mode (vertical orientation) and draw mode (horizontal orientation) with help from the Surface Pen.

Featuring an Intel Core i5 processor and up to 12 hours of video playback, there’s really nothing second-rate about it. The 13.5” PixelSense touchscreen with 3000 x 2000 resolution produces sharp images with realistic color. It shines when using intensive software such as SolidWorks 3D CAD, AutoCAD Revit and Adobe Premiere Pro, making it another solid choice for creative folks.

At 12.3 x 9.14 x 0.9 inches and 3.34 pounds, it’s heftier than our some others, but still a viable on-the-go option. Customizable for your unique needs, you can opt for an i5 or i7 processor, 8GB or 16GB or RAM and up to 1TB of storage. It’s pricey compared to other ultraportables, but again, that depends largely on your configuration.

Best for Gamers: ASUS ROG Strix Hero II

If you’re on the hunt for a gaming laptop that checks off all the most important boxes, the ASUS ROG Strix Hero II is an excellent choice. This premium laptop includes just about everything a dedicated PC gamer could want, including a powerful processor, lots of storage and a super-fast display refresh. The customizable AURA RBG gaming keyboard adds some extra flare as well as a lighting bar for a unique ambient lighting effect.

Inside the laptop, an 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor, GeForce GTX 1060 6GB graphics card, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD and 1TB of HDD storage keep things moving at a lightning-fast pace. The 15.6-inch Full HD IPS screen has a super slim 5mm bezel for minimal distraction and a 144Hz refresh rate which is best in class. With all that power, you’ll need to keep the laptop cooler during intense gameplay — luckily ASUS has thought of everything, and added a HyperCool Pro thermal system with 12V fans to eliminate the risk of overheating.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best gaming laptops and best gaming laptops under $1,000 articles.

Best for Creatives: Razer Blade Stealth 4K

Razer Blade Stealth 4K
Courtesy of

Gamers aren’t the only ones who require fast processors, plenty of RAM and the latest GPUs in their laptop. Artists and graphic designers need fast and powerful machines to render models in 3D, and high resolution HD screens for best image quality. Considered to be the best Apple MacBook Pro alternative, the Razer Stealth matches Apple in terms of processing power and eclipses it in resolution with a stunning 4K touchscreen.

Although Razer is thought of as a gaming company, that reputation just means it built the Stealth with the speed and processing power to run the most demanding design programs. Take for, for example, the 2.7GHz 7th generation Intel Core i7 processor that can be overclocked to 3.5GHz for the most demanding applications. And it has a very fast 16 GB of dual-channel onboard memory RAM.

But what really makes this laptop the best choice for artists and graphic designers is the 12.5-inch 4K Touch Display screen. It delivers 100 percent Adobe RGB color space coverage for incredibly bright images at an unparalleled resolution of 3840 x 2160. A powerful Intel HD Graphics 620 card gets the best out of your visuals, and with USB-C Thunderbolt 3 technology, this is the laptop to edit footage in 4K.

The design is also quite modern and portable. It is incredibly thin (.52") and a featherweight 2.8 pounds, and it's all packed into a durable chassis made out of aircraft grade aluminum. Just don’t expect the battery to last that long. At heavy usage, it will survive a middling eight hours.

Best for Work: Lenovo ThinkPad T450s

Lenovo ThinkPad T450s
Courtesy of

Need a laptop with a battery that can last a trans-Pacific flight? What if it also had an award-winning ergonomic keyboard for extra comfort, and a 14" HD screen for reviewing mock-ups and presentations? If yes, then it sounds like you need the Lenovo ThinkPad T450s, the latest and greatest in Lenonvo’s line of laptops specifically designed for business use.

This powerful computing machine comes with a three-cell lithium ion battery that can last seven to eight hours of continued usage, and you can even upgrade to a six-cell battery that can keep you connected for around 10 hours. It is also only 3.8 pounds, which is light enough that you won't mind carrying it back and forth to meetings. As for durability, it has a carbon-fiber lid and a magnesium body, and even passes rigorous MIL-SPEC tests for high temperatures and humidity.

The tech specs are also sufficient, though not the best on the list. A 500 GB SSD and Intel 5th Generation Core i5 CPU make this a fast laptop, but the 8 GB SDRAM DDR3 isn’t the best out there. It has plenty of connectivity features, including three 3.0 USB ports, VGA, a Mini DisplayPort and Bluetooth 4.0 technology that lets you video conference with a wireless headset. And good news for those who are prone to spilling coffee: The 6-row keyboard is spill-resistant. The biggest drawback? Its trackpad, which leaves a lot to be desired in terms of responsiveness.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best business laptops article.

Best Portability: MacBook Air

Macbook Air

 Best Buy

When it comes to portability, Apple’s MacBook Air has long defined the category. The first mainstream laptop to really market thinness as a feature, it weighs just 2.75 pounds and tapers off to a mere 0.16 inches at its thinnest point.

The smaller size does come with a few changes to the port lineup. The USB-A input is gone and in its place are two USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports on the left-hand side of the computer. A headphone jack is now the lone port on the opposite side. The speakers are also vastly improved, with 25% more volume than previous generations.

It’s hard to talk about the MacBook Air without discussing the display, which has long been a drawback for some buyers. But with this model, Apple has rectified the original MacBook Air’s only drawback. Now, a Retina display is front and center. At 2560 x 1600 resolution, the Air now matches the MacBook Pro’s native resolution with bright, sharp images and a beautiful range of colors.

Runner-Up, Best Portability: Acer Swift 7

Acer Swift 7
Courtesy of

At just under 10mm thick, Acer’s Swift 7 is a fantastic looking ultrabook featuring a 7th generation Intel Core i5-7Y54 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD hard drive and a 13.3” 1920 x 1080-pixel full HD widescreen display. Incredibly, at just .39” thin, Acer manages to squeeze up to nine hours of battery life inside what is one of the thinnest laptops in the world. All that battery life will help you enjoy the 2x2 802.11ac with MU-MIMO technology, which is three times faster than standard WiFi. 

While the inside has plenty to rave about, Acer’s gold-colored Swift 7 includes a pair of USB-C ports for both charging and additional accessories along with a headphone jack. The thin size does mean some sacrifices (Acer left the cooling fan on the design floor but that’s OK, since heat never appears to be an issue. Additionally, Acer included an oversized touchpad that’s 5.5 inches wide and three inches deep, almost double a more traditional touchpad, and its great to use with Windows 10 multi-touch gestures such as tap-to-click.

Overall, the Intel Kaby Lake Core i5 processor offers just enough “oomph” in terms of day-to-day performance, but the exceptional design offers a powerful tradeoff. The bottom line with performance is that the Swift is more than good enough for all but the most demanding tasks such as Photoshop and movie editing, but won’t match beefier computers like the MacBook Pro.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best Acer laptops