The 9 Best Laptops to Buy in 2017

Shop for the best laptops for work, gaming, graphic design and more

We're always on-the-go these days, which means our electronics are as well. Laptops allow us greater mobility, and between work and personal use, you spend so much time on it, so it's important to make sure you're buying the right one.

Are you looking for a gaming laptop that’ll play the latest titles without skipping a frame? Want a slick notebook that’ll turn heads in the boardroom? Or perhaps you’re on a budget, and want the best laptop money can buy for less than $400. Laptops have different specializations, and recent innovations are even blurring the line between tablet and laptop (hey there, Lenovo's Yoga 910). So whatever your laptop needs are, we've got you covered. Read on to discover the best laptops of 2017.

Best Overall: Apple MacBook Pro 13.3 / 15.4 Inch with Retina Display

Apple MacBook Pro 13.3 / 15.4 Inch with Retina Display
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The MacBook Pro comes with a lightning fast quad-core 4th generation Crystalwell 2.7GHz Intel Core i5 processor that can even be overclocked to 3.1GHz). The speedy processor is complemented by an industry-leading 8 GB 1866 MHz DDR3L RAM, which helps it maintain high frame rate even with multiple programs running. It also stores files in 128 GB PCIe-based flash storage, which is 2.5 times faster than previous generation. And you can connect a slew of devices with Bluetooth 4.0.

The graphics are the best of any Apple product with Intel Iris Graphics 6100 will appreciate the large screen 2560 x 1600 native resolution. But the retina display really sets the screen apart from competitors. It delivers over five million pixels with a contrast ratio that deepens blacks and brightens whites, allowing your photos and models to dazzle.

In addition to the stunning screen definition, the design is everything you’d expect from Apple’s flagship laptop. It has a LED-backlit IPS screen, and a responsive Force Touch trackpad, which includes a slew of features such as customizeable sensitivity and multi-touch gestures. Competitors have tried to imitate Apple’s trackpad, but none have recreated its responsiveness.

Best 2-in-1: Lenovo Yoga 910

Lenovo Yoga 910
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Lenovo’s Yoga 910 series is summed up easily as it’s a superb blend of good looks, power and portability. The Yoga series is best known for its watchband hinge that allows you to use the computer in practically any position. Add in a nearly-bezel-free 13.9-inch display, 2.7GHZ Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD hard drive and you’ve compiled a standout computer. All the good looks and charm combined with around 10 hours of battery life help the Yoga 910 in continuing to stand out from the pack.

The all-aluminum unibody case feels durable and solid and, at just a half-inch thin, it’s under three-pound weight makes it feel as portable as it does attractive. The addition of the 13.9-inch 3840 x 2160-pixel display adds more than 10 percent screen real estate than the once default 13.3-inch computer display. The 6mm wide bezel is a nice addition that makes the screen feel like it's floating right in midair.

When it comes to performance, the blend of the 910’s internals mean you’ll have no issue with running more than a dozen tabs in Chrome, Netflix and a Word document without interruption. The dual bottom-mounted JBL speakers are good enough for movie viewing, but there’s room for improvement in the next iteration of the Yoga series. Two USB 3.0 Type-C ports help future-proof the 910, as does the built-in fingerprint reader for added security.

Best Under $400: Asus F556UA-AB32

Asus F556UA-AB32
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If you're looking for a quality laptop without forking over a ton of money, and you don't need the latest processor and greatest graphics card, budget laptops are more than capable of satisfying most of your needs. The current best-selling laptop on Amazon is the Asus F556UA-AB32, and it’s a winner at less than $400.

The F556UA-AB32 is a 15.6” laptop with a 2.3 GHz Core i3 processor, Intel HD integrated graphics, 1,000 GB HD and 4 GB of RAM. The display offers full HD (1920 x 1080) and you get three USB ports, HDMI-out and VGA-out. In essence, Asus has built a laptop that offers everything the general user wants without any extra bells and whistles that would drive the price up. This is the perfect choice for school or office, and can play demanding videos full-screen without any issues.

It has fast WiFi, thanks to the latest 802.11ac wireless technology, and is protected by concentric circles in a matte black finish. One feature that sets it apart from other laptops in the budget category is an ergonomic keyboard with IceCool technology to keep the palms cool, even as the laptop is pushed to the limit. With a capable processor, a massive hard drive and attractive design features, the F556UA-AB32 is unbeatable in its price range.

Best for Portability: 13.3" Apple MacBook Air

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We recommend the 13.3" MacBook Air as the most portable laptop on the market. Weighing under three pounds, the .68" thick MacBook Air is slim enough to slip into any backpack or carry-on bag. It has a larger screen than the later model and more connecting ports (Thunderbolt 2, SD card slot, two USB ports), making for a more practical choice than the 12” model.

It may look a bit dated now compared to some of the top picks above, but that’s because the design hasn’t really been updated significantly since its introduction in 2010. For many, it’s a perfect design. The large trackpad is the best on the market, with a smooth glass surface that responds to time-saving gestures. Another benefit is that Apple’s iLife suite is included free of charge, which gives you access to proprietary software such as GarageBand and iMovie.

The MacBook Air has excellent build quality, fantastic 12-hour battery life and a very capable 1.6 GHz Intel i5 processor paired with Intel HD Graphics 5000 or above. It also has 8 GB of RAM and 1600MHz memory speed. The maximum resolution is 1440 x 900 – a deal-breaker for those who like to watch 1080p movies in full resolution on their laptop, but on the plus side the high-speed 128 GB internal flash storage hard drive makes the 13.3" MacBook Air zip along at speeds many other laptops can’t reach.

Best for Work: Lenovo ThinkPad T450s

Lenovo ThinkPad T450s
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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.

Best for Gamers: Alienware 17 R3

Alienware 17 R3
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Gaming on a laptop is usually a case of compromise. You either sacrifice precious processing power or have to settle for an unwieldy device prone to overheating. The Alienware 17 R3 takes a new approach that delivers best in class graphics in a package that’s portable enough to carry around.

With its 970M mobile graphics processor, the Alienware 17 offers an excellent gaming frame rate at 1920 x 1080 but can choke at the laptop’s incredible maximum resolution of 3840 x 2160. Typically, laptops are stuck with the graphics card and GPU they are shipped with. But the Alienware 17 offers a solution to this problem. For an additional cost, you can purchase Alienware’s Graphics Amp. This external connecting box, which is connected to the laptop with a proprietary cable, can house the latest GPU. When attached, it overrides the laptop's already capable graphics card to power your laptop with whatever card is in the Amp. So, when you’re at home you can pair your laptop with an NVidia 980Ti and get excellent quality without sacrificing the specs that make a laptop practical.

It weighs eight pounds, which is still a bit heavy to carry around for day-to-day use, but tolerable when you consider its computing power. As more powerful graphics cards hit the market you can switch them in, extending the laptop’s lifespan by years.

And the design? It's still rocking the spaceship-style case with the understated lights it has had since the 2013 model. It typically comes with 8 or 16 GB RAM, 128 or 256 GB SDD and a 1 TB hard drive, as well as the latest Intel processor (the powerful 2.6GHz i7 6700hq). In addition, there is also cutting edge gaming tech built in, such as the USB Type-C port with support for SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps (USB 3.1) and Thunderbolt3 technologies for hyper-responsiveness on an IPS (in-plane switching) LCD screen.

No to mention, Klipsch and Creative SoundBlaster X-FI technology creates a cinematic audio experience to complement the astonishing visuals. Other gaming goodies include a HD webcam, dual microphone array for taunting opponents and the latest ethernet and wireless connectivity.

Best for Creatives: Razer Blade Stealth 4K

Razer Blade Stealth 4K
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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.

Runner-Up, Best Portability: Acer Swift 7

Acer Swift 7
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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.

Runner-Up, Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Book

Microsoft Surface Book
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A head-turning laptop that’s a radical entry into the emerging tablet-within-a-laptop market, the Surface Book has everything you’d want under the hood paired with a beautiful, high-resolution screen and aesthetically appealing design. The screen can be removed and function as a tablet or electronic clipboard when used with the included Surface Pen, with which you can take notes and play games.

The new tech comes at a price, but once you get your hands on this game-changing laptop you’ll feel your money was well spent. The 13.5” touchscreen display offers a 3000 x 2000 (267 ppi) resolution, and you have the option of an i5 or a powerful 6th generation Intel i7 processor paired with integrated or NVidia discrete graphics, as well as 256 GB of solid state drive and 16 GB of RAM.

The crux of the design is a dynamic fulcrum hinge that bends and can be detached for a tablet. This is also the thinnest Windows laptop on the market, just .51” at its thickest point. When the screen is attached, the laptop is just 3.48 pounds. Detached, the tablet weighs a very portable 1.6 pounds, making this a versatile option for working at home and when you're on-the-go. The battery lasts a respectable 10 hours, but the only downside is that the touchpad is not as responsive as other competitors on the market.


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