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Best Overall: Dell XPS 13 at Amazon
"Few laptops have as solid a reputation."
Best for College Students: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 at Amazon
"Portable, has a great battery life, and fits your budget."
Best for Photo Editing: HP Spectre x360 15t at Amazon
"Features stunning 4K resolution with HP’s True Black HDR for truly beautiful visuals."
Best for Home Use: Apple MacBook Air at Amazon
"An all-purpose laptop that’s portable and powerful enough for your daily needs."
Best for the Money: Acer Aspire E 15 at Amazon
"A reliable and well-performing laptop for an extremely wallet-friendly price."
Best for Video Editing: Apple MacBook Pro (16-Inch) at Amazon
"A dream for anyone working in visual media."
Best for Gaming: Razer Blade 15 at Amazon
"An absolute premium gaming laptop."
Best for Kids: Asus C202SA at Amazon
"Durability and affordability take precedence."
Best for Programming: Huawei MateBook X Pro at Amazon
"A surprisingly affordable and high-powered laptop that’s perfect for programmers."
Best for High School: Google Pixelbook Go at Amazon
"A versatile and affordable option that’s perfectly suited to student needs."
Second only to the best smartphones, the best laptops are some of the modern world's most constant companions. They follow us to work, perch on our desks at home, and serve as a conduit to every aspect of our connected universe. These days, buying a laptop isn't just a business or tech concern, it's a lifestyle decision. Your laptop isn't just a way to tap into all the apps and software clients you rely on to stay up to date, it's a statement about who you are, and it needs to be powerful, portable, and sleek, with potent hardware and an ample hard drive for storage.
Are you someone who values aesthetics, and loves the sleek profile and elegant design of the latest ultrabook? A working professional who needs the latest tech and enterprise-level performance to stay abreast of a constantly evolving marketplace? Or maybe you're a gamer who wants bold RGB lighting and a beefy musclebook so you don't have to trade resolution and frame rate for mobility? These days, laptop manufacturers offer solutions for everyone, and we've filtered an increasingly crowded field to find the very best of the best.
Courtesy of Amazon
4K UHD touch display
Only 2.8 pounds
Upgraded processor for faster performance
Durable unibody design
Relatively small screen
Few laptops have as solid a reputation as the Dell XPS 13. Lightweight and powerful, this is a great laptop for both work and play. The 2019 model comes with a new set of updates that truly earn the XPS 13 its "Best Overall" spot. The new 8th-gen Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of memory deliver speedy and reliable performance that’s perfect for multitaskers. Our reviewer fell in love with how it balanced a lightweight, gorgeous design with power and versatility.
No matter what you use your laptop for, the 4K Ultra HD touch display makes all your media look its best — and while the screen is on the smaller side at 13.3 inches, the InfinityEdge design with ultra-thin bezels makes it feel larger without the added bulk of a big-screen laptop. In fact, the XPS 13 is made from a single block of aluminum and weighs only 2.8 pounds, so it has the portability and durability that’s especially important for students and commuters.
With the newest round of upgrades, there’s a lot to love about the Dell XPS 13. It earns this spot as a tried-and-true favorite that just keeps getting better.
"The Dell XPS 13 doesn’t just feel like a facsimile of the other premium competition, and that’s a distinctive edge that helps set it apart from the pack." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester
Over 11 hours of battery life per charge
Can be configured with up to 1 TB of storage
Affordable price point
More powerful configurations quickly become more expensive
Some reports of port and other hardware issues after several months
If you’re a college student looking for the perfect school laptop, you’ll want something that’s portable, has a great battery life, and fits your budget. The Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 checks all those boxes and costs a lot less than many similar devices. It has a 13.5-inch touchscreen, an Intel Core i5 processor (it can also be configured with an i7 processor if you have a little extra money to spend), and 8GB of RAM with 128GB of storage.
These should be powerful-enough specs for most students, but the Surface Laptop 3 can also be configured with 16GB RAM and up to 1TB of storage if your major requires lots of large files or complex software packages. It’s also ready for all-day use with up to 11.5 hours of battery life per charge. And if you’re running low on power, the Surface Laptop 3 has fast-charging capabilities that can charge up to 80 percent in just one hour.
It’s available in four different colors: Matte Black, Platinum, Cobalt Blue, and Sandstone.
HP True Black HDR screen
HP Display Control for accurate color calibration
2-in-1 design for use with a stylus
15.6-inch display can be unwieldy in tablet mode
Keyboard not detachable
If you’re primarily planning to use your laptop for photo editing, then display quality is paramount. No one wants to find out their printed product — or the product on a client’s website — looks strange because it was edited on a subpar laptop screen. If color accuracy is what you’re after, the HP Spectre x360 15 has your back. Our tester loved the 15.6-inch OLED screen features stunning 4K resolution with HP's True Black HDR for truly beautiful visuals, plus HP Display Control color calibration. This feature actually has a "photo editing" setting that automatically adjusts the display color for the highest level of color accuracy.
But the Spectre x360 offers more than just accurate colors. It has a 360-degree hinge that lets you flip the screen all the way around to use its touchscreen as a tablet. Depending on the editing software you use, touch and stylus compatibility can be a huge advantage. And with its Intel Core i7 processor, 512GB of SSD storage, and 16GB DDR4 RAM, this laptop has the power to handle complex programs and large files without missing a beat. We thoroughly tested the Spectre for our full product review and were wowed by the remarkable display and the added flexibility offered by its 2-in-1 design.
"Instead of flat edges and square angles, the edges of this beauty are cut to reveal shining metal surfaces that catch the light and draw the eye." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
13.3-inch Retina Display
Now with smaller bezels
Only 15.6mm thick
Thunderbolt ports only
Some device integration features work only with other Apple products
If you’re looking for an all-purpose laptop that’s portable and powerful enough for your daily needs, then check out the ever-popular MacBook Air. With an 8th-gen Intel Core i5 dual-core processor and up to 16GB memory, it’s perfect for entertainment, productivity tasks, and quick switching between applications. At only 2.75 pounds and a mere 15.6mm thick, the Air lives up to its name as a lightweight and super portable laptop that can go with you anywhere. When our reviewer put the MacBook Air through its paces for our review, testing proved out just how excellent this big, bold display is in practical use, and he loved the speedy, responsive MacOS experience.
This ultra-thin laptop has been updated with the signature Retina Display with True Tone technology, enhanced clarity, and 48% more colors than Apple's non-Retina screens. The bezels have been shrunken as well, so you get even more display real estate. It also has the battery life to last all day — up to 12 hours — so you can browse, watch, or work without scrambling to find an outlet. But if you’re already an Apple user, then one of the biggest advantages of the MacBook Air is its seamless integration with your existing devices.
"The 2018 MacBook Air keeps everything that was great about the original while making it a fully useful and competitive premium laptop for today." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester
1TB HDD storage
13.5 hours of battery life
Heavy at 5.27 pounds
If you’re looking for an excellent value laptop, then the Acer Aspire E 15 is one of our favorites. With an 8th-gen Intel Core i3 processor boasting speeds up to 3.2GHz, 6GB dual-channel memory, and a whopping 1TB HDD, this is a reliable and well-performing laptop for an extremely wallet-friendly price. It has plenty of processing power for everyday home or business tasks, plus its 13.5 hours of battery life can put other more expensive laptops to shame. And if you use your laptop to watch videos, the 15.6-inch HD display and TrueHarmony audio provide a surprisingly good viewing experience. When we tested the Aspire for our review, we were deeply impressed by the sharpness of the FHD display and the spectacular battery life.
The main disadvantage is its bulkier size — at 5.27 pounds, it’s definitely on the heavier end. Our reviewer pointed out that the aesthetics are the biggest downside, but if you need an inexpensive laptop that performs above its price point, the Acer Aspire E 15 makes up for the design drawbacks in sheer value.
"The full HD screen and snappy performance make productivity tasks a breeze." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Largest screen on a MacBook
Tons of processing power for complex software
Touch Bar feature is compatible with many video editing programs
Some device integration features only work with other Apple products
Sporting a dazzling 16-inch Retina Display with True Tone technology, the newest MacBook Pro and its extra-large screen is a dream for anyone working in visual media. But we wouldn’t recommend it based on the display alone — it also features a 9th-gen six-core Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB RAM to support memory-hungry video editing software. If you work with even more demanding media (like 3D rendering or libraries of super high-res footage), then you can pack in even more power with the Intel Core i9 processor option, additional SSD storage, and up to 64GB of DDR4 memory for truly maxed-out processing power.
Our reviewer particularly liked the inclusion of signature Apple features with the MacBook Pro including Touch ID fingerprint authentication and the Touch Bar feature that works seamlessly with many popular video editing programs. Between its incredible processing power and the beautiful 16-inch screen, the new MacBook Pro is our top choice for video editing.
"With the 16-inch MacBook pro, Apple’s delivered a professional’s mobile dream system. The new Magic Keyboard is, in fact, almost magical, the return of the escape key is laud-worthy, and that screen is just plain gorgeous." — Lance Ulanoff, Editor-in-Chief
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics
16GB dual-channel memory
60Hz refresh rate
Heavy at 4.63 pounds
If you’re looking for an absolute premium gaming laptop, the Razer Blade 15 is as good as it gets. Let’s just jump right into the specs: It has a 9th-gen Intel Core i7 six-core processor with blinding 4.5GHz max Turbo speeds, paired with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics. Combine that with 16GB dual-channel memory and the Razer Blade can run your favorite games at crazy frame rates without a hiccup. And of course it’s upgradeable, so you can keep its performance fully maxed out into the future.
The 15.6-inch full HD display is nearly bezel-less and features 100 percent sRGB color with a 60Hz refresh rate. In short, your games will look amazing and you won’t miss a moment to laggy refresh rates. Whether you’re looking to play all your favorite major titles or simply take your Fortnite skills to the next level, the Razer Blade 15 will be the envy of every other gamer you know.
Can survive drops from almost 4 feet
Automatic Chrome OS security updates
Less processing power
Maximum 32GB flash storage
When you're shopping for a kid's laptop, durability and affordability take precedence. The Asus C202SA Chromebook fits the bill, with enough power for basic productivity tasks and entertainment and an ultra-durable chassis that can handle whatever kids might throw at (or spill on) it. Reinforced rubber edges around the entire body protect against bumps, and it’s rugged enough to survive drops up to 3.9 feet. Our tester liked that fact that the keyboard is spill-resistant and the 11-inch display has a 180-degree hinge that can lay flat, so you don't have to worry about the screen getting pushed too far back.
With an Intel Celeron N3060 processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, and 16GB of flash storage, there should be enough room for kids’ files, photos, and games. It also runs the Chrome OS, which parents will appreciate — it updates automatically so your child’s device is always running the latest security features, plus it comes with built-in virus protection.
"The C202SA has a unique enough look while not crossing the line into looking like a child’s toy." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
3K touch screen display
8th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB RAM
Great performance for the money
Camera pops up from the keyboard at an odd angle
With a 13.9-inch 3K (3000x2000) touchscreen, plus an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB RAM under the hood, the Huawei MateBook X Pro is a surprisingly affordable and high-powered laptop that’s perfect for programmers.
Its upgraded processing power means it can handle running your code over and over (and over) without missing a beat. It also has a 13.9-inch touchscreen with 3K resolution that feels even larger thanks to near-invisible bezels and a 91 percent screen-to-body ratio, a nice perk for a programmer when they’re away from their monitor setup. If you plan to use this laptop for both work and play, Dolby Atmos sound makes for a premium media-watching experience.
There are plenty of laptops out there that offer similar specs and less premium features, often at a higher cost. In terms of value and power, this laptop from Huawei is hard to beat.
Very compact and lightweight
Automatic security updates with Chrome OS
256GB max hard drive storage
High school: It isn’t just paper notebooks and binders anymore. Laptops are becoming essential school supplies for high school students, too. If you’re a high schooler (or shopping for one), the Google Pixelbook Go is a versatile and affordable option that’s perfectly suited to student needs. It weighs just over two pounds, so it won’t add bulk to an already heavy backpack, and it has a whopping 12 hours of battery life that can last a full school day and beyond. That's not just marketing copy, either: our tester found the battery just as long-lasting as advertised, and was also deeply impressed by the sheer portability of the Pixelbook Go.
The m3 processor is plenty speedy for homework and media streaming, though it can be configured with an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor if you need extra power. We chose the configuration with 8GB RAM and 64GB storage — this can also be upgraded to 16GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. For parents’ peace of mind, the Pixelbook Go also has Chrome OS, which brings automatic security updates to keep your teen’s device secure.
"Nearly everything about using this quiet, slim device is enjoyable". — Jonno Hill, Product Tester
If you want a high powered laptop with generous specs and a beautiful 4K touch screen, our top pick, the Dell XPS 13, is an amazing option. If, on the other hand, you're looking for something slightly more mobile and budget-friendly, you may want to consider something in the range of the Microsoft Surface 3, with its less intimidating price tag and svelte form factor.
Emmeline Kaser is an experienced tech writer and e-commerce expert. In her time as a commerce editor for Lifewire, she assigned and edited hundreds of product reviews. This combined with her background as an Editor's Choice curator at eBay means she's accumulated a ton of experience scouring listings for the best products.
Andrew Hayward, who reviewed our top pick, the Dell XPS 13, is a Chicago based writer with over 14 years of experience covering tech and gaming. He loved the XPS for its lavish design and excellent performance, and also reviewed the Apple MacBook Air, our "Best for home use" selection, which he found slim, attractive, and packed with useful features.
Jeremy Laukkonen also penned a pair of reviews for the machines in our roundup. His obsession with technology tempted him away from the automotive industry to become a full-time ghostwriter for several major tech trade publications and a product tester for Lifewire. He loved the Acer Aspire E 15's full HD display and long-lasting battery, and called the HP Spectre x360 15t a "high water mark" for 2-in-1s.
Our own Editor-in-Chief, Lance Ulanoff, has been reviewing products for over three decades. As an industry veteran and award-winning journalist he's previously been EIC of PCMag and Mashable, and has covered just about any iteration of laptops and PCs you can imagine. He reviewed the latest 16-inch Macbook Pro from Apple, and liked their design refinements and substantive improvements.
Screen size - Laptops come in all configurations and sizes, ranging from as small as 10 inches up to 20 inches (measured diagonally on the screen). If you’re often dashing between meetings or classes, you’ll need a laptop that’s small and light enough to tote around with you. If, on the other hand, you’ll be doing most of your work at home or are a designer, you may want to opt for something larger.
Operating system - Are you an Apple fan or a diehard PC user? While it’s pretty easy to adjust to a new operating system these days, people tend to stick to what they’re familiar with. Both operating systems have their merits—with Mac being more intuitive and design-friendly and Windows being more secure and business savvy—but the choice is truly up to you.
Processor - If you need a PC that can handle heavy-duty work, pay close attention to its processor, or CPU. The battle between the manufacturers AMD and Intel gets fiercer every day, but AMD’s CPUs tend to be a bit cheaper. If money is no obstacle, look at the number of cores it has. More cores equal a faster and more efficient processor, and the high-end options out there pack up to 8 cores.