The 5 Best Laptops of 2019

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Apple MacBook Pro (2019) at Amazon

"Offers more than enough horsepower to meet most users’ needs."

Best Design: Dell XPS 13 at Dell

"A premium ultraportable laptop designed not only for looks but also for functionality and performance."

Best Budget: Acer Chromebook R 13 at Amazon

"An extremely underrated machine and an incredible value."

Best for Travel: Microsoft Surface Pro 6 at Amazon

"A large tablet with the power of a laptop that can function as one once you attach the keyboard."

Best for Work: MacBook Air at Amazon

"Apple’s T2 security chip and Touch ID make it one of the most secure laptops on the market."

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Apple MacBook Pro (2019)

Although Apple’s larger 15-inch MacBook Pro offers more power, we think the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a better fit as it’s more portable and offers more than enough horsepower to meet most users’ needs, and the mid-range 13-inch version is the sweet spot — you’re now getting an 8th-gen quad-core Intel Core i5 CPU that clocks in at 2.4 GHz and can burst up to impressive speeds of 4.1GHz. And, if you need more power than that, you can get Apple to soup it up to a lofty 2.8GHz i7, with a turbo-boost peak of 4.7GHz. The standard models include 8 GB of RAM and either a 256 GB or 512 GB SSD, configurable up to 1TB or 2TB for more storage on the go. It has four Thunderbolt 3 ports as well, so plugging in high-speed external storage isn’t going to be a problem. 

You can also relish Apple’s gorgeous True Tone Retina display, which offers a resolution and color accuracy unrivaled by most other laptops. The display dynamically adjusts its color temperature to the ambient lighting, so your blues always look blue and your reds always look red regardless of whether you’re at the beach or in the office. Apple has also made some useful tweaks to its butterfly keyboard design this year that should make it even more solid and reliable, so don’t let reports of past keyboard problems scare you away.

Best Design: Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 is a premium ultraportable laptop designed not only for looks but also for functionality and performance. One noticeable and welcome design change in the 9380 model is the placement of an improved webcam above the 13.3-inch screen, instead of previous versions that awkwardly aimed it up your nose from below the screen. But going beyond that, the XPS 13 maintains or improves on the features and build that make it a top-of-the-line machine.

Whether you opt for a classic platinum silver exterior or a more fashionable frost or rose gold, the XPS 13 embodies style and elegance. Thanks to its “InfinityEdge” design, you’ll get almost impossibly thin bezels surrounding an attractive IPS display. It weighs a very portable 2.7 pounds, but its slimness—0.46 inches down to 0.3 inches at its thinnest—is even more impressive. This doesn’t leave room for HDMI or full-size USB-A ports, but Dell does include three USB-C ports, two of which have Thunderbolt 3 capability.

You have several customizable hardware configurations to choose from, with high-end versions packing a 1.8 GHz Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB of RAM. The top models also offer SSD hard drives with up to 2TB of storage and a 4K Ultra HD touchscreen option that adds striking visuals to its already great-looking, hard-working design. 

Best Budget: 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 for Travel: Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Labeled as a 2-in-1 computer, Microsoft's Surface Pro 6 is actually capable of three different modes of use: tablet mode, laptop mode (when the Type Cover keyboard is attached), and studio mode (where the screen is propped up slightly for writing and drawing). Although it's basically a large tablet, the Surface Pro 6 has the power of a laptop and can function as one once you attach the keyboard.

If you want a laptop that's hyper-versatile and extremely portable, the Surface Pro 6 truly is two devices in one. It's especially good for people who are comfortable transitioning between touchscreen functionality and typing. Students, in particular, will gravitate toward the Pro’s ability to work in nearly every type of environment. Weighing only 1.7 pounds without the keyboard, it’s the perfect size for a backpack or book bag. But the slim size doesn’t mean Microsoft skipped out on power — inside the Surface Pro 6 is an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. Paired with a battery that can last up to 13.5 hours on average, it has more than enough power to get you through the day. That you have a choice of keyboard and hardware colors makes it fun to personalize.

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

Best for Work: MacBook Air

This year Apple has divided its MacBook family into two distinct lineups. For professionals and power users, there’s the MacBook Pro; for everybody else, there’s the MacBook Air — a slim, and ultra-portable entry-level laptop that provides a remarkable amount of power for its low profile — it’s only 0.61 inches at its thickest point and weighs in at 2.75 pounds. 

Right off the bat, you’re getting not only Apple’s famous high-resolution Retina Display but, on this year’s 2019 model, True Tone capabilities as well. This means that in addition to 2560x1600 native resolution (at 227 pixels-per-inch), the display can also adjust its color to correspond with those of its surroundings. No matter where you're working, your blues will be blue, your reds red, and so on.

Inside, you’ll find an 8th-generation 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU that can burst up to 3.6 GHz, plus 8 GB of RAM. The base model features a 128GB SSD, though both the memory and SSD can be upgraded to 16GB and 1TB, respectively. Two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports on the left side allow you to connect external storage or an external display, or even a Thunderbolt 3 eGPU if you need more graphics mojo than the built-in Intel UHD 617 provides.

Despite the power, the slimness, and the outstanding screen quality, the MacBook Air still manages to deliver up to 13 hours of battery life (or up to 30 days of standby time). Plus, Apple’s T2 security chip and Touch ID make it one of the most secure laptops on the market. 

What to Look for in a Laptop

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.