Just when the industry seemed convinced that laptops were going to go the way of the desktop, in the last couple of years we’ve been getting some of the most inventive reimaginings of everyone’s favorite form factor we’ve ever seen.
Fortunately, the kind of reinvention we’ve been getting in laptops didn’t come in the form of cheap gimmicks as they have in previous years, but instead just cheaper, thinner, more beautiful, more powerful, and more useful laptops than ever before. It’s this kind of engineering that proves to be that laptops aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Fair warning: we’ve included Chromebooks on this list and we’ve ranked them according to what you get for the pricetag. So as of now, here’s our ranking of the best laptops you can buy right now.
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10. Acer Chromebook R11: The Acer Chromebook to beat is the new R11, which is the company's first Chromebook with a 360 degree hinge, meaning in can be flipped to be used in a few different modes. More than that, the R11 is just a really solid Chromebook that is lightweight, portable, and sleek. The HD screen is impressive and vibrant, as well as being touch-friendly. Despite the plastic materials and overly clicky trackpad, it's still one of the very best Chromebooks you can buy right now, especially at this price point.
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9. MacBook Air: The MacBook Air was once the most innovative, forward-thinking product in the MacBook lineup. These days, that award goes to the new MacBook, the thinnest and most futuristic laptop they've ever designed. Even the visual appeal of the MacBook Air has gotten a bit outdated with its fairly large bezels and wedge design. However, under all of that desire for a cool new product is a really fantastic MacBook that comes at a starting price of just $899.
With the lack of an update that includes Retina Display and the coming of the iPad Pro, however, the future of the Air is uncertain. It will either be collapsed altogether or will get a complete redesign with a Retina Display that places it somewhere in the $999 range as a cheaper alternative to the new MacBook and MacBook Pro. With that in mind, the Air is still the cheapest Apple laptop you can get, so very well could be the one for you.
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8. Dell Chromebook 13: The Dell Chromebook 13 is at least a hundred dollars more than most Chromebooks—even the very excellent 2015 Toshiba Chromebook 2 ($330). When we're talking about inexpensive laptops, I don't take that one hundred dollars lightly.
The Dell Chromebook 13 has the better touchpad, the more premium build quality, and the better design, but for some that still isn't going to be worth the heavier pricetag. For me, the touchpad and premium build quality alone make it worth the extra cash, elevating the computing experience to well beyond the territory of "cheap laptop". It's one of the best laptops under $500 ever made and has me more excited for both Dell laptops and Chrome OS than ever before.
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7. Lenovo Yoga 900: Lenovo has been making great devices beyond just the business notebooks it's known for for years now. The Yoga 900 takes what the company did with last year's Yoga 3 Pro and pushes it even further with it's thin, modern, design and fantastic QuadHD display. It, of course, has the same 360-degree hinge that the Yoga series is known for, but proves to be an excellent Ultrabook in its own right as well. In 2016, it's the most exciting laptop in the world, but it's certainly still a solid choice.
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6. MacBook: Speaking of exciting, we of course come to the infamous new MacBook. Let's be real clear: the MacBook is certainly controversial and definitely not for everyone. However, it's hard to look at what Apple has done here and not be impressed. From the haptic feedback motor in the trackpad to the redesigned keyboard mechanisms, the sheer amount of engineering that went into making a laptop this thin is astounding.
It comes with some drawbacks, most notably the computer's slightly underpowered Intel M processor and the single USB-Type C port. But for those interested in getting the obvious strengths of this machine, those are minor faults of a laptop that showcases Apple at its riskiest and most inventive. It's when the company's instincts truly shine and no other laptop this year made convinced that laptops are here to stay.
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5. Surface Book: In a year full of reinvention in the laptop market, the Surface Book came as a complete surprise upon release last year. Not only is this Microsoft's first laptop, it's also a wonderfully unique device in its own right. The real star of the show is Microsoft's "dynamic fulcrum hinge," which is the extremely tight-feeling muscle wire lock mechanism that attaches the screen to the keyboard. It looks really cool and has a great tactile feel to removing and attaching the tablet.
The Surface Book feels like the machine we always wanted the Surface Pro to be: great on your lap, great as a tablet, and built like a serious computer. It's got some kinks to work out (like that wobbly screen) and could definitely lose a little weight overall, but it's an incredibly impressive new product that a lot of professionals are going to find attractive.
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4. HP Spectre 13: The HP Spectre 13 is a beautifully crafted laptop that blends sophisticated styling with the latest technology. The Spectre 13 shows that you can create powerful hardware that doesn't skimp on design. With its jeweled-inspired design, premium finish and ultra slim profile, HP has created the laptop to beat in 2016.—Chuong Nguyen
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3. HP EliteBook Folio G1: Not everyone loves the new MacBook, but as Apple often does, the striking design has pushed many other laptop manufacturers to try out the ultra-thin, ultra-light design. The best competitor has come from HP in the form of its newest HP EliteBook Folio series: the G1. It's not quite as beautiful as the MacBook, but it's still impressively thin and light. There are a few areas where the MacBook outshines the Folio G1 (such as battery life), but this one wins for it's fast processor, 4K display option, an extra USB-C port, and better keyboard.
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2. MacBook Pro with Retina Display: The tried and true. This MacBook Pro didn't get any design updates last year, but who would need one when your laptop looks this good? The 2015 MacBook Pro had the same unibody design, super high-res display, and essentially perfect port configuration. The new things here are Force Touch, a feature found only in the trackpads of the new model, as well as a slight bump in battery life.
We'll have to wait for later this year to get the jump to 6th generation Intel Skylake processors and USB-Type C ports, but the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is pretty much always a recommended buy.
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1. Dell XPS: While so many other laptop manufacturers have been busy copying the look of the MacBook line, Dell went ahead and created something that looked new and utterly spectacular, which debuted at CES last year. It really comes down to the display, which features something Dell calls an "infinity display" (which can also be known as the smallest bezels we've ever seen on a laptop). The small bezels also means you've got a larger screen in a much smaller footprint.
The edge-to-edge QuadHD display is what will grab your attention about the XPS 13, but the 11+ hours of battery life (or up to 15 on the normal HD versions), solid state drive, and blazing-fast new 6th generation Intel Core i-series processors (Skylake) will hold it. The $799 configuration is great for budget-friendly consumers and the $1399 version is just what you want in a traditional UltraBook with tons of power. Regardless of the pricepoint, look no further for your Windows laptops.