Laptop Reviews

Unless you are a competitive gamer, you can buy a laptop computer that will do anything and everything you ask of it without blowing your budget to smithereens. Our editors look at expert opinions and user feedback to find the best budget and mainstream laptops that deliver the most bang for the buck. And if you are a gamer, or just want a super powerful laptop, we have suggestions for you as well.
 
Dell XPS 13
Best Reviewed
Best Windows laptop
Dell XPS 13

The 2016 version of the Dell XPS 13 breaks from the pack with a near-edge-to-edge Infinity display that fits a 13-inch screen into a laptop sized similarly to an 11-inch model. This Dell laptop is available in a variety of stock and customizable configurations ranging from a non-touch, Core i3 model that's ideal as a budget choice for school and home, to Core i7-driven high-resolution touch versions that can handle anything up to hard-core gaming. Road warriors will appreciate the near 12-hours of battery life that the non-touch versions reached in some tests. The Dell XPS 13 gets great reviews from nearly every expert that's tested it.

Razer Blade
Best Reviewed
Best gaming laptop
Razer Blade

Even if a laptop is a great performer in every other way, modern, high-end games can make most buckle, slowing them to a crawl at all but the lowest graphics settings. The Razer Blade isn't most laptops, however. Its current-generation Core i7 processor and near-top-end NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M graphics deliver terrific gaming performance at full HD resolutions, even with the toughest titles, and its QHD screen can come fully into its own on less demanding games and videos. It's also got the chops to perform admirably as a work computer for graphics pros. The price is nice for a competent gaming ultraportable laptop, too.

Asus VivoBook E403SA
Best Reviewed
Best cheap laptop
Asus VivoBook E403SA

For good, everyday performance in a super-cheap Windows laptop, it's hard to find fault with the Asus VivoBook E403SA. The premium brushed aluminum finish, Ultrabook profile (both thin and light), and solid build quality is more in line with what you would expect in a laptop costing twice as much, or more. It's not a performance power house, and users bring up some addressable faults, but it will more than do for basic computing -- web surfing, document creation, video watching -- the sorts of things most people use a computer for on a daily basis. The full HD screen at this price point is a welcome feature.

Asus Chromebook Flip
Best Reviewed
Best Chromebook
Asus Chromebook Flip

The ultra-cheap Asus Chromebook Flip gets that way by ditching Windows. Instead, you do almost everything in the cloud via Google Chrome, and as of June 2016, apps from the full Google Play Android store (and the Flip is one of the first Chromebooks to gain that feature). This convertible laptop's screen flips around to form a fully functional touch-enabled slate. The build quality is excellent, with an aluminum chassis rather than cheaper plastic. Performance isn't a powerhouse, but is on the right side of more than good enough as long as you don't go crazy with open browser windows. Android functionality is surprisingly good, too.

Lenovo Ideapad 100S
Runner Up
Chromebook alternative
Lenovo Ideapad 100S

If you love the price of a Chromebook and can live with its modest performance, but hate being tied to Google's ecosystem for all your apps, the Windows-based Lenovo Ideapad 100S could be just the ticket. The Ideapad runs the full Windows operating system -- you even get a full year of Microsoft Office and 1 TB of cloud storage, a $70 value. While it's not a computing powerhouse, the laptop is more than powerful enough for the types of low-impact tasks most home users typically do. The case is colorful (red, white or blue, depending on where you buy it), and the system is well built. Value is unmatched.

Apple MacBook
Best Reviewed
Best Apple laptop
Apple MacBook

The 12-inch Apple MacBook has supplanted the long loved MacBook Air as the lightest and thinnest Apple laptop you can buy. Performance is excellent, even though it's handicapped slightly by a power-conserving processor that trades a little computer horsepower for near epic battery endurance. The Retina display is as gorgeous as ever, and user ergonomics are well regarded by most reviewers. If there's a gripe, it's that the limited connectivity (just a single USB-C port) that peeved some last year remains unchanged. Its position as the best Apple laptop might also be challenged when the 2016 Apple MacBook Pro finally debuts later this year.

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Apple MacBook MLHE2LL/A 12-Inch Laptop with Retina Display (Gold, 256 GB) NEWEST VERSION
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $1,299.00 $1,249.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

Finding the right laptop

The best laptop is the one that meets your computing needs. If, like most people, you use a computer primarily for light duty tasks -- reading and writing email, posting on Facebook, streaming movies and music, playing casual games, writing a document in Microsoft Word, etc. -- a mainstream laptop costing $1,000 or less will almost certainly be just fine. At the higher end of that range, you can find surprisingly powerful laptops, including some configurations of the Apple MacBook Air (though see our discussion on Apple laptops for more on the possible future of system).

We also found some cheap laptops priced at $400 and below with enough power for everyday use, including some that sport a touchscreen display. Many run the full Windows 10 operating system, others use Google Chrome instead. For basic tasks such as web browsing and streaming video, a cheap Chromebook could be all you need. However, they are not the best choice for more intensive use, or if you need to run specific applications like Microsoft Office. They also work best if you have dependable, steady access to the Internet. New for 2016, some Chromebooks will be able to access the full Google Play app store and run most of the Android apps that can be found there.

This report also covers more powerful computers that are designed for serious work and, especially, serious play. High-end gamers demand the power to fire their way through intense 3D games with the smoothest action and the highest possible detail. These kinds of systems are sometimes custom built by boutique firms with cutting edge graphics and other enhancements, and often carry prices that soar into the stratosphere. However, for those gamers who can settle for a system that's simply lightning fast, we name a gaming rig that can satisfy your hunger for action without dinging your wallet too badly

When it comes to laptops, the only constant is change

For most product categories -- including most technology products -- life cycles are measured in years. For laptops, especially Windows laptops, they are sometimes measured in months or even weeks as makers are constantly tweaking configurations to take advantage of even small changes in available technologies and components, either to keep a competitive edge or merely to hit a price point.

Most of these tweaks are small -- showing up as incremental changes in benchmark tests (and not always for the better) but they rarely have very much of an impact on real-world performance. Other changes can be more significant; for example, a step up to a new generation microprocessor can render earlier reviews obsolete -- and many makers (such as Apple) are now re-using model names without noting hardware changes, be they big or small. Complicating matters even more, laptops bearing the same -- or very similar -- model names can come in a host of sometimes substantially different versions ranging from preconfigured models sold only through a specific retailer to user-customized configurations sold directly by the manufacturer.

The bottom line is that the recommendations in this report should be used primarily as a starting point. The specific configurations available when you are ready to purchase may vary. However, we provide the hardware details -- processor, graphics, memory and storage -- for each laptop we recommend. Match those up to the closest available models -- or custom configure your laptop yourself -- and performance should be as good as, or better than, the reviewed configuration. Other aspects of the laptop -- ergonomics, aesthetics, build quality, support, etc. -- should be consistent regardless of how much a manufacturer has overhauled the innards.

How we picked the best laptops

To find the best laptops we scour feedback from expert reviewers, such as PCMag.com, Laptop Magazine, ComputerShopper.com, CNET and others, and user feedback at sites such as BestBuy.com and Amazon.com. We consider not only performance but also factors such as ergonomics, design and value, as well as which laptop makers do the best job of standing by you if trouble crops up. While these Best Reviewed laptops rise to the top, there are a bevy of laptops that don't fall very much behind, and some of those are able enough performers to make them worthy of serious consideration as well.

image
Apple MacBook MLHE2LL/A 12-Inch Laptop with Retina Display (Gold, 256 GB) NEWEST VERSION
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $1,299.00 $1,249.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review: