Best laptops 2018: The definitive breakdown

Picking a new laptop and choosing a new car are pretty similar experiences: They’re two of the most important decisions you’ll make in your precious lifetime.

Okay, laptops are significantly cheaper than that and your life and safety or whatever doesn’t exactly depend on it — but your job and other important life things (like Netflix) are made so much better by the addition of a reliable laptop.

Our point: Laptops are not one-size-fits-all, and this isn’t a choice that can be made just based on price or looks. It’s what’s on the inside that counts: Beginners need something user-friendly and straightforward, frequent travelers need something light with a long battery life, designers and gamers need top-notch 4K graphics and quick central processors, and everyone needs something that’s not gonna shit out on them after a year. We’re sweating already.

Luckily, this is the kind of stuff we enjoy researching, and we’ve put together a definitive guide to the best laptops on the market right now. We compare top brands that you probably have in mind like Apple, Dell, and Acer, as well as other huge players you may not have even seen coming like Huawei and Lenovo. Trust us, you’re in good hands.

Image: Huawei

The Good

Fingerprint reader • Dolby Atmos speakers • 3K screen • Glorious battery life

The Bad

Awkwardly-placed low-quality webcam • Smudges easily

The Bottom Line

A sleek MacBook copycat with powerful insides and movie theatre-like experience outside, yet still relatively affordable for all that it gives you.

1. Huawei MateBook X Pro

Storage: 512 GB SSD
RAM: 16 GB
Battery life: 12 hours
Features: USB-C ports, 3K touchscreen, Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5 graphics card, Dolby Atmos speakers, fingerprint sensor, Intel i7-8550U processor, no SD card slot

$1199

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From Amazon

If you’ve done any other laptop research recently, this pick isn’t quite a shocker. The Huawei MateBook X Pro has been dubbed *the best* laptop right now by numerous media brands including PCMag, The Verge, and Tech Radar. Mashable did a video on it earlier this year comparing it to the longstanding champ, the MacBook Pro, and guess who came out on top? Huawei. It’s a pretty obvious shameless copy of the MacBook Pro’s thin look with a fingerprint sensor, but has nicer specs packed into such a lightweight device — which is ideal for people who travel a lot or have an annoying commute to work. Plus, the battery is said to last up to 12 hours (unheard of for a laptop this size), which will make long days significantly more painless.
The 13.9-inch, 3K 3,000 x 2,080 touchscreen display is crystal clear and movie-theatre like, featuring ultra thin bezels and a Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5 graphics card. Rare Dolby Atmos speakers along the sides will also give your movie nights a boost. It’s also a powerhouse inside, with a quick Intel i7-8550U processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512 GB SSD (which you’ll need, because you’ll probably download a ton of books, and there’s no SD card slot.) 
If you’re wondering where the camera fits in those thin bezels, we’ll let you know that the camera isn’t up there — it’s in a little pop-up button on the keyboard. This makes everything more compact, but gives an awkward up-the-nose angle. The camera isn’t HD either, but since the person on the other end will basically be looking directly into your nostrils, maybe low quality is better. That’ll be annoying if you’re Skyping with long-distance friends or having to do a video call for work, but don’t let that sway your choice too much.
Read Mashable’s review here and get the MateBook here.

Image: lenovo

The Good

Ultra thin bezels • Sturdy metal build • Fingerprint reader • Awesome battery life

The Bad

Heavier than others of its size • Lacks connection ports • Mini directional keys

The Bottom Line

Lenovo’s upgrade of their already-great convertible laptop gives us more sturdiness, sleekness, and power at a glorious price point.

2. Lenovo Yoga 920

RAM: 8 GB
Storage: 256 GB
Battery life: Up to 15 hours
Features: 3840 x 2160 display, 8th gen Intel Core i7-8550U processor, 1 USB 3.0 ports, 3 USB-C ports, Intel UHD Graphics 620, fingerprint reader

$1370

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From Amazon

In search of a convertible laptop that doesn’t feel like it’s going to snap in half at any second? The powerhouse that is Lenovo can give you one. The Lenovo Yoga 920 has everything people loved about its little brother, the Yoga 910, and fixes almost everything people hated. (It’s also the more expensive, upgraded version of the Yoga 720, if you were confused about that.) 
One of the best updates we see is the webcam being moved from the bottom of the screen to the top, which is (surprisingly) something a lot of other laptops can’t say. IDK what’s with manufacturers forcing that awkward angle on us, but we appreciate Lenovo getting rid of it. It doesn’t support facial recognition via Windows Hello yet, but there is a fingerprint reader, so logging in is still a breeze. It is slightly heavier than most competitors of the same size, but there’s no clunkiness to be found — the 920 is sleek, notably sturdy, and decked out in metal (but that also makes it vulnerable to fingerprints). Inside, the specs are just as good: The Core i7-8550U runs at a stellar 1.8Ghz and is especially quick when it comes to Photoshop and other editing software, giving the MacBook Pro a run for its money when it comes to speed.
The 13.9-inch touchscreen has a standard 1920 x 1080 display with the option to switch to 4K — just note that using 4K takes battery life from 15 hours to around 10. Colors and viewing angles are superb, giving the coveted movie theatre-like experience, especially in tent mode. (The speakers also face you in tent mode, so audio will be loud and crisp for Netflix and chill.) It does smudge a little more easily than we’d like, but snagging the Lenovo Active Pen 2 can solve that. This is ideal for professional creatives who want to sketch or doodle without lugging around physical paper or for college students taking notes. It’s a bummer that it’s not included, and the fact that storing the pen takes up one of the 920’s two USB 3.0 ports is annoying and looks awkward. Small inconvenience compared to the entire package, though.
Read PCMag’s full review here and snag the Yoga 920 for $1,370 here.

Image: apple

The Good

Ultra fast importing and exporting • Quick handling of apps like Adobe • Street cred that goes with a Mac • Siri and touch ID

The Bad

Dongle hell • Pricey • Meh gaming graphics

The Bottom Line

A classic from Apple with the highest specs of any MacBook ever built and ideal for photo and video editing — for those who can afford it.

3. 2018 MacBook Pro

RAM: 8 GB
Storage: 256 GB
Battery life: 10 hours
Features: 2,880 x 1,800 FHD display, core six i9 chip with 2.9GHz and Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz, 4 USB-C ports, no headphone jack, Radeon Pro 560X GPU graphics

$1799

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From Best Buy

You had to know we’d throw a MacBook Pro in here. And not just because MacBooks give you great street cred, but because the newest MacBook is a badass powerhouse. They’re the most expensive in our list, but with a fast AF i9 chip, 2.9GHz, and Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz, the price makes sense. Like we said, MacBooks will seriously last through beatings — if my MacBook from 2012 can last six years and counting, I have no doubts that a 2018 MacBook Pro will last a decade.
Artsy folks, it’s your time to shine. There’s no question that Apple’s latest MacBook Pro is the best laptop money can buy for photo and video editing, featuring unbeatable import and export speeds (even with those tough 4K videos), insanely fast handling of hardcore apps like Adobe and Final Cut Pro (which is only available on Macs), and a crisp 2,880 x 1,800 display to see your work just as clear as in real life.
While Apple hasn’t gone totally touchscreen yet, the OLED touch bar is such an Apple thing to do. Here, you can control brightness, sound, use touch ID, and do what you would with FN keys. (A lot of people question the point of this, though.) Other new changes include a new butterfly keyboard, larger trackpad, True Tone technology, and four USB-C ports — AKA the computer’s only connectors, requiring an adapter to do just about anything. The display’s True Tone technology automatically adjusts the yellow and blue tones in your screen to match your environment, making things easier on the eyes. Like fans of the iPhone’s Night Shift say, the color of your screen can affect your health, and too much blue light before bed can affect your sleep. None of us are in a position to turn down extra shut-eye, am I right?
All in all, the 2018 MacBook Pro packs a punch with the strongest, fastest specs of any of its ancestors, making it a great choice for editing obsessives and regular folks alike — if you can afford it, that is. Prices for the 13-inch start at $1,799 and go up to $2,399 for the 15-inch with the most memory and storage. If you need even more detail before making the plunge, read Mashable’s full review here.

Image: dell

The Good

Massive screen and thin bezels • NVIDIA GeForce 4K graphics • One of the most powerful CPUs

The Bad

Awkward webcam placement • Meh battery life

The Bottom Line

One of the most popular (and affordable) Windows 10 laptops of the year brings speed and 4K graphics to a huge 15.6-inch screen.

4. Dell XPS 15

RAM: 32 GB
Storage: 1 TB
Battery life: 7 hours
Features: 1,920 x 1,080 FHD display, USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, USB-A, SD card reader, headphone jack, i7-7700HQ CPUS with 2.2-GHz, NVIDIA GeForce 1050Ti graphics

$999

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From Amazon

Graphic design? Product development? Photography? This is your new righthand man. Dell’s traditional powerhouse laptop, the Dell XPS 15 Touch, continues to see improvements year over year, keeping it a top choice for masses of advanced users and artists alike. Beginners or casual laptop users may not mind a 13-inch screen, but hardcore laptop users who have their entire lives or career on their device will need something bigger. 
If Hercules was a laptop, he’s be this one. The exterior is decked out with Dell’s InfinityEdge technology, which is a fancy term for extra-thin bezels and a wide-as-possible, gorgeous screen. The 15.6-inch 4K touchscreen has double the resolution of a regular HD display, and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti with 4GB GDDR5 offers graphics clear enough for even the pickiest gamers or designers. It’s also equipped with Dell Cinema, featuring the best color, sound, and up-to-the-second streaming that a video enthusiast could ask for. 
Inside sits an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, memory options up to 32GB DDR4-2666MHz and storage options up to 1TB M.2 2280 PCIe SSD (AKA it can hold your entire life and then some). That amazing CPU helps keep battery life strong, but like any other high-end laptop, constant 4K use drains the battery. You’ll get six, maybe seven hours at best — which isn’t great, but isn’t terrible either. As long as you’re around an outlet, you’ll be fine.
The only thing everyone is begging Dell to change is the webcam placement, which sits near the hinges and gives an unflattering up-the-nose angle. If you travel for work and will have meetings via webcam frequently, consider the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1, which can video call in tent mode for a better angle. Learn more and get the Dell XPS 15 for $1,199.99 here and read PCMag’s full review here. (If you love these specs but want something smaller, check out the Dell XPS 13 and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1.) If you need more clarity between the models, see PCMag’s review here.

Image: razer

The Good

Outstanding battery life • Extremely thin for a gaming laptop • VR-ready graphics

The Bad

Loud fans • Pricey • Strange keyboard layout

The Bottom Line

An all-encompassing gaming laptop that’s *not* a giant hunk of plastic, complete with top notch graphics and no lagging to be found.

5. Razer Blade

RAM: 16 GB
Storage: 512 GB
Battery life: Up to 7.5 hours
Features: 3840 x 2160 display, Intel Core i7-8750H, 2.2Ghz, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics, three USB 3.1, one USB-C Thunderbolt 3, HDMI port, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, Kensington lock port, headphone jack

$2589

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From Amazon

If there’s anyone more finicky over laptop specs than tech geeks, it’s gaming geeks. And I mean, they have a right to be — 4K gaming is no joke, and there’s nothing more frustrating than having your PUBG display be pixelated or having your Fortnite game lag just in time to get shot. Trying to pick the best gaming laptop is damn near impossible — — considering every tech website names completely different ones. What is the truth?
Despite the chaos, there is one laptop that makes it onto every single list we’ve seen, noted by CNET, Digital Tends, PCMag, and Tech Radar as one of the best, and was even picked as a PCMag Editor’s Choice: Meet the newest Razer Blade. While competitors may have a leg up in one super specific area, we think it’s safe to say that the Razer Blade is the best overall gaming laptop. Yeah, its loud, irritating fans could stand to pipe down a bit, but that’s just nitpicking. Aside from that and its rather steep price, this laptop is everything you could want in a go-to gaming device. 
Coming from a tried and true gaming brand, the Razer Blade is truly the ultimate luxury gaming laptop and honestly, the closest thing you’ll get to a desktop that you can actually carry around. Aside from being matte black, it’s a pretty obvious MacBook copycat, but even thinner (with specs that can compete as well). It’s hard to find a hardcore gaming laptop that’s not an ugly, plastic-y clunker, but the Razer Blade is a real looker. Its 3840 x 2160 display is top-notch with optional 4K, a VR-ready NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphic card, a 144Hz refresh rate, reaching to 15.6 inches with crazily thin bezels. 
Luckily, using that gorgeous 4K doesn’t drain the battery too much — the battery life of competing gaming laptops pale in comparison to that of the Razer Blade, which can last up to 7.5 hours if you’re not using maximum brightness or 4K the entire time. That’s hours longer than those from the Alienware and MSI lines, and even slightly longer than the MacBook Pro.
Read Mashable’s full review here and get the Razer Blade here.

Image: samsung

The Good

Included S-Pen • HD webcam in normal place • Extremely portable • Excellent battery life

The Bad

13-inch has worse graphics • Display could be sharper

The Bottom Line

A travel-ready convertible with a glorious included stylus that can easily mold to all note taking and artistic needs.

6. Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

RAM: 8 GB
Storage: 256 GB
Battery life: 12 hours
Features: 1920 x 1080 FHD display, Intel Core i7-7500U Up To 3.5GHz, two USB-C and two USB-3, HDMI port, micro SD slot, Radeon 540 graphics

$1208

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From Amazon

For all things note taking and drawing, the teched-out Samsung Notebook 9 Pro is an extremely portable convertible laptop tailor made for college students. Unlike almost every other 2-in-1 out there, the Notebook Pro 9 doesn’t make you purchase an expensive stylus. Samsung’s iconic S pen is included in your purchase, making that broke college student life significantly less stressful. Whipping out this bad boy  is the extra motivation you need to get your ass to class.
That snazzy pen makes the NoteBook Pro ideal for creative students, whether their major is something like drawing or design, or they simply enjoy doing these things as a hobby. Plus, we’re sure you’ve at least heard through the grapevine that taking notes via writing helps you retain information better than typing notes, and the S Pen makes that possible without lugging physical paper around. It features 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, has an ultra-precise pencil-like tip, and, get this, never needs to be charged. Even Mashable’s Ray Wong, who is team Apple all the way, was blown away. Not many laptops offer this much versatility, y’all. Though a seemingly small addition, the S Pen being included raises the Notebook Pro 9’s creative possibilities infinitely, and IMO, makes the hefty investment worthwhile.
The color-rich full HD touch screen offers complete hands-on control, and while it’s not the highest res display in this list, that’s a minuscule setback. This may be the one time where we’ll insist that the 15-inch model is the way to go — you’ll want as much space as you can to draw and write with the S pen, and the 15-inch has the beautiful Radeon 540 graphics card while the 13-inch model has Intel’s integrated one. The 15-inch is still super lightweight for its size, so you won’t break your bag while carrying it around campus.
Get the 15-inch for $1,208 here and the 13-inch for $928 here.

Image: asus

The Good

Speedy WiFi connection and charging • Lightweight for traveling • Small yet gorgeous HD screen

The Bad

Cheap-feeling touchpad • No legacy desktop apps

The Bottom Line

An well-reviewed, sturdy 2-in-1 with stellar specs that you wouldn’t expect in this price range.

7. Asus Chromebook Flip

RAM: 4 GB
Storage: 64 GB
Battery life: 10 hours
Features: 1920 x 1080 FHD display, 6th gen Intel Core m7 processor, two USB-C, micro SD slot, 100 GB free storage on Google Drive

$499

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From Amazon

Let us introduce you to our budget pick. You’re probably thinking “A budget pick that’s not a total piece of crap, please,” — don’t worry, we gotchu. The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 rolls in at just $499, which is less than half the price of some others on our list. You may be thinking that an unusually low price means that it’s shitty, but you’d be wrong. It’s physically sturdy, thin, and sleek like a MacBook, and has specs that can compete with the best of them. (It’s a PCMag Editor’s Choice and is their highest-rated budget laptop.)  It’s a little smaller than the rest, featuring a 12.5-inch full HD touchscreen that can be flipped 360 degrees, and weighs under three pounds, making it one of the best choices for frequent travelers or people who care about a heavy bag.
Inside is a 6th generation Intel Core m7 processor, up to 4GB DRAM, a fully backlit keyboard, and ultra fast loading speeds thanks to the 802.11 ac WiFi connection. In other words, the Chromebook Flip is pretty flippin’ powerful. (One blogger even said that this is the laptop that made him come back to Chrome OS.) The sides are equipped with two USB-C ports, a headphone jack, and a micro SD card slot (no USB-A, though), and a fully charged battery should last around 10 hours. And, as if you’re not already saving a shit ton of money with this purchase, Asus will also throw in 100GB of free storage on Google Drive for two years. That’s 33,000 pictures, 20,000 songs, or 150 hours of HD video. Dude.
Our point? Having a smaller budget will *not* limit you to a glorified children’s LeapPad that will break within the first few months. Asus has always been a dependable, affordable brand, and we love them for that. Learn something and get the Asus Chromebook Flip for $499 here.

Looking for even more specificity? Check out our stories on the best laptops for students, the best laptops for gaming, the best 2-in-1 laptops, and the best laptops under $500.

Read more: https://mashable.com/roundup/best-laptops/

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