Best Laptops

The best laptop for you will depend on how you want to use it. Do you need a model for traveling that is small and lightweight with good battery life? Do you want to play the latest games? Or do you want a touch screen and use it more like a tablet? The good news is that there is more variety than ever and many models that will meet your specific needs. There are also affordable options for budget conscious shoppers with prices that start around $500 or even cheaper for a decent quality machine.

For this review we looked at dozens of models and rated each primarily on performance, portability, features, and price. For the most part we focused on units that cost less than $2000, although there may be some on this list that cost slightly more. We have broken down the laptops into the following categories based on screen size and/or the type of machine:

  • Hybrid Laptop/Tablet – a small device where the touch screen can be detached and acts as a tablet.
  • Convertible Ultrabook – a small, thin ultrabook where a touch screen rotates or flips to act more like a tablet.
  • Ultraportable Laptop – a thin laptop with a screen size of 10-12 inches and a battery life of more than 5 hours.
  • 13-Inch Laptop – a 13″ screen which is large enough to work on, yet small enough to travel around with.
  • Midsize Laptop – a 14, 15, or 16 inch screen with more size and computing power, but less battery life.
  • Desktop Replacement / Gaming Laptop – 17″ screens and larger designed to replace your desktop.

Below is our list of the top rated laptops reviewed in each category.

Are you confused or need more advice on what to look for? Then check out our Laptop Buying Guide.


Hybrid Laptops/Tablets


8.9
#1)

Microsoft Surface Pro

Best Hybrid Laptop/Tablet

Category: Hybrid Laptop/Tablet
Estimated Price: $999.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8 Pro
Weight: 2 lbs
Battery Life: 5.75 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 3317U 1.7 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Screen Size: 10.6″
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080


8.2
#2)

HP ENVY x2 11-g010nr Hybrid Detachable Tablet

Best Budget Hybrid Laptop/Tablet

Category: Hybrid Laptop/Tablet
Estimated Price: $599.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 3.1 lbs
Battery Life: 15.25 hours
CPU: Intel Atom Z2760 1.8 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel GMA
Memory: 2 GB
Hard Drive: 64 GB SSD
Screen Size: 11.6″
Max Resolution: 1366 x 768


8.2
#3)

Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro XE700T1C-A01US

Category: Hybrid Laptop/Tablet
Estimated Price: $1099.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 3.5 lbs
Battery Life: 7.25 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 3317U 1.7 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB
Hard Drive: 128 GB Serial ATA-300
Screen Size: 11.6″
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080


Convertible Ultrabooks


8.7
#1)

Lenovo Yoga IdeaPad Ultrabook 13-59359567

Best Convertible Ultrabook

Category: Convertible Ultrabook
Estimated Price: $999.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 3.3 lbs
Battery Life: 8 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 3337U 1.8 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB DDR3L
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Screen Size: 13.3″
Max Resolution: 1600 x 900


8.7
#2)

Dell XPS 12 Convertible Touch Ultrabook

Category: Convertible Ultrabook
Estimated Price: $1199.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 3.35 lbs
Battery Life: 8 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 3317U 1.7 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB DDR3L
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Screen Size: 12.5″
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080


8.3
#3)

ASUS Taichi 21-DH51 11.6-Inch Convertible Touch Ultrabook

Category: Convertible Ultrabook
Estimated Price: $1198.88
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 2.8 lbs
Battery Life: 4.75 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 3317U 1.7 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Screen Size: 11.6″
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080


Ultraportable Laptops


9.1
#1)

Apple MacBook Air 11-inch MD224LL/A

Best Ultraportable Laptop

Category: Ultraportable Laptop
Estimated Price: $1035.97
Operating System: Mac OS X v10.8 Mountain Lion
Weight: 2.4 lbs
Battery Life: 7.5 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 1.7 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB DDR3L
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Screen Size: 11.6″
Max Resolution: 1366 x 768


8.4
#2)

ASUS VivoBook X202E-DH31T 11.6-Inch Touch Laptop

Best Budget Ultraportable Laptop

Category: Ultraportable Laptop
Estimated Price: $474.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 3.1 lbs
Battery Life: 4 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i3 3217U 1.8 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 500 GB
Screen Size: 11.6″
Max Resolution: 1366 x 768


8.2
#3)

Samsung Series 3 Chromebook

Category: Ultraportable Laptop
Estimated Price: $249
Operating System: Google Chrome OS
Weight: 2.4 lbs
Battery Life: 6.5 hours
CPU: Exynos 5000 Series 1.7 GHz
Graphics Processor: Integrated Graphics
Memory: 2 GB DDR3L
Hard Drive: 16 GB eMMC
Screen Size: 11.6″
Max Resolution: 1366 x 768


13-Inch Laptops


9.2
#1)

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch MD231LL/A

Best Value 13″ Laptop

Category: 13″ Laptop
Estimated Price: $1129.98
Operating System: Mac OS X v10.8 Mountain Lion
Weight: 3 lbs
Battery Life: 11.5 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 1.8 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB DDR3L
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Screen Size: 13.3″
Max Resolution: 1440 x 900


9
#2)

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina Display MD212LL/A

Category: 13″ Laptop
Estimated Price: $1449.98
Operating System: Mac OS X v10.8 Mountain Lion
Weight: 3.6 lbs
Battery Life: 8.5 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 2.5 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 8GB DDR3L
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Screen Size: 13.3″
Max Resolution: 2560 x 1600


8.4
#3)

Acer Aspire S5-391-6495 13.3-Inch Ultrabook

Category: 13″ Laptop
Estimated Price: $949.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 2.65 lbs
Battery Life: 6.5 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 3337U 1.8 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Screen Size: 13.3″
Max Resolution: 1366 x 768


8.3
#4)

HP 13-2150nr SpectreXT Ultrabook PC

Category: 13″ Laptop
Estimated Price: $843.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 3.12 lbs
Battery Life: 5 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 3317U 1.7 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Screen Size: 13.3″
Max Resolution: 1366 x 768


Midsize Laptops


9.2
#1)

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina display ME664LL/A

Best Midsize MacBook

Category: Midsize Laptop
Estimated Price: $2079.99
Operating System: Mac OS X v10.8 Mountain Lion
Weight: 4.4 lbs
Battery Life: 10 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 2.3 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 8 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 256 GB SSD
Screen Size: 15.4″
Max Resolution: 2880 x 1800


9.1
#2)

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch MD103LL/A

Category: Midsize Laptop
Estimated Price: $1709.97
Operating System: Mac OS X v10.8 Mountain Lion
Weight: 5.6 lbs
Battery Life: 11.75 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 2.3GHz
Graphics Processor: NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
Memory: 4 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 500 GB
Screen Size: 15.4″
Max Resolution: 1440 x 900


9.1
#3)

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 15.6-Inch Laptop

Best Windows 8 Midsize Laptop

Category: Midsize Laptop
Estimated Price: $1099.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 6.4 lbs
Battery Life: 3 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 3630QM 2.4 GHz
Graphics Processor: NVIDIA Dual SLI GeForce GT650M
Memory: 12 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 1 TB & 16 GB SSD
Screen Size: 15.6″
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080


9
#4)

HP Spectre 14-3210nr 14-Inch Ultrabook

Category: Midsize Laptop
Estimated Price: $1199.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 3.97 lbs
Battery Life: 6.25 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 3317U 1.7 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Screen Size: 14″
Max Resolution: 1600 x 900


8.7
#5)

Toshiba Satellite U845W-S4170 Ultrabook

Category: Midsize Laptop
Estimated Price: $942.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 4 lbs
Battery Life: 5.3 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 3337U 1.8 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 6GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 500 GB
Screen Size: 14.4″
Max Resolution: 1792 x 768


8.6
#6)

Acer Aspire V5-571P-6642 15.6-Inch Touch Screen Laptop

Best Budget Midsize Laptop

Category: Midsize Laptop
Estimated Price: $649.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 5.3 lbs
Battery Life: 5 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 3317U 1.7 GHz
Graphics Processor: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 6 GB
Hard Drive: 500 GB
Screen Size: 15.6″
Max Resolution: 1366 x 768


8.4
#7)

Dell Inspiron 15z i15z-1400sLV 15.6-Inch Ultrabook

Category: Midsize Laptop
Estimated Price: $949.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 4.78 lbs
Battery Life: 3.5 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 3537U 2.0 GHz
Graphics Processor: Nvidia GeForce GT630M 2 GB
Memory: 8 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 500 GB & 32 GB SSD
Screen Size: 15.6″
Max Resolution: 1366 x 768


8.4
#8)

Sony VAIO S Series SVS1512ACXS 15.5-Inch Laptop

Category: Midsize Laptop
Estimated Price: $1099.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 4.4 lbs
Battery Life: 3.75 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 3612QM 2.2 GHz
Graphics Processor: NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M LE
Memory: 8 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 750 GB
Screen Size: 15.5″
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080


8.3
#9)

ASUS N56VJ-DH71 15.6-Inch Full-HD 1080P Laptop

Category: Midsize Laptop
Estimated Price: $911.38
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 6 lbs
Battery Life: 3.75 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 3630QM 2.4 GHz
Graphics Processor: Nvidia GeForce GT635M 2 GB
Memory: 8 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 1 TB
Screen Size: 15.6″
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080


8.3
#10)

Samsung Series 7 NP780Z5E-S01UB 15.6-inch Touch Screen Laptop

Category: Midsize Laptop
Estimated Price: $1199.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 5.3 lbs
Battery Life: 10 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 3635QM 2.4 GHz
Graphics Processor: AMD Radeon HD 8770M 1 GB
Memory: 8 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 1 TB
Screen Size: 15.6″
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080


Desktop Replacements / Gaming Laptops


8.8
#1)

Toshiba Qosmio X875-Q7390 17.3-inch Laptop

Best Value Desktop Replacement Laptop

Category: Desktop Replacement Laptop
Estimated Price: $1699.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 7.5 lbs
Battery Life: 2 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 3630QM 2.4 GHz
Graphics Processor: NVIDIA Geforce GTX 670 (3D Vision)
Memory: 16GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 2 TB
Screen Size: 17.3″
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080

It is also available at Best Buy.


8.7
#2)

Alienware M17x R4 AM17xR4-7895BK 17.3-Inch Laptop

Category: Desktop Replacement Laptop
Estimated Price: $1699.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 17 lbs
Battery Life: 3 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 3630QM 2.4 GHz
Graphics Processor: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
Memory: 8 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 500 GB
Screen Size: 17.3″
Max Resolution: 1600 x 900


8.4
#3)

Samsung Series 7 Gamer NP700G7C-S02US

Category: Desktop Replacement Laptop
Estimated Price: $1765.99
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Weight: 8.4 lbs
Battery Life: 2.5 hours
CPU: Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 3630QM 2.4 GHz
Graphics Processor: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M
Memory: 16GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 1.5 TB
Screen Size: 17.3″
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080


Laptop Buying Guide

One of the first things you should know when shopping for a new laptop computer is the different terminology that is used and what their definitions are.

  • Laptop – A portable computer, suitable for use when traveling. Covers a broad range of portable computers.
  • Notebook – A newer synonym for laptop, but generally refers to more compact portable computers with a screen that hinges shut with the folding action like a notebook.
  • Netbook – Popular from 2008-2010, this term is rarely used anymore. It referred to cheap models with 7 to 12 inch screens, a full keyboard, and an inexpensive low voltage CPU.
  • Ultrabook – An Intel marketing term that generally refers to a light and thin Windows machine with more than 5 hours of battery life and that meets other specifications.
  • MacBook – A brand of notebook computers created by Apple.
  • Chromebook – A notebook computer that runs on Google’s Chrome operating system that provides a web-based operating environment.
  • Tablet – A complete mobile computer contained entirely in a single panel with a touch screen as the input device.

Types and Categories

Laptops can generally be divided into the different types available and then sorted by the size of each one. Each type is geared toward a specific use and has its own positives and negatives that we cover below.

  • Hybrid Laptop/Tablet – This is a new, exciting type of device that is probably the future of computing. Neither a true laptop or a tablet, these small devices can behave like a laptop with keyboard, but also have a detachable touch screen that can be seperated to act like a tablet. Some come in a tablet form and require you to purchase the keyboard to attach to it. Prices and performance vary greatly depending on the model, but they generally have screen sizes of less than 12 inches and battery life longer than 5 hours.
  • Convertible Ultrabook – Similar to the hybrid, the convertible models are thin and light ultrabooks where a touch screen swivels or flips to act more like a tablet. The main difference with the hybrid is that the parts stay attached. Screen sizes are usually less than 13 inches and good performing models cost between $1000 – $1200.
  • Ultraportable Laptop – We classify ultraportables as a thin laptop with a screen size of 10-12 inches and a battery life of more than 5 hours. These are for users who will use the device primarily when traveling where battery life is of more importance than performance. Prices for the most part will be less than $600, but some, like Apple’s MacBook Air will cost a little over $1000.
  • 13-Inch Laptop – Models with a 13″ screen get their own category because it is a perfect compromise in that the screen is large enough to work on, yet still small enough to travel around with easily. These portable computers are perfect for those who travel often, but still require decent performance. Costs vary between about $500 – $1000 with some higher end models up to $1500.
  • Midsize Laptop – Midsize is thought of as the traditional, or mainstream laptop. They have a 14, 15, or 16 inch screen, weigh more, have more computing power, but less battery life. They are ideal for someone who will use and move it primarily within the home or office to do more intensive tasks. Prices normally range between $500 and $1200 while higher end models go far as much as $2100 .
  • Desktop Replacement / Gaming Laptop – These models feature screens 17″ and larger and are designed to replace your desktop. They have the most computing power, but also very short battery life of usually only a few hours. Some are designed for gaming with the latest graphics cards and lots of RAM. These models are for users who want to be able to do everything they would be able to do on the most powerful desktop computers, but need some mobility. They are not meant for traveling often or running on the battery for more than short bursts. Most cost more than $1500.

Operating Systems

There are two main operating systems and two others you should be aware of. For Macs it is OS X Mountain Lion which is generally more expensive, but is more stylish, stable, and less prone to viruses and spyware. Microsoft’s Windows 8 powers virtually all other systems. It provides a more uniform interface across a variety of platforms like tablets, computers, and smart phones. Microsoft products costs less, provide a wider selection of software and games, but are more unstable and vulnerable to viruses and spyware.

The other two operating systems you should know are Google’s Chrome and Linux. Linux is more for advanced users while Chrome, which is Linux-based and found on Chromebooks, takes a minimalist approach and is designed to work with web applications.

CPUs / Processors

The CPU, or central processing unit, is considered the brain or engine of the computer and is the most important component of a laptop. The better the CPU, or the more cores it has, the faster a computer will run. The vast majority of laptops today use Intel processors. You may see Atom, Pentium, and Celeron processors which are all older Intel versions. However, the current lineup of Intel CPUs are in there 3rd generation and are also known by the code name Ivy Bridge. They are:

  • Core i3 – A dual-core CPU found in low end and budget models.
  • Core i5 – Comes in dual-core and quad-core models and is the most common mainstream processor.
  • Core i7 – Available from 2 to 6 cores, the i7 provides the best performance in expensive machines for games or video editing. It is not needed for basic computing.

AMD is the other brand you might see in laptops. Their latest CPUs are the A4, A6, A8, and A10.

Hard Drives / Storage

There are two basic types of hard drives which store your programs and data. They are either the traditional hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid state drive (SSD). HDDs are less expensive and have more storage capacity. However they are heavier and more prone to failure. These are ideal for users who store lots of videos, images, or music. SSDs are more expensive and have less storage capacity. However, they are faster, lighter, more quiet, run cooler, and less prone to failure. They are ideal for users who want a faster, lighter computer and don’t need as much storage space.

Memory

Random Access Memory, or RAM, is where active programs and data are stored for quick access by the CPU. The more memory you have the more programs you can run simultaneously and the faster they may run. For lower end laptops and MacBooks at least 4 GB (Gigabytes) is recommended, but at least 8 GB is preferred for moderate use on Windows 8 machines.

Graphics Card / Graphics Processor

Laptops will either come with default integrated graphics or a dedicated graphics card, or GPU. For basic computing needs the integrated graphics will work fine – in Intel models the latest version is known as HD 4000. If you plan on playing games or watching HD video, then a graphics card is recommended.

Ports / Optical Drives

Often overlooked, but especially important are the ports and drives that come with a laptop. Many models today do not come with an optical drive (CD, DVD or Bluray Disc), but you can buy stand alone optical drives to plug into your laptop. So be aware if this is an item that you need. At a minimum you will want a unit that comes with 2 USB ports, preferably USB 3.0 which is much faster than 2.0, but only when used with USB 3.0 compatible devices including external hard drives. The other ports you will want include an SD card slot and HDMI video output.

Internet Connectivity / WiFi

Virtually all laptops now come equipped with a wireless connection, or Wi-Fi. This is how you connect to your internet router or Wi-Fi signal.

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