The best laptop you can buy right nowJuly 6, 2018
We live in a world where smartphones are ubiquitous, tablets are commonplace, and even smartwatches are a thing that people talk about on the regular. But throughout all of these advances, the humble laptop has persevered, and for good reason. When it comes time to actually get something done, whether that’s editing photos, writing a lot of emails, composing documents, or staying in touch with colleagues and family, the laptop is often the ideal device for the job.
That isn’t to say there haven’t been advancements in the world of laptops or notebook computers. We don’t have to deal with inch-plus-thick clunkers that weigh upwards of seven pounds and last less than two hours away from an outlet. The modern laptop is lightweight, sleek, efficient, easily portable, and powerful enough to get most any computing task done.
What separates a good laptop from a great one is how it balances power, efficiency, portability, and comfort. It should have a fantastic keyboard and trackpad — after all, those are the two biggest reasons you’d choose a laptop over a smartphone or tablet. Its display should be easy on the eyes, bright, and sharp enough that you aren’t distracted by jagged edges and visible pixels. It should be powerful enough for almost anything short of intensive video editing and advanced gaming. It should be easy to carry around from place to place, and it should be able to last all day without needing to be plugged in.
Naming “the best laptop” is a little different than naming the best phone or tablet. People’s needs for their laptop can vary widely. Some people need to do intense video editing and should pony up for a pro machine. Others just need a reliable keyboard and a few windows, so something less powerful will do. Some might want a super light laptop that can sometimes double as a tablet. Some will want a portable gaming machine capable of running all of the latest titles. Here, we’re talking about the best all-around product: a traditional laptop that will work well at most things for most people, and even stretch to handle more intensive tasks on occasion.
This year, there are plenty of great options in the Windows PC world, complete with the latest processors and designs, but Apple’s MacBook lineup has been plagued with keyboard reliability issues, which makes them hard to recommend. Additionally, Apple has yet to upgrade its processors to the latest from Intel, which it is largely expected to do later this year. If you can hold out until then, we’d recommend waiting if your heart is set on a Mac.
This article will be continually updated as new laptops are released and reviewed, so be sure to check back if you’re not in the market right now.
This article was updated on July 6th, 2018.
The best all-around laptop right now comes from an extremely unlikely source. You’ve probably never thought of Huawei for your next computer because you didn’t realize the company even made laptops or if you did, you knew that its earlier efforts were disappointing. But Huawei’s MateBook X Pro nails the complete package of portability, power, keyboard, trackpad, display, and design better than anything else you can buy. It has the latest processors from Intel; optional discrete graphics for more processing power; a gorgeous, high-resolution touchscreen that stretches to the very edge of the laptop’s frame; and a keyboard and trackpad that are comfortable to use with almost no issues.
The MateBook X Pro’s standout feature is its display, a 13.9-inch 3000 x 2000 pixel touchscreen that’s bright and colorful and has a great aspect ratio for productivity work. It is arguably the best screen you’ll find on any laptop this year. That display is mated to an aluminum chassis that’s as premium as you’ll find, and has both modern USB-C ports and a traditional USB-A port for existing peripherals.
For performance, the MateBook X Pro has an eighth-generation, quad-core Core i5 or Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, and an optional Nvidia MX150 graphics card, which is strong enough for light gaming or creative work. The battery is good enough to last between seven and eight hours between charges, which isn’t the longest lasting battery, but average for this class of laptop.
On top of all that, the MateBook X Pro costs less than many of its rivals, without cutting corners in materials, performance, or features.
The main deal breaker for the Huawei MateBook X Pro is its webcam, which is hidden under a popup key in the middle of the keyboard. This placement lets you hide the camera when you’re not using it, but it has a terribly unflattering, up the nose angle when you’re using it for a video call, and if you try to type while using it, your fingers will block the camera’s view. This won’t be an issue if you never take video calls from your laptop, but it can quickly become a real problem if the webcam is something you use often.
As mentioned earlier, we recommend waiting for Apple to refresh its laptop line (and hopefully design a fix for the problematic keyboard) before buying, but if you need something today and can’t wait, the best option is the MacBook Pro. This laptop has a compact and light design, premium build quality, and the largest trackpad we’ve ever seen on a laptop.
The MacBook Pro comes in a variety of flavors, but most people should go with the 13-inch model that starts at $1,299. It has a standard keyboard and lacks the controversial Touch Bar found on the more expensive versions, but we don’t think that’s a big loss, as the Touch Bar hasn’t yet proven its worth. The one thing that the higher-end MacBook Pros offer is more USB ports. The entry-level version only comes with two USB Type-C ports, which means plugging in accessories will likely require an adapter or two, so be prepared to spend money on at least one dongle.
As for the keyboard problems, Apple is now offering a four-year warranty and free repair service for any customer that experiences the following issues with their MacBook’s keyboard:
- Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly
- Letters or characters do not appear
- Key(s) feel “sticky” or do not respond in a consistent manner
We applaud Apple for acknowledging the issue and providing support for customers affected by it, but without a clear answer on whether or not Apple has addressed the fundamental design that causes these issues, it’s likely that the problems will come back over time. That means that you’ll likely have to go through the process of getting your laptop fixed when the keyboard fails at some point, which is a hassle, even if it’s free.
If you don’t like Huawei’s MateBook X Pro or the new MacBook Pro, there are a lot of other laptops to choose from. Some might be better options if you’re a gamer or an artist who wants something to draw on, while others are even more light and portable than our top picks.
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