With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to start making your gift list. While there’s been a lot of talk about the death of the PC, a traditional laptop is still hard to beat when it comes to productivity tasks, whether you’re working with a huge spreadsheet, typing a long report, or taking a break for some PC gaming. Operating systems like Windows 10 and macOS, meanwhile, make it a breeze. But which one is best for the tech lover on your list? Below, we pick our favorite machines for power users, college students, serious gamers, and more.
For Style-Conscious Power Users: Dell XPS 13
A new rose gold and white color scheme—well worth an extra $ 50—makes the Dell XPS 13 (9370) a stunning fashion statement, and it’s backed by strong performance and a svelte but sturdy build. It’s an Editors’ Choice and steals the crown as our favorite high-end ultraportable.</ziffbin>
For Gamers: Lenovo Legion Y530
Lenovo’s Legion Y530 tops today’s class of budget gaming laptops with a sleek, distinctive build, alongside solid performance and a full feature set. Its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics chip is no powerhouse, but the Y530 proves to be a competent HD gaming machine with no real flaws.</ziffbin>
For Serious Gamers: Razer Blade
While this is technically a gaming laptop, the Razer Blade (2018) has enough raw power to be useful for a multitude of business workloads. The Blade combines category-leading performance, backed by a GeForce GTX 1070 graphics chip and a six-core, eighth-generation Intel CPU, but now with a larger screen (15.6 inches, up from 14 inches) and thin bezels. It’s today’s best super-slim gaming laptop in terms of both power and aesthetics, and it seizes our Editors’ Choice award.</ziffbin>
For Extreme Commuters/Evening Couch Potatoes: Microsoft Surface Go
The well-built Surface Go is the least expensive route into Microsoft’s superb Surface tablet line, and the most portable option. Most of what’s familiar about the Surface Pro is here (design cues, sharp touch display, and built-in kickstand), just with more modest internal components. Though performance isn’t particularly speedy, the Surface Go is a great mobile companion for less-demanding work, a natural fit for travelers, and an inexpensive option for classrooms.</ziffbin>
For Creatives: Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch
The latest update of the 13-inch MacBook Pro isn’t a groundbreaking refresh, but it does come with two very important new features: a reduced price and new processor options from Intel’s seventh-generation Core i5 and Core i7 series. Add in vastly improved battery life and better performance benchmark results than many of its Windows competitors, and the result is that this already-excellent ultraportable notebook now earns our Editors’ Choice award as the best Mac laptop.</ziffbin>
For Big-Screen Seekers: Asus VivoBook F510UA
The 15.6-inch Asus VivoBook F510UA is an affordable, capable desktop replacement that dazzles with a stylish design and eighth-generation Intel Core i5 performance. Battery life leaves something to be desired, though, so it’s best for those who will have access to power.</ziffbin>
For the Always-Online Set: HP Chromebook x2
Chromebooks are largely thought of as $ 200 plastic clamshells, but the Chromebook x2 is aluminum rather than plastic and features the same swank faux-ceramic finish as HP’s Spectre 13. It’s pricey, but it’s the first Chromebook to be a detachable rather than a convertible, so it’s much lighter and handier in tablet mode. It also features a perky Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage expandable via microSD card, front- and rear-facing cameras, and a 12.3-inch high-resolution (2,400 by 1,600) display.
For the College Student: Asus VivoBook S15
A svelte laptop with thin bezels, lots of color options, and a unique hinge design that keeps it running cool and quiet, the Asus VivoBook S15 is a winner for students and casual buyers alike.</ziffbin>
For Your Grade Schooler: Dell Chromebook 3189 Education 2-in-1
The Dell Chromebook 3189 is a durable convertible laptop, with a long-lasting battery, a multimode hinge, and enough processing juice to help power online and classroom learning.</ziffbin>
For the DVD Loyalist: Acer Aspire E 15
Thanks to its full HD 15-inch display, discrete graphics, SSD, and low price, the Acer Aspire E 15 is one of today’s best-value desktop-replacement laptops for budget-minded shoppers.
Beyond the expansive screen real estate and a roomy keyboard, one of the main reasons to buy a large laptop is to pair it with a DVD drive, to give life to your old movie collection. The Aspire E 15’s tray-loading drive pops out from the right edge and can both read and write DVDs, tasks that cloud storage and USB drives have largely replaced.
For Those Who Want Both a Laptop and a Tablet: Lenovo Yoga 730
The Lenovo Yoga 730 convertible laptop is a small but worthy iteration on its already-excellent predecessor, with better computing performance and a subtle redesign.</ziffbin>
For Entrepreneurs and Home-Office Jockeys: Lenovo ThinkPad L580
The 15.6-inch Lenovo ThinkPad L580 is a desktop-replacement that limbos under the thousand-dollar line, yet is packed with ThinkPad goodness, from fine fit and finish to a fabulous keyboard. All those niceties earn it our midrange desktop-replacement Editors’ Choice award.</ziffbin>
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