If you’re looking to buy a laptop right now, the answer is Dell’s XPS 13. It’s light, portable, powerful, beautiful, and reasonably affordable. We recommend it not only over every other Windows notebook, but also Apple’s MacBook line and Google’s Chromebooks.
Still, if you insist, we have picked out the best MacBook for OS X die-hards, the best Chromebook for those who desire an affordable laptop with a super-light OS, and the best laptop if you’ve $600 or less to spend. We’ve also selected the best 15-inch laptop — though it, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the Dell XPS 15.
Best for most people
Why should you buy this: It’s portable, fast, attractive, and reasonably priced.
Who’s it for: Everyone except gamers.
How much will it cost: $800 to $1,600
Why we picked the Dell XPS 13
Dell’s XPS 13 blends a metallic exterior with carbon-fiber interior. It’s a look that’s premium, yet inviting. The XPS 13 is the kind of cool new toy that you’ll be itching to show everyone willing to look.
The super-thin InfinityEdge bezel is another highlight. Most laptops have a half-inch to an inch of plastic surrounding the display on all sides. The XPS 13 has less than a quarter of an inch. That’s as functional as it is beautiful, as it makes the system smaller and lighter.
Does that make the XPS 13 too small? Nope. The touchpad is as large as the competition and the keyboard is a breeze to use. The system even squeezes in a large battery, which means most models can last a full day before needing a charge (the top-shelf Core i7 model is borderline, though it can manage eight hours if you’re easy on it).
There is just one oddity you should know about — the web cam. The bezels are so thin there’s no room for it, so it’s below the display, rather than above. That makes for an awkward angle. Most people won’t care, but it will bug you if you video conference while traveling.
Core i3, i5, and i7 processors are available along with a selection of solid state hard drives and up to 16GB of RAM. It doesn’t set any performance records, but it’s on par with other laptops in the category. If you want speed, though, it’s available. The Core i7 models doesn’t have the Core i7-6500U found in most expensive ultrabooks, but instead opts for the Core i7-6560U, which boasts quicker integrated graphics and a higher maximum clock speed.
But the XPS 13 doesn’t earn the “best laptop” title because of its premium configuration. The laptop starts at just $800, and can be handsomely equipped for $1,000. These entry-level versions don’t have the fastest available hardware, but they retain the same design, features, and battery life as the most expensive. Nothing else offers the same overall value, and many competitors feel hopelessly out of date when placed next to Dell’s flagship.
Before buying, be sure to read our XPS 13 buying guide.