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 MacOS 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.
Dell XPS 13
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 with a 3,200 x 1,800 panel 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.
Cutting edge 7th-generation Kaby Lake Core i3, i5, and i7 processors are available along with a selection of solid state hard drives and up to 16GB of RAM. The Core i7 models don’t have the Core i7-6500U found in most expensive ultrabooks, but instead opts for the 7th-generation Core i7-7500U, 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.
The best Mac
MacBook Pro 13-inch (without Touch Bar)
Why should you buy this: You refuse to use Windows.
Who’s it for: Anyone who refuses to use Windows.
How much will it cost: $1,500
Why we picked the MacBook Pro 13-inch (without Touch Bar)
Most people are looking at a Mac for one of two reasons. Either you’re a fan of MacOS and refuse to use Windows, or you’re attracted to Apple’s brand and want to buy one based on the company’s reputation.
If you’re in the first group, then nothing we say will sway you. In that case, we recommend you purchase the MacBook Pro 13 without Touch Bar. Why not one of the more expensive models with the highly-anticipated OLED Touch Bar where the function keys used to reside? In our opinion, the Touch Bar just doesn’t add enough functionality, certainly not enough to justify an extra $300 to an already high price tag.
If you’re looking at a Mac based on its reputation, we suggest you reconsider. The company has allowed its computers to fall by the wayside. All Mac models equip Intel processors that are one or two generations behind the latest, as even the recently updated MacBook Pro line features processors from Intel’s 6th-generation lineup, not the new 7th-gen. MacOS is a fine operating system that does its job, but we think Windows 10 is even better. Finally, Apple’s laptops are much too expensive for the hardware they offer.
Apple does have one big benefit — service. The company tends to cover defective hardware that others might refuse to service, and you can take your Mac to a retail store if you need help. This might sway users who are particularly concerned with potential problems. But a Mac is not bombproof, and most modern laptops can easily last five years. We don’t think fear of an ambiguous future problem that may or may not happen should be what guides your buying decision.
Our full review (with Touch Bar)