BEST ULTRAPORTABLE LAPTOP: Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN
Picking a winner from all those fantastic ultraportable devices on the market, today is kind of tricky because all the big-name manufacturers, including Dell, Lenovo, Asus, HP and others offer super top-end laptop options.
While quite a few laptops come into consideration while deciding on the best in this category, it is the Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN that got our vote, based on specifications, features and overall performance.
What makes the ZenBook special is the fact that it runs a discrete NVIDIA GeForce MX150 chip in a very light and portable package, although it may not be the thinnest laptop around.
While the MX150 is not the most powerful GPU, it does push out pretty decent frame rates in games, allowing you to comfortably play any popular title, as long as you are okay with lower graphics quality – a bit.
The fans on this thing are completely silent and don’t even kick in unless you are working on some really intensive stuff, but even then they don’t get too loud. It’s when you are playing games that they tend to get quite noisy.
While keeping it relatively slim, Asus has given the laptop enough room to allow for a proper thermal solution because of the presence of a decent GPU inside.
For a device that’s priced at $1,000, you’d expect it to have a good build-quality, and the ZenBook does deliver on that count. The screen may have a little more flex compared to its predecessor, but apart from that, the build quality is excellent.
Another noteworthy feature is its trackpad – one of the better ones seen from the house of Asus. It’s made of glass with a fantastic, super smooth feel to it. It probably doesn’t get better than this on a Windows laptop.
The 13.3-inch screen is really bright at 300 nits, with impressive color accuracy and viewing angles, but the hinge leaves a bit to be desired; a stiffer hinge would have been ideal.
Asus Zenbook 13 UX331 series specs.
- Price: $999
- CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
- Display size resolution: 13.3-inch, 1,920×1,080-pixel touch display
- Memory: 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz
- Graphics: 2GB NVIDIA GeForce MX150 Graphics
- Networking: 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
- Operating system: Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
- Storage: 256GB M.2 SATA III SSD
BEST CONVERTIBLE LAPTOP: Surface Book 2
At $ 2,500, our final pick for the best convertible laptop is, probably, not the most affordable option for everyone, but the 13-inch Microsoft Surface Book 2 does offer some extremely convincing features.
It includes some of the best hardware you can get in a 13-inch form factor combined with a screen that detaches from the base when you need it as a portable tablet.
Our choice of the Core i-7 model includes Intel’s top-end 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-8650U quad-core processor, with 4.2GHz Max Turbo, together with an NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1050 discrete GPU, which is far more powerful than the MX-150 that is typical for these types of devices.
All that power does a great job of driving the magnificent high-resolution 3,000 x2,000 13.5-inch LCD, with a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is amazing for productivity apps.
For those who like to annotate and draw, the Surface Book 2’s active stylus, the Surface Pen, is definitely worth the extra $100 expense it entails.
The magnesium chassis is one of the best you can get on any laptop and it now includes USB-C, although there is no Thunderbolt3 support.
The battery life is also quite good for a laptop that’s so powerful.
Our choice of configuration for the SurfaceBook 2 would be the 13-inch model at $2,500, which comes with the Core i-7, GTX 1050, 16GB of RAM, and 512gb SSD.
There’s no doubt that the Surface Book 2 is a very expensive laptop, indeed, but there is also no doubt that you won’t find another one as powerful; as a matter of fact, the next best doesn’t even come close to it.
The Surface Book 2 is the laptop to buy if you want the best there is among convertible options.
BEST PRODUCTIVITY LAPTOP: Dell XPS 15 9570
If you’re looking for a more professional, portable, productivity-oriented device that’s not as expensive as a gaming laptop but still provides high-performance hardware, the Dell XPS 15 9570 checks all those boxes.
It is a fantastic combination of portability, performance, and affordability for $1,700.
The Dell XPS 15 9570 comes loaded with a 6-core Intel Core i-7 8750H CPU. 16GB of RAM, 512GB solid-state drive, and a 15.6-inch 1080p display with super slim bezels.
Also, it has the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti discrete GPU, plus a huge 97 watt-hour battery and Thunderbolt3 connectivity.
It may not be the cheapest laptop to include this sort of hardware, as there are plenty of gaming laptops out there for around $1,200 that will quench your hardware thirst, but there’s no match for the XPS 15’s portability and battery life.
The overall footprint of this Dell device is small – thanks to its super slim bezels – and it’s at least a kilogram lighter with a thickness of just 15mm.
While there are plenty of slim and light gaming laptops out there that provide the same CPUs and, maybe, faster GPUs, the Dell XPS 15 is still more portable and a few hundred dollars cheaper, with impressive productivity-oriented features.
Admitted that the discrete GPU is just a GTX 1050 Ti rather than a GTX 1060 like you get with a decent portable gaming laptop but it’s more than enough for tasks like video editing, simulations, and more.
However, if you’re looking to do more than just occasional games, a gaming laptop might be a better option for you, anyway.
BEST BUDGET LAPTOP: Acer Aspire E15
If you’re looking for a value for money laptop in a reasonable price range, without compromising too much on features and performance, then, look no further than the Acer Aspire E15.
With a Quad Core 8-thread processor, a 15.6-inch 1080p in-plane switching (IPS) display, a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, solid state boot drive and 8GB of expandable system RAM, the Acer Aspire E15 (E5-576G-5762) is, arguably, the best $600 laptop on the market today.
Okay, so, it’s not faultless and it doesn’t do everything, but for $600 it does more than enough, and whether or not it’s the right laptop for you, depends on the kind of work you need to do on it.
First up, let’s make it absolutely clear that this particular Acer Aspire laptop is by no stretch of the imagination meant for hardcore gaming or heavy-duty video rendering – nor is it meant for intense workloads.
It’s an amazing laptop for web and social media browsing, watching movies, working with MS Office and, to a certain extent, image editing and even 1080p video editing – with pretty satisfactory results, at that.
- 6GHz Intel Quad Core, 8-thread i5-8250U Processor
- 8GB DDR2 SDRAM 1,600MHz (upgradable to 16GB)
- 256GB M.2 SSD with Open 2.5” Bay for Second Drive
- NVidia GeForce MX 150 GPU 2GBVRAM
- 15.6-inch Full HD – 1080p in-plane switching (IPS) display
In terms of heat and noise, the Acer Aspire E15 behaves just fine when, for example, you’re watching videos on YouTube, editing documents, working on PowerPoint presentations, editing images or doing other work in Windows. You can, actually, place it on your lap and work for hours at a time with no discernible heating or noise.
However, it’s a different story, altogether, when you’re gaming or performing a CPU- or GPU-intensive task.
Despite the low power graphics chip and a low power CPU, the E5 can get hotter and noisier than the far more powerful Acer Predator Helios 300.
Acer may claim a 12-hour battery life on this laptop but that’s not really the case.
Is it good for 6-7 hours then?
Yes, it is.
BEST GAMING LAPTOP: Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
When it comes to gaming laptops, there are lots of different categories to choose from and we have chosen the Gigabyte Aero 15X v8, based purely on performance, with no consideration for affordability, we have to admit.
You may be familiar with last year’s Gigabyte Aero 15X, but the new generation Gigabyte Aero 15X v8 is now set to take over as the top-of-the-line 15-inch gaming laptop.
One of the most powerful in the category today, this super thin high-end laptop, with a notably small form factor, is the first to use Intel’s new 8th-generation Core i7 laptop processor.
The laptop boasts some very impressive specifications, such as a powerful Nvidia GTX GPU, a brand new Intel 6-core processor, Thunderbolt RGB backlit keyboard, a powerful battery and a super thin bezel on the monitor, and much more.
With no room at the top of the screen, owing to the super thin bezel on the 15.6-inch display on this machine, the high definition webcam is set below the display along with the integrated microphone.
The webcam-hiding trick is not much different from the one adopted by Huawei on its new MateBook Pro; it’s just that Huawei chose to hide the webcam in one of the function keys.
The ultra-thin bezel on the 1920 x 1080 pixel HD resolution monitor, along with the 144 Hertz refresh rate, makes the v8’s screen one of the best in gaming devices today, minimizing motion blur and giving enhanced responses to quick reactions.
As should be expected on a gaming laptop, Gigabyte gives you a full-blown Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU inside the v8; however, the real thing here is Intel’s 8th generation Coffee Lake CPU – the i7-8750H six-core processor.
- CPU Intel 8th Gen. Core i7-8750HQ, 6 cores with HT, 2.2GHz base clock, All Core Boost 3.4GHz, Max Boost 4.0GHz, 45W TDP
- Screen 15.6-inch, 1,920×1,080 resolution, 144Hz refresh IPS
- Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
- Memory 16GB G.Skill RipJaws DDR4-2666MHz
- SSD 512GB Toshiba THNSN5512 M.2 NVMe
- Storage 2x PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 slots
- Audio 2x 2W speakers
- Ethernet Realtek Gigabit
- WiFi Intel AC 8265 Wireless
Battery: 94.24Wh 6200mAh, 215W adapter
Dimensions: 356mm x 250mm x 18mm
Weight 2.09kg plus 720g for power supply and mains cable