Now that we’re pulling out the Halloween decorations and looking back over the year, what were the best laptops of 2018? We still have a few months to go, but we’ve rounded up our favorites released throughout 2018 in a list that may prove useful for those on the hunt for a new laptop. We’ve selected a great option for every category ranging from gaming to students to business.
Our list of the best laptops of 2018 includes solutions from Asus, Apple, Dell, Google, HP and Lenovo. It’s based on several factors: form factor and weight, the hardware under the hood and unique features. There’s something here for everyone, even for customers shying away from Microsoft and Windows 10.
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1
Starting price: $1,299
We kick off our list with Dell’s popular XPS-branded 2-in-1 sporting super-thin bezels for a better edge-to-edge display experience, steel hinges wrapped in aluminum enabling Laptop, Stand, Tent and Tablet form factors, and a starting weight of a mere 4.36 pounds. The chassis derives from CNC machined aluminum in an attractive Platinum Silver and Brushed Onyx colors.
What’s notable about this 2-in-1 is Dell’s selection of processors. The device relies on Intel’s eighth-generation Core i5-8305G and Core i7-8705G modules that combine processor cores, discrete AMD Radeon “Vega” graphics and dedicated video memory into a single module: A marriage once believe would happen only when pigs fly. That said, you could technically game on this 2-in-1, but it would also be a great solution for video editing and 3D modeling as well.
Outside the unique AMD/Intel marriage, the latest Dell XPS 2-in-1 sports a 15.6-inch touch-capable display with a 1,920 x 1,080 or 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. It ships with either 8GB or 16GB of DDR4 memory clocked at 2,400MHz, between 256GB and 2TB of storage on a PCIe-based SSD, two one-watt speakers, Killer Wireless AC (867Mbps) networking and Bluetooth and a 720p webcam with four array digital microphones.
Meanwhile, the port complement includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports moving data up to 40Gbps each, two USB-C ports at 5Gbps each, a Micro SD card reader and a headphone jack. All of this is powered by a 75WHr battery promising up to 15 hours and 53 minutes using the Full HD display. This 2-in-1 supports the Dell Premium Active Pen, sold separately.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Starting price: $1,367
Lenovo is Dell’s biggest competitor in the enterprise market, and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a great example. This laptop packs features like the ThinkShutter that covers the front-facing webcam, a match-on-chip fingerprint reader, facial recognition via an optional IR camera and data encryption via a discrete Trusted Platform Module.
But it’s a beautiful laptop as well sporting a thin, lightweight form factor weighing a mere 2.49 pounds and measuring just 0.62 inches thick. The screen isn’t exactly edge-to-edge, but the color depth, wide viewing angles, support for HDR and a brightness level up to 500 nits distract you from the somewhat bulky frame.
Under the hood you’ll find Intel’s eighth-generation Core i5-8250U or Core i7-8650U four-core processors released in the back half of 2017, up to 16GB of LPDDR3 memory clocked at 2,133MHz, and between 256GB and 1TB of storage on a stick-shaped OPAL2 SSD. The 14-inch screen is based on an IPS panel sporting a 1,920 x 1,080 or 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, depending on the model. You can configure this notebook with touch capabilities as well.
On the port side, you’ll have two USB-A ports (5Gbps), two Thunderbolt 3 ports (up to 40Gbps), one audio combo jack, a Micro SD card reader and an Ethernet extension connector. Wireless connectivity includes Wireless AC (867Mbps), Bluetooth 4.1 and an optional 4G LTE component. All of this is powered by a 57WHr battery promising up to 15 hours on a single charge. Lenovo’s laptop ships in Silver and Black colors.
Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501
Starting price: $1,799
The big selling point with this laptop is its slim figure. Asus deems it as the “world’s slimmest gaming laptop” with Nvidia’s meaty GeForce GTX 1080 discrete graphics chip and a 15.8-inch screen. Typically, notebooks with the GTX 1080 tend to be bulky and heavy due to the overall cooling requirements. But Asus managed to knock the thickness down to 0.66 inches and the laptop’s weight to 4.85 pounds. That’s not too shabby at all for what you get.
But here’s the thing: this slim form factor is made possible by Nvidia’s Max-Q technology. In a nutshell, Nvidia re-tooled its GTX 10 Series for mobile to get the best performance in a thin and light notebook. That meant tuning down the GPU’s power requirement to reduce the heat, thus reducing the performance around 10 percent. That said, you’re getting a slimmer gaming notebook but at a slight performance decrease using the MAx-Q variant versus the standard GTX 1080 mobile GPU used in bulkier gaming laptops.
If you can’t afford the GTX 1080 Max-Q chip, you’ll find a variant of this notebook with the GTX 1070 Max-Q discrete graphics chip. These GPUs are backed by seventh-generation Core i5-7300HQ and Core i7-7700HQ processors, both of which are high-performance, four-core chips. The “HQ” aspect merely means these CPUs have integrated high-performance graphics and four cores. Backing the CPUs is up to 24GB of DDR4 system memory clocked at 2,400MHz and up to 1TB of storage on a M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD.
Although this gaming laptop sports 15.6-inch screen with only a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution despite all the hardware under the hood, don’t be discouraged. The “IPS-level” screen has a 120Hz refresh rate, meaning it can render a single screen 120 times a second for extremely fluid framerates. Port-wise you get one Thunderbolt 3 port (up to 40Gbps), four USB-A ports (5Gbps), one HDMI 2.0 port and an audio combo jack. The battery isn’t spectacular with an up-time of only two hours, and you’ll be required to lug around a 230-watt power brick.
HP Pavilion x360 15t
Starting price: $529
As a parent, you don’t want to dump a lot of money into a laptop. But what you do need is a solution packing performance and great features, and that’s where HP’s Pavilion x360 15t comes into play. It’s a 2-in-1 device that converts into Laptop, Tent, Stand and Tablet modes and supports pen input such as the Wacom Bamboo Ink smart Stylus. It’s designed for any classroom situation whether your student needs to type a paper or take hand-written notes during a lecture.
The Pavilion x360 15t features a 15.6-inch screen with a 1,366 x 768 or 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. This screen is backed by Intel’s eighth-generation Core i3-8130U (two core), Core i5-8250U (four core) and Core i7-8550U (four core) processors. You’ll also find models with discrete AMD Radeon RX 530 graphics with either 2GB or 4GB of dedicated video memory, enabling a little HD gaming on the side.
Shipping in Natural Silver and Pale Gold, HP’s 2-in-1 consists of two memory slots technically supporting up to 16GB of DDR4 memory clocked at 2,400MHz although configurations will only max out at 12GB (1x 4GB and 1x 8GB). The laptop also supports Intel’s Optane memory that serves as a cache device for hard drives, speeding up performance. That said, you’ll only see the Optane component alongside the 1TB hard drive. Other storage options include a single 256GB SSD, a 1TB hard drive and 128GB SSD combo, and a single 512GB SSD.
Other features thrown into the Pavilion mix include HDMI 1.4 output, two USB-A ports (5Gbps), one USB-C port (5Gbps), Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, an HD or FHD webcam, a backlit keyboard and an audio combo jack. This 2-in-1 measures just 0.78 inches thick, weighs 4.58 pounds and is powered by a 48WHr battery promising up to 10 hours and 15 minutes with normal use.
For Chromebook fans
Starting price: $999
If you’re going to invest in a Chromebook, why not take the premium plunge with Google? It’s not exactly cheap for a 12.3-inch Chromebook, packing a starting price of $999, but it’s a beautiful device with an extremely slim form factor and a high-resolution display. Even more, it has a 360-degree hinge enabling Laptop, Tent, Stand and Tablet modes. It supports the Google Pixelbook Pen too that’s sold separately for $100.
Despite the small-ish 12.3-inch display, the screen boasts a high 2,400 x 1,600 resolution and a maximum brightness of 400 nits. It’s backed by your choice of a seventh-generation Core i5-7Y57 or Core i7-7Y75 processor, and either 8GB or 16GB of system memory. Your configurations are locked to three choices containing these components along with SSD-based storage between 128GB and 512GB.
Available only in Silver, Google’s Pixelbook includes a 720p webcam, a handful of sensors, two USB-C ports capable of charging (5Gbps), a headphone jack, a backlit keyboard, Wireless AC (867Mbps) and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, and an edge-to-edge trackpad with an etched glass surface. It’s backed by a 41WHr battery promising up to 10 hours of normal use.
Finally, the big selling point with Google’s Pixelbook is its overall aluminum unibody design. It measures just 0.40 inches thick and weighs a mere 2.45 pounds. It was also the first laptop with native Google Assistant support, providing a dedicated “assistant” key on the keyboard. You can also activate the assistant using your voice or by circling the icon with the Google Pixelbook Pen.
For Apple fans
MacBook Pro 15 with Touch Bar
Starting price: $2,399
Of course, we can’t forget the Mac lovers, and our pick for the fruity company is the latest 15-inch MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar. Apple just refreshed the hardware during the middle of 2018, packing Intel’s latest six-core processors for mobile: the Core i7-8750H, the Core i7-8850H and the Core i9-8950HK. They’re joined by AMD’s discrete Radeon Pro 555X and Radeon Pro 560X graphics, both of which include 4GB of dedicated video memory.
The refreshed MacBook Pro is based on a 15.4-inch IPS screen with a native 2,880 x 1,800 resolution. It supports up to 32GB of DDR4 system memory clocked at 2,400MHz, and between 256GB and 4TB of storage, the latter of which will set you back an additional $3,200 on top of the starting price. Your port complement is limited to four Thunderbolt 3 ports running at up to 40Gbps each and a headphone jack. Note that all four Thunderbolt 3 ports are capable of charging devices along with the MacBook Pro.
Other ingredients thrown into Apple’s refreshed MacBook Pro include a 720p FaceTime camera, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, a full-size backlit keyboard, a Force Touch trackpad and Apple’s coveted Touch Bar with an integrated Touch ID sensor. If you’re not familiar with the Touch Bar, it’s a long touch-capable strip running along the top of the keyboard that serves as an extension for supporting apps. The integrated Touch ID sensor reads your fingerprint for logging onto the MacBook Pro and making secure payments.
Finally, Apple’s MacBook Pro is powered by a 83.6WHr battery promising up to 10 hours of normal use and up to 30 days of standby time. Available on Silver and Space Gray, this MacBook Pro has two starting points: $2,399 with the Core i7-8750H and $2,799 with the Core i7-8850H. Upgrading to the Core i9-8950HK will set you back an additional $300.