To call the latest MacBook Air “new” is slightly misleading. This is a machine that’s been around for a decade, and its newest components have made appearances in other laptops before. That said, we are here for this long-overdue MacBook Air update, which gives the notebook a high-resolution display, a third-generation butterfly keyboard, a fingerprint sensor, and all of the necessary internal boosts. At $1,199, it no longer falls into the sub-$1,000 category of Apple laptops, but if you can afford it, it’s the sushi knife of laptops: honed and precise.
Frills may be in short supply on the second-generation Surface Laptop, but if you’re looking for a full Windows 10 machine with the same clean lines and portability as a MacBook Air, the Surface Laptop should be at the top of your list. (Plus, that alcantara chassis is handsome.) The biggest update to this year’s laptop is the inclusion of an eight-generation Intel Core processor; its battery life is also especially noteworthy, clocking over ten hours in our reviewer’s test, which involved nonstop video playback. It starts at $999—and, unlike the MacBook Air, the Surface Laptop has a touchscreen.
Dell’s XPS 13 has been kicking around since 2012 and remains one of the most popular thin and light laptops out there. There are some compromises that come with this newest model of this machine—somehow, its “Nosecam” is still positioned at the bottom of the display—but its portability, solid benchmark scores, and above-average battery life make it a reliable choice for a 13-inch Windows laptop. This year’s model also has thinner bezels, a brighter screen, and improved thermal engineering. The XPS 13 starts at just $899, but if you want better performance, you’re likely going to want to upgrade to a configuration that will run you $1,200 or more.
Like several lighter options on the market, Lenovo’s Yoga line of laptops can be used in different modes: as a laptop, as a slate tablet, as a propped-up touch display. What’s different about this year’s Yoga (the Yoga C930, as it’s called) is that Lenovo has replaced its usual watchband hinge with a new hinge that contains the laptop’s speaker, ensuring the audio experience is good no matter which way you use the thing. It also now ships with a stylus pen, and has a physical privacy shutter that covers the webcam. Otherwise, this bendy laptop comes with all the things we’ve come to expect from 2018 laptops—updated internals, excellent battery life—making this a solid choice if you’re looking to spend more than $1,000 on a Windows laptop.
Razer’s Blade laptops changed the game for gaming PCs when they first hit the market four years ago, packing lots of power into relatively svelte machines. This year Razer did it again. The 2018 Razer Blade has an aluminum enclosure, a full 15.6-inch display with minimal bezels, a precise keyboard, a lovely glass trackpad, and a revamped vapor chamber cooling system. More noteworthy are its internals: Its base model runs on a hexacore Intel i7 chip, 16GB of RAM, Nvidia 1060 Max-Q graphics, and a hybrid SSD/HDD storage solution. That configuration, which starts at $1,600, also comes with a 1080p HD display; but if you want to live a little, you can splurge on upgraded internals and a UHD touchscreen display.
Huawei hasn’t been making laptops for all that long, and yet it’s managed to make a splash with its MateBook X. The machine has a slim aluminum body, superb battery life, and a gorgeous display that measures nearly 14 inches across diagonally. Despite the fact that its webcam, which is hidden in a function key and pops up like an old car headlight, is highly impractical (almost unusable), the MateBook X is a worthy aesthetic competitor to many of the MacBook-inspired models out there. $1,200 will get you an eighth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256-gigabyte solid state drive. For $1,500, you can buy a model with a separate Nvidia GeForce graphics card.
It’s been more than a year since Google announced the Pixelbook, its homegrown laptop running on Chrome OS, and the company declined to announce any sort of update to the Pixelbook this fall. With that in mind, the late-2017 Pixelbook is still the Chromebook to beat. It’s a good-looking, versatile, two-pound machine. Its 12.5-inch screen rotates 360 degrees, so you can use it as either a laptop of tablet, and it works with an accessory stylus. Its internals are respectable: it runs on an Intel Kaby Lake processor, and ships with 8 or 16 gigabytes of RAM and at least 128 GB of storage—plenty for a cloud-connected Chromebook. Despite the fact that Android apps still (still!) feel like a work in progress on Chrome OS, other features like the built-in Google Assistant make it more than just a laptop that’s running a web browser.
The MacBook Pro has caused such angst. Over the past couple of years, it has lost the ports we’d all grown to love, been graced with a superfluous TouchBar, and had some not-so-minor keyboard issues. But it’s also still the thing that every real creative macOS professional must have. This year’s 15-inch MacBook Pro has only confirmed that. Its Intel Core i9 processor has 6 cores and 12 threads, and the laptop handles video editing and other forms of digital artistry like, well, a pro. It has a great trackpad, and excellent speakers. And this newest model has a third-generation butterfly keyboard, which means its quieter but, more importantly, was designed to keep debris out of the keys. It’s going to cost you––it starts at a cool $2,399––but when you’re editing your most important work on it, it will feel like money well spent.
The HP Spectre x360 is in a weird spot: New models were released early this year, and then an even newer version of this popular convertible laptop was announced in October. But since we haven’t had the chance to give the brand-new one a spin, we’re recommending the early 2018 HP Spectre x360. This 2.8-pound, 13-inch laptop has a 360-degree hinge that allows it to be used as a laptop, as a slate tablet, or as a “tented” computer. It now has a sharp, HD display and an eighth-generation Intel Core processor. Plus, it now can get up to eight hours of battery life on a charge, up from a pithy five hours on the previous version. It might not be the newest notebook out there, but it still performs well.
Microsoft’s Surface Go stands out on this list not only for its diminutive size but for its form factor: Since it’s really a Surface tablet with a detachable keyboard and stylus pen (both sold separately), it’s not exactly your standard laptop. But it does run Windows 10 (the S-mode version) and runs on an Intel processor that’s certainly faster than anything you’d get in the early days of the Surface lineup. It also has the same premium build as its more expensive Surface brethren, a colorful, sharp display, and even Windows Hello facial recognition. Some people might still look to a full-sized clamshell laptop with more powerful internals. For others with less intense computing needs, though, the $399 Surface Go might just be the only “laptop” they’ll need.