Many laptop designs now incorporate non-removable batteries that can't be swapped out. While the move toward sealing batteries into the chassis does allow for thinner designs, it removes the possibility of swapping out batteries on the go for longer use between charging. On the other hand, the efficiency gains of Intel's newest processors mean that most laptops will still last for the better part of a day.
As designs get sleeker and slimmer, manufacturers are using an array of materials in their construction. Plastic or polycarbonate is the least expensive and most commonly used material in laptop frames, but manufacturers have shown great ingenuity in making plastic not look cheap. The most common technique is in-mold decoration or in-mold rolling, a process made popular by Acer, HP, and Toshiba, in which decorative patterns are infused between plastic layers. This process has evolved into etched imprints and textures, commonly seen on laptop lids.
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In the end, though, plastics are often associated with low-priced laptops, while higher-end models rely on metals. Common premium choices include aluminum, which has a more luxurious look, and can be fashioned into a thinner chassis than plastic. Unibody construction, where the entire chassis is made from a single piece of metal, has become the gold standard, as seen on Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro lines.
Other all-metal designs mimic this same look and feel, securely sandwiching two separate layers together. Other common chassis materials include magnesium alloy and carbon fiber, both of which add strength while keeping overall weight low. Glass has long been found covering displays, but with ultra-strong variants like Gorilla Glass, you'll find the material being used in everything from the lid to the touchpad. Most laptops are backed by a one-year warranty on parts and labor.
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The standard warranty is limited, so it won't cover accidents that stem from, say, spilling a drink on the keyboard or dropping the system to a hard surface. Our rule of thumb is that if the warranty costs more than 15 percent of the laptop's purchase price, you're better off spending the money on backup drives or services that minimize downtime. Of course, you can't put a price tag on peace of mind. There are instances when the logic board or the display—the most expensive parts of a laptop—fail, and while rare, such a catastrophe can cost you half of what the laptop is worth.
Defective components usually break down during the first year; anything after that is typically attributed to wear and tear. If the breakdown can be attributed to a design flaw, laptop manufacturers will sometimes extend free warranties to cover these flaws, but only for certain models built during limited time periods.
The systems below, some of the best we've recently tested, span the spectrum of features, performance, and price to provide top choices for each type of user. We refresh the list constantly to include the newest products, but because of the large number of laptops we review every year, not every top-rated product makes the cut.
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For the very latest reviews, and to search for more top-rated products, check out the Laptop Product Guide. Beautiful rose-gold-and-white color scheme. Loaded models get pricey. Earning our highest recommendation and a rare five-star rating, the XPS 13 is, indisputably, the best ultraportable laptop you can buy. Pros: Thin, light, and very sturdy. ThinkPad-typical comfortable keyboard. Long battery life, as configured with p screen.
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Many screen options. Optional Intel vPro. Full-size HDMI output. Cons: Small touchpad. Requires not-included Ethernet adapter.
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Bottom Line: With a sturdy, lightweight carbon-fiber exterior, an excellent keyboard, and plenty of security and manageability features, Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 is the best laptop you can buy for your business. Pros: Integrated stylus. Thin and light. Stylish metal design with multiple color options. Optional 4K display. Webcam privacy filter. Dolby Vision HDR support.
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Excellent battery life. Cons: No SD-card reader. Ships with some bloatware. Pros: Sharp design. High-quality, portable build. Long battery life for a gaming laptop. Solid port selection. Per-key backlighting. Cons: GB of storage in tester unit is a little tight for gaming. A bit of lid flex. With no real flaws, an appealing price, and power topped only by pricey alternatives, it's our top midrange gaming laptop.
Pros: Portable, spiffy design. High-end build quality. Per-key RGB keyboard backlighting. Good battery life. Cons: Garish lid logo. Runs hot while gaming. White "Mercury Edition" costs extra. Pros: Sharp-looking aluminum design for a budget machine. Touch display as tested looks great. Comfortable backlit keyboard. Big touchpad. Cons: Processor could use a pick-me-up. Ho-hum speakers.
Pros: Unbeatable gaming performance for the price. Solid build. Good port selection. Seamlessly integrated component monitoring and boosting.
Cons: GB of storage restrictive for gaming. Brief battery life. It's our new top pick among entry-level gaming laptops. Pros: Thin, light, and stylish. Excellent trackpad.
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Long battery life. Brilliant display. Two Thunderbolt 3 ports. Cons: Relatively expensive, even in starting config. Limited connectivity for peripherals in lower-end models. Polarizing keyboard lacks vertical travel. Pros: Proximity sensor streamlines sign in. Sturdy, sleek chassis. Thin screen bezels, and relatively large inch screen. Excellent touchpad and keyboard.
Three-year warranty. Prime-time battery life. Cons: Relatively low maximum screen brightness. Lackluster audio quality. Pros: Low price. Sleek metal styling. Handsome 4K touch screen. Not suited for gaming despite discrete graphics. The Best Rugged Laptops for The Best Chromebooks for He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of a few startups.