The Best Laptops to Get Your Hands On In 2017

With a variety of companies coming up with different models, buying a laptop has become a lot more confusing!

With the increasing popularity of iPads, analysts were expecting a drop in the popularity of laptops, but that never happened. While smartphones and iPads can easily handle the daily workload, it has still not been successful in replacing the tried and tested laptops.

In the past few years, the laptop market has seen a huge change and a lot more to come. Nowadays, the laptop models come equipped with everything from business-savvy ultraportables that weighs approximately 2 pounds to lap-crushing laptops weighing more than 10 pounds.

Moreover, the laptops or the notebooks do not look similar to what they used to look like a few years ago. With interesting and convertible designs, companies are thinking out-of-the-box to make difficult designs possible. While some laptops can easily double up as a tablet, other touch enables personal computers are slate tablets which come equipped with hardware keyboards.

If you are confused about which laptop to choose, this buying guide will come handy. Here, we will brief you on the latest design, specifications, features, current trends and more while helping you figure out how to find the best laptop that is in sync with your requirements.

Windows and Touch Input

Earlier had high hopes with the Microsoft Windows 8 as it was supposed to make computing more touch-centric. However, people were left disappointed. So, the company wanted to make the next operating system, easier to use and more touch-centric.

If you are buying a laptop today, it will most probably come with Window 10, which combines an element from Windows 8 touch-based user interface along with some traditional features. There’s a lot more to Windows 10 that can be explained here in detail, but the bottom line is that the touch interface has been brought to the forefront by Windows 10. Thus, a large number of laptops features touch screens and some of the models that don’t come with a touch screen have features that provide similar functionality.

If you are planning to shop for a Windows laptop that comes with a touch screen, you are not required to spend a fortune. Entry-level models with a price tag of around $150 – $300 feature a touch screen these days. Moreover, the Windows touch user experience has been improved a lot. There are high chances that you won’t need it on gaming machine but you need to master today’s game title as the touch screen can interfere with the control scheme.

Ultraportables

Walk around the gadget shop and you will notice a selection of laptops that have been made a lot thinner and sleeker than the rest of the categories. These wafer-thin systems represent a new category of computers – a laptop that is light enough that you will even forget you are carrying it. It has a long-lasting battery that makes it easy to work for long hours even when no power outlet is available.

Whether you pick up 128 GB or 256 GB solid state drive (SSD), the ultraportables offer fast storage. These can resume work in seconds after being not in use even for days at a stretch. The entire category of ultraportables has been thinned down in general. Whether you are going in for the mainstream PCs or the sliver-thin ultraportables, they are lighter, thinner and better suited for everyday use even on the go.

Hybrid Laptops

The evolution of laptops and tablets have emphasized that not only the touch capability of both the categories have grown rather a new category has been formed which combine laptops and tablets features. Hybrid laptops or the 2 in 1 systems are capable of functioning either as a tablet or a laptop, depending on your requirement. This category gives you more freedom to use the device according to your convenience anywhere.

There are two types of hybrid laptops. The first one, being the convertible hybrid laptop, can easily be transformed from a laptop into a tablet and back into a laptop by rotating the display. The screen can easily be stopped at various positions so that you can use it according to your convenience. This design works best for those who are comfortable using a tablet but want the convenience of a laptop.

A detachable hybrid might work well for those who do not require using the keyboard a lot. It is primarily a tablet that comes with laptop-like functionalities. It comes along with a Bluetooth keyboard for wireless connection or a docking keyboard with secondary batteries for long battery life.

Premium Models

Irrespective of the fact that the entire range of laptop has gone slimmer, there’s still a category of the larger desktop that blend premium functionality and design. It is a fact that desktops are not as easy to carry around as laptops, but the 15-inch laptops offer the comfort and ease of desktops. They have bigger displays, offer optical drives and have a wide range of features along with a broad selection of ports. The screen resolution runs from 1,366 by 768 for low priced laptops to 1,920 by 1,080 resolutions for mainstream models and 3,840 by 2,160 resolutions on high-end laptop models used by graphic designers.

Gaming Laptop

The recent years have seen a decline in the sale of laptops and desktops. However, an increase has been seen in the sale of tablets and gaming PCs. For someone who wants to top-of-the-line performance, potent graphic card, high-end processor and high-resolution display, it is worth investing in gaming rigs. While a laptop starts at about $799, you may need to spend more than $3000 for a system that comes equipped with lots of memory, powerful processor, and high-end GPUs.

However, before you plan to invest a fortune in a gaming laptop, you should be aware of what you are spending your money on. Powerful quad-core processors with Intel Core i7 chips will push limits further even for non-gamers. Discrete AMD and GPUs from Nvidia gives silky-smooth graphics and impressive frame rates. Some also come with two GPUs, which justify the high price. Some additional features to look for are:

  • High-resolution display

  • 1 Tb hard drive

More space means you will be able to save your entire game library easily on the gaming machine. So make sure you choose one that offers 1Tb storing space of more on hard drive.

Not all gaming laptops are beasts as the slim design of ultraportable laptops have given birth to a new breed of machines. The ultraportables put gaming level performance into a more portable design, that comes with long-lasting battery and sleek built. However, the high-level performance will burn a hole in your pocket as the gaming ultraportables generally run in the range of $2000.

Chromebooks

Chromebooks lies at the other end of high priced gaming laptops pricing spectrum. You are expected to spend anywhere between $199 to $500, to get your hands on these chrome operating system based laptops. These are power efficient laptops that are designed solely to surf the internet using the chrome operating system. Tall in power, small in stature, wide of vision and narrow of purpose, is what explains it the best. Moreover chrome operating system is essential for running Google chrome on systems that are considered too tight for Windows PC.

Chromebooks have a system memory that is typically a lean 2 GB and the local storage is limited to 16 GB of flash memory. However that is enough to help you get on the internet, where you can easily store your files on Google Drive.

The Chrome OS comes with a primary benefit. It is immune to malware plaguing Windows System. This is because you will never be running the Windows program ever. Chrome OS is also updated within seconds rather than taking minutes or hours, something which is common for Windows update. If you are someone who spends more than 90% of their time in a web browser, then you should not have a trouble in picking up a Chromebook as your primary personal computer.

Shopping For Laptop Based on Specifications

When it comes to picking up one of the best laptop, connectivity is the key factor. Every laptop model available in the market comes with Bluetooth for connecting wireless peripherals and internet connectivity is delivered with 802.11n Wi-Fi, with the newer and faster 802.11ac standard coming to more systems every day.

There are some mobile broadband options to help you get out of a fix when there is no Wi-Fi hotspot nearby. This is increasingly rare as customers generally prefer to use personal mobile hotspot that can easily work for a number of devices or that forgo a second mobile contract to stay with their smartphone connection.

The desktop replacement and ultraportables depend on USB connectivity to work with a broad range of accessories and peripherals. While USB 2.0 can be found in all lowest-priced laptops, the USB 3.0 offers much greater bandwidth and faster transfer of data. The USB 3.0 button is usually identified by a blue colored port or a port labeled with the letter SS denoting super speed. Some USB ports are also equipped to charge MP3 player or mobile phone. They can even charge a laptop when the battery goes down. Look for a lightning bolt icon next to the USB logo for these charging ports.

Few laptop manufacturers such as Apple, Lenovo and HP have implemented Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 interface as an alternative to USB 3.0 to hook up storage devices, monitors and docking stations, however, it has not gained popularity for widespread adoption. That’s unlikely to be true with USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. In addition, to allowing huge amount of power delivery and throughout, the USB-C interface is smaller than Type-A USB port. However this makes it ideal for the svelte laptops that are so in vogue today. It comes with a down side too which is the need to give up useful ports like HDMI and Ethernet.

Thunderbolt 3 rides in on USB-C’s coattails, use the same socket and plug, along with extra circuitry to boost throughput to 40 Gbps for enormous data transfers. This means you will get eight times faster data transfer as compared to USB 3.0 and four times faster than USB 3.1/USB-C. From budget models of laptops falling in the $229 price range to $5000 work stations, Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C are showing in a variety of models. The latest line of Apple MacBook Pros uses it exclusively. Because of Apple and the general necessity of having thinner, more extensible ports in computer hardware of all types, expect these two interfaces to be pretty much everywhere this year.

The VGA interface is fast disappearing due to space constraints in ultraportables. Newer monitors and projectors work better with HDMI and DisplayPort. HSMI is more popular than its counterpart all thanks to demand for connecting laptops to the TV. The cable free cousin of HDMI, Intel’s Wireless Display or WiDi beams a laptop’s audio and video to a TV fitted with a third-party adapter. There are other laptops that support Miracast, which is a wireless display standard which works with a wide range of devices such as TVs, tablets, mobile phones and laptops.

Optical drive is also becoming scarce these days because of the presence of a number of software online. Cloud services are also taking over many local applications and the optical drive has dropped from the modern lines. However for those who still need to install software from a disc or love watching movies on DVD or Blu-ray, can still find them easily. And for those without, it is extremely easy to use external USB DVD and Blu-ray drives as it is to use built-in drives.

Premium ultraportables rely on SSDs for the performance boost offered by solid-state storage. There are many mainstream systems that use a combination of the traditional spinning hard drive and SSDs. This combination lets you run the programs quickly and still leave you with ample storage space. SSD-only laptops comes with a storage space of 256GB or 512GB, however you may sometimes come across premium systems that are equipped with 1TB and larger drives. If you are still looking for more space on the hard drive, you can choose USB 3.0 external hard drive as it will be able to store all your data.

Under The Hood

In mid 2016, Intel came up with the most dominant processor chips when it launched the 7th Generation Core processors. Designed with hybrid design and ultraportables in mind, the new CPUs (identifiable by model numbers in the 7000s as opposed to the 6000s and 5000s used in previous-generation “Skylake” and “Haswell” parts) not only had amazing battery life but also boast of improved graphics processing. Another extension of Kaby Lake, Core M trades some performance for even better battery life. AMD’s own line of processors also offer greater performance at cost-efficient prices, however they were unable to match the efficiency gains of Intel’s latest chips.

Whether you are picking up Skylake chips or Kaby Lake chips from Intel, or AMD’s APUs, you will find an integrated graphics subsystem that is highly adequate for graphics tasks, unless you are a CAD user or part time gamer. It is amazing to use high-end discrete graphics processing units for 3D games, watching blu-ray movies or transcoding 1080p video, however similar to fast processor, they also take a toll on laptop’s battery life. Different technologies such as Nvidia Optimus, AMD Enduro, and Apple Automatic Graphics Switching stretch battery life by switching flawlessly between integrated and discrete graphics based on application demand.

Nowadays, many laptop designs incorporate removable batteries which are impossible to swap out. While removable batteries have made it easier to give a thinner feel to the laptops, it has removed the possibility of swapping out batteries for longer use between different charging sessions. However, high efficiency of Intel’s newest processor also means that a majority of laptops will last you for a long part of the day with recharging the laptop.

Moving Beyond Plastic

As laptop design gets slimmer and sleeker, manufactures are using different material for their construction. While plastic or polycarbonate is the least expensive material, however manufacturers are moving beyond plastic and showing great ingenuity in making plastic not look cheap. The technique they are using is known as in-mold rolling or in-mold decoration, which is a process made famous by Toshiba, HP, and Acer. In this technique, decorative pattern are used in between layers of plastic. The in-mold decoration process has evolved a lot and nowadays manufacturers are using it to etch prints and textures on laptops.

Since time immemorial, plastic has been associated with low-priced laptops, while metal laptops were deemed to be high-end models. Some manufacturers also choose to design their laptops in aluminum which gives a more luxurious look to the laptop. Aluminum laptops also have a thinner chassis than plastic laptops. The Apple’s MacBook Air and Pro comes with a unibody construction as the entire chassis is made up of a single metal piece. There are other all metal design laptops that mimic a similar look and feel and sandwich two separate layers together.

Carbon fiber and magnesium alloy are other common chassis materials which add strength while keeping overall weight low. Glass has been found on the displays of laptop; however, you will find the ultra-strong variants like Gorilla glass being used in everything from touchpad to lid.

Buying an Extended Warranty

A majority of laptops comes with one-year warranty on labor and different parts. While the standard warranty is limited, it doesn’t cover accidents that may occur unintentionally. Laptop sellers generally sell accidental coverage as a different plan on top of the optional extended warranties.

So if you are planning to take up the extended warranties along with accidental coverage, you might be required to spend close to $300 for three years of comprehensive coverage. If you are picking up an Apple laptop, you can choose the three-year extended warranty worth $250 but if you are purchasing a Window-based laptop, you can get your hands on four years warranty.

A rule of thumb is that if you are paying more than 15 % of the laptop cost as the warranty price, you better choose the other path and spend the money on backup drives and minimizing downtime. While it is not possible to put a price tag on piece of mind, you should still spend your money carefully. There have been instances when the most expensive parts – display or the logic board of the laptop fails. Such a catastrophe can cost you half of what the laptop is worth. Various defective components in the laptop usually break down in the first few months and anything after that is typically attributed to wear and tear. If your laptop has experienced a breakdown due to design flaw, the manufacturers will extent the free warranty in certain cases. However, only certain laptop models are covered for the limited time period.

The Best Laptops to Get Your Hands on

Here are some laptops which we have recently tested for spectrum of features, price and performance to help you choose the best one according to your requirements.

Name Lenovo Yoga 910 Razer Blade Pro 2016 Asus Chromebook Flip (C302CA-DHM4) Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch 2016 Asus Zenbook 3 (UX390UA) Lenovo ThinkPad X260 Microsoft Surface Book 2016, Intel Core i7 HP ZBook Studio G3
Price  $709.99  $1,699.00  $499.99  $2,249.00  $1,429.00  $1,049,98  $2,526.82  $1,999,00
Type General Purpose Gaming General Purpose, Ultraportable, Value, Tablet General Purpose, Ultraportable, Media, Business, Small Business Ultraportable Ultraportable, Business Tablet, Business Business
Platform Windows 10 Windows 10 Google Chrome OS MacOS Windows 10 Windows 10 Windows 10 Windows 10
Processor Name Intel Core i7-7500U Intel Core i7-6700HQ Intel Core m3-6Y30 Intel Core i7-6820HQ Intel Core i7-7500U Intel Core i5-6300U Intel Core i7-6600U Intel Core Xeon E3-1505M v5
Processor Speed 2.7 GHz 2.6 GHz 900 MHz 2.7 GHz 2.7 GHz 2.4 GHz 2.6 GHz 2.8 GHz
RAM 8 GB 32 GB 4 GB 16 GB 16 GB 8 GB 16 GB 32 GB
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 620  Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080  Intel HD Graphics 515 AMD Radeon PRO 455  Intel HD Graphics 620  Intel HD Graphics 520  Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M  Nvidia Quadro M1000M
Storage Capacity  256 GB  512 GB 64 GB  512 GB 512 GB 256 GB  1TB 512 GB
Screen Size  13.9 inches 17.3 inches  12.5 inches  15.6 inches 12.5 inches  12.5 inches  13.5 inches  15.6 inches
Resolution  1920 x 1080  3840 x 2160  1920 x 1080  2880 x 1800  1920 x 1080  1920 x 1080  3000 x 2000  3840 x 2160
Weight  3.01 lbs  7.72 lbs  2.43 lbs 3.99 lbs 1.97 lbs 3.03 lbs  3.63 lbs  4.62 lbs
Battery  21:28  3:48 hrs:min  10:23  11:19 12:07 10:45  19:16  6:04 hrs:min
See product  SEE IT SEE IT SEE IT SEE IT SEE IT SEE IT SEE IT SEE IT

Asus Chromebook Flip (C302CA-DHM4)

  1. Asus Chromebook Flip (C302CA-DHM4)

The Asus Chromebook Flip (C302CA-DHM4) is priced to compete with various entry-level Windows laptops, yet is designed to offer premium look and feel. The metal body construction, beautiful screen, backlit keyboard, and long battery life make it a very attractive alternative to plastic laptops.

PROS CONS
  • Increased RAM and storage space

  • HD screen

  • Convertible hinge design

  • Two USB-C ports

  • Bright and clear display

  • Warranty included

  • Backlit keyboard

Cons:

  • Pricier than chromebooks

  • Legacy connection requires adaptor

$227.99 AT AMAZON

The Asus Chromebook Flip (C302CA-DHM4) comes with 12.5-inch full HD touch screen, which is considered as the highlight of the laptop. The stereo speakers on the left and right side panels can fill a small- to medium-size room with clear sound and music. The Chromebook Flip is equipped with an Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor with Intel HD Graphics 515 instead of the typical Celeron or ARM (mobile) processors.


Lenovo Yoga 910

  1. Lenovo Yoga 910

Lenovo Yoga 910 is a convertible hybrid laptop costing $1199.99. It comes with powerful Intel Core i7 processor, an attractive design, stable hinge mechanism and a comfortable keyboard. If you are looking for a tablet combined with the capability of a laptop, then this should be your pick.

PROS CONS
  • Streamlined

  • Excellent display

  • Backlit keyboard

  • Heavier than Yoga 900

  • Connection to external display requires adaptor

$227.99 AT AMAZON

The Lenovo Yoga 910 is very thin and measures 0.56 by 12.72 by 8.84 inches (HWD). However, at 3.01 pounds, it is quiet heavy to be used as a tablet for long period of time. As compared to its predecessor Yoga 900, the Lenovo Yoga 910 has better positioned backspace, wider backlit keyboard and enter keys. It comes with 256 GB SSD (Solid-State Drive) and 8 GB RAM. It also comes with the standard one-year warranty.


Razer Blade Pro (2016)

  1. Razer Blade Pro (2016)

The Razer laptops have been leading the laptop market in both performance and design. The Razer Blade Pro is priced at $3699.99. From mechanical keyboard to top-notch display, this 17-inches gaming laptop turn heads in every way.

PROS CONS
  • Highly portable

  • Remarkably svelte

  • Runs on GTX 1080 GPU

  • Glossy screen

  • Odd placement of trackpad

$227.99 AT AMAZON

Razer Blade Pro looks and feels luxurious. This laptop is styled and designed keeping user’s requirement in mind. It measures 0.88 by 16.8 by 10.9 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.72 pounds. While it isn’t ultraportable, it is more travel-friendly than its competitor. The Blade Pro packs a unique ultra-low-profile mechanical keyboard that comes with individually backlit keys. The touchpad location is also shifted and it sits comfortably to the right of the keyboard. The touchpad is smooth and sturdy with a LED trimming that matches the chroma settings.


Apple MacBook Pro 15-Inch (2016)

  1. Apple MacBook Pro 15-Inch (2016)

The 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro is priced at $2399 and is closest to the Apple desktop such as iMac. It has been redesigned to make it lighter and slimmer with superb built quality and it is equipped with the Apple’s new Touch Bar with Touch ID which gives you adaptable function keys that help you more easily interact with apps.

PROS CONS
  • P3 color spectrum

  • 4 USB-C port

  • App-aware touch bar functional

  • Shallow key travel

  • USB-C isn’t ubiquitous

  • No USB 3.0 port

$227.99 AT AMAZON

The MacBook Pro comes with an aluminum body in silver or space gray color. It is lighter and smaller than its counterparts but robustly designed. The 2,880-by-1,800 15.6-inch IPS Retina display comes with a couple of improvements. MacOS is the operating system that powers everything you do on a Mac. It gives you new ways to enjoy your photos, shop more securely online, and work effortlessly between devices.


Asus ZenBook 3 (UX390UA)

  1. Asus ZenBook 3 (UX390UA)

The Asus ZenBook 3 is a thin and light ultraportable that comes with a 12.5 inch screen. It is equipped with Kabylake Core i5 and i7 hardware inside. ZenBook 3 shares similarity with Apple MacBook and if you were eying the MacBook, you can get the same specification for a low price.

PROS CONS
  • Ultraslim design

  • Excellent battery life

  • Strong performance

  • Fingerprint reader

  • Windows 10 Pro

  • Single USB-C port

  • No Thunderbolt 3 support

  • Internal fans run often

  • Slippery touchpad

$227.99 AT AMAZON

The Asus ZenBook 3 has distinctive spun metal finish which made a comeback with the laptop. It is a sharp little ultrabook which is 40% stronger than its counterparts because of the presence of the specially blended form of aerospace-grade aluminum alloy. It comes with long battery life and fingerprint scanner, which makes things easier for the user.


Lenovo ThinkPad X260

  1. Lenovo ThinkPad X260

The Lenovo ThinkPad X260 isn’t the slimmest laptop on the block, but it provides a near-perfect balance between portability and productivity. It combines solid performance, a snappy keyboard, an accurate touchpad, a full suite of ports and more than 17 hours of battery life.

PROS CONS
  • Long battery life

  • Durable, professional aesthetic

  • Comfortable keyboard

  • Lightweight design

  • Hot-swappable batteries

  • Small display

  • No USB-C port

  • Short warranty period

  • Little on the bulkier side

$227.99 AT AMAZON

The Lenovo ThinkPad X260 has passed the durability test for extreme vibrations, temperature and shocks. At 12 x 8.2 x 0.8 inches and 3.2 pounds, it is light enough to carry with ease and small enough to fit comfortably. It has room for two batteries – one removable and one internal. It is not for the hard-core gamers as only integrated graphics is available.


Microsoft Surface Book (Intel Core i7)

  1. Microsoft Surface Book (Intel Core i7)

The second generation Surface Book is priced at $2399 and comes with a more powerful Intel Core i7 processor, discrete graphics, plentiful storage and RAM, longer battery life, and increased performance. It can easily be used as a laptop or a Windows tablet.

PROS CONS
  • Faster performance

  • Versatile design

  • Multiple configure options

  • Extended battery life

  • GeForce GTX 965M graphics

  • Angular shape when closed

  • Expensive

$227.99 AT AMAZON

In the Microsoft Surface Book you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports on the left and an SD slot on the left, with a Mini DisplayPort connector on the right alongside the slot-shaped power connection. The 13.5-inch screen, with its 3,000-by-2,000 resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio, has remained unchanged from the original. It offers an incredibly sharp picture with 2,560-by-1,600 resolution.


HP ZBook Studio G3

  1. HP ZBook Studio G3

The HP ZBook Studio G3 starts at $1399 and is a thin-bodied mobile workstation. It is more than just a simple business laptop as it features future-proof, ISV-certified components and a 4K screen. It is an attractive laptop at a competitive price.

 

PROS CONS
  • Two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support

  • 4K screen

  • ISV-certified hardware

  • Reasonably sized

  • Display is a little dim, wash out in bright light

  • Unexceptional battery life

  • Non-swappable battery

  • Non-touch display

  • Some fan noise

$227.99 AT AMAZON

The ZBook Studio G3 measures 0.7 by 14.8 by 10.0 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.6 pounds. The chrome-colored outlines surrounding the touchpad and around the base accent the monochrome dark gray body. There’s a fingerprint reader below the right side of the backlit keyboard, which you may need depending on your company’s security requirements. Connectivity on the ZBook is excellent; with a Kensington lock port, an Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, and an SD card reader on the left side; and a headset jack, one additional USB 3.0 port, an HDMI jack, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, and the power port on the right.

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