Best High-Resolution Laptops

If you edit photos, videos, or text, you might appreciate the extra pixels provided by the displays on these models

A pair of high-resolution laptops
Photo: Brian Finke

The full HD screens commonly found on today's laptops pack plenty of pixels. But sometimes you need more.

If you regularly edit 4K video, stream movies with lush cinematography, or work with long, dense text documents in Microsoft Word, you may find yourself longing for the crisp, clear text and images provided by a laptop with a high-resolution display.

And if you’re a gamer, a high-resolution display will grant you full access to the eye-popping detail in modern classics such as “Apex Legends,” “Dota 2,” and “Resident Evil 2.”

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According to Antonette Asedillo, who oversees laptop testing for Consumer Reports, that higher resolution often indicates a better display all-around. “Based on what we’ve seen,” she says, “computers with high-res screens usually offer better color, contrast, and overall display scores.”

Laptops with high-res displays also tend to feature high-end components, providing you with faster processing speeds and ample memory and storage.

Many of the laptops in our ratings have a UHD display (also known as 4K), which has four times the number of pixels found in a Full HD display (also known as 1080p). Other models aren't quite as flush with pixels but still offer at least 50 percent more than full HD. Either way, you're getting significantly more detail with which to work and play.

To be sure, there are trade-offs. For starters, high-resolution displays tend to be more expensive than their full HD counterparts: Dell, for example, adds $300 to the price of a new 13-inch XPS when you upgrade to a UHD display. On HP's new 13-inch Spectre, that upgrade costs only $100 more.

Then there are battery life concerns. Moving around so many pixels puts a serious strain on your power reserves. How much of a strain? In late 2017, our testers found that the full HD version of a Lenovo Yoga laptop logged 14 hours of battery life per charge; the 4K version delivered only 7.5 hours.

Every year, Consumer Reports buys dozens of laptops from retail stores (to prevent manufacturers from giving our test samples special treatment) and runs those laptops through our labs, objectively rating them on criteria such as display quality and performance.

Here are some of the best laptops we’ve seen recently with displays that go beyond Full HD.

13-Inch Laptops

Apple MacBook Pro
This is Apple’s latest top-of-the-line notebook, which starts at $1,300 and has a 13-inch display that weighs in at 2560x1600 pixels. Not only is it among the best high-resolution laptops in our ratings, but it’s also among the best laptops overall.

There are a few reasons for that. The model we bought, which costs $2,000, has an Intel Core i5 processor, 16GB of memory, and 512GB of solid state storage. Those components are just about what you’d want to see on a high-end laptop—though an i7 chip would help with tasks like rendering video quickly. (The $1,300 entry-level model has 8GB of memory and 128GB of solid state storage space.)

The high-res display also received top marks, as Apple laptops usually do, with accurate colors and a wide viewing angle, so you don’t need to look dead center at the laptop to clearly see the image on the screen.

If 13 inches is a little on the small side for you, a 15-inch model that did similarly well in our tests, and which starts at $2,400, is also available. 

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