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Best Laptops of 2018

New laptops from HP, Microsoft to appear on store shelves just in time for the holidays.

An illustration of a laptop.

Just a few weeks before the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, HP and Microsoft introduced a handful of new laptops that are likely to wind up on more than a few wish lists.

Announced on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, the HP Spectre Folio and Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6 are positioned as higher-end laptops for consumers seeking a premium computing experience. The Spectre Folio is an entirely new device to the HP lineup, a 2-in-1 convertible that’s wrapped in 100% genuine leather and is characterized by the company as nothing less than a “reinvention” of the PC.

The Surface devices, meanwhile, focus more on internal updates to bring them in line with other 2018 flagships. The Surface Laptop 2 is a traditional notebook while the Surface Pro 6 is a 2-in-1 detachable, which means the keyboard can be disconnected from the display.


Go to Consumer Reports’ 2018 Holiday Central for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.
 

“The Spectre Folio looks great, and they didn’t slouch on the internal components either,” says Patrick Moorhead, founder, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “I don’t think you’re going to be editing 4K videos on it, but it has more than enough performance for things like Word and PowerPoint.”

All three laptops are equipped with the latest Intel processors, speedy solid state drives, and a minimum of 8GB of memory. The Spectre Folio and Surface Pro also include built-in LTE, which lets you connect to high-speed cellular networks for an added fee. That’s not only convenient, but potentially more secure than connecting to your local coffee shop’s Wifi network. (Our advice? Don’t connect to one of those without a VPN.)

More on Laptops

Consumer Reports tests dozens of new laptops each year, evaluating them on a range of factors, including performance, display quality, and battery life, so you don’t waste your money on a clunker. All products we test, whether they’re laptops, televisions, or dishwashers, are bought at retail stores.

“If we accept a sample directly from a manufacturer, there’s always a risk it could be tweaked to perform better in our tests,” says Antonette Asedillo, who oversees computer testing for Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports now incorporates brand reliability and owner satisfaction data into the Overall Scores for laptops. These factors are based on surveys of our members.

“Brand reliability and owner satisfaction are very important to people,” Asedillo says. “By combining that data with our lab test results, it becomes easier for consumers to see how all these different factors measure up.”

Consumer Reports has also incorporated reliability and owner satisfaction into the ratings for desktop computers, tablets, and Chromebooks.

Below are some of the best laptops of the year in each of five screen-size categories.

10- to 11-Inch: Samsung Galaxy Book 10.6 (64GB)

The world of 10- to 11-inch laptops doesn’t exactly scream performance—the smallest machines often have relatively slow processors and small amounts of storage space and memory. But what these laptops lack in raw power they make up for in portability, making them well-suited for consumers who have modest computing needs but who value a light work bag.

Take the Samsung Galaxy Book 10.6 (64GB), which has been available for a little more than a year. This $630 laptop can easily handle everyday tasks such as browsing the web, working inside apps like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and watching the occasional Netflix or YouTube video—but with only 4 gigabytes of memory, perhaps not at the same time.

Asking this computer to, say, render Ultra High Definition 4K video in a reasonable amount of time may be asking too much. The included 64GB of solid-state storage is also on the modest size, so it may be prudent to plan on using a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive to store your files.

However, for consumers looking for a small, Windows-based laptop that can be tucked into a bag, that can be carried to and fro without pulling a muscle, and that will last nearly 10 hours on a single charge, Samsung’s Galaxy Book is a solid option.

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