Best Laptops of 2019

Whether you're looking for portability, performance, or a low price, one of these computers should fit the bill

An illustration of a laptop.
Artur Pietruch, a Consumer Reports tester, examines laptops in our lab.
Photo: Brian Finke

It used to be relatively easy to choose a laptop. You picked the screen size and looked for the thinnest, lightest model around. But these days, there are more factors to consider.

Do you spring for a dedicated graphics card, which helps you play games such as Fortnite and edit video? Do you buy a 2-in-1 convertible, which lets you fold the screen back and use the device like a tablet? And what exactly is the difference between Intel Core i5 and i7 processors?

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If you click on the links below, we can help you make these decisions. Thanks to our test labs, we know a thing or two about how all these factors add up to performance in a full range of screen sizes.

This year ended strong, with Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro debuting in mid-November to some acclaim, in part due to its much-improved keyboard. Unlike recent MacBook Pros, this 16-inch model uses a different type of “switch” (the mechanism by which the keys register inputs) that our testers found to be more comfortable to use than the previous version.

We’ll know more about how well this new mechanism holds up to wear and tear in the weeks ahead.

Several gaming laptops entered our ratings late this year, too, including models from well-known companies, including Dell and HP, and models from companies that aren’t as well-known to many people, such as Razer.

Gaming laptops are generally quite powerful—certainly powerful enough to do everyday things like browse the web, edit text documents, and watch videos—but are generally heavier than non-gaming models and have worse battery life. But they can be a good value for many consumers, and not only people who want to play games on the highest settings.

One laptop that did not impress our testers in late 2019 was the 14-inch Onn, which is part of Walmart's new house brand of electronics that also includes Onn televisions. This laptop is quite affordable at $400, but it doesn’t perform very well at all. The price may make it seem attractive, but we believe there are better ways to spend in the $500-and-under range.

Next year promises to be just as exciting, if not more so, with Microsoft planning to launch a dual-screen Surface laptop by the end of 2020. It wouldn’t surprise us to see other manufacturers experiment with new laptop designs throughout the year.

Consumer Reports tests dozens of new laptops each year, evaluating them on elements such as ergonomicsbattery life, display quality, and portability so that you don’t waste your money on a clunker. We buy all the products we test—from headphones to smartphones to OLED TVs to SUVs—at retail, because samples sent directly from a manufacturer may be tweaked to perform better in a reviewer's tests.

Consumer Reports also incorporates brand reliability and owner satisfaction data collected from surveys of our members into the Overall Scores for laptops.

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

10- to 11-Inch: Microsoft Surface Go

Very small laptops such as the 11-inch Microsoft Surface Go generally aren’t powerful, but this one makes up for it with portability and convenience. It’s light at just 1.7 pounds, and its battery lasts a generous 11 hours in Consumer Reports' testing. The display is bright, produces accurate colors, and is easy to read even when you’re outside or working under harsh lighting.

But the Microsoft Surface Go won’t work for everyone. The computer’s brain is a relatively low-end Intel Pentium processor, and some applications may run slowly as a result. The other major compromise is in storage. You get just 64 gigabytes, which is less than what many smartphones have. That’s fine for text files and spreadsheets, but if you choose this laptop and you want to store lots of high-definition videos or a large digital photo library, you’ll probably need to resort to cloud storage.

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