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Best Laptops of 2018

Thanks to Intel's latest quad-core processors, models from Apple, Asus, and Samsung get a bump in speed

An illustration of a laptop.

When it’s time to purchase a new laptop, tablet, or smartphone, the first big question is often the same: Do you pay a premium for the latest technology or nab the deal on last year’s model?

Not long ago, laptop manufacturers were touting solid-state drives, which proved to be very effective at speeding up performance by making it easier for computers to access stored data. But not every advance is a clear leap forward.

More on Laptops

As we entered 2018, market analysts were buzzing about high-resolution 4K displays and computers with the ability to connect to the web—much like a smartphone—through 4G LTE networks. To date, though, the most significant upgrade we’ve witnessed comes compliments of eighth-generation Intel Core processors.

What makes them unique is that they feature a quad-core design, as in four cores instead of two. And those extra cores provide a noticeable speed boost when you’re using demanding apps to, say, edit photos or render videos.

All told, Consumer Reports has tested 17 new laptops this year (not counting Chromebooks, which we review separately), evaluating them on a range of factors, including display quality and battery life, so you don’t waste your money on a clunker.

As always, we purchased every last one from a retailer. “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 leads our laptop testing efforts. “Purchasing it in a store ensures that it will be the same model available to consumers. We also keep ourselves unbiased by not accepting advertising money for the products we test.”

Below we highlight the best 2018 laptops in three size categories (12- to 13-inch, 14-inch, and 15- to 16-inch), and all three feature quad-core processors. As more models pass through our labs, we’ll be sure to update this article to include the best laptops in other sizes.

12- to 13-Inch: MacBook Pro

Thanks in large part to a quad-core processor, Apple’s latest MacBook Pro—priced at around $1,800—ranks among the fastest laptops we’ve tested. Coupled with a 256-gigabyte solid-state drive and 8GB of memory, the eighth-generation Intel Core i5 processor has enough oomph to handle everyday tasks, as well as more demanding fare such as video editing.

The processor also features Intel’s integrated graphics technology, which allows for midrange gaming at top speed but rules out playing many current titles—if that kind of thing matters to you. The advantage of using integrated graphics (as opposed to a dedicated graphics card from AMD) is better battery life, which our tests measured at nearly 18 hours. That’s about 4 hours better than last year’s model, which places this model among the elite in the 12-to-13 inch category.

“Anecdotally, the new keyboard is noticeably quieter when compared to a model from last year,” says Asedillo, echoing Apple’s claim. “The taps sound dampened, and even the feel is a bit softer. If you really need a quiet environment for concentration, it can be a big plus.”

It’s worth noting, though, that while the laptop has four USB Type-C ports, one will be occupied whenever you plug the laptop into a power outlet. So if you routinely use an external keyboard, mouse, monitor, and other peripherals, you may find yourself shopping for a dongle.

Lastly, this MacBook Pro has a Touch Bar, which features context-sensitive “buttons” such as volume and screen brightness controls. A different MacBook Pro model (one without the Touch Bar) has an issue where the battery may swell in size, prompting a replacement program.

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