900S

Need a new laptop but haven't quite kept up with all the latest product releases? Well, we've got you covered - this guide profiles all the best options on the market in a variety of categories, from basic home use to work on the go to pro-level gaming. 

Spring 2017 is here, and nearly every manufacturer has released fresh offerings based on Intel's latest Kaby Lake "7-series" of CPUs. They're so efficient that they finally allow laptop designers to dip way below the 3-pound barrier, where "ultra-light" laptops have been stuck at for so long. We now consider 3lb mainstream, with the truly ultralight category starting at 2.5lb. Our personal favorite is the 2.2lb Yoga 900S shown here. Another perk of 7-series CPUs, by the way, is that they pack in advanced 4K video processing. If you're a Netflix streaming afficianado, that's a big benefit! On the gaming front, Nvidia's "Pascal" GPU design has proven to be big news for the laptop market. These chips finally allow desktop-class performance in a portable chassis. This guide includes gaming-specific laptops featuring the GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1080 graphics chips. We'd advise serious gamers to avoid all older chips, as they pale in comparison.

By the way, a bit of bad news for Apple fans: we've dropped Apple entirely from our coverage, as the company seems intent on becoming a smartphone vendor first and foremost, with its previously class-leading MacBooks languishing in the background. It is most definitely no longer the leader when it comes to laptop design.

One important tip for buyers who haven't been in the laptop market for a while: the trend is no longer to include internal DVD drives in laptops, as they add a lot of weight and bulk. Therefore very few of the models we list include one. If you decide you'd like an ultra-slim laptop but still need a DVD drive, we recommend picking up an inexpensive external DVD burner, like the sleek Samsung SE-218GP model, for software installations or backups.

Laptops - Spring 2017

    The Basic Home Laptop:

    HP Stream 11.6 4GB

    We'll let you in on a little secret: the only reason that heavy 15.6" laptops are so common in the budget category is that with a big, low-resolution screen, manufacturers can get away with selling you a bulky, low-tech laptop too. We instead recommend the 2.6-pound Stream, featuring an 11.6" 1366 x 768 screen, an ultra-efficient Intel Celeron dual-core processor, 4GB of memory, a 32GB solid-state drive, and 802.11ac wireless networking. Frankly, it's the ideal low-cost personal PC. Note that its processor is tuned for battery life rather than speed (the Stream will run about 8 hours), but the zippy SSD storage makes up for that, allowing this system to feel every bit as fast as much larger, heavier laptops stuck with older hard drive technology.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The SSD in this laptop is small, but plenty big for basic productivity apps. For media strorage, you'll want to add a SanDisk 64GB microSD card.

    The Midrange Media Laptop:

    Asus F556UA-AB32

    We go up in size with this category to step up to a big 15.6" 1920 x 1080 screen, all the better for watching movies and having multiple application windows open. The F556UA comes in at a surprisingly low price, despite being equipped with the fast Intel Core i3-6100U 2.3GHz dual-core processor. It also features 4GB of RAM and a huge 1TB hard drive, making it perfect for enjoying plenty of media content. Being a new model, it includes such cutting-edge features as 802.11ac networking and USB 3.1 Type-C, the future of wireless and wired connectivity, respectively. Plus, it's fairly nimble at just 5.1 pounds and 1" thick.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Just to be clear, this is not what we'd consider a particularly portable PC. Due to its large size, this is a great laptop for use as your regular home PC, offering exceptional value and a very usable screen and keyboard.

    The Work/School Laptop:

    Asus ZenBook Flip UX360CA Core M

    If you're going to be on the move with your laptop and looking to get serious work done, you need a lot of power packed into a small chassis. Enter the Asus UX360CA. Equipped with Intel's ultra-efficient Core m3-6Y30 dual-core CPU with TurboBoost to 2.2GHz, it has plenty of processing power, along with 8-10 hours of battery life. It's also equipped with a 13.3" 1920x1080 touchscreen, which can flip into tablet mode, making it perfect for giving presentations or sharing photos. It comes equipped with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive, and weighs just 2.9lb.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that one of the advantages of using the Core m3 processor is that no cooling fan is required, making this a completely silent laptop!

    The Affordable Ultralight:

    Asus ZenBook UX330UA-AH54

    Way back in 2012, Intel started the "Ultrabook" initiative to remake the Windows laptop industry, taking a cue from Apple's revolutionary Macbook Air. One of the very first manufacturers to rise to the challenge was Asus with its Zenbook, and it continues in that tradition to this day, even as the term Ultrabook has pratically been forgotten. The latest Zenbook is lighter (2.6lb) , more powerful (thanks to the Core i5-7200U 2.5GHz CPU), and less expensive ($700!) than ever. And it remains one of the best-looking laptops on the market.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Interestingly, one of the biggest miscalculations Intel made a few years after starting the Ultrabook program was requiring a touchscreen. As much as we love touch in 2-in-1 devices, it adds unnecessary cost and bulk to standard laptops, which lead to the collapse of the Ultrabook market. The Zenbook does not feature a touchscreen, but that's how Asus is able to make it so powerful, light, and inexpensive.

  • The Extreme Ultralight:

    Yoga 900S

    Coming in at a mind-blowing 2.2lb, this surprisingly-affordable model offers all the latest features, including a Skylake-based Core M7 dual-core processor, a crisp 12.5" 2560 x 1440 touchscreen, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive. Frankly, if you're looking for the lightweight laptop to beat, this is the one. It even flips into tablet mode, and thanks to its light weight and slim profile, can truly be used that way!

    The Guru's Tip:

    When we replace the Yoga 700 that's been our mobile workhorse for the past year or so, the 900S is what we'll be getting!

  • The High-End Ultrabook:

    HP Spectre x360 2-in-1

    The new Spectre x360 has set the standard for what consumers should expect of a serious Ultrabook. Despite undercutting many of its competitors in weight (it's just 2.84lb.!), it offers a full 360-degree hinge, allowing you to use its 13.3" 1080p touchscreen in any number of ways. It's also among the very first laptops to feature the 7th-Generation Intel Core i7-7500U mobile processor, which offers better performance and battery life along with all-new 4K decoding options for streaming video. It's backed up by a generous 16GB of RAM and a 512GB, making it a real workhorse.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This laptop is nearly impossible to find anywhere but at Best Buy, which has the best selection. It retails for $1,300, but this model is currently discounted well below that as of our publication date.

    The Midrange Gaming Laptop:

    MSI GP62MVR Leopard Pro

    Need an ultra-portable, ultra-capable gaming PC? Look no further than the newest Leopard Pro from MSI. It gives you the ultra-fast Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8 GHz quad-core with Turbo up to 3.8 GHz, a desktop-class Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 3GB video card, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, a 1TB hard drive, and a 1080p 15.6" screen. Given how much is packed into this model, the price is simply jaw-dropping! At 4.8lb. and 1.1" thick, this model is impressively portable given how much power it packs in.

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you're willing to go up a notch in weight to save some serious cash, check out Dell's 5.5lb Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming, which at $800 is the least expensive bona fide gaming laptop on the market!

  • The Ultimate Business Laptop:

    ThinkPad X1 Carbon 5th Gen

    Billed as the lightest business-class 14" laptop in the world, the 5th-gen X1 Carbon is the high-end laptop by which all others are judged. This sleek member of the ThinkPad line of business-ready laptops combines excellent features with unmatched durability, support, and expandability. It features an 14" 1920 x 1080 display, Intel's potent Intel Core i7-7600U 2.80GHz dual-core CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive, all of which make it very fast. But what makes it truly business-ready are a spill-resistant keyboard and drop-resistant magnesium chassis, a slim 0.6" profile, and a weight of just 2.5lb. It's actually lighter than nearly every 13.3" laptop on the market, despite offering a bigger, better screen. All this and it offers an amazing 15.5 hours of battery life, with the ability to get an 80% charge in just one hour!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model is so new that only one version is available. Additional configurations will become available later this spring.

    The Ultimate Gaming Laptop:

    ASUS ROG Strix GL702VS

    Just when you thought things couldn't get any better for mobile gamers, Asus and Nvidia team up to drop a bombshell on the gaming laptop world. The newest GL502 packs in the desktop-class GTX 1070 8GB video card for absolutely amazing performance. Backing up this powerhouse is the Kaby Lake-based Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8GHz quad-core CPU with Turboboost to 3.8GHz, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, a 512GB solid-state drive, and a G-Sync-enabled 17.3" 1920 x 1080 120Hz screen for the smoothest laptop gaming experience ever!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Despite all the performance this laptop provides, it's still quite portable, at just 6lb and 0.94" thick!

    The Supreme Dream Machine:

    MSI GT73VR Titan Pro

    As many of the readers of our Do-It-Yourself PC Buyer's Guides know, we spec out a Supreme Dream Machine build every month that features the very best in PC gaming. No, it's not cheap, and no, it's not value-packed. But that's what makes it a dream machine! So it is with the GT73VR Titan Pro from MSI, which falls into the category of "hey, we can do it, so why not!" It packs the Intel Core i7-6820K processor, offering Turbo speeds up to 3.6GHz, 64GB of RAM, dual 512GB SSDs in RAID0, and a 1TB hard drive. Oh yeah, MSI also made room for a desktop-class Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 8GB, which will provide ultra-smooth gaming on the 17.3" 1920 x 1080 120Hz screen!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that MSI has introduced a newer version of this laptop at around the same price with a "Kaby Lake" Core i7-7820K processor that's 200MHz faster, along with a 4K 60Hz screen. That's all well and good, but with just a 256GB SSD and 16GB of RAM, we simply cannot recommend it. That's a huge cut in specs to get a minor CPU bump, and furthermore, on a 17.3" screen, we think 1080p/120Hz is a better option than 4K/60Hz.

  1. The Basic Home Laptop HP Stream 11.6 4GB ($200.00)
  2. The Midrange Media Laptop Asus F556UA-AB32 ($351.00)
  3. The Work/School Laptop Asus ZenBook Flip UX360CA Core M ($556.00)
  4. The Affordable Ultralight Asus ZenBook UX330UA-AH54 ($700.00)
  5. The Extreme Ultralight Yoga 900S ($1040.00)
  6. The High-End Ultrabook HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 ($1100.00)
  7. The Midrange Gaming Laptop MSI GP62MVR Leopard Pro ($1348.00)
  8. The Ultimate Business Laptop ThinkPad X1 Carbon 5th Gen ($1849.00)
  9. The Ultimate Gaming Laptop ASUS ROG Strix GL702VS ($1997.00)
  10. The Supreme Dream Machine MSI GT73VR Titan Pro ($3061.00)