MS

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 our top 10 picks on the market today in a variety of categories, from basic home use to work on the go to pro-level gaming.

For Summer 2019, we've drawn a firm line on minimum specs to make sure our readers enjoy their new laptops for years to come. In short, if you're buying a laptop with 4GB of RAM or a mechanical hard drive today, you're buying the wrong laptop, period. You will have a bad user experience, and we don't want that to happen! This means we no longer recommend any of the $200 ultra-budget models or work-unfriendly Chromebooks (seriously, avoid them!). With that said, our picks start at just $400 for a laptop that will stand the test of time, and go all the way up to $2,500 for an ultra-high-end gaming laptop, with plenty of choices in between, including the ultra-versatile Microsoft Surface Book 2 shown here.

Speaking of gaming, Nvidia's "Turing"-based GPUs, released on the desktop in September, are now available in high-end gaming laptops, including the MSI Raider, which uses the all-conquering GeForce RTX 2080. Combined with Intel's latest ultra-efficient six-core CPUs, today's gaming laptops weight little more than the "thin-and-light" business laptops of just a few years ago, despite massively-increased processing power. 

The truth is that things have never been better for people on the go who need a powerful laptop to get real work done (i.e., not an iPad!). Our personal favorite is the 2.1-pound LG Gram 13, which is the very system we chose as TBG's travel PC, but there are plenty of other great picks, such as the affordable Asus Zenbook or the marvelous Microsoft Surface.

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, there's just a single model in our guide that has 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 Asus USB 2.0 model, which we personally use for software installations or backups.

Laptops - Summer 2019

Home/Small Office

    The Basic Home Laptop:

    ASUS VivoBook F441

    Powering this great family PC is a 3.1 GHz AMD dual-core processor, but more importantly, unlike every other laptop you'll find under $500, it comes equipped with a full 8GB of RAM (which we now consider the minimum for modern PCs), along with a 256GB solid-state drive. It also features a big, high-resolution 14" 1920 x 1080 IPS Display, and yet still comes in at a back-friendly 3.9 pounds.

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you buy an alternative sub-$500 laptop equipped with a "big" 1TB hard drive and 4GB of RAM, prepare to be sorely disappointed in the fact that it performs like it's already 10 years old!

    The Midrange Media Laptop:

    Acer Aspire E 15 E5-576G-5762

    With its latest Aspire E, Acer has designed what can only be considered the perfect home PC. Featuring the powerful Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core processor with Turbo Boost to 3.4GHz, it offers a big step up in performance versus the budget model above. It also has the perfect combination of 8GB of RAM and a spacious 256GB solid-state drive for exceptional bootup and app launching speed. To ensure excellent productivity, it has a big 15.6" 1920 x 1080 screen. Finally, it's the sole model in our guide that has a built-in DVD burner!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This system costs less than similar-spec'd systems below due to its much higher weight: it's 5.3 pounds. If you don't plan on carrying it around, that makes it a great bargain!

    The Work/School Laptop:

    Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 i5379-5893GRY

    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 Dell Inspiron 2-in-1, weighing in at just 3.56lb. Equipped with Intel's 8th-generation Core i5-8250U 1.6GHz quad-core processor that can boost to 3.4GHz, along with 8GB of DDR4-2400MHz RAM, a quick 256 GB solid-state drive, and a 13.3" 1920 x 1080 IPS touchscreen display, you'll be set for wherever the road takes you!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Being a 2-in-1, this model flips into tent or tablet mode, which can be really useful when travelling.

    The Affordable Ultralight:

    Asus ZenBook UX331UA-AS51

    If you simply want the lightest, most powerful laptop you can buy for the money, you want the Zenbook from Asus. Coming in at an astounding 2.5lb and .5" thick, it still manages to pack in an 8th-generation Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core 1.6GHz CPU with Turbo to 3.4GHz, a 13.3" 1920x1080 screen, 8GB of DDR3 memory, and a 256GB PCIe-based solid-state drive.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This system may be light on the frills, but that's what makes it so lightweight!

    The Extreme Ultra-Light:

    LG Gram 13Z980

    While the rest of the PC industry plods on with 3lb. laptops, LG has been blazing a trail with its Gram line of sub-1kg laptops. Simply put, there's nothing else like this on the market. The newest LG Gram offers a 13.3" 1080p touchscreen, Intel's Core i7-8550U 1.8GHz quad-core CPU with Turbo up to 4GHz, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, and an absolutely-massive 72Wh battery that provides up to 18 hours of battery life. All this and the Gram is just 2.1 pounds, which is mind-blowing given its awesome specs. Don't think it's worth paying more to drop nearly a pound in weight versus competing touchscreen laptops? You'll think again once you tote this featherweight laptop on your shoulder during a day of traveling! This is the system we use every day - and you can read our full review here!

    The Guru's Tip:

    A few other notable features included on the Gram that are hard to find in other ultra-lights: a microSD card memory slot, a full-size HDMI port, three full-size USB 3.0 Type-A ports plus a USB Type-C port.

    The Pro Convertible Tablet:

    Microsoft PGU-00001 Surface Book 2

    From our point of view, this is now the ultimate professional laptop. Sure, you could spend more, but why? You get an Intel Core i5-8350U 1.7 GHz Quad-Core CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe-based SSD, and most importantly, a big, beatuiful 13.5" 3000 x 2000 PixelSense Display. This display is perfect for presentations, and of course is a full stand-alone device. Detach it from the keyboard and you have a powerhouse tablet!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The Surface Book 2 plus keyboard weighs 3.4lb., while the tablet alone weighs about 1.6 pounds.

    The Ultimate Productivity Machine:

    Microsoft Surface Pro 6 w/ Type Cover

    OK, let's say you want it all: a device that looks as good as it works. Then step right up to the latest Surface from Microsoft. Featuring Intel's Core i7-8650U quad-core CPU with Turboboost up to 4.2GHz, a 12.3” touchscreen (with a resolution of 2736 x 1824), a big 512GB solid-state drive, 16GB of RAM, and a weight of just 1.73 pounds for the tablet and 0.68 pounds for the included Type Cover, for an overall weight of just 2.4 pounds!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Pulling a page from Apple's playbook, Microsoft doesn't make it that easy to find out what CPU is actually in the Surface, but we dug up the details on the Microsoft website.

Gaming

    The Midrange Gaming Laptop:

    Acer Predator Helios 300 (2018)

    Offering up amazing specs for the price, the latest Predator from Acer offers up an amazing Intel Core i7-8750H 6-Core CPU, and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GPU, an impressive 16GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe solid-state drive, and a big 15.6" 1920 x 1080 IPS display with an ultra-fast 144Hz Refresh Rate.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model's one weakness is that the fast 256GB SSD will fill up fast given that modern games typically occupy 25-50GB. Luckily, it has an empty and easily-accessible slot for 2.5 inch hard drives or SSDs. We recommend picking up a Crucial MX500 1TB.

    The High-End Gaming Laptop:

    Asus ROG Strix Scar II

    Just a year ago, it would have been a dream to find a gaming laptop with these specs under $2,000, now it's a reality. The Strix Scar II features Intel's muscular Core i7-8750H 6-Core processor, Nvidia's new GeForce RTX 2070 8GB video card, 16GB of RAM, a capacious 512GB PCIe-based solid-state drive, and a big 15.6" 144Hz, 1080p IPS panel. It also boasts some pretty slick RGB lighting effects!

    The Guru's Tip:

    At just 5.3b., this system is pretty portable too!

    The Extreme Gaming Laptop:

    MSI GE75 Raider-023

    Yes, folks, you can indeed have it all! Witness the new Raider from MSI. This model comes packing an Intel Core i7-8750H six-core processor with Turbo up to 4.1GHz, a GeForce RTX 2080 8GB GPU, a 1TB PCIe-based SSD plus a gigantic 2TB hard drive, an insane 32GB of RAM, a huge 17.3" 1920 x 1080 144Hz display with 3ms response time, and per-key RGB backlighting!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Despite its all-mighty specs, this laptop is still just 1.1" thick and 5.75 pounds, making it a true portable powerhouse!