Just when the industry seemed convinced that laptops were going to go the way of the desktop, 2015 brought some of the most inventive reimaginings of everyone’s favorite form factor we’ve ever seen. Fortunately, the kind of reinvention in this year’s laptops didn’t come in the form of cheap gimmicks as they have in previous years.
Instead, we saw computer manufacturers attempting to make laptops cheaper, thinner, more beautiful, more powerful, and more useful than ever before. It’s the kind of engineering that proves to be that laptops aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So here they are: the 10 best laptops of 2015.
10. Asus ZenBook UX305
This year’s ZenBook makes a spot on the list for its great value. At $599, it’s a great laptop for those not willing to make the jump to Chromebooks, but still want to save some cash and get a computer with full functionality. The cheaper price is due to the HD display (not QuadHD), as well as an Intel Core M processor (rather than an i-series chip).
Despite those tiny drawbacks, you’re still getting a very well-rounded computer that should be able to handle most things you throw at it. I’ve also never loved the ultra-shiny aluminum finish on the ZenBooks, but outside of that it’s a very solid laptop.
9. MacBook Air (early 2015)
The MacBook Air was once the most innovative, forward-thinking product in the MacBook lineup. These days, that award goes to the new MacBook, the thinnest and most futuristic laptop they’ve ever designed. Even the visual appeal of the MacBook Air has gotten a bit outdated with its fairly large bezels. However, under all of that desire for a cool new product is a really fantastic MacBook that comes at a starting price of just $899.
With the lack of an update that includes Retina Display and the coming of the iPad Pro, however, the future of the Air is uncertain. It will either be collapsed altogether or will get a complete redesign with a Retina Display that places it somewhere in the $999 range as a cheaper alternative to the new MacBook and MacBook Pro. With that in mind, the Air is still the cheapest Apple laptop you can get, so very well could be the one for you.
8. Toshiba Chromebook 2 (2015)
Not far behind one other Chromebook from 2015, this Toshiba Chromebook 2 is an even cheaper budget computer that goes for just $329. The update from last year’s model isn’t hugely noticeable. It’s got a faster processor and the same battery, which means battery life has taken a slight blow from last year’s model. It’s still a fantastic Chromebook, however, with a bright beautiful HD display and a light, simple design.
7. HP Spectre x2
One of the great things that the Surface line has done is open up the floodgates for a way forward for 2-in-1 laptops to actually be well-made. One great example is the new HP Spectre x2, which challenges the Pro 4 in almost every way.
It’s even got a few major strengths over it, most notably the cheaper starting price ($800), which even includes the detachable keyboard. It’s also got a pretty unique kickstand that doesn’t help with “lapability,” but certainly looks cool. Aside from that, it’s a really solid Windows 10 machine that just happens to have work pretty well as a tablet.
6. Surface Pro 4
The Surface Pro started out as a device with a lot of promise and some flawed execution. As of last year though, Microsoft has tightened up a lot of the problems and delivered a really solid laptop/tablet hybrid that actually fulfills the dream of ditching your laptop. So why include the year’s best laptop-killer on the list? At a starting price of $899 (not including the keyboard) and UltraBook-level internals, Microsoft is clearly shooting for the laptop market with its 2-in-1.
Although from the outside, the Pro 4 looks very similar to the Pro 3, it’s got a few really nice upgrades such as a slightly bigger screen (and smaller bezels), an increased entry-level storage option, a significantly better Surface Pen, and a glass trackpad on the new keyboard.
5. Dell Chromebook 13
Yes, that’s right—a Chromebook this high on the list. The newest Chromebook from Dell is nothing short of spectacular. More than any other Chromebook, the Dell Chromebook 13 looks and feels like a laptop that should be twice the cost. The display is great, the design is understated and clean, and even the trackpad is great.
It’s a little more expensive than your average Chromebook, but it’s the first one to not have any significant compromises in the experience it delievers. It’s a clear choice for students, budget-conscious shoppers, and pretty much anyone who does most of their work in a web browser.
4. Surface Book
In a year full of reinvention in the laptop market, the Surface Book came as a complete surprise. Not only is this Microsoft’s first laptop, it’s also a wonderfully unique device in its own right. The real star of the show is Microsoft’s “dynamic fulcrum hinge,” which is the extremely tight-feeling muscle wire lock mechanism that attaches the screen to the keyboard. It looks really cool and has a great tactile feel to removing and attaching the tablet.
The Surface Book feels like the machine we always wanted the Surface Pro to be: great on your lap, great as a tablet, and built like a serious computer. It’s got some kinks to work out (like that wobbly screen) and could definitely lose a little weight overall, but it’s an incredibly impressive new product that a lot of professionals are going to find attractive.
3. MacBook Pro with Retina Display (early-2015)
The tried and true. This MacBook Pro didn’t get any design updates this year, but who would need one when your laptop looks this good? The 2015 MacBook Pro has the same unibody design, super high-res display, and essentially perfect port configuration. The new things here are Force Touch, a feature found only in the trackpads of the new model, as well as a slight bump in battery life. We’ll have to wait for next year to get the jump to 6th generation Intel Skylake processors and USB-Type C ports, but the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is pretty much always a recommended buy.
The MacBook is certainly controversial and definitely not for everyone. However, it’s hard to not look at what Apple has done here and not be impressed. From the haptic feedback motor in the trackpad to the redesigned keyboard mechanisms, the sheer amount of engineering that went into making a laptop this thin is astounding.
It comes with some drawbacks, most notably the computer’s slightly underpowered Intel M processor and the single USB-Type C port. But for those interested in getting the obvious strengths of this machine, those are minor faults of a laptop that showcases Apple at its riskiest and most inventive. It’s when the company’s instincts truly shine and no other laptop this year made convinced that laptops are here to stay.
1. Dell XPS 13 (Skylake)
Dell showed off this jaw-dropping new laptop at CES this year and has enjoyed an entire year of popularity. While so many other laptop manufacturers have been busy copying the look of the MacBook line, Dell went and created something that looked new and utterly spectacular. It really comes down to the display, which features something Dell calls an “infinity display”—also known as the smallest bezels we’ve ever seen on a laptop. The small bezels also means you’ve got a larger screen in a much smaller footprint.
The edge-to-edge QuadHD display is what will grab your attention about the XPS 13, but the 11+ hours of battery life (or up to 15 on the normal HD versions), solid state drive, and blazing-fast new 6th generation Intel Core i-series processors (Skylake) will hold it. The $799 configuration is great for budget-friendly consumers and the $1399 version is just what you want in a traditional UltraBook with tons of power. Look no further for your Windows laptops this year.