Laptops had a banner year in 2015, and all signs keep pointing to an even better selection in 2016. It’s still confusing out there, though: The number of choices to navigate just continues to grow. Picking a form factor (traditional, 2-in-1, or convertible) only begins your run through a gauntlet of decisions.
But whether you’re choosing between the new crop of incredibly sleek 15-inch ultrabooks, hunting for a worthwhile luxury laptop, or finding the convertible that has the most value, it’s been a great year so far for anyone buying a new system, and will only get better.
To help you with your decision, we’ve been hard at work evaluating more laptops—our latest reviews include the HP Spectre X360 15T, Dell XPS 15, Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, and LG Gram 15. Though our existing winners hung on to their crowns, competition was fierce enough that we’ve added runners-up to our Best Ultrabook (Razer Blade Stealth), Best Convertible (Samsung Galaxy TabPro S), and Best Gaming Laptop (Origin EON-17) categories.
Best Ultrabook: Dell XPS 13 (2016)
Dell’s 2016 XPS 13 keeps the same big display and small form factor that helped make last year's model the best Ultrabook of 2015.
When Dell's XPS 13 launched last year, it got a well-deserved nod as our pick for best Ultrabook. Its aluminum exterior and carbon fiber top exuded quality; its nearly bezel-free 13" screen resulted in a laptop body that wasn't much bigger than a typical 11-inch notebook.The 2016 version of the XPS 13 keeps its predecessor's excellent chassis, while including a USB Type-C port that serves as an alternative charging port and offering upgrades to the processor and storage types. Battery life takes a small hit with the move to Intel's newer Skylake CPUs, but the difference is minor enough that it's worth having the option of either NVMe or PCIe M.2 drives.The only complaints that remain are the small keyboard, and the lack of auto updates for driver and BIOS updates. They're far from being deal-breakers, but slightly bigger keys and an easy way to update system software would be welcome.
RUNNER-UP: Razer Blade Stealth
If you’re bored by the standard look of ultrabooks, the Razer Blade Stealth certainly has a flashiness to it. Besides featuring the same sleek, black MacBook Pro-esque design of Razer’s gaming laptops, the Blade Stealth also sports a beautiful keyboard with customizable per-key RGB backlighting.Inside is a Core i7-6500U Skylake processor along with 8GB LPDDR3/1866MHz RAM, and anywhere from 128GB-512GB of storage space. Overall, performance stays competitive with rivals in the Blade Stealth’s price range, but a small performance drop in low-intensity tasks keeps it out of our winner’s circle.