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    The Best Laptops On The Market Right Now

    For Mac, Windows, and Chromebook users.

    The MacBook Air (2014)

    The MacBook Air (2014) is an 11-inch or 13-inch laptop with the slimmest profile in Apple’s lineup. Right now, it’s the “Best Laptop” at The Wirecutter, probably because of its outstanding battery life. Apple claims 12 hours, and AnandTech (whose tests are a bit more rigorous than Apple’s) saw just over 11 hours.

    Truly, all-day battery life. It runs Mac OS X on a 1.4 GHz Intel i5 core or 1.7 GHz i7 with 4 or 8GB of memory and a 128GB solid state drive that’s upgradable up to 512GB. The MacBook Air weighs 2.96 pounds (13 inches) or 2.38 pounds (11 inches) and starts at $999 or $899, respectively.

    Takeaways: One of the lightest laptops around; crazy battery; great all-around device.

    Not a Mac user? Consider the 2015 Dell XPS or Chromebook Pixel.

    The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina

    The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina runs Mac OS X Yosemite on an Intel Core i5 3.1 GHz processor. It’s one of the heftier laptops considered here, at 3.48 pounds, and Apple claims 10 hours of wireless web browsing, while The Verge experienced 10 hours and 7 minutes.

    When the MacBook Pro with Retina was released in July 2014, The Wirecutter named the 15-inch version “the best high end notebook” and said the 13-inch is an “impressive little machine.” The graphics performance on the 13-inch Pro isn’t much better than the MacBook Air’s, but you do get a larger storage option (up to 1TB for extra $$).

    The laptop will cost you $1,300 for the entry-level model, but if you have a lot of media (photos, videos, or music), you’ll want the extra storage space, which costs between $1,499 to $1,799.

    Takeaways: Great battery; brilliant, bright display; slim design but heavier than the other options; expensive.

    Not a Mac user? Consider the Dell XPS 2015.

    The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina (2014)

    The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina (2014) runs Mac OS X Yosemite on an Intel Core i7 2.2 or 2.5 GHz processor. It’s the heaviest laptop considered here, at 4.46 pounds, and Apple claims 8 hours of wireless web browsing but PC Mag found that it actually lasts 8 hours 55 minutes.

    When the MacBook Pro with Retina was released in July 2014, the Wirecutter named the 15-inch version “the best high end notebook.” It’s definitely the laptop of choice for photographers, video editors, gamers, and designers.

    The laptop will cost you $1,999 for the entry-level model, and $2,499 for the premium model with larger storage (512 GB vs 256 GB) and a better processor (2.5 GHz vs. 2.2 GHz).

    Takeaways: *The* choice for multimedia professionals and gamers; amazing battery life; heavy but powerful computing machine.

    Not a Mac user? Consider the Dell XPS 2015.

    The new 12-inch MacBook (2015)

    The new 2015 MacBook (not Air or Pro) is setting the gold standard for MacBooks (it literally comes in GOLD). The 12-inch Retina display is smaller than what we’re used to in a non-netbook laptop, and its aluminum unibody is unbelievably light at 2.03 pounds.

    While closed, the thickest part of the MacBook is only .52 inch. Depending on your configuration, it runs Mac OS X Yosemite on a 1.1 GHz, 1.2 GHz, or 1.3 GHz Intel M processor with “Turbo Boost” capability up to 2.4 GHz. Apple claims the laptop lasts 9 hours with wireless web use and 10 hours with nonstop movie play, thanks to a new Intel Core M procesor that uses just 5 watts of power. Because the new MacBook isn’t out yet, we’ll have to take their word for it.

    During the MacBook’s reveal, Apple stressed two new features. One is “Force Touch,” a new trackpad designed to click uniformly no matter where you press. The second is its new port, a new standard called USB Type-C (even Google adopted it for the Chromebook Pixel). This one port charges the laptop, provides USB data transfer, and connects your laptop to an external display.

    But that’s the thing: Because of the MacBook’s slim profile, you only get one port, which means you wouldn’t be able to charge your computer and connect it to an external display at the same time without an extra adapter. The laptop starts at $1,299, and because of its design, the MacBook isn’t upgradable after purchase, so I’d suggest upgrading the processor and increasing storage from 256GB to 512GB for $1,599.

    Takeaways: Sacrifices power but outta-this-world slim; gold; great battery life; only one port.

    Not a Mac user? Try the Dell XPS 2015.

    The Dell XPS 13 (2015)

    The Dell XPS (2015) is a 13.3-inch laptop running Windows 8.1 on an Intel Core i5 2.2 GHz processor. It's shockingly small.

    The non-touchscreen version is about 2.6 pounds (vs. the touchscreen version at 2.8 pounds), and Dell claims the battery life is 15 hours (vs. the touchscreen at 11 hours), although many reviewers (like Engadget) saw only 7 hours. The first thing you'll notice? Its hyper-thin almost edge-to-edge "infinity display" screen. The non-touch version (which I recommend because of its superior battery life + price) runs for $800, while the touchscreen version is $1049 on Amazon.

    Takeaways: Lightweight, fast, high-res "infinity" display, but a gamble on battery life.

    Not a Windows user? Consider the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display or MacBook Air.

    Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro

    The Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 is a convertible 2-in-1 tablet/PC with a 13.3-inch touchscreen display running Windows 8.1 on an Intel i5 1.9GHz processor with speeds of up to 2.6 GHz. Its configuration goes from tablet to laptop to propped-up tablet to slightly angled tablet and back again very easily. The 3,200 x 1,800 pixel screen ("quad HD") is very impressive, especially for a hybrid device.

    At 3.1 pounds, it's heavier than some of the other netbook options considered in this guide. Its uber-high-def display means that it's great for editing photos and gaming, but other Windows options, like the 2015 Dell XPS, have a better processor for a slightly higher price tag. If you want a seriously powerful hybrid machine, go for the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro ($1,149). Lenovo claims the Yoga Pro 2 has a nine-hour battery life, but CNET's test resulted in 7 hours and 10 minutes after playing video nonstop. Still pretty good. It'll cost you between $749 and $999, which is a great deal for such a good display.

    Takeaways: Impressive display for under $1000; medium-tier processing power; hybrid features and touchscreen add flexibility.

    Not a Windows user? Consider the 13-inch MacBook Air or new MacBook.

    Chromebook Pixel (2015)

    The new 2015 Chromebook Pixel is a new breed of "netbook" that runs neither Windows nor Mac. Chromebooks rely on the internet-dependent Chrome OS, which means you're limited to Chrome apps (runs almost all Android apps, plus Microsoft Office, non-Photoshop photo editors, and more). You can download movies, music, e-books, and games for offline use. Its main draw is that the devices start up quickly and last for hours on end. Everything is automatically stored in the cloud, which means documents and Google account info are accessible everywhere.

    It's got a 12.85-inch touchscreen display that crams in 239 pixels per inch (Apple's Retina display has 227 ppi) and weighs 3.3 lbs, definitely on the heavier end of things. Google claims the new Pixel's battery lasts an astounding 12 hours, and Ars Technica's test found that to be true for the most part.

    The sub-$1,000 version is the 32GB solid state drive with a 8GB of RAM and an Intel i5 processor model at $999. Upgrade to 64GB of storage and 16GB of RAM with an i7 chip for $1,299 (a crazy high price for a Chromebook). The new Chromebook uses a new "universal" port called USB Type-C (even Apple's adopted it), through which it can charge or connect to a display via HDMI or connect to a USB device. But you won't have to switch out all of your cables, because the Pixel supports two USB 3.0 connections too.

    Takeaways: Extremely high-resolution display; nontraditional operating system; expensive for a Chromebook but extraordinary battery life.

    Not a Chromebook user? Try the new 2015 MacBook or Lenovo Yoga Pro 2.

    The Dell Chromebook 11 (2014)

    The Dell Chromebook 11 is an 11.6-inch laptop sold at the absurdly affordable starting price of $280 and $380 with upgrades.

    The Dell Chromebook 11 is aimed at the education crowd, but it has surprisingly sleek hardware for something designed for kids. It even won Tom's Guide's Reader's Choice 2014 in the Chromebooks category. It runs on a 1.4Ghz dual-core Intel Celeron 2955 Haswell. The battery lasts 7 hours streaming video but can last up to 14 hours with normal web browsing at 80% brightness. It comes with 4GB of RAM and only 16GB of solid state drive storage, but there is an SD card slot for extra space.

    Takeaways: Absurdly cheap; great for students; solid battery life.

    Not a Chromebook user? Try the Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 or New MacBook.

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