The best laptops of 2017: Ultrabooks, budget PCs, 2-in-1s, and more

laptopsCredit: Rob Schultz
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With a new year comes fresh laptop updates—companies like Dell, HP, Acer, and Asus have already begun to launch revamped versions of popular notebooks and spin-offs of existing lines.

These new additions to the scene (like Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1) just keep adding to the wide and varied options already out there. Expect to keep seeing even more convertibles, 2-in-1s, and traditional clamshells as the months roll by, and also keep an eye peeled for more laptops with discrete graphics. In January, Nvidia expanded its game-changing Pascal GPU lineup to include a mobile version of its budget-minded GTX 1050, and it’s already rolling out as an option in larger thin-and-light systems.

Given what a great year 2016 was, we anticipate 2017 being an equally fantastic year to buy a new system, no matter what you’re hunting for. To help you with your decision, we’re hard at work evaluating more laptops—our latest reviews include the Razer Blade Pro and HP’s 2017 Spectre x360 15, and we even took a look at the Linux version of Dell’s XPS 13. For the moment, our current category winners hang onto their crowns, but we anticipate that some will soon lose their thrones.

Best ultrabook laptop

Dell might be sticking to the adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” when it comes to the XPS 13, but that strategy keeps producing the best ultrabook of the bunch. The Kaby Lake XPS 13 shares the same design as its predecessors: a quality aluminium exterior and carbon-fiber top, and that wonderfully compact, bezel-free 13-inch screen.

Dell actually released two updates to the XPS 13 in 2016: The one at the start of the year swapped in a Skylake CPU, added a USB Type-C port that served as an alternative charging port, and offered upgraded storage options. The most recent refresh—and our new pick for Best Ultrabook—keeps the same chassis changes as the Skylake XPS 13, features a jump to Intel’s new Kaby Lake processor, and sports a slightly larger battery. You get improved performance across the board, with a nice bump of an extra half-hour of battery life during video playback.

Kaby Lake Dell XPS 13Gordon Mah Ung

The Kaby Lake version of the Dell XPS 13 maintains that balance between portability, compact size, and performance that we like so much.

Our only lingering complaint is the small keyboard, but overall, you can’t lose with the newest XPS 13. It’s a truly compact ultrabook that punches out of its class.

[$800–$2,039 MSRP; $1149 MSRP as reviewed]


If looks are more your thing, the HP Spectre 13.3 certainly has a distinct profile: It’s one of the thinnest ultrabooks around. For anyone coveting the streamlined experience of Apple’s 12-inch MacBook, this 13-inch notebook will bring you close while providing superior performance.

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