It's time for another look at the laptop market. We are still waiting on the Intel Gemini Lake models to ship, so it's not the best time to look for something in the budget range, although there are some new models there. We've seen more models ship with AMD's Ryzen Mobile as well, and the 8th Generation Core CPUs have been a nice boost over the outgoing 7th Generation models.

Laptop Recommendations Q3 2018
Segment Model Starting Price (As of writing)
Entry Level Chuwi LapBook SE $299 USD
  Microsoft Surface Go $399 USD
AMD Ryzen Acer Swift 3 $682.50 USD
Premium Ultrabooks Dell XPS 13 $999 USD
  Huawei MateBook X Pro $1199.99 USD
Convertibles HP Spectre x360 15t $1779.90 USD
  Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet $1057 USD
Discrete GPU Laptops Dell XPS 15 $1049.99 USD
  Microsoft Surface Book 2 $1299 USD
  Apple MacBook Pro 15 $2399 USD

As always, we’ll break the guide down into several segments to serve various markets, from low-cost, to mid-range, to high end.

Entry Level

We've finally seen our first Gemini Lake laptop available in the Chuwi LapBook SE, as well as a new offering from Microsoft in the Surface Go.

Chuwi LapBook SE

Chuwi tends to offer a lot of product for the dollar, and their latest LapBook SE is no exception. With the latest Intel Celeron N4100, based on Gemini Lake and the new Goldmont Plus Atom cores, Chuwi is able to fit in a new quad-core processor without breaking the bank. It's also one of the first laptops available with LPDDR4, although just 4 GB of it. For storage, Chuwi offers 32 GB of eMMC along with 128 GB of SSD storage. The laptops is an all-metal design as well, with thin bezels around the 13.3-inch FHD IPS display. And best of all, Chuwi has even managed to add in keyboard backlighting for this go around. For $299, it'll be hard to get more laptop than this for the price.

Microsoft Surface Go

We've not yet had a chance to get a hands-on with the Surface Go, but as a successor to the Surface 3, it has a lot of good features for the price. At a $399 starting price, you get a Kaby Lake Pentium Gold 4415Y processor, which is a good step up in performance over the Atom CPUs you'd normally see around this price range. Microsoft also calibrates all of their displays, and the 1800x1200 10-inch display offers a respectable 216 pixels-per-inch. The base model is just 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of eMMC, but there's also an 8 GB model with a 128 GB SSD for $549. Adding in a type cover to make this a portable laptop though and it's already climbing out of what we'd consider entry level, but still, with the lack of quality notebooks right now in the $200-$400 range, this is a solid offering that should provide better build quality and performance than the Atom based PCs normally found around this price.

AMD Ryzen

We're finally seeing a few models available with Ryzen Mobile, and the quality of the laptops is a great step up from what OEMs were building with previous AMD chips.

Acer Swift 3 15.6-inch

We got a chance to review the Acer Swift 3 with the AMD Ryzen 7 2700U, and the laptop is a good entry for the price. The starting price of $749.99 includes 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD, along with a good aluminum chassis and nice looking design. The Vega GPU is a stout performer too, offering the ability to play some entry level games on an integrated GPU with surprisingly good framerates.

Premium Ultrabooks

Dell XPS 13 9370

Dell just keeps on improving the XPS 13, which is one of the best Ultrabooks around. For 2018, they've refreshed it again with a new color options in Platinum Silver, or Rose Gold. The base price has crept up from $800 to $1000 though, and the base model has just 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of SSD, so realistically the real price starts at $1199.99. The new color options are paired with 8th generation Intel quad-core U series processors, with either the i5-8250U, or the i7-8550U. The Full HD model is still the base, but the touch model now comes with a Ultra HD display, and of course with the now signature Dell InfinityEdge bezels. As long as you don't mind the webcam in an awkward spot, Dell's XPS is a stunner.

Huawei MateBook X Pro

What's most surprising about the Huawei MateBook X Pro is how much they got right when they are relatively new to the PC game. The MateBook X Pro feels like Huawei looked at everything that could be added to an Ultrabook, and decided to just add it all. It's got a beautiful design, featuring very thin bezels like the XPS line from Dell. It's got a Core i5 or Core i7 quad-core CPU, with 8 or 16 GB of RAM, and 256 or 512 GB or storage. There's Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, but also a USB-A port for compatibility. The high-end model ships with a USB-C breakout box to provide HDMI, VGA, and another USB-C port, along with USB-A. The 3000x2000 display is one of the most accurate we've ever tested, and the power efficiency is almost chart topping. The Core i7 model even ships with an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU, providing much more performance than the integrated graphics can. The MateBook X Pro is a stunner that impresses every time you use it. The fact that it costs hundreds of dollars less than comparable models is the icing on the cake.

Convertibles

HP Spectre x360 15t

HP's Spectre lineup is their premium range, and the x360 15t is a stunning laptop. The laptop has the 8th gen Core i7-8550U option, as well as an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU, which is going to be a nice step up in performance over the Intel HD 620 built into the CPU. The 15.6-inch display is a 3840x2160 resolution panel, and the laptop comes with a 79.2 Wh battery, so despite the high resolution, battery life is rated for 12.75 hours from HP. You can get up to 1 TB of NVMe SSD as well, and the laptop is equipped with Thunderbolt 3 for high-speed I/O. At 4.42 lbs, it's fairly light for a large notebook as well. HP's launched some great looking devices over the last year or two, and it's definitely one to look for. They also offer a 13.3-inch model of this, if you want something a bit smaller.

ThinkPad X1 Tablet

Lenovo's new X1 Tablet is nice step forward in the already excellent X1 line. Intel has refreshed the X1 Tablet with the latest Intel 8th generation Core CPUs, up to the Core i7-8650U, and they offer up to 16 GB of LPDDR3 as well. With up to 1 TB of PCIe storage, you should be able to take a lot of work on the go. Lenovo has moved ot the same 3:2 aspect ratio as the Surface Pro, with a 13-inch 3000x2000 display on the X1 Tablet. Windows Hello is available through both a fingerprint reader as well as an optional IR camera, but if you opt out of the IR camera you can get NFC instead. There's two Type-C ports with USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Thunderbolt 3 support for power and docking, as well as a nano SIM slot if you want to get LTE. If you're after a convertible tablet for the maximum in portability, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet needs to be on the short list.

Discrete GPU Laptops

Sometimes you just need more performance, and the integrated GPU isn't going to cut it. If you're into gaming, some of the more gaming focused devices are likely a better bet, so check out our gaming laptop guide for those, but if you need a strong laptop to get work done, these laptops fit the bill.

Dell XPS 15 9570

Dell's XPS 15 is one of the best in its class, and Dell has just refreshed it with the latest Intel CPUs, from the Core i5-8300H, to the Core i7-8570H, all the way up to the Core i9-8950HK. You can get it with either the GTX 1050, or GTX 1050 Ti GPU as well, with the latter being a bump over the 9560 model last year. RAM is up to 32 GB of DDR4-2666 in 2x16 GB, and Dell still offers both a 1920x1080 FHD display, or the 3840x2160 panel with Adobe RGB coverage. 

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Like the best laptop we've reviewed in several years is the new Surface Book 2. The 15-inch model got a go on our bench, and it's the best laptop available right now. Microsoft has improved it dramatically with new quad-core CPU options based on Kaby Lake-R, and offers very powerful GPUs in the 13-inch with the GTX 1050, and the 15-inch model whiich offers the very strong GTX 1060. Microsoft sets the bar in terms of display quality, and the Surface Book 2 is no exception, with its 3240x2160 resolution PixelSense display. The device is of course also a detachable tablet, and with the tablet and laptop combined, it has 86 Wh of capacity, and it provided almost 14 hours of run time on our light battery test. The Surface Book 2 couples incredible performance with an elegant design. Microsoft has even provided a USB Type-C port for the first time on their devices, although it's not TB3.

Apple MacBook Pro 15

Apple has recently refreshed the MacBook Pro lineup with Intel's Hex-Core Coffee Lake CPUs. They've also given the keyboard a once-over to hopefully improve the reliability of the butterfly design. If you're in the market for a Mac, the MacBook Pro 15 is the one to beat. They've also moved from LPDDR3 which limited them to 16 GB of RAM, to DDR4 which doubles the maximum capacity to 32 GB. To compensate for the extra power draw from the CPU and RAM, Apple has also bumped the battery capacity to 83.6 Wh.

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  • ikjadoon - Wednesday, August 15, 2018 - link

    Agreed. Back in the day, we had long-term testing and tested support services (i.e., anonymous calls).

    And quality control. Lots of people complain about this, and rightly: look at the Surface Book review here on Anand. And then the X1 issues every week.
    Reply
  • shabby - Wednesday, August 15, 2018 - link

    There's only one laptop between 300 and 1000? 🤔 Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Wednesday, August 15, 2018 - link

    I'm going for the 15" MacBook Pro. My current PC is a $3500 DIY Haswell-E monster, that died twice. Total down time for the system was about three months, diagnosing problems and waiting on RMA parts. All the while my $1500 13" MacBook Pro never had a single issue. It literally saved my bacon.

    This time, I'm spending $3000 on my MacBook Pro, and I'll build a $1500 DIY PC to play games. From my experience, this seems like the best way to leverage my money.
    Reply
  • Arnulf - Thursday, August 16, 2018 - link

    Makes sense. Now you will get the portable to do the downtime part and the gaming computer to carry you over. Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Thursday, August 16, 2018 - link

    Not in my experience. I have purchased 5 MacBooks (and one PowerBook) since 2003, and only that first PowerBook had an issue. One of the two memory slots died, which Apple repaired for me out of warranty in one of their Quality Programs.

    Of the four PC's that I built .. only the Sandy Bridge 2700K system never had an issue. Two of the systems had issues that never got resolved - an Althon X2 system that burned up power supplies, and a Core 2 Quad system that would BSOD every 4 to 6 weeks corrupting the boot volume beyond repair. That system forced me to develop a rigorous backup habit.

    My current Haswell-E system has had two sets of memory fail (after a BIOS update) requiring me send in both the RAM and the Motherboard. Since ASUS replaced my X99 Deluxe motherboard with an X99 Deluxe II it has been reliable. Thankfully.
    Reply
  • wanderlounge - Wednesday, August 15, 2018 - link

    Is there a nice way to put this? Probably not.

    This article sucks, and you should feel bad about it.

    Specifically, you're recommending units that you haven't seen in person and are not yet able to purchase as being one of the "best". That's irresponsible and short sighted.

    When I read Anandtech, I expect to get advice worth listening to. When you tell me that Chuwi's new laptop is a great entry level device, I expect that the recommendation is based on experience, not speculation.

    At the $300 price point, there are quite a few options with similar specs from manufacturers you've heard of, that are available from retailers locally and online that you use anyway.

    I just ordered this Lenovo Ideapad for myself for $50 less: https://amzn.to/2nDkrVQ and it has the same CPU, expandable memory, a 2.5" drive bay, a dvd drive, and is backed by a name brand with a warranty and support you can actually rely on. After converting the dvd drive to an extra sata port (https://amzn.to/2vJ5G8s) it's an inexpensive dual storage (maybe 3? m2 ssd is an option on some models but I won't know until I take the lid off) that isn't doing silly things like emmc storage and sdio interfaces for wifi/bt.
    Reply
  • Brett Howse - Wednesday, August 15, 2018 - link

    I appreciate the feedback. My recommendations are based on experience, because I've used every device Chuwi has made for the last couple of years, and they always punch about their price.

    When you say "similar specs" that's just what they are. The Lenovo you listed comes with a TN display which is a non-starter, and a hard drive compared to the SSD in the Chuwi.

    I'm glad you're happy with the Lenovo.
    Reply
  • Tams80 - Friday, August 17, 2018 - link

    While personal experience is great and all, with buying guides you need to remember that people are buying these to last for a few years, not just the few weeks at most reviewers spend with a device.

    Support therefore becomes very important. While Chuwi do make great value devices; there's the catch that their support outside of China is not good and slow (even compared to the low budget device support from bigger companies). They also seem to use b-stock components, which if so means a need for support is more likely. You get what you pay for.

    You have a whole website. The least you could do is buy a low budget device in the same category from a company that has local support; and use it on and off for a couple of months.

    As for TN panels being a no-go? While not great, they aren't the worst thing in the world. On a low budget device you aren't likely to be doing anything that needs a great display either.
    Reply
  • protomech - Thursday, August 16, 2018 - link

    The Lenovo has a 15" 768p TN display vs the Chuwi 14" 1080p IPS display.

    The Lenovo has a 500 GB spinny disk vs a 128 GB SSD (so the specs claim). Not sure why it also has 32GB EMMC, unless that's simply onboard from a lower spec model.

    The Lenovo is rated at 5.5 hours of battery, vs 8 hours for the Chuwi.

    The Lenovo has a 40% larger footprint, is 40% thicker, and weighs 55% more.

    The Lenovo has a DVD drive and gigabit ethernet. If you need those then the Chuwi is out. Otherwise they're useless bulk and weight.

    These are very different machines.
    Reply
  • ikjadoon - Wednesday, August 15, 2018 - link

    IMO, not a great time to buy a laptop. Whiskey Lake with 14nm++ noted efficiency boosts is coming in a month’s time, judging by the leaks of ASUS and HP.

    And then, there’s a chance the Age of 3:2 is coming. Huawei was the crucial #2; it’s not crazy any more to dump 16:9. Even Dell is considering 3:2 for their Whiskey Lake XPS 13 launching in the next weeks.

    https://www.notebookcheck.net/Frank-Azor-Dell-mull...

    For school and productivity, 3:2 all the way. If you need a laptop now, go ahead. But for all of Q3? I’d wait. There will be many better choices launching in Q3 2018.
    Reply

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