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The 2018 Laptop of the Year

December 21, 2018

9:38 am

2018 has been a great year for tech, and nowhere has that been more apparent than in the laptops space. From high-end Apple laptops to great value Chromebooks, it really feels like there is a model out there for everyone, regardless of need or budget.

Laptops have also become much more fluid in how we think of them. Whereas before, the line between the laptop and touchscreen tablet were clearly defined, now many products serve as both, like the Acer Switch 3, a Windows laptop with a detachable, touchscreen.

Then there’s the newcomers threatening the old guard, with the likes of Huawei posing a genuine concern for established brands – if they can ever get a foothold in America.

We take a look at some of the best laptops released this year, covering everything from premium models to those that come in under $200.

Apple MacBook 13

Okay, a MacBook topping a ‘Best laptops of 2018’ list might not be original, but it really felt like 2018 was the return of the MacBook Air. Left languishing for so long with dated specs (a 5th gen Intel chip in 2018, really??) while Apple appeared to favour the 12-inch MacBook, the Air finally got the respect it deserved from Cook & Co.

The MacBook’s makeover montage could have been soundtracked by Roy Orbison. In went a tired, old dated MacBook Air; out came a vibrant, fresh laptop with an 8th gen Intel chip and, finally, a Retina screen.

Yes, the price got bumped up a bit. But, it’s still the cheapest MacBook around, and on paper, it’s more impressive than the pricier 12-inch MacBook.

Being an Apple device, the battery life is superb, as you would expect, making it an excellent daily companion whether you’re at home or in the office, or constantly flitting between the two.

Apple MacBook Air 13

Buy the Apple MacBook Air at Amazon

Pros:

  • Cheapest MacBook
  • Slim and light
  • Retina screen

Cons:

  • 12-inch MacBook is lighter and smaller

Huawei Matebook pro xHuawei MateBook X Pro

Huawei wants to crack America like The Beatles in the Sixties. The plan for this ambitious Chinese company is to make high-spec hardware and undercut the competition. Hence the MateBook X Pro.

Huawei isn’t hiding its ambitions with the MateBook X Pro, taking the MacBook Pro squarely in its sights.

Despite the naming making it sound like a dodgy bootleg knock-off, the MateBook Pro X is a legitimately excellent laptop. It’s not just the specs that make it sing, either – this thing has had real thought poured into its beautiful design.

It feels every inch like a premium product. There are some real innovative touches, like the dedicated webcam key on the keyboard that, when pressed, pops up a tiny camera.

Super slim, with an awesome 3K screen and packing 8th gen i5 or i7 Intel processors, the MateBook Pro X should be unstoppable.

The fly in the ointment is tricky political issue of the US Government not trusting Huawei’s products…

Huawei MateBook X Pro

Buy the Huawei MateBook X Pro at Amazon

Pros:

  • 3K screen
  • Beautifully engineered
  • Light and portable

Cons:

  • Probably not Congress-endorsed…

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

If you’re a Windows user who has always looked on enviously at the well-designed, expensive MacBook range, fear not. Now, you too can pay top end for specs and finesse!

Let’s get it out of the way, Microsoft’s Surface laptops aren’t  cheap options. They’re priced on a par with Apple’s laptops, and it’s not too hard to see why.

While they may pack 8th gen Intel i5 or i7 chips, it’s not so much the internal specs that indicate the premium-ness of the Surface Laptop 2, as the sheer design of the thing.

This becomes immediately obvious when you crack open the lid and are presented with the fabric covered keyboard – Alcantara, to be precise. Typing on plastic keys seems so archiac in comparison.

Add in the crystal clear touchscreen and super long battery life, and Microsoft has made a proper MacBook competitor.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

Buy the Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 at Amazon

Pros:

  • Premium design
  • Powerful specs
  • Feels like a genuine MacBook competitor

Cons:

  • No USB-C port
  • Windows 10 may not win over macOS fans

Samsung chromebook 3Samsung Chromebook 3

Chromebooks are certainly different to Windows laptops, but they’re strange beasts, too. At one end of the market, you can pick one up for less than $300. But, it’s also possible to pay $1,000 and up for one.

While there are some great premium Chromebooks out there (the Google PixelBook, to name one), the entry-level models can be a great alternative to a Windows machine.

The Samsung Chromebook 3 isn’t an exciting laptop, but it’s quietly one of the best value models of 2018.

It has a low-powered Intel Celeron processor, just 4GB of Ram, and the screen isn’t even Full HD. So, why is it in our top laptops of 2018? It costs less than $200.

It’s an absolute bargain for students and surfers, and, thanks to the efficient Chrome OS, Chromebooks don’t need to be super-powered to be effective. In daily use , the Chromebook 3 will happily zip along without pause.

It also has great staying power, too. The battery will last up to 11 hours, and it’s small and light enough to slip into your bag.

It won’t serve you as a gaming machine (unless you take your minesweeper very seriously), but for social media, surfing and streaming, you’ll have few complaints. It’s also a great cheap solution for essay-writing and note-taking.

Samsung Chromebook 3

Buy the Samsung Chromebook 3 at Amazon

Pros:

  • Great value
  • Long battery life
  • Very portable

Cons:

  • The screen won’t stun

Acer Switch 3

acer-switch 3

While we’re talking budget laptops, it would be remiss to not mention the Acer Switch 3.

Coming in at under $500, this Chromebook nets you a lot for your money, essentially giving you a Windows tablet and laptop in one device.

While laptops with detachable screens are nothing new, the low cost of entry certainly makes the Acer Switch 3 stand out.

It’s half the price of the Microsoft Surface Book, and while the internal specs aren’t quite as impressive, again, it’s less than $500.

Acer even throws in the stylus, while Apple and Microsoft would charge you $100 for the privilege.

Despite its modest price tag, the Switch 3 still manages to offer up a 12.2-inch screen with excellent HD quality visuals, and that stylus makes for an excellent peripheral when doodling or note-taking on the display.

It even feels solidly built, when really, it doesn’t have any right to, given the price tag. It’s reassuring to know that the odd knock won’t put the Switch 3 out of commission.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Tablet & laptop in one
  • Includes stylus

Cons:

  • Not a powerhouse
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Jack is the Content Manager for Tech.co. He has been writing about a broad variety of technology subjects for over a decade, both in print and online, including laptops and tablets, gaming, and tech scams. As well as years of experience reviewing the latest tech devices, Jack has also conducted investigative research into a number of tech-related issues, including privacy and fraud.