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Laptops
Tablets and convertibles may be enticing for some, but others prefer a good old clamshell laptop. If you're among that number, we think these are the ones most worth your while.

Product Specs Starting price

Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-574G-54Y2)

Display: 15.6" 1920x1080
Processor: Intel Core i5-6200U
RAM: 8GB
GPU: Nvidia GeForce 940M
Storage: 1TB hard drive
Battery life: 6 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac with MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 1.2"
Weight: 5.3 lbs

$479.99

Asus ZenBook UX305
Display: 13.3" 1920x1080
Processor: Intel Core M-5Y10
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD 
Battery life: 8 hours
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.5"
Weight: 2.6 lbs
$699.99

Dell XPS 13
Display: 13.3" 1920x1080 or 3200x1800
Processor: Intel Core i3-5010U, i5-5200U, or i7-5500U
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB or 256GB SSD
Battery life: 15 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.6"
Weight: 2.6 lbs
$799.99
(
Core i3 CPU,
128GB SSD,
1080p screen)


Dell XPS 15
Display: 15.6" 1920x1080 (3840x2160 touch optional)
Processor: Intel Core i3 dual-core, Core i5 and i7 quad-core (Skylake)
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: 500GB or 1TB hard drive, 256GB or 512GB PCIe SSDs
Battery life: 17 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Thickness: 0.66"
Weight: 3.9 lbs
$999.99
(Core i3 CPU, 8GB RAM, 500GB hard drive + 32GB SSD)

HP Spectre
Display: 13.3" 1920x1080 IPS
Processor: Intel Core i5 or Core i7 dual-core (Skylake)
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB or 512GB PCIe SSD
Battery life: 9 hours, 45 minutes
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.5"
Weight: 2.5 lbs
$1169.99
(Core i5 CPU, 256GB SSD,
8GB RAM)

Apple MacBook
Display: 12" 2304x1440
Processor: Intel Core M (Skylake)
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: 256GB or 512GB PCIe SSD
Battery life: 9 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.5"
Weight: 2 lbs

$1299.99
(256GB SSD,
1.1GHz CPU,
8GB RAM)


Apple MacBook Pro 13"
Display: 13.3" 2560x1600
Processor: Intel Core i5 and i7 dual-core (Broadwell)
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB PCIe SSDs
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.7"
Weight: 3.5 lbs
$1299.99
(128GB SSD,
2.7GHZ CPU,
8GB RAM)

Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-574G-54Y2)
Acer's Aspire E 15 kicks off our traditional laptop picks at the budget end. Despite its low price, this machine doesn't have any lines on its spec sheet that make us blanch. It offers a 1920x1080 display powered by a GeForce 940M discrete graphics processor, a chip that might even allow some recent titles to run with reasonable frame rates at low settings. The E 15's Core i5-6200U CPU should offer plenty of grunt in productivity tasks, too. 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive seem perfect in a machine at this price point.

Asus ZenBook UX305
Asus' ZenBook UX305 might be all of the computer most people ever need. It's wafer-thin, it features a gorgeous 13.3", 1080p screen, and it comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. With completely passive cooling, this system has no moving parts, much like a tablet. The all-aluminum body only weighs 2.6 pounds, too. Asus updated this machine with Skylake Core M CPUs a while back, but even with that upgrade, the UX305 still rings in for just $700.

Dell XPS 13
Dell's XPS 13 has been making waves in the notebook market since its release, as well. Its signature feature is a nearly-borderless "infinity display" that packs a 13.3" screen into a chassis that's no bigger than many 11" laptops. The XPS 13 can also be had in several configurations, packing 1080p or 3200x1800 displays and Broadwell Core i3 or Core i5 CPUs. If you want more room for customization than the ZenBook UX305 offers and don't mind spending a bit more to get there, the XPS 13 seems like a fine pick at $800 and up.

Dell XPS 15
For those who need extra graphics power out of their Windows laptop, or just prefer bigger screens, Dell's XPS 15 looks like a good place to start. The company has updated this 15.6" machine with the ultra-thin display bezel from its 13" counterpart, along with Intel's Skylake CPUs. The base model starts at $999 with a Core i3-6100H processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. We'd step up to the $1,399 model with a Core i7-6700HQ quad-core CPU, 8GB of main memory, a GeForce GTX 960 graphics card with 2GB of RAM, and a 256GB PCIe SSD, though.

HP Spectre
The thinness wars continue in all corners of mobile computing hardware, and HP's Spectre is one of the most extreme salvos yet. This 13.3" machine is only 0.4" (10.4 mm) thick, but what it lacks in heft is made up for by the punchy looks of its black-and-gold exterior. Despite the ultra-thin chassis, HP stuffs full-fat Core i5-6200U or Core i7-6500U CPUs inside, along with speedy NVMe SSDs. This machine is also ready for next-generation peripherals thanks to a trio of USB Type-C ports, two of which support Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Gen2 transfer speeds. If you want a fashionable machine with high performance to match, the Spectre appears to be the way to go in Windows notebooks right now.

Apple MacBook
Readers, please put down your flamethrowers. We know Apple's latest MacBook is polarizing. Hear us out. At only half an inch thick and a breath over two pounds, the MacBook is barely a tangible thing, yet Apple somehow managed to cram a 12" Retina display (re-engineered to be thinner, brighter, and more efficient) and a full-sized keyboard in there. The Force Touch trackpad is slimmer than traditional clickpads, but feels a lot like one thanks to a clever electromagnetic haptic feedback system. Meanwhile, the system's battery life stretches beyond eight hours, thanks in part to the display's ability to let more light pass through its pixel matrix.

The MacBook now uses Skylake Core M CPUs. They still aren't going to set any speed records, but they should be plenty of CPU for the average user. The one true pain point might be the lone USB-C port, which handles everything from charging to peripheral I/O to display output. That's a nice vision for the future, but it does mean living in a dongle-filled present. Some folks may be willing to tolerate these limitations for a taste of tomorrow today. The new MacBook starts at $1300. 

Apple MacBook Pro 13"
If your computing needs include more demanding apps like Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, and you prefer OS X, the newest 13" MacBook Pro makes the most sense to us. You get the same Force Touch trackpad as in the MacBook, a slightly bigger and higher-res Retina display, beefier dual-core Broadwell processors with Iris 6100 graphics, and more ports for $1300 and up. 

Gaming laptops: Wait and see
Although we've tested and enjoyed several gaming laptops over the past couple months, it's not a good time to purchase one of these expensive, hard-to-upgrade machines. Several companies strongly hinted that their future products will be shipping with as-yet-unannounced Nvidia Pascal mobile graphics chips at this year's Computex, and we know those chips offer a level of performance above and beyond anything that's come before in their high-end desktop configurations.

Our best guess is that Nvidia will try to have these chips on the market before the USA back-to-school season really takes off toward the end of August, so unless you need a high-end mobile gaming rig for some major emergency, we'd sit tight and see what the rest of the summer brings. It's also possible that AMD's Polaris GPUs will begin making their way into low- and mid-range gaming notebooks around the same time, so even if your budget doesn't stretch to the $1500-and-up price brackets that powerful gaming notebooks typically inhabit, it may turn out that a new category of affordable mobile gaming machines is about to emerge. Whatever the future may hold, we think waiting is the best option.