More than any other breed of computer, your regular Windows 10 laptop spans the gamut of functionality, capable of being anything from a bare-bones word-processing machine to a video-gaming leviathan that doubles as an electric heater.
There are many laptops for many purposes, so we’ve divvied our list up into price brackets to help you quickly find what you’re after.
Budget Laptops: Under $400
This is very much the budget price range, so don’t expect SSDs or non-generic graphics chips here. On the other hand, if you’re looking for highly portable 11-inch laptops with a long battery life that are great for basic work tasks, then you need not look any further.
A general upside of lower-end laptops is that their undemanding hardware uses less power, so just because a laptop is lower-end doesn’t mean it’ll have poor battery life.
HP Stream 11
At the lower end of this price bracket you can find laptops like the HP Stream 11, which packs a 2.16GHz Intel Celeron CPU, 2GB RAM and 32GB eMMC storage (which is faster than HDD). Its 11.6″ display is only 1366×768, but that’s to be expected on a screen this size. Also, it’s very blue, if you can handle that.
Acer Aspire E15
Acer always outdo themselves when it comes to value for money, and the Aspire E15 is another example of that. It offers a 1920×1080 full HD display, 1TB HDD 6GB DDR4 RAM, and an Intel Core i3-8130U processor, which is decidedly budget but also comes with all the perks of Intel’s 7th-generation Kaby Lake CPUs, such as hyperthreading (great for multitasking). And it has a DVD drive – very retro-chic!
Mid-Range Laptops: Under $900
You should settle for nothing less than full HD displays (try to go for an IPS rather than TN panel) in this price bracket, while at the higher end you can find some decent GPUs if you want to play modern games on acceptable (though not spectacular) settings.
Lenovo Ideapad 520S
The Lenovo Ideapad 520S is a 14-inch laptop with an Intel i7-8550U CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD and a vibrant full HD IPS display. It’s not as slim or elegant as other laptops, with a large-ish bezel and 19.3mm-thick body, but you may just be too busy being transfixed by the IPS display to notice.
Dell XPS 13 – 2017
You can’t go too wrong with the 2017 version of the Dell XPS 13, with 8GB RAM, 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 128GB M.2 SSD and impressive 13-hour battery life. It’s probably the best-looking laptop in this price range, too, with a 13.3″ Full HD Infinity Edge touchscreen and super-slim design. It’s not much good for gaming, though, as you can imagine.
At the top end of this price bracket, you can find budget gaming laptops like the Asus FX504, which notably packs a GTX 1050 Ti GPU, 1TB HDD and 8th-gen Intel i5 8300H processor with 8GB RAM. The Full HD has an impressive 120Hz refresh rate, but it’s only a TN panel, so there is a tradeoff.
High-End Laptops: Under $1200
In this price range you’re looking at SSDs and mid-level GPUs at the lower end, or alternatively excellent CPUs and loading-free performance, up to solid gaming rigs that should handle most of what today’s gaming market throws at them. Whether you need something slim, portable and powerful or a solid gaming laptop, you’ll find it here.
Acer Predator Helios 300
Or you could go the other way and get something more bulky but more gaming-friendly. The Acer Predator Helios 300 has a powerful GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GPU, 16GB RAM and 256GB SSD. All of this runs swimmingly on an Intel i7-7700HQ 2.8GHz CPU and looks great with its 1080P LED-lit IPS display.
The Sky’s the Limit: $1200+
The more money you throw at it, the more futureproof your laptop will be, and anything in this price range will be a breeze to use. At the right price you can even combine a sleek, slim design with decent gaming performance, if that’s what you’re after.
HP Omen X
Billed as “HP’s first overclockable laptop,” the HP Omen X is one that represents great value in the higher price range. It has an Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 17″ Full HD 120Hz IPS display, GTX 1070 GPU (8GB VRAM), 16GB RAM and 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD. This is guaranteed to easily run every game you throw at it, and at a price that shouldn’t break the bank.
Huawei Matebook X Pro
The Huawei MateBook X Pro, with its super slim build and 13.9″ 3K display, is also worth a look. Its other features include an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB PCIe SSD.
Dell XPS 15
For an unthinkable blend of slimline design and gaming performance, check out the lovely Dell XPS 15 which runs on 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD, Intel Core i5-83750H CPU with a GeForce GTX 1050Ti GPU. That means you get good gaming quality in a laptop slim enough to be a tablet. Great InfinityEdge4K touchscreen display, too.
That should give you a pretty good idea of what laptop you can expect to buy and for what kind of money in 2018. There are dozens more comparable laptops to choose from out there, but at least now you know how well you can do at what price.