The 10 Best Windows Laptops
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in June of 2016. Microsoft's Windows operating system is ubiquitous on both home and business PCs. For the added convenience of portable computing power, the latest laptops offer incredible speed, thanks to their cutting-edge technology. We've included some of the most powerful models overall as well as some of the best values, along with some especially well-suited to gaming, multitasking, and professional use. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
March 10, 2020:
There are so many excellent laptops available today that it would be impossible to make a fully comprehensive list. There are quite a few respectable manufacturers who make quality devices for a wide range of purposes, but we were able to settle on some that represent all-around high quality in almost any price range, all while running Microsoft Windows. To get right into the praise for a very impressive device, it's awfully tough to argue against the HP Spectre x360 15T being one of the best releases right now. Between a high-tech OLED screen, brand-new Intel CPU with Iris Plus graphics, plenty of RAM and storage, and a gorgeous overall design, it's a great machine for almost anything. The Lenovo Thinkpad Carbon X1 isn't quite as advanced, but it takes a slightly more minimalist approach and comes in a bit more svelte, thanks in part to its smaller screen. For that matter, speaking of svelte, it's also hard to beat the LG Gram, which weighs as little as pretty much anything else out there and is full of high-end and recently released components.
The only thing that the most expensive laptops can't always do is play resource-intensive games. If that's your goal, the HP Omen X 2S is a worthy and very interesting consideration thanks to its secondary screen, which, as far as we're aware, is the first of its kind to be implemented on a gaming laptop. Alternately, the Asus Tuf FX505 is surprisingly capable for something that costs only around $1,000. And no matter what you're doing, whether it's gaming or even editing and compiling videos, there's a version of the Gigabyte Aero 15 that will have enough power to satisfy your needs.
There are plenty of other configurations for other uses as well. The HP Elite x2 G3 is one of the top 2-in-1 laptops available, and if you've never used a detachable tablet before, you might be surprised at just how convenient and versatile they are. Their only main drawback is their generally poor battery life. Similarly, the HP Envy x360 has a 360-degree hinge that lets it convert into a tablet, although it's quite heavy for one-handed use. And if you're on a budget and just need something for light work or use at school, the Asus Vivobook 15 and Dell Inspiron 14 should both be on your list.
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A Brief History Of The Windows Operating System
As a testament to its popularity, Windows XP was still being used on an estimated 430 million PCs when it was discontinued.
Windows 1 was released in November of 1985. Unlike the Windows versions of today, it wasn't a full operating system, but rather a graphical user interface for MS-DOS. When initiated, it took over the screen and launched an application called Program Manager. One of the most revolutionary features of Windows 1 was its heavy reliance on a mouse, when most applications were still using a keyboard as the main input method.
Windows 95 was the first version to be a true operating system, and introduced many staples that are still used in current Windows OS, like the Start menu, taskbar, and Windows Explorer. In 1997, Microsoft underwent a period of extreme controversy when they tried to integrate Internet Explorer 4 into Windows 95 systems via an update. By default, Windows 98 already featured the Internet Explorer 4 integration into the user interface, which led to an infamous anti-trust lawsuit.
Windows XP was Microsoft's longest running OS. It was given three major updates between its release date in 2001 and 2014, when Microsoft finally stopped offering support for it. As a testament to its popularity, Windows XP was still being used on an estimated 430 million PCs when it was discontinued.
Windows 7, released in 2009, was well-received by consumers. It was quicker, more stable, and easier to use than Vista, a much-maligned Windows OS released earlier in 2009. In 2012, Microsoft released the touch-friendly Windows 8. It was even faster than Windows 7 and included support for USB 3.0 technology, but despite this, many users found the touch-centric interface to be problematic and hard to navigate. It was quickly followed up with Windows 8.1, a free update that re-introduced the Start button, which was noticeably missing from Windows 8. It also allowed users to load directly to the desktop interface.
Windows 10 was released in 2015 and further brought back the balance between a touch interface and traditional desktop use. It allows users to switch between keyboard and tablet modes as needed and features universal apps that can run seamlessly on both Windows mobile and desktop devices.
Do I Need An SSD Or An HDD?
The technologies behind how SSDs and HDDs work vary greatly. SSD stands for Solid State Drive. It is called this because it has no moving parts. Information is stored on microchips that make use of non-volatile NAND flash memory. Non-volatile memory can store information whether a device is powered on or not. It always retains its charged state.
HDDs store their data on spinning magnetic discs. When accessing information, the disk must first come to the proper rotation speed, at which point a mechanical actuator arm moves into the correct position on the disc to retrieve the data being requested.
Another option is to buy an external hard drive to compensate for the smaller storage space of an SSD laptop.
Inherently, the always-charged state and non-moving aspects of SSDs make them considerably faster than HDDs. When accessing data on an SSD, there is no lag-time while the computer waits for the disk to begin spinning and the mechanical arm to find the correct spot. Instead, you can almost instantaneously access this information.
When deciding on a computer with an HDD or an SSD, ask yourself the following question. What is more important to me, speed or storage size? A laptop with an SSD will be considerably faster when booting up or reading and writing data. The trade-off is that most SSD models will have less storage space. The average consumer-level laptop with an SSD will have somewhere between 128 and 512GB of storage space. On the other hand, it is not uncommon to find consumer-level HDD laptops with 1TB of storage space or more. If having a lot of storage space is most important to you, consider buying a laptop with an HDD. If speed is your top priority, look at models that feature an SSD. Another option is to buy an external hard drive to compensate for the smaller storage space of an SSD laptop. These come in HDD and SSD models.
What Else To Consider When Choosing A Windows Laptop
After you have decided on what memory type you need in your next laptop, there are a few other features that you should consider. Size is often a determining factor for many users. Will you regularly transport your laptop to and from school or the office? If so, a smaller model, usually with about a 13-inch screen, is a good bet. Anything smaller will hinder productivity, while anything larger can become a hassle to carry around.
The same can be said of models that feature a 4k or UHD screen.
While touchscreen is all the rage these days, if you don't make use of apps and games that require it, you might do well to choose a model that doesn't have touchscreen capabilities. These will often get better battery life, and can cost $100 less than comparable models with touchscreens. The same can be said of models that feature a 4k or UHD screen. For most users, a standard HD screen will suffice, and once again, the battery life and cost benefits can be significant.
Battery life should be a serious consideration. If you often work in public places where access to power can be limited, it is important to choose a laptop model that can accommodate this. Some may get as few as four hours of use on battery power, while some of the newer ultrabooks can get eight or more.
When it comes to future-proofing your device, two aspects take center stage: connectivity and RAM. Unless you are severely hampered by budgetary constraints, You shouldn't even consider looking at models with less than 4GB of RAM. This ensures that it will be able to handle not only today's resource-heavy applications, but also those that will be released in the years to come. Any device you consider should also include at least one USB 3.0 port, and ideally a USB Type-C port, as well. USB Type-C is poised to become the de-facto standard in the next few years. It is small enough for smartphones, powerful enough for laptops, and fast enough to support 4K video transfer.