The 10 Coolest Laptops Of 2015

Laptops That Rocked 2015

It was an interesting year for laptops in 2015. Microsoft introduced its first notebook -- the Surface Book. Top U.S. laptop maker Hewlett-Packard split, with one half, called HP Inc., dedicated to PCs, printers and accessories. Intel released its Skylake family of processors, which drove not just laptop innovation but also notebook battery life -- in some cases reaching more than 19 hours.

What follows is a roundup of the coolest of the cool for each of the most important laptop categories: high performance, midrange, long battery life, best design, Chromebook, rugged, thin and light, workstation, 2-in-1 and gaming rig.

If you missed it, be sure to take a look back at the rest of the best of 2015 with CRN.

Two-In-One -- Surface Book

Microsoft unleashed its first-ever laptop computer in the form of the Surface Book in October, signaling its ambitions to become an all-out device kingpin that broadly challenges the likes of archrival Apple, as well as longtime hardware partners HP Inc., Dell and Lenovo.

With the introduction of the Surface Book, Microsoft isn't pulling any punches. The Surface Book will feature Intel's sixth-generation Core m, Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Surface Books have a starting price at $1,500 with key features that include 12-hour battery life, a discrete Nvidia GeForce graphics processor, and a 13.5-inch diagonal display that packs 6 million pixels.

The device is actually a 2-in-1 laptop that features a unique dynamic fulcrum hinge. The screen portion of the Surface Book includes the main CPU and the body includes the discrete Nvidia graphics. With this design, you can snap off the display and use it as a Surface-like tablet.

Ultraportable -- Apple MacBook (2015)

With its 12-inch MacBook (2015), Apple delivers a top-notch thin and light laptop that is extremely fast. While it may not feature the more powerful processor, Apple nails it with specs that matter the most. Long battery life, check. Premium look and feel, check. Speedy boot-up times, fast disk speeds and great everyday performance, check, check and check.

What makes the 0.51-inch thick MacBook truly unique is its groundbreaking design, including the use of a single USB-C port (using the USB 3.1 standard) that supports DisplayPort, VGA, HDMI and Ethernet protocols. Another MacBook first is the use of the Force Touch trackpad that brings new innovation to the trackpad such as pressing hard on a word to trigger a definition to pop up.

The Apple MacBook (2015) has a starting price of $1,200.

Small Form Factor -- Dell XPS 13

The industrial designers at Dell are proud of this machine, having jammed a 13-inch display into a chassis that's only the size of a typical 11-inch laptop. They managed that by making the XPS 13's display virtually borderless. The ultra-thin XPS 13 runs on Windows 8.1, is available with processor upgrades, a backlit keyboard and with Windows 8.1 Pro for an additional $50. A touch display is also optional, and it can be had with up to 8 GB of memory and up to a 256-GB solid state drive. The Dell XPS 13 is priced at $799.

Gaming Laptop -- MSI GT80 Titan

This year has seen its fair share of heavy-hitter PC games such as Fallout 4 and Undertale. But if you're serious about getting the most out of these action-packed games you'll need to pony up a couple grand for a gaming system that handles the eye-popping graphics. One of the coolest options is MSI's GT80 Titan. This beefy system sports an18.4-inch 1920x1080 display, two GTX 980M GPUs, mechanical SteelSeries keyboard and an Intel Core i7-5950HQ processor.

This 10-pound beast is what you need if you're looking for performance. Prices for the GT80 Titan starts at $2500.

Chrome OS -- Toshiba Chromebook 2 (model CB35-B3340)

Elegantly designed and priced right with a brilliant display, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 (model CB35-B3340) brings together the right Chromebook mix of essential specs. This Chromebook features a 13.3-inch full-HD display, an Intel 2.16 GHz Celeron 3215U processor and 4GB of RAM. It's battery life delivers an impressive nine hours of battery life.

The starting price for the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is $350.

Gorgeous Design -- Spectre x360

HP Inc. is going premium with its top-of-the-line, 13-inch Spectre x360 convertible laptop. The $1,500 HP Spectre x360 easily compares to the MacBook Pro. It features a gorgeous sleek design, spacious trackpad, and one of the best keyboards on a laptop today. Best of all, the Spectre transforms into a 2-in-1, delivering outstanding performance for this class of notebook.

With Spectre, HP strikes the right balance between work and play. Premium specs inside the Spectre start with Intel's 6th Generation i7 chip that help it tackle a wide range of demanding business tasks, video editing and, at the same time, affords ample horsepower for light gaming and long battery life for watching HD videos.

High Performance Notebook -- HP ZBook Studio G3

The newly formed HP Inc. made a big splash in November with a product blitz including a powerhouse ZBook Studio G3 workstation laptop. Starting at $1,700, the HP ZBook Studio G3 supports up to 2 TB of PCIe storage, includes two Thunderbolt ports in a chassis that weighs in at 4.4 pounds and is 0.7 inches thick. The all-new HP ZBook can be configured with Intel Xeon quad-core processors and an optional 4K DreamColor.

Longest Battery Life -- Lenovo ThinkPad T450s

Need epic battery life? Lenovo's ThinkPad T450s can go two workdays between charges, or 19 hours according to the company. The catch is that in order to achieve that impressive battery life Lenovo had to add over a half-pound of extra weight to the 3.5-pound laptop. This business-class laptop has a starting price of $800 and sports a 14-inch display and can be configured with Intel's low-Watt i5 or i7 Broadwell processors. Pros on this model include battery life and a full-sized keyboard. One of the few negatives is the laptop's display, that some remark is below average.

Budget: Lenovo Ideapad 100S

This entry-level Lenovo Ideapad 100S laptop's most distinguishing feature is its $150 price tag. The smartly designed lightweight (2.2 pounds) 11.6-inch laptop features Windows 10, Intel's Atom Z3735F processor with 32 GB of eMMC storage, 2 GB RAM and battery life rated for 8 hours between charges.

While the price is reminiscent of a netbook, the Lenovo Ideapad 100S and its Atom processor is much more capable than any netbook ever was. Still, don't expect any fancy bells and whistles, rather a solid second notebook you might not get too nervous about when your 9-year-old nephew starts using it.

So where does Lenovo skimp? The storage on this laptop is limited and that touchpad does not support gestures.

Rugged: Gammatech Durabook S15AB

Rugged notebooks are following the overall laptop trend: They are getting thinner and lighter -- and sporting bigger and better displays. GammaTech's latest offering delivers all of that. Its Durabook S15AB, which began shipping this month, weighs in at nearly a pound less than its predecessor (S15H), is a half-inch thinner and adds over an hour of battery life.

GammaTech's upgrades come with a price -- the S15AB has a starting price of $2,000, compared with last year's comparable S15H model, which sells for $1,400. That's still a great price for a dedicated vertical-market rugged notebook. For the extra $600, GammaTech S15AB is a class act, delivering a stress-tested laptop that defies the stigma that rugged equals boxy, hefty and slow.