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The 15 Coolest New Laptops Of 2018

Kyle Alspach

Major laptop releases this year included cool new notebooks from HP, Dell, Lenovo and Apple.

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Laptops To Love

Leading laptop makers outdid themselves in 2018, with huge advances on performance, portability and design. Choosing just 10 top laptops for the year at the CRN Test Center proved a difficult prospect, so we've opted to include 15. Among our favorites at the Test Center this year included Dell's redesigned XPS 13, Lenovo's sixth-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon and HP's latest EliteBook x360 1030, while Apple and Microsoft also released strong new laptop offerings to the market this year.

What follows are the 15 laptops that most caught our attention in 2018.

Apple MacBook Air 2018

Display options: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 resolution, non-touch

What's cool about it: In 2018, Apple launched the first redesign for the MacBook Air in years—with major updates to its display, performance and portability. The notebook finally adds Apple's Retina display technology and gets a big boost on screen resolution (from 1,440 x 900 previously). In addition, Apple has significantly narrowed the bezel around the screen—by 50 percent—for a more modern notebook design. The new MacBook Air also moves up to eighth-gen Intel chips, with a dual-core Core i5 (up to 3.6GHz) processor included. And on portability, the notebook weighs 2.75 pounds, down from 2.96 pounds previously. The new MacBook Air also measures 0.61 of an inch thick, compared to 0.68 of an inch previously.

Apple MacBook Pro 2018

Display options: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 resolution, non-touch; and 15.4-inch, 2,880 x 1,800 resolution, non-touch

What's cool about it: Apple updated the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for 2018, and among the highlights is that the 15.4-inch model is now configurable with up to 32 GB of RAM (compared with a maximum of 16 GB of RAM previously). Also helping to boost the MacBook Pro's performance is the addition of eighth-gen Intel Core processors, including an available six-core chip in the 15.4-inch model (the 13.3-inch model tops out with quad-core processors). Meanwhile, the inclusion of a third-generation butterfly keyboard on the new MacBook Pro enables quieter typing, and Apple has brought its vibrant "True Tone" display technology from the iPhone to the MacBook Pro screen, as well.

Dell Latitude 7390

Display options: 13.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, non-touch

What's cool about it: Dell has brought in Microsoft's Precision Touchpad in the 2018 Latitudes, which offers a huge improvement in usability. For the Latitude 7390 clamshell, the touchpad performance is smooth and responsive. The laptop is very lightweight at about 2.6 pounds, compared with about 3 pounds for the convertible version. It's also a bit thinner at 0.66 of an inch thick, versus 0.7 of an inch thick on the 2-in-1 model. The screen is plenty bright at 300 nits, and the design also features a small bezel around the display, particularly on the left and right sides, which helps enable a compact overall size for the laptop. Other highlights include strong battery life and performance, along with a number of business-friendly security features, among them Windows Hello facial recognition log-in and a contactless smart card reader.

Dell Precision 7530

Display options: 15.6-inch; 1,920 x 1,080 or 3,840 x 2,160 resolution; non-touch or touch screen

What's cool about it: Dell's Precision 7530 mobile workstation weighs 5.6 pounds, a 15 percent improvement from the previous generation. The overall size of the notebook has also been cut down by 14 percent for easier mobile use. In tandem with these portability improvements, Dell has also made big strides on performance with the notebook. The Precision 7530 is Dell's first mobile workstation to offer the Intel Core i9 processor, a six-core chip from Intel's eighth generation that is simply a beast on speed. The Precision 7530 is also outfitted not just for typical workstation fare such as engineering work, but also for work on virtual reality with its Nvidia Quadro P3200 graphics and up to 32 GB of RAM.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

Display options: 15.6-inch; 1,920 x 1,080 or 3,200 x 1,800 resolution; convertible touch screen

What's cool about it: This year, Dell launched its first 2-in-1 version of the XPS 15. Along with its 360-degree hinge for folding the display, the laptop offers differences from the clamshell XPS 15 including a form factor that is 5 percent thinner (0.63 of an inch thick). Dell says that makes the convertible XPS 15 the thinnest 15-inch 2-in-1 on the market. Even with that slim profile, Dell managed to include quad-core Intel CPU options (eighth-gen Core i5-8305G or Core i7-8705G) that are integrated with discrete AMD graphics (Radeon RX Vega M GL) — one of the first deployments of a processor integrating Intel CPUs and AMD GPUs. In addition, the XPS 15 2-in-1 offers up to 15 hours of battery life.

Dell XPS 13 2018

Display options: 13.3-inch; 1,920 x 1,080 or 3,840 x 2,160 resolution; non-touch or touch screen

What's cool about it: With its first full redesign in three years, the latest XPS 13 (the 9370) gets major improvements on portability even while becoming more powerful and durable. The model uses Intel's eighth-generation Core processors and promises up to nearly 20 hours of battery life, while retaining the XPS 13's signature ultra narrow-bezel display. In terms of the all-important portability factor, the XPS 13 is now 24 percent smaller in overall volume — measuring just 0.46 of an inch thick, compared with the previous 0.6 of an inch thick. Meanwhile, a new white color option for the interior of the laptop is made from woven glass fiber, which is UV-resistant and stain resistant.

HP EliteBook x360 1030 G3

Display options: 13.3-inch; 1,920 x 1,080 or 3,840 x 2,160 resolution; convertible touch screen

What's cool about it: For the third-generation model of the EliteBook x360 1030, display options go up to 700 nits of brightness and can include an optional Sure View integrated privacy screen. The notebook features a reduction in overall size, including through slimming down the left and right bezels by 50 percent. All in all, the new EliteBook x360 has a 10 percent smaller footprint than the previous model. The weight has also been kept at a highly portable 2.76 pounds, down from 2.82 pounds previously, while the notebook moves up to speedy eighth-gen Intel processors and promises up to 18 hours of battery life on a charge. Additionally, the laptop features the option of LTE connectivity‚making it the "world's lightest 13-inch business convertible with 4G LTE," according to HP.

HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5

Display options: 14-inch; 1,920 x 1,080 or 3,840 x 2,160 resolution; convertible touch screen

What's cool about it: HP's EliteBook x360 1040 G5 features a slimmed-down bezel that makes it a 14-inch notebook that fits on a typical 13-inch chassis. For security, the convertible laptop has an option for the second-generation integrated privacy screen, Sure View. Other key security features include Sure Recover, which allows an image to be restored even without internet connectivity, and the fourth generation of HP's self-healing BIOS technology, Sure Start. Meanwhile, the EliteBook x360 1040 G5 is available with optional 4G LTE connectivity, so that the notebook can serve as an "always connected" device for users.

HP EliteBook 830 G5

Display options: 13.3-inch; 1,920 x 1,080 resolution; non-touch or touch screen

What's cool about it: With the fifth-generation model of the EliteBook 830, aimed at mainstream corporate workers, HP has included its terrific aluminum bodied design from higher-end EliteBook 1000 models. The bezels around the display are also slimmer than on previous models for a more premium look and smaller size overall. The notebook offers solid performance from its eighth-gen Intel Core processors, and comes with a few security features that weren't available originally on the x360 models. Those include HP Sure Run, which helps to maintain and protect firewalls, and HP Sure Recover, which can detect if an image has been tampered with and recreate the original image without IT support.

HP Spectre Folio

Display options: 13.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, touch screen

What's cool about it: HP is calling the Spectre Folio the world's first "leather convertible PC," with its exterior wrapped by 100-percent genuine leather. For brightness, the display offers a choice between 300 nits and 400 nits. The notebook also comes with an HP digital pen that is stored in a genuine leather pen holder on the side of the display. And unlike the "stand mode" offered on other convertibles, the Spectre Folio features "forward mode," where the screen comes forward and magnetically locks into position closer to your viewing. Key specs include 18 hours of battery life and low-power, eighth-generation Intel processors that don't require a fan.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, 6th Gen

Display options: 14-inch; 1,920 x 1,080 or 2,560 x 1,440 resolution; non-touch or touch screen

What's cool about it: For the latest generation of Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the popular business notebook gets an enhanced display with brightness of up to 500 nits and optional support for Dolby Vision HDR technology. Other new additions include USB-C mechanical side docking, improved microphones (that reach a farther distance), and eighth-gen Intel Core processors. In addition, the new X1 Carbon offers up to 15 hours of battery life, optional LTE connectivity, and—perhaps best of all—a weight of just 2.49 pounds.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

Display options: 15.6-inch; 1,920 x 1,080 or 3,840 x 2,160 resolution; non-touch or touch screen

What's cool about it: Aimed at offering enhanced performance—even above that of the already-powerful ThinkPad X1 devices to date—Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Extreme features up to a six-core Intel processor (the eighth-gen Core i7-8850H) and up to 64 GB of RAM. For graphics, the notebook offers Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. The ThinkPad X1 Extreme also rates high when it comes to battery life (offering up to 15 hours on a charge), and the notebook is still relatively portable at 3.76 pounds for the non-touch model.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, 3rd Gen

Display options: 14-inch; 1,920 x 1,080 or 2,560 x 1,440 resolution; convertible touch screen

What's cool about it: The ThinkPad X1 Yoga for 2018 supports Dolby Vision HDR for improved color and brightness (up to 500 nits). Meanwhile, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga adds eighth-generation Intel Core processors and offers battery life of up to 15 hours. And like the X1 Carbon, the new X1 Yoga offers better microphones and optional LTE connectivity. In addition, as a convertible touch-screen laptop, the X1 Yoga offers an integrated ThinkPad Pen Pro and a retractable keyboard.

Lenovo Yoga C930

Display options: 13.9-inch; 1,920 x 1,080 or 3,840 x 2,160 resolution; convertible touch screen

What's cool about it: Lenovo's flagship Yoga for 2018 gets a major update to its speakers with the inclusion of a Rotating Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos technology—which aims to offer excellent audio regardless of the mode you're using the convertible notebook in. The digital pen, meanwhile, now is housed in the back of the notebook itself for easier access. Other key features include a built-in webcam shutter, up to 14.5 hours of battery life and eighth-gen Intel Core processors.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

Display options: 13.5-inch, 2,256 x 1,504 resolution, touch screen

What's cool about it: For the second-generation model of the Surface Laptop—Microsoft's clamshell notebook aimed at student users—the notebook gets a boost on performance with the inclusion of eighth-gen Intel Core processors (Core i5 or i7) and up to 16 GB of RAM. The Surface Laptop 2 also adds a new black model to the list of color options but retains the form factor of the original version, with strong portability at just 2.76 pounds and Alcantara fabric around the keyboard.

Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach is a Senior Editor at CRN focused on cybersecurity. His coverage spans news, analysis and deep dives on the cybersecurity industry, with a focus on fast-growing segments such as cloud security, application security and identity security.  He can be reached at kalspach@thechannelcompany.com.

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