You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here. Chromebooks, Apple MacBooks and Windows are all fighting for your cash.
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Discover the pros and cons of each so you can choose the best laptop. Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which?
You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy. Choosing a laptop used to be far more straightforward. If you were a fan of Apple products and had the money to spend, a MacBook might have been too tempting to resist. On a budget, or more of a Windows user?
Pick up a PC. Now that Chromebooks have entered the mix with a range of designs from budget-friendly to flagship killer, the waters have been muddied. So how do you go about choosing, how much should you spend and what features are most important for your needs? Take our quiz to help you decide! You're best suited to a Chromebook. These lightweight machines are typically very cheap and very simple to use. As long as you don't mind using web-based applications, you'll be off and working in no time at all.
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Your best option is a MacBook. These premium laptops are silky smooth to use and offer great performance for all sorts of tasks.
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Apple has long avoided adding touch capabilities to macOS, instead preferring to let its unique and controversial Touch Bar serve as an alternative touch-input method. The company appears to be doubling down on this strategy by adding this touch-enabled secondary display to the entry-level MacBook Pro.
We're not percent sold on this method of touch input, in part because its usefulness varies wildly depending on whether the app you're using supports it. Some apps, from bundled Apple ones like Safari to those in the Adobe Creative Suite, make extensive use of the Touch Bar, offering the ability to open bookmarked web pages or adjust the diameter of a paintbrush tool. Many other apps offer no Touch Bar support, however, which means that the thin screen simply serves, in its default state, as a glorified control for screen brightness and audio volume.
This is a noticeable weakness compared with full-screen touch control in Windows 10, which offers a more consistent experience across all apps thanks to the operating system's native touch support. Now that the MacBook Pros, up and down the line, have the Touch Bar, however, the entry-level one is even more compelling for those who find it useful. Those who do not can simply ignore it. In addition to letting you log in to your macOS account without typing a password, it also serves as a means of authenticating Apple Pay transactions and App Store purchases. The fingerprint sign-in process worked well for me, never failing to recognize my registered print over several days of testing.
The reader is especially useful because the MacBook Pro's webcam lacks IR sensors to let you sign in using face recognition, something that the Apple iPhone and Apple iPad Pro both offer.
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The webcam also lacks a physical privacy slider or hardware kill switch to thwart hackers, though it does offer decent video quality, free of annoying graininess even in indoor lighting conditions. The touchpad is often one of the most overlooked components of a laptop.
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Clumsy, flimsy, inaccurate pads exasperated Microsoft so much that it came up with the Windows Precision Touchpad specification, which goes at least part of the way to solving the problem on laptops that support it. By contrast, every Apple laptop comes with a Force Touch trackpad that leaves even Precision Touchpads behind. It's by far the most accurate pad I've ever used. Not only do finger motions register with high accuracy, but the clicks are virtual, simulated by tiny under-pad vibrations called haptic feedback instead of a physical hinge under the pad or dedicated buttons.
This means you can click anywhere on the oversize pad and receive a uniform level of feedback, eliminating unnecessary finger movements. You can customize how strong the virtual clicks are, turn them off completely, and adjust other features like multitouch gestures in the System Preferences app.
The only departure from factory settings I made was to turn on the ability to tap-to-click, which is far fewer steps than I usually need to make to get a laptop's touchpad to track to my liking. Alas, the MacBook Pro's keyboard does not replicate the excellence of the trackpad. Apple has gotten flak for this style of keyboard from many quarters for several years now, but the design persists. The key switches travel an extremely short distance, which means that your fingers end up noisily tapping rather than typing.
Apple has consistently tweaked this keyboard design, and the current iteration is slightly quieter than the version in the MacBook Pro. Apple also says debris is less likely to get stuck in the redesigned switches, which has been a problem for some users of earlier-generation MacBooks with this style of keyboard.
Despite these improvements, the MacBook Pro's keyboard is still uncomfortable if your job requires you to type on it all day long. Thin laptops seldom have much key travel, but the MacBook Pro board takes this to the extreme. It's more board than keyboard. Apart from the 3. That's it. There isn't even a lock slot to accept a tethering security cable. There's really no excuse for this limited port selection, other than getting you to pay more money if you need more connectivity, seeing as the otherwise physically identical high-end versions of the inch MacBook Pro feature four USB Type-C ports instead of two.
Another consolation is that both of the ports support Thunderbolt 3 speeds, up to 40Gbps. More than one Thunderbolt 3 connector is rare on a laptop at this price range at the moment, and if you use a Thunderbolt 3 dock, a single cable can provide access to external displays, drives, and other peripherals.
Wireless connectivity includes Audio quality from the stereo speakers located on both sides of the keyboard is excellent. I was impressed by the surprisingly robust bass while listening to our punishing test track, "Silent Shout" by The Knife.
The maximum volume level is more than loud enough to fill an average-size living room or a small conference room. Although the 8th Generation CPU options now available on the entry-level MacBook Pro are one generation behind the cutting edge and soon will be two, with the imminent arrival of the first 10th Gen Core laptops and chips , they are still very capable processors.
Our review unit features an Intel Core i5, a quad-core chip with a base clock speed of 1. This CPU supports multi-threading, which means each core can handle two instruction threads at a time, for a maximum of eight, a boon to modern apps written to take advantage of as many cores and threads as possible. Our performance tests for Apple computers consist mostly of specialized multimedia workflows.
We measure 3D rendering performance with Maxon's CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
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In what will be a consistent pattern, all of the systems performed similarly on the Cinebench test with the exception of the MacBook Air, which uses a very different ultra-low-power version of Intel's Core i5. Any score above on this test is excellent for a general-purpose ultraportable laptop. The fact that the Core i5 and Core i7 systems performed so similarly is partly because most of them have the same four cores and eight processing threads.
Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video-editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that's highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard minute clip of 4K video the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel to a p MP4 file.
It's a timed test, and lower results are better. Indeed, the Handbrake results closely mirror those of Cinebench, though it's particularly nice to see that the MacBook Pro is tied for the quickest time to complete this test. We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark.
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Using an early release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here.
The Photoshop test stresses CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost. Because the Photoshop test makes more comprehensive use of a system's resources, the results are a bit different. As a side benefit, the Iris Plus means slightly improved graphics performance on 3D games, though don't expect to play any recent demanding AAA titles at high resolution. Stick to browser games and the ones you'll find on the Mac app store.