THESE five laptops are guaranteed to meet your work and play needs, whether you’re bored in a business-class suite, dashing off PowerPoint slides in a hotel room, or banking on the Shinkansen. Based on a global road test that took Bloomberg test drivers from New York to Los Angeles and Tokyo to Paris, these were the best of roughly a dozen new options — all standing out for their excellent portability, keyboard comfort, battery life, and computing power.
IF EFFICIENCY IS YOUR MIDDLE NAME…
…get the Google Pixelbook.
Why we like it: The supersexy, two-toned body, which features Gorilla glass and brushed metal, won’t smudge no matter how many times you have to unpack and repack it around the airport. And at just 2.4 pounds, you won’t feel the Pixelbook in your carry-on. There’s top-of-the-line hardware inside this laptop, including quad-core i7 processors and 16 GB of RAM, making for ultrafast loading speeds and easy multitasking. In just 15 minutes, you can add two hours of juice to the nine-hour battery thanks to the Pixelbook’s quick charger.
Caveat: While Chrome OS has become a nimbler, more versatile operating system in recent years, non-Google-owned productivity tools such as Microsoft Office and Evernote still feel clunky on this browser-based platform. The Crossover app offers a solid workaround.
Price: From $999
IF YOU WANT TO TURN HEADS…
…get the Microsoft Surface Laptop.
Why we like it: Call it the first laptop to give the MacBook Air a run for its design money. The Surface laptop comes in a bevy of sharp colors including burgundy, cobalt blue, and graphite gold, and the fabric trim around the keyboard is polished and sophisticated. The battery lasts an impressive 14 hours, which means you can spend a halfway-productive week without needing an outlet. But be sure to upgrade the hardware specs as you customize your model.
Caveat: The default operating system, Windows 10 S, is cumbersome; it limits you to Microsoft Corp.’s Edge browser and Office programs. Splurge on the Surface laptop commercial edition, which costs $300 more and ships with Windows 10 Pro instead.
Price: From $799
IF YOU FREQUENTLY WORK IN CRAMPED QUARTERS…
…get the Dell XPS 13.
Why we like it: Sometimes, adjectives like “slim” and “lightweight” translate to a far-too-tiny screen. Not so with Dell, Inc.’s redesigned XPS 13. It’s five ounces lighter, 0.22 inches thinner, and about 45% smaller in volume than the MacBook Air — and yet the 13.3-inch screen is identical in size, thanks to a “virtually borderless” InfinityEdge display that you can order in touch screen 4K definition. The small physical footprint means you can easily type away with the screen fully open, whether on an airplane tray table or airport shuttle bus.
Caveat: The built-in webcam is at the bottom of the screen rather than the top, which keeps the bezel thin but makes for bizarre and unflattering angles on conference calls. If you like to keep in touch with the office via video chat, be warned.
Price: From $799
IF YOU NEVER, EVER UNPLUG…
…get the Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1.
Why we like it: The sixth-generation ThinkPad Carbon X1 from Lenovo Group Ltd. is built for business, with an unparalleled 15-hour battery life. It also has the latest eighth-generation quad-core CPUs for faster performance, multiple inputs (USB-C, standard USB, Mini DisplayPort, and HDMI), fingerprint authentication and a sliding webcam cover, a richly hued HDR screen, and a stealthily quiet keyboard. This is a lean, mean productivity machine — it’s even shock-resistant, temperature-proof, and vibration-resistant, should you get stuck in turbulence.
Caveat: With its signature black exterior and red TrackPoint mouse in the middle of the keyboard, the look is a little outdated.
Price: From $1,367
IF YOU WANT THE BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK…
…get the Huawei Matebook X Pro.
Why we like it: Like its phones, Huawei Technologies Co.’s flagship laptop offers significantly better performance for less of an outlay than its rivals. Even with the latest eighth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and a high-speed solid-state drive, the Matebook X Pro tops out at $1,600 — that’s $500 less than its closest competition. There’s plenty to love besides the price, including a superslim bezel, 3K-resolution touch screen, and four Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers that offer the best audio quality on any laptop we tested. (In small hotel rooms, it’s almost like having surround sound.) Plus, the oversize track pad makes it easy to go mouse-free, while a spill-proof, back-lit keyboard takes the stress out of ordering coffee on your red-eye.
Caveat: Forgive the generic-looking aluminum alloy construction — along with the Gorilla Glass touchscreen, it ensures durability. The improbably placed webcam, like that of the Dell XPS 11, is harder to justify.
Price: From $1,199 — Bloomberg