From 4K to Carbon Fibre: Our Picks for the 5 Best Laptops

From 4K to Carbon Fibre: Our Picks for the 5 Best Laptops

At UpFront Ottawa, we spend a lot of time plugging away on computers – I mean, a lot. As a result, our team has become very familiar with the latest systems out there from the most reputable companies, and with the warm weather closer than ever, we thought it a good time to list our picks for the 5 best laptops of 2018! Whether you like to stay in touch with loved ones, vegetate on social media until your arms go numb, or be productive on-the-go in writing or graphic design, we can help you sort through the mountains of competing systems to find the best one for your needs. Here are some ideal choices for you, in order from fifth place to our number-one pick!

5: Asus Zenbook UX310UA

Are you looking for something that’s not flashy or expensive, but simply gets the job done? Then the Asus Zenbook UX310UA (say that ten times fast) is a really great choice. While it doesn’t have the best battery performance in the world, it’s a small price to pay – literally – for the onboard features it provides. You get 8 GB of RAM, a gorgeous high-resolution QHD display, SSD hard drive storage (flash-based, so no moving parts or worries about failure), and a wonderful aluminum body that is long-lasting and dependable. Asus is becoming increasingly known for making budget systems that don’t sacrifice great performance for value, so if your wallet is a little light, this is definitely one to consider.

4: Macbook Pro (13.3-inch, Touch Bar)

Whether you’re a student or stay-at-home parent, you can’t beat the convenience of a Macbook Pro – especially older models with those proper, decent keyboards that aren’t butchered to give weight to increased thinness as is all the rage. Complaints aside on that matter, the latest 13-inch model is a healthy investment (especially if you buy certified refurbished from Apple for a sizeable discount), and perfect if you simply want something that will last and remain zippy. Still featuring one of the best and brightest displays in the industry as well as solid reliability and an innovative cooling solution, it gives better performance for longer – in fact, don’t be surprised if you get 5 or more years out of one easily. Another great feature is the new Touch Bar, which swaps out the top row of F-series keys for an adaptive display that spans the entire top of the keyboard and displays only functions relevant to your use case. For example, using iTunes will display playback controls. All in all, the Macbook Pro is a solid choice if you avoid paying full-price and can live with the paper-thin “butterfly” keyboard travel.

3: Lenovo Yoga 920

Looking for a 2-in-1 system that allows you to easily swap between tablet and laptop modes while remaining thoroughly reliable and easy to use? The Lenovo Yoga 920 is a great option. With a lightweight, thin design and plenty of power under the hood, it’s meant to deliver an exceptional experience no matter how you use it – and wow, are there ever some neat ways to use it! Flip it into tent mode for the perfect Netflix-and-chill experience, fold into tablet mode and use a digital pen to sketch to your heart’s content or use it as a traditional laptop to be ultra-productive. With a 13.9-inch display and fantastic battery life, it’s a sound investment if you want something that can keep up with your everyday needs.

2: Dell XPS 13 / XPS 15

Some computers try to cram in an incredible display, but the clear winner for us is either size variant of the 2018 Dell XPS series (though we’re partial to the 15-inch). This beast comes with a head-turning 4K – yes, 4K – display that we’ve seen drop a few jaws, especially combined with the fact that the bezels on the screen basically disappear. While we’re not a fan of the truly dismal placement of the webcam (or as we term it, the “chin-cam”) or the feel of the keyboard – it’s a little stiff and unfriendly – it’s a small price to pay for such a powerful and capable machine. There are even convertible 2-in-1 variants available now that allow for tablet functionality. This is a great choice if you want to surf the web, work in Microsoft Office, stream video or even do some light gaming.

1: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Generation)

Sometimes, a laptop comes around that doesn’t try to be showy in its outward appearance; it’s designed to invoke a sense of mystery and, once you use it, you realize that it’s an absolute monster that can handle anything you throw at it (literally, in this case). Lenovo’s ThinkPad line of laptops are geared towards business users – and their budgets – sure, but if you decide to invest in the new 6th Generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you’re not going to regret it.

Simply put, this thing screams.

And we’ve got loads of reasons to list it as our top choice of 2018.

Sure, there are similarly specced-out systems on the market for less, but the X1 Carbon serves up a very special combination of resilience, dependability, and performance. You get the fastest possible SSD storage, a stunning 14-inch Dolby Vision HDR display with 500 nits of eye-watering brightness (perfect for outdoors), and full compatibility with everything from wired headphones and USB 3.0 to full-size HDMI and Thunderbolt/USB-C. The X1 Carbon lives up to its name – it’s actually made of a soft-touch combination of carbon fibre and magnesium alloy, and it’s even got a water-resistant keyboard that physically drains through the bottom of the machine should you spill your morning coffee. On top of this, it has the most satisfying, ergonomic and exceptional keyboard we’ve ever seen on a laptop, and with no moving parts other than the fan by switching to flash-based storage, you get further long-term reliability (we advise grabbing a 5-year warranty just to be safe with such an investment, though). Battery life is great, usually between 7-10 hours especially if you keep the brightness at around the halfway point or less, which is still bright enough to use outside considering the fact that the full 500 nits actually hurts the eyes! Altogether, the 2018 ThinkPad X1 Carbon weighs just 2.4 pounds and is a mere 16 mm thin – and no, nothing was left behind to gain that ultra-portability. Sure, it has a very high starting price (though Lenovo is known for frequent sales) and is designed to be a business machine – but all this means is that you are truly getting one of the most reliable, powerful, and user-friendly laptops of 2018 that can more than handle your tasks… as well as a glass of wine, a drop or six on the floor, and even being forgotten in the freezer (though we’ll look at you funny if you do that).

The Big Question: What Do You Need One For?

So, those are our picks for the best laptops of 2018 – but what do you need a laptop for? No matter whether a system is labelled as a multimedia platform, a 2-in-1, a business machine or a mobile workstation, if it has features and enough power to handle your tasks, it certainly will. Consider what you use one for, and what you want to get out of it (not to mention your budget). These 5 laptops come from different backgrounds and are built with different users in mind, but maybe one of them is the ideal choice for your needs and budget! Or, perhaps you have your own favourite system – if so, feel free to sound off in the comments below.


Corey Reed is an Ottawa-based freelance writer with a passion for ocean liners and retro gaming. He has published a wide variety of content including reviews, essays, and retrospectives that can be found at

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