The Microsoft Surface Book 2 is our pick for best Windows laptop thanks to a premium modular design, powerful hardware inside, and an outstanding hi-res display.

Our pick

Surface Book 2

Power, performance, and style.

Available in both 13-inch and 15-inch configurations, Microsoft's new Surface Book 2 is our top choice when it comes to Windows laptops. The modular design allows you to use your laptop as a tablet, and powerful hardware inside, including 8th Gen Intel processors (CPU), up to 16GB of RAM, and dedicated graphics cards (GPU), makes either size a true desktop replacement.

Who should buy this Windows laptop

Anyone looking for a laptop that can truly replace a desktop in terms of performance should check out the Surface Book 2. It can be used as a tablet or notebook, it's great for artists thanks to compatibility with Surface Pen and Surface Dial, and discrete graphics options make it suitable for a great gaming experience.

Is it a good time to buy this laptop?

Following the trail of the original Surface Book and current Surface Book 2, it's not expected we'll see a Surface Book 3 until at least late 2019. There's no official word yet, but know if you need a powerful Windows laptop, the Surface Book 2 remains the top choice.

Reasons to buy

  • Hi-res touch display
  • Discrete graphics
  • Two sizes available
  • Outstanding performance
  • Modular design

Reasons not to buy

  • Pricey
  • More focused options available

Why the Surface Book 2 is the best Windows laptop

Not only is the Surface Book 2 now available in both 13-inch and 15-inch options, it also features updates to the design and powerful internal hardware. The display can still be removed from the keyboard and touchpad, and can still be replaced backwards to sit flat as a complete package. The 13.5-inch display has a 3,000 x 2,000 resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio, whereas the 15-inch model comes in with a 3,240 x 2,160 resolution.

Modular design and stellar performance make this a desktop replacement.

If you need top performance, the 15-inch model is where you want to look, offering up inside an 8th Gen, quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of DDR3-1866MHz RAM, and a 1TB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). For gaming or multimedia editing, you can also take advantage of the NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM.

Battery life here is impressive; get about 10 hours from the 15-inch model and about 11 hours from the 13-inch model. An IR camera for Windows Hello logins is seated above the display, and the keyboard and touchpad are some of the best around. If you need a true desktop replacement from your Windows laptop, this is it.

Alternatives to the Surface Book 2

The Surface Book 2 might be our pick for the best Windows laptop, but you might need something less expensive or with more focus on a single task or feature, like gaming, mobility, business, or editing. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives available.

Runner-up (notebook)

Dell XPS 13

Beautiful build, great performance, competitive price.

If you need a standard notebook, the XPS 13 9370 should be near the top of your list. It's built well, it has a beautiful display with almost no bezel, and performance will get you through a day's work.

Sporting one of the best-looking bodies of all laptops, the Dell XPS 13 is a powerhouse. The 13.3-inch display sits in a chassis the size you'd expect for an 11-inch display, owing its compactness to the nearly-eliminated bezel around the screen. Choose a 4K touch display option for an incredible view, or stick with 1080p to save a few bucks and to extend the already stellar battery life. There are plenty of hardware configurations to choose from, up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 2TB PCIe SSD.

Runner-up (convertible)

HP Spectre x360 13

One of the finest convertibles on the market.

A well-built laptop that converts into tent, stand, and tablet modes, the Spectre x360 has a beautiful display, pen support, and all-around great performance.

The HP Spectre x360 has a fantastic build quality and a chassis that is only 0.53 inches (13.46 mm) thick. The 13.3-inch, 1080p touch display (also available in 4K!) works well while in tablet, stand, or tent modes, and the keyboard and touchpad are a joy to use while in notebook mode. Inside you can get up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U CPU with a clock speed up to 4.0GHz, up to 16GB of RAM, and a 2TB PCIe SSD. Included in the price is an active pen and a battery that lasts more than eight hours.

Best gaming

Razer Blade 15

The new 15.6-inch Razer Blade continues the tradition of slim gaming.

With a body that's just 0.68 inches thick, it's hard to believe Razer was able to cram this much hardware inside. Discrete GPU, six-core CPU, and plenty of other configuration options make this an outstanding gaming laptop.

Razer's 15.6-inch Blade gaming laptop is a beast. It has up to a NVIDIA GTX 1070 GPU, an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H six-core CPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and 2TB PCIe SSD. The IPS display is available in either FHD (144 Hz refresh rate) or 4K, and is plenty bright so you can game everywhere. A large precision touchpad, backlit keyboard, and plenty of ports round out the specs.

Best 2-in-1

Surface Pro

The golden standard for 2-in-1 laptops.

A lightweight design, built-in kickstand, and compatibility with the Surface Pen makes this 2-in-1 a truly versatile device. It has the hardware inside to cut through a day's work, and optional LTE connectivity lets you use it just about anywhere.

Microsoft's latest Surface Pro has some welcome changes while also keeping the design we love from the Pro line. The kickstand on the back can now extend further, the radial vents are now gone on the i5 model, and there's a whole new collection of hardware within, including optional LTE connectivity. Get up to a 7th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The 12.3-inch touch display is as good as ever with a 2,736 x 1,824 resolution and a new Surface Pen to boot, and the Type Cover is covered with a soft Alcantara fabric.

Ultra portable

Surface Go

The best combination between size and performance.

Microsoft's most affordable Surface yet is the Go, yet it delivers a high-quality computing experience. It's built well, it has great battery life, and it's small enough to bring with you pretty much anywhere.

The Surface Go might appear underpowered at first glance, but in reality it's a versatile, portable device. It can handle light gaming, word processing, video streaming, and web browsing, and its 10-inch frame sports a gorgeous touch display with 3:2 aspect ratio and 1,800 x 1,200 resolution. Add a Type Cover and Surface Pen, and you have a true notebook.

Best notebook

LG gram 15Z980

A thin laptop with impressive build quality.

If you like the idea of a large laptop that doesn't weigh a lot, the LG gram 15Z980 should be on your radar. It weighs less than 2.5 pounds, it has a 15.6-inch FHD touch display, and the battery life is outstanding.

Available in 13-, 14-, and 15-inch configurations, LG's gram is almost unbelievably light. Despite its size and weight, it packs a touch display, full keyboard (on the 15-inch model), and performance hardware inside. Choose up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. There are plenty of ports, including HDMI and Thunderbolt 3, and the battery should last upwards of 10-12 hours from a charge.

Best convertible

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

Most of what you love about the XPS 15, now in 2-in-1 form.

It's big at 15.6-inches and weighs more than a lot of smaller convertibles, but performance and design win out here. Great display, plenty of configuration options, and a high-quality build make this a top convertible.

If you love Dell's XPS lineup and want a 2-in-1 laptop, definitely check out the XPS 15 9575. Get inside up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8705G CPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 2TB PCIe SSD. Opt for a 4K touch display if you like the extra pixels, and enjoy a Radeon RX Vega M GL discrete GPU with 4GB of HMB2 for better performance.

Best mobility

HP Envy x2

Always connected wherever you go.

Need a mobile, lightweight HP device while on the move? The HP Envy x2 relies on mobile broadband for an always-connected experience, with hardware inside that grants outstanding battery life.

The Envy x2 is one of the first Always-Connected PCs powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 CPU to hit the market, with 4G LTE connectivity and a two-day battery. Get also an Adreno 540 GPU, 4GB of DDR4 RAM, and 128GB of UFS storage. Build quality is premium, a detachable keyboard lets you use the device as a notebook or tablet, and the 12.3-inch touch display has a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution.

Best for students

Surface Laptop

A great all-around laptop perfect for back to school.

Available in four colors to suit a student's style, the Surface Laptop has likewise the performance needed to get through a day's work. It has a hi-res touchscreen with 3:2 aspect ratio, battery life that lasts through a day, and it comes standard with Windows 10 in S mode.

The Surface Laptop is some of Microsoft's finest work. It's just 0.57 inches (14.47mm) thick, the 13.5-inch touch display has a 2,256 x 1,504 resolution with a 3:2 aspect ratio, and the comfortable keyboard is covered in soft Alcantara fabric. Inside you can get up to an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. Grab a Surface Pen to go with it, and choose from one of four colors when checking out.

Best budget

ASUS VivoBook Flip 14

A quality convertible for less.

Considering the sub-$700 price, you're getting here quite a bit of convertible PC. It has inside an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, and the 14-inch touchscreen is set at 1,920 x 1,080. 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD round out the specs.

Those in search of a convertible laptop — which can be used in standard notebook mode as well as tent, stand, and tablet modes — should consider the VivoBook Flip 14. It has quality hardware inside that will tackle a decent workload, the FHD touch display has great color, and you get a good selection of ports, including USB-C 3.1, two USB-A 2.0, USB-A 3.0, and HDMI 1.4.

Best business

Lenovo X1 Carbon

A beautiful Ultrabook focused on business.

The ThinkPad is legendary in the business world, and Lenovo has created here something that's thin, powerful, and full of security features. All-day battery life, HDR display, and optional LTE are just some of the perks to look forward to.

The 2.49-pound (1.13kg) ThinkPad X1 Carbon will put up a strong fight against spills, drops, and bumps — it gets its name from the carbon-fiber reinforced chassis it's built on. The 14-inch, 1440p display (also available in 1080p) minimizes glare and is bright enough to be visible no matter where you're working. The battery lasts for a full day of work, so you won't be stuck trying to find an outlet. Configurations go up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U CPU, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB PCIe SSD.

Best MacBook twin

Huawei MateBook X Pro

A display that puts the rest to shame.

Huawei's MateBook X Pro has a display with near-perfect color and almost no bezel at all, all-day battery life, and a good selection of ports. If you like the look of MacBooks but prefer Windows, this is a great choice.

The MateBook X Pro is respectably thin and light for its class at 0.57 inches (14.6 mm) thick and 2.9 pounds (1.3kg). Inside, get up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 512GB PCIe SSD. The 13.9-inch touch display is stunning with its 3,000 x 2,000 resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio, and a fingerprint reader allows for quick sign-ins through Windows Hello.

Best design

HP Spectre 13t

Premium build with executive look.

We couldn't finish a list without HP's Spectre 13t, a laptop with perhaps the nicest design around right now. The look is complemented by an outstanding 4K display and great performance.

The Spectre 13t's chassis is just 0.4 inches (10.4 mm) thick, it's available in two different color combinations — ceramic gold with white or dark ash with copper — and the whole thing weighs just 2.45 pounds (1.11 kg). For internal hardware, get up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and take advantage of a keyboard and touchpad made for easy productivity.

Bottom line

Microsoft's Surface Book 2 is our top pick for a Windows laptop thanks to a smart modular design, outstanding performance from plenty of configuration options, and full compatibility with Surface accessories, like the Surface Dial and Surface Pen. It's a versatile device that can be used in many scenarios, but it can be pricey. Luckily, there are a bunch of alternatives available for those who need something more focused or for those who don't want to spend quite as much on a new device.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Cale Hunt is a full-time writer for Windows Central, focusing mainly on PC hardware and VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and when he has some free time you can usually find him practicing guitar or reorganizing his ever-growing library. If you hear him say "Sorry!" it's only because he's Canadian.

Daniel Rubino is executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009 back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.

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