Best Laptops
Potent Portables
by ALEX BRACETTI

For over three decades we’ve come to familiarize ourselves with laptops. Thanks to the engineering ingenuity applied by many of today’s top computer manufacturers, they've  evolved from bulky, cumbersome machines to powerful, thin devices. Though it's easy to become hypnotized by the beautiful aesthetics of a modern laptop, the real value lies in its performance, which is spearheaded by the OS. 


Apple and Microsoft dominate the market with their respective Mac OS X and Windows systems, each exhibiting dynamic yet dissimilar user experiences. In considering the wide selection of convertibles and ultrabooks out at the moment, it only seemed fit to narrow down the top offerings from each computer platform. Here's a look at the best laptops available now.



 CONTINUES BELOW


Acer Aspire S7 (2013 Model)


The first round of Windows 8-powered ultrabooks failed to attract consumers due to high price points and the lack of a touch model. Still, the Aspire S7 proved to be the top choice for many despite its minor hardware setbacks. Hoping to improve its flagship laptop, Acer went to work on a second-gen beauty by upgrading the internals while making some notable enhancements to its attractively lightweight form. Scaling at 2.87 pounds, the S7 is a lithe machine -- it's half an inch at its thickest -- making it one of the lightest touch laptops around. A Gorilla Glass lid mated with an aluminum face and magnesium rear only ups the S7’s premium feel. The 1080p touchscreen display remains colorfully vibrant, whereas the five-row keyboard produces tactile feedback and multi-purpose functionality.


Acer also solved the S7’s biggest imperfection: battery life. Combining a 6,280mAh cell and Intel’s new energy-friendly Haswell chips has boosted vitality up to 8+ hours on a single charge, which is more than enough time to keep you preoccupied during coast-to-coast travels. New processors mean faster booting times, swifter processing speeds and smoother system execution. Multitasking on the S7 is seamless: it's able to perform numerous activities such as streaming hi-def content, browsing the web and running CPU-heavy programs like Photoshop simultaneously without compromising performance. An Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU with 128MB of VRAM picks up the GPU slack that was present in its predecessor. That means newer games like Grand Theft Auto V might show signs of lag, but the machine can run less demanding titles like Dishonor or World of Warcraft without a problem. If money is no object, consider the S7 a keystone for your carry-on.


$1280, amazon.com


 


MacBook Air (2013 Model)


Apple set the bar on ultra-portable laptops with the launch of the MacBook Air back in 2008. Though it’s been the most popular super-slim notebook on the scene over these past five years, many have criticized it for being more style than substance, with less-than-stellar specs and a demanding price tag. Keeping its flawless construction intact, the Cupertino Clan made the decision to modernize its next-generation model with the latest Intel Haswell CPUs and sell the entire package at a starting (and unbeatable) value of $1,100. Design-wise, everything you loved about the previous models -- backlit keyboard, gorgeous chassis, responsive trackpad and 0.68-inch thickness -- remain intact. Even without a Retina Display plastered on the front, the 2013 rendition still delivers high-quality visuals on its 1,440 x 900 resolution LCD panel. Color production and screen brightness excel when steaming Hulu, Netflix, or YouTube content.

 

In terms of battery life, how does 13+ hours on a full charge sound? Insane, right? Courtesy of Intel’s effective processors, the new Air doubles battery life, making it the longest-lasting laptop on the market. Running Chrome or Safari should easily get you over 10 hours. Performance might dip slightly in the base model, as its 1.3GHz Core i5 processor clocks slightly lower than the previous 1.8GHz chip, but average Mac users probably won't notice the small change. MacBooks have never been viewed as gaming machines, though with Apple promising 40 percent faster graphics, it should suffice for minimum-spec games. Surprisingly, the Air’s other notable feature looks to be its super-fast 802.11ac wi-fi capability, which produces more stable wireless connections, instant streaming access and download speeds of up to 1.3 GB per second. Still the best coffee shop companion you could ask for.


$999+, amazon.com

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STATEMENT


Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope. 


The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.



METHODOLOGY


The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.



THE CATEGORIES


Motoring   Watches   Style   Technology   Sports   Outdoors   Home   Spirits

WRITERS


Jeremy Berger

Ben Bowers
Alex Bracetti
Nick Caruso
Ed Estlow
Jon Gaffney
Jonathan Gallegos
K.B. Gould
Bradley Hasemeyer
Jason Heaton
Mike Henson
Amos Kwon
Matt Neundorf
Scott Packard
Austin Parker
Henry Phillips
Peter Saltsman
Chris Wright
Eric Yang


CREDITS

Produced by Ben Bowers, Chris Wright, Eric Yang
Designed by Eric Yang
Edited by Chris Wright
Photography by Henry Phillips, Eric Yang
Special Thanks to Braun, Scroll Kit and Say Media

RESOURCES

Inquiries, Corrections  support@gearpatrol.com
2014 Submissions  100@gearpatrol.com