by Andrew Heinzman on
Are regular tripods bending you out of shape? Flexible tripods can inspire you to take photos and videos at impossible heights and angles. They’re a great (and tiny!) addition to any camera bag.
USB Type-C is great. It’s also The Future, in a technical sense, so it’s a good idea to upgrade any new purchases to USB-C functionality if possible. Here are the best laptops for just that.
USB-C is more than just a new universal power plug, though that’s certainly a big part of its appeal: the ability to pack a single charger for your phone, laptop, tablet, and any other gadgets you might have. No, the Type-C standard also includes blazing-fast data transfer, the ability to send high amounts of power out as well as in (for fast-charging your phone if the port supports it), and external video. All of this can happen simultaneously, by the way—a single USB-C cable connected to a dock can charge your laptop, connect a dozen different USB peripherals and data drives, and send video out to multiple monitors at once. It’s a huge step forward in consolidating the electronic hardware in your life.
If you’re ready to take the leap and go get a laptop that supports all of these whiz-bang features, the selection is growing all the time. You don’t have to search particularly hard to find one, but if you’d like a shortcut to the best picks, here they are. We’ve chosen the current best laptop overall, the best that run macOS and Chrome OS, and the best 2-in-1 tablet design.
Note that not all USB-C chargers are equal. In order to charge up a laptop you’ll need a USB-C power adapter that outputs at least 30 watts, sometimes 45, though some adapters go even higher for a faster charge. For the best results, use the adapter included by the manufacturer.
Look, the XPS 13 is just a great all-around machine. We gave it the top spot in our selection of Windows-powered Ultrabooks, and it gets the same pride of place here for most of the same reasons. In addition to USB Type-C support for power in and video out plus a spare USB-C port, it has an unbeatable industrial design with a carbon fiber keyboard deck sandwiched in between slabs of aircraft-grade aluminum. It features teeny-tiny screen bezels and (in a rather nice touch) it sports a battery meter that doesn’t require you to turn on the machine to see how much charge is left. The 2018 model starts at $1000 for the respectable minimum configuration, with older versions (still USB-C powered) available for as little as $800. A 2-in-1 variation of the same design is available.
If you want something bigger with a little more graphical horsepower, the XPS 15 is available with a discrete NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics card. That model comes with a standard proprietary charger, but you can buy a USB-C charger and use it as well. The XPS 15 2-in-1 uses AMD Vega graphics and includes a USB-C charger in the box.
The still-hanging-around MacBook Air doesn’t use USB-C, the super-slinky MacBook redesign only has a single I/O port, and the high-end MacBook Pro 15″ only comes equipped with the divisive Touch Bar in place of the keyboard’s function row. That makes the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro the current sweet spot for users who insist on Apple hardware. The design uses the classic minimalism that makes the lone so appealing, with a unibody aluminum chassis that’s still a svelte .59 inches thick despite the internal fan. A highlight is Apple’s top-tier display, with 2560×1600 resolution and 500 nits of brightness.
The base non-touchbar version starts at $1300 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It features just two USB-C ports—if you want four, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the Touch Bar models. Whichever one you choose, you’ll want to pick up a couple of port adapters too, since there are none of the older Type-A rectangular USB ports on the body itself—the smaller docks in our MacBook Pro dock roundup are a good fit if you want traditional USB ports and extra functionality too.
Google’s own Pixelbook is generally regarded as the cream of the crop when it comes to Chrome OS hardware, but its $1000 starting price is more than most users are willing to spend in this niche. The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 is a fine compromise—both it and the aforementioned Pixelbook get a shoutout in our roundup of best Chromebooks—squeezing in two USB-C ports, a full HD screen, a Core M processor, and a 10-hour battery in an aluminum convertible body that’s equally comfy as a laptop or tablet. And you might indeed want to take advantage of the touchscreen, since the latest versions of Chrome OS come with baked-in support for Android apps on the Google Play Store.
The base model is equipped with just 4GB of RAM, but upgrading to the 8GB model is so expensive that you might as well jump up to the Pixelbook anyway. As they are, the $400-600 range Chromebook Flips make excellent companions for users who like their operating systems simple and low-maintenance.
Strangely, Microsoft’s Surface tablet line has yet to embrace USB-C, despite its obvious advantages for compact hardware. That being the case, HP’s second generation entry into the full-power-tablet-with-an-optional-keyboard-attachment-thing (or 2-in-1) space deserves some attention. The Elite X2 model employs the same general form factor, with all the essential hardware stored in the tablet body. But unlike the Surface Pro, the Elite X2 comes with its keyboard attachment with glass trackpad and stylus pen in the box—no expensive add-on purchases necessary for full functionality. In addition to USB-C for power and video, the tablet squeezes in a full-sized USB 3.0 port.
The keyboard is even better than the Surface version, thanks to metal construction, and a handy fingerprint security reader is included on the tablet body. The various models range from under $1200 for the cheapest sporting just 4GB of RAM with 128GB of storage and a seventh-gen Core i3 processor, all the way up to $2100 for a monster i7, 16GB memory, 1TB storage premium package. You can customize your features and extras on HP’s website.
The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support Review Geek. For more information please visit our Ethics page.