Laptop design has come a very long way in the past decade or so. There are still plenty of relatively boring looking black or grey plastic boxes. But manufacturers have pushed the envelope to release cutting edge new designs that are thinner, more elegant and more eye-popping than ever. I’ve put together a list of five that really stand out from the pack for making a big impression. If you want to make a statement, these are laptops you should be looking at.
Microsoft Surface Book
Microsoft entered the hardware design game with its Surface and Surface Pro tablets, but with the Surface Book convertible laptop (introduced in 2015), it earned a place on this list.
The Surface Book immediately grabs your attention. The dynamic fulcrum hinge gives it an appearance unlike any other laptop. It looks as though this laptop is folded when closed. The case itself is noticeably different than everything else out there, skipping the aluminum that’s become the standard to go with two chunks of Magnesium instead. An included Surface Pen stylus attaches to the side, magnetically. Open this laptop up and there’s a huge, glass touchpad and full-sized backlit keyboard, while the lid houses a 3,000 x 2,000 resolution PixelSense display. There’s even an option for a discrete Nvidia GeForce GPU.
And that’s where the Surface Book really stands out. The PixelSense display is a standalone, 13.5-inch Windows tablet (or Clipboard as Microsoft calls it). It’s not just the fact that the Surface Book is convertible—that’s been done before—it’s how seamless the transition is, and how solid a laptop it is that are so impressive.
HP used to be known primarily for turning out capable, business-class computers. With the HP Spectre, it’s set new standards for elegance in a laptop.
Only 1.04 cm thick and weighing just over one kilogram, this is one svelte portable. Despite the ultra-thin form factor, it packs a very nice Full HD IPS BrightView display, Core i7 CPU and 256GB SSD and a full complement of expansion ports. What really makes this laptop draw admiring looks is the combination of minimalist style with a unique copper accented colour scheme. I don’t know of many other notebooks that even come close to pulling off this look.
You can’t talk about visually stunning laptops without mentioning Apple’s MacBook. This a 12-inch notebook with a Retina display (2304 x 1440 pixels) and an Intel Core m processor that’s only 1.31 cm at its thickest point. It weighs just 0.92 kg. Look along the edges of the machined aluminum case and it’s virtually free of breaks. There’s a single USB-C port on one edge, that does double duty for power and accessories, while the other side sports a headphone jack. Otherwise, it’s smooth, uninterrupted metal.
You’ll also stand out for operating silently with this laptop, thanks to its fanless operation, and with 10-hour battery life, you won’t have to ruin the sleek look with a power cable.
It’s pretty close to the ultimate in minimalist design, using premium materials. And besides the variations on grey, it’s available in Gold and Rose Gold if you really want to stand out.
While the MacBook is a capable machine, I’m not a huge fan of its new low-travel keyboard or the single USB-C port. However, those trade-offs won’t bother many people and there’s no denying that this is one laptop that’s guaranteed to make an impression.
Dell XPS 13
Dell has won many awards for the XPS 13 and it still has enough “wow” factor to attract a crowd, especially when you pop it open.
There are laptops that are thinner and lighter, but the Dell XPS 13 still impresses with its premium aluminum, Gorilla Glass and carbon fibre construction. But what continues to set this laptop apart is its Infinity Display.
Despite the fact that the XPS 13 has a 13.3-inch screen, the laptop is closer to an 11-inch ultra-compact notebook in size. It’s a surprise when you open the lid and realize just how big the display actually is. Dell managed the feat by virtually eliminating bezels, so when you open that lid all you see is borderless brilliance.
ASUS ZenBook 4K
Finally, I recently wrapped up a review of the ASUS ZenBook 4K and I think it deserves a spot on this list.
This laptop’s circular polished “Zen” look case and thin form factor definitely draw the eye. Once you’re looking at it, what really makes it stand out as something out of the ordinary is the brilliant 15.6-inch 4K display. Put up a high resolution photo or stream a 4K video and people are going to crowd around to get a look. It’s not just that it’s 4K resolution, it’s the fact that the ZenBook 4K’s display has an ultra-wide colour gamut, it has wide viewing angles, it’s bright and it’s low glare. In other words, it pops and makes Ultra HD content look even better. This was one of the few laptops I’ve used that I was actually able to take outdoors, on a sunny day, and work comfortably.
The kicker is that despite the sleek appearance, killer display and very capable specs (including a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 950 graphics card and SSD/hard drive storage combo), this laptop is very reasonably priced.
But gawkers don’t need to know that …
There are other laptops with iconic designs and the looks needed to make a statement. Too many of them to cover here. But these five are all pretty good examples of what laptop manufacturers are able to deliver these days. The nice thing is that every one of them manages to not only be visually impressive, but also offer the power and usability needed to be serious daily-use laptops. If I missed one of your favourites, be sure to point it out in the comments.