Top Multimedia laptops
Windows and Touch Input
Microsoft's Windows 8 was supposed to make computing more touch-centric, but general dissatisfaction with its interface meant that Microsoft made the next version of its operating system easier to use with a keyboard and touchpad. These days, Windows 10 is likely to be the OS on your new laptop. Windows 10 combines elements from the Windows 8 touch-based UI with more traditional features that don't rely on a touch screen. There's more to Windows 10 than can be addressed here, but the bottom line is that it has brought the touch interface to the forefront. As a result, most new laptops feature touch screens, and those that don't will have features in place to provide similar functionality.
If you're in the market for a Windows laptop and want a touch screen, don't think you'll have to pay a lot to get one: Even entry-level models in the 0-to-$300 price range may have them these days, and the Windows touch experience now is much better than it used to be. Chances are you won't need it or want it on a gaming machine, however, as touch input could potentially interfere with the precision control schemes you need to master today's game titles.
Walk down any laptop aisle and you'll notice that the selection of laptops has become dramatically thinner and sleeker. Each of these wafer-thin systems represents a new vision for ultraportable computing: a no-compromises laptop light enough that you'll forget it's in your briefcase, with a long-lasting battery that will keep you working even when no power outlet is available. Fast storage, whether by way of a full 128GB or 256GB solid-state drive (SSD) or, more affordably, 32GB to 64GB of eMMC flash, give these ultraportables the ability to resume work in seconds after being idle or asleep for days. Intel's marketing focus has migrated to the convertible-hybrid laptops and detachable-hybrid tablets that it refers to as 2-in-1 devices (see the next section for more information), but ultraportables are still a distinct category.
Most important, the entire category has thinned down in general. Whether you're looking at sliver-thin ultraportables, mainstream PCs, or even gaming machines, laptops of every flavor today are thinner, lighter, and better suited to life on the go. The best of these models will still cost you a pretty penny, particularly if you're looking for a business system that won't weigh you down when you travel for work, but they offer remarkable performance and often come with several high-end features as well. Touch screens (with 1080p resolution), full-size HDMI ports, and 8 or more hours of battery life are commonplace, and premium laptops (with premium prices) now come with high-resolution screens, up to 3, 840-by-2, 160 resolution (4K) at the top end.
For more, check out The 10 Best Ultraportables and The 10 Best Business Laptops, and learn which laptops we've tested have the best battery life.
Hybrid Laptop Designs
The parallel evolution of powerful tablets and laptops' emphasis on touch capability haven't just encouraged the growth of those individual categories—they've created a new one that combines them. Hybrid systems, aka 2-in-1s, are capable of functioning either as a laptop or a tablet, depending on what you need (or want) at any given moment. This gives you a lot more freedom when interacting with the device, and makes it more functional in more places.
There are two types of 2-in-1. The first is the convertible-hybrid, which transforms from a laptop to tablet and back again by rotating all the way around on the display's hinge. You can also stop at various positions along the way, if you want to stand the screen up on the keyboard like a kiosk display, or if you want to balance it on its edges so you can use just the touch screen in very little space. This design is best if you're interested in a tablet, but expect to need a good keyboard with some frequency.
If the keyboard is less important, a detachable hybrid might be the better way to go. These are primarily tablets that you can dock with an accessory keyboard for laptop-like functionality. Some of these designs offer docking keyboards with secondary batteries that provide all-day charge, while others opt for Bluetooth keyboards, forgoing the bulk of a docking hinge and connecting wirelessly.
Interested in one of these alternative types? Check out our roundups of the 10 Best 2-in-1s or the 10 Best Windows Tablets.