Unlike desktop PCs, you are unlikely to upgrade your laptop by fitting in a couple of new parts. That’s why when you’re purchasing a new notebook, it makes sense to spend a few extra bucks and buy something that is a little more future-proof.
Generally speaking, you can now get excellent future-proof laptops, if you are willing to spend up to $1,000. From the best mini PC tablets to even non-Windows laptops, a four-figure budget meets any needs you have and protect against immediate obsolescence.
We checked out reviews of several machines from different tech pundits, and tried a few ourselves as well, to come up with this final list of the best laptops you can buy for less than $1,000 in 2016.
Best Buy: Dell XPS 13 ($867) [UK]
The Dell XPS 13 is hands-down the best Windows ultrabook on the planet right now. Almost every reviewer agrees that this is what you should buy if you’re looking for an excellent Windows laptop in 2016.
The XPS 13 features Dell’s new InfinityEdge Display, which shrinks the bezels on the side of the screen. The result is that it packs a 13-inch screen in the same size of most 11-inch laptops. Plus it’s sharp and reproduces colors quite accurately, making it one of the best screens around.
Dell has packed it with the latest Intel 6th generation Skylake processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, all while keeping the weight to 2.6 pounds. It also comes with a surprising number of high-tech ports, including a USB 3.1 Type-C port, as well as two USB 3.0 ports. And yeah, it supports Thunderbolt over Mini DisplayPort too.
Worried about battery life? Don’t be. The XPS 13’s battery runs for around 11 hours on a single charge; most reviewers agree that it would probably last that long for basic usage. Our own Kannon Yamada squeezed 17 hours of battery life out of the XPS 13.
Gamer’s Gizmo: Asus ROG GL552VW-DH71 ($969) [UK]
If you love playing PC games, then the Dell XPS 13’s integrated Intel graphics chipset isn’t very compelling. You need a proper gaming laptop, with a dedicated (discrete) graphics unit, a 15-inch or larger screen, and a whole lot of RAM. That’s what Asus has been trying to do with its Republic Of Gamers (ROG) series.
The Asus ROG GL552VW-DH71 delivers almost everything a gamer wants. The 15-inch screen has Full HD resolution and sports an IPS panel, so it’s not affected by glare and the colors look right from different angles. An Intel Core i7 processor powers the ROG. And it packs in 16GB of RAM. On the gaming front, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics card (with 2GB RAM) will play any game you throw at it.
The only sore point is the hard drive. There’s always a debate between gamers about low-capacity solid-state drives (what’s an SSD?) versus high-capacity hard disk drives (HDD). Asus has chosen to go with a 1TB HDD in this machine. However, it’s also easy to change the hard disk if you want to, through an access panel on the bottom.
While you probably shouldn’t be gaming without plugging your laptop into a charging unit anyway, several reviewers have noted that the Asus ROG’s battery life isn’t great. If that matters to you, the Dell Inspiron 15 gaming laptop (UK) is a better bet, lasting well beyond 6 hours while still giving you excellent hardware.
2-in-1 Hybrid Tablet-Laptop: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ($740) [UK]
Hybrids are the way of the future, and Microsoft is leading the charge with its Surface series. While the Surface Book is out of our budget, the new Surface Pro 4 fits perfectly.
Our review of the Surface Pro 4 claimed it a winner for anyone looking for a portable 2-in-1, without sacrificing the Windows operating system. The mobile-friendly Intel Core M version is good enough for basic users, even with 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD. Those who need more power can choose between Intel Core i5 or Core i7 versions, but that almost certainly takes it above the $1,000 budget.
Microsoft has drastically improved the Type Cover (UK) this time, taking out the flex and making it more stable on you lap than ever before. The hinge design also makes it easy to adjust the screen, and several reviewers and users have reported being happy with how stable it feels. But remember, you’ll also have to buy the Type Cover separately for about $100.
Convertible / Touchscreen Laptop: HP Spectre x360 [Refurbished] ($1,000) [UK]
There are two types of 2-in-1 laptops. A hybrid can remove its keyboard, and use the screen as a tablet. A convertible’s display can’t be detached, but its keyboard folds back, “converting” it into a tablet.
If you are okay with purchasing a refurbished product (with only 90 days warranty) instead of a brand new one (with a year’s warranty), then no convertible comes close to the HP Spectre x360. For a thousand bucks, you get a 512GB SSD, a 5th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, and 8GB of RAM.
The screen measures 13.3-inches diagonally, offers touch capabilities, and sports Full HD resolution for an outstanding viewing experience. It flips over a full 360 degrees so that you can use it as a flat tablet.
If a 1-year warranty is important to you, then buy the Asus Zenbook UX303-UA (UK) for $899. It’s got a 13-inch Full HD IPS touchscreen, a 6th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD. It’s a fantastic Ultrabook, and if you want to run Linux, I highly recommend it since it extends the battery life even more.
Bite of the Apple: MacBook Air 13 ($899) [UK]
I have long said that the MacBook Air is excellent value for money since it will probably last longer than a similar Windows laptop and get you a good exchange price in the future. The MacBook Air 13 retails well under the $1,000 mark and is the no-brainer choice for anyone who wants OS X instead of Windows.
The 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM will keep your Mac future-proof for a long time to come, not to mention the onboard Intel HD 6000 graphics chip. The MacBook Air 13 is also known for its stellar battery life, often rated as the best among all laptops and lasting far longer than the 11-inch MacBook Air.
There are two flaws with the MacBook Air 13 though. First, it has only 128GB of storage space, which may be too little for many users. The 256GB version is only $50 over the 1,000-buck budget, though, so consider it! Second, even though it’s an excellent screen, Apple uses a TN panel instead of IPS so that the viewing angles will be poorer at lower brightness.
Which Sub-$1,000 Laptop Do You Like?
Whether you’re looking for a pure Ultrabook, a taste of Mac, or some 2-in-1, the 1,000-dollar budget will give you an excellent long-term purchase. In fact, I’d say this price range is just right to get power and performance without it seeming like you spent too much.
Which of these $1,000 laptops do you like the most? Do you have any other recommendations that we missed?