Why Lenovo Is The Best Laptop Brand And Apple Fell Off A Cliff

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Source: Laptop Mag)

Good laptops complete tasks faster; great laptops make you faster. On the strength of world-class business systems like the X1 Carbon, which helps you get more done, and elegant consumer laptops like the Yoga 920, which lasts all-day long, Lenovo has won Laptop Mag's Best and Worst Brand ratings for the second year in a row.

Apple, the former champion, dropped all the way to seventh place in the rankings, which are scored based on innovation, design, support / warranty, value and selection and, most of all, product quality. HP and Dell placed second and third while Acer, Asus, Microsoft, Razer, MSI and Samsung took up the other positions.

Laptop Mag's Best and Worst Brand Rankings 2018

Lenovo has a well-deserved reputation as the king of productivity. With their focus on long battery life and great usability, Lenovo's best laptops, especially its ThinkPads, take away some of the annoying friction that prevents you from completing your tasks. Using one is like upgrading your hands and brain from a Core i5 to a Core i7.

Take for example, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen), the only laptop to earn a perfect 5-star score from Laptop Mag in the past year. The X1 Carbon's best-in-class, responsive keyboard makes it feel like you've got a partner pushing your weary fingers back up as you type. If you're like me (and still love pointing sticks), you can use the TrackPoint to navigate around the desktop, without lifting your hands off of the keyboard in order to tap the touchpad.

You don't have to waste time whipping out dongles either as the X1 Carbon is one of the few super-thin laptops that still has full-size USB ports. And, with over 11 hours of endurance and fast-charging, you don't need to waste time sitting by the outlet.

But people cannot live on productivity alone. Lenovo also earned high marks for the gorgeous Yoga 920 2-in-1 with its iconic watchband hinge and 10-hour battery life and the Legion Y920 gaming laptop, which offers powerful performance and a mechanical keyboard. In all, Lenovo notebooks received 10 Laptop Mag Editor's Choice awards, 3 more than their nearest competitor.

Of course, Lenovo isn't the only PC vendor that makes great laptops. Every manufacturer, even last-place Samsung, has its bright spots. HP nearly overtook Lenovo, because of fantastic, highly-rated products like the Envy 13t, which sports a keyboard that can compete with any ThinkPad's, and the beautiful Spectre x360. Dell has the best consumer laptop in the XPS 13 and the top gaming rig in the Alienware 17.

Why Apple Keeps Falling

On the other end of the spectrum from Lenovo, Apple continues dropping in the ranks because the MacBook-maker seems to have stopped caring about notebook usability. With the exception of the very-outdated MacBook Air, all of Apple's current laptops have flat butterfly-style keyboards and Thunderbolt 3 / USB Type-C connectors as their only ports. So, in order to use a modern-day MacBook (Air excluded), you have to be willing to pay well over $1,000 in order to have an inferior typing experience and carry a bag full of dongles.

Considering that MacBooks, especially the Pros, have always targeted creative professionals, Apple has shown utter disregard for its core audience. If you're a professional video editor or 3D animator, do you really want to be unable to use the USB Flash drive a colleague just handed you? Do you want to type slower and with less comfort? And, by the way, you won't be able to actually edit video in 4K, because none of the MacBooks is available with a 3840 x 2160 resolution display.

More of the same. MacBook Pro 13-inch (Source: Laptop Mag)

When it comes to design, Apple has been phoning it in (and holding it wrong) for years now. Today's MacBooks look identical to last year's and nearly identical to any MacBook from the last 8 years or so. And while some people still like silver aluminum (with the occasional touch of gold), the MacBook look is all played out.

In terms of technology, Apple is also stuck in 2010. Even though all the PC-makers are selling 2-in-1s, Tim Cook's company won't even put a touch screen on the MacBook. Instead, his strategy is to get people to buy iPad Pros with keyboards and use them instead of actual laptops.

This is the company that runs a commercial where kids ask "what's a computer," while typing away on their slates. Note to Apple: computers are those silver things you used to care about, but continue to sell.

To be fair, Apple remains the leader in tech support with helpful phone agents, great web resources and a network of stores you can bring your laptop to for service. Lenovo's support is pretty poor, with agents getting a number of Laptop Mag's questions wrong. But what good is support if you don't like your laptop?

To get a MacBook today, you really have to be in love with the macOS operating system and not want to change to Windows. And while there are still plenty of Apple diehards, the company is giving them few reasons to stay.

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
  • Kenneth Hans
    I'm surprised Lenovo made #1 anything. I've been thru a couple and hated them both. They had short battery life and they way they've moved some keys around on the keyboard drove me nuts. I'll never own another one.
  • coolitic
    Why isn't this branded as "Op-Ed"?
  • pensive69
    although i like the Lenovo product i must agree with Kenneth.
    we have had repeated QC repair type issues with them and
    i can't rate them highly on overall quality.
    that said, the other topic i picked up on here was how
    Apple seems to be trying for force customers into choices.
    there is a reason people and companies buy fully featured
    laptops and Apple isn't one of them.
  • alternativeplans
    I used to love Think Pads, I bought my LAST one several years ago. While the Warranty had expired, I was contacting the support via phone, looking for where to get a diagnosis (preferred vendor). The guy was NASTY, and complained since the warranty was expired I should not be calling!

    I have since moved from HP envy to ProBook, not without snafus, and 2 faulty motherboards. However, the Carepack Warranty and support is a lifesaver, and never a Nasty remark!
  • NinjaNerd56
    Well, my work laptop IS a a StinkPad - it’s loaded well, runs Windows, and usually stays in a docking station on my desk.

    My REAL work machine is an iPad Pro with a keyboard...that I’m typing on right now.

    My usage ratio is about 80/20 in favor of the iPad. Now, I do not, and would not own a Mac laptop of any stripe. Overpriced and just useless for the 20% work I do in Windows with apps that don’t like being virtualized on OS/X. My co-workers have fat Macs that they are always fighting and cost more than the Lenovo machine I have.

    Different strokes.

    I will say the StinkPad has been mostly decent.
  • Dosflores
    Apple certainly doesn't care about pro users anymore, but Macs still have a strong selling point: the tight integration of macOS and iOS. If you own an iPhone, Google is giving you even fewer reasons to switch to Android.

    I've never owned an iPhone. I currently own a Galaxy S7, which is still on Android 7. Yeah, Android 8 was released eight months ago and the update for my phone still hasn't been published. As much as I like many Android features, I find it increasingly harder not to give in and buy an iPhone. And it's not because I'm after useless features like infinite displays, dual cameras, animojis or FaceID.

    Apple is keen on filling Macs with useless features instead of creating good laptops. However, if you can't live without iOS, then macOS is the desktop OS that will increase your productivity the most. Sure, this doesn't apply to people who need lots of performance or typing at insane speeds. But, really, what percentage do those kinds of users represent out of the total of people who buys laptops to perform any kind of work?
  • captaincharisma
    well deserved at least in the consumer market. i have a G510 ideapad that is 5+ years old and is still going strong
  • Pedasc
    I really like a lot of the Lenovo designs however the one experience I had with their support was abysmal. I know that one anecdote isn't too damning but what I found odd was the way their online reporting system worked.

    Once they receive an item the online system will give an estimated date. If they find another issue while in the repair they would report it and the system automatically adds six weeks for every issue they report. It won't take them that long but it makes the online reporting useless for all but the simplest of repairs so I had t call them to get an accurate estimate.

    When I received it back the system was obviously unstable and showed issues right after I turned it on which makes me wonder. I've been living with it since and at least with some software updates and work-arounds it is usable.

    I'm not sure if any of the others are better, I've heard stories about all of the big manufacturers, but my own personal experience will make me think twice about buying Lenovo again.
  • g-unit1111
    I always laugh when I see those Apple commercials. But I also cringe when people think an iPad is a replacement for a PC. I mean in the technical sense it is, but an iPad cannot compete with the desktop or even laptop processing power found in today's PCs.

    As far as Lenovo goes I had a Y series laptop for 5 years that was a great laptop until it got old and couldn't keep up with what I needed it to do.
  • bhull302
    "Apple has shown utter disregard for its core audience."

    This carries over to the desktop. The Mac Pro trashcan is 4 freaking years old. The next one isn't even due out until 2019. If you are a "pro" user, you are stuck on Ivy Bridge until at least next year.