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.
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.
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.