Sometimes you have to bring work home with you. When that happens, you might as well bring the whole damn workstation. Fortunately, that's easy with the HP Zbook 15, a workstation-class laptop with no-nonsense silicon, like a quad-core Intel Core i7-4800MQ chips and an Nvidia Quadro K610M GPU.
The Zbook 15 was one of the first PC laptops to sport a Thunderbolt connector. Some may feel Thunderbolt is heading for the dustbin, but for those who do need it on a PC laptop, this is one of the few with that has it. Add in respectable battery life for such a beefy notebook, and you have a heavy-duty, working person's portable.
Best Ultrabook you didn't know about: Toshiba Kirabook
Price as reviewed: $1,700
TOSHIBA. It's a little pricey but Toshiba's Kirabook was one those sleeper laptops of the year that could have been easily overlooked.
It would be easy to overlook the Toshiba Kirabook this year, as there's been such great competition in the ultra-portable laptop space. But look past this beauty at your own risk. The Kirabook offers a Retinastical 2560x1440 resolution across its 13.3-inch screen, and the chassis is imbued from top to bottom with a sleek, luxury feel. Combine the beautiful industrial design with solid battery life and performance, and you have the sleeper laptop of 2014 for, well, those who want to think differently.
Best-sounding laptop (period): Samsung ATIV Book 9
Price as reviewed $1,500
The Samsung ATIV Book 9 has the best sound we've ever heard from a laptop.
The Samsung ATIV Book 9 gets our collective nod of approval--but with stipulations attached. It's not the fastest, nor the thinnest. Nor does it pack the highest resolution screen. So why even mention the ATIV Book 9? Because it's got a great audio subsystem.
Laptops generally have pretty atrocious audio. And I don't mean the speakers smaller than dimes, as that's a problem that can't be overcome when you don't have space. But pack audio circuits into something so small with the cheapest 50-cent audio CODEC, and you get the very definition of mediocre audio.
That's not so on the ATIV Book 9. The company paid special attention to quality by adding a Wolfson WM5102 inside. And it paid off, causing reviewer and audio enthusiast Michael Brown to declare "[the ATIV Book 9] is by far the best-sounding laptop I've ever listened to." And no, please don't buy this notebook and then plug in your USB headset and declare you can't tell the difference, because you just bypassed the internal CODEC.
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