The Best Computers

The measure of a computer isn't just a mess of specs and benchmarks: it's the confluence of performance, design, usability, and the machine's fit to its particular task and pricepoint. These are the computers we think bring the total package.
Best Power/Pro Laptop
The new top
 MacBook Pros pack 2800 x 1800 resolution retina displays while weighing just 4.5 pounds. They're powered by a minimum quad-core, 2.3GHz Ivy Bridge processors, not to mention Nvidia's Kepler GeForce GT graphics for gaming. SSD finally comes standard to the MBP line with 256GB flash storage that's upgradable to up to 768GB. Get your wallets ready because this thing's a powerhouse.

Best Laptop
 2012 MacBook Airs are a supercharged update on last year's lovely SSD Bestmodo. They pack Intel Ivy Bridge processors at up to 2.0GHz, up to 8GB of RAM, and USB 3.0 for faster-than-ever connectivity.

Best Windows Ultraportable
 Samsung Series 9 is our favorite, least MacBook-like ultaportable laptop out right now. More than the MacBook Air or the Zenbook, this is the one that people perk up and ask about when they see it. It's got a wonderful matte screen, a very usable trackpad, and a solid keyboard. Just beware: There's a new wave of ultraportables coming this year that promises to be really, really good. (January 2011)

Best Budget Laptop
A great deal from, the
 Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 is a less-fancy-looking version of the very nice ThinkPad Edge E420s. It's got a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i3-2350M processor, a 14-inch 1366 x 768 anti-glare display, 4GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive.

Best Gaming Laptop
Pretty much the diametric opposite of a budget laptop, the
 Alienware M17x (2011) is a monster. Its massive benchmarks are made more ridiculous by five hours of battery life-an eternity for gaming laptops. (February 21, 2011)

Best Processors
 Core i5-2500K hits the critical bang/buck sweet spot for smooth gaming. Otherwise, pick your budget and check this list. (Feb 28, 2011)

Best Desktop Graphics Cards
The best combination of top notch performance and moderately reasonable price you'll find right now is probably the Radeon HD 6970.

Best Motherboard
 Asus Rampage III Extreme barely edged out the competition in our new motherboard roundup.

Best Router
The Apple AirPort Express (2012)
 is pretty, fast, wonderfully simple, and appropriately capable. Unless you're a mega-power networker with a need for intricate customization, or are put off by the less sophisticated Windows version of AirPort Utility, the 2012 Express is the ultimate buy it and never think about it again object—and for a router, that's the ultimate praise.

Best Solid State Drive
Better NAND pushes the
 Pyro SE past its stablemate and into the rarified air at the top of the SandForce-powered heap. With sequential read and write speeds at 482MB/s and 300MB/s, respectively, as measure by CrystalDiskMark, the Pyro SE is quite fast, and its 4KB random write speed, at over 91,000 IOPS is preposterous.

Best Hybrid SSD/Hard Drive
If you want a taste of SSD speeds but can't afford one, or simply need more storage and don't feel like Frankenstein-ing your rig with a combo SSD/HDD setup, the
 Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid Drive isn't a bad deal at all for $180. An SSD for with a third of the storage costs twice as much. But definitely get the 750GB model-not only do you get more storage, you get double the flash cache and interface speed.

PC Case
 Silverstone Temjin TJ11 is 9 inches wide by 25 inches high and 25 inches deep. It's massive and expensive and absolutely a preposterous thing to own. But it has amazing build quality, thermal control and moddability.

Best Networked Storage Alternative
Some aspects of
 the TS-459 Pro II hardware are comparable to the competition, and in other respects, it's just head and shoulders above the rest. A 1.8GHz dual-core Atom powers the TS-459 Pro II, and 1GB of DDR3 RAM comes preinstalled, though you can upgrade to 3GB yourself. QNAP also offers more connectivity options than most mortals will know what to do with, and it's strong on the software side, too. (September, 2011)


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