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Bethelcloudsolutions 19 Aug

New Trends in 2020…

Examples of digital marketing tools and techniques to give you an edge in the year ahead

Well, we’ve nearly made it! For years I’ve been looking to the future, predicting how innovations in digital media, platforms and technology will shape marketing in 2020. The cutting edge examples certainly show the exciting opportunities available – there is almost too much choice…


In this article, I’ll explore six key marketing trends based on examples and research on the adoption of the latest marketing techniques and technology marketers can use.


For recommendations on tapping into the innovations in different digital marketing channels, including email, social media and search engine marketing, see all the other posts from the Smart Insights team covering channel-specific digital marketing trends for 2020.



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In 2020, we can see the huge impact that digital marketing has had over the last decade, and more. Looking at advertising alone, these eMarketer predictions show how the duopoly of Facebook and Google dominate paid media investments online, although offline media buys remain important for many larger brands.alfred





Trend 1. Lifecycle marketing

Although it’s often said that the ‘funnel is dead’ since consumer follows non-linear journeys, regardless of the product or service you’re involved with marketing, it will always be the case that to grow a business, your primary focus is growing awareness, closely followed by increasing customer leads and prospects.


This focus is shown by the latest Altimeter / Prophet State of Digital Marketing report, which shows a primary focus on increasing awareness.




The role of digital in creating a unified customer experience is also high in the response, but it’s shocking that digital marketing isn’t seen as a driver of boosting revenue from existing customers. It’s an artefact of the question since digital marketing is effective in achieving all of these goals, including customer retention.


A more practical way to plan to integrate online marketing into marketing activities is to consider communications from a customer point-of-view through the customer journey. I call this always-on lifecycle marketing and recommend you review your use of online AND offline media across the customer lifecycle.


An example of an audit is shown by this example of the use of marketing activities by a B2B company, which although strong at the top-of-funnel in terms of activities used, is less strong in the middle and bottom-of-funnel nurture and re-targeting activities. Many businesses are adopting marketing automation and account-based marketing technology to implement these touchpoints. See the article linked to above for all of the potential activities that can be audited.




Trend 2. Conversational marketing

For me, this is the most exciting trend in marketing today, bringing together rapid consumer adoption of smart speakers and innovation in search query processing, conversational interfaces and messaging.


Conversational marketing was highlighted as a key innovation in the latest Gartner hype cycle alongside Artificial Intelligence, which often fuels it. You can see that of the technologies on the Innovation Trigger slope, many aren’t expected to become mainstream for 5 to 10 years. Of those forecast to hit the mainstream within the next 2 to 5 years, the three most significant for marketers to consider are personification, real-time and conversational marketing.





Gartner explains:


“Conversational marketing technologies enable interactions between companies and customers that mimic human dialogue and do so at scale. This category is near the Peak of Inflated Expectations phase”.


Personally, I think the hype about smart speakers to support the purchase journey is just that. While some products lend themselves to purchase, where a choice is to be made amongst complex products, they just won’t cut it until we have truly intelligent comparison bots. However, the research suggests I may be wrong. A study of 2,000 British adults commissioned by Artefact UK, an AI and data-driven agency, reveals that:


“Six out of ten smart speaker owners (60%) have used them to make a purchase in the past year. In fact, nearly a quarter (22%) said they have done so within the past week”.


I believe that building in more relevant to web, email and mobile-based conversations can have a bigger impact by boosting relevance and speaking in a more personal tone. Persado is an interesting tech here.


Persado uses a copy impact classification applied to existing copy, which is used to tailor copy and calls-to-action on an individual basis.




For example, using Persado Natural Language Generation to run an experiment, Air Canada sparked a higher response using Anxiety language getting a 3% engagement lift, compared to a 5% drop using Exclusivity language, and a 3% drop using Safety language.




Another example of AI application is nutrition and wellness retailer Holland & Barrett using AI to provide better-targeted emails. This Machine Learning approach from Tinyclues goes beyond optimizing copy using a tool like Persado, instead, it also involves targeting based on the behaviour of individuals to create more micro-targeted campaigns.


Speaking at a session I chaired at the Email Innovation Summit, Richard Lallo, Head of Digital Marketing, described what he calls ‘strategic promotions and mono-product pushes’ in a campaign. The business was able to drive campaign revenue and increase re-purchase rate while sending emails. Campaign revenue increased by 27%, open rates increased by 19%, while email send volume decreased by 23%, which also gives cost savings.



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Trend 3. Insights-driven marketing

At Smart Insights we’re huge fans of using analytics and insight to drive business performance and optimize the results from digital marketing. It’s why we’re called what we are.


Improving their data-driven marketing is an aim of many businesses indicated by the most desired skill amongst digital marketers revealed by the Altimeter/Prophet State of Digital Marketing report.



Data-driven marketing

Businesses using this approach are trying to gain the benefits reported by Mckinsey research that suggested that:


Intensive users of customer analytics are 23 times more likely to clearly outperform their competitors in terms of new customer acquisition than non-intensive users, and nine times more likely to surpass them in customer loyalty.


In addition to advances in customer analytics supported by CDPs described in the next section, new Voice of the Customer (VoC) techniques, such as online-hosted customer communities, can improve customer preferences for future products and how they are delivered.


For example, Red Bull used insight platform Vision Critical to launch a community of consumers passionate about the energy drink category. By providing a deeper understanding of consumer preferences, the community challenges widely-held assumptions. The company, for instance, learned who consumes Red Bull drinks — and how and when they buy — were changing. Data from the community provides insight on the competitive landscape, revealing channels the company can enhance to improve growth. The community also helps Red Bull deliver more value to retailers.


Trend 4. Marketing technology

Today, Marketing Technology (Martech for short) presents a bewildering choice of software services for businesses looking to improve their management of digital media, experiences and supporting data. If your business and your agencies adopt the right blend of Martech, it can help give you an edge against competitors, but if not, you may be missing out on the insights and automation processes they are using.


The latest 2019 Martech supergraphic from Scott Brinker, a specialist who hosts Martech conferences and has advised on technology for HubSpot, has created this somewhat scary map of all the potential categories and services that companies can use.





To highlight the range of great services available and to simplify the options a little, we designed this essential digital marketing tools infographic to recommend the categories of tools you should consider across the Smart Insights RACE Planning system and highlight the most popular, most capable tools.





We will create the annual update for this in early 2020, discussing it recently on LinkedIn has highlighted some of the latest trends that aren’t evident from this version of the wheel. Raviv Turner, Co-Founder, of B2B service @CaliberMind said:


“No MarTech stack is complete these days without the third leg of CRM, MAP & CDP. The only way to map, store, analyze and act on the complete end-to-end customer journey is having all the data in one place using a Customer Data Platform (CDPs).”


I’m not sure ‘the only-way’ is accurate, but that is the sentiment.


Kristen Obaid, Always On digital marketing campaigns manager for an international Education company, added:


“The Salesforce and Adobe MAPs are underrepresented here (eg Pardot can be used for email, social, CRM, CMS, audience management, analytics. Krux is now SF. They can both be used as DMPs if the data is configured properly.) BI with simple data integrations (like Domo, Tableau) are also missing, plus Intercom for service CMS eg FAQs, and Drift for automated service chat”.


Trend 5. Consumer Privacy and KYC

Repeated privacy faux-pas by Facebook, Google and security breaches at other brands leading to the release of customer details have highlighted to consumers that their data isn’t as safe with online brands as they may have once thought. Privacy regulations like GDPR have been enacted to improve data privacy with increased fines.


Record fines have arisen in 2019 from the maximum penalty for contraventions increasing under GDPR to up to €20m (£17.5m) or four percent of global turnover – whichever is the greater.


British Airways, was issued with a proposed fine of £183m for a breach of customer data and a £99 million fine on hotel chain Marriott for failing to protect personal data contained in approximately 339 million guest records.


While these may be more the concerns of the CIO or CFO rather than the CMO, it shows the need for marketers to work with colleagues to mitigate the potential impact of security breaches and reassure customers.


At the same time, we have seen a decreasing effectiveness of traditional identification methods such as cookies for tracking, which makes media ROI determination – supposedly one of the key benefits of digital channels – more difficult.


Emerging technologies can potentially help with both of these challenges.


New Identify Management or Know Your Customer solutions are being developed that can both improve security, reduce fraud and improve insight about customers across multiple devices.


For example, UK startup Hooyu blends traditional methods of customer verification such as database checks (where available) with ID document validation, digital footprint analysis, geo-location and facial biometrics. While this is most relevant for banks and other gambling applications, it indicates the range of data points that are now available.








With these consumer concerns and new legislation such as the EU ePrivacy legislation about to be launched and the inaccuracy of tracking online with increasing restrictions built into browser like Chrome and Safari it seems like the days of the cookie (and particularly third-party cookies) and digital fingerprinting may be numbered. This means that businesses should be considering other alternatives if they aren’t already.


Discussing Unified ID – Why Identity becomes a key success factor in the post-cookie era era – Alwin Viereck, Head of Programmatic Advertising and Ad Management, United Internet Media estimates that


“More than 20% of all cookies in a desktop environment do not live longer than a day and a further 15–20% do not survive a month. For vendors in a third party context (which are typically all participants of the programmatic ecosystem), the problem might even be worse.


Multiplatform consent solutions like Sourcepoint and Identity and Access Management integration solutions like Auth0 and OneIdentity will be adopted more widely. Within AdTech new solutions will have to be found in response to Google and Apples Ad-targeting limitations.


Trend 6. Digital transformation and Marketing Transformation

Our managing digital marketing research revealed many challenges in terms of how digital marketing is run in companies today. Problems included a lack of focus on integrated strategy, testing, and optimization and structural issues like teams working in silos or a lack of skills in integrated communications.


To counter these types of problems and to make the most of the opportunities for growing a business through digital marketing, many businesses are now putting a digital transformation programme in place.



Digital Transformation research


The aim of digital transformation is to develop a roadmap to improve digital capabilities and skills, while at the same time, integrating ‘always-on’ digital marketing activities with brand and product marketing in the business.


This chart from the research shows that many businesses are active in transformation to try to achieve this aim through the success factors covered in this briefing.


Despite some talk that we might be in a post-digital world by 2020 and some traditional marketers suggesting that “it’s time to shut down digital marketing for good” the reality is that many specialist digital job roles and are needed to run digital marketing activities as my post ’10 reasons you still need a digital team’ shows.


A common practice that we can expect to continue in the future is a move to a hybrid approach to managing digital marketing with digital marketing skills being developed in marketing teams as suggested by this structure.



Digital marketing governance model

However, the label of a ‘digital department’ is outmoded, since the creation of large digital teams has caused silos to develop with other marketing and product teams. Instead, we can expect a continued move to a digital/marketing Centre of Excellence model. The DCoE will be smaller ‘digital services units’ that track the latest developments in development, advising on new digital techniques and technologies.


Through the year, we’ve been adding to our tools to help all members assess how well their businesses are adapting to using digital media and technology as part of Digital Transformation. To review your digital readiness, either for integrated digital marketing or individual channels, download our benchmarks or take our interactive capability graders.




All the best for grasping the opportunities from digital marketing in 2020 and beyond! To help you on your way take a look at our benchmarking templates, each of which will give you a quick review for digital marketing governance and the key channels like search, social, email marketing plus analytics, content marketing and experience.




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Best Deals of the Decade- Laptops…

The best laptops of 2019

In 2019, laptops are better than ever. Here are the best of the best

We’ve tested and reviewed well over 400 laptops in our time. And after reviewing that many, it’s safe to say that we know our laptops. This year was no exception: When it came to choosing the best laptop overall for 2019, there was a clear winner: The Dell XPS 13. With fantastic performance (and portability), an attractive thin bezel design, a well-built keyboard and touchpad, and a great battery life, the Dell XPS 13 performs well in every important aspect of a laptop.

In curating this list, we’ve picked the best laptops for a wide variety of use cases, to help you find the best laptop for your specific needs and budget. Below, you’ll find our picks for the best MacBook for Apple product fans, the best Chromebook for those who want an affordable laptop with a super-light OS, and the best budget laptops. We’ve also chosen the best laptop for students, the best 2-in-1, and the best gaming laptop. And when it comes to buying a new laptop, don’t forget to head over to our best laptops deals page for the latest price cuts on these laptops and more.

The best laptops at a glance

The best laptop: Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13 2019 review (9380)
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s portable, fast, attractive, and reasonably priced.

Dell XPS 13 (2019)

Portable, powerful, and beautiful, nothing offers the same value as Dell’s flagship XPS 13

Who’s it for: Everyone except gamers.

Why we picked the Dell XPS 13:

The Dell XPS 13 has been our favorite laptop for years now, but it always came with a caveat. The webcam position. We always thought it was worth the sacrifice for most people, but for those that depend on a webcam for video conferencing, it was an issue.

In the 2019 version, Dell has fixed that. By engineering a smaller webcam, the company has managed to squeeze it in into the top bezel without growing much at all. That means the XPS 13 keeps its fantastic, thin-bezel design we’ve always loved — but now without any of the trade-offs.  The thin bezel design is as functional as it is beautiful, making the overall footprint of the system smaller and lighter.

Does that make the XPS 13 too small? Nope. The touchpad is still as large as the competition and the keyboard is a breeze to use. The system is also energy efficient with a respectable battery size, and so it can last all day on a charge in most situations and handle pretty much anything you throw at it. The same goes for performance, where Dell’s thermal solution continues to push its Intel Core Whiskey Lake CPUs to new heights.

The best part? It’s a relatively affordable laptop with a cheaper entry-level option than its competitors, starting at around $900. All the same, you can still spec it up to 2TB of solid-state storage and a beautiful 4K touchscreen if your heart so desires. In mid-2019, Dell was one of the first to announce that its flagship would get the 10th-gen update with Comet Lake processors up to six cores. This makes it a powerful option for those who need those two extra cores for heavier tasks like video rendering and photography.

Read our full Dell XPS 13 (2019) review

The best MacBook: MacBook Air

Macbook Air (2018) Review
Why should you buy this: You need MacOS, and Windows just won’t cut it.

MacBook Air (2019)

Apple’s entry-level laptop will appeal to commuters, Apple adherents, and anyone who’s willing to pay for supreme built quality.

Who’s it for: Students and Apple fans.

Why we picked the MacBook Air:

No, the new MacBook Air isn’t the most powerful Mac laptop — that’s the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a discrete graphics card and up to an eight-core processor. For video editors, that’s the best MacBook. But for everyone else, the MacBook Air is the new starting point. Apple has cleaned up its lineup and discontinued the ultra-portable MacBook and non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro, leaving the Air as the default option for most people. That’s a good thing because it’s an incredibly well-rounded laptop.

The MacBook Air is a compromise of the new and the old, which makes it a balanced option for today. It has Touch ID but not the Touch Bar and comes with USB-C but doesn’t limit you to just one like the old MacBook. It’s relatively thin and light, has a higher-resolution Retina screen, and enjoys the best battery life of your Mac options. It also shares the same excellent trackpad of the MacBook Pro.

The best part? In its 2019 refresh, the MacBook Air now has a reduced starting price of $1,099 — or $999 for students. You can find more powerful, quad-core laptops in the Windows 10 space, but Apple enthusiasts finally have a decent entry-level laptop we can get behind.

Read our full MacBook Air (2018) review

The best laptop for students: Asus ZenBook 13 UX333

asus zenbook 13 ux333fa
Why should you buy this: You want an affordable Windows PC that’s will help you keep up with your homework.

Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA

The ZenBook 13 starts at $850, and has far better specs for students than you’ll find from competitors at this price point.

Who’s it for: High school and college students who want portability, power, and long battery life — but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg.

Why we picked the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333:

Students don’t often have the budgets to accommodate premium laptops like the Dell XPS 13 or Huawei MateBook X Pro, and thus for them, we suggest the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333. It’s an ultrabook that comes with our highest recommendation and costs just $850. While most laptops in this price range cut important things like battery life or display quality, this ZenBook 13 has it all. It’s not as powerful as the Dell XPS 13 or a MacBook Pro, but in its most recent iteration, it almost matches the XPS 13 in terms of its tiny bezels. It’s also a great looking laptop that keeps things light and thin without sacrificing build quality.

The bang-for-your-buck value here is particularly impressive. The base model comes with an 8th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive. That’s twice the memory and storage of the $900 Dell XPS 13 — and better battery life than what you’ll find in other competitors. Though you can still buy the UX331UA, the newest version has thinner bezels, a lighter chassis, and improved battery life in web browsing. It’s remarkable how much laptop you can get for so little money, and that should be of particular interest to cash-strapped students. If you need to dip lower in price, we suggest the Acer Aspire E 15, which is commonly sold for around $550.

Read our full Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 review

The best Chromebook: Google Pixelbook Go

Google Pixelbook Go screen

Why should you buy this: You want an inexpensive but well-built 2-in-1.

Pixelbook Go

If you’re comfortable with the limitations of a Chromebook, the Pixelbook Go is the best one your can buy.

Who’s it for: Students, people who need only basic functionality, anyone who wants a cheap laptop to use as a second PC.

Why we picked the Google Pixelbook Go:

Chromebooks are best-known as cheap alternatives to Windows PCs, and there are plenty of good options for under $500. The Pixelbook Go, though, makes a serious case for a Chromebook with a bit more finesse. It’s beautifully designed, rigidly built, and a joy to use.

Thanks to its ultra-light 2.3 pound weight and fantastic battery life, it’s a great option for students and people taking their work on the go.

With a starting of $649, it’s not a significant cut from the $999 original Pixelbook. You do, of course, face the usual limitations with Chrome OS. It’s designed around Google’s Chrome web browser, meaning you can’t download your normal Windows applications. It’s wonderfully simple and intuitive to use, however, and with the inclusion of the Google Play Store, you can fill some of the gaps in software with Android apps.

Read our full Google Pixelbook Go review

The best 2-in-1 laptop: Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 front

Why should you buy this: You want a great laptop and a good tablet.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

The Surface Pro 7 is a 2-in-1 detachable that combines stellar performance with a flexible, premium-built chassis.

Who’s it for: Anyone who needs versatility on top of performance.

Why we picked the Surface Pro 7:

The Surface Pro line has earned its dedicated following over the years with its excellent detachable keyboard and full Windows 10 performance. It’s the familiar PC experience you’re used to, with the added interest of 2-in-1 capability, Surface Pen stylus compatibility, and a tablet mode. It’s a supremely well-built device, complete with a beautiful, high-resolution display and rock-solid kickstand.

The latest model, the Surface Pro 7, doesn’t make any substantial changes to the formula, but it does offer a couple of key upgrades. You now get a USB-C port rather than a mini-DisplayPort, as well as upgrade performance with 10th-gen Ice Lake processors from Intel. That means snappier performance and improved integrated graphics.

Do we wish the Surface Pro 7 had the slimmer chassis and smaller bezels of the new Surface Pro X? Of course. But the Surface Pro 7 is the cheaper and more dependable option of the two, and it easily maintains its status as the best 2-in-1 you can buy.

Read our full Surface Pro 7 review

The best business laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme review

Why you should buy this: ThinkPad is the most trusted business laptop brand, and the X1 Extreme is the best of them.

Who’s it for: Business pros who want speed and a lovely display to go with durability and great support.

What we thought of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme:

Anyone who spends a lot of time in a conference room has likely run across a ThinkPad or two. Lenovo’s line is the most iconic business-oriented laptop line, and enterprise users should include at least one ThinkPad on their shortlists. The best large laptop is the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, whose 15.6-inch display offers lots of room to work to goes with the typical ThinkPad build quality, support, and aesthetic.

Before Lenovo released the X1 Extreme, the line offered mostly 14-inch laptops like ThinkPad X1 Carbon in the larger-laptop business market. The X1 Extreme shook things up, offering very fast CPUs such as the six-core Intel Core i7-8750H and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti with Max Q for faster gaming and creative work.

Lenovo didn’t cut any corners, either. The usual MIL-STD 810G certification is on hand, promising durability, there’s a lovely 4K display option with high dynamic range (HDR) support, optional dual-SSD storage, and enterprise-oriented service and support. There’s even enhanced security thanks to options like the ThinkShutter webcam screen.

Overall, the X1 Extreme is almost the perfect laptop for demanding business users. And the second generation is out now too, featuring 9th-gen CPUs and an OLED display that promises spectacular colors, brightness, and contrast.

Read our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme review

The best budget laptop: Acer Aspire E 15


Why you should buy this: Surprisingly good performance for so little money, and a complete complement of hardware features.

Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-576G-5762)

Discounting its boring design and large size, the Aspire E 15 is just enough computer for most users.

Who’s it for: Those who want a do-everything Windows laptop without breaking the bank.

Why we picked the Acer Aspire E 15:

Typically, the more you dip into the budget end of the laptop pricing scale the worse your experience. The Acer Aspire E 15 bucks that trend, providing everything you need in a computer for not a lot of money. It’s big and heavy with a dull look, but then again it does pack in a DVD recorder, a discrete GPU, and modern components. Simply put, it’s an excellent budget laptop and a really good computer, period.

Its 8th-generation Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM keeps performance humming. And, if you want to do to some light gaming or speed up your creative applications, then you can opt for the version with the Nvidia MX150 discrete graphics. Yes, it has comically large bezels, but they surround a surprisingly good Full HD display that has more contrast than many premium laptops. The Aspire E 15 can also last you through most of a work or school day, it sports a comfortable keyboard, and it can be upgraded with more and faster RAM and storage — letting you spend less upfront but grow as you need to do.

We like the Acer Aspire E 15 a lot. It costs as little as many Chromebooks and is simply a great budget laptop.

Our full Acer Aspire E 15 review

The best gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15

Razer Blade 2019 review

Why should you buy this: It provides a fantastic gaming experience on the go.

Razer Blade 15 RTX

The Razer Blade packs an impressive amount of gaming performance into its sleek, modern chassis.

Who’s it for: People who want a fantastic laptop that can also game.

Why we picked the Razer Blade 15:

From the exterior, you might not even know the Razer Blade is a gaming laptop. It’s as light and thin as a MacBook Pro, with thin bezels, a world-class keyboard, and touchpad, as well as a bright, vivid, 15-inch display. Even if it weren’t a gaming laptop, the Razer Blade would probably still be a contender for one of the best 15-inch laptops. The fact that it can play games at respectable framerates makes it a bit of a miracle.

With new RTX Max-Q graphics, maxing out at the RTX 2080, and a high refresh rate display, the Razer Blade is a killer gaming machine. The Razer Blade made short work of just about everything we threw at it — as long as you stay away from 4K, of course. Razer redesigned its thermal system to ensure that despite some throttling, the Blade can play nearly any game with settings maxed. That includes heavy loads like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Battlefield V.

Simply put, this is the most elegant, beautiful gaming laptop you’ve ever seen. The recent update to options for an OLED 4K panel or a 240Hz refresh rate sweetens the deal even more. Options like the Alienware Area-51m might perform better, but for our money, this is the gaming laptop we’d choose every time. 

Read our full Razer Blade 15 review

The best laptop for video editing: Dell XPS 15

Dell XPS 15 9570 right angle

Why should you buy this: You want a portable PC that can churn through your video editing projects.

Dell XPS 15 9570

Beyond a quick CPU and powerful graphics, the Dell XPS 15 can be kitted out with a stellar 4K display.

Who’s it for: Video editors who want powerful components and a big, beautiful display.

Why we picked the Dell XPS 15:

When you’re editing video, you want plenty of space to view both the results and your favorite application’s interface. But, if you’re using a laptop rather than a desktop PC, then you want to be able to do your editing on the go. That’s where 15-inch laptops come in — they’re both powerful and, thanks to today’s thin-bezel movement, highly portable.

The best 15-inch laptop around is the Dell XPS 15 — and in 2019, it’s even better than before. With up to an eight-core, Core i9 processor and the latest GTX 1650 graphics, you now have way more processing cores at your disposals. For multi-threaded applications like Adobe Premiere, you can expect some impressive rendering times. You even have two options for a screen at the same price: A gorgeous OLED 4K screen or a touch-capable 4K LED screen.

Overall, the XPS 15 is easily the best all-around 15-inch laptop on the market today, making it the ultimate video-editing tool.

Read our full Dell XPS 15 (2019) review

The best laptop for photo editing: Apple MacBook Pro

MacOS Catalina Hands-on | Macbook Pro

Why should you buy this: You want the most extensive software support in a laptop and a picture-perfect display.

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar

The Apple MacBook Pro is a photo editing staple for a number of good reasons.

Who’s it for: Photo editors who want a display that will give them real-world results.

Why we picked the Apple MacBook Pro:

Apple’s MacBook line has been a favorite among photo editors forever. The company has built up such a huge following by ensuring that the best software runs on MacOS, and by offering some of the best and most accurate displays you can buy.

The MacBook Pro 13 maintains that focus on creative professionals. It offers plenty of power in a very thin and light form factor, up to 8th-gen Intel Core i7 CPUs, 16GB of RAM, and 2TB of fast storage. And, its display is great for editing photos thanks to a 16:10 aspect ratio providing more vertical space and wide color gamuts (100 percent of sRGB and 91 percent of AdobeRBG) with the most accurate colors you can get. The 15-inch MacBook Pro has a similarly-great display with new Intel 9th-gen CPUs, and provides the larger screen that some photographers will appreciate.

Windows laptops are catching up, but the MacBook Pro retains its place at the top of the photo editing market. It’s not the least expensive photo editing platform around, but it’s the best.

Read our full Apple MacBook Pro 13 review

How we test

You’ve read our laptop reviews. You’ve read our conclusions. And now you’re wondering how we came to them.

Good question. Reviews often lack context, which is evident in the wildly different scores some laptops receive from different publications. Conflicting opinions can actually make buying a laptop more difficult if the review’s criteria isn’t made clear.

Allow us to lift the veil. Here we’ll explain the benchmarks we use for objective testing and the perspective from which we approach subjective topics. We don’t expect everyone to agree with our opinions, but we hope that sharing our process will leave you better equipped to decide what laptop best fits your needs.

Research and buying tips

What’s the best laptop brand?

Picking just one laptop brand as the best is a bit of a challenge lately. There are so many great laptops available today, and they come from several manufacturers. Hold our feet to the fire, though, and we’ll have to pick Dell as the overall best. Dell seems invested in applying the latest materials to improve the performance of its laptops, and it’s constantly coming up with innovative new designs.

HP is no slouch either. It, too, utilizes some unique materials (e.g., its Spectre Folio that’s literally constructed of leather) and makes some customer-friendly design decisions, such as resisting the thin-and-light urge to pack in more battery capacity.

In terms of customer service and reliability, Apple carries the torch for its convenience. Its issues with its recent keyboard aside, MacBooks tend to be highly durable, and customer service is top-notch.

What’s a 2-in-1 laptop?

A 2-in-1 laptop is one that isn’t limited to the traditional clamshell configuration. Instead, a 2-in-1 can convert from a clamshell into some form of tablet PC that allows for natural inking and media consumption.

The concept isn’t brand-new — Microsoft sold a “Tablet PC” version of Windows as far back as 2001 that supported pen input, but it never caught on. As electronics have gotten more powerful and fit into smaller chassis, and capacitive touch and active pen technology has improved, the modern 2-in-1 has emerged. Microsoft kicked off the form factor with its Surface line in 2012, and most manufacturers followed with their versions.

Today, you can pick from among a variety of different kinds of 2-in-1s. The most popular types are the tablet with a detachable keyboard, epitomized by the Microsoft Surface Pro 6, and the 360-degree convertible where the display flips around to turn into a (usually larger) slate.

The main advantage of the tablet 2-in-1 is portability — tablets are extremely thin, light, and easy to carry around — while they also work the best for drawing and taking notes on the pen-enabled display. The 360-degree convertible 2-in-1, on the other hand, isn’t quite as handy as a tablet but it tends to work better in clamshell laptop mode — especially when using it on the lap, where it’s more stable than most detachable tablets.

What processor should I buy?

The most popular CPUs for laptops today are Intel’s 8th-generation Whiskey Lake processors that include low-power Y-series and fast and efficient U-series. For most productivity Windows 10 users, we recommend a minimum of the Core i5-8265U, which is a highly capable processor that can handle most productivity tasks without slowing down. It’s also efficient, meaning you’ll enjoy great battery life. If you skip back to older generations of Intel processors, you’ll find slower clocks speeds and fewer cores at your disposal, meaning you may run into bottlenecks while multitasking or running multi-threaded applications.

Chromebook running on Google’s more efficient Chrome OS can utilize slower processors and still perform well, such as an Intel Core i3 or even a Pentium processor. Not many Chromebooks bother with the fastest Core i7 CPU.

If you’re looking for a gaming or content creation laptop, we recommend either last year’s 8th-generation or the most current 9th-gen, ultra-power H-series CPUs. You’ll find these in laptops ranging from the MacBook Pro 15 to the Razer Blade.

How much RAM do I need?

The sweet spot for memory for both laptops and desktops is 8GB. You can check out our story “How much RAM do I need” for the detail. But generally speaking, 8GB will suffice whether you’re running Windows, MacOS, or even the more lightweight Chrome OS. And, it will provide plenty of headroom for multitasking and more demanding applications. If you’re doing high-end photo or video editing, then we recommend 16GB (or more).

Should I buy a laptop or a tablet?

As we mentioned above, you can get a tablet that can morph into a laptop just by attaching a keyboard. And so if you really want the power of Windows 10 in a form factor that’s easier to carry around, then you can select a tablet 2-in-1. We don’t recommend these devices as tablets in themselves, as the Windows 10 tablet mode is still fairly limited. If you want the utmost in simplicity and an even smaller device, then a pure tablet like the iPad can be great for web browsing, triaging email, consuming media, and other tasks that don’t require the full power of a “real” PC.

So, where doesn’t a tablet work? If you’re a hardcore gamer, need a laptop that can churn through video and huge photos, or have a need for multitasking. Tablets are very thin and tend to use slower CPUs and integrated graphics that won’t accelerate creative applications or power modern games. Meanwhile, the software on these devices isn’t as full-featured as a desktop operating system like Windows 10 or MacOS.

Should my laptop have USB-C?

The short answer is: Yes, you should try to pick up a laptop with at least one USB-C port. This is the latest in connectivity that ensures that you can connect to legacy devices (via adapters) while being covered for future devices as well. USB-C can provide for data transfer, power, and display connections, and USB-C hubs can greatly extend how many peripherals you can easily connect to your laptop.

The good thing is that laptops, even budget models, increasingly include USB-C. The longer answer is that not only do you want USB-C, but you want ports that support the even more powerful Thunderbolt 3 standard. Thunderbolt 3 provides up to 40 gigabits per second (Gb/s) over a single connection, and it can support multiple 4K displays and external GPU enclosures that can greatly improve graphics performance. You’re not likely to get Thunderbolt 3 support in laptops less than $1,000, but if you’re spending premium money today, then you should expect at least one USB-C with Thunderbolt 3.

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