Times have changed. Once upon a time, not so long ago, laptops were anything but cool. They were boxy, heavy devices that were used by corporate schmucks, nerdy hackers and academic types. Now, however, they can be anything from a status symbol to a fashion statement. Here’s our list of the best cool laptops that are still available and it’s followed by a list of the coolest laptops ever.
We expect this to be a work in progress, so let us know whether you agree, disagree or have any suggestions in the comments.
Table of Contents
What makes the coolest laptop — the answer in a nutshell
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the definition of the coolest laptop will subsequently differ from person to person. Our lists of cool laptops picks models from various categories and adds some justification for choosing them.
Top 10 Current Cool laptops
1. Razer Blade 14
If ever there was a laptop to make MacBooks look a bit lame, it’s the Razer Blade. Like Apple, these cool laptops stick to what they’re good at, but, in this instance, that means making rock-solid, ultraportable, gaming laptops which look awesome. They’re expensive, though, and Australia seems to be something of an afterthought for the company. These are our most recent 14-inch and 15-inch reviews of these supremely cool laptops.
2. MSI Prestige 14 Pink
We recently reviewed the latest MSI Prestige 14 Evo laptop and it was grey and corporate and the opposite of cool. T’was not always thus.
When we first saw the MSI Prestige it was Hot Pink in colour and it arguably set feminism back a decade or two. The first time we showed it to the ‘public’ involved us simply carrying it downstairs to the wife’s ‘girls night in’ party. The gasps and adoration it elicited weren’t related to it being one of the first, ultraportable laptops to have a genuinely decent gaming GPU. It was because it was hot pink. Everyone in the room wanted one. And so they should have… because it was something more than the other cool laptops, it was a highly-desirable, feminine, fashion accessory.
3. MSI Raider
For a few years now, MSI’s Raiders have been the top of our charts for all-round laptops. On the surface, they’re grey and dull but… turn on the RGB disco bars and you’ve got a night club in your living room. These cool laptops have many pre-sets which transform the light bar’s behaviour into anything from garish, technicolour acid trip through Old Glory’s colour scheme to Back to the Future’s flux capacitor. Or, you can program your own.
It’s as arguably as in-descreet and ostentatious as flaunting an over-sized codpiece but this cool laptop carries enough blinged-out presence to get away with it.
The GT77 Titan does likewise, but in a more sophisticated way. But, does a chunky 17-inch overclockable slab, with embedded RGB goodness, steal the show on the catwalk? No, it doesn’t. MSI’s nightclub-like cool laptops don’t just offer epic performance, they promote it like a Peacock, too.
4. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
Dot matrix printers were once considered the epitome of awesome domestic technology. That you could (almost) print a professional-grade document at home – like it was a magazine – was amazing… back in the 80s and early 1990s. But now it’s cool again thanks to the epic, white-on-black, dot matrix display on the lid of the ROG Zephyrus G14.
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There’s little doubt that this technology will soon be replaced with colourful LED, LCD and OLED equivalents in the near future. It’s already happening with LCD screens appearing on current graphics cards and PC power supplies. When this technology inevitably hits these laptops, perhaps it will help push the range further up our cool laptops list?
Nonetheless, it takes some serious chutzpah to make monochromatic dot-matrix cool again and Asus has even achieved this on an ultraportable laptop that also excels at gaming. That makes for a seriously cool laptop.
5. Lenovo Legion 7
Back in the day, IBM ThinkPads represented a particular breed of business laptop that were solidly built, business friendly and had one of the best, velveteen keyboards ever. This was great if you wanted a portable laptop that was excellent for typing. But, that was it. Then, IBM sold its laptop (and entire PC) business to Lenovo, which struggled, frankly.
Nowadays, you don’t have to go far to see that Lenovo Legion gaming laptops are amongst the most sought after of all. They’re thinner than many rival laptops, have epic logos and branding details and are flooded with RGB goodness. They’re also among the best-performing gaming laptops on the market.
What’s more, Lenovo now has some seriously green credentials. All of it’s laptops are designed to be carbon neutral in their construction and every model’s expected power consumption – for the first five years of ownership – has been accounted for and carbon-off-set to make them the greenest laptops you can buy. All in all, they’re seriously cool laptops.
6. Apple MacBook Air
Even if you’ve never been an Apple fan, you’d be hard pressed to deny that Steve Jobs impressed the world with some of his announcements. First, there was the iPhone which downright looked like a marketing stunt that couldn’t possibly exist… right before it changed the world. But, then there was… something in the air. It’s still the most memorable launch in cool laptops history.
Having covered tech launches for 20 years, we’ve observed that there’s a general rule: if you start off by naming your highly-regarded competitor’s best product from the stage, then what you’re about to unleash smashes it in every significant way. Normally, you’d do anything possible to avoid mentioning a rival.
When Jobs pulled that first MacBook Air out of a Manila envelope, it was pretty dang cool. Even if it was applauded by a room of flunkies, shills and employees. He did it after extensively praise-damning a highly-regarded Sony rival too. The first MacBook Air was one of those cool laptops that redefined the entire (ultraportable) market. Impressive.
7. HP Omen
It might seem a weird choice for a list of cool laptops, but this very-mainstream, mid-range, gaming laptop made our list for one very good reason. It wasn’t the modest performance nor was it due to the mediocre build quality, it was just because of the logo.
We’re still not entirely sure what it’s made of, but we’ve never spent longer just staring at a static, laptop lid than we have with the Omen. The glistening logo changes into a different, barely describable colour from every angle you look at it. It’s like something from another world. We love it. For this alone, It’s one of the coolest, cool laptops.
8. Dell XPS 13
Dell laptops used to be the equivalent of classic Volvos – they’re boxy, but they’re good. Then the XPS brand appeared and, despite the issues, they offered excellent performance in a chassis that aped MacBooks but performed much better (so long as you didn’t mind the heinous overheating issues inherent in the top-spec models).
However, the latest, 13-inch Dell XPSs use components that don’t overheat or crash like before. Sure, the recent Dell XPS 13 Plus ‘evolution’ has some issues with being over-designed but, if you want an easy-to-find (and buy), ultraportable laptop, the Dell XPS 13 is what many MacBooks should be (silly connectivity choices aside). It’s good-looking practicality makes it one of the cool laptops to have in an office environment where there’s often little choice.
9. Venom BlackBook Zero Phantom
Australia’s own Venom computers needs to be on any cool laptops list. While green, e-waste credentials aren’t always cool, it helps when a company decides to make a product so durable that it promises to buy-it-back, SEVEN YEARS LATER, for a guaranteed $500!
What’s more, Venom’s BlackBook Zero Phantom laptops aren’t made of blocks of concrete, they’re among the most portable on the market. Arguably the product name carries a certain cachet too and as for their looks, well, you decide if a King Cobra logo on a matte-black laptop looks cool or not?
10. Apple MacBook
We hate to keep mentioning Apple, but a cool laptops feature is inevitably going to mean there’s some style over substance. The company spends a crazy amount on marketing, UX (user experience) and design and tends to care less about computational functions in a market that generally does the opposite.
That’s why, when you see a popular TV show they often use Apple’s cool laptops. Whether it’s something stylish and twee, like Emily in Paris, or old re-runs of Sex and the City, or 24’s Jack Bauer (somehow) using a Mac to defeat the world’s best-equipped terrorists. The reason Apple is usually used when there’s no product placement deal in place because the coolness quickly rubs off. Laptop aficionados will scoff, but the mainstream appeal can’t be ignored entirely.
5 Old-School Cool Laptops
Some cool laptops aren’t around anymore but, although people tend not to use (or hang on to) ‘vintage tech,’ there were some pioneers in this space that are worth remembering.
Toshiba Portégé 3010CT
Even at the end of the 1990s, laptops tended to look terrible. Perhaps the poster child of ugly was [the] Compaq [anything] – a brand which HP, mercifully, put out of its misery back in 2013. Compaq was a brand that was the opposite of cool and a crime against industrial design. But, there was one laptop that turned every head… in 1998… the Toshiba Portégé 3010CT.
The best thing you can say about the Portégé 3010CT is that it looks like a modern, ultraportable laptop – but it did so in the previous Millennium. This was a time when even Apple’s contemporaneous, bloated iBooks looked like chunky children’s toy suitcases.
Compaq LTE 5280
Wait what? You may be wondering how we could so unambiguously damn Compaq laptops in a previous paragraph, to the point where we celebrated the brand’s demise and then say that one is cool.
Firstly, there’s surely some geek chic that comes from carting around an ancient Compaq – even if you might be mistaken for a paramedic and be asked to defib someone back to life. It would sort of maybe possibly be like owning a Citroën 2CV (a terrible car, but a global style icon of sorts) in that it would be nice to show-off once in a while, but you wouldn’t want to drive one every day.
But, the same arguably goes for a McLaren F1 – the world’s first, modern super car. OK, you may want to drive that more than a 2CV, but like the 2CV, you probably wouldn’t want drive it to the shops every day.
Why are we now talking about McLaren’s original super car? Well, did you know that McLaren has to keep a 1996 Compaq LTE 5280 on-site to service old F1’s? That means it’s practically genetically linked to one of the greatest cars ever. How can that not be cool? You might have to regale people with this little-known tale to get them to agree, but if you tell it right, they might actually raise an eyebrow and concur that it’s actually one of the world’s best cool laptops.
Sony Vaio laptops
It’s a shame Sony’s cool laptops aren’t around any more as they (very) regularly redefined what a cool-looking and/or ultraportable laptop could be. And, Sony even managed to do that with the colour grey!
What’s more, the company produced many of its most revered laptops long before it turned James Bond films into feature-length Sony ads. The company certainly struggled with its hardware over the years – not least because its content division kept complaining that the hardware division kept making technology that undermined its digital rights. But, back when all computer hardware manufacturers were targets for DRM lawyers, Sony’s cool laptops were usually among the best (or at least best looking) for a good while.
The Grid Compass was the first fold-shut, clamshell laptop. It had a magnesium case, electro-luminescent display, no battery, cost a fortune (US$10K in 1980s money) and wasn’t PC compatible. This limited its use to various, top-tier, deeply uncool government and military organisations… one of which was NASA. Consequently, it was regularly used on the Space Shuttle in the 1980s. So, there are plenty of boxes that the Grid Compass ticks for being one of the best, all-time, cool laptops.
Asus Eee PC
Asus has always had a habit of making bonkers creations which it then displays at the Computex tradeshow. Some turn into innovative products, some act as impressive, eye-catching technical exercises (e.g. the Bamboo PC) and some are misguided. But, absolutely no one expected the Eee PC.
In 2007, laptops were universally expensive but suddenly, here was a mini, low-powered model that cost just US$500. It was the first Netbook and while they weren’t around for long, they made some big waves. Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, even spent $1bn on buying one for all of Australia’s schoolkids.
Quickly copied by every other manufacturer, Netbooks helped bring mobile (and home) computing to many people who hadn’t experienced it before. However, users quickly discovered their limitations: the lack of power and lack of storage acted as a low, concrete ceiling that quickly reverted into a horrible user experience.
It didn’t matter that they died off quickly, though. They caused the price of decent laptops to plummet and this lasting legacy, of helping to bring computing to the masses, means it will always be one of the all-time, cool laptops.
Number 1 Coolest Laptop Ever
Asus Lamborghini VX1
Sure, Acer came out with a Ferrari laptop a few years prior, but Asus blew that out of the water with its ostentatious Lamborghini VX1. The bright Lambo-yellow laptop might not have actually functioned too well and it made a silly, engine-roaring sound on booting (current Acer Predators and ROG gaming laptops still do similar!) but it came in an ornate gift box, had a stitched-leather palm-rest, a proper Lamborghini logo on the lid, a matching, limited edition mouse and arrived with lavish launches alongside actual Gallardos. Even the mainstream media knew it was one of the best cool laptops.
We wanted to like it a lot but, by the time the still-expensive foible-fixed VX2 arrived, the magic had faded. Still, how many ancient laptops would still turn heads today? If you pulled out an Asus Lamborghini VX1 to use for casual computing tasks, it would still look better than any other laptop ever produced. It’s arguably the king of the cool laptops.