In 1981, when I first started in the industry, laptop computers did not exist. But then IBM introduced the IBM PC, which consisted of a base computer, a monitor that sat on top, and a connected full-size keyboard. It started the PC revolution and prompted Compaq to introduce a rival a mobile clone.
Also known as a luggable, Compaq's mobile computer was much like a portable sewing machine. When I first started traveling with one in 1984, it barely fit in the overhead bin. The first true clamshell laptop came from Toshiba with the T1100 in 1985. Since then, hundreds of similar devices have been introduced; some weighed as much as 10 pounds and were up to 3 inches thick.
But the product that had the most influence on future laptop designs, introduced 10 years ago, was the MacBook Air. When Steve Jobs pulled the MacBook Air from a 9-by-13-inch envelope, people in the room gasped and then cheered. Since then, Apple has morphed the MacBook Air design into the current MacBook line of laptops, which is still one of the best slim and light devices available today.
That MacBook Air, more than any other laptop, pushed other PC vendors to develop ultrabooks. From that point on, the race was on to create the thinnest and lightest laptop with a powerful processor and long battery life.
The next decade of ultralight PCs got a boost at CES 2018 with the introduction of Dell's newest XPS 13, which won numerous awards at the show. It has an optional 4K display that is extremely sharp and vibrant. On the inside, a new dual-fan cooling system allows the 8th-gen Core-powered laptop to offer better sustained performance than competitors.
I have been testing the new XPS 13 for several weeks now; I love its OLED screen and the keyboard is one of the best I've used on any laptop. Even though it's light and thin, this is a workhorse that competes with laptops that are much larger and heavier.
I've also been testing Lenovo's X1 Carbon, a powerhouse that rises to the top when it comes to high-end PCs in this category.
Cheaper laptops abound, but if you can swing a high-end slim PC, the Dell or Lenovo laptops are the new best of breed. Like the MacBook Air in 2007, these laptops will be the gold standard for at least the next 3-5 years.