Published: Tuesday, 10 August 2021 10:45
There are so many to choose from, so let CNET help you choose the best laptop. Joshua Goldman Aug. 8, 2021 2:00 a.m. PT
- Best MacBook Air Apple MacBook Air M1 2020 Jump to details $900 at Best Buy
- Best MacBook Air alternative Lenovo Yoga 7i Jump to details $800 at Lenovo
- Best small laptop Dell XPS 13 2020 Jump to details $931 at Dell
- Best Chromebook Acer Chromebook Spin 713 Jump to details $450 at Walmart
- Best small 2-in-1 HP Spectre x360 14 Jump to details $1,200 at HP
- Best MacBook Pro Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch) Jump to details $2,249 at Adorama
- Best laptop alternative to MacBook Pro Razer Book 13 Jump to details $1,578 at Best Buy
- Best Surface laptop Microsoft Surface Pro 7 Jump to details $1,235 at Target
- Best laptop on a budget Acer Swift 3 Jump to details $642 at Walmart
- Best laptop with a large screen and long battery life LG Gram 17 Jump to details $1,599 at Walmart
- Best small laptop under $1,000 Asus ZenBook 13 Jump to details $900 at Best Buy
- Best 14- and 15.6-inch 2-in-1 Lenovo Yoga 9i Jump to details $1,250 at Best Buy
- Best entry-level gaming laptop Dell G15 Jump to details $1,260 at Dell
- Best gaming laptop Razer Blade Pro 17 Jump to details $3,500 at Best Buy
- Best laptop with dual displays (Update: Unavailable) Asus ZenBook Duo 14 Jump to details $1,978 at Amazon
Upgrading to the best laptop for you doesn't need to be a struggle, and it doesn't need to be expensive. It can be tough to scroll through endless lists of identical-looking laptops to find the important information about how they actually work. To help you find the best laptop for your needs, our editors have tested dozens of different models to help you boil it down to a single choice.
We've tested dozens of different models in order to help you narrow your search for the best laptop, which doesn't need to be an expensive, confusing process. A lot of laptops get reviewed at CNET and we have more specialized lists you can check out while you're shopping, including the best gaming laptops, 15-inch laptops, two-in-ones and Chromebooks, as well as the best laptops for college students, the best laptop for creatives and the best MacBook Pro alternatives for the Windows set. And if you need to stay as low as possible on the price of a new laptop computer, check out our picks for budget laptops and budget gaming laptops. This list is periodically updated.
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Best MacBook Air
Apple MacBook Air M1 2020Sarah Tew/CNET
This is our go-to recommendation for those in search of a MacOS laptop for everyday basic use. The MacBook Air was updated in the first half of 2020 with new Intel processors and, most importantly, a new keyboard. However, in November, Apple announced its new homegrown M1 processors would be replacing Intel's CPUs in the Air. Using Apple's M1, the company promises an operating system with better performance and longer battery life -- up to 18 hours. The Intel-based models will still be around, though, and regardless of which chip is running the Air, you're getting a great little Mac laptop starting at $999.
Read more about the new M1-based MacBook Air.
$900 at Best Buy $839 at Adorama $999 at Apple
Best MacBook Air alternative
Lenovo Yoga 7iSarah Tew/CNET
Regularly available for less than $700, this thin, 3-pound convertible is a solid choice for anyone who needs a laptop for office or schoolwork. The all-metal chassis gives it a premium look and feel, and it has a comfortable keyboard and a responsive, smooth precision touchpad. Though it's light on extra features compared to its premium linemate, the Yoga 9i, it does have one of Lenovo's sliding shutters for its webcam that gives you privacy when you want it. And it has a long battery life to boot.$800 at Lenovo
Best small laptop
Dell XPS 13 2020Sarah Tew/CNET ED I T O R S ’ C H O I C E Mar 2020
The Dell XPS 13 is a perennial favorite for its size, weight and performance and just overall good looks. In 2020, Dell made the laptop even smaller, while making the laptop screen larger and increasing performance for both CPU and graphics-intensive tasks. It's not a huge leap, but this Dell XPS is still the best in the category. And for those who want the latest and greatest Intel processors, the Dell XPS 13, as well as the company's XPS 13 2-in-1 (also a great pick), are available with the chip-maker's 11th-gen Core processors, with Intel Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 options. This Dell also offers a selection of solid-state storage and memory options, starting with a 256GB SSD hard drive and 8GB of memory.
Read our Dell XPS 13 (2020) review.
$931 at Dell
Acer Chromebook Spin 713Josh Goldman/CNET
Tired of trying to work on documents or spreadsheets on a small widescreen display? The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 uses one of Acer's bright VertiView displays, a 13.5-inch 2,256x1,504-pixel touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. As the name implies, it gives you more vertical room to work, but it still has the width of a typical 13.3-inch laptop with a 16:9 ratio. Between that and its battery life, which lasted nearly 13 hours in our tests, you'll be able to get more work done in a day -- and it's still thin and light enough for an everyday carry.
The latest version of this Chromebook is the first to receive Intel's Evo verification, which means you'll be getting the best possible mobile experience with this model. It's also the first with Thunderbolt 4 support, which lets you connect to multiple external displays as well as providing fast data speeds and networking. Read our Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review.$450 at Walmart $457 at Best Buy $430 at Target
Best small 2-in-1
HP Spectre x360 14Sarah Tew/CNET
Co-engineered with Intel for its Evo platform, the Spectre x360 14 we tested had zippy performance and more than 14 hours of battery life. Along with an assortment of privacy features, it has a bright, 1,920x1,280-pixel-resolution, 13.5-inch touchscreen with a 3:2 screen ratio that is roughly the same as a standard A4 sheet of paper and gives you about 20% more vertical viewing space than a 16:9 display. That means you do less scrolling when you're working. It also makes it more comfortable to use as a tablet, especially with the included active pen.
Read our HP Spectre x360 14 review.
$1,200 at HP
Best MacBook Pro
Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch)Sarah Tew/CNET
The combination of the larger MacBook Pro's hardware and MacOS extracts the maximum performance from the components while delivering class-leading battery life in a way the Windows operating system never seems to do, and the high-resolution display screen remains terrific. Plus, this powerful laptop model's keyboard uses scissor-style switches under the keycaps, rather than the much-derided butterfly-style switch. You pay for it, though -- base price for the 16-inch model of this premium laptop is $2,399.
Read our Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) review.
$2,249 at Adorama $2,049 at eBay $2,199 at Amazon
Best laptop alternative to MacBook Pro
Razer Book 13Sarah Tew/CNET
The Book 13 is a more office-friendly version of the company's Razer Blade Stealth gaming laptop, with a 13.4-inch display with a taller 16:10 aspect ratio, fast mobile performance, long battery life and enough connection options to make working from home easier. Its high-quality build is up there with the best MacBooks but, like an Apple, it's not necessarily the best laptop deal, even compared to other premium laptops.
Read our Razer Book 13 review.
$1,578 at Best Buy $1,499 at Amazon $1,499 at Adorama
Best Surface laptop
Microsoft Surface Pro 7Sarah Tew/CNET ED I T O R S ’ C H O I C E Nov 2019
Although it's not the Surface Laptop, the Surface Pro continues to hit all the right notes if you're looking for a do-it-all Windows tablet that doubles as a Windows laptop. This powerful Surface laptop features the 10th-gen Intel processor, fast Wi-Fi 6 wireless and long-lasting battery life. This Surface is also the first in the range to feature an honest-to-goodness USB-C port.
Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review.
$1,235 at Target $930 at Amazon $1,050 at Walmart
Best laptop on a budget
Acer Swift 3Josh Goldman/CNET
A remarkable deal for simple tasks like email, word processing and much more, thanks to the new AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors. This budget laptop has a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader and a USB Type-C port, too. The Acer Swift 3 is also an incredibly lightweight laptop -- less than 3 pounds -- for a machine that can be found for less than $700.
In addition to this Acer Swift, we're also fans of the Acer Aspire 5, which has a larger 15.6-inch display. The Acer Aspire 5 is available in a variety of configurations starting as low as $400, but can go up to $690 if you want entry-level discrete graphics for basic gaming and content creation.
Read our Acer Swift 3 (14-inch, 2020) review.
$642 at Walmart $722 at eBay $605 at Amazon
Best laptop with a large screen and long battery life
LG Gram 17Joshua Goldman/CNET ED I T O R S ’ C H O I C E May 2020
There are simply no other 17-inch laptops that are this light and also have long battery life. The Gram 17 lasted 13 hours on our streaming video test, beating last year's model by 47 minutes on the same test. Processor performance is stepped up some from the 2019 version, too, thanks to the addition of a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 processor. This is partnered with more powerful Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics as well, giving you a little extra speed for photo and video editing and casual gaming.
Read our LG Gram 17 (2020) review.
$1,599 at Walmart $1,562 at Amazon
Best small laptop under $1,000
Asus ZenBook 13Josh Goldman/CNET
The Asus ZenBook 13 is a stylish but not showy 13.3-inch ultraportable with the perfect footprint for squeezing onto a tiny table. You'll get 12-plus hours of battery life depending on your configuration -- it's available with an Intel Core i5 processor or 11th-gen Core i7 processor and 8GB RAM -- and plenty of performance to make quick work of daily office or school tasks. Plus, like many of Asus' laptops, the ZenBook adds a few gadgety extras to hopefully make your life easier while you're out and about.
Read our Asus ZenBook 13 review.
$900 at Best Buy $1,020 at Walmart
Best 14- and 15.6-inch 2-in-1
Lenovo Yoga 9iSarah Tew/CNET
Though HP and Dell have excellent premium two-in-one convertible laptops, they have smaller 13.5- and 13.4-inch displays. If you want a bit more room for your work or entertainment, the Yoga 9i is a great choice. It's available in 14- and 15.6-inch sizes with a variety of configuration options and everything about them is fast. Well, except for their battery lives, which are good and long. Plus, they come with pens that charge and are stored in the body.
Read our Lenovo Yoga 9i review.
$1,250 at Best Buy $1,660 at Walmart
Best entry-level gaming laptop
Dell G15Sarah Tew/CNET
Dell streamlined its G-series gaming laptops, going from three models down to just one -- and it's all for the best. Instead of having to decode the various feature and quality differences between them, there's just one chassis available with a variety of configurations with an 11th-gen Intel processor or AMD Ryzen 5000 H-series processor. All of the processors can be paired with up to a 6GB Nvidia RTX 3060, 8GB or 16GB of memory and up to 1TB of storage. They're basically a more budget-friendly version of those from its Alienware division, but still capable of playing the latest AAA titles. Due to availability issues, the prices are unstable but do normally start below $1,000.$1,260 at Dell
Best gaming laptop
Razer Blade Pro 17Lori Grunin/CNET ED I T O R S ’ C H O I C E Jul 2020
If you're going for the best, go big. Yes, there are faster 17-inchers, but I draw the line at dual humongous power bricks. The Blade Pro is fast and provides powerful gaming performance with an Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series graphics, but doesn't sacrifice its svelte figure. While I recommend getting this Blade Pro laptop with its 4K-resolution display option for creators, gamers will want to get the display with a 360Hz refresh rate that Razer offers for this model.
Read our Razer Blade Pro 17 (early 2020) review.
$3,500 at Best Buy $3,990 at eBay $3,800 at Amazon
Best laptop with dual displays (Update: Unavailable)
Asus ZenBook Duo 14Josh Goldman/CNET
If you've ever wished for just a little extra screen space on your thin-and-light laptop, your wish is granted. The Duo 14's 12.6-inch secondary touchscreen behaves just like any other attached display except it's built into the body above the keyboard. You can use it for extending the main 14-inch display so it works like one large screen, or use it for apps that would normally be buried behind what you're working on. If that's not enough, it's pen-enabled so you can write and draw on it with the included pen. Plus, Asus' ScreenXpert software lets you turn it into a giant touchpad, a number pad or even a tool deck for Adobe Creative Cloud software.
Read our Asus ZenBook Duo 14 review.
$1,978 at Amazon
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