11 Laptops We’ve Tested—and Love

Buying any laptop is a big decision: You may end up using it for several years before buying another, and there are many makes, models, and chip configurations to choose from. Lucky for you, we’ve tried out many of the new releases in the past year. These are our top picks for the very best laptops you can buy right now.

If you don’t know exactly what you need, or what all the various hardware jargon means, be sure to read through our laptop buying guide. And check out our many other guides, including the Best MacBooks, Best Gaming Laptops, Best Cheap Laptops, and Best Laptop Backpacks.

Updated April 2021: We’ve added new picks like the Lenovo X1 Nano and Surface Laptop 4.

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  • Light as Air

    The MacBook Air remains the Mac to get. Apple upgraded this 13-incher in November 2020 (9/10, WIRED Recommends), ditching Intel chips for its own M1 processor. The results are impressive. Battery life is great, easily lasting more than a full workday. Perhaps more surprising is the excellent performance, even in apps made for Intel-powered machines. Apple uses a tool called Rosetta to translate these apps to work with its own M1, and most of them run just as well if not better. If you’re concerned about compatibility, well, more and more developers are releasing M1-versions of their apps. For example, Adobe already has M1 versions of Lightroom and Photoshop.

    The Air retains the slim and lightweight design with solid speakers, an excellent keyboard, and a good display. We also love how it now instantly wakes from sleep, just like your phone or tablet. If you want a Mac and aren’t planning to edit video or otherwise tax it too much, this is the MacBook you want.

    Specs to look for: Apple M1, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD

  • A Formidable Competitor

    Dell’s XPS 13 (9/10, WIRED Recommends) has been kicking around since 2012 and remains one of the most popular thin and light laptops out there. Dell released an update late in 2020, bumping the processor to the latest Intel chips, but the design is otherwise the same. The XPS’ sleek design is really the selling point, giving the MacBook Air a run for its money, and the incredibly thin bezel gives the XPS 13 a 16 x 10 aspect ratio. That extra vertical real estate is surprisingly noticeable and useful, especially when browsing the web or reading Slack. Battery life is also good—we managed 12.5 hours during normal use (web browsing, watching videos, editing documents).

    I also like the 15-inch XPS, and there’s a developer edition XPS 13 that ships with Ubuntu Linux if that’s your jam.

    Specs to look for: Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD

  • Windows Elegance

    It might not be as flashy as the hybrid tablet-laptop design that made Microsoft’s Surface brand famous, but the new Surface Laptop 4 is everything a laptop should be: slim and lightweight with an excellent screen and keyboard. Ports are one place where Surfaces skimp (like MacBooks), but you now get a USB-C port along with a good old-fashioned USB-A port. It also has a magnetic charging port; if you’re a klutz who trips over the power cord all the time, this can be a lifesaver. It severs the connection between the wall plug and the computer before the laptop goes flying across the room like a Frisbee.

    The Surface Laptop 4 comes in two sizes, 13 inch and 15 inch. There are also two different processors available: an AMD Ryzen chip or an Intel. If you’re hoping to do some light gaming or edit video, I suggest the Ryzen. Either will be plenty powerful enough for working on documents, browsing the web, and checking email. One great change from its predecessor is the much improved battery life. Microsoft is claiming upwards of 17 hours. My testing so far has been closer to 16 hours, but that’s still way more than enough for a full day of work.

    Specs to look for: AMD Ryzen 5 or Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD

    A cheaper Surface: If you don’t need as much power and want something cheaper and lighter, I really like the Surface Laptop Go (7/10, WIRED Recommends). The small form factor is great for travel, and performance is good for the price. The downside is the low-resolution screen.

  • ThinkPad Air

    If you like the size and weight of the MacBook Air, but prefer the keyboard and features of a ThinkPad, the X1 Nano is for you. It’s thin and light (just shy of 2 pounds), but it has the ThinkPad pedigree—a great keyboard, the red nub, and buttons at the top of the trackpad. Unfortunately, it adopts the Air’s bad traits as well: Ports are limited to two USB-C and a headphone jack. 

    The screen is an unusual 2,160 by 1,350 pixels, making it sharper than the base Dell XPS 13, but not as sharp as the 4K option. I found it to be plenty sharp and bright enough to stare at all day without eye strain. Battery life is great too; I managed 17.5 hours in a battery drain test, which is five hours more than the XPS 13 managed.

    Specs to look for: Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD

  • Total Lightweight

    What if you want a thin, light laptop with great performance, long battery life, and the ability to play Fortnite and other games you won’t find on Apple’s macOS? Acer’s top-end model, the Swift 5, is here to say you can have your cake and play Fortnite too. With 16 gigabytes of RAM, a 1-terabyte drive, and an Intel Core i7 processor, this machine has held up to everything I’ve thrown at it. And somehow, despite being an incredibly thin laptop, the Swift 5 manages to pack in more ports than any of the previous picks, which means fewer dongles and adapters in your bag. You get an HDMI, two USB-A ports, and a USB-C (Thunderbolt 4 capable, and can double as a charging port). There’s also a headphone jack.

    Battery life is excellent, lasting a solid 15 hours in our looped-video battery drain test. And the 1080p screen is bright and sharp with particularly nice, deep blacks. The one thing I don’t like is the trackpad, which I find mushy. It’s not a deal breaker, and it doesn’t stop me from recommending it.

    Specs to look for: Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD

  • Solid Performer

    Lenovo’s ThinkPad line has a curiously loyal following, of which I am a member. ThinkPads won’t draw admiring remarks at the coffee shop, but they’re reliable laptops. Also, the keyboards are (usually) amazing. The X1 Carbon (8/10 WIRED Recommends) is the thinnest and lightest ThinkPad, with a solid build. Like the Acer above, it doesn’t lack ports, so you can leave the dongles at home. But there are a confusing array of configurations available. The one I’d suggest is the model linked here, which features a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 chip with 16 gigabytes of RAM and a 512-gigabyte SSD. This model technically has a list price of $2000, but it is more or less permanently on sale, and you should not pay more than $1,400 for it. As with the Dell XPS line, there is also a Linux edition available (you can choose either Ubuntu or Fedora Linux).

    Specs to look for: Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD

  • Cutting-Edge Convertible

    The 2019 13-inch Spectre x360 (9/10, WIRED Recommends) was one of our favorites. The latest model brings a 4K OLED screen option, updated 10th-generation Intel chips, and an option for 16 gigabytes of RAM. The fact that you can get all this in a 13-inch, sub-3-pound package for under $1,500 makes this one of the best deals in this guide. The battery life isn’t bad either; HP claims nearly 23 hours. I haven’t had a chance to test this model, but based on the previous one I’d say real-world battery use will likely sit closer to 18 hours, which is still great.

    HP’s Tilt pen ($90) is included, which is helpful if you plan on using this laptop’s tablet mode. I seldom use Windows in tablet mode—it just isn’t something I need—but I love 2-in-1 designs for “tent mode,” which is great for watching movies.

    Specs to look for: Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD

  • Flex Spending

    Like several lighter options on the market, Lenovo’s Yoga line can be used in different modes: as a laptop, a tablet, or a propped-up touch display. What’s different about the Yoga C930 is that Lenovo has put a speaker inside the signature hinge, ensuring the audio experience is good no matter which way you use the thing. It also ships with a stylus pen and has a physical privacy shutter that covers the webcam.

    Overall, this bendy laptop comes with all the things we’ve come to expect from laptops—updated internals, excellent battery life—making this a solid Windows machine.

    Specs to look for: Intel Core i7, 12 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD

  • Going Chrome

    The Pixelbook Go is Google’s latest vision of what a Chromebook should be. Unlike previous efforts, the Go doesn’t shoot for the stars. Its price reflects that, starting a full $350 less than its predecessor. If, however, you like the original Pixelbook’s high-end specs, you can order a high-end Go with a Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, 256 GB storage, and a 4K display. The Go has a very function-over-form design with an interesting ridged underside being the only thing that sets it apart from your standard laptop. The base model uses the Intel Core M3 chip, but we recommend going for the Core i5. You’ll get 8 GB of RAM either way, which is plenty for average Chromebook use.

    Chrome OS has progressed significantly in recent years and feels very mature. Support for Linux makes the Chromebook workable for light development work too. Using Android apps can still be an exercise in frustration, but things have improved in recent releases.

    Specs to look for: Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD

    Another great Chromebook: Want something newer? Consider Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 (7/10, WIRED Recommends) for $700. It has a premium, all-aluminum build that’s lightweight with a beautifully minimalist design. It also has a sharp, bright screen. The model I recommend has an Intel Core i3 and 8 gigabytes of RAM inside.

  • Big Mac

    Gear Editor and resident Mac expert Julian Chokkattu says that right now, the only people who should buy the 16-inch MacBook Pro (9/10, WIRED Recommends) are power users who need a graphically powerful Mac now.

    The 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor (upgradable to Core i9) is no slouch, but the M1-powered MacBook Pro already outperforms this 16-incher in many areas. We expect Apple to update this model to an even more powerful M-series chip in 2021 that will leap ahead of this one. If you do need a MacBook right now, have a look at our guide to choosing the best MacBook to help you get the right one.

  • Not Quite a Laptop

    Microsoft’s Surface Go 2 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) has a design that stands out on this list for its diminutive size and its unique form factor. It’s a Surface tablet with a detachable keyboard and stylus pen (both often sold separately)—not your standard laptop. It has the same premium build as its more expensive Surface brethren, a colorful, sharp display, and even Windows Hello facial recognition.

    The second iteration vastly improves what was already a great machine. The best thing about the new model is the much improved battery life, which now has no trouble lasting all day under light workloads. That’s really the use case here: those with less intense computing needs. If you just need to browse the web, edit documents, and the like, the Surface Go might just be the only “laptop” you’ll need. The excellent keyboard and trackpad cover is unfortunately sold separately, but I consider it essential, so be sure to grab it.

    Specs to look for: Intel Core M3, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD

  • Intel Chip

    Laptop Buying Tips

    If none of these laptops quite ring your bell, that’s OK! No worries. There are far more laptops out there than we have time to test.

    To help you make smart choices, we put together a complete laptop buying guide. To make sure you buy something that will serve you well for years to come, we recommend sticking to these guidelines: