Best laptop 2021: The 14 laptops we recommend

Shopping for a laptop can be a stressful experience. To make things even more difficult, most laptops look the same, spec and feature lists can be confusing, and prices range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. This is a device that you’ll most likely use on a daily basis for important tasks such as work, school, paying bills, ordering necessities, and basically planning your life.

Our CNET computer experts have spent a combined 60 years (seriously) testing and reviewing laptops, covering everything from price to performance to battery life, all to help you choose the best laptop for you. Fortunately, you’re not on your own.

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This hand-curated list features our favorite laptops in a variety of sizes, styles, and price ranges, as well as operating systems such as Windows, MacOS, and Chrome. However, there is one caveat: Microsoft intends to release the

.. If you need a laptop right now, however, all of the laptops on this list should be able to run the upcoming OS.

If you’re looking for more options in a specific category, we also have specialized lists you can look through while shopping, such as the

best gaming laptops

best 15-inch laptops
, best two-in-ones and best Chromebooks, as well as the best laptops for college students, the best laptop for creatives and the best MacBook Pro alternatives Also, if you want to keep the cost of a new laptop computer as low as possible, check out our picks for for the Windows operating system best budget laptops and best budget gaming laptops.

New models that we’ve tested and reviewed are added to this list on a regular basis. It’s a great place to start if you want to get a sense of what’s out there. However, if you’re unsure whether a particular laptop or two-in-one is right for you, here’s some general advice.

How much does a good laptop cost?

The good news is that you can get a stylish, lightweight laptop with long battery life for less than $500. Check out our top picks, as well as more, if you’re looking for a laptop for under $500. When looking for the best laptop for yourself, starting with a budget is a good place to start. specific buying advice for that price range.

Touchscreens and two-in-one designs that can be used as a tablet or a laptop — and a few other positions in between — are also available. Premium design touches like thin-display bezels and aluminum or magnesium bodies have made their way into laptops priced between $500 and $1,000. To improve performance, you’ll find faster memory and solid-state storage in this price range, as well as more of it.

Expect to spend at least $1,000 if you want the fastest performance, the longest battery life, the slimmest, lightest designs, and the best display quality. Premium laptops and two-in-ones can be found for over $1,000.

Which is better, MacOS or Windows?

Apple and other retailers occasionally offer it at a discount, or you can get educational pricing from them. However, a new MacBook will cost at least $1,000, and prices will only rise from there. The MacBook Air, Apple’s entry-level laptop, costs $999. For many people, the choice between MacOS and Windows will come down to personal preference and budget.

However, for the money, you’re getting excellent hardware from top to bottom, inside and out. Apple recently switched to its own processors, which resulted in a price increase.across-the-board performance improvementsHowever, the company’s most powerful laptop, the 16-inch MacBook Pro, has yet to be updated to Apple hardware. when compared to Intel-based models from the past.

But, once again, great hardware comes at a cost. You can get an amazing variety of devices at a wide range of prices with Windows and Chromebooks (more on these below). You’re also limited to Apple laptops.

Gaming, on the other hand, is unquestionably a Windows advantage. There is plenty of software available for both platforms, so unless you need to run something that is only available on one, you should be fine with either.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has done its best to follow suit over the years and, with the help of its partners, has been able to do so. MacOS is also thought to be more user-friendly and secure than Windows, especially for those who want their computers to get out of the way so they can get work done. Windows 11 coming in Octoberit’s trying to remove any barriers.. Furthermore, while Macs have a reputation for being safer, the popularity of the iPhone and iPad has aided Mac sales.they’ve become bigger targets for malware.

Are Chromebooks worth it?

Yes, they are, but they’re not for everyone. In the last ten years, Google’s Chrome OS has come a long way.What they can’t do is run Windows or Mac software natively. Chromebooks, or laptops with Chrome OS, are ideal for people who do the majority of their work in a web browser or with mobile apps. They’re safe, straightforward, and, more often than not, a good deal.

Which laptop is best for home, travel, or both?

Small, ultraportable laptops, which were once popular among frequent travelers, may now be woefully inadequate for working from home. Perhaps you’d prefer a larger display with more graphics power for gaming instead of a long battery life. Many people’s working habits and locations changed as a result of the pandemic.

In general, a larger screen makes work easier and entertainment more enjoyable, and it’s also better when used as an extended display with an external monitor. It usually means you’ll get more ports, making it easier to connect an external display or storage device, as well as a keyboard and mouse, without the need for a hub or dock. Consider a 15.6-inch laptop or larger if you’ll be working on a laptop and won’t need more mobility than moving it from room to room.

They’ll be the lightest and smallest, but they’ll still have a long battery life. What’s nice is that PC manufacturers are moving away from 16:9 widescreens and toward 16:10 or 3:2-ratio displays, which gives you more vertical screen space for work without increasing the footprint significantly. Stay with 13- or 14-inch laptops or two-in-ones for travel. Typically, these models lack discrete graphics and powerful processors.that’s not always the case.

Which laptop is best for gaming or creating?

However, depending on the components inside the laptop, the games you play and the content you create — as well as the speed at which you do them — will vary greatly. Any laptop can be used to play games and create content.

If you’re playing casual browser games or using a streaming game service likeGoogle Stadia, Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud GamingYou do not, however, require a powerful gaming laptop. Similarly, if all you’re doing is trimming video clips, cropping photos, or live-streaming video from your webcam, a low-cost laptop or Chromebook with integrated graphics will suffice.

Increased system memory of 16GB or more, a fast SSD for storage, and a faster processor like an Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 will all help you move things along more quickly. Discrete graphics, such as Nvidia’s RTX 30-series GPUs, will be required for anything more demanding.

Look for displays that cover 100% of the sRGB color space when creating content. In order to make games look smoother while playing, look for screens with a high refresh rate of 120Hz or faster. The display is the other aspect to think about.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Spectre x360 14 we tested was co-engineered with Intel for its Evo platform and had zippy performance and more than 14 hours of battery life. As a result, you’ll spend less time scrolling while working. This HP laptop has a bright, 1,920×1,280-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, as well as a variety of privacy features. It’s also more comfortable to use as a tablet, especially with the active pen that comes with it.

Read our HP Spectre x360 14 review.


Josh Goldman/CNET

The 16-inch display is a great size because the laptop is only slightly larger than a 15.6-inch model, but you get more work space and a roomier keyboard and touchpad. There are plenty of 15.6-inch laptops on the market, but 16-inch laptops like the Dell Inspiron 16 Plus are a rare find. The laptop also has a higher-end fit and finish than we’re used to seeing from the Inspiron line. Dell packed in performance parts for this Inspiron, including Nvidia discrete graphics, and the display covers 100% sRGB and 81% AdobeRGB color gamuts, which is sufficient if you’re just getting started with web content creation.

Read the Dell Inspiron 16 Plus review.


Dan Ackerman/CNET

For those looking for a MacOS laptop for everyday use, this is our top recommendation. The Intel-based models, on the other hand, will continue to be available, and regardless of which chip powers the Air, you’ll be getting a great little Mac laptop starting at $999. In the first half of 2020, the MacBook Air was updated with new Intel processors and, most importantly, a new keyboard. Using Apple’s M1, the company promises a more powerful operating system with up to 18 hours of battery life. Apple, on the other hand, announced in November that its new homegrown M1 processors would replace Intel’s CPUs in the Air.

Learn more about the new MacBook Air with M1 processor..


Sarah Tew/CNET

Though it lacks the extra features of its premium linemate, the Yoga 9i, it does have one of Lenovo’s sliding webcam shutters, which provides privacy when needed. It has a premium look and feel thanks to its all-metal chassis, as well as a comfortable keyboard and a responsive, smooth precision touchpad. This thin, 3-pound convertible is a solid choice for anyone who needs a laptop for office or schoolwork, and it’s regularly available for less than $700 (the usual price is $950). To boot, it has a long battery life.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Are you fed up with trying to work on documents or spreadsheets on a small widescreen monitor? It gives you more vertical workspace, as the name implies, but it still has the width of a typical 13.3-inch laptop with a 16:9 ratio. You’ll be able to get more work done in a day thanks to this and its battery life, which lasted nearly 13 hours in our tests — and it’s still thin and light enough for everyday use. The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 has a 13.5-inch 2,256×1,504-pixel touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is one of Acer’s bright VertiView displays.

The most recent version of this Chromebook is the first to receive Intel’s Evo certification, ensuring that you get the best mobile experience possible. It’s also the first to support Thunderbolt 4, which allows you to connect to multiple external displays while also providing fast data and networking speeds.

Read our Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Dell XPS 13 is for those who want the most up-to-date Intel processors. Although it isn’t a significant improvement, the Dell XPS remains the best in its class. Dell reduced the size of the laptop even further in 2020, while also increasing performance for CPU and graphics-intensive tasks. For its size, weight, and performance, as well as its overall good looks, the Dell XPS 13 is a perennial favorite. as well as the XPS 13 2-in-1 from the company (also a great pick), are available with the chip-maker’s 11th-gen Core processorsIntel Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors are available. Starting with a 256GB SSD hard drive and 8GB of memory, this Dell offers a variety of solid-state storage and memory options.

Read our Dell XPS 13 (2020) review.


Josh Goldman/CNET

Thanks to the new AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors, you can get a great deal on simple tasks like email, word processing, and more. The Acer Swift 3 is also a very light laptop, weighing less than 3 pounds for a machine that costs less than $700. This low-cost laptop also includes a backlit keyboard, fingerprint reader, and USB Type-C port.

The Acer Aspire 5 comes in a variety of configurations, starting at $400 and going up to $690 if you want to go all out. We also like the Acer Aspire 5, which has a larger 15.6-inch display, in addition to this Acer Swift. Basic gaming and content creation with discrete graphics..

Read our review of the Acer Swift 3 (14-inch, 2020)..


Sarah Tew/CNET

The larger MacBook Pro’s hardware, combined with MacOS, extracts the maximum performance from the components while providing class-leading battery life in a way that the Windows operating system never seems to do, and the high-resolution display screen remains fantastic. However, you’ll have to pay for it: the base price for this premium laptop’s 16-inch model is $2,399. Plus, instead of the much-maligned butterfly-style switch, the keyboard on this powerful laptop model uses scissor-style switches under the keycaps.

Read our review of the Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)..


Sarah Tew/CNET

Its high-quality construction rivals that of the best MacBooks, but it’s not the best laptop deal, even when compared to other premium laptops. 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, the Book 13 is a more office-friendly version of the company’s Razer Blade Stealth gaming laptop.

Read our Razer Book 13 review.


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Although it’s not the Surface LaptopIf you’re looking for a do-it-all Windows tablet that also doubles as a Windows laptop, the Surface Pro continues to hit all the right notes. Microsoft recently announced the launch of the Surface Pro 8The Surface Pro 7 is still available at a discount for the time being, and an updated version called the Surface Pro 7 Plus will be added to the lineup, allowing you to get the classic Pro design with new processors. , which has a larger 13-inch display, Intel Core processors from the 11th generation, and two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports.

Check out our comparison of the Surface Pro 8 and the Surface Pro 7..


Joshua Goldman/CNET

There are no other 17-inch laptops that are as light and as long-lasting as this one. The addition of a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor improves processor performance over the 2019 version. On our streaming video test, the Gram 17 lasted 13 hours and 47 minutes, beating last year’s model by 47 minutes. This is also paired with more powerful Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics, providing a boost in speed for photo and video editing as well as casual gaming.

Read our LG Gram 17 (2020) review.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite the fact that HP and Dell make excellent premium two-in-one convertible laptops, their displays are smaller at 13.5 and 13.4 inches. The Yoga 9i is a great option if you need a little more space for work or entertainment. It’s available in a variety of configurations in 14- and 15.6-inch sizes, and everything about these Lenovo laptops is fast. Except for their battery life, which is excellent and long. They also come with rechargeable pens that can be stored in the body.

Read our Lenovo Yoga 9i review.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Dell’s G-series gaming laptops have been streamlined from three to one, and it’s all for the better. Rather than having to decipher the various feature and quality differences between them, there’s just one chassis with a variety of configurations with an 11th-gen Intel processor or a AMD processor. AMD Ryzen 5000 H-series processorPrices fluctuate due to supply issues, but they usually start under $1,000. .. They’re essentially a less expensive version of the company’s Alienware laptops, but they’re still capable of playing the latest AAA games. All of the processors support up to a 6GB Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics card, 8GB or 16GB of memory, and 1TB of storage.

Lori Grunin/CNET

With an Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series graphics, the Blade Pro is fast and provides powerful gaming performance without sacrificing its svelte figure. There are faster 17-inchers, but I’m not a fan of dual massive power bricks. While I recommend this Blade Pro laptop for creators because of its 4K display option, gamers will prefer the 360Hz refresh rate display that Razer offers for this model. If you want to be the best, go for broke.

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