Best laptop 2021: top picks for every user and every budget


Included in this guide:

MacBook Air on white background with screen open

Apple

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Surface Laptop 4 on white background with the Windows 10 desktop showing on the screen

Microsoft

Surface Laptop 4

Image of the Dell XPS 15 from an angle with the screen open

Dell

XPS 15 (2020)

The HP Spectre x360 with screen open on a white background

HP

Spectre x360 (2021)

Image of the Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020) laptop on a white background with the screen open and showing the Windows 10 desktop

Dell

XPS 13 (Late 2020)

Razer Blade 14 laptop open showing desktop wallpaper

Razer

Blade 14

Image of the LG Gram 16 (2021) laptop from the front with Windows 10 desktop on the screen and the Start menu showing

LG

Gram 17 (2021)

Image of the Acer Swift 3 laptop front the front

Acer

Swift 3

Asus ZenBook 13 (2021) laptop with screen open on white background

Asus

ZenBook 13 (2021)

Image of the Asus TUF Dash F15 laptop from the front with the screen open. The laptop is white

Asus

TUF Dash F15

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop with the screen open

Lenovo

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6

Image of the HP Envy x360 13 (2020) laptop

HP

Envy x360 13 (2020)

Google Pixelbook Go

Google

Pixelbook Go

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

Lenovo

IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

ASUS VivoBook S15

Asus

VivoBook S15

Apple MacBook Air against red background saying 'best laptop'

The best laptops in 2021 come in all shapes and sizes, and that means no matter what kind of device you’re after (or what budget you have), they’ll be a great laptop for you.

To make buying a new laptop as easy as possible, we’ve listed the very best laptops, notebooks, Chromebooks and more on this page. Each one has been rigorously tested by us, and we take into account every aspect of the laptop, including their value of money, which means this list isn’t just packed with the most powerful laptops out there.

Instead, we have a range of laptops for all kinds of budgets and use cases. This guide is always being updated as well, so you have the most up-to-date laptop buying advice.

If you’re after the best laptop overall, then our pick remains the MacBook Air (M1, 2020), as it’s yet to be beaten when it comes to design, performance, value and battery life.

Meanwhile, the Acer Swift 3 is our choice for the best budget laptop you can buy right now, offering a perfect balance of affordability and performance. If that doesn’t take your fancy then we have a rundown of the best cheap laptop deals to help you pick a device that won’t hurt your wallet.

How to pick the best laptop for you

So, what makes a laptop worth buying? First, it needs to offer excellent value for money. That means budget laptops below the $400/£400 price point need to still offer good performance and build quality.

Meanwhile, ultra-expensive devices need to justify their high price tags with best-in-class performance, premium build quality and lengthy battery lives.

If you want something to work on, a laptop with a modern processor, at least 8GB of RAM and a large screen (and comfortable keyboard) are worth considering.

For gaming, you’ll want a gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card and fast and responsive screen.

Check out our guide on what you should look for when buying a new laptop at the end of this page for more in-depth advice on buying a laptop.

Best laptops 2021

The best laptop of 2021

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The new Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) isn’t just the best laptop Apple has ever made, it’s the best laptop money can buy right now. This is the first time a MacBook has topped our list, but the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is worthy of this spot. Thanks to the revolutionary ARM-based Apple M1 chip that powers the new MacBook Air (Apple has ditched Intel for these new laptops), this is a stunning achievement: a thin and light laptop that offers great performance, even with 4K video editing, while also offering incredible battery life. 

Easily managing over 11 hours on a single charge, this is a laptop you can easily carry around with you at work or school, and its price is incredibly competitive compared to Windows 10 rivals like the Dell XPS 15 (below). Running both new and old Mac apps, the new MacBook Air can now also run iOS apps for iPhone and iPads, giving it access to hundreds of brilliant mobile applications and games as well.

Even if you’ve only ever used Windows laptops before, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is well worth getting and making the jump to macOS. Yes, it really is that good. Make sure you check out all the best MacBook Air deals and sales available now before you buy.

The best Windows laptop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

While Apple blew us away with the new MacBook Air (above), arch rival Microsoft has also impressed us with its new Surface Laptop 4, landing straight in at number 2. As with previous Surface devices, build quality and design is absolutely top-notch here, and its gorgeous PixelSense touchscreen really sets it apart from the competition (a touchscreen is something we’ve yet to see on an Apple laptop, as Microsoft likes to remind us).

It also comes with a brilliant keyboard that’s a joy to type on, and some pretty great specs as well, which ensures that Windows 10, and all your favorite apps, run extremely well. Battery life is also very impressive – lasting over 13 hours in our tests – and the price is impressively competitive as well.

The best laptop in 2021 for productivity

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Dell XPS 15 ticks pretty much every box when it comes to what we want from a laptop. The end result is that the Dell XPS 15 (2020) is about as close to perfect as a laptop can get and one of the best Dell laptops to date; there’s really not a lot we can fault it for. It’s got some of the latest, and best, mobile tech from Intel, and can even be configured with a discrete GPU, making it adept at images and as for video editing software, and even a spot of light gaming.

It also features one of the finest designs we’ve seen in a laptop, and is arguably the most stylish Windows 10 laptop in 2021. Battery life is also phenomenal, and the price, while high, isn’t that bad considering what you get. If the 15-inch screen is a little too big, then the Dell XPS 13 (also on this list) is worth considering, as is the MacBook Air at the top of this page.

This year’s model is a brilliant 13-inch laptop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Now coming with 11th-generation Intel Core processors, which offer a decent performance boost, and feature better integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, the HP Spectre x360 (2021) is better than ever.

It still features the impeccable 2-in-1 design and pristine gem-cut chassis that these laptops are known for, meaning that the HP Spectre x360 (2021) is one of the best looking 2-in-1 laptops ever made, and when it comes to build quality, it’s rivalled only by the excellent MacBook Air (M1, 2020).

While it’s certainly pricey, you’re getting some excellent extras, such as formidable security features and Bang & Olufsen speakers. If you care about aesthetics as much as you do performance and overall quality, this is the laptop for you.

Dell does it again

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

At this point, we doubt that the Dell XPS line can do anything wrong. Its yearly updates have consistently made it into our best laptops list, and they’re only getting better. The Dell XPS 13 (2020) is not only a gorgeous piece of kit. It also comes, as expected, with excellent performance, a stunning display and long battery life, alongside a few others.

Much like its predecessor, it’s a pricey investment – but that is barely reason enough for us to discourage Ultrabook fans. Once again, Dell has produced an incredibly accomplished thin and light notebook that’s a joy to use, and well worth investing in, if you have the budget.

The top laptop for gaming in 2021

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

This luxurious thin and light gaming laptop from Razer just oozes class, and is an ideal laptop for people who want a gaming device they can take around with them. It’s solidly built, so you won’t worry about it getting damaged during your travels, and it’s one of the nicest looking modern gaming laptops we’ve seen.

It’s not all about looks, however, as the Razer Blade 14 comes with cutting edge components as well, including the awesome AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and up to an RTX 3080 graphics card. This means you’ll be able to play any AAA game you want in all its glory. It’s by far the best gaming laptop you can buy in in 2021, but it does cost a lot of money.

A great new super-light laptop for 2021

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The new LG Gram 17 once again features an incredibly light design, and comes with some of the best mobile tech in the world.

That includes Intel’s new 11th generation processors and Iris Xe graphics as well as two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, and coupled with up to 16GB of RAM and speedy SSDs, means this is a laptop that is brilliant for day-to-day tasks. Battery life is also phenomenal, easily lasting around 12 hours on a single charge.

It’s a great choice for carrying around for school and work, then. However, it is expensive, and the design is a little plain.

The long battery life and stunner of a screen are back, though so too is its steep price tag. It’s worth it though if you want the power and portability of Ultrabooks yet also need a bigger screen.

The best budget laptop in the world

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Beyond the Acer Swift 3’s modest exterior, you’ll find an excellent laptop that boasts plenty of power for work and study. The Swift 3 (not to be confused with the Switch 3 another laptop from Acer) is an inexpensive laptop; however, that plain chassis is all-aluminum and packed with beefy components. 

In terms of performance, it gets surprisingly close to the far more expensive Microsoft Surface Laptop. Its display is a little lower-res, but the two are otherwise strikingly similar – other than the price. 

This laptop is incredible to use as well, with its roomy trackpad as well as its backlit keyboard that offers a comfortable typing experience with decent travel. If you’re going to be writing a lot – whether you’re traveling or at the office, this is one of the best budget laptops 2021 has on offer.

A stunning Ultrabook from Asus

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Asus ZenBook 13 is a brilliant laptop, and the 2021 model comes with some of the best mobile tech you’ll find in a modern notebook. So, it packs a choice of an AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor, or Intel 11th gen CPU. It also has an absolutely stunning 13.3-inch OLED screen and one of the best battery lives around.

There’s also up to 32GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage, which makes this a brilliant laptop for working on.

It’s also supremely thin and light, as well as stylishly designed, which makes it a joy to carry around and use. It’s also pretty respectably priced compared to competitors like the Dell XPS 13. The only downsides are that there’s no headphone jack – which is a bit of a shame, but likely a result of its ultra-thin design, and during our time testing the Asus ZenBook 13, we found that the integrated AMD Ryzen graphics weren’t quite as good as Intel’s offering. Despite that, this is still a brilliant ultra-thin laptop that’s well worth considering.

The best affordable gaming laptop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Asus TUF Dash F15 is ideal if you’re looking for a machine that can play the latest games, but doesn’t blow a hole in your bank balance.

Asus’ TUF lineup of laptops have been earning plaudits for their excellent value for money, and the new Asus TUF Dash F15 continues that fine tradition. With excellent build quality, a brilliant battery for a gaming laptop, and an impressively thin and light design, this is a brilliant value gaming laptop.

It also features Intel Tiger Lake processors, Nvidia , and up to a 240Hz 1080p display.

The best 2-in-1 laptop of 2021

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 is the latest refresh for Lenovo’s flagship 2-in-1 business laptop and the addition of Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors with Iris Xe graphics, along with Intel Evo certification, make it one of the best 2-in-1 laptops we’ve tested.

Add in the outstanding 16:10 touchscreen display, garaged stylus, and excellent battery life, and there’s very little that we can find fault with here. It’s got a great selection of ports that puts the MacBook Air to shame, but it does miss an SD card slot, which some creatives may be disappointed to learn.

But apart from that, and a bit of a straight-laced design (as a ThinkPad device, this is a laptop aimed primarily at business users), the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 is easily one of the best laptops to come out in 2021, especially if you’re looking for something that can be used as both a traditional laptop and as a tablet-like device as well.

The best affordable 2-in-1

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The excellent HP Envy x360 13 (2020) proves that you can have a premium-feeling and looking 2-in-1 laptop without having to pay an outrageous amount for it. As with all of HP’s modern laptops, the HP Envy x360 13 (2020) is beautifully designed, and comes with a stunning screen and some of the best speakers we’ve heard in a laptop.

If you’re after a laptop that can also double as a tablet-like device, then the HP Envy x360 13 (2020) is a great choice, packing modern components from AMD, and an excellent battery.

The best Chromebook

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Google’s Pixelbook Go is the best Chromebook money can buy right now, with the company showing everyone else how it’s done. Its previous Chromebook, the Pixelbook, was a brilliant Chromebook in its own way, but it cost a small fortune. 

The Pixelbook Go, on the other hand, is a more affordable Chromebook that retains a lot of its predecessor’s premium features, while bringing some brilliant upgrades as well, including an astounding battery life and fantastic keyboard. 

It features some impressive specs for a Chromebook, which ensures that Chrome OS positively flies on this device, and puts its performance on par with many of the more expensive Windows laptops and MacBooks that grace the rest of this page. If you’re looking for the ultimate Chromebook, then the Pixelbook Go is the one to get.

The best affordable Chromebook

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The brilliant Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook proves how good modern Chromebooks are these days. It can be used as a laptop or a tablet, and it’s backed up by some very impressive specs.

Is it a Chromebook or is it a tablet? Well, luckily, you won’t have to decide with the brilliant Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook. True to its name, this Chromebook delivers two form factors in one, while utilizing the versatility of the Chrome OS and setting you back much less than many of the top out there. 

Like all the best Chromebooks, its battery packs an incredibly long life of almost 22 hours – so you could pull an all-nighter, work through the day and mid-afternoon, and you’ll still pass out before it runs out of juice. 

For this price, sacrifices have to be made, naturally – the keyboard is tiny, the trackpad isn’t as reliable, and the charger and headphones share one port. However, if budget is your top priority, those are definitely not deal-breakers.

The best cheap 15-inch laptop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Asus VivoBook S15 combines a thin and light design with great performance and an excellent price. 

If you’re looking for a mid-range laptop that doesn’t cost too much, but still performs brilliantly, then this is a great choice. 

Thanks to its powerful Intel processor, 8GB of RAM and fast SSD storage, this is a laptop that can handle almost any task with ease – though gaming is out of the question. Its 15.6-inch screen is bright and vibrant, and it has loads of ports that makes it easy to hook up your favorite peripherals. 

However, it doesn’t have the longest battery life for a laptop, and the ScreenPad, which replaces the traditional touchpad below the keyboard with a touchscreen, takes a bit of getting used to.

What should you look for when buying a new laptop?

There are certain things you can look out for when buying a new laptop in 2021 that can ensure you get the best laptop for your money.

Make sure you take a look at the specifications of a laptop before buying. This is a good way of quickly seeing how powerful a laptop is, and what it is capable of – as long as you know what you’re looking for.

First of all is the processor. This is essentially the brain of the laptop, and a laptop will usually have a processor (also known as a CPU) made by either Intel or AMD. Intel is by far the most popular CPU maker for laptops, though we’re seeing an increasing number of AMD-powered laptops as well.

As a general rule of thumb, Intel processors offer better performance, but AMD processors are better value.

To make things more simple, both Intel and AMD have numbered their processors to give you a rough idea of what sort of tasks a laptop with that processor can perform.

If you’re after a budget laptop for simple tasks like browsing the web or watching Netflix, then a laptop with an Intel Pentium, Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3, processor will do that job without making the laptop too expensive.

If you’re after something with a bit more oomph – perhaps to do more complex task like editing your home videos or playing games – then go for a laptop with an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor as a minimum.

The best laptops for media creation, and more complex tasks, come with an Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processor, or an AMD Ryzen 7 processor. Laptops with these processors in them are top-of-the-range laptops that will provide brilliant performance no matter what you want to do – but be warned that they are often found in the most expensive laptops.

Finally, keep an eye on how new the processor is. Intel handily gives its processors generations, so the higher the generation, the newer it is. The latest generation is the 10th generation, though 9th generation Intel Core processors are also pretty recent.

A newer processor performs better and is more power efficient – so battery life will last longer. They are more expensive, though.

When it comes to graphics, you don’t need to worry too much, as laptop processors come with built-in (integrated) graphics. However, if you want to play PC games on your laptop, then you’ll want a gaming laptop with a discrete GPU – either from Nvidia or AMD.

What are the best laptop brands?

The best brands for laptops include Apple, Dell, Lenovo and HP, and they all have their strengths. For example, Apple make brilliantly-designed slim and light laptops, while Dell does a great range of high-end ultrabooks, as well as affordable devices and Chromebooks as well. Lenovo’s well known for making solidly-built business laptops (and some great 2-in-1 laptops as well), and HP’s also been making some gorgeous laptops recently that are some of the best laptops in the world.

When it comes to gaming, the best laptop brands include Alienware, Asus and Acer.

How much RAM does a laptop need?

RAM (Random Access Memory) is an important specification to look for in a laptop. You’ll want 4GB at the very least for a Windows laptop – though we’d actually recommend for many people to go for 8GB. That will ensure that the laptop runs well for years to come. Budget Chromebooks can get away with less RAM, such as 1GB or 2GB.

Battery life considerations

Finally there’s battery life. This is likely to be one of the most important considerations you have when choosing what laptop to buy. The best laptops need to be able to let you work – and play – for hours on end without you having to scramble for a power adapter. Modern laptops are getting ever more power-efficient, which has led to longer battery lives. For a laptop to be included in our best laptops list, it needs to offer a battery life of five hours or more.

Bear in mind that the battery life that the laptop makers claim their device has could be quite different to what you actually experience. This is because many laptop makers test their batteries in very controlled environments, with the laptop used in ways that you might not necessarily use. So, while a laptop might have a claimed battery life of 10 hours, you may find that when using it for certain tasks – like streaming high definition content – your battery life could run out faster.

That’s where our in-depth reviews come in, as we run a series of tests on each laptop in this best laptops guide to see how long the battery life lasts under certain conditions. If a laptop’s battery is ridiculously short (or impressively long) we’ll tell you.

Which type of laptop is best for you?

General laptops: Where the are found, devices that focus more on practicality than style, portability or power. That’s not to say they can’t be fast, but you’ll typically find a non-Ultrabook clamshell laptop with an HD screen and spinning drive-based storage for less than $600 or £400.

Ultrabooks: Where you’ll find thin-and-light notebooks sporting SSD storage and display resolutions that exceed 1080p. Paired with powerful, albeit mobile-centric components and especially long battery life, the will cost a pretty penny – $700 or £500 to $2,000 or £1,800.

2-in-1 laptops: Where notebooks that double as tablets are located. The , but many of the are available right now. Outfitted with both detachable and 360-degree rotating hinges, these hybrids are the most versatile way to experience Windows 10 (or Chrome OS) on a touchscreen.

Chromebooks: Where you’ll find the running Chrome OS. These do much of what Windows and macOS can in the browser, focused on cloud storage over local, while recently getting Android app support for touchscreen models. They generally cost less than $300 or £200 and a slight tussle.

Gaming laptops: Need a laptop to play games (almost) just like a shiny desktop PC can? Then you’ll want one of the . These machines generally cost from $800 or £600 to upwards of $3,000 or £2,800 and they’ll likely be the ones to take advantage of first. If you’re really on a budget, then you can check out the best cheap gaming laptop deals.

Laptop-tablet hybrids: Designed from the tablet-first approach to laptop-tablet hybrids, the pack beyond-HD touchscreens, sometimes with kickstands in their frames or provided via keyboard covers. These generally shine with a stylus, and range from the budget to the premium price ranges.

How we test laptops

We know that buying a new laptop can be a huge investment, so every laptop in this list has been extensively tested by us. When we test laptops, we use them in our day-to-day lives to see who they perform. We look at their design, including how stylish they are, or if they are thin and light enough to carry around with, and how comfortable they are to work on.

When it comes to performance, we use a mix of real-world tests and synthetic benchmarks to see how powerful (or not) these laptops are. This means using Windows 10 (or Chrome OS on Chromebooks and macOS on MacBooks) and running various apps and seeing how fast they load, noting down any problems.

These days, the webcam and microphone in a laptop is also incredibly important, so we take time to test out these as well. When it comes to gaming laptops, we’ll run more benchmark tests, as well as fire up games to play on them as well (it’s a hard job, isn’t it?)

Battery lives are also important, so we’ll keep track on how long we can use the laptop without needing to charge. We also run our own battery life benchmark that plays a looped 1080p movie until the battery dies. We also run the PC Mark 10 battery life benchmark, which replicates real-world usage, such as web browsing and document creation. These tests give us an excellent idea of how long the batteries in these laptops last.

We then take everything we’ve learned about the laptop and compare it to its price, to see if it offers the best value to customers.

Senior Computing editor

Matt (Twitter) is TechRadar’s Senior Computing editor. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there’s no aspect of technology that Matt isn’t passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. If you’re encountering a problem or need some advice with your PC or Mac, drop him a line on Twitter.