2020 had its shares of ups and downs, but one place that seemed to shine is the laptop industry. Throughout the course of the year, laptops were there to help ease the transition from office to remote work, create virtual classrooms and facilitate many a late-night gaming session. And while we reviewed many laptops this year, the following systems stood out for their power, endurance and innovation.
Here is Laptop Mag’s list of the best laptops of 2020.
Apple MacBook Pro (M1)
Apple’s ushering in a new age. It’s an age without Intel, Nvidia or anyone else. This is the era of Apple Silicon. The MacBook Pro with M1 marks a new chapter in Apple computing and computers as a whole. So what’s behind the monumental change? Apple’s new M1 processor signals the company’s break from Intel in favor of its own custom silicon. With the new component came some bold, seemingly outlandish claims and it lived up to every single one.
Out the gate, the MacBook Pro beat some of its fiercest competitors outfitted with Intel’s latest 11th Gen chips in overall and graphics performance as well as battery life. All these impressive feats are accomplished with the help of this tiny chip consisting of 16 billion transistors, an eight-core processor, integrated graphics, a unified memory architecture, a Neural Engine, an improved image signal processor and the Secure Enclave.
Call it the emancipation of Apple, the company’s freedom song or just plain liberation. With the advent of the M1 chip, Apple is free –– free to be faster and stronger, free to dominate. And the company’s wasting no time in asserting its dominance. With the M1, You get faster web page loading times, a better webcam and seamless integration between Mac, iPad and iPhone thanks to native Universal apps. In fact, the only gripes I could really posit are the lack of ports and the same-old design. Outside of those minor quibbles, the MacBook Pro M1 is the laptop to beat going into 2021. –– Sherri L. Smith
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
I’ve given a perfect star score to only one laptop during my three or so years at Laptop Mag, and that system is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. What makes this notebook so exceptional? Well, there are lots of expensive gaming laptops that tote killer performance, lightning-fast SSDs, bright high-refresh-rate displays, comfortable keyboards and strong speakers. However, none surpass the Zephyrus G14 in battery life, as it lasted a wild 11 hours and 32 minutes on our Laptop Mag battery test.
Furthermore, no other gaming rig gives you all of these features for a bargain price. This laptop costs $1,449 at the time of review, which is a low price for everything it offers. It’s not only one of the best laptops of 2020 but one of the best gaming laptop deals you’ll ever find. –– Rami Tabari
Dell XPS 17
I’m a big fan of Dell’s XPS line. The company is always finding a way to fine-tune its flagship line to keep it at the top of Windows PC fans lists. But if you know me, you know I also have a special place in my heart for big, hulking systems –– I yearn for a return to the Alienware m18. This is why I was so excited to see the Dell XPS 17. It’s not large like a gaming laptop, but it’s the biggest system in the XPS lineup, complete with a captivating 17-inch display.
Like the Dell XPS 13 and XPS 15, Dell has worked its considerable design magic on this sleek 17-inch beauty. The XPS 17 is the smallest 17-inch laptop on the market. In fact, the notebook is 48% smaller than most 15-inch systems. Despite its relatively small size, the system has a 93.7% screen-to-body ratio with a 16:10 aspect ratio, which means instead of your normal 4K panel (3840 x 2160-pixels), the XPS 17’s panel has a resolution of 3820 x 2400-pixels, making it one of the highest resolution displays on the market. And at 505 nits of brightness and covering 122% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, the XPS 17 puts competing systems to shame.
But like its smaller brethren, the XPS 17 is more than a pretty flagship; it’s got serious performance capabilities, outmaneuvering many of the competition during our benchmark tests. Although, when your laptop has an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU Max-Q GPU with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, that’s kind of a foregone conclusion. It’s perfect for people who want a powerful, big system that isn’t a MacBook. –– Sherri L. Smith
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15
Samsung must've taken the tough love our Editor-in-Chief Sherri L. Smith gave it to heart. Smith's "Dear Samsung, It's Time to Stop Making Laptops" piece was more than just a sassy open letter. It was a request, made out of love, beseeching Samsung to do better — and it finally did!
The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15 knocked it out of the park in 2020 with its eye-catching Royal Blue finish. The Galaxy Book Flex 15 features the world's first QLED display, a screen technology that allows the panel to emanate bright, vivid colors while remaining power-efficient. In our Galaxy Book Flex 15 review, the Samsung 2-in-1 bested all of its competitors by emitting the brightest, most colorful screen while still outputting one of the longest battery life runtimes this year at 15 hours and 44 minutes.
If that isn't enough, the Galaxy Book Flex 15 sports a Qi-compatible touchpad that can charge smartphones, earbuds and wearables. And, of course, the Galaxy Book Flex 15 tops it all off with its beloved S Pen for easy note-taking and sketching. The Galaxy Book Flex 15 is an innovation-filled beast stuffed inside a pretty blue chassis, making it one of the best laptops of 2020. –– Kimberly Gedeon
HP Envy x360 13
Combine the beautiful design elements of HP’s premium Spectre brand with the outstanding performance and efficiency of AMD’s 4000-series CPUs, and you get the Envy x360 13, the best sub-$800 laptop of 2020. This 13-inch convertible gave us our first glimpses of AMD’s potential, speeding past Intel-equipped rivals while lasting nearly 12 hours on a charge.
What separates the Envy x360 13 from other mid-range laptops is how it adopts the best features from its pricier sibling, instead of feeling like a series of compromises designed to lower the price. The stylish aluminum design looks as good as any other sub-$1,000 laptop, and the flexible lid means you can use the system as a tablet. The 1080p display is bright and vivid compared to others in this price range, and the keyboard is a pleasure to type on. What more can you ask for at $800? –– Phillip Tracy
Razer Blade Stealth 13 (2020)
Even though Razer is making a concerted effort to extend its reaches beyond gaming, sometimes you just have to return to your roots. Such is the case with the latest iteration of the Razer Blade Stealth 13. Although the laptop is still geared towards mobile professionals searching for a svelte ultraportable, Razer couldn’t help but throw a discrete graphics card into the mix this time. Is it the strongest GPU out there? No, but it’s enough for Razer to state a solid claim to “the world’s most powerful ultraportable title.” It also means that you can play a decent amount of games without whipping out the eGPU.
This marks the first time Razer has put a discrete graphics card in the Stealth line. And while some compromises (battery life) were made in the pursuit of power, it’s the right direction for the Blade Stealth line. After all, Razer first got into the laptop game to help gamers play on the go. Overall, if you want a laptop that can work, game and everything in between, the Razer Blade Stealth 13 is a good choice. –– Sherri L. Smith
Acer Swift 3 (Ryzen AMD)
Acer packed Intel and AMD chips inside the Swift 3, but it's the AMD-equipped Swift 3 that stole the show this year. Sorry, Intel! The Swift 3, powered by AMD Ryzen 7 4700U, is a herculean performer in the mid-range laptop market. Priced at less than $650 at launch, the AMD-equipped Ryzen 7 4700 defeated the Intel-packed 13-inch MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 13 on the Geekbench 5 overall performance test. Check out our cheeky $650 Acer Swift 3 vs. $1,800 MacBook Pro face-off to see how the Swift 3 smoked the high-end Apple laptop.
The AMD variant of the Swift 3 is one of the best laptops of 2020 for its jaw-dropping value — blisteringly fast internals for a price that won't cost you an arm and a leg. The Acer Swift 3 also gets a pat on the back for stimulating conversations about Intel's on-thin-ice position in the laptop industry. AMD developed a reputation for having a solid footing in the PC market, but can it dethrone Intel in the laptop space? Only time will tell. –– Kimberly Gedeon
Apple MacBook Air (M1)
Apple gave the MacBook Air a heart transplant; now it’s capable of outsprinting the competition or running an all-day marathon. The custom ARM-based M1 chip within the MacBook Air transforms a historically underperforming laptop into the fastest ultraportable laptop ever. But the record-shattering performance numbers don’t tell the full story.
The M1 MacBook Air endured for 14:41 on our battery test, making it one of the longest-lasting notebooks around. It has a fanless design, meaning you won’t hear a peep out of it while you’re gaming or running demanding programs. And if that wasn’t enough, the M1 brings iOS and iPadOS apps to macOS and improves is 720p webcam. So yes, forget about the older models, the MacBook Air with M1 is the one to buy, full stop. –– Phillip Tracy
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
Wait, the XPS 13 2-in-1 you ask? Yes, the convertible version is stepping out the shadows of its clamshell counterpart. Now you get the same experience as the XPS 13 but with the flexibility of a hybrid that can go from being a laptop to a tablet.
Similar to the clamshell model, the XPS 13 2-in-1 flaunts a thin metal chassis with a plush carbon fiber deck. Practically invisible bezels surround a bright 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200-pixel panel with a unique 16:10 aspect ratio. The beauty of this laptop isn’t just skin deep, either. Packing 11th Gen Intel CPUs, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is every bit as quick as its rivals, and lasts nearly 11 hours on a charge. If you want the most premium convertible laptop, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is the best option on the market. –– Phillip Tracy
Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA
First impressions are important, so I’m glad I got my first taste of Intel’s 11th Gen Tiger Lake processors by way of the Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA. The laptop, like most ZenBooks, is a certified showstopper in the looks department. As an added bonus, this lovely system is plenty durable as evidenced by its MIL-SPEC certification. But Intel’s new components add some serious oomph to overall performance as well as gaming and battery life. And you get your first look at a Thunderbolt 4 port. It’s a great ambassador of all the great things consumers should expect from Tiger Lake chips.
But it isn’t all about Intel as Asus has some treats for you. The company continues to refine its dual-screen solutions, adding its NumberPad 2.0 technology to the touchpad. Is it as flashy as the massive ScreenPad 2.0 displays you’ll find on the Asus Zephyrus Duo 15 or the Zephyrus Pro Duo? No, having the ability to transform the trackpad into a digital NumPad is a nifty perk. And acknowledging that a lot of us are working remotely, the company is one of the few to give us a solid webcam by way of Asus’ new ultrathin module, which has a four-element lens. Paired with Asus’ proprietary camera algorithm, the webcam delivers sharp images and automatically corrects exposure and color balance, so there’s no excuse for a bad selfie.
The Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA straddles the line between business and premium with effortless aplomb, which is why it made this list. –– Sherri L. Smith
Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15
What’s better than one screen? Two of course. Asus continues to push the envelope of dual-screen technology with the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15. This marks the first time that Asus brings the technology to its gaming laptops, which means the company had to make a few tweaks –– some more necessary than others.
When you open the Duo 15, it’s initially about what you hear. The sound of a weighty sword being unsheathed accompanied by the sea of red RGB rolls across the keyboard when you open the laptop, while the secondary ScreenPad Plus rises at a 13-degree angle. Is it a tad dramatic? Sure, but nothing about the Zephyrus Duo 15 is subtle. While this isn’t the first time Asus has used ScreenPad 2.0, it is the first time it’s been outfitted with the company’s Armoury Crate software, which allows you to control the various performance modes, check system diagnostics, and launch games, among several other helpful features. You can even drag and drop the tiles to create a more personalized experience.
Two screens aside, the laptop is an undeniable powerhouse with its overclockable Intel Core i9 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super GPU. It’s a force to be reckoned with on the gaming front and can pull its weight as a workstation, albeit a super flashy one. If you’re looking to experience the future of gaming laptops, you can’t beat the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15. –– Sherri L. Smith
MSI GS66 Stealth
I love over-the-top laptops, particularly when it’s a gaming rig, which is why you might be scratching your head about the MSI GS66 Stealth. When you look at the Stealth with its understated, elegant, all-black aluminum chassis, it doesn’t look all that outlandish. Sure, it’s got the customizable RGB lighting that you’d expect on a gaming laptop. And yes, it’s got a 10th Gen Intel Core processor and an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super GPU, which yay to tons of overall and gaming performance. And while we’re talking performance, let’s not forget that SSD with its lightning-fast speeds.
No, what gives the MSI GS66 Stealth that over-the-top goodness that I love is actually in its battery. At 99.9WHr, the MSI GS66 Stealth has the largest battery the TSA will allow aboard a flight. You read that right. Any larger and the system would not be allowed on a commercial airline. With its extra-large battery, the laptop will help you rack up some major gaming hours long after other systems have tapped out. –– Sherri L. Smith
HP ZBook Create G7
HP pointed at Apple’s MacBook Pro and said, “yeah we can do that and maybe even a little better.” The HP ZBook Create G7 with a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i9-10885H processor, 32GB RAM, a 2TB PCIe SSD, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM, and a 3849 x 2160-pixel, 4K display, has all the horsepower you’ll need to create high-quality content.
HP achieved that goal and then some, gladly dropping the gauntlet for all to see. The gorgeous lightweight powerhouse comes with an innovative vapor chamber cooling system, ensuring it stays cool while you work. It’s like DARPA and Ferrari got together to design a sexy aerodynamic tank powered by a high-tech engine based on recovered alien technology. Oh yeah, and it earned its MIL-STD810H certification via rigorous testing, proving its metal chassis is ready for the real world and worthy of being listed as one of the best laptops of 2020. –– Mark Anthony Ramirez
Dell Latitude 7410
The Dell Latitude 7410 is a lightweight 14-inch powerhouse with a beautiful 4K display. This is a do-it-all business laptop and a content creator's friend. Simply put, the notebook works great from the moment you flip it open and it can handle anything you throw at it.
The Latitude 7410 had me rewriting the lyrics to Sisco’s Thong Song “Ooo that display is scandalous playing 4K videos that impress, all night long, let me see your specsssssss” I’m still working on it but, seriously, with its sleek gorgeous form, warmly saturated yet color-accurate 4K display, the added pleasure of NASA-inspired cooling tech makes it a joy to use all day long while conducting business.
And with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10610U CPU (vPro Capable), 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Class 40 SSD and nearly 11 hours of battery life, the Dell Latitude 7410 is a get-it-done mobile workstation that earned its place on our Best of 2020 list. –– Mark Anthony Ramirez