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Best laptop 2021: 20 laptops for every use case and budget

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Best Laptop 2021
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Laptops. There are just so many of them. But what's the best laptop for you? Is it a business notebook, a powerful gaming laptop, or a Chromebook? We know the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming, which is why we made this list.

We've created this handy, dandy guide so you'll know all the ins and outs of your prospective system before you make the decision to hit the buy button. From advice on choosing screen size, to selecting between an SSD and HDD, to insider scoops on where to find the best prices on laptops, here are some essential tips for finding the right system for you.

Cheap Cyber Monday Laptop Deals: Quick Links

We've scoured the internet and found the best Cyber Monday deals on all of our best ranked laptops.

Over the course of a year, we review over 150 laptops covering every price point and use case. Whether you’re looking for a productivity workhorse, a badass gaming system or a multimedia machine to kick back and watch a movie or two, we can help you find your ideal match. 

In order to make our Best Laptop of 2021 list, the system needs to score at least 4 out of 5 stars on our reviews and deliver on the things shoppers care about most. In our evaluations, we focus on design and comfort, display quality, the keyboard and touchpad, performance, battery life and especially value.

What are the best laptops right now?

The Dell XPS 13 is currently our top overall pick for best laptop of 2021. Powered by a 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, the 1080p version of the laptop is ideal for work, play and light content creation. And with it’s bright, vivid display, the laptop is also great for watching videos. Plus, it’s also incredibly slim and light making it an ideal laptop for mobile professionals. 

Those in the market for a convertible should give the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 a look. If 13-inches is too small, we suggest the Dell XPS 17, which also earned a spot on this list thanks to its powerful performance that makes it ideal for students, mobile and creative professionals. 

For our Apple aficionados, the new must-haves are the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air m1 laptops. Apple's new silicone marks a new chapter in Apple computing, and computers as a whole. The ARM-based chips bring an unprecedented amount of power and endurance, the likes of which that places the typically underpowered Air on a par with major ultraportables.   

And if you're in the market for an extra-large Chromebook, check our review of the Acer Chromebook 317, the world's first 17-inch Chrome OS laptop. 

See our picks for best laptops below.

The best laptops you can buy today

Best Laptops 2021: Dell XPS 13 (Model 9310, Late 2020)

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

1. Dell XPS 13

The best overall laptop you can buy

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD
Display: 13.4-inch, 1200
Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.8 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Attractive, premium chassis+Great performance+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks legacy ports

What do you get when you put one of Intel’s new Tiger Lake processors into a Dell XPS 13? Even more awesome. The latest Dell XPS 13 keeps all the things we loved about this year’s previous model, such as a smaller frame, four-sided InfinityEdge bezels and a larger keyboard. But this refresh brings Intel’s 11th Gen Tiger Lake processor and a host of promised features, including better CPU and graphics performance and longer battery life. You also get Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6.

But does Tiger Lake live up to the hype? Absolutely. With the new Intel Iris Xe GPU you can play certain AAA games on an integrated GPU, albeit on low settings. And in many cases, the overall performance is top-notch as well. The battery life even surpasses Intel’s new Evo standards by two hours. Those looking for a laptop with equal parts beauty, power and longevity, the Dell XPS 13 is the laptop for you. 

See our full Dell XPS 13 (2020) review.

 

Best Laptops 2021: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020)

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2. Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1)

The best MacBook on the market

Specifications
CPU: Apple M1
GPU: Apple M1 GPU
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB
Display: 13.3-inches, 1600
Size: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Stellar overall and gaming performance+Excellent battery life+Lightning-fast SSD
Reasons to avoid
-Not enough ports-Thick bezels

Welcome to the new era of Apple computing. Apple’s M1 custom SoC marks the first step in Apple’s conscious uncoupling from Intel. The ARM-based 5-nanometer chip has 16 billion transistors, which is the most the company has ever put into a chip. In addition to all those transistors, the SoC features an eight-core processor, integrated graphics, a unified memory architecture, Apple’s Neural Engine, an improved image signal processor and Apple’s Secure Enclave. The result is a faster, more powerful laptop that's a force to be reckoned with.

The MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 delivers impressive performance and has the longest battery life we’ve ever seen on a Mac. If that’s not enough, paired with Big Sur, you get blistering webpage load times and a better webcam experience –– all thanks to Apple Silicon. In short, the new MacBook Pro is everything Apple said and more. 

See our full Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020) review.

Best Laptops 2021: Acer Swift 3

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3. Acer Swift 3 (Late 2021)

Amazing performance at a jaw-dropping price

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 14-inch, 1080p
Size: 12.7 x. 8.6 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.6 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Herculean performance+A beastly multitasker+Clicky keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Dim display

The Acer Swift 3 is an ultra-thin, sleek, silver, peppy performer meant to help college-bound students transition to the next level of their education and make life much smoother. It has a nice design with some cool chrome accents that give a touch of flair. You get decent performance out of the 11th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU and solid rendering from the Intel Iris Xe GPU. 

The Swift 3 is a solid, budget-friendly ultra-thin laptop and travel partner that won’t slow you down. It's a tiny workhorse that performed well on a number of our benchmarks. Plus, it has staying power with over 10 hours of battery life. Plus, it's got premium good looks and a rather comfortable keyboard. The laptop does have one flaw however, its display which isn't as bright as we would like. But for the price, it's a minor quibble for a sub-$1,000 laptop.

See our full Acer Swift 3 review.

 

Best Laptops 2021: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

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4. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Our favorite Apple laptop

Specifications
CPU: Apple M1
GPU: Apple M1 GPU
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 13-inch, 1600p
Size: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.8 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Breathtaking performance+Outstanding battery life+Slim unibody aluminum chassis
Reasons to avoid
-Few ports-Design could use an update

Talk about breathing new life into a laptop. The Midas of processors, everything Apple's M1 SoC touches turns to gold. With its new engine, the MacBook Air goes from an underpowered laptop that barely makes the cut to one of the fastest notebooks around — not just in its portable segment but compared to everything else on the market. And with 14+ hours of battery life, you can easily get through a day, if not two, one a single charge. 

Along with record-setting performance, Apple Silicon adds iOS and iPadOS apps to the Mac App Store. You also get better webcam quality, and macOS Big Sur is a gorgeous redesign of Apple's desktop OS. The new MacBook Air may have a few faults, but it's the closest Apple has ever been to crafting the perfect laptop.

See our full Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review.

Best Laptops 2021: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

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5. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

Best 2-in-1 laptop

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 13.4-inch, 1200
Size : 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.9 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Top-rate build quality+Long battery life+Fast Intel 11th Gen CPUs
Reasons to avoid
-Shallow keyboard isn't for everyone-Display could be more colorful-No USB-A ports

The new XPS 13 2-in-1 is without question among the best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy. That shouldn't come as a surprise. Dell smartly used the XPS 13 as a blueprint for the XPS 13 2-in-1, an almost identical laptop, but with the ability to transform into a tablet. 

New features to this year's edition make the XPS 13 2-in-1 more appealing than before. Intel's 11th Gen Tiger Lake CPUs with Iris Xe Graphics deliver a solid performance and graphics boost from the previous chips. The XPS 13 2-in-1 also received a quality-of-life improvement in the way of an IR camera, so you can stop typing in passwords. And although the design is unchanged, a new Frost lid matches the white color option. 

It's a great choice for those looking for versatility along with performance and endurance. 

See our full Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2020) review

Best Laptops 2021: Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2021)

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6. Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2021)

The best Chromebook overall

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Display: 13.5 inches, 1504p
Size: 11.8 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3.2 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Great screen+Powerful performance+Great battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Sensitive Touchpad-No stylus support-Weak speakers

The Chromebook Spin 713 carves a nice niche for itself with the enthusiast or professional crowd, as well as students and mobile professionals. Its powerful processor makes it great for running heavier Android or Linux apps. It also has an ample selection of ports and a bright and vivid display. The Spin 713 proved to be a great performer with its 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD and Intel Iris Xe graphics. Plus, it has above-average battery life, coming in at 10 hours and 35 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test.

There’s an awful lot to like about the Acer Chromebook Spin 713, no matter what you’re using it for. Avid writers will love the keyboard and extra screen real estate, while multimedia mavens will love the streaming capabilities of Google OS. The notebook offers a brilliant 2-in-1 form factor that feels much more high-end than its price tag would have you believe. It’s durable enough for daily use, and powerful enough to replace the functionality of many full-fledged laptops. Plus, the battery life is top-notch.

See our full Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2021) review

 

Best Laptops 2021: Asus Zenbook 13 (UX325) OLED

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7. Asus Zenbook 13 (UX325) OLED

The best 13-inch laptop with an OLED display

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p
Size: 11.9 x 8 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Great battery life+Clicky keyboard+Compact, slim and durable chassis
Reasons to avoid
-No headphone jack

The ZenBook 13 is proof of Asus’ continued commitment to solving snags and making our lives easier. It  crushed the Dell XPS 13 and the HP Spectre x360 13 on the graphics and file-transfer tests. It also blew all of its rivals out of the water with its extremely colorful OLED display. The clicky keyboard is impressive, too — especially for such a compact, portable laptop. Laptops with 13-inch displays typically feel cramped, but I felt comfortable typing on the ZenBook 13.

The Numberpad 2.0 is another stellar feature. You may think that it would only benefit accountants or other math-oriented professionals, but trust me, you likely type numbers more than you think. Plus, the ZenBook 13 lasts more than 13 hours on a charge. The ZenBook 13 has certainly earned a spot as one of the best laptops and proves you don’t need to sacrifice battery life when opting for an OLED display.

See our full Asus Zenbook 13 (UX325) OLED review.

Best Laptops 2021: HP Envy 13 (2021)

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8. HP Envy 13 (2021)

The best sub-$1000 mainstream laptop

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7
GPU: Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p
Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 2.9 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Bright, vivid display+Core i5 CPU is speedy+11+ hours of battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Plastic touchpad-No IR camera option

The HP Envy 13 continues its long reign as the king of sub-$1,000 laptops. The latest iteration of the laptop keeps all of the things we love about it, including its premium design, surprisingly powerful performance and serious battery life. What's new is the addition of Intel's 11th Gen processors and integrated graphics. Everything else about the Envy 13 is either better or as good as it was before. The 1080p display is bright and vivid, the keyboard is a joy to type on, and you still get a Thunderbolt 4 input along with two USB Type-A ports for connecting mice, keyboards or webcams. 

HP addressed almost every shortcoming of the previous Envy 13, a laptop that already had very few faults. Bringing an 11th Gen Intel CPU onboard has improved a winning formula. Our Core i5 model impressed in real-world and benchmark tests, and the Envy 13 lasted for almost 11 hours on a charge. 

See our full HP Envy 13 (2021) review

Best Laptops 2021: Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

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9. Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

A versatile laptop for creative professionals

Specifications
CPU:: Intel Core i7-11370H
GPU:: Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti
RAM:: 32GB
Storage:: 1TB SSD
Display:: 14.4-inch, 1600p
Size:: 12.7 x 9 x 0.8 inches
Weight:: 4 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Clever hinge enables new modes+Gorgeous 14.4-inch, 120Hz display+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Thick chassis-Not enough ports-Performance is short of class-leading

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is an excellent choice for creative professionals. It can be transformed into a digital drawing board, but it does so without compromising the standard laptop mode. This flexibility, along with excellent performance and long battery life, makes the Surface Laptop Studio a compelling option for creative professionals. Add in a fantastic keyboard/touchpad combo, powerful speakers, and a 1080p webcam, and the Surface Laptop Studio finds its place as one of the best laptops for creatives and anyone else searching for an extra-versatile laptop. 

With its Core i7-11370H CPU and RTX 3050 Ti graphics, the Surface Laptop Studio can handle the most demanding tasks and even play some recent AAA games. Despite having so much power under the hood, the Laptop Studio lasts a full day on a charge, and its 14.4-inch display is excellent, with the 120Hz refresh rate giving it an edge over the competition. Microsoft didn't just get the big things right — it put care into each element of this laptop. The keyboard and touchpad are fantastic, the speakers are crisp and powerful, and even the webcam is decent. 

See our full Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review

Best Laptops 2021: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6)

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10. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6)

The best 2-in-1 laptop for business

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 14-inches, 1200p
Size: 12.3 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Speedy performance+Long battery life+Built-in stylus slot
Reasons to avoid
-Heavier than some competitors-No SD card slot-Expensive

If you need a portable 2-in-1 laptop — for business or otherwise — and aren't on a tight budget, the X1 Yoga Gen 6 is one to consider. There simply aren't many weaknesses to this convertible. The 11th Gen Intel CPUs provide fast performance and epic endurance, while the sleek chassis is slim enough to take on a business trip or to the cafe when you're working remotely. The X1 Yoga separates itself from others in the field with a bounty of extra features, from the IR camera and fingerprint sensor to the garaged stylus and webcam cover.

If you're a business user who wants a portable 2-in-1 laptop, or an IT admin setting your team up with the very best hardware, then the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is a first-rate choice. It even lasts for nearly 15 hours on a charge. These perks are packaged in a sleek aluminum chassis with a convenient 2-in-1 design and a handy stylus slot. 

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6) review.

Best Laptops 2021: Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 offers great gaming performance.  (Image credit: Future)

11. Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

The longest battery life ever in a gaming laptop

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
RAM: 32GB
Storage: 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
Display: 5.6-inch, 2560 x 1440, 165Hz
Size: 14.0 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 4.2 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Killer AMD and Nvidia performance+Amazing battery life+Elegant Moonlight White design
Reasons to avoid
-Display could be more vibrant-No webcam

The Zephyrus G15 offers amazing performance from its AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU. It even boasts a similarly long-lasting battery life, a clicky keyboard, a 15.6-inch, 1440p display and a set of powerful speakers wrapped up in an even more elegant Moonlight White design.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 (GA503Q) totes around some of the most powerful components you can get right now. Almost every part of this machine is surprisingly great and well worth the money you’ll be paying. Plus, it lasted 8 hours and 6 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test, crushing the premium gaming laptop average. Regardless, the Zephyrus G15 is one of the few best gaming laptops that you can buy with an RTX 3080 GPU

Read our full Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 review.

Best Laptops 2021: Samsung galaxy book flex 15

(Image credit: Future)

12. Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15

A beautiful, versatile 2-in-1 laptop

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7
GPU: Nvidia GeForce MX250
RAM: 12GB
Storage: 512GB
Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p
Size: 14 x 9 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 3.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+QLED display+Epic battery life+Good performance
Reasons to avoid
-Quiet speakers-Oddly placed fingerprint scanner-Shortened Shift key

We love a beautiful laptop. So we are infatuated with the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15. With its royal blue aluminum frame, the Flex 15 is drop-dead gorgeous. And thanks to its 360-degree hinges and bundled S-Pen, its incredibly versatile transforming from a traditional clamshell into a powerful note-taking machine. And Samsung didn't stop there, the Flex 15 is also the first laptop to feature a QLED screen that's incredibly bright and vivid. 

With its 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, the Flex 15 is a powerful workhorse, able to handle most productivity tasks with ease. And with its discrete Nvidia graphics card, the laptop can also do some light gaming. And despite its beautiful display, the Flex 15 still managed to last over 15 hours on our battery test, making it one of our longest lasting systems. 

See our full Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15 review

Best Laptops 2021: Dell XPS 15 OLED (2021)

(Image credit: Future)

13. Dell XPS 15 OLED (2021)

The best 15-inch laptop for professionals

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 4K
Size: 13.6 x 9.1 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 4.3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Breathtaking 3.5K OLED display+Supercharged performance+Slim, premium chassis
Reasons to avoid
-Below-average battery life-Heavier than some competitors-No USB Type-A

The XPS 15 OLED is the best Windows laptop for power users who need to take their work (or play) on the road. Its attractive design screams luxe, the OLED display is stunning, and the oversized touchpad would impress even a MacBook user. Combine those XPS staples with excellent performance from 11th Gen Intel and Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti chips and it's easy to recommend this machine to students, business users or content creators, like photographers, videographers or graphics designers

The Dell XPS 15 continues to sit atop the throne by instituting small tweaks that amount to big changes. The highlight of this particular configuration is the stunning 3.5K OLED display with its jaw-dropping colors, contrast and brightness. It's a panel befitting of the XPS 15's stylish and portable design that blends a machined aluminum exterior with a woven pattern on the inside. On the deck are a gargantuan touchpad, spacious keyboard and powerful speakers. 

If you want a powerhouse with a gorgeous display, excellent audio and a host of other premium features, the Dell XPS 15 is the absolute way to go. 

See our full Dell XPS 15 OLED (2021) review.

HP Spectre x360 14-inch

(Image credit: Future)

14. HP Spectre x360 14

A drop-dead gorgeous 2-in-1

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Intel Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 13.5-inch, 2000p
Size: 11.8 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Striking, luxurious design+Gorgeous OLED and FHD display options+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey-Unwieldy as a tablet-RAM maxes out at 16GB

HP's Spectre models have always stood out against uninspired competitors, but the new Spectre x360 14 is downright luxurious. The newest edition to HP's premium 2-in-1 lineup combines a startlingly attractive chassis with gorgeous display options, fast performance and long battery life. It separates itself with a unique 3:2 aspect ratio and OLED panel option, a pair of features capable of enhancing work and play.  

Not only does the Spectre x360 14 nail the basics, but it also comes with a USB-C rechargeable stylus and offers a decent selection of ports (USB Type-A and microSD included). Add to that a clicky keyboard and a large, silky touchpad and the Spectre x360 14 is one of the most impressive laptops we've ever reviewed. 

See our full HP Spectre x360 14-inch review.

 

Best Laptop 2021: Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

(Image credit: Future)

15. Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

From tablet to productivity powerhouse

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5-1130G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB
Display: 12.3-inch, 1280p
Size: 11.2 x 8 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 1.7 pounds (2.4 pounds with keyboard)
Reasons to buy
+Solid performance+Long battery life+Excellent keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Terrible speakers-No USB Type-A

15. Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

From tablet to productivity powerhouse

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5-1130G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB
Display: 12.3-inch, 1280p
Size: 11.2 x 8 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 1.7 pounds (2.4 pounds with keyboard)
Reasons to buy
+Solid performance+Long battery life+Excellent keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Terrible speakers-No USB Type-A

Lenovo had a very clear vision with the ThinkPad X12 Detachable: make a better version of the Surface Pro 7+ for business users who need ultimate portability. Lenovo takes the hybrid concept and improves it with all the goodies associated with the "ThinkPad" brand. That includes a durable, yet lightweight chassis, a relatively bright and vivid 12.3-inch display, and a comfortable keyboard that, along with a stylus, comes bundled with the ThinkPad X12 Detachable. 

The ThinkPad X12 also lasts for a full day on a charge, although that can be attributed to using low-powered CPUs. Plus, the internal specs offer consistently solid performance.  It's a is a standout option for business users who are frequently on the go. 

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable review.

Alienware X17

(Image credit: Future)

16. Alienware x17

A refresh brings powerful new goodies

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
RAM: 32GB
Storage: dual 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs
Display: 17.3-inch, 4K
Size: 15.7 x 11.8 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 6.7 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous, slim design+Great overall and gaming performance+Solid battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Runs a bit warm

Alienware continues to raise the bar of what a gaming laptop can and should be. The latest addition to the family is the X17, a beautiful bruiser of a desktop replacement that’s only 0.8-inches thick. The ultra-premium system comes with all the fixings including an Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU and dual SSDs. Need more? How’s a 17.3-inch, 4K display, powerful speakers and a Cherry MX keyboard sound?

From display brightness and vividness, to battery life, the X17 gave a stellar performance that put it on a par or transcended the competition. It's a prime example of what a gamer-centric desktop replacement should be. Alienware even brought back a fan favorite – the light up touchpad while tweaking the company's proprietary Cryo-Tech cooling solution. It a beautiful badass of a gaming laptop and if you have the budget, it should definitely sit at the top of your list. 

See our full Alienware X17 review

 

Best Laptops 2021: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (8th Gen)

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17. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (8th Gen)

The best business laptop with a killer keyboard

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5-10310U (vPro) CPU
GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Display: 14-inch, 1080p
Size: 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.4 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Slim, lightweight design+Bright, vibrant 1080p and 4K display options+Fast performance
Reasons to avoid
-Fingerprint magnet-Weak graphics

Lenovo made our favorite business laptop even better by improving its speakers, giving it a svelte carbon fiber texture and adding some useful security features, including a webcam shutter and IR camera. You even get far-field microphones in case you want to use a digital assistant. 

On top of that, you get strong performance and a fast SSD. That means if you're working on large spreadsheets with plenty of calculations, the X1 Carbon will handle them with aplomb. You can also expect long battery life (on the 1080p model) and two gorgeous, 1080p and 4K display options, all in an impossibly lightweight chassis. 

But it's those classic ThinkPad X1 features --- a durable (military tested) chassis, best-in-class keyboard and stylish black/red aesthetics --- that carry the X1 Carbon to greatness.

Read our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review.

 

Best Laptops 2021: Lenovo Chromebook Duet

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18. Lenovo Chromebook Duet

The best 2-in-1 Chromebook

Specifications
CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T
GPU: ARM G72 MP3
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB eMMC
Display: 10.1-inch, 1200p
Size: 9.6 x 6.7 x 0.7
Weight: 2 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Lasts long on a charge+Colorful display+Extremely affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Cramped keyboard-No headphone jack

At first glance, The Lenovo Chromebook Duet looks like an innocuous journal, but open it up, and it’s a small laptop with a colorful 10.1-inch display. But this device’s transformative capability isn’t its only alluring feature — the Lenovo Chromebook Duet lasted almost 13 hours on our battery test, which beats the 10-hour average runtime for Chromebooks. Price is another big selling point of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. For under $300, you can own a lightweight machine that can handle all your intensive web multitasking.

Everyone likes getting more for less. With the Chromebook Duet, you get the colorful display and solid performance. It’s so small, travelers can prop it up on the airplane tray table and get some light work done. Overall, we recommend the Duet for kids who want an attractive 2-in-1 for light gaming, YouTube, Netflix and web browsing. Best of all, it's hundreds of dollars cheaper than a similarly-specced Windows 10 laptop. It's a great starter system for kids and secondary device for more advanced users. 

Read our full Lenovo Chromebook Duet review.

 

Best Laptops 2021: Microsoft Surface 4 (15-inch, AMD)

(Image credit: Future)

19. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (15-inch, AMD)

This is the one to buy

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4980U
GPU: AMD Radeon
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 15-inch, 1504p
Size: 13.4 x 9.6 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 3.4 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Speedy performance+Long battery life+Great 15-inch display
Reasons to avoid
-Short on ports-No discrete graphics option-Bezels could be thinner

The Surface Laptop 4 proves, a few tweaks are sometimes all that's needed to refine a not-quite-there-yet product like its predecessor. Our biggest complaints with the previous model, the subpar speeds and endurance, were addressed with the new chips. With those major drawbacks resolved, the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4, with its sleek design, colorful display, and excellent keyboard and touchpad, finally shines. It should be on every shopper's shortlist as one of the best laptops on the market. 

The Surface Laptop 4 addresses the major flaws we found in the Surface Laptop 3 by delivering faster performance and longer battery life. With the right CPU, the Surface Laptop 4 has all of a sudden become a laptop with very few downsides. The sleek, sturdy design is as stylish as ever, the 15-inch panel is bright and vivid, and the keyboard and trackpad are darn-near class-leading. 

See our full Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (15-inch, AMD) review

Best Laptop 2021: Dell XPS 17 (2021)

(Image credit: Future)

20. Dell XPS 17 (2021)

The best 17-inch laptop for creative professionals

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060/Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: 32GB
Storage: 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD
Display: 17-inch, 1200/4K
Size: 14.7 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 5.3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Powerful overall and gaming performance+Sleek, attractive design+Excellent speakers
Reasons to avoid
-Display could be more vivid-Below-average battery life

Bigger is better, particularly when it comes to the Dell XPS 17. Since its reemergence onto the premium laptop market, the big brother of the XPS 15 and 13 has flexed its muscle at every turn, serving up big heaps of performance, a head-turning 17-inch display, and excellent audio. And it has done so without being any bigger or heavier than your average 15-inch laptop. 

Thanks to its 11th Gen Intel processor and 30-series Nvidia GPU, the premium system has more than enough power to keep even its fiercest competitors struggling to keep up. And it doesn’t hurt that the laptop has a large, bright display, a great pair of speakers, and a comfy keyboard. If you’re looking for the Cadillac of premium laptops, you’ll be hard-pressed to outdo the Dell XPS 17. 

See our full Dell XPS 17 (2021) review

Why trust Laptop Mag

Laptop Mag has been testing and reviewing laptops for over two decades. We test over 150 different models per year, subjecting each system to a series of rigorous benchmarks that provides a complete picture of performance, battery life and usability.

Our expert reviewers also use each product to see how it looks and feels in everyday situations. Because we see so many different notebooks, we can compare each to its direct competitors and give you an idea of how it stacks up to the average laptop in its price band.

How we test laptops

Laptop Mag has been testing and reviewing laptops for over two decades. We test over 150 different models per year, subjecting each system to a series of rigorous benchmarks that provides a complete picture of performance, battery life and usability.

Our expert reviewers also use each product to see how it looks and feels in everyday situations. Because we see so many different notebooks, we can compare each to its direct competitors and give you an idea of how it stacks up to the average laptop in its price band.

When we bring a laptop into our laboratory, our goal is to see how it would work if you brought it into your home or office. While we use a number of industry standard benchmarks such as Geekbench and 3DMark, we focus heavily on real-world tests that we have developed in-house.

To test endurance, the Laptop Mag Battery test surfs the web at 150 nits of brightness until the system runs out of juice. To judge pure processing power, we use a giant spreadsheet macro that matches 65,000 names with their addresses, a video transcoder that converts a 4K video to 1080p and the Geekbench 4 synthetic test. We measure graphics prowess with both 3DMark Ice Storm / Fire Strike and a series of actual game titles.

We use a colorimeter to measure screen brightness and color gamut while other instruments help us determine a laptop's key travel and ambient heat. See this page on How We Test Laptops for more details on our benchmarking procedures.

How to find the right laptop

When shopping for a laptop, there's a lot to consider. To help you choose a system, we've put our up-to-date list of favorite notebooks above, along with five points to keep in mind when choosing a system.

Budget: What you get for the money.

You can find good cheap Windows laptops and high-quality Chromebooks for under $500. However, better mainstream laptops usually cost more than $700 and premium Ultrabooks can run over $1,000. The best gaming laptops can cost $2.000 and up, but you can play the latest titles at decent frame rates on gaming laptops under $1,000.

Screen Size: 12 to 14 inches for Portability

Knowing a laptop's screen size tells you a lot about its portability overall. If you want to use your computer on your lap or carry it around a lot, go for one with a 12, 13 or 14-inch display. If you want to use the computer on tables and desks and won't carry it around much, a 15-inch model may give you more value. Some gaming rigs, media machines and workstations even have 17 or 18-inch screens, but those are hardest to carry.

2-in-1 or Clamshell?

More and more of today's laptops are 2-in-1s with screens that either bend back 360 degrees or detach so you can use them as tablets. If you like the idea of using your laptop in slate mode for drawing, media consumption or just using it standing up, a 2-in-1 could be for you. However, you can often get better features or a lower price by going with a traditional clamshell-style laptop.

Battery Life: 8+ Hours for Portability

Unless you only plan to use your laptop on your desk, battery life matters. Even within the home or office, having plenty of juice enables you to work on the couch or at the conference table, without being chained to the nearest outlet. For the best portability, we recommend getting a laptop that lasted over 8 hours on the Laptop Mag Battery Test. The longest-lasting laptops endure for over 10 hours.

Specs: 1080p / Core i5 / 8GB Are Best Bets

You can spend a lot of time delving into specs, but here are the key components to think about. If you just want really good mainstream performance, go for a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1080p screen.

  • Screen Resolution: Unfortunately, 66 percent of consumer laptops and 51 percent of business systems have low-res screens. If at all possible, get a display with a 1920 x 1080 (aka 1080p or full HD) or higher resolution.
  • CPU: An Intel Core i5 provides good mainstream performance. Some budget systems will come with Core i3, Celeron or Pentium CPUs which are good enough for basic tasks, but not heavy mutltiasking. Get a Core i7 or a quad core processor (serial number ends in HQ or HK) for gaming or high-end productivity tasks such as video editing and 3D modeling.
  • RAM: 8GB is ideal for most users. 4GB is acceptable for budget systems. Secondary laptops and Chromebooks may have less.
  • Storage: Unless you're a gamer or a power user, 256GB of internal storage is probably enough. If at all possible, get an SSD (Solid State Drive) rather than a hard drive, because it's going to make your entire computer a lot faster.
  • Graphics Chip: Gamers and creative professionals need to do some research and figure out which discrete GPU is good enough to run their favorite software. Everyone else will be happy with the built-in Intel HD Graphics that come on the CPU.
Sherri L. Smith
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.