Best laptop 2022: 15 laptops for every use case and budget

Best Laptops 2022: Dell XPS 13 OLED (2021)
(Image credit: Future)

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.

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 2022 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.

The Dell XPS 13 is currently our top overall pick for best laptop of 2022. For our Apple aficionados, the new must-have is the latest MacBook Air now with the company's new M2 processor or if you're a power user or content creator, the MacBook Pro 13 can stand up to your workload. Looking for something more affordable? The Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 2-in-1 delivers an OLED display and over 13 hours of battery life for under $500.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost here and to help you get maximum savings, check out our Black Friday laptop deals page as well as our Black Friday live blog for up-to-the-minute discounts. 

Spotlight: Best Black Friday laptop deal

Dell XPS 13: $1,349 (opens in new tab)

Dell XPS 13: $1,349 $999 @ Dell (opens in new tab)
Now $350 off, one of the best laptops around is now under $1,000. Boasting a 12th Gen Intel Core i7-1250U processor, 16GB of DDR5 RAM, 512GB SSD, and a bright 13.4-inch FHD+ (1920 x 1200) display, this 13-inch stunner makes for an incredible portable companion for workers and students. 

The best laptops you can buy today

Dell XPS 13 open on an outdoor table with the back of the lid and the glinting silver Dell logo facing the camera (Image credit: Future)
The best overall laptop you can buy

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i7-1185G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD
Display: 13.4-inch, 2160
Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.8 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Breathtaking 3.5K OLED display
+
Striking, ultra-thin design
+
Fast performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life takes a hit with OLED
-
Limited port selection
-
No webcam shutter

The Dell XPS 13 OLED is what happens when the best laptop meets the latest display technology. Combining the two creates something close to magic —  an ultra-portable device capable of running most tasks while providing a cinema-like viewing experience. Everything we love about the other XPS configurations remains, including the fast performance, striking design, and top-rate touchpad. 

The latest XPS 13 model debuts a gorgeous OLED panel that provides rich picture quality for when you're streaming movies at home or editing videos for work. Is it worth the tradeoff to battery life? If you need a high-res display, then yes. The 3.5K OLED display outlasted the 4K IPS config in our battery test and is capable of producing a wider range of colors. Equipped with an Intel Core i7-1185G7 CPU with 16GB of RAM, the XPS 13 is small but mighty.

Overall, the XPS 13 OLED brings an excellent display upgrade to what was already our favorite laptop, and it does so without too many sacrifices. 

See our full Dell XPS 13 OLED (2021) review.

 

Best Laptops 2022: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2020)

13-inch MacBook Pro M2 at an angle on a desk with the display facing the camera (Image credit: Future)
The best MacBook on the market

Specifications

CPU: Apple M2
GPU: Apple M2 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

+
Excellent battery life
+
Elegant redesign
+
Good performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Stagnant design
-
Not enough ports

The next chapter in Apple computing continues and the company's bet on custom silicon continues to hit the jackpot. M2 is 18% more powerful than its ancestor with an 8-core CPU. M2 is also bringing a new 10-core GPU that's 35% faster than the previous model. And yes, M2 definitely continues its Windows PC. And if that isn't enough to get you excited, Apple has found a way to improve on the laptop's power efficiency, delivering over 18 hours of battery life.

It delivers impressive performance and has the longest battery life I’ve seen on a Mac. If that’s not enough, paired with Ventura, 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, M2, 2022) review.

Acer Swift 5 2022

Acer Swift 5 2022 laptop open on a bench with an explosion displayed on screen (Image credit: Future)
Best Acer laptop

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i7-1260P
GPU: Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 14-inch, 2560 x 1600
Size: 12.2 x 8.4 x 0.59 inches
Weight: 2.65 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Rival-beating performance
+
Zippy video transcoding
+
Fast file transfer rates
+
Ultra-fast SSD

Reasons to avoid

-
Speakers could be louder

The Acer Swift 5 blew us away this year. So much so, it earned a 4.5-out-of-5 score and an Editor's Choice badge due to its lightning-fast performance. It beat many of its rivals on our testing, it has a zippy SSD, rapid video-transcoding rates, and rapid file-transfer rates. To sum it all up, the Swift 5 is as fast as Roadrunner with its Intel Core i7-1260P CPU.

Its battery life is also impressing, surpassing 11 hours during our in-house testing. If you're looking for a super fast laptop that's no pricier than $1,500, the Swift 5 is your guy. Lagging, slowdowns, and waiting will be a thing of the past. One minor quibble we have is its quiet speakers, but other than that, the Swift 5 is definitely one of the best laptops of the year.

See our full Acer Swift 5 review.

 

MacBook Air M2 review

MacBook Air M2 on a glass outdoor table with the lid and Apple logo facing the camera (Image credit: Future)
Our favorite Apple laptop

Specifications

CPU: Apple M2
GPU: Apple M2 GPU
RAM: 8 GB
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 13-inch, 1664p
Size: 12 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 2.7 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Elegant redesign
+
Good performance
+
Excellent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Only two ports
-
SSD somewhat slower than M1 Air

The latest chapter in the MacBook Air’s saga is compelling to say the least. The laptop eschews the wedge design of old for a look that puts it squarely in MacBook Pro territory. But staying true to its name, the Air is 20% smaller than its predecessor in terms of volume. You even get some snazzy new colors to choose from this time around. Apple’s also added a few other new goodies such as a 1080p webcam, a new speaker setup and a bigger display. 

But the real star of the show is the Apple’s M2 chip, which offers great performance for an ultraportable laptop. It’s faster and more powerful than the previous model and is ideal for anyone looking for a super-light workhorse. Plus, it lasted over 14 hours on our battery test and has fast charging. It’s a tantalizing mix of portability and performance that makes it perfect for work and play.

See our full MacBook Air M2 review.

Best Laptops 2022: HP Envy 13 (2021)

HP Envy 13 (2021) open on an outdoor wooden table at an angle with the display facing the camera (Image credit: Future)
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 2022: Microsoft Surface 4 (15-inch, AMD)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 slightly open on an outdoor table with the angled lid and Windows logo facing the camera (Image credit: Future)
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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

Yes, the Surface Laptop 5 is available now, but Microsoft took a few steps back with its latest update, so for most users we are still recommending the Surface Laptop 4. The 15-inch Surface Laptop 4, with its sleek design, colorful display, and excellent keyboard and touchpad remain a shining star in Microsoft's lineup. It should be on every shopper's shortlist as one of the best laptops on the market. 

The Surface Laptop 4 addressed 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 is 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. 

If you are tempted by that higher number, here's a closer look at why we recommend the Surface Laptop 4 over the Surface Laptop 5.

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

Best laptops: Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360

Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 open on a table with the S Pen resting on the touchpad and the display facing the camera (Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)
Best 2-in-1 laptop

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i7-1260P
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB
Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p, AMOLED
Size : 14 x 9 x 0.46 inches
Weight: 3.1 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning, portable design
+
Impressive performance
+
Vivid, bright Super AMOLED screen
+
S Pen included

Reasons to avoid

-
No S Pen silo

The Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 is the best 2-in-1 laptop you can get. When we reviewed the Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360, shocked by its approximate 12-hour runtime and amazingly thin-and-light form factor. On top of that, for those who love watching Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max (or any other streaming app) on their laptops, they'll appreciate the Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360's colorful, bright and vivid display.

As a cherry on top, you don't have to buy a stylus separately. It comes with the beloved S Pen, so you can sketch, draw and take notes to your heart's desire. 

See our full Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 review.

Best laptops: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon gen 9

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 open on an outdoor table with the display facing the camera (Image credit: Phillip Tracy/Laptop Mag)
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The best business laptop

Specifications

CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core i5/Core i7
GPU: Iris Xe
RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB SSD
Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1200-pixel 16:10
Size: 12.4 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.5 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Slim, lightweight design
+
Good 14-inch, 16:10 FHD+ display
+
Class-leading keyboard
+
Great quad speakers
+
Epic battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor 720p webcam
-
No card slot

Lenovo's 9th Gen edition of its flagship business laptop delivers fast performance from 11th Gen Intel CPUs, you get longer battery life (15 hours!), powerful quad speakers, a new 14-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, and plenty of ports, all in an impossibly lightweight chassis (2.5 pounds). 

But it's still those classic ThinkPad features —  a durable design (with MIL-STD-810G strength), best-in-class keyboard and stealthy black/red aesthetics — that carry the X1 Carbon to greatness.

Yes, we wish the ThinkPad X1 Carbon had a better webcam and hadn't ditched the SD card reader in the previous. Also, top configurations can get very expensive; still, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better business laptop.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 (Gen 9) review.

Best Laptops 2022: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6) in tent mode on an outdoor wooden table with the display facing the camera (Image credit: Future)
The best business 2-in-1 laptop

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.

Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED

Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED open on a glass table showing off the folding display (Image credit: Future)
The best dual-screen laptop

Specifications

CPU: ntel Core i7-1250U
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM : 16GB
Storage: 1TB PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe M.2 SSD
Display: 17.3-inch, 1920
Size : 14.9 x 11.3 x 0.3~0.5 inches, 11.3 x 7.5 x 0.7~1.4 inches (folded)
Weight: 3.3 pounds, 4 pounds (ErgoSense keyboard)

Reasons to buy

+
Smart, versatile design
+
Beautiful OLED display
+
Solid performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Below-average battery life
-
Only two Thunderbolt ports
-
Expensive

After years of teasing, the world’s first foldable 17.3-inch laptop is here and there is plenty to like. The Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is a multi-pronged solution to work and play thanks to Asus’ proprietary hinge and a foldable OLED display created by both Asus and Intel. Speaking of Intel, the Core i7 U-series processor is no slouch, delivering a surprising amount of power for a chip that’s known for its focus on power efficiency.  

It’s an elegant conversation starter, drawing all the oohs and ahhs as it transforms from a ginormous tablet to a dainty laptop. But most importantly, it’s easy to use. Like a lump of clay, you can bend and shape the Fold into whatever you need it to be for work or play. Need to bang out a paper? Try Laptop or Desktop Mode. Want to watch movies? Bask in the OLED goodness in tablet mode. Gotta multitask? Try Extended mode or connect a monitor, smartphone or tablet. Hell, you can even use it to curl up with a book. 

See our full Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED review.

Best Laptops 2021: Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 on a kitchen counter with the white lid facing the camera (Image credit: Future)
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 Laptop 2022: Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon open on the corner of a table with the display facing the camera (Image credit: Future)
Best AMD laptop

Specifications

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800U
GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB
Display: 14 inches, 1800p
Size : 12.3 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.4 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Bright, colorful display
+
Comfortable keyboard
+
Strong performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Below-average battery life

If you’re looking for a great all-around laptop that’ll get you through the day, the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon may be the notebook for you. It features powerful performance combined with a gorgeous 14-inch OLED display, Dolby Atmos speakers and a comfortable keyboard. Between the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon’s performance and gorgeous display, it’s hard to say no to this machine.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon’s 14-inch, 2800 x 1800 OLED display is not only gorgeous, but it’s also super smooth thanks to its 90Hz refresh rate. The laptop has a comfy and punchy keyboard and great speakers. Even better, it dominated on our overall benchmark tests. It has a respectable battery life and is a great sub-$1,500 laptop. 

See our full Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon review.

Best Laptops: HP Spectre x360 13.5-inch (2022)

HP Spectre x360 13.5-inch in tent mode on the edge of a table with the display facing the camera (Image credit: Future)
Best 14-inch laptop

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i7-1255U
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 13.5-inch, 2000p
Size: 11.7 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning 3:2 aspect ratio OLED touch screen
+
Excellent performance
+
All-day battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey
-
Lack of discrete GPU option

The latest edition of the HP Spectre x360 13.5-inch easily earns our Editors' Choice badge due to it being in the upper eschelons of the premium 2-in-1 laptops to beat. Its elegant, sturdy design, boasting a fine chrome diamond cut look, belongs on a runway. 

The laptop features solid performance thanks to its strong 12th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, and while it may not dish out the fastest processing speeds we’ve tested, it still delivers superb document-pushing power. Even better, its dazzling OLED touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio is wonderful to devour video content on. It's a slam dunk for on-the-go power users that require 2-in-1 flexibility, longevity and power.

See our full HP Spectre x360 13.5-inch (2022) review.

Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook

Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook open on a coffee table with keyboard attached and the display facing the camera (Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)
The best Chromebook overall

Specifications

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB eMMC
Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p
Size: 12 x 7.4 x 0.28 inches
Weight: 2.24 pounds (with keyboard/case); 1.5 pounds (tablet only)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent battery life
+
Detachable 2-in-1 design
+
Bright, vivid OLED display

Reasons to avoid

-
Stylus not included
-
Weak performance for the price

The Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook is a significant departure from last year’s affordable Chromebook Duet. It still features a fabric rear case and keyboard cover like the previous model, but open it up and the 13.3-inch OLED display will make you check that sub-$500 price again. The changes run deeper than that with a dramatically improved Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 processor, while also delivering over 13 hours on a single charge.

While you can see the DNA of the Chromebook Duet in the Duet 5, it’s an astounding transformation, more reminiscent of a Pokemon evolution than a natural generational upgrade. The larger display also allows for a full-size keyboard, which is a night and day difference from the original Chromebook Duet’s Lilliputian keys. From the vivid OLED display to the over 13 hours of battery life, you won’t find a Windows 11 laptop that comes close for under $500. 

As long as you are willing to live the Chrome OS life, and aren’t trying to run Linux on it, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 belongs on the shortlist for anyone in the market for a 2-in-1 Chromebook.

See our full Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook review

 

Best Laptops 2022: Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio open at an angle on a desk with the keyboard covered showing the display and large touchpad (Image credit: Future)
The best 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

Why trust Laptop Mag

Why you can trust Laptop Mag Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Laptop Mag has been testing and reviewing laptops for three 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 three 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 $1,500 as well as the best 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. If you're a content creator, you'll want to look into at least a 2.5K resolution panel. And if you're a gamer, definitely pay attention to the refresh and response rate. We recommend 144Hz and 3-millisecond, respectively. 
  • 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. AMD is enjoying a renaissance with its Ryzen line of processors. Ryzen 7 is the middle-of-the-road chip that will bring mainstream performance while Ryzen 5 and 9 cover your entry level and power user needs. And of course we can't forget Apple with its M-series chips based on ARM architecture that  has taken the industry by storm.
  • 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
Editor in Chief

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.