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Best laptops 2021

Best Laptops 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.

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 Laptops 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.   

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)

(Image credit: Future)

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 AMD 2020

(Image credit: Future)

3. Acer Swift 3 (2020, AMD Ryzen 7 4700U)

Amazing performance at a jaw-dropping price

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4700U
GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 14-inch, 1080p
Size: 12.7 x. 8.6 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.7 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Herculean performance+A beastly multitasker+Clicky keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Dim display

The AMD version of the Acer Swift 3 is really the little laptop that could. Armed with an AMD Ryzen 7 4700U processor and Radeon Graphics, the Swift 3 is taking on the likes of the MacBook Pro 13 and the XPS 13 with aplomb. And it's doing that for less than $700. And if you're curious, it smoked its Intel-powered counterpart as well. 

The laptop served up surprising power on our benchmarks including overall and graphics performance. Plus, it has staying power with over 11 hours of battery life. Plus, it's got premium good looks and a rather comfortable keyboard. The laptop does have one flaw however, it's display which isn't as bright as we would like. But for the price, it's a minor quibble for a sub-$700 laptop that can best some of the most premium laptops on the market. With a herculean processor that whizzes past all its competitors, the Acer Swift 3 certainly earned its spot on this list.

See our full Acer Swift 3 (2020, AMD Ryzen 7 4700U) review.

 

Best Laptops 2021: MacBook Pro

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4. MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

An excellent choice for power users

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i9
GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 5500M
RAM: 32GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 16-inch, 1920p
Size: 14.1 x 9.7 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 4.3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Radically improved Magic Keyboard+Immersive 16-inch display with slimmer bezels+Beastly performance
Reasons to avoid
-Display not 4K-No full-size USB port or SD card slot-Pricey

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is just your type if you’ve been waiting for Apple to make a better keyboard. The Magic Keyboard on this premium laptop ditches the Butterfly mechanism in favor of scissor switches, and the result is a much more comfortable typing experience. You also get a bright and sharp 16-inch display with slimmer bezels, powerful performance from an available Core i9 CPU and robust AMD Radeon 5300M or 5500M graphics. 

You can also configure the system with up to 64GB of RAM and 8TB of storage if you really want to splurge. The 11 hours of battery life is another plus on this laptop, dwarfing the runtimes of its competitors. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is pricey, and Apple still doesn’t include full-size USB ports, but overall this is the best laptop for creative pros.

See our full MacBook (16-inch, 2019) review.

Best Laptops 2021: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

5. 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

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

6. 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

(Image credit: Future)

7. Acer Chromebook Spin 713

The best Chromebook overall

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5-10210U
GPU: Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB SSD
Display: 13.5 inches, 1504p
Size: 11.8 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Bright, colorful touchscreen+Exceptional battery life+Speedy performance
Reasons to avoid
-Shallow keyboard isn’t for everyone-Lackluster webcam and speakers

For high school and college students who need an inexpensive, portable and durable laptop both on and off-campus, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 could be a downright godsend. If you’re looking for versatility in a Chromebook-flavored clamshell, look no further. Thanks to increased processing power, app store compatibility, and a variety of mindful partnerships the Chromebook Spin 713 is our top Chromebook pick.

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 review.

 

Best Laptops 2021: Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA

(Image credit: Future)

8. Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA

The best Intel Tiger Lake laptop

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB M.2 PCI 3.0 SSD
Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p
Size: 11.9 x 8 x 0.5 inches
Weight: 2.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Sleek, lightweight frame+Powerful overall and gaming performance+Excellent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Weak speakers-Display could be brighter-No headphone jack

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA straddles the line between business and premium. You get a system rocking the fetching good looks of the company’s top-tier laptops with some of the durability and security features of the ExpertBook, the company’s new business line. Plus, you get the added muscle of Intel’s new 11th Gen chips and all the features Intel’s Evo initiative brings, including over 13 hours of battery life. And you can even game in a pinch (just not at the highest settings).

The laptop handily surpassed its competitors on our rigorous benchmark tests, making it a great choice for work and play.  Plus, this is one of the few laptops with a good integrated webcam thanks to a new camera module and Asus' camera algorithm.

See our full Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA review

Best Laptops 2021: HP Envy 13 (2021)

(Image credit: Future)

9. 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: Lenovo ThinkBook 14s Yoga

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10. Lenovo ThinkBook 14s Yoga

The best laptop for business under $1,000

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe graphics
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 14-inches, 1080p
Size: 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3.3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Robust build quality+Smart Pen included+Reasonably priced
Reasons to avoid
-Quiet speakers-Fingerprint-attracting chassis

The Lenovo ThinkBook 14s Yoga dares to be different — it wants to stand out from all the other sub-$1,000 business convertibles on the market. It's a 2-in-1 that’s ideal for business users who hate scrambling for pens that never seem to be within reach. They can simply whip out the included Smart Pen and jot down notes without missing a beat. And it can outlast the typical workday with a time of 9 hours and 55 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test.

True, a few concessions were made in the interest of pricing, such as rocking a just an OK keyboard. But the business notebook still delivers solid performance and gives great views thanks to a bright, vivid 1080p display. Overall, if you don’t want to spend a penny more than $1,000 — and you want an impressive 14-inch business-oriented convertible with an included Smart Pen — you can’t go wrong with the ThinkBook 14s Yoga.

Read our full Lenovo ThinkBook 14s Yoga 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 (2020) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

13. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

The best 15-inch laptop money can buy

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-10750H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q/Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: 32GB
Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 4K
Size: 13.6 x 9.1 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 4.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Attractive premium chassis+Great overall and graphics performance+Good battery life for a 4K laptop
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Runs a bit hot

The Dell XPS 15 continues to sit atop the throne by instituting small tweaks that amount to big changes. The company managed to make the laptop 5.5% smaller than the previous model while making the keys and touchpad significantly larger. And while that might seem minor, the four-border InfinityEdge bezel has made possible one of the highest resolution displays on the market. 

And while physical changes are great, this top-rated laptop's interior is just as exciting. Armed with a 10th Gen processor and discrete Nvidia GeForce GPU, the Dell XPS 15 is a serious force to be reckoned. It's also got a speedy SSD and excellent audio thanks to its powerful quad speakers. Plus, it lasted over 8 hours on our battery test, which is good for a 4K laptop. 

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. 

Read our full Dell XPS 15 (2020) 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 Laptops 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

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.

Best Laptops 2021: Alienware m17 R4

(Image credit: Future)

16. Alienware m17 R4

A refresh brings powerful new goodies

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
RAM: 32GB
Storage: dual 1TB PCI m.2 SSDs
Display: 17.3-inch, 1080p
Size: 15.7 x 11.6 x 0.7~0.9 inches
Weight: 6.6 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Excellent graphics and overall performance+Comfortable customizable keyboard+Bright, vivid display with super-high refresh rate
Reasons to avoid
-Poor battery life-Expensive

The Alienware m17 R4 is giving me all the power I can handle. The Nvidia’s new RTX 3080 GPU with its ridiculous 16GB of VRAM tore through every game I threw at it. And the 10th Intel Core i9 processor made light work of my multitasking loads. And a straight-up chef’s kiss to the display’s 360Hz refresh rate that’s so smooth it’s making babies’ butts everywhere jealous. 

Nvidia’s RTX 3080 GPU is the new king of mobile graphics. And with it comes a whole host of new improvements, including Ray Tracing 2.0 and Advanced Optimus. Alienware’s also improved its Cryo-Tech cooling solution and is one of the first gaming laptops to feature a display with a 360Hz refresh rate. Throw in some updated ports and that overclockable Intel Core i9 and you’ve got a formidable beast of a laptop. 

See our full Alienware m17 R4 review.

 

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

(Image credit: Future)

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

(Image credit: Future)

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 Laptops 2021: Dell XPS 17

(Image credit: Future)

20. Dell XPS 17

The best 17-inch laptop for creative professionals

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU
RAM: 32GB
Storage: 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD
Display: 17-inch, 1200/4K
Size: 14.7 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 5.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Attractive, compact chassis+Powerful overall and graphics performance+Great battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Lacks legacy ports

Whoever said bigger is better must have been referring to the Dell XPS 17. The laptop takes everything I loved about its smaller sisters and supersizes it –– but not really, because despite wielding a magnificent 17-inch, 4K panel, the XPS 17 is smaller than most 15-inch systems. And if that isn’t impressive enough, the performance of its 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU should be. And let’s not forget the speedy SSD, bumping sound, and highly efficient thermal system. 

If you’re looking for a true competitor to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, look no further. The $3,049 Dell XPS 17 can handle all of your productivity/creativity/multimedia needs. And it's all in a chassis that’s 48% smaller than most 15-inch laptops on the market. And despite its super high-res display, it lasted over 9 hours on our battery test. Consumers looking for a true MacBook Pro alternative will be hard-pressed to do better than the Dell XPS 17.

See our full Dell XPS 17 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.