Many people have switched from desktop computers to laptops, but there are many choices and specifics to consider when making the switch. Most users choose whether they want a machine running Windows or Apple’s macros. Many people find Apple machines easier to use, but Windows laptops offer more flexibility.
Your needs will largely determine what you need from a laptop. If you want to replace your desktop computer, you want more power in your device. If you travel frequently, you may want something that is light and easy to carry. However, you can always expand your laptop with accessories like secondary displays, keyboards, and external hard drives.
Our experts have reviewed dozens of laptops and compiled our favorites for productivity, gaming, and other important tasks.
Best Windows: Dell XPS 13 9310
Dell XPS laptops consistently beat the competition with sleek, flawless designs and components. The Dell XPS 9310 is no exception. It is available with up to 32GB of RAM (memory), 2TB of SSD storage, and has a 4K display with color accurate enough for photography. It is also made of aluminum and carbon fiber like its predecessor, the Dell XPS 7390, and features the latest Intel processors.
Like other XPS models, the 9310’s minimal design means there aren’t many ports, but there are still plenty for most users. The only minor drawback is that the fingerprint sensor can be a bit unreliable. Also, keep in mind that this laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, so it’s not ideal for graphics-intensive gaming or activities. However, it is fast and powerful enough for everyday use and is a versatile laptop.
Best ultraportable, Apple: Apple 13-inch MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
If you prefer a Mac over a PC, Apple’s latest MacBook Air 2020 is still an attractive device. In addition to agile performance, you will find an excellent keyboard for a thin and light laptop. Our reviewer saw up to 12 hours of performance before charging and states, “Apple made bold claims about battery life all day before launching the M1 MacBook Air and it really delivered. On the downside, the limited range of ports and poor webcam let it down a bit. While it could have used a few upgrades in addition to the brand new Apple M1 chip that debuted with this MacBook Air, overall it’s still a great option for Apple fans.
Best for students: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
Microsoft’s Surface laptops are as innovative as they are powerful, and Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 is a great choice, especially for students. It is versatile and focused on productivity with a 3: 2 aspect ratio. This larger display offers more space to read and write than the more common 16: 9 widescreen displays.
Surface Laptop 4 comes with a responsive keyboard and trackpad for increased productivity. It’s a bit weak in terms of connectivity (4G LTE mobile data isn’t available) and the display is insignificant, but it makes up for it with excellent battery life that should last a day in the classroom. Our reviewer found up to nine hours of battery life when performing tasks like web browsing and photo editing.
The Surface Laptop 4 also has a powerful processor and lots of RAM (computer memory), but no discrete graphics processing unit (GPU), which is great for a school and business laptop.
Best for power: Acer Predator
The Acer Predator Triton 300 SE looks sober, but it is very powerful. While it looks more like a business laptop, it’s made for gaming, powered by an 11th generation Core-i7 processor, 32GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, along with an NVidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card (or GPU). . On the negative side, the Triton 300 SE suffers from rather poor battery life compared to less powerful devices.
Our reviewer notes a few other minor issues, including poorly positioned ports that make cable management difficult and an above-average number of pre-installed apps (known as bloatware). However, the 14-inch screen and integrated speakers are top notch. All in all, you can’t ask for more power from a portable laptop like this.
Best for Gaming: Razor Blade 15 (2021)
Razer makes some of the best gaming laptops out there, and the Razor Blade 15 represents the best of their products. It features the latest graphics from NVidia, 10th generation Intel processors and has a 144Hz (hertz) display. This high refresh rate display and impressive hardware make the Blade 15 very powerful and suitable for gaming and creative activities.
The Razor Blade also has an RGB (red, green, and blue) backlit keyboard and better speakers than you’d expect. However, like other high-performance laptops, the Blade doesn’t have the best battery life and it’s also quite heavy, so it’s not the most portable of laptops. These are minor drawbacks, though, as the Razor Blade is definitely one of the best gaming laptops out there.
Best Ultraportable, Windows: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
Microsoft’s Surface Go laptop delivers fast performance for important productivity tasks in an ultra-portable package. It has a 3:2 aspect ratio screen that is ideal for typing. In our testing, we found the keyboard and trackpad to be excellent, and the trackpad is unmatched for devices of this size.
The downside is that this isn’t a very powerful laptop and tends to overheat if you try to add more features. Also, the camera isn’t great and your port selection is relatively limited. Nevertheless, you get a very thin and light machine with a battery life of no less than 13 hours.
Best Design: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 (2021 model)
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 is a marvel of looks and performance. Not only does it look impressive, but inside is the hardware to support the look with the power needed for high-end gaming or graphics-intensive productivity.
The 2560 x 1440 pixel display has a high refresh rate of 120 Hz, so you can take full advantage of Nvidia’s graphics card and the powerful AMD Ryzen processor. In addition, you get a whole terabyte of semiconductor memory, in which there is enough space for games and other software.
Unlike many other gaming laptops, the G14 has decent battery life and is small, light and therefore more portable than you might expect. The only major drawback we encountered while testing the G14 is that it doesn’t have a built-in webcam, which is a major drawback in a world where almost everyone communicates via Zoom.
Best Budget: Lenovo IdeaPad 1
The Lenovo IdeaPad 1 is one of the cheapest full-featured laptops you can buy, and while you’ll have to make more than a few sacrifices for the low price, that hasn’t stopped it from being one of the best laptops out there.
The IdeaPad 1 has just 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of solid-state disk storage, and an Intel Celeron N4020 processor. However, if you need a laptop to get your work done, and you don’t need it much other than word processing and web-based tasks, this one is perfectly adequate.
It comes with Windows 11 in S mode, which limits the features of the device. However, given the low power of the IdeaPad 1’s hardware, it may be desirable, and you can always disable S mode if it bothers you.
Best for professionals: HP Zbook
Professionals need tools they can rely on to get the job done, and the HP Zbook Firefly 15 G8 is one of the most reliable laptops money can buy. It’s also packed with powerful components to handle all but the most graphically demanding tasks. These features include 32 GB of RAM, an 11th generation Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia T500 graphics card.
The laptop has a bright and accurate 4K display and the latest and greatest connectivity options. Highlights include a SIM card slot so you can connect the Firefly to a 5G cellular network instead of relying on Wi-Fi networks. It’s a bit pricey and an SD card reader would have been a welcome addition, but overall, the Zbook Firefly 15 G8 is a professional laptop.
Overall, the Dell XPS 13 wins again as the best laptop. The balance of power, design and affordability combine to create a beautiful product. If you like Apple, the MacBook Air is the macOS equivalent of the XPS 13. The two are very evenly matched.