When it comes to tech products, finding the best laptop for you can be one of the most difficult things. There are so many different use cases for a laptop, that many of the available options focus on specific features or types of users. But it’s not always clear
But that doesn’t mean that the best laptops don’t share some common features. And in general, you want to try and find a laptop that has these minimum features:
- An Intel Core i5 CPU (or an equivalent like the Ryzen 5 or Apple M1)
- 8GB of RAM
- 1080p display
- All-day battery life
When you balance all of these needs, there’s one product in particular that comes out on top. If you’re looking for the best laptop of 2021, the M1 MacBook Air is the clear winner.
While we love the new lightweight and lightning-fast M1 MacBook Air, everyone’s needs will differ. If you’re a creative, or someone who loves watching movies on their laptop, you’re probably going to want a 15-inch display and a bright display at QHD or 4K resolution. If you’re a professional, you will probably want a laptop that weighs less than three pounds. Gamers, meanwhile are going to want something with a dedicated GPU.
Whatever your needs may be, we’ve put together 10 of the best laptops that span different types of use cases and price points in hopes that you’ll find one that is just right for you. And if you don’t see what you’re looking for here, you can also take a look at our recommendations for the best small laptops, best affordable laptops, best gaming laptops and best laptops for college students.
Why Did We Pick the Apple M1 MacBook Air?
If you’ve read our articles about the best desktop computers, best smartphones or best tablets, you may have noticed a trend — Apple is leading the pack across virtually every category. We promise we’re not die-hard Apple loyalists. In fact, we would love to offer our readers more diversity at the top of our shopping guides. However, you really do gotta hand it to Apple — the company’s new generation of chips are an order of magnitude faster than anything that’s come before.
Until Intel or Ryzen catches up, and that could take some time, especially given the global shortage of semiconductor chip shortage, computer manufacturers like Dell, HP and Microsoft are simply living in Apple’s shadow. We named the M1 MacBook Air the best laptop of 2020, and so far in 2021, nothing else even comes close.
If you prefer PC to Apple, there are plenty of other laptops with excellent reviews and features, and we’ve included plenty of options below.
1. M1 MacBook Air
BEST LAPTOP OVERALL
With the introduction of the new M1 Macbook Air Apple changed the game yet again and created the best laptop around. Featuring Apple’s own M1 CPU, which is faster than almost every laptop CPU, the new MacBook Air keeps its signature slim and sleek profile all while adding a staggering 14 hours of battery life under real-world conditions. Despite the fact that it lacks a fan for cooling or a dedicated GPU, this laptop is more than capable for gaming and video editing (as long as you’re not a professional). Along with the excellent 13-inch retina display and best-in-class keyboard and trackpad, this laptop is also equally adept at handling your Microsoft Office and Netflix needs. It’s rare when a single device can address the needs of everyone, but the M1 MacBook Pro comes about as close as you can get…assuming you’re OK with using Mac OS instead of Windows.
2. Dell XPS 13
The 2020 update to the Dell XPS 13 took a great Windows laptop and made it even better. Not only is this a great small laptop, but it’s simply the best laptop if you’re looking for a Windows machine. Pairing an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 CPU with 8GB of RAM and a 4K display, this 13-inch laptop can handle just about anything short of gaming while still weighing less than 3 pounds and delivering 11 hours of battery life. So whether you’re a college student who needs a laptop that’s easy to tote around and can hold up for 4 years, or a road warrior who needs a laptop with a battery that won’t die after two hours, and won’t glitch out on you, the Dell XPS 13 is the best Windows laptop you can buy right now.
3. HP Envy x360 13 (2020)
When it comes to the best laptops around, there’s a lot to like about the HP Envy x360 13 aside from its Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 1080p IPS display . The x360 hinge allows you to effortlessly adjust the screen from laptop mode to tent mode. And if you so desire, you can even fold it all the way back and use it like a tablet. There’s also a surprisingly decent degree of connectivity, which includes two USB-A ports, a USB-C port and a microSD reader. Those who are conscious about privacy will also appreciate the physical shutter that you can use to cover up the webcam, which will come in handy when you’re trying to sneak a bite to eat during a zoom call.
4. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga
BEST LAPTOP FOR WORK
Tabbed as our favorite laptop of CES 2021, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga is one of the thinnest and lightest 13-inch laptops you’ll come across at 2.54 pounds and 0.43 inches thick. But it still provides the performance, security and overall usability Lenovo is known for. In short, it’s a road warrior’s dream.
The 11th-generation Intel Core i5 CPU and 8 GB of RAM can handle all the heavy lifting, whether that’s putting together a Powerpoint presentation or editing something in Photoshop. But this computer is about more than just raw performance. There are also Dolby Atmos speakers, four 360-degree mics and an HD camera to make video conferencing less of a struggle. But what we love most is the 13.5-inch QHD display, which comes in a spacious 3:2 aspect ratio, and the pressure-sensing trackpad, which requires no moving parts and allows the X1 Titanium Yoga to be thinner. If you’re looking for a business-capable device to handle your workload, this is easily the best laptop around.
5. Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2
BEST LAPTOP FOR YOUNG LEARNERS
Released on March 1st, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 promises big performance at an extremely affordable price. While its Intel Celeron CPU may not sound impressive, this is actually a lot of power for the Galaxy Chromebook 2 because Chrome OS requires less horsepower to run smoothly. And when you combine that with 4 GB of RAM, a 13-inch 4K display and a thin and light form factor, this is the perfect laptop for casual web browsing in your free time, or for kids who are still remote learning.
Read more: The Best Chromebooks Reviewed
6. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
GREAT FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
If you’re a student who has no interest in Apple products, then the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is your best bet for a college laptop. Weighing less than 2.8 pounds, the Surface Laptop 4 is lighter than the average textbook and can slip right into a bag with ease, and with all-day battery life, you don’t need to panic if you accidentally leave your charger at home. Along with an AMD Ryzen 5 CPU, 8GB RAM and sharp 13.5-inch display, this has all the performance you need for work and play for the next four years of your life. Best of all, it costs less than $1000.
7. Asus VivoBook S15
The Asus VivoBook S15 is an affordable laptop option with plenty of connectivity for all of your additional hard drives, thumb drives and SD cards. You’ll find two USB 2.0 ports, a microSD card reader, one USB 3.0, USB-C and an HDMI connection. It does omit Thunderbolt 3, but there’s still plenty of connectivity on this laptop compared to most new ones. The laptop tips the scales at four pounds, so you certainty compromise portability for connectivity. And for online learners, the HD Webcam and Harman Kardon audio will ensure that you see and hear everything clear as day.
8. Microsoft Surface Book 3
GREAT FOR CREATIVES
Microsoft Surface Book laptops have always been solid overall computing devices, and the long-awaited Surface Book 3 is no lightweight. This 15-inch laptop packs a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660i GPU to make multimedia tasks such as photo and video editing a breeze. Best of all, you can detach the tablet portion from the keyboard to make it easier for sketching directly on the screen. And you’ll definitely find yourself putting this feature to use, because Microsoft’s PixelSense display and stylus pen are among the best around for putting your ideas down directly on the screen.
9. Razer Blade 15 Advanced
BEST GAMING LAPTOP OVERALL
While we can appreciate the power of a gaming laptop, the aesthetic sensibilities of those laptops leaves little to be desired. And this is why we love the Razer Blade 15 Advanced. Despite the fact that its a cutting-edge machine with a robust 11th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, lustworthy NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 GPU and 240Hz QHD display, it looks nothing like a gaming laptop at all. Resembling a blacked-out MacBook Pro more than anything else, this design is understaded without being boring. And that’s not to say its completely without a few gamer flourishes: the RGB LED keyboard offers a hint that this thing is capable of running AAA games with ray tracing turned on.
10. Lenovo Legion 5
BEST BUDGET GAMING LAPTOP
Combining the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti GPU with the very underrated AMD Ryzen 7 CPU, the Lenovo Legion 5 gaming laptop is a wonderfully affordable option that can deliver 1080p gaming without issue. Along with a 15.6-inch FHD display this laptop also offers an impressive 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD, which are specs you typically see on more premium gaming laptops. Whether you need a second gaming device for those times you’re on the go, or you’re just looking to get your feet wet in the world of PC gaming, this is the best budget gaming laptop you can buy.