The laptop market has undergone significant changes in recent years, and there will now be more confusion in the notebook throughput than at any other time. Today’s models include everything from lightweight, true-to-life ultraportable devices that barely tilt the scale to less than 2 pounds of flying poisoners of 10 pounds or more. And choosing the Best laptops of 2021 among them is a bit difficult task.
Your standard laptop does not always look the same, with dozens of convertible designs that reconsider the standard clamshell to take benefits of touch interfaces. Some laptops are double as tablets, with hinges that fold and fold, while other touch-enabled PCs are slate tablets with hardware keyboards for notebook-style use. There is too much variation in the laptop space for one size or style to meet everyone’s needs.
Best Laptops of 2021
That is what this buying guide comes with. We will inform you about the latest designs and specifications, and analyze the current trends so that you can find out what functions you need and how to find the laptop you need.
Dell XPS 13
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 retains 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-generation 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, overall performance is top-notch as well. Battery life even surpasses Intel’s new Evo standards by two hours. If you’re looking for a laptop with equal parts beauty, power, and longevity, the Dell XPS 13 is the laptop for you.
Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1)
Welcome to the new era of Apple computing. Apple’s M1 custom SoC marks the first step in Apple’s deliberate decoupling from Intel. The ARM-based 5-nanometer chip has 16 billion transistors, the most the company has ever put in a chip. In addition to all those transistors, the SoC contains 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 you should consider.
The MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 delivers impressive performance and has the longest battery life we’ve ever seen on a Mac. And if that’s not enough, when paired with Big Sur you also get blazingly fast web page load times and a better webcam experience – all thanks to Apple Silicon. In short, the new MacBook Pro is everything Apple says it is and more.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is the closest thing to a flagship Windows laptop. This 2021 addition to the Surface Laptop line hides high-performance components in a slim chassis and comes with a clean Windows 10 installation that contains no bloatware.
If you’re looking for a premium Windows laptop that lets you work from anywhere, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is the right choice. It has a comfortable well-sized keyboard, satisfying keys, and a nice Alcantara deck option that gives your wrists a little more comfort than a typical all-metal laptop. Add to that its respectable battery life of over 10 hours and its high 3:2 screen ratio, which allows you to read and edit documents more comfortably, and you have a great notebook for getting things done on the go.
Apple MacBook Air M1
Talk about breathing new life into a laptop. The Midas among processors, everything Apple’s M1 SoC touches turns to gold. Thanks to the new engine, the MacBook Air has transformed from an underpowered laptop that just barely makes it to one of the fastest notebooks around – not just in its portable segment, but compared to all other models on the market. And with a battery life of more than 14 hours, you’ll easily get through a day, if not two, on one charge.
In addition to record performance, Apple is adding Silicon iOS and iPadOS apps to the Mac App Store. You also get better webcam quality, and macOS Big Sur is a beautiful new design of Apple’s desktop operating system. The new MacBook Air may have a few shortcomings, but it’s the closest thing to the perfect laptop Apple has ever made.
Acer Swift 3 (AMD)
When you want the best value for your money, the Acer Swift 3 proves that you can get great performance at a surprisingly low price. This laptop runs on the AMD Ryzen 7 4700U CPU and offers an exceptionally long battery life (11:09) in a lightweight design. It has more ports than some of the laptops listed above: a USB Type-C, HDMI, and a USB-A. In addition, you also get a fingerprint reader.
The keyboard provides a solid typing experience, with quiet, clicking keys. We only wish the screen was brighter and more colorful, and the speakers a little more powerful. But if you’re looking to get things done on a budget, it’s hard to argue with the AMD-based Acer Swift 3, which will give you plenty of reasons to ask for AMD-based versions when you look around.
Dell XPS 15
Like the latest Dell XPS 13, the Dell XPS 15 2020 makes one of the best laptops out there even better. That’s largely thanks to an even more immersive 15.6-inch InfinityEdge display, which leaves out the bottom bezel for a stunning 92.9% screen-to-shell ratio. The new XPS 15 is also made even better by a number of smart design tweaks, including larger keycaps and a responsive touchpad that’s more than 60% larger than the previous generation’s.
Don’t let the slim and stylish design fool you either: the Dell XPS 15 2020 is an absolute workhorse. The 10th generation Intel Core processors can handle multiple tasks with ease, and the optional Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU gives it serious power for graphics work and gaming. Add to that a pair of impressive speakers and a battery that lasts long for a 4K laptop, and the new XPS 15 is one of the best 15-inch laptops you can buy.
Lenovo Yoga 9i
The Lenovo Yoga 9i has stepped into a crowded field of 2-in-1s and comes at a competitive price. Not only does the Yoga 9i have the latest 11th generation Core i7 processor, a built-in stylus, and long battery life, but the screen is colorful enough and the convenient rotary speaker offers plenty of power.
And yes, the port selection may be a bit thin and the screen could be a bit brighter. But at $650 less than a comparable Dell XPS 2-in-1 and $430 less than an HP Spectre x360 with the same components, the Lenovo Yoga 9i is a serious contender for your investment. Talk about bang for your buck. Oh, and if you pay $600 more? Then you can get the Shadow Black edition, which ups the style, puts the fingerprint reader in a more convenient place, and has a glass palm rest that covers the entire deck.
Alienware m15 R4 (2021)
The Alienware m15 R4 is more than the best gaming laptop on the market, it is what other gaming laptops should aspire to be (for the most part). It has a ton of power for running all the games you’d want, even in full UHD 4K. Speaking of 4K, the screen is vibrant and gorgeous, so everything you play looks as good as it runs. The design is also impeccable, with a gorgeous white chassis (which is also pretty portable). And when it’s time to get productive, it has an excellent keyboard for a comfortable typing experience.
That’s not to say we wish there were some changes. In particular, the battery life is on the short side (which means you’ll be looking for an outlet). But that’s not really surprising, since gaming notebooks are not known for their endurance on their internal power supply. The fan can get pretty loud, and the price is on the high end of the spectrum. But for those who want to game, and do so with speed and style, this is the machine to check out.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano
When we hear about a laptop being incredibly thin and light, we worry about how long it will last on a single charge. That’s not the case here, as the 2-pound Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano lasted 12 hours during our battery test, rivaling some of the very best laptops currently on the market. And that’s pretty impressive when you consider that the 2.9-pound XPS 13 is almost a whole pound heavier.
Lenovo didn’t sacrifice performance or usability either. The Nano’s Intel 11th Gen Tiger Lake processors offer the speed you need for plenty of productivity – and the keyboard offers a smooth and comfortable typing experience that does credit to the ThinkPad brand. You may need to bring a USB-C hub, though, as the port count is a bit low.
HP Elite Dragonfly
The HP Elite Dragonfly is the rare laptop to come along and set a new standard for the entire category. The design of this 2-in-1 laptop is one of the most stunning we’ve ever seen on a laptop, with an incredibly thin bezel that’s just 0.6 inches thick and a deep blue paint job that looks refreshing, enchanting and stylish all at once. And while the Dragonfly is wonderfully light at 2.5 pounds, it also feels impressively sturdy, has an oleophobic coating to prevent fingerprints and uses recycled plastic from the ocean to help the environment.
In terms of performance and features, this beauty is a beast. The stunning 13.3-inch screen looks great for movies and TV shows and crushed our color and brightness tests. The 8th-gen Intel CPU handles everyday tasks with no problem, and the keyboard is one of the most pleasant we’ve ever typed on. And then there’s the incredibly epic battery life of over 12 hours, beating out favorites like the MacBook Air and XPS 13. The Dragonfly is on the expensive side with a starting price of $1,629, but those willing to pay a premium price will be rewarded with one of the best laptops on the market.
Asus ZenBook Duo 14
The Asus ZenBook Duo 14 is for anyone who wants a second screen, but not an external one. And it succeeds by placing a 12-inch touchscreen above the keyboard. This screen is great for your secondary windows, such as Spotify, Slack, Discord and more. It can also be used by creative apps from Adobe and others, which place touch controls on it.
In addition, performance is fast and competitive with the XPS 13, with which it competes in a head-to-head comparison. In addition, the battery lasts a long time, especially considering it has two screens to light up. The big drawback, however, is that without a wrist rest, the ZenBook Duo 14 is a bit ergonomically unfriendly. But if you have an external wrist rest, you should be fine.
Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
The Zephyrus G15 offers amazing performance from its AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU. It even boasts an equally long battery life, a click system keyboard, a 15.6-inch 1440p display and a set of powerful speakers, wrapped in an even more elegant Moonlight White design.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 (GA503Q) features some of the most powerful components you can get right now. Almost every component of this machine is surprisingly good and definitely worth the money you pay for it. Plus, it lasted 8 hours and 6 minutes in the Laptop Mag battery test, crushing the average of premium gaming laptops. Either way, the Zephyrus G15 is one of the few best gaming laptops you can buy with an RTX 3080 GPU.
HP Spectre x360 14
HP’s Spectre models have always stood out from uninspired competitors, but the new Spectre x360 14 is downright luxurious. The latest edition of HP’s premium 2-in-1 lineup combines a stunningly attractive chassis with gorgeous screen options, fast performance and long battery life. It stands out with a unique 3:2 aspect ratio and OLED panel option, a pair of features capable of enhancing work and play.
The Spectre x360 14 not only meets the basics but also comes with a USB-C rechargeable stylus and offers a decent selection of ports (including USB Type-A and microSD). Add to that a clicky keyboard and a large, silky-smooth touchpad, and the Spectre x360 14 is one of the most impressive laptops we’ve ever reviewed.
Dell XPS 17
Whoever said bigger is better must have referred to the Dell XPS 17. The laptop takes everything I liked about its smaller sisters and makes it bigger. But not really, because despite having a gorgeous 17-inch 4K screen, the XPS 17 is smaller than most 15-inch systems. And if that’s not impressive enough, the performance of its 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU should be. And let’s not forget the fast SSD, bumping noise, 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 your productivity/creativity/multimedia needs. All in a body that’s 48% smaller than most 15-inch laptops on the market. And despite the super-high display, our battery test lasted more than 9 hours. Consumers looking for a true MacBook Pro alternative will be hard-pressed to do better than with the Dell XPS 17.
The FAQ for Buying The Best Laptops
Laptops By Size: At the end of the spectrum on the small screen, laptops of 12 and 13 inches, or ultraportable devices (more below), are worth considering if you plan to bring your laptop. These models are small enough to weigh 3 pounds or less but are large enough to have a full keyboard and a decent-sized screen. The disadvantage is that port selection is usually minimal because of the limited amount of available space on side panels. These laptops offer generally simple needs, such as surfing the web or modest word processing, and they are an excellent choice for business travelers who regularly have to carry a laptop.
Laptops with 14- to 15.6-inch screens are the most popular because they hit the right place between portability and features that most users find desirable. Yes, they may weigh a few pounds more than their smaller screen brothers, but in exchange, you get easy to read on a larger screen, more space for different I/O ports, better internal components, and extra battery cells. On this screen size, you can weigh a maximum of 3 or 4 kilos, but that is still easy to carry in an office building or your home.
The most massive screens that are available are usually displayed in workstation-class and game laptops, but there are also a few options for replacing desktop computers. A 17-inch screen is big enough to share for presentations, or if you need the extra pixels to immerse yourself in your graphics projects or 3D games. The extra space in the chassis can be used for one or more graphics processors, desktop-class CPUs or multiple banks of hard drives and SSDs. The larger frame usually also means a more spacious keyboard. The weight is generally more than 6 kilos at this screen size and sometimes 10 pounds or more for game installations.
Display: Almost all offer screen resolutions of at least Full HD or 1,920 by 1,080 (often abbreviated as “Full-HD” or “1080p”). At the same time, an increasing number of functions are displayed with the resolution of 4K on a large screen (3,840 by 2,160 pixels). Between 4K and 1080p is a new resolution in panels of this size Quad-HD or 2,560 by 1,440 pixels; QHD appears in a few elite-level machines, such as specific high-end configurations of the Alienware 17. But 1080p is by far the most common resolution you will see. Also, know: touchscreens are rare in this size.
Portability: Walkthrough a laptop aisle, and you will notice that the selection of laptops has become dramatically thinner and slimmer in recent years. Each of these wafer-thin systems represents a new vision for ultra-portable computers: an uncompromising laptop that is so light that you forget it’s in your bag, with a durable battery that keeps you working even when no power outlet is available. Fast storage, including 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB solid-state drives (SSD), or more affordable, 32 GB to 64 GB slower eMMC flash, gives these ultraportables the ability to resume work in seconds after being inactive for days have been asleep.
The most important thing is that the whole category has generally been thinned out. Whether you look at super thin ultraportables, regular PCs, or even gambling machines, laptops of every taste are now thinner, lighter, and better suited for life on the road. The Best of these models will still cost you a hefty penny, especially if you’re looking for a business system that will not burden you when you’re traveling. Still, they offer remarkable performance and often have different quality features as well.
Processor: The most dominant processor chips come from Intel, which launched its eighth-generation Core (codenamed “Coffee Lake”) mobile processors in April. Made with ultraportable and hybrid designs in mind, these new CPUs (recognizable by model numbers in the 8000s as opposed to the 7000s and 6000s used in the previous generation “Kaby Lake” and “Skylake” parts) not only the battery life, they also have improved graphical processing.
The eighth-generation processors also have more cores than predecessors so that you will find a right quad-core CPU in your Core i5 laptop with more power than an older dual-core. Coffee Lake chips are now readily available in gaming, regular, and business laptops. However, another strain of eighth-generation chips based on a variant of the older Kaby Lake architecture called “Kaby Lake R” is still prevalent.
Build-Quality: As designs become tighter and slimmer, manufacturers use a range of materials in their construction. Plastic (or polycarbonate) is the least expensive and most used material in laptop frames, but manufacturers have shown great ingenuity in making plastic that does not look cheap. The most used technique is in-mold decoration or in-mold rolling, a process that has become popular by Acer, HP, and Toshiba, in which decorative patterns are applied between plastic layers. This process has evolved into etched prints and textures, often seen on laptop covers.
Ultimately, however, plastics are often associated with low-priced laptops, while higher models rely on metal. Common premium choices include aluminum, which has a more luxurious appearance and can be formed in a thinner chassis than plastic. Unibody construction, where the entire frame is made from a single piece of metal, has become the gold standard, as seen on Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro lines. Other all-metal designs mimic the same look-and-feel and link two separate layers together safely.
2-in-1: There are two types of 2-in-1. The first is the convertible hybrid, which transforms from a laptop to a tablet and back again by turning all the way around on the hinge of the screen. You can also stop at different positions along the way, if you want to leave the screen on the keyboard like a kiosk screen, or if you’re going to balance it on the edges, in tent-style, so that you can only use the touch screen in very little space. This design is best if you are interested in a tablet, but expect to need a proper keyboard with a specific frequency.
If the keyboard is less important, the second type, the detachable hybrid, is perhaps the better way to go. These are mainly tablets that you can pair with an accessory keyboard for laptop-like functionality. Some of these designs offer docking keyboards with secondary batteries that recharge all day, while others opt for Bluetooth keyboards, with the majority of a hinge disengaged and wirelessly connected.
Selecting “The Best laptop” is a bit different than choosing The Best smartphone or even a tablet. The need for buyers for their desired laptop can vary greatly. Some users have to perform video editing and have to pay for a professional and expensive laptop. Others only need a good keyboard trackpad and a few chrome tabs; then, a less powerful laptop will do for them. Some may want a super thin and lightweight laptop that can sometimes turn into a tablet. Our Best Laptops article contains the laptop for all types of users.
There may be many laptops that have many of those features, but if you’re looking for a notebook that touches enough of those points, the obvious choice is the right choice. Our article on The Best laptops will be renewed regularly when new laptops are released and reviewed, so make sure you look back every time you are looking for a new laptop.