Welcome to our pick of the best laptops 2021 has to offer. Throughout this year, we've seen some brilliant new laptops from brands such as Apple, Dell and HP, and on this page, we've gathered together the absolute cream of the crop.
You won't just find the most powerful (and expensive) laptops in this list, either. We've also got amazing budget laptops, top Chromebooks and brilliant gaming laptops as well, covering all kinds of budgets.
In our view, the best laptop overall remains the MacBook Air (M1, 2020). This is a powerful and stylish thin and light laptop from Apple, and it offers great value for money as well.
However, if you want a more affordable device, then the Acer Swift 3 is our choice for the best budget laptop you can buy right now, offering a perfect balance of affordability and performance. If that doesn't take your fancy then we have a rundown of the best cheap laptop deals to help you pick a device that won't hurt your wallet.
All the laptops in this list have been thoroughly reviewed by us, and only the best are included here. Along with our built-in price comparison tool, you can buy in confidence knowing you've got the best deal for the best laptop for you.
In addition, you might also want to check out the best 15-inch laptop.
How to pick the best laptop for you
So, what makes a laptop worth buying? First, it needs to offer excellent value for money. That means budget laptops below the $400/£400 price point need to still offer good performance and build quality.
Meanwhile, ultra-expensive devices need to justify their high price tags with best-in-class performance, premium build quality and lengthy battery lives.
If you want something to work on, a laptop with a modern processor, at least 8GB of RAM and a large screen (and comfortable keyboard) are worth considering.
For gaming, you'll want a gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card and fast and responsive screen.
Check out our guide on what you should look for when buying a new laptop at the end of this page for more in-depth advice on buying a laptop.
Best laptops 2021
The new Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) isn't just the best laptop Apple has ever made, it's the best laptop money can buy right now. This is the first time a MacBook has topped our list, but the MacBook Air is worthy of this spot. Thanks to the revolutionary ARM-based Apple M1 chip that powers the new MacBook Air (Apple has ditched Intel for these new laptops), this is a stunning achievement: a thin and light laptop that offers great performance, even with 4K video editing, while also offering incredible battery life.
Design: On the outside it's the classic MacBook Air design, sleek and handsome with few changes from previous models. You could actually argue that this design looks a bit dated at this point, with thicker bezels than PC rivals such as the Dell XPS 13. But it still looks good, and on the inside it's revolutionary.
Performance: The new MacBook Air is seriously fast. In our extensive tests it booted up extremely quickly and in use feels as fast and responsive as any other laptop out there. The keyboard feels wonderful and the laptop runs silent even when under load.
Battery life: Apple's M1 chip is more power efficient than Intel equivalents which means battery life is best-ever for a MacBook Air. Apple claims up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing, and though in our tests it scored a bit below that at 11 hours 1 minute, that still puts it up there with the best in class.
Screen: The 13.3-inch Retina True Tone display has a super sharp resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 and is very similar to previous MacBook Air models, with one exciting new feature. Support for the P3 wide color gamut means it can display more color accurate true to life images, making it even more great for photographers and video editors.
Verdict: The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is easily the most exciting Apple laptop of recent years. Its M1 chip is a real game-changer, and the ability to run both legacy apps, M1-optimized apps and iOS apps is very impressive. Right now, we'd recommend this over any other laptop.
Read the full review: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
While Apple blew us away with the new MacBook Air (above), arch rival Microsoft has also impressed us with its new Surface Laptop 4, and for us right now it's the best Windows laptop you can buy. As with previous Surface devices, build quality and design is absolutely top-notch here, and its gorgeous PixelSense touchscreen really sets it apart from the competition.
Design: The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 4 is absolutely gorgeous, thin and super lightweight with a sleek aluminum skin. There are four color options available too, and we have a special place in our hearts for the keyboard on this laptop. It's so comfortable and wonderful to use, we think you'll love it.
Performance: Available in many configurations, this laptop is a top performer. Seemingly nothing can slow it down in normal use, even if you're the type of person that ends up with 100 Chrome tabs open before lunchtime.
Battery life: We managed to get 13 hours out of the Surface 4 laptop, a full two hours more than the MacBook Air (above) and the Dell XPS 13 (below). That puts it right at the very top of the class.
Screen: The 13-inch Surface Pro 4's PixelSense display has a resolution of 1,256 x 1,504 which means it's super sharp and it's also a touchscreen. That will make it perfect if you want to run Android apps inside Windows 11, for example. We really wish Apple would add a touchscreen to the MacBook Air.
Verdict: With probably the best keyboard of any laptop out there, amazingly thin good looks and incredible performance and battery life, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is the best PC laptop money can buy.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 review
The brand-new MacBook Pro 14-inch is easily the best productivity laptop you can buy in 2021. For creative professionals such as photographers, video editors and music producers, the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is a dream to use, thanks to a choice between powerful new M1 Pro or M1 Max chips that can handle even the most intensive workloads with ease.
Design: The MacBook Pro has had a major much-needed redesign, now starting with a 14.2-inch screen, and also available as a 16-inch. Slimmer bezels give a more modern look, it's remarkably slim and light given the size of the screen and power inside.
Performance: Available with the new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors, whichever one you choose is blisteringly fast with equally impressive graphical performance. It's the most powerful MacBook Pro ever.
Battery life: In our tests, the MacBook Pro lasted an incredible 15 hours while playing video with 50% screen brightness. That's guaranteed all-day battery life right there. What's more, the battery can also be charged from flat to 50% in just 30 minutes.
Screen: The MacBook Pro's Liquid Retina XDR display with mini-LED technology is absolutely stunning, and for our money the best screen you can get on a laptop right now. A 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, P3 wide color gamut support and 120Hz refresh rate just three of the most impressive features.
Verdict: The MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is the best laptop for creative professionals you can buy right now. It offers amazing performance, even on battery, and comes with the best screen you’ll find on a laptop anywhere. For day-to-day use, this won’t be the laptop for you, but for video editors, programmers, music producers and photographers, you won’t get a better laptop.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)
Now coming with 11th-generation Intel Core processors, which offer a decent performance boost, and feature better integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, the HP Spectre x360 (2021) is better than ever. It still features the usual impeccable 2-in-1 design - which means the screen can flip round to work like a tablet The pristine gem-cut chassis that this laptop is known for make it one of the best looking 2-in-1 laptops ever made, and when it comes to build quality, it's rivalled only by the excellent MacBook Air (M1, 2020).
Design: Available in several color combinations, the premium brushed-metal design of the x360 is absolutely awesome. It's slim and light and feels premium right down to the hinge on the reversible screen.
Performance: With the latest Intel processor, this laptop is super fast and feels similar in use to the Surface Laptop 4 above.
Battery life: Lasting 13 hours in our battery test, the x360 is as good as it gets from an ultrabook this slim.
Screen: The 13-inch touchscreen, which can spin round and flip over, is bright and vibrant. It's extremely stylish and looks suitable expensive on the desk in front of you. The touch functionality works really nicely.
Verdict: The HP Spectre x360 (2021) presents a brilliant update on an already excellent laptop, bringing the latest Intel hardware to a stunningly designed 2-in-1 device. It can get a bit loud, and it's expensive – but it looks beautiful, and offers brilliant battery life as well.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 (2021)
At this point, we doubt that the Dell XPS line can do anything wrong. Its yearly updates have consistently made it into our best laptops list, and they’re only getting better. The Dell XPS 13 (2020) is not only a gorgeous laptop, it also comes, as expected with excellent performance, a stunning display and long battery life, alongside a few others.
Design: Carved from solid aluminum, the Dell XPS 13 is an absolutely stunning laptop. It's super thin and light and is right up there with the best Windows laptops ever made.
Performance: With the latest Intel innards, the XPS 13 is very quick. It comes in several configurations, so you can save weight and money by optiing for Core i5 rather than i7 if you choose. But either way, it's powerful enough to handle pretty much any non-professional task with ease.
Battery life: Lasting just over 11 hours in our test, the battery on the XPS 13 is excellent, though is beaten out slightly by the options above it on this list.
Screen: This laptop has a 91.5% screen-to-body ratio, which means the screen has almost no surrounding bezel at all. Dell has always been a leader in this regard and this latest version's screen is the best it's ever been.
Verdict: The Dell XPS 13 (2020) with Intel Evo is a gorgeous little machine that offers excellent performance, battery life, and more. It comes at the expense of ports, sound quality, and price, but none of these are enough for us to not highly recommend this laptop to anyone in the market for an ultrabook.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 (2020)
This luxurious thin and light gaming laptop from Razer just oozes class, and is an ideal laptop for people who want a gaming device they can take around with them. It's solidly built, so you won't worry about it getting damaged during your travels, and it's one of the nicest looking modern gaming laptops we've seen.
Design: The al-black aluminum chassis make this laptop look really cool, and its sleek design belies the power within.
Performance: the Razer Blade 14 comes with cutting edge components as well, including the awesome AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and up to an RTX 3080 graphics card. This means you'll be able to play any AAA game you want in all its glory. It's by far the best gaming laptop you can buy in in 2021, but it does cost a lot of money.
Battery life: In our video playback test, the Razer Blade 14 lasted 6 hours 31 minutes. That's nowhere near as long as the productivity laptops above, but for an ultra portable gaming laptops it's pretty good. And for gaming you'll want to be plugged in anyway.
Screen: The refresh rate on the 1440p screen is a whopping 165Hz which means simply using Windows is a joy on this laptop. But also means that the RTX 3080 inside can be pushed as hard as possible.
Verdict: The Razer Blade 14 will be the go-to gaming laptop for anyone who wants a luxury gaming laptop. It’s powerful enough to play any games out there, while being beautiful enough to show off wherever you go.
Read the full review: Razer Blade 14
If you need a laptop with a large screen, this one is for you. The new LG Gram 17 features an incredibly light design, and comes with some of the best mobile tech in the world. That includes Intel's new 11th generation processors and Iris Xe graphics as well as two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, and coupled with up to 16GB of RAM and speedy SSDs, means this is a laptop that is brilliant for day-to-day tasks. Battery life is also phenomenal, easily lasting around 12 hours on a single charge.
Design: The most remarkable thing about the LG Gram is - as the name suggests - how light it is. Clearly it's not the lightest laptop in this list, but at just 2.98 pounds (1.35Kg) it's almost 50% lighter than competitors such as the Gigabyte Aero 17. This is achieved without skimping in build quality - the shell is all-metal.
Performance: Powered by Intel's 11th gen processors, the LG Gram is able to make optimal use of the bigger screen by utilizing an awful lot of horsepower. Even heavyweight applications such as photo and video editing are handled with ease.
Battery life: In our video playback test, the Gram 17 lasted 12 hours despite the large screen which is excellent.
Screen: Obviously the 17 inch screen makes this laptop less portable but the benefits of the extra screen space should be obvious. A resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 is plenty sharp enough, making it ideal for watching video, working with documents or images.
Verdict: The LG Gram 17 (2021) is spectacular for productivity, boasting an impressively sharp screen, incredible battery life and overall great performance.
Read the full review: LG Gram 17 (2021)
Beyond the Acer Swift 3's modest exterior, you'll find an excellent laptop that boasts plenty of power for work and study. The Swift 3 (not to be confused with the Switch 3, another laptop from Acer) is an inexpensive laptop; however, that plain chassis is all-aluminum and packed with beefy components.
Design: The Acer offers a wonderful alternative to the Windows laptops further up this list. It still offers top end performance from a choice of Intel or AMD components, but comes in at under $700. You'd think that cheaper build quality would be the result but actually the Acer Swift 3 still looks and feels great.
Performance: In terms of performance, the Switch 3 gets surprisingly close to the far more expensive Microsoft Surface Laptop. Its display is a little lower-res, but the two are otherwise strikingly similar - other than the price.
Battery life: The video test we ran gave a battery life of 7 hours 6 minutes. That's significantly less than the more expensive laptops in the list, and is one of the compromises Acer made to reach the lower price.
Screen: A full HD 1,920 x 1,080 14-inch screen isn't the most high res out there, but still looks great even though it lacks high end sharpness.
Verdict: The latest Acer Swift 3 (2020) is an excellent ultrabook for the masses, made better thanks to its accessible price, thin and lightweight design, and pretty decent battery life.
Read the full review: Acer Swift 3
The Asus ZenBook 13 is a brilliant laptop, and the 2021 model comes with some of the best mobile tech you'll find in a modern notebook. So, it packs a choice of an AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor, or Intel 11th gen CPU. It also has an absolutely stunning 13.3-inch OLED screen and one of the best battery lives around. It's also supremely thin and light, as well as stylishly designed, which makes it a joy to carry around and use. It's also pretty respectably priced compared to competitors like the Dell XPS 13.
Design: The design of the Asus ZenBook 13 is definitely one of its standout features. At just 0.55-inches thin (13.9 mm) and 2.51 pounds (1.14kg), this is a seriously lightweight Ultrabook. One really nice feature is the way the keyboard lifts up toward you as you fully extend the screen, making typing on it more pleasant than it would otherwise be.
Performance: Everyday tasks are shredded by the Asus, which has an AMD CPU that excels at multitasking, The compromise is that the graphics don't perform quite as well as the other Windows ultrabooks in this list which have Intel components. This won't usually make much difference unless you're doing graphically intensive work.
Battery life: The battery life of the Asus ZenBook 13 was some of the best we've seen in an Ultrabook that wasn't running an ARM chip, and even then, the ZenBook 13 outperformed the MacBook Air (M1), lasting 11 hours and 15 minutes in our video test.
Screen: The full HD OLED screen is not the most high res but it is super bright and the OLED technology delivers its incredible colors.
Verdict: The Asus ZenBook 13 is a seriously lightweight, powerful, and vibrant ultraportable laptop sporting the latest AMD Ryzen processors and a gorgeous HD OLED display. It offers a wonderful, cheaper alternative to the XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 above.
Read the full review: Asus ZenBook 13 (2021)
The Asus TUF Dash F15 is ideal if you're looking for a machine that can play the latest games, but doesn't blow a hole in your bank balance. Asus' TUF lineup of laptops have actually been earning plaudits for their excellent value for money for a few years now, and the new Asus TUF Dash F15 continues that fine tradition. With excellent build quality, a brilliant battery for a gaming laptop, and an impressively thin and light design, this is a brilliant value gaming laptop.
Design: For a supposedly 'value' gaming laptop, the Asus TUF Dash F15 certainly looks like a premium gaming laptop. It's also really portable, relatively speaking for a gaming laptop, and doesn't skimp where it counts.
Performance: Ultra portable gaming laptops like the F15 don't quite match the bigger, bulkier, pricier desktop replacements. But despite this, performance here from the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 and Intel Core i7 is really fantastic.
Battery life: Making it through 8 hours of our video playing test, the F15 has stunningly good battery life for a gaming laptop. You'll still want to plug in when gaming but when just using Windows, this will last almost all day.
Screen: The 15-inch 1080p IPS 240Hz display in this laptop looks fantastic. The full HD resolution means the GPU has headroom to hit really high framerates, making it great for multiplayer games.
Verdict: The Asus TUF Dash F15 is a masterclass in mixing an attainable price with an elegant form factor. It has strong performance in a chassis that won't weigh you down when you need to go somewhere. And it doesn't hurt that it has some of the longest battery life in a gaming laptop today.
Read the full review: Asus TUF Dash F15
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 is the latest refresh for Lenovo's flagship 2-in-1 business laptop and the addition of Intel's 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors with Iris Xe graphics, along with Intel Evo certification, make it one of the best 2-in-1 laptops we've tested. Add in the outstanding 16:10 touchscreen display, garaged stylus, and excellent battery life, and there's very little that we can find fault with here.
Design: This is a business laptop which means it's naturally not going to look as stunning as some of the Windows ultrabooks further up this list. Once you move past its appearance though, the design of the X1 Yoga Gen 6 really shines, starting with its lightweight build and comfortable size. The chassis is only 3lbs/1.35kg, and at just over half an inch thick (about 15mm), this is a very comfortable laptop to carry around, especially when using it in tablet mode.
Performance: What you lose on the design front with this laptop, you get back in performance. It outshines rivals like the Dell XPS 13 in our benchmarks and in real world tests.
Battery life: In our video test it lasted 10 hours 39 minutes which means all-day battery life is a reality as long as you're sensible about screen brightness and using a balanced power plan in Windows.
Screen: This 16:10 IPS screen has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 and brightness of 400 nites. It's excellent in use and very comfortable to look at for long periods.
Verdict: The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 is one of the best 2-in-1 laptops you're going to find on the market, marrying powerful performance with a fantastic 16:10 display and Intel Evo vPro certification, but it all comes at a cost that puts it well into the premium laptop class.
Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6
The excellent HP Envy x360 13 (2020) proves that you can have a premium-feeling and looking 2-in-1 laptop without having to pay an outrageous amount for it. As with all of HP's modern laptops, the HP Envy x360 13 (2020) is beautifully designed, and comes with a stunning screen and some of the best speakers we've heard in a laptop.
Design: The thin and lightweight body makes it a dream to take with you on your commute to and from work, as well as to a coffee shop to pretend to write a screenplay while you scroll through Twitter until your matcha latte is cool enough to drink.
Performance: For such an affordable 2-in-1, the Envy x360 13 still packs some impressive hardware, with an AMD Ryzen 5 CPU and Radeon integrated graphics, so it can handle it all, whether you're looking to stream your favorite movies and shows or you’re working with video and digital art.
Battery life: In our video test, this laptop lasted 8 hours 30 minutes which is excellent when you consider how thin and light this laptop is.
Screen: The 13-inch screen has tiny bezels a bit like the Dell XPS 13 which gives this laptop a compact screen-to-body ratio. The 1080p resolution isn't super high but it is a touchscreen which makes it great for using Android apps in Windows 11.
Verdict: The HP Envy x360 is an excellent machine for everyday work and streaming entertainment. The screen and speakers give you excellent video resolution and audio quality, even at extreme viewing angles and full volume. Digital artists may find it awkward to work with, especially if they're left-handed.
Read the full review: HP Envy x360 (2020)
Google's Pixelbook Go is the best Chromebook money can buy right now, with the company showing everyone else how it's done. Its previous Chromebook, the Pixelbook, was a brilliant Chromebook in its own way, but it cost a small fortune. The Pixelbook Go, on the other hand, is a more affordable Chromebook that retains a lot of its predecessor's premium features, while bringing some brilliant upgrades as well, including an astounding battery life and fantastic keyboard.
Design: The Google Pixelbook Go is designed to be thin and light, measuring just 0.5 inches thick and weighing 2.3 pounds. It's available in Black and Pink and it looks really smart.
Performance: The Go features some impressive specs for a Chromebook, which ensures that Chrome OS positively flies on this device, and puts its performance on par with many of the more expensive Windows laptops and MacBooks that grace the rest of this page. If you're looking for the ultimate Chromebook, then the Pixelbook Go is the one to get.
Battery life: In our video test, the Chromebook lasted a very impressive 11 hours 14 minutes. It'll last a whole lot longer than that in normal use though, and that's pretty much up there with the best ultrabooks. It charges quickly too - sucking up two hours of charge in 20 minutes.
Screen: The Pixelbook Go utilizes a 1080p touchscreen, which we find to display colors with the vibrancy and accuracy we expect from laptops within the high-end price range.
Verdict: Google’s new Pixelbook Go is the ultimate Chromebook for anyone that doesn’t want to spend a grand on Google’s previous Pixelbook. Its astonishing battery life and amazing keyboard are just two of this Chromebook’s selling points, and it has very few downsides for both average users and dedicated fans of Google and Chrome OS.
Read the full review: Google Pixelbook Go
The brilliant Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook proves how good modern Chromebooks are these days. It can be used as a laptop or a tablet, and it's backed up by some very impressive specs despite the ultra-low price tag. For this price, sacrifices have to be made, naturally – the keyboard is tiny, the trackpad isn’t as reliable, and the charger and headphones share one port. However, if budget is your top priority, those are definitely not deal-breakers and the battery life is stunningly good.
Design: Is it a Chromebook or is it a tablet? Well, luckily, you won’t have to decide with the brilliant Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook. True to its name, this Chromebook delivers two form factors in one, while utilizing the versatility of the Chrome OS and setting you back much less than many of the top Windows tablets out there.
Performance: Clearly at this price, you're not going to get a powerhouse. But for everyday use - browsing the internet, watching YouTube, editing documents - it works just fine.
Battery life: Like all the best Chromebooks, its battery packs an incredibly long life of almost 22 hours – so you could pull an all-nighter, work through the day and mid-afternoon, and you’ll still pass out before it runs out of juice.
Screen: It's a 1080p 10.1-inch touchscreen which is smaller than a regular ultrabook and contributes to that crazy good battery life.
Verdict: The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook strikes the perfect balance between tablet portability and Chromebook utility, all while keeping the price ridiculously low - and somehow packing in a Lich King of a battery that simply refuses to die.
Read the full review: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook
The Asus VivoBook S15 is the best mid-range laptop
The Asus VivoBook S15 combines a thin and light design with great performance and an excellent price. If you're looking for a mid-range 15-inch laptop for home use that doesn't cost too much, but still performs brilliantly, then this is a great choice.
Design: Despite its 15.6-inch screen, the VivoBook is still highly portable, weighing just 1.8kg and measuring a sleek 18mm thick. Admittedly, it does seem quite hefty when compared to lighter 12-inch and 13-inch laptops, but getting any 15-inch laptop down to less than 2kg is an impressive feat, so Asus has certainly done a good job with the design of the VivoBook S15.
Performance: Thanks to its powerful Intel processor, 8GB of RAM and fast SSD storage, this is a laptop that can handle almost any task with ease – though gaming is out of the question. Its 15.6-inch screen is bright and vibrant, and it has loads of ports that makes it easy to hook up your favorite peripherals.
Battery life: In our video test, this laptop lasted 7 hours 45 minutes, so it's not up there with the best but it should last you most or all of the way through a day if you're sensible.
Screen: The 15.6-inch full HD screen is larger than most of the ultrabooks in this list, so that combined with the cheaper price are the main reasons to go for it.
Verdict: The slimline design of the Asus VivoBook S15 makes it one of the most portable 15-inch laptops around, while its strong Intel Core i7 performance ensures that it can handle everything except heavy-duty gaming.
Read the full review: Asus VivoBook S15
What should you look for when buying a new laptop?
There are certain things you can look out for when buying a new laptop in 2021 that can ensure you get the best laptop for your money.
Make sure you take a look at the specifications of a laptop before buying. This is a good way of quickly seeing how powerful a laptop is, and what it is capable of – as long as you know what you’re looking for.
First of all is the processor. This is essentially the brain of the laptop, and a laptop will usually have a processor (also known as a CPU) made by either Intel or AMD. Intel is by far the most popular CPU maker for laptops, though we’re seeing an increasing number of AMD-powered laptops as well.
As a general rule of thumb, Intel processors offer better performance, but AMD processors are better value.
To make things more simple, both Intel and AMD have numbered their processors to give you a rough idea of what sort of tasks a laptop with that processor can perform.
If you’re after a budget laptop for simple tasks like browsing the web or watching Netflix, then a laptop with an Intel Pentium, Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3, processor will do that job without making the laptop too expensive.
If you’re after something with a bit more oomph – perhaps to do more complex task like editing your home videos or playing games – then go for a laptop with an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor as a minimum.
The best laptops for media creation, and more complex tasks, come with an Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processor, or an AMD Ryzen 7 processor. Laptops with these processors in them are top-of-the-range laptops that will provide brilliant performance no matter what you want to do – but be warned that they are often found in the most expensive laptops.
Finally, keep an eye on how new the processor is. Intel handily gives its processors generations, so the higher the generation, the newer it is. The latest generation is the 10th generation, though 9th generation Intel Core processors are also pretty recent.
A newer processor performs better and is more power efficient – so battery life will last longer. They are more expensive, though.
When it comes to graphics, you don’t need to worry too much, as laptop processors come with built-in (integrated) graphics. However, if you want to play PC games on your laptop, then you’ll want a gaming laptop with a discrete GPU – either from Nvidia or AMD.
What are the best laptop brands?
The best brands for laptops include Apple, Dell, Lenovo and HP, and they all have their strengths. For example, Apple make brilliantly-designed slim and light laptops, while Dell does a great range of high-end ultrabooks, as well as affordable devices and Chromebooks as well. Lenovo's well known for making solidly-built business laptops (and some great 2-in-1 laptops as well), and HP’s also been making some gorgeous laptops recently that are some of the best laptops in the world.
When it comes to gaming, the best laptop brands include Alienware, Asus and Acer.
How much RAM does a laptop need?
RAM (Random Access Memory) is an important specification to look for in a laptop. You’ll want 4GB at the very least for a Windows laptop – though we’d actually recommend for many people to go for 8GB. That will ensure that the laptop runs well for years to come. Budget Chromebooks can get away with less RAM, such as 1GB or 2GB.
Battery life considerations
Finally there’s battery life. This is likely to be one of the most important considerations you have when choosing what laptop to buy. The best laptops need to be able to let you work - and play - for hours on end without you having to scramble for a power adapter. Modern laptops are getting ever more power-efficient, which has led to longer battery lives. For a laptop to be included in our best laptops list, it needs to offer a battery life of five hours or more.
Bear in mind that the battery life that the laptop makers claim their device has could be quite different to what you actually experience. This is because many laptop makers test their batteries in very controlled environments, with the laptop used in ways that you might not necessarily use. So, while a laptop might have a claimed battery life of 10 hours, you may find that when using it for certain tasks – like streaming high definition content – your battery life could run out faster.
That’s where our in-depth reviews come in, as we run a series of tests on each laptop in this best laptops guide to see how long the battery life lasts under certain conditions. If a laptop’s battery is ridiculously short (or impressively long) we’ll tell you.
Which type of laptop is best for you?
General laptops: Where the best cheap laptops are found, devices that focus more on practicality than style, portability or power. That’s not to say they can’t be fast, but you’ll typically find a non-Ultrabook clamshell laptop with an HD screen and spinning drive-based storage for less than $600 or £400.
Ultrabooks: Where you’ll find thin-and-light notebooks sporting SSD storage and display resolutions that exceed 1080p. Paired with powerful, albeit mobile-centric components and especially long battery life, the best Ultrabooks will cost a pretty penny – $700 or £500 to $2,000 or £1,800.
2-in-1 laptops: Where notebooks that double as tablets are located. The Surface Book 2 might be a ways off, but many of the best 2-in-1 laptops are available right now. Outfitted with both detachable and 360-degree rotating hinges, these hybrids are the most versatile way to experience Windows 10 (or Chrome OS) on a touchscreen.
Chromebooks: Where you’ll find the best Chromebooks running Chrome OS. These do much of what Windows and macOS can in the browser, focused on cloud storage over local, while recently getting Android app support for touchscreen models. They generally cost less than $300 or £200 and some can even withstand a slight tussle.
Gaming laptops: Need a laptop to play games (almost) just like a shiny desktop PC can? Then you’ll want one of the best gaming laptops. These machines generally cost from $800 or £600 to upwards of $3,000 or £2,800 and they’ll likely be the ones to take advantage of AMD’s laptop-grade Ryzen processors first. If you're really on a budget, then you can check out the best cheap gaming laptop deals.
Laptop-tablet hybrids: Designed from the tablet-first approach to laptop-tablet hybrids, the best Windows tablets pack beyond-HD touchscreens, sometimes with kickstands in their frames or provided via keyboard covers. These generally shine with a stylus, and range from the budget to the premium price ranges.
How we test laptops
We know that buying a new laptop can be a huge investment, so every laptop in this list has been extensively tested by us. When we test laptops, we use them in our day-to-day lives to see who they perform. We look at their design, including how stylish they are, or if they are thin and light enough to carry around with, and how comfortable they are to work on.
When it comes to performance, we use a mix of real-world tests and synthetic benchmarks to see how powerful (or not) these laptops are. This means using Windows 10 (or Chrome OS on Chromebooks and macOS on MacBooks) and running various apps and seeing how fast they load, noting down any problems.
These days, the webcam and microphone in a laptop is also incredibly important, so we take time to test out these as well. When it comes to gaming laptops, we’ll run more benchmark tests, as well as fire up games to play on them as well (it’s a hard job, isn’t it?)
Battery lives are also important, so we’ll keep track on how long we can use the laptop without needing to charge. We also run our own battery life benchmark that plays a looped 1080p movie until the battery dies. We also run the PC Mark 10 battery life benchmark, which replicates real-world usage, such as web browsing and document creation. These tests give us an excellent idea of how long the batteries in these laptops last.
We then take everything we’ve learned about the laptop and compare it to its price, to see if it offers the best value to customers.