For those working at home that are starting to notice their laptop might not be quite up to the task (whether that's work or play), this page will help you find the most appropriate portable machine for your needs, and at a reasonable price.
Here at TechRadar, we get to review the full breadth and width of currently-available laptops, so we're well and truly across what's worth the dosh and what's not.
Whether it's Apple's freshest M1-powered MacBook Air, the latest winner in the Dell XPS range, or one of HP's sleek Spectres, we've painstakingly compared and contrasted each one in order to give you a rundown on the laptop with the best value.
We've taken into account ultrabooks, gaming laptops, 2-in-1s, and every other shape and size that laptops come in these days – so don't worry if you're in it for work or play, we've got you covered.
For those that aren't sure what type of laptop would suit their needs best, scroll down to the foot of the page to find a guide comparing the different types.
Best laptops in Australia 2021 at a glance
- Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
- Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
- Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)
- Apple MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)
- Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
- Dell XPS 13 (2019)
- HP Spectre x360 (2020)
- Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED (2020)
- Acer Swift 3
- Microsoft Surface Book 3
- Asus TUF Dash F15
- Dell XPS 15 2-in-1
- HP Elite Dragonfly
- Alienware Area-51m
- Asus VivoBook S15
The best laptops of 2021:
The new Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) isn't just the best laptop Apple has ever made, it's also the best value laptop money can buy right now. This is definitely the highest placement an Apple laptop has ever found itself in one of our lists, but the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) 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. Easily managing over 11 hours on a single charge, this is a laptop you can easily carry around with you at work or school, and its price is decently competitive compared to Windows 10 rivals (for once). Running both new and old Mac apps, the new MacBook Air can now also run iOS apps for iPhone and iPads, giving it access to hundreds of brilliant mobile applications and games as well.
Even if you've only ever used Windows laptops before, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is well worth getting and making the jump to macOS. Yes, it really is that good.
Read the full review: Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review
While Apple blew us away with the new MacBook Air (above), arch rival Microsoft has also impressed us with its new Surface Laptop 4, landing straight in at number 2 of our best laptops 2021 list. 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 (a touchscreen is something we've yet to see on an Apple laptop, as Microsoft likes to remind us).
It also comes with a brilliant keyboard that's a joy to type on, and some pretty great specs as well, which ensures that Windows 10, and all your favourite apps, run extremely well. Battery life is also very impressive – lasting over 13 hours in our tests – and the price is impressively competitive as well. If you're looking for the best laptop of 2021 that runs Windows 10, this is it.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
This is the second XPS 13 that Dell released in 2020 (also known as the 9310, being more recent than the 9300 launched earlier in the year), and thankfully it does a lot more to offer excellent value for Aussies than its predecessor. This 'New XPS 13' packs in the 11th-gen Intel Core processors as well as as the superbly impressive Iris Xe integrated GPU – an upgrade that almost doubles its graphical prowess. This means that, not only is the XPS 13 9310 a great option for business and everyday use with its gorgeous, sleek design and powerful innards, but it's now viable for casual gamers. It's also sporting the upgraded 'Infinity Edge' display which dramatically reduces bezels and the overall size of the unit.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020) review
While the most recent MacBook Air is arguably the laptop in Apple's latest lineup to benefit most from the brand new M1 chip, the MacBook Pro's upgrade makes it the most compelling ultrabook the tech giant has ever offered. Well and truly a household name at this stage, the MacBook Pro has finally earned its place further up our list thanks to the tech giant ditching Intel and designing its own chip (M1). With the best performance-to-battery life ratio we've seen on an Apple laptop to date, the Pro is classy, stylish, powerful, and comfortably portable. While the Dell XPS 13 above is the best Windows machine on offer, this MacBook performs better for its price, has a gorgeous display, and can now run iOS apps natively.
If you've been a Windows fan to date and need a little more than the M1 Air above has to offer, this could be the machine that makes you jump ship.
Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro (M1, 2020) review
We know, this is technically a gaming laptop, but for those that want to balance work and play, there's little else out there that's better value than the Zephyrus G14 right now. It's worth noting that it's missing a webcam and a Thunderbolt 3 port, so if that's a concern this isn't for you, but its solid battery life, compact form, and powerful specs do a fine job at balancing everything that you'll need from a laptop. This is an absolute beast for performance, with its AMD Ryzen 4000 processors and Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card, best-in-class battery life that will last you all day long, a fast display with a 120Hz refresh rate and a lightweight, ultrathin design. The best part is that you’re getting all that without burning a hole in your pocket. Don’t get us wrong; it isn’t cheap. However, for a laptop this impressive, we’re surprised Asus isn’t asking for more.
Read the full review: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
The HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 laptop has had a big refresh for 2020, with 10th-generation Intel Core processors and Intel Iris Plus graphics, along with the impeccable 2-in-1 design and pristine gem-cut chassis. We're huge fans of the power, build quality and design of this laptop, and if it weren't so expensive for Australians comparatively, then it'd likely be in the number one slot.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 (2020)
We know that this isn't the latest XPS 13 out there but we're still rating it highly in our list due to how well it holds up when considering its value for money. While the first 2020 model (9300) introduced thinner bezels, much of the other improvements are in the upper-tier configurations (the option for a 4K display and up to 2TB SSD storage, for instance), so much of the effortless power and sleek styling that is core to the XPS 13 is already present in the 2019 model, such as its 10th-gen Intel Core processors. With that said, the even newer 2020 model of the XPS 13 (9310) is at the top of our list for a reason.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
While the Aero 15 range from Gigabyte is aimed at designers, it also makes for one of the best value gaming laptops on the Australian market right now due to its powerful internals, brilliant display, and sleek, stylish chassis. This year's model refreshes much of what was great about the 2019 model – packing a 15-inch 4K HDR screen which is ideal as a high-resolution on-the-go gaming monitor, media machine, or its intended design-centric use. It also ramps up the internals, with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU running the show and the latest RTX 2070 Super GPU in assistance. It isn't cheap and won't suit the everyday user that just needs to run simple tasks, but for those seeking more power, it's a brilliant option.
Read the full review: Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED
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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.
In terms of performance, it 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.
This laptop is incredible to use as well, with its roomy trackpad as well as its backlit keyboard that offers a comfortable typing experience with decent travel. If you're going to be writing a lot – whether you’re traveling or at the office, this is one of the best budget laptops 2021 has on offer.
Read the full review: Acer Swift 3
In many ways, the Surface Book 3 is an example of just how far the best laptops have come in just a few short years. It has an extremely premium piece of kit – with one of the best displays we’ve used in a laptop, a keyboard that will put the MacBook Pro’s new Magic Keyboards to shame, and a hybrid design with a removable screen. At less than an inch thick, and only 12.3 x 9.14 inches for its 13-inch model and 13.5 x 9.87 inches for its 15-inch version, this is also among the best Ultrabooks 2020 has to offer. It doesn't necessarily have the strongest processor when compared to many rivals on this list, so you'll need to weigh up this delightful form factor against your more intensive computing needs.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 3
If the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED above is out of your price range, then the Asus TUF Dash F15 is a decent alternative 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 been earning plaudits for their excellent value for money, 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 easily one of the best gaming laptops money can buy right now.
It also features Intel Tiger Lake processors, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 mobile GPUs, and up to a 240Hz 1080p display.
Read the full review: Asus TUF Dash F15
Last year’s Dell XPS 15 was already one of the best laptops you could buy, but now that Dell has taken the beautiful redesign of the Dell XPS 13 and applied it here – while also making it a convertible. Well, it’s amazing. Not only do you get one of the most aesthetically pleasing 15-inch laptops on the market, but it also packs one of those new Intel Kaby Lake G-series CPUs featuring ‘discrete-class’ Radeon graphics. This means that this laptop packs serious power – even if it can get a little loud.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 15 2-in-1
This laptop from HP is our pick for the best business laptop – put simply, this is one of the most stylish and slimline laptops you'll ever see, and it's also packed with some brilliant features and powerful components.
While the HP Elite Dragonfly is primarily aimed at business users, don't let that put you off. Its incredible design and gorgeous screen makes this the best laptop for anyone who can afford it. Battery life is excellent, the keyboard is a joy to type on, and it also has LTE connectivity. This lets you plug in a SIM card and access mobile internet wherever you are, without having to connect to slow (and potentially compromised) Wi-Fi hotspots.
It's expensive, but if you can afford it, it's easily one of the best laptops of 2021.
Read the full review: HP Elite Dragonfly
The Alienware Area-51m is a strong contender for the best gaming laptop of 2019, and earns that place in other markets (such as the UK and US) due to its relative affordability. Down under, it's a little more expensive and doesn't quite earn that spot, but it's still absolutely worth considering (especially if it's on sale). With an eye catching design and brilliant build quality, which we've come to expect from Dell's Alienware brand, this is an incredible performer, offering a choice of some of the very best gaming components on the market right now, including 9th generation Intel Core processors and Nvidia's latest RTX range of GPUs. Sure, it's pretty expensive, but if you're serious about getting the best gaming laptop money can buy in 2019, then you'll need to expect to splash out a little bit, and the Alienware Area-51m really is worth every penny.
Read the full review: Alienware Area-51m
The Asus VivoBook S15 is the best mid-range laptop
The new Asus VivoBook S15 hasn't been out for long, and it's made its way straight into our best laptops list. This is because it combines a thin and light design with great performance and an excellent price.
If you're looking for a mid-range laptop that doesn't cost too much, but still performs brilliantly, then this is the best laptop for you.
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.
However, it doesn't have the longest battery life for a laptop, and the ScreenPad, which replaces the traditional touchpad below the keyboard with a touchscreen, takes a bit of getting used to.
Read the full review: Asus VivoBook S15
Which type of laptop is best for you?
General laptops: This broader category is dedicated to 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 AU$1,000.
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 – closer to AU$1,000 to AU$3,000.
2-in-1 laptops: Where notebooks that double as tablets are located. 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 AU$500.
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 more than AU$1,000 and can quickly get into the AU$4 – 5,000 range for the beastlier models.