Australia's best laptops: what to buy in 2020

Whether you're a Windows or Mac fan, these are the very best laptops on the market right now.

MacBook Air
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(Image credit: Apple)

We’re now deep into 2020 and there’s been a bunch of laptops released this year that’ll give you a good reason to upgrade. T3's Aussie team has managed to get its hands on almost everything worth considering – so this guide is all you’ll need to find the best laptop for any budget. It's constantly updated and expertly curated, so it'll lead you right to the best laptops for working, gaming, designing, studying and anything else.

If you’re specifically looking for something that can play the latest games, then you might want to check our best gaming laptop guide, and if you're a student who’s a little tight on cash then we also have a best laptops for students list.  

You can often find good deals on the best laptops at outlets like Amazon or Dell, which means you might even be able to score these premium devices for a decent discount.  

It's fair to say that the best laptop might be different for everyone, so we've covered a wide a selection of system types, prices and designs here – no matter what your needs, you should find something that fits. If you’re after a specific type of laptop, however, you may want to dip into the following guides: 

The best laptops you can buy today

The AMD powered Asus Zephyrus G14 is the best value laptop  in 2020.

(Image credit: Asus)

1. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

The best value all-round laptop

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 (Max-Q)
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 14-inch, 120Hz, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080)
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Powerful processor+120Hz or QHD screen+Amazing value
Reasons to avoid
-No webcam-Plastic chassis

The Zephyrus G14 is one of the first gaming ultrabooks to get a second-generation AMD mobile processor – the Ryzen 9 4900HS – and it’s a big win for both AMD and Asus. This CPU is powerful enough to keep up with laptops running a 9th generation Intel Core i9, while managing to cost thousands less. 

Despite this surprising power and price, you won’t have to skimp on the graphical capabilities since the device offers 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU, which means it’s capable of solid 1080p gaming and heavy graphical workloads.

The Zephyrus G14 can be configured with a high refresh rate, 120Hz, 1080p screen, although we’d recommend opting for the 60Hz QHD 1440p display if you’re mainly using it for work – since this will make reading detailed documents easier. 

Despite being supremely powerful, the Ryzen 9 is extremely efficient, offering eight hours and 24 minutes of 1080p movie playback, which can be stretched to over 12 hours by manually swapping the display to 60Hz and turning the discrete GPU off in power settings. 

There's no webcam, the chassis is lightweight plastic and the keyboard will be a little mushy for those used to mechanical keys, but these elements allow it to be just 1.8cm thick and 1.6kg, so they’re actually a pretty good trade-off. 

Other than that, we can't fault it. 

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is an an awesomely powerful portable workstation that allows you to do demanding work anywhere, anytime. 

(Image credit: Apple)

2. Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch model)

The best portable workstation.

Specifications
CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i9-9880H (octa-core, up to 4.8GHz)
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5500M
RAM: 32GB DDR3 (2,133MHz)
Screen: 13.3-inch, Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) UltraSharp InfinityEdge touch display
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Its design is beautiful+It's a hardware powerhouse+It's got a luxe 4K screen
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey-9th Gen CPU

The 15-inch laptop has long been the form factor of choice for professionals, but Apple is looking to change this up with the new MacBook Pro 16 by adding an inch to this tried and tested equation. 

In reality, Apple is not actually making the footprint of the unit notably bigger – it’s less than 2% larger in each direction – so you probably wouldn’t see a difference unless you were really looking for it. What it has done, however, is reduce the bezels and expand the screen for a greater screen-to-body ratio and overall screen size.

The 35% larger heat sink and 28% more airflow for cooling is a standout feature that should provide enough overhead to service the powerful Intel Core i9-9880H, or more than enough if you opt for the Core i7 variation.

This 16-inch Retina display sits somewhere between Quad HD and 4K in an aspect ratio that is closer to three by two of 3,072 x 1,920 pixels. It also offers a 500 nit peak brightness and a full DCI-P3 colour gamut that is ideal for video production and anything else that requires high dynamic range colour reproduction.

The MacBook Pro 16 also has a 100Wh Lithium polymer battery that Apple claims gives you 11 hours of web browsing or movie playback, which is an impressive feat for a device this powerful.

Awesome portability, solid performance at a reasonable price, the Surface Pro 7 is a compelling hybrid tablet. 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

3. Microsoft Surface Pro 7

The best 2-in-1

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense touch display
Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Powerful+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Not a major upgrade

The main differences (at least on paper) between the specifications of the confusingly named (5th Gen) Surface Pro, the Surface Pro 6, and the Surface Pro 7, is the CPU. All are available in the same four, eight and 16GB RAM configurations and identical 128GB to 1TB storage options. 

The Surface Pro also uses an identical 12.3-inch, 3 x 2 PixelSense display at the same 2,736 x 1,824 resolution as its two most recent predecessors, and even fits into an indistinguishable 29 x 20 x 0.9cm chassis that weighs nearly the same at 790g. 

The Surface Pro 7’s CPU, however, has been updated to one of Intel’s latest 10th Gen processors and regardless of whether you get the Core i3-1005G1, the Core i5-1035G4 or the Core i7-1065G7, you will have access to the new faster Wi-Fi 6 networking specification. 

Microsoft has also finally swapped out the Mini DisplayPort for a USB 3.1 Type-C interface, alongside its existing USB 3.1 Type-A port. 

The Core i7 Surface Pro 7 was around 30% better than the Surface Pro 6 and 87.6% faster than the Surface Pro (5) in CPU tests and outperformed almost every quad-core mobile CPU we've tested. 

The Intel Iris Plus Graphics won’t be capable of anything more than browser based/ indie games and light graphical workloads, but it roughly doubles the graphical performance of its predecessor. 

The 46Wh battery gets close to six hours in PCMark 8 Battery Life benchmarks, equating to more than a working day’s battery life. All up pretty impressive for something that doubles as a tablet. 

Asus's new ExpertBook B9 is the lightest clamshell laptop we've ever seen.

(Image credit: Asus)

4. Asus ExpertBook B9450

The best clamshell for endurance and portability.

Specifications
CPU: 1.8-4.9GHz Intel Core i7-10510U (quad-core)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 14-inch, FullHD (1,920x1,080p)
Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Big, sharp, accurate 16-inch display+Plenty of power+New keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing!

There are other laptops using the Intel Core i7-10501U CPU, but we didn’t notice this chip’s potential until we came to the ExpertBook from Asus. You see, the base clock sits at 1.8GHz, but the quad-core i7 can boost to a speedy 4.9GHz, which means that while it has the power to perform demanding tasks, it can also be super efficient. 

Asus has taken this feature and run with it in the ExpertBook adding a 66Wh battery to give it serious longevity. 

While the 24-hour lifespan claimed in its marketing material is a little lofty, we did get seven hours and 30 minutes in PCMark 8’s battery life benchmark, which we’re guessing could last 12 or so hours under light work conditions. This is the best offering we’ve come across in a 10th Gen Intel Ultrabook by about an hour (and is only outlasted by the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 as far as we can tell). 

Despite being more efficient, when it comes to general work tasks and raw CPU performance the ExpertBook actually outperformed most quad-core Ultrabook processors we’ve tested. There is, unfortunately, a bit of a sacrifice in terms of graphical performance, with the Intel UHD Graphics netting between half and a third of the devices with Intel Iris Plus Graphics GPUs. 

The ExpertBook is wrapped in a magnesium lithium alloy that is lighter than aluminium and allows the device to come in at an impressive total weight of 995g. 

The 14-inch 1080p frameless NanoEdge display has a nice 94% screen-to-body ratio and the device takes the screen’s 16:9 footprint for an elegant envelope shaped footprint. All up an excellent and long-lasting laptop for those that really care about portability. 

The Surface Book 3 is a tablet that's also a graphically competent professional workstation. 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

5. Microsoft Surface Book 3

The best gaming/ workstation tablet.

Specifications
CPU: 1.3-3.9GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7 (quad-core)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti (6GB GDDR5 VRAM)
RAM: 32GB
Screen: 15-inch, 3,240 x 2,160 (260 ppi) PixelSense display (3:2 aspect ratio; 1600:1 contrast ratio)
Storage: 512 GB PCIe 3.0 SSD
Reasons to buy
+ Massively powerful for a 2-in-1+ Battery life is excellent + Great screen and portability 
Reasons to avoid
-Thick at hinge-Expensive

Microsoft has updated the core components in the Surface Laptop 3 to make it even closer to the ‘desktop replacement tablet’ the company pitches it as. The unit returns with either a 13.5-inch or a 15-inch 3:2 PixelSense display at 3,000 x 2,000 or 3,240 x 2,160 pixel resolutions, respectively. 

The smaller size can be configured with either an Intel Core i5-1035G7 or an i7-1065G7 CPU; and a choice of  8GB, 16GB or 32GB of RAM . The 15-incher on the other hand only comes as an i7, with either 16GB or 32GB of RAM. 

If you opt for the more powerful processor it comes with an Nvidia GTX 1650 GPU on the 13.5-inch and a GTX 1660Ti on the bigger model and the accompanying 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe SSD storage is pegged to variations in other components, which means you need to pay for more power if you want more storage. 

The most powerful 15-inch model performed within about 10% either way of the average laptop in the roundup (excluding full gaming laptops), and performed more than four times better than devices relying on integrated graphics. This is enough for reasonable 1080p gaming and decent graphical workloads. 

Battery life was also solid at six hours and 37 minutes in PCMark 8, which means you’ll easily get a full day’s work out of it (unless you’re leaning heavily on the GPU).  

The 2020 Apple MacBook Air is a great lightweight work device for those wanting MacOS on a tight budget.  

(Image credit: Apple)

6. Apple MacBook Air (2020)

An excellent Apple laptop for those on a budget.

Specifications
CPU: 1.1-3.5GHz Intel Core i5-1030NG7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus G7
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 13.3-inch 2,560 x 1,600 pixel-resolution Retina display (227 PPI)
Storage: 256GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Good value+New Magic Keyboard+Decent battery+Retina display
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing!

The MacBook Air range is back and it’s trying to fill the space of the discontinued 12-inch MacBook with a new quad core processor and little price cut. 

The models start with a dual-core Intel Core i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but you can bolster this to a quad-core i5 or even an i7 with up to 16GB of RAM and 2TB of storage. This means that while the entry level options are only for web browsing and light document editing, you can configure them to be more than powerful enough for more intensive professional workloads. 

Battery life is 7 hours and 55 minutes for 1080p movie playback, which means you’ll just get through a work day under light usage conditions, and the keyboard redesign means that there shouldn't be any issues on this front. 

Apple's 2020 MacBook Air is a great lightweight work device for those wanting macOS on a tighter budget.

The flagship Yoga 2-in-1 gets a performance bump, better battery life and some novel AI-powered features. 

(Image credit: Lenovo)

7. Lenovo Yoga C940

Lenovo’s flexible flagship is a little more expensive this year.

Specifications
CPU: 1.3-3.9GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7 (quad-core)
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 14-inch, 3,840 x 2,160 resolution, Vesa400 HDR
Storage: 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Good business perks+Flexable and lightweight+Decent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Price bump-Hot CPU temp

Lenovo’s flagship Yoga 2-in-1 has long been at the top of our favourite 2-in-1s list and the C940 is a formidable competitor again this year. 

While the 14-inch 4K model with a Vesa400 HDR certification was originally being sold at Bing Lee for AU$2,999, only the Full HD model seems to be available from JB Hi-Fi now (also for AU$2,999), which is frankly a little disappointing. 

Nevertheless, the Yoga C940 is sporting one of Intel's latest 10th generation CPUs that brings Wi-Fi 6, better AI processing and a new GPU to the range. The Yoga C940 was between 5% and 21% better than the Yoga C930 in all our CPU and general performance benchmarks, averaging out to around 10% across most tasks. If we put the Yoga C940 against the Surface Pro 7 with the same i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM the two largely perform at a similar level. 

One thing that was worth noting is that the Yoga runs hot, with the optimised CPU regularly hitting 100-degrees – which can reduce product lifespan. 

We would usually say that pushing a CPU this hard would reduce the battery life, but the C940 seems to have compensated by including a generous 57Wh battery that lasts more than six hours in PCMark 8 and 8 hours and 35 minutes during 1080p movie playback. 

The C940 has returned with the Yoga’s clever Dolby Atmos speaker hinge, a decent keyboard, a fingerprint reader, a physical webcam shutter and a rear mounted stylus, so there’s lots of perks here.

The XPS 13 is a little overpriced and under-specced to be the laptop to beat this year. 

(Image credit: Dell)

8. Dell XPS 13 (2020)

Dell’s top professional ultrabook falls behind in 2020.

Specifications
CPU: 1.3-3.9GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7 (quad-core)
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 13.3-inch, 4K (3,840x2,400)
Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Powerful ultrabook performance+Premium lightweight build quality+Slim profile
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life is underwhelming-Too expensive

The XPS range is considered by many to have been the class-leading ultrabook for years running now due to its Infinity Edge display, decent battery life and good balance of professional-level components. 

This year’s XPS 13 builds on these strong points with a new 13.4-inch 4K display with such thin bezels that it can fit into a traditional 11-inch chassis. 

You can choose from a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU catering to your pricing and performance needs and this is complimented by either 8GB or 16GB of RAM and various PCIe SSD sizes. 

The new CPU offers a 5% performance bump over its predecessors and landed somewhere in the middle of the laptops tested here in overall computing performance. 

GPU performance was also about what you’d expect from the Intel Iris Plus Graphics, capable of handling browser-based gaming and essential graphical tasks easily enough. 

At 1.5cm thick and just 1.27kg the XPS 13 is one of the most portable models here, but battery life is a little disappointing at just five hours and 50 minutes in 1080p movie playback. This means you won’t  get a full day of remote working out of it without seriously tweaking brightness and power settings. 

Stack it up next to the other devices here and you’ll also notice it comes with a premium price tag, despite only offering quad-core CPU performance. 

A sleek 13-inch OLED touchscreen convertible with a solid processor, business perks and a slightly undercooked battery lifespan. 

(Image credit: HP)

9. HP Spectre X360

This compact 16 by 9 ultrabook is undeniably a spectacle.

Specifications
CPU: 1.3-3.9GHz, Intel Core i7-1065G7 (quad-core)
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 13.3-inch 4K (3,840x2,060), AMOLED
Storage: 512GB Intel SSD with 32GB of M.2 Optane SSD memory
Reasons to buy
+Rich AMOLED screen+Flexible and portable+Precise HDR colour
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life disappointing-Confusing model availability-CPU runs hot

The Spectre x360 is HP’s long standing Ultrabook convertible, pitched at professionals who want all the pro-perks in a 13-inch, foldable form factor. 

The convertible features a new 13.3-inch 4K AMOLED touchscreen that can produce deeper blacks and a much more vibrant picture. The Spectre X360’s OLED panel looks amazing during media playback and the screen has professional levels of colour accuracy. 

The Spectre x360 comes with either an Intel Core i5-1035G4 or an Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU. While the former is generally paired with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, the i7 features either 8GB or 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, depending on the retailer you’re shopping at. 

The Core i5 Spectre x360s is limited to a Full HD panel, while the Core i7 models can choose between 1080p or 4K OLED displays. The i7 models also come with an additional 32GB of Intel Optane Memory which is designed to speed up overall system responsiveness by adding a cache of fast short-term memory to the systems that need it. 

Battery life is a little underwhelming at four hours and 40 minutes in 1080p movie playback, so you’ll need to take your charger for a full day of work. 

The full-span keyboard and wide trackpad mimic the screen’s 16 x 9 shape, giving the unit a sleek elongated envelope and while the GPU performance was lower than we’d like, the Core i7-1065G CPU performed as well as can be expected. 

A powerful portable workstation with an amazing screen and long lifespan that’s pricey and a bit light on storage. 

(Image credit: Gigabyte)

10. Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED

Gigabyte's OLED offering is a professional powerhouse.

Specifications
CPU: 2.3-5.1GHz Intel Core i7-10875H (quad-core)
Graphics: Nvidia RTX 2070 Super (Max-Q)
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, 4K (3,840x2,060) AMOLED
Storage: 1TB
Reasons to buy
+Desktop-like performance+Precise OLED screen+Solid 4K gaming/ work
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey

With a 4K HDR OLED panel up front, it’s hard not to be wooed by Gigabyte’s Aero 15 OLED. 

Supporting this premium screen is one of three Intel Core processors, the hexa-core i7-10750H, the octa-core i7-10875H and the octa-core i9-10980HK, which are three of the most powerful laptop processors around. 

RAM ranges from 16GB to 64GB and you can configure it with any Nvidia GPU between the RTX 2060 to the RTX 2080 Super locally. 

This ultra-premium range starts at AU$3,499 so it’s really only for those with the heaviest workstation requirements (or the fattest wallets). Unfortunately the top i9 unit doesn’t always perform quite as well as it should, lining up with Apple’s Core i9 MacBook Pro 16 benchmarks which equates to good hexa-core CPU performance. 

It’s also a little more expensive than it needs to be considering the AU$5,699 unit we tested only offered 512GB of storage space, but at least some of this is because of the premium OLED display. 

The Aero 15 OLED also has a decent 94Wh battery that lasts four hours and 41 minutes in PCMark 8 benchmarks and 6 hours and 10 minutes in 1080p movie playback, an amazing result considering the power. 

Graphically this machine is really solid with the 2080 Super landing in between the similarly specced MSI GS66 and the Razer Blade 15. 

The unit manages to come in at under 2cm thick and weighs less than 2kg, so gone are the days when power translated to a lack of portability.  

 One of the longer lasting powerhouse ultrabooks capable of heavy graphical loads and precise colour reproduction. 

(Image credit: Razer)

11. Razer Blade 15 (Advanced)

Can Razer cut through the competition with this advanced gaming/work rig?

Specifications
CPU: 2.3-5.1GHz Intel Core i7-10875H (quad-core)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q)
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, FullHD (1,920x1,080) 300Hz
Storage: 512GB
Reasons to buy
+Desktop-like performance+Ultra-fast 300Hz or 4K screen+Solid 4K gaming/ work
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Razer’s Blade 15 is often seen as the MacBook of gaming laptops, since it has both a sleek appearance and a hefty price-tag. But while the 2020 Blade 15 Advanced looks really nice against gaming laptops, it doesn’t really stand out in a lineup of professional ultrabooks. 

What it does offer, however, is a lot more performance. The Blade 15 Base and Advanced models are basically split by processor with the former bagging Intel’s 2.6-5GHz 6-core Core i7-10750H and the latter scooping up the 2.3-5.1GHz, 8-core Core i7-10875H. 

In addition the Advanced model also gets a 300Hz or 4K OLED screen and a Nvidia RTX 2070 Super or 2080 Super GPU and starts at AU$5,299. 

The Blade 15 Advanced pretty convincingly beats all of the quad-core laptops in the roundup, but it actually under-performed against the supposedly less expensive hexa-core i7-10750H on Dell’s XPS 15 in CPU benchmarks and media encoding tasks. 

The onboard Nvidia RTX 2080 Super meant that it was the second highest performer in the round up graphically, but even with all this power the device managed to last 3:48 in PCMark 8’s Home Battery and 6.5 hours in 1080p movie playback. 

This means you should be able to get a full working day’s battery life from the unit under light workloads. 

The 4K panel also offers a DCI-P3 colour gamut for anyone needing to do professional video editing.

A supremely powerful portable workstation that is also capable of commanding games, for a price. 

(Image credit: MSI)

12. MSI GS66 Stealth

The pinnacle of power squeezed into an ultrabook.

Specifications
CPU: 2.4-5.3GHz Intel Core i9-10980HK (octa-core)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q)
RAM: 32GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, FullHD (1,920x1,080) 300Hz
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Desktop workstation performance+Precise OLED screen+Solid 4K gaming/ work

MSI’s website only lists the GS66 Stealth’s Intel Core i9-10980HK models, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that that is the only CPU this device ships with, but the more common variation sold in Australia actually comes with a Core i7-10750H CPU. 

The most affordable variation we could find was an i7, 16GB, RTX 2060 with a 240Hz 1080p panel and 512GB SSD which has an RRP of $3,498 (but we've seen it on sale for $700 less). 

If you do want the wildly powerful Core i9-10980HK CPU with 32GB of RAM, an RTX 2080 GPU, 1TB of storage and a 4K screen, you’re looking at a hefty AU$6,999. 

MSI’s GS66 is up there with the highest performing laptops we've tested, capable of proper 4K gaming and the most intensive workloads. 

At 2cm thick and 2.1kg, the GS66 is one of the largest devices in the roundup, but considering the power you are carrying it’s still perfectly portable. 

If you're looking to do some competitive gaming, you can even configure the MSI GS66 Stealth with a 300Hz display for ultra smooth graphics and low latency responsiveness. 

A powerful little laptop with impressive visuals that is a little shy on battery, but not on price.

(Image credit: Razer)

13. Razer Blade Stealth 13

A powerful compact ultraportable that has some new screen tech to show off.

Specifications
CPU: 2.4-5.3GHz Intel Core i9-10980HK (octa-core)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q)
RAM: 32GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, FullHD (1,920x1,080) 300Hz
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+4K or 120Hz display+Discrete GPU+Compact

Razer’s compact Blade Stealth 13 is one of the few smaller laptops in the roundup to get a dedicated gaming GPU. Pair this Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti with the efficient Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor and 16GB of RAM and you have a very powerful work ultrabook that’ll be capable of solid workloads and decent 1080p gaming. 

The Blade Stealth 13 matches these internals with your choice of a 13.3-inch 120Hz display (a world first for 13-inchers, according to Razer) or a 4K touchscreen option.

Normally we would recommend a higher resolution screen on a work machine, but a 13.3-inch display is too small for it to be really useful. The 120Hz 1080p model is also an odd folly, since you’re unlikely to get much over 60fps on low 1080p settings in modern games, unless you’re playing indies or less demanding titles.  

While 1.5kg isn’t the lightest offering in the roundup, the Blade Stealth 13 is as thin as any clamshell you can get your hands on at 1.5cm and its footprint is as compact as the 13 and 14-inch offerings here. 

Battery life wasn’t particularly impressive with the 53Wh pack getting just over five hours in 1080p movie playback. 

Not bad for a gaming laptop, but poor compared to most work Ultrabooks. 

A powerful professional laptop that ticks all the boxes but doesn’t do much to distinguish itself in a competitive space. 

(Image credit: Dell)

14. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

Dell’s flagship 15-incher re-focuses on performance.

Specifications
CPU: 2.6-5GHz Intel Core i7-10750H (hexa-core)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti
RAM: 32GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, 4K (3,840x2,400)500nitt touchscreen
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+4K or 120Hz display+Discrete GPU+Compact
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Not full-day battery

While we were disappointed to see that Dell dropped the OLED panel option on its 2020 XPS 15, the new unit’s screen specs are still highly desirable. 

At the top end it can be configured with a 4K HDR screen that’s capable of Dolby Vision and reproducing 100% of the Adobe RGB colour gamut, or you can opt for the FullHD panel and save AU$600. 

Dell has also ditched the Core i9 model locally, offering only a hexa-core Intel Core i7-10750H or a octa-core i7-10875H CPU. 

This means that the XPS 15 really only varies on FullHD/4K screen resolution, storage and RAM allocation since the Nvidia GTX 1650Ti GPU is consistent across the range. 

The hexa-core models all feature 16GB of RAM and start at AU$3,699 for a 1080p screen and 512GB of storage. 

This pricing lines up pretty closely to Apple’s MacBook Pro offering, but the XPS 15 was one of the few devices we tested this year with a hexa-core CPU since most of the laptops were either four or eight core chips. 

Battery life was less than ideal, since the unit only lasted five hours and 49 minutes in 1080p movie playback and while the GPU is good for light 1080p gaming and moderate graphical workloads, it’s not really the same as some of the more powerful gaming rigs on offer here. 

A long-lasting and lightweight professional ultrabook that’s powerful enough for those on a tight budget. 

(Image credit: Acer)

15. Acer Swift 5

Is Acer trying to pull a quick one with its new professional ultrabook?

Specifications
CPU: 1.3-3.9GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7 (quad-core)
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics G7
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 14-inch, FullHD (1,920x1,080) IPS
Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Highly portable+Full-day battery life

The Swift 5 is one of the few offerings here that range an Intel Core i5 model as well as the more powerful i7-1065G7 variation, and you can get one for as little as AU$1,799. 

For that you’ll get the i5-1035G1, 8GB of RAM and a tiny 256GB SSD, which is just enough to be able to work from if you have everything in the cloud. 

If you can afford the AU$2,399 model you’ll get that faster processor, 16GB of RAM and a serviceable 512GB of PCIe SSD storage, which is a more well rounded configuration. 

Like Asus’s ExpertBook, the Swift 5 is trying to be as light as possible at just 990g. Swift 5’s thin plastic keyboard and trackpad can feel a little flimsy and loose for a premium Ultrabook, but it's perfectly acceptable when you consider the savings. 

The 1080p screen doesn’t look particularly enticing next to the other devices here, but it is enough to still look nice and be capable of decent media playback on a 14-inch screen. 

Performance was good considering the price although there were some sacrifices in GPU capabilities. Fortunately this is balanced by a decent battery life lasting 7 hours and 32 minutes in 1080p movie playback.  

An affordable and lightweight computing device that’s perfect for students and professionals who only need light document processing and web browsing. 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

16. Microsoft Surface Go 2

A standout price-conscious ultra-portable 2-in-1.

Specifications
CPU: 1.7GHz Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4425Y (dual-core)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 10.5-inch, FullHD (1,920x1,080) PixelSense touch
Storage: 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Half-kilo weight+Full-day battery life

As our most used work applications continue to be integrated into web browsers and files become increasingly stored in the cloud, many will be able to get away with working on a less powerful device these days. 

The most affordable Surface Go 2 you can grab locally starts at AU$598 and comes with an Intel Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage, which is an offering that seriously competes with some of the best Chromebooks available. 

The next tier up doubles the RAM and storage allocations for a total of AU$879 and we'd recommend this as the minimum for anyone intending to use unlocked Windows 10 Home (a free upgrade from Windows 10 S).  

The last variation comes with an 8th generation Intel Core m3 processor, a CPU that was once used to power the Surface Pro lineup. 

Backing this up is the same 8/128GB RAM storage combo from the more powerful Wi-Fi offering, but the most important distinction here is that the Core m3 model comes with 4G LTE connectivity so you can access the internet from anywhere through a mobile data plan. 

This more powerful configuration lands at a more expensive AU$1,199, which is on par with the entry level Surface Pro 7s, but when you have to fork out a few hundred dollars more for comparable constantly-connected professional 2-in-1s like the Galaxy Book S, it is a actually a really competitive offering. 

Microsoft claim a 64% performance bump over the previous iteration and the Surface Go 2 has a bigger 10.5-inch 1,920 x 1,280 display that is really vibrant for a budget screen. 

With a peak brightness of 280 nits it’s not really in the league of the 600 nit HDR Apple iPad Pro, but it’s more than enough to give media and documents the colour and clarity they deserve, even in direct sunlight. 

The 26.8Wh battery lasts five hours and five minutes in PCMark 8 Home battery and around 8 hours in 1080p media playback, so you should be able to get a full day's work out of it. 

A great option for anyone that doesn't need a lot of power. 

The Acer Spin 5 is a 2-in-1 with a standout stylus and a sleek design. 

(Image credit: Acer)

17. Acer Spin 5

A great convertible 2-in-1 with a super stylus.

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G4
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 13.5-inch (2256x1504 pixel) IPS display
Storage: 256GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Integrated Wacom stylus+Good battery life+Good connectivity options 

 

The Spin 5 is Acer’s flagship consumer 2-in-1 and although you end up paying a little more for it than the Swift 5 laptop, there’s  a few additional handy features for those that will get use out of a tablet. 

Acer have collaborated with specialist digital stylus and drawing pad creators Wacom to help give the Acer Active Stylus a smooth and natural feel for writing and drawing. When using it with the Windows 10 write-to-type functionality in the search bar the stylus felt comfortable and responsive, it also offered a neat and simple to master flow in applications like Paint, so you should be able to get it working well with your drawing app of choice. 

The 2020 Spin 5 comes in other configurations internationally but in Australia it's only available with an Intel Core i5-1035G4 CPU, which will be more than enough for most people’s working needs. It is about 20% less powerful than the devices running i7 processors with 16GB of RAM here, so you’d probably steer clear if you plan to do a lot of photo editing or running intense design software. But it's got more than enough grunt for web browsing, office applications, simple drawing apps and a bit of light browser-based gaming.

Battery life was decent with the device lasting 8 hours and 15 minutes in 1080p movie playback and 10 hours and 35 minutes in PCMark 10's Battery Benchmark, so you’ll be fine to get a full day’s working battery for light tasks at full brightness. 

Acer followed Microsoft in utilising a 3:2 format display at a 2256 by 1504 pixel resolution. This 13.5 inch screen has a thick bottom bezel, but the device still looks premium with an overall 80% screen to body ratio. 

The trackpad and keyboard both feel good to swipe and type on, respectively, and there’s no shortage of connectivity options with a HDMI out, 2 x USB Type-C and a microSD Card reader (alongside a couple of regular USB Type-A sockets and a 3.5mm audio jack).  

All up it's a decent 2-in-1, but it's only available locally through Acer, and it's a little pricey on balance. 

Sub-par performance and a price hike mean that this decent device isn’t looking like a segment leader anymore.

(Image credit: Huawei)

18. Huawei MateBook X Pro

The 2020 update of this early success is really testing the friendship.

Specifications
CPU: 1.8-4.9GHz Intel i7-10510U (quad-core)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX250
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 14-inch, 3K (3,000x2,000)
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Huawei Share mobile integration+Highly portable+Light-use day-long battery

Not many vendors are able to hit a home run on the first swing in a new region, but Huawei’s first 2018 Matebook Pro got very close, so we had high expectations from the 2020 update. 

The new MateBook X Pro again borrows its general aesthetic and naming style from Apple, but it offers some unique features and a low enough price, for a good device in its own right. 

The 2020 MateBook X Pro has a 13.9-inch 3,000 x 2,000 pixel resolution display and the same 91% screen to body ratio as its predecessor, but instead of offering two configurations, there’s just the one more powerful offering this time around. 

This is made up of an Intel Core i7-10510U quad-core CPU, 16GB of RAM and a Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU, which is a great configuration for a professional work machine. 

CPU performance was generally between 10% and 20% below the average of the quad-core performance on multi-threaded and general work tasks and the GPU was at most 20% better, so the discrete GPU is pretty pointless on this unit. 

This disappointing performance is compounded by the new device’s price hike, which makes it far less competitive than the 2018 offering. 

While 1080p media playback battery life is 10 hours and 37 minutes, PC Mark 8 battery life is just three hours and nine minutes, so your mileage will vary depending on how heavy your workload is. 

While this isn’t a complete fall from grace this device seems to have made enough critical missteps to mean that it is no longer a contender for the best laptop crown.  

How to choose the right laptop for you

Make sure you consider your intended usage scenarios before pulling the trigger on a laptop upgrade.

(Image credit: Huawei)

If you just need something to run your Chrome Browser tabs and the Microsoft Office suite then you can get away with a quad-core i5 on Apple's MacBook Air or even go for something lighter like a Chromebook if you're keen to spend as little as possible. With most workflows operating in the cloud these days there's no need for most people to fork out for powerful Ultrabooks anymore. 

If you do need to edit the odd photo in Photoshop, or you want to be able to take a look at your GoPro footage and do a bit of light editing for social media then you'll want something with a little more power. Intel's Core i7-1065G7 processor is more than enough to get you through just about every task you would expect a general user to encounter, with a little left in the tank to future-proof it for the next few years.

10th Gen Intel i7 units will also offer decent power efficiencies so you can expect all day battery life from the majority of professional Ultrabooks here. These devices are also generally very portable at 1.5cm thick and a little over a kilogram for your average 13-incher. 

If you are a visual creative you might opt for one of the 15-inch devices here, which will be a little heavier and thicker, but not by much. What is also neat about these bigger units is that most vendors include discrete GPUs with the bigger screen models, which will allow you to do some more heavy graphical lifting if you do any software development or visual effects work. These GPUs are even often capable of respectable FullHD gaming, which means you can get one device that'll do everything you need it to.

Anyone who wants something really lightweight there's even a number of impressively powerful tablets here that stand up to (or even outpace) some of the Ultrabook laptops. It's also worth noting that the premium price you once paid for these ultra-versatile devices isn't even that dramatic these days.