Update 30/6/21: New 12th Gen. Intel processors are trickling out with the best of the initial round now included here. Keep posted for additional P series devices soon.
While we’ve seen some exciting announcements at the 2022 CES, there’s still a bit of time before many of these laptops will become available. 2021 has a really impressive laptop range to choose from if you need something right now and depending on what you choose it may actually be better than something running a 12th Gen Intel processor. T3's Aussie review 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 regularly updated and expertly curated, so it'll lead you right to the best laptops for working, gaming, designing, studying and anything else.
Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max processors that arrived with the MacBook Pro 14 and MacBook Pro 16 models at the end of 2021 are an amazing technological achievement. The processors are essentially upscaled smartphone chips that were optimised to outperform any consumer laptop CPUs from AMD or Intel when they launched. Since they only outpace Ryzen 5 and 11th Gen Core i9 chips by a few percent it’s likely that AMD or Intel will regain control of the most powerful processor title soon, but the M1 based mobile processors offer unique efficiency parameters that mean you get full day working battery lifespans and over four hours of on-battery gaming without performance loss. Features that could take AMD and Intel years to match.
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 (opens in new tab) or Dell (opens in new tab), 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 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:
- Best lightweight laptops
- Best student laptops
- Best gaming laptops
- Best 2-in-1 laptops
- Best ultraportable laptops
The best laptops you can buy today
On the handful of benchmarks where you can actually compare them, both the 10-core M1 Pro and M1 Max chips available on the 14 or 16 inch MacBook Pros are capable of outpacing the most powerful laptop processors from either AMD or Intel.
What’s perhaps even more amazing is that the M1 Pro and M1 Max achieve this result with a 30W CPU power draw, which means that you’re getting both more computer power and longer battery life on the MacBook Pro 2021.
Apple’s integrated GPUs on the M1 Pro and M1 Max are arguably better suited to graphical work than they are for gaming, but the 16 Core M1 Pro GPU is around 85 percent better in graphical benchmarks than the original M1, offering 50 frames per second in Sid Meier's: Civilization VI using Ultra, 1080p settings. The M1 Max 32-core integrated GPU offered twice the benchmark performance of the M1 Pro GPU, making it roughly equivalent to a Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti.
Apple is also leveraging its Liquid Retina LCD display technology used on some iPhones and iPads for a new screen that roughly doubles the average peak brightness and dramatically improves the colour appearance of its predecessors.
Apple’s quietly ditched the Touch Bar in lieu of a trusty set of ‘dumb’ function buttons, it’s reintroduced the MagSafe cable and the power button includes a tactile fingerprint reader for security. You will be able to find alternate ultrabooks with better graphical capabilities (at least for gaming), but none with a battery that’ll last more than a few hours under load.
The new MacBook Pros are the most powerful and efficient Ultrabooks available for pro workloads and light gaming, if you’re happy to pay a premium for battery life.
Lenovo’s Yoga range has been exploring new ground beyond classic 2-in-1s and the new Yoga Slim Pro 7 clamshell laptop is one of the most innovative configurations we’ve seen in a while. Featuring a powerful AMD Ryzen 7 5800H that you’d generally see on gaming laptops and 16GB of RAM, it’s up there alongside some of the most powerful units available.
Lenovo have managed to compress these powerful components into a compact 14in form factor that’s just 1.4kg and 1.8cm thick which is an amazingly portable profile. In fact, all the physical design elements are carefully engineered. The chassis materials feel premium, the hinge works well, the keyboard offers 1.3mm key travel and feels really nice to type on, and the generous touchpad is soft to touch and responsive.
All these features revolve around the 14-inch Samsung E4 OLED display that operates in a 16 by 10 format at 2,880 x 1,800 pixel resolution, with a 90Hz refresh rate and 1ms response rate. Full DCI-P3 colour reproduction, Dolby Vision HDR and VESA DisplayHDR 500 True Black certification mean that this screen looks fantastic during media playback, light gaming and even professional level colour-accurate work.
The 7 hours and 48 minutes of media playback is a decent full working day lifespan, but you can stretch this further by shifting to a 60Hz refresh rate. All up this one’s a powerful, well designed Ultrabook with an awesome OLED screen for a good price.
Asus’ Vivobook range has often catered to the more financially savvy premium ultrabook consumers, but the Vivobook Pro OLED series is looking to change this presumption with powerful thin and light offerings with OLED displays.
OLED screens are still not exactly commonplace on laptops, so we’re still surprised every time we see the colours they’re capable of reproducing and the Asus Vivobook Pro 16X OLED is one of the better OLED panels we’ve seen.
The 16-inch panel offers 4K resolution in a 16 by 10 format with Vesa True Black 500 HDR colour. While this is a pretty amazing feature set offering a 1-million-to-one contrast ratio, it actually sets the bar higher by meeting 100 percent of the DCI-P3 colour gamut and includes an unprecedented 0.2ms response rate on the 60Hz panel. This amounts to a generously sized display capable of accurate professional colour work and detailed creative workflows. It also looks pretty amazing for media playback and will bring to life any games you might want to fire up on it.
This impressive screen is backed up by one of the top AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPUs, a solid 16GB RAM allocation and a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU. That CPU was one of the best performing processors in 2021 and when paired with a 3050 Ti, this device offers above average Ultrabook performance that’ll be capable of running demanding software with ease.
When paired with a 1TB SSD the Vivobook Pro 16X OLED comes in at $3,199, which means it competes directly with devices like the Surface Studio Laptop and undercuts the MacBook Pro 16 (M1 Pro) by $550. In CPU heavy tasks it’s not quite where the MacBook Pro 16 is, but the 3050 Ti offers meaningful performance improvement over the M1 Pro 16-core GPU so it’s pretty comparable on the whole. If you do happen to want to game you’ll be able to get around 45fps using 1080p Ultra settings current titles.
The generous 96Wh battery offers over 10 hours and 30 minutes in general work tasks and media playback, which means you’ll get a full day unless you’re gaming or really stressing the system. This is an hour and a half more than what we got on the MacBook Pro 16 and is up there with the longest lasting laptops with high res screens that we have on file.
Asus has also invested a lot in additional features like a nifty DialPad for creative power users, a fingerprint reader, webcam shutter, low blue light software and a noise-cancelling microphone, to ensure you’re able to make the most of this device in any work environment.
There’s enough interface options and the trackpad and keyboard are comfortable to use, so we can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want this laptop.
Dell’s XPS range has long been one of the best available professional Ultrabooks, but the late 2020 XPS 13 (9310) has upped the ante with a new processor and a considerable price cut that puts it, once again, at the top of the game. It's not quite enough to out-value the game-changing Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, but it isn't too far off it.
The XPS 13 (9310) are running Intel's latest 11th generation processors and include new integrated graphics chips that massively increase the gaming cpapbilities of this device. On demanding tasks the Intel Iris Xe Graphics on the XPS 13 (9310) doubled the performance of the Intel Iris Plus Graphics that we saw on the previous generation.
This is enough of a performance bump to put light 1080p gaming within reach, offering playable frame rates of around 30fps on current titles like The Division 2, Metro: Exodus and Sid Meier's: Civilization VI when running Low graphical settings at 1080p resolutions. The same settings get closer to 60fps averages on Total War Saga: Troy and F1 2020 and you’ll get much faster frame rates on less demanding titles like Fortnite or Rocket League.
The 16 x 10, 13.4-inch display can be configured with either a 500 nit Full HD+ or a 4K HDR screen with a DCI P3 colour gamut. While the 4K model has touchscreen capabilities you can opt for a non-touch variation of the 1080p screen, but all three offer Dolby Vision for HDR media playback.
The late 2020 XPS 13 (9310) comes with either an Intel Core i5-1135G7 (opens in new tab) or a Core i7-1165G7 (opens in new tab) CPU locally and each starts with respective RRPs of $2,399 and $2,899 for the non-touch FullHD models. If you want the touch panel it’ll cost an extra $100 (opens in new tab)while the 4K screen will add $500 (opens in new tab) to the bill. While the i5 variant comes with 8GB of RAM, the i7 model comes with either 16GB or 32GB and can expand the included PCIe SSD storage from 512 GB to 1TB, as long as you’ve already forked out for the upgraded 4K display.
In addition to a processor bump, the new XPS 13 also sees an improvement in processor efficiency that generates a 20 percent increase in 1080p movie playback lifespan. The new seven hour total achieved by the 48Wh battery isn’t quite what you need for a 24 hours of unplugged productivity, but it is more than enough to get you through the brunt of a daily workload before needing a recharge.
Dell’s still using fibreglass for the palm rest surround to insulate your hands from the internals and it’s available in either black or white colouring with a honed silver or frost coloured metal chassis to match. It's a worthy consideration since the late 2020 XPS 13 runs hot, with CPU cores frequently spiking to 100 degrees.
Considering that it’s also got a decent set of speakers, a comfortable keyboard, a responsive trackpad and sufficient webcam capabilities, the late 2020 XPS 13 ticks every box it needs to, to be a great ultrabook.
The Asus ZenBook Flip 13’s 1080p screen is a 13.3-inch OLED panel with Full DCI-P3 colour compatibility, which is a pretty standout bonus in an otherwise tight race … Especially when it’ll cost you nothing extra.
The standard online price for the ZenBook Flip 13 with a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD is $2,299 in Australia, but we’ve seen it on sale for as little as $2,077 — which is on par with the best price for an i7 Evo we’ve seen. It also comes in an i5, 8GB, 512GB variation (still with the OLED panel) for $1,699 full-price or $1,598 on sale.
The keyboard is a little elongated, but this doesn’t seem to affect the overall typing experience too much. The backlit trackpad has developed into something that is now super easy to turn on and off, allowing it to double as an awesomely convenient number pad. Anyone who does long stints in Excel sheets will love this space saving keyboard extension.
We’re guessing Asus did some component binning as this more affordable laptop takes a little bit of a hit in general performance benchmarks, but it’s less than 10 percent off Evo averages generally. The gaming performance wasn’t perfect in real world GPU testing, but the ZenBook Flip 13 did achieve parity in synthetic GPU testing, so we suspect these gaming performance issues can be solved by tweaking some power settings and updates to software.
Storage was also the slowest of the pack, but it’s still a 2,000MB/s PCIe storage device, so it won’t feel sluggish by any means... especially if you're updating from something that's a couple of years old. Battery life was solid, getting more than 10 hours in both PCMark 10 and 1080p movie playback benchmarks.
On balance we reckon this one's the best value Ultrabook with an Intel processor this year, even if some of Dell's cheaper XPS 13 models are likely to be more broadly appealing.
MSI has been making some good laptops of late, and the Prestige 14 Evo isn’t about to break that streak. Coming in at just 1.29kg the Prestige 14 EVO is on the lighter side of 13-inch laptops available in 2021.
At first glance it might feel like it’s made out of cheaper materials but the sandblasted aluminium provides a sturdy shell that prevents any flex and helps keep it under 1.6cm thick.
There’s really only two configurations available locally, and they're both exclusive to JB Hi-Fi. The first features an i7-1165G7 with Iris Xe GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD and costs $2,398 and the second is basically the same, but has an Intel Core i5-1135G7 and goes for $1,998. While the former is only available in 'Carbon Grey', the latter come in either 'Pure White' or 'Rose Pink'.
This unit is one of the few to feature a 4th generation PCIe SSD, which means you can expect ridiculously fast read speeds of 4,910MB/s, which is a noteworthy jump from the last generation of PCIe SSDs – even if we could only get this one to 2,508MB/s when writing.
Performance is on par with what you’ll see from the rest of the units here. This means it’s powerful enough to accommodate the workflows of most business users, with only designers and other creative pros needing a little more under the hood. You also get the Iris Xe GPU gaming capabilities of the other Intel Evo laptops here, which means you’ll get playable frame rates for Low 1080p settings on many modern games. Based on testing of other 11th Gen devices you should get a very similar GPU benefit form the less expensive Core i5 models.
Apart from the 4th-gen PCIe SSD the main drawcard of the MSI prestige is the price which is on the more affordable end without sacrificing on components. If you need a high-res screen you’ll have to look elsewhere, but everything else on this unit is top notch.
The last couple of Zephyrus ultra-portable gaming laptops we’ve seen from Asus have been Built around AMD CPUs, so it’s interesting to see that the 2022 ROG Zephyrus M16 has an Intel processor kicking things off. There’s a major difference in Intel’s 12th gen, H series CPUs since they have 14 cores, rather than the eight cores you see on the 11th generation H series processors.
The ROG Zephyrus M16 is a refresh of Asus’ 2021 ROG Zephyrus M16 that sticks pretty close to its predecessor. It’s got a similar 16-inch display in a 15-inch form factor, with the same optional 16 by 10 QHD+ screen, wrapped in an almost identical 2kg chassis.
The updated 2022 Zephyrus M16 comes with either an Intel Core i7-12700H or an Intel Core i9-12900H processor. The former is paired with a 165Hz FullHD+ 16:10 display, 16GB of RAM and a choice of a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (100W) GPU for $2,799 or a RTX 3060 (120W) GPU for $3,199. If you opt for the i9 model, you’ll get that higher res 2560 x 1600 165Hz screen, a larger 32GB RAM allocation, and an RTX 3070 Ti (120W) GPU for $4,499.
For a reduced range, the configurations are pretty nicely balanced, even if we do wish that all of them got the QHD display. In addition to being higher resolution, the QHD+ display also offers a professional level DCI-P3 wide colour gamut for colour grading or high-fidelity HDR gaming, rather than the standard 100 percent sRGB colour on the 1200p monitors.
The metal chassis with ‘soft-touch’ coating gives a premium feel to the device and the generous trackpad, quiet keyboard, and subtle colour on the top shell continue a level of sophistication that is often missed on gaming laptops.
The Zephyrus M16 may be design conscious, but it’s also got good performance stats for a workstation ultraportable. The i9-12900H CPU model we tested was between two and 20 percent better than the average we currently have for a i7-12700H, although take this with a grain of salt since the i7-12700H performance can vary considerably. Regardless this powerful processor will be exceptional for any work or gaming tasks you throw at it.
The Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti GPU that we tested was allocated a 120W max power draw, which is a reasonable middle ground offering around 15 percent more performance than a 3070 Ti with a 95W TDP, but about 10-15 percent less than the same 3070 Ti offered on bulkier gaming laptops with 150W GPU power allocations. This translates to 90fps+ on modern titles using 1080p Ultra settings and around 60fps+ when using ray tracing or at higher resolutions. Expect about half this graphical performance if you opt for the 3050 Ti GPU or about 20 percent less for the 3060 GPU.
While battery life was improved thanks to the CPU, general work tasks and 1080p video won’t get you more than 3-4 hours respectively. The one main downside is that there’s been a $100 price increase from its predecessors on the low-end units and it’ll cost $1,100 more for the i9 model this year.
The last few iterations of the Surface Pros have featured the same 12.3-inch PixelSense Display, so it’s nice to see a bigger, faster and higher resolution 13-inch display on the Surface Pro 8. The screen is reportedly 12.5 percent brighter at 450 nits thanks to the increased 2,880 by 1,920 pixel count and it’s 120Hz refresh rate makes motion look much smoother.
The Surface Pro 8 is the first in the Surface range to get the Intel Iris Xe GPU, which means that slightly older or less demanding games are going to run really well using 1080p ‘Low’ settings. These novel gaming capabilities are complimented by the new 120Hz screen refresh rate which will make less demanding titles run smoothly and this responsiveness benefits numerous other elements like making drawing with a stylus feel more smooth and natural.
While the Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor was launched more than a year before the arrival of the Surface Pro 8, it was still the current generation at the end of 2021 and it was an improvement over its predecessor and is more than powerful enough for photo editing and other demanding work applications.
One of the most obvious improvements this year is a new pen with a housing built directly into the keyboard. The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard with Slim Pen 2 takes some of the best bits of earlier stylus design and improves on them with a slim ergonomic design, haptic feedback, lower latency and improved software integration. The only downside is that the Slim Pen 2 costs $189.95, on top of the $259.95 Surface Pro 2 Signature Keyboard so you’ll need to factor in a hefty peripheral cost.
There’s a larger 50Wh capacity battery on the Surface Pro 8 that did more than just balance out the additional screen energy draw, lasting nine hours and 22 minutes in PC Mark 10 Battery Benchmark. This is a big jump from its predecessors and means you can expect a full work day’s battery life from it.
It’s been a couple of years since Microsoft released the Surface Book 3, so it’s about the right time for an update to this line. But in a minor surprise the Windows developer seems to have reinvented the branding of these powerful Ultraportables and has renamed it the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio.
Instead of offering a detachable tablet experience like the Surface Book, the Surface Laptop Studio has a screen that can fold into a drafting table shape to make it easy to draw on. The design (and title) is clearly borrowed from the company’s desktop all-in-one the Surface Studio and is perfectly suited to be used with the recently updated Surface Slim Pen 2.
The laptop has a recessed edge that we originally thought was to make the powerful 1.9cm device look a little less bulky in photos, but this unusual shadow line design actually creates an inverted shelf that can store the Slim Pen 2 and makes room for unimpeded thermal vents on either side.
The design makes sense for the purpose Microsoft intended, but it does reduce the area available to interface connections, so we understand why it hasn’t been attempted before. Still, it fits a pair of Thunderbolt ports, the Surface Connect port and a 3.5mm audio jack, but just don’t expect to see any USB Type-A ports here.
The 14.4-inch PixelSense display looks really impressive, even when sitting next to the Alienware Quantum Dot OLED. Sure it’s a little more glossy and doesn’t have the same depth in the blacks, but the 2400 x 1600 pixel touchscreen has a 1500 to 1 contrast ratio and a vibrant 201 PPI pixel density. It does only just scrape in to achieve 100 percent sRGB colour reproduction though, so you can’t really use it for colour grading work, even if it does look great.
Other than containing a hinge that allows the screen to fold into a hovering tablet or a-frame shape, the screen also contains the neat advantage of offering a 120Hz display that makes the already responsive Surface Slim Pen 2 seem even more silky, and opens up interesting gaming potential.
While the entry level Surface Laptop Studio comes with an Intel Core i5-11300H CPU and integrated Iris Xe Graphics, you can configure it with an Intel Core i7-11370H CPU and a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti GPU for $3,149. Both models come with 16GB of RAM and will be fine for a wide range of workloads, but the latter is going to have slightly more overhead for using design software. It’s not bad at gaming either, with the i7 unit we tested racking up 49fps averages on games like F1 2021 using Ultra 1080p settings.
Battery life isn’t amazing at seven hours and four minutes of PCMark 10 Work benchmarks, and a little over six hours of movie playback, but it’s not horrible for an ultraportable with a discrete GPU.
The keyboard and trackpad are nice and comfortable and it’s got a custom set of ‘Quad Omnisonic’ Dolby Atmos speakers to elevate the spatial audio of any media playback.
You’ll get a similar laptop experience from the Asus VivoBook Pro 15 OLED for $2,299 if you don’t mind a three hour battery life, but there’s not really anywhere else you can get this kind of touchscreen and drawing interface.
Dell’s XPS brand is about as reliable as they come in the laptop space and the XPS 15 9510 has everything a creative professional is going to be looking for in a larger laptop. Dell likes to offer the full suite of customisable options for its laptops so you’ll get to choose from Intel’s i5, i7 or i9 11th gen CPUs to meet the demands of your workload.
For those needing a bit more power the i7-11800H and i9-11900H CPU options include a discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU and start at $3,499 and $3,899 respectively. The base models here come with the same 15.6-inch non-touch display as the i5 model, but you do have the option to upgrade this to a 3.5K resolution touchscreen OLED display for an extra $600, or a brighter 4K touchscreen LED for $567. While the 400-nit OLED display is capable of meeting the full range of DCI-P3 colours, the UHD+ monitor has been designed for creators that need to work in the Adobe RGB colour space.
As you would expect, there’s a whole suite of elements that Dell has been refining over the years that really help the XPS range stand out amongst other Windows Ultrabooks. The Infinity Edge besels, pioneered by Dell, continue to push the boundaries of how frameless a screen can look and the keyboard offers one of the nicest typing experiences you’ll find on a laptop. The carbon fibre keyboard surround has a nice powdery rubberlike tactile finish that deflects heat away from your palms and keeps your hands comfortable all day.
The Enduro Urban N3 is not your average laptop. It’s the kind of device that has IP53 splash resistance so you can take on a hike without being worried that you’ll get rained on. It also includes MIL-STD 810H resistance certifications and reinforced corners so it’ll survive a drop or two when you're out.
An above average 450nit display makes it easier to see the 14-inch display when outside in the sun and it’s even got an antimicrobial coating to help maintain health in challenging environments. The Enduro Urban N3 is a laptop that is able to adapt to its surroundings to mean you can have the functionality of a modern device wherever you need it.
All this versatility wouldn’t be that useful if you didn’t start with a solid set of computing components. The foundational Acer Enduro Urban N3 model comes with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, for an RRP of $1,899. These are reasonable components that’ll allow most people to reliably perform lighter workloads using office documents and web pages, but even at the sale price of $1,699 you could find non-ruggedised laptops with similar components for hundreds less.
While it might be a cut above your average laptop at battling the elements, this advantage does come at a cost. The most obvious is the plastic exterior, which Acer has designed to fit in with your cargo shorts or a windbreaker, but it still isn’t as sleek as the polished metal finishes you get on standard ultrabooks. Despite this lightweight plastic chassis the Enduro Urban N3 weighs 1.85kg, 30 to 40 percent heavier than many ultraportable laptops and with a thickness of 2.2cm it’s got as much girth as many of today’s gaming laptops.
The other limiting factor is that you’ll have to unclip the waterproof caps every time you want to connect something. For anyone that requires waterproofing, then this is an negligible tradeoff, but it’ll get a bit tedious if you’re regularly connecting various other devices.
The keyboard is good, but the trackpad is a little grippy and the trackpad buttons are mushy and imprecise. The screen also has chunky bezels and can be a little glossy for bright background environments.
If you really need something that can hold its own in dusty, wet or cold environments then there is a heap of tech on the Enduro Urban N3 that’ll keep things running way longer than your average Ultrabook. If you don’t need these features, however, then you can find thinner, lighter and cheaper devices pretty easily.
The Surface Laptop 4 is one of the only Ultrabook ranges to offer numerous AMD and Intel based models side-by-side, which is great for anyone wanting a specific feature set.
Now in its 4th generation, the Surface Laptop 4 is also really starting to mature into a elegant and reasonably priced device. Featuring longer than average battery lifespans, vibrant 3 by 2 displays, a sophisticated chassis design and many unique colours to choose from, it's no wonder they're so popular.
You can opt for either a 13.5 inch display at a resolution of 2,256 by 1,504 or a 15-inch screen with 2,496 by 1,664 pixels. These PixelSense displays are designed to be as similar as possible offering a 3 by 2 aspect ratio at 201ppi, with the same 10-point multi-touch capabilities. They look vibrant and are more than adequate for general office use and media playback, but for anyone hoping to do professional colour work these screens only achieve partial sRGB colour reproduction and rely on Windows baked-in enhancement software for workaround HDR media.
The AMD variations of the Surface Laptop 4 range are less expensive than the Intel variations in both the 13.5-inch and 15-inch models and start at $1,599 for a device with a Ryzen 5 4680U CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. This pricing is more a reflection on RAM and storage however, since both Ryzen processors keep up with their Intel counterparts, and at times even outpace them.
The keyboards on both devices are spacious and really nice to type on with the 15-incher offering a little more key travel, while the 13-inch unit features soft Alcantara palm rests. Both devices offered solid 10 hour general-work battery lifespans with Intel taking the lead on this front this year, lasting up to 14 hours.
While the new Yoga Slim 7i Carbon borrows its namesake from Lenovo's impressive convertible range, it’s not actually a convertible… or even a touchscreen laptop.
The Yoga 7i Carbon is a 13.3-inch Intel Evo clamshell that features a carbon fibre chassis to keep the total weight to just 966g, around 25 percent lighter than your average 13-inch Evo. Despite this the chassis feels sturdy and because the material is around 40 times less conductive than aluminium, you won’t feel the computer heat on the keyboard surround.
The Yoga 7i Slim comes in two variations locally. Both include a 13.3-inch QHD IPS display, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB M.2 SSD with the main difference being processor and OS spec.
The Intel Core i5-1135G7 model gets Windows 10 Home and comes with an RRP of $2,249 while the Intel Core i7-1165G7 variant is privy to Windows 10 Pro and an RRP of $2,699.
Fortunately we’ve seen both these models available for considerably less, with some retailers offering the i7 model with W10 Home for just $1,799 – a really competitive price point for a premium Ultrabook.
The 16 by 10 screen features a higher than average 2560x1600 QHD resolution and has been certified to meet the Dolby Vision standard for HDR streaming. Both the i5 and i7 variants have plenty of power overhead for general work tasks, light photo editing and you’ll even get playable frame rates on games at Low 1080p settings thanks to the integrated Iris Xe Graphics from Intel.
An HD webcam, 2W Dolby Atmos speakers and 10 hour plus work battery life add up to a pretty well rounded feature set, overall.
Whether it is the limited set of custom-built applications, the almost useably-janky interface, or the fact that it prioritises apps and second display functionality over being a usable trackpad – the ScreenPad touchscreen trackpad on the Zenbook 14 UX435 has a lot of major pitfalls. Thankfully it has a function button that'll turn the screen pad back into a permanent trackpad, so it's not a deal breaker.
Apart from this (and the odd petty keyboard-layout gripe) the new ZenBook 14 UX435 is actually a pretty amazing unit. The range features one of Intel’s new 11th Gen processors and the Intel Iris Xe GPU accompanies this processor. The UX435 also has a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX450 GPU and offers eight or 16GB of RAM. This means it was able to get 50fps+ frames per second on games like The Division 2 and Sid Meier's: Civilization VI on ‘Low’ 1080p settings and can even run playable frame rates with Ultra 1080p settings on F1 and anything else that’s a little more lightweight.
The UX435 is a solid work machine too, capable of chewing through everything but the most demanding technical software. It even managed to outperform Dell’s XPS 13 in a handful of work benchmarks, which leads us to suspect that even the Core i5-1135G7 variation will be enough for most people’s workflows.
Unfortunately, Asus hasn’t done a lot of efficiency optimisation on the UX435, which lasts only three hours and 31 minutes in PCMark 10’s Home Office battery benchmark. There’s also a bit of a hit in display quality for office work. 1080p is more than enough for a 14-inch screen, but when the competition is offering 4K HDR screens, this 300nit FullHD display looks a little dull.
With an RRP of $2,399 the Swift 5 from Acer is the equal best value Windows device here alongside the MSI Prestige 14 Evo and the Asus ZenBook Flip 13, but we’ve seen it on Acer’s online store for as little as $2,047. If you can get it at this price then the Swift 5 offers unbeatable value, but even at it’s RRP this is a solid offering.
Not only is this device one of the thinnest of the roundup at 1.5cm thick, it was also the lightest (per square inch) weighing in at just over a kilogram. While it does feel a little less premium using lightweight metals on the keyboard surround and top shell, Acer has actually done a great job maintaining continuity through to the plastic undercarriage, which means it doesn’t detract at all from the overall experience.
The keyboard has a slightly smaller footprint than some here and the keys aren’t overly deep and will be a little loud for some, but they’re comfortable enough to type on for long periods of time. The trackpad is also soft and responsive enough to not be an issue, and there’s more connectivity options here for those keen to have HDMI and USB Type-A connectivity.
The Swift 5 even performed consistently above average in our tests and, similar to others here, netted playable framerate averages around 35fps for The Division 2 and Metro: Exodus.
Battery life was decent lasting 8 hours and 54 minutes in 1080p movie playback and while the 14-inch IPS touchscreen wasn’t standout, it had nice enough colour reproduction and functionality to be appropriate as a premium display.
What's perhaps the key bonus feature on this one, though, is the included 1TB PCIe SSD. This is a generous storage capacity on a modern Ultrabook and it comes at no extra cost.
While some of the XPS 13 2-in-1s offered by Dell are overpriced, there seems to be a rolling deal on the most popular i7, 16GB, 512GB SSD, FullHD+ model, which lands at a more competitive $2,399.
At this price, this 13.4-inch FullHD+ convertible laptop offers a solid pedigree that’s expressed in sophisticated materials like an insulating carbon fibre keyboard surround, minimal exposed air vents and delicately weighted, fully-rotatable hinges. The keyboard isn’t particularly deep, but it has a signature clicky feel and sound that is appreciated by many and makes for a nice overall typing experience.
While some performance benchmarks pegged this unit around the middle of the pack, others suggest that the XPS 13 2-in-1 was tuned to go as fast as it could, showing up to 30 percent improvements over Evo averages on media encoding and CPU rendering tasks. Some of these performance gains continued into graphical capabilities scoring a 41fps average in the Division 2 on 1080p low, but it does come at a cost of battery life. Lasting only five hours and 48 minutes in 1080p movie playback, it was one of the most fleeting here. The Evo spec means you should be able to get a full work day’s battery life if you dial down performance, but we suspect this will temper any performance benefits.
The screen is vibrant and the slightly taller 16 by 10 proportion is a nice touch. If you do want 4K+ resolution then expect to add $1,300 to the overall price tag. FullHD+ was enough to comfortably work on and looks good during playback, so there’s no real need for the upgrade.
It’s easy to see Toshiba’s legacy in everything from the lightweight metal chassis design to the thin bezel implementation on the Dynabook Portégé X30W-J, but some elements like the trackpad look and feel a little dated in a lineup of 2021 Evo laptops. So Sharp still has some honing to do on its adopted protégé.
Dynabook is claiming its Portégé X30W-J is the lightest 13.3-inch Evo device around, and so far we haven’t seen anything to contradict that, however the slightly larger 14-inch Acer Swift 5 has a better kg-per-inch weight to screen-size ratio. Unfortunately, the Portégé X30W-J’s lightweight materials combined with the mushier than usual keyboard make this device feel a little less premium than its competitors here, but it’s not bad enough to be a deal breaker.
The Portégé X30W-J is one of the few here to feature Windows 10 Pro, and the model we tested came with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU. With a starting price of around $2,148 when paired with 8GB RAM and 256GB of storage, we’d opt to double the memory and storage offerings for $150 extra or go for the i7, 16GB, 512GB variation for $2,347.
In most tests the i5 Dynabook Portégé X30W-J performed around 10 percent behind the i7 Evo average, but this should still be more than enough for most workflows at roughly the same performance of a 10th Gen i7.
With similar relative GPU performance you can still expect to play most games on low 1080p graphical settings, and you’ll get eight hours and 26 minutes out of the battery in 1080p movie playback.
As the name may suggest, the Gram range of laptops from LG is one of the lighter Ultrabooks you can get your hands on today. It's also the first in a long time to be released in Australia.
The LG Gram laptop range is available in three sizes, 14, 16 and 17 inches, which have RRPs that range from $1,799 to $3,009. The smaller devices all get Intel Core i5-1135G7 processors and 72Wh batteries, with the entry level models seeing 8GB of RAM and a 256GB M.2 SSD.
You can opt for 512GB of onboard storage on the 14-inch devices for an extra couple of hundred dollars, but if you want more powerful components you’ll have to go for a larger device.
The 16 inch models come with a generous 80Wh battery and can be configured with 16GB of RAM and an Intel Core i7-1165G7 for a total of $2809 while the 17-inch Gram gets all these top line specs and a slightly bigger screen for $3009.
The 17-inch LG Gram weighs in at 1.35kg which is equivalent to most of today’s 13-inch ultrabooks. An impressive feat for something that accommodates a 28% bigger screen and generous battery. The 16 inch and 14 inch devices aren’t carrying much excess weight either at 1.19kg and 999g, respectively.
While the general performance of the Gram range was what you'd expect form 11th generation Intel Evo CPUs and should be more than powerful enough to carry you through a general day of work tasks, the GPU did perform around 30% behind on the unit we tested. There's plenty of overhead in Intel Iris Xe Graphics for general work tasks, but if lightweight gaming is a priority you’ll want to look elsewhere.
The screen, whatever size you opt for, offers a great balance of premium features that don’t drive costs up too high. The screen is a slightly taller 16 by 10 proportion which is better for web pages and general office use but it also features a WQXGA 2560x1600 pixel array for a slightly more than FullHD clarity. It’s not the brightest display we’ve seen but it does come with a 99% DCI-P3 colour gamut which is enough to do colour grading touch ups for media on the go.
Battery life was great in battery saver mode lasting well over a day in general work cases and 14 hours and 47 minutes in 1080p movie playback.
Razer is finally branching out into the ‘strictly business’ space with the new Book 13 line by ditching the discrete GPU and slashing the price. It’s a solid move, but with Apple and Dell both offering price cuts on their Ultrabook offerings this year, the Book 13’s starting price of $2,199 isn’t as competitive as we’d hoped.
For that starting price you’ll get a non-touch 13.4-inch 16-by-10 display at FullHD+ 60Hz, an Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, which is a couple of hundred dollars less than Dell’s XPS 13, but a few hundred more than a similarly specced MacBook Air. If you want the more powerful Intel Core i7-1165G7 under the hood and touchscreen capabilities you're looking at $2,999, while the top of the line UHD+ display will cost you $3,799. The two more expensive models aren’t as competitively priced as the i5 unit, but they’re not excessive either.
While it might rely on an integrated GPU, the Razer Book 13 managed to snag one of Intel’s Iris Xe processors on both the i5 and i7 units. This means it's capable of getting playable (30fps+) averages on The Division 2, Total War Saga: Troy, F1 2020, and Sid Meier’s Civilization VI when running at FullHD+ resolutions on low graphical settings. This powerful integrated GPU will boost productivity for anyone occasionally doing graphically intensive work and while you could argue it’s not quite a gaming GPU, it’s enough for those who want to occasionally play less demanding titles.
The keyboard is a little more compact than we’d like and while the keys had a good level of resistance, they are slightly too small and skew to the right. That said, it’s not bad enough to be a dealbreaker and the trackpad is responsive and a nice size.
Razer has been working with Intel to get Evo (Project Athena V2) certification, which means the Book 13 will wake instantly from sleep and should get 10 hours of battery under particular conditions. In our testing we got seven hours and 40 minutes in PCMark 10’s Work battery benchmark and nine hours and 41 minutes in 1080p movie playback, which is pretty good if you compare it to devices from last year.
It’s been almost two years since this device was launched, but the main differences (at least on paper) between the specifications of the (5th Gen) Surface Pro, the Surface Pro 6, and the Surface Pro 7, is the CPU so we’re expecting an update soon. Still this device has come down in price and maintains a unique enough proposition to keep it here for now. The Surface Pro 7 is available in four, eight and 16GB RAM configurations and identical 128GB to 1TB storage options to its predecessors.
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 forebears, and even fits into an indistinguishable 29 x 20 x 0.9cm chassis that weighs nearly the same at 790g.
The Surface Pro 7 is still using one of Intel’s 10th Gen processors, but regardless of whether you get the Core i3-1005G1, the Core i5-1035G4 or the Core i7-1065G7, you’ll still have access to the new faster Wi-Fi 6 networking specification.
Microsoft has also included a USB 3.1 Type-C interface, alongside its existing USB 3.1 Type-A port so it’s as current as it needs to be in many ways.
The Core i7 Surface Pro 7 was around 30 percent better than the Surface Pro 6 and 87.6 percnt 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.
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 percent 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 eight 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.
While there will be a couple of different variations of the Spectre X360 this year, the model we’re testing is only available at Harvey Norman, and for an RRP of $2,999. This might seem steep for a 13.3 inch laptop with just a 60Hz Full HD panel, but this screen is actually an OLED display which makes it stand out in media playback and general colour reproduction in side-by-side comparisons.
The Spectre x360 13t-aw2007tu also features an Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and an integrated Intel Iris Xe GPU, which rounds out a nicely balanced spec sheet for a premium work productivity laptop.
The 11th Gen processors offer predictable ten-percent-ish improvements over last year's laptops, but the Spectre x360 13t-aw2007tu we tested generally netted below average performance results against this year’s cohort of Ultrabooks. Generally the x360 was behind by less than 15 percent, but that margin did dip to over 20-percent in some CPU tests like 4K media encoding. Graphically it was even worse with benchmark tests being between 10 and 55 percent behind the pack averages, making many of them unplayable. We’re hoping that this model is abnormal in its performance, but since there’s nothing obviously wrong with it we have to assume that you could be forking out $3K for this unit.
Keyboard and trackpad are nice enough to avoid being called out and the B&O speakers, fingerprint reader, relatively broad interface options and unique design give it all the trimmings of a good professional laptop. Unfortunately price and performance just aren’t overly competitive this year.
How to choose the right laptop for you
We all have different requirements from our work laptop, and for many all that's critical is something to run your Chrome browser tabs and the Microsoft Office suite. If that's you, then you can get away with an 11th generation Intel Core i5, or can even go for something even lighter like a Chromebook. 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. Apple's M1, AMD's Ryzen 9 and Intel's Core i7-1165G7 processors will be more than enough to get you through just about every task you should expect to encounter, with a little left in the tank to future-proof it for the next few years.
11th Gen Intel i7 units, while the least powerful of these options, have been updated to be required to meet a set of minimum specifications to get Evo certification. To make the cut an Intel Evo Laptop needs to offer stable performance throughout its battery life, wake from sleep in less than a second, maintain over nine hours battery life on real-world use benchmarks, and offer four hours of battery life from a 30 minute fast-charge. 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.
For 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.