The best Dell laptops come from a long line of well-made computers: your writer has been buying Dells for business and personal use since the 1990s because of their winning combination of quality and affordability. That hasn't changed, but the range of Dell laptops is a lot bigger than it was back in the days of Britpop. There are budget Dell laptops, Dell gaming laptops, 2-in-1 Dells and pretty much every kind of configuration you could ever need.
That makes our job pretty hard, because choosing the best Dell laptops in 2021 isn't an easy task. But we like a challenge, so we've put together this guide to the best Dell laptops from across the entire 2021 range. We think these are the best Dell laptops for most people: budget users and businesses, power users and pros.
In this guide we've picked the best Dell laptop for school, the best Dell laptop for work and the best Dell laptop for gaming. We’ve also gathered all the specifications, designs and prices so you can easily compare the different options, though it's worth mentioning that as the Dell laptop range is constantly being updated you might find that specifications differ slightly from what we’ve described here.
Dell makes many of the best laptops overall today, and Dell's range includes some of the best gaming laptops and best student laptops available. But which are they? Well, they're these ones. Let's find the best one for you.
The best Dell laptops you can buy today
The Dell XPS 13 series has consistently wowed us here at T3, and the latest version of the laptop continues that trend – it's powerful, supremely well built, and compact, so just about everything you could possibly want in your search for the best Dell laptop around at the moment.
With the latest 10th-gen Intel processors installed and up to 16GB of RAM installed, this is a portable computer that's going to be able to handle everything that you want to throw at it. From late-night Netflix to early-morning report writing, you'll find the Dell XPS 13 a highly capable and competent laptop.
It's that 13.4-inch display with the super-thin bezels that really makes the XPS 13 stand out though: if you want to, you can go all the way up to a 4K resolution, but the 1,920 x 1,080 resolution models still look fantastic (4K doesn't make a huge amount of difference on a laptop display this size). Wondering what the differences are between this and the 15-inch model below? Here's our Dell XPS 13 vs Dell XPS 15 guide.
The brand new Dell XPS 15 for 2020 has wowed us even more than previous versions of the flagship laptop, and if you've got enough money to be able to afford it, this is undoubtedly one of the best Dell laptops in the business – you pay a little bit extra than the XPS 13 for that 15.6-inch display, but we reckon that it's worth it.
We're pleased to see that display making use of the 16:10 aspect ratio: it doesn't work so well for widescreen movies, but it's perfect for working through documents and scrolling through websites. As you would expect from the XPS series, the whole laptop is beautifully built and a winner from an aesthetic point of view, whether it's open or closed.
You can trick out the Dell XPS 15 with some top-quality internal components as well: Intel Core i9 processors, some impressive graphics card solutions, and a maximum of 64GB of RAM (which should be enough for even your most advanced projects. Even at the higher price bracket, you get plenty of Dell laptop for your money. If you're wondering how this stacks up against the cheaper 15-inch Dell below, here's our Dell XPS 15 vs Dell Insipiron 15 3000 guide.
Besides the premium, flagship laptops that Dell puts out, there are plenty of value-for-money models as well – the selection on Dell's website is so huge that you're bound to find something that fits your financial situation. The Inspiron line is a good place to start looking, and the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 is particularly tempting.
The main highlight is an expensive 15.6-inch screen – large screens aren't always a given at lower price points, but the display attached to this particular Dell laptop gives your video streaming apps and your web browsers and anything else you want to run plenty of space to move around in.
You get some very decent specs to go alongside that screen, with SSD hard drives and AMD chipsets on offer on certain models. Shopping for the best Dell laptop at this end of the market means you'll have to forget about hardcore gaming or video editing, but for a good-looking computer that will take care of the everyday basics, this is ideal.
At this price, with these specs, and that sharp 17-inch screen, this is very much a Dell laptop aimed at business and power users – you'll have to spend a lot of money to get your hands on the Dell Precision 5750, but we don't think you're going to be disappointed with what you get in return, if you need a laptop that's capable of doing everything a desktop could but in a laptop form factor.
You really are getting top-tier components here – note the 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10750H processor and the Nvidia Quadro T2000 graphics card, as well as some of the most premium and reliable RAM sticks around – so it's not really one for the students or for casual use at the weekends.
Even with a 17-inch display attached, the Dell Precision 5750 still manages to be lightweight and easy to carry around during the day, with this model tipping the scales at 2.13 kg or 4.7 lbs. Connectivity options are good too, with no fewer than four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports and a full size SD card slot to make use of too. No matter what you need to do with your laptop, the Dell Precision 5750 will be up to the task.
If you want to game on your laptop but you don't want to go overboard in terms of size and price, get the Dell G5 15: it'll play all the latest Windows games very nicely indeed (ranking as "next-level gaming" on the official 3DMark benchmark score), and comes with a subtle lighting effect underneath that you can enable or disable as needed.
Dell has kept this down to a fantastic price considering the components you get inside, components that include a healthy 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB graphics card to keep those frame rates nice and smooth. The star of the show is the 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 display though, with a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz.
When you're not gaming, you can of course use the laptop for everything else as well – it's not so flamboyantly styled that you won't be able to get it out in the local coffee shop. We're impressed with the thermal management and the battery life of the Dell G5 15 as well – definitely one of the best Dell laptops for gamers. Curious what you get here that the also-powerful Dell XPS 15 doesn't offer? Here's our Dell XPS 15 vs Dell G5 15 head-to-head.
The Dell G7 17 is a step up from the Dell G5 15 in almost every respect, from the size of the display, to the available graphics options, to the dramatic looks of the device – the display stands a little way above the rest of the chassis, so it's almost as if you're got a separate monitor in front of rather than a laptop screen.
With a 144Hz refresh rate and a 9ms response time, that 17.3-inch screen is guaranteed to show off your games in the best way possible, and it should give you an edge against opponents and enemies (either real or computer-generated). This is of course a relatively chunky laptop thanks to that screen, but you can still carry it around fairly easily.
This model was recently updated to offer 1TB of storage, which means more room for your games without having to rely on the cloud all the time, and you get the same subtle lighting effect options as on the Dell G5 15. Definitely a gem of a gaming laptop.
The Dell Latitude 9510 gets you MacBook Pro-style looks and performance in a Dell chassis that runs Windows: it's a fantastic-looking laptop with plenty of power under the hood, and while it's also on the expensive side, we'd say that it's worth the investment if you want one of the best Windows laptops and best Dell laptops currently available.
With one of the latest 10th-gen Intel CPUs and up to 16GB of RAM keeping everything running smoothly, the only tasks you won't be able to take on with this laptop are video editing and heavy gaming – Intel integrated graphics will do for web browsing, office tasks and image editing, but will struggle if you push them any further.
It's thin, it's light, and it comes with plenty of connectivity options as well, so take a look at the various configuration options and see which one suits you best – because of the number of different ways you can set up the Latitude 9510, the price can vary quite a bit too. The laptop is also available in a 2-in-1 form factor as well, and even with 5G in the US. Take a look at our full Dell Latitude 9510 review for more on what we think about it, or take a look at our Dell Latitude 9510 vs Dell Inspiron 7506 review to see how two of Dell's big business laptops shape up.
Our top pick for the best Dell laptop is also available in a 2-in-1 configuration, so you can prop it up to watch some movies or fold it right over and use it as a (thick) tablet – depending on your requirements and what you're going to be using your tablet for, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 might be an even better deal for you than the standard version.
You still get the excellent build quality and the top-level specs: some of the latest and greatest Intel processors around, plus a maximum of 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage space (though the very best specs will of course cost you a hefty amount of money). On a laptop this size you can't expect too much in terms of graphics, but the integrated Iris Plus chipset will handle all the basics with ease.
There's even the option of a 4K resolution screen here, on what is already one of the brightest and best display panels in the business. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 isn't for everyone – those on a budget and those needing a more spacious screen will want to look elsewhere – but it certainly ticks a lot of important boxes.
The latest version of the exceptional Alienware M17 R4 doesn't come cheap – we're currently looking at a configuration that comes in at £4,549, although the entry level config is less than half that – but it's an astonishing gaming laptop with 10th generation Intel processors and graphics up to Nvidia's GeForce RTX™ 3080 16GB GDDR6. There are multiple display options too, ranging from 60Hz to a very rapid 360Hz with Nvidia Gsync.
To say that this is a fast laptop would be an understatement: in some configurations you can expect to achieve an amazing 280+ fps in Rainbow Six Siege and over 250fps in League of Legends.
Sometimes gaming laptops focus entirely on performance and leave the design as an afterthought, but that isn't the case here. The m17 R4 is a beautiful thing with a smear-reducing coating, stain resistant paint and a magnesium alloy casing, and inside there's "Cryo-Tech" cooling to enable higher sustained performance without your laptop becoming hotter than the sun.
If you want the power of a workstation without sacrificing style, the New Dell XPS 17 is absolutely stunning. Its 17-inch, 500-nit display can be configured as FHD+ or 3840 x 2400 UHD, and if you max out the options you can have 64MB of DDR4 RAM, a 2TB SSD and a 6GB GeForce RTX 2060 in a PC powered by an 8-core, 5.3GHz 10th Generation Intel Core i9. You don’t have to max out the options to get great performance, but it’s a lot of fun if you do.
This Dell is pretty as well as powerful. The XPS 17 (2020) has the same stunning looks as its smaller siblings, but despite its svelte case there are still plenty of expansion options thanks to four Thunderbolt 3 ports with power delivery and DisplayPort. The XPS also has Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 for all your wireless needs. It’s a little on the heavy side at 2.11kg, but laptops of this size are usually bought as desktop replacements so that’s not a huge issue. Want to know exactly what you get here than the XPS 15 doesn't offer? Here's our guide to the Dell XPS 15 vs Dell XPS 17.
How to choose the best Dell laptop for your needs
Choosing the best Dell laptop works the same way as it does for any other laptop: decide where your own particular sweet spot is in terms of price and power, and make your choice accordingly. Paying more will usually get you better performance and more longevity of course.
There's a balance to be struck between power vs portability that's worth considering – not only are more powerful laptops more expensive, they're more difficult to lug around, and if you want the top-tier laptop components, you'll also need a bigger laptop fit them all into.
The Dell badge gives you a certain guarantee in terms of quality, so whichever laptop you opt for it's going to serve you well – you just need to decide the sort of specs you need, the price you can afford, and the amount of effort you want to put into carrying it around.
What is the best Dell laptop in 2021?
Our pick as the best Dell laptop is the Dell XPS 13. It's fast, it's thin and light, it has premium build quality, and it's just great to use all-round. The screen really fills the machine, so even though it's a smaller laptop, it's still easy to use. And it offers a 4K screen option, so even though it's compact, you can still get tons of detail in there.
It can do everything outside of gaming and high-end pro apps well, and looks damn smart while doing it. For the average user, it's a fantastic laptop, and has loads of saleability in terms of how you spec it out – which of course means saleability in terms of expenditure.
How we test the best Dell laptops
Testing Dell laptops is just like testing any other brand of laptops, for which T3 has a multiple stage testing process.
Firstly we evaluate the system from a design point of view. We're looking for how well built it is, how big the bezels on its screen are, what sort of keyboard and trackpad it comes with, how many ports it has and more. If the case feels cheap and plastic we'll find out, as too if its keyboard is spongy and not good for typing.
Once the system is booted up we then specifically test the Dell laptop's screen. We're finding out its core specs, such as resolution and refresh rate, but also how it performs in terms of color accuracy, viewing angles, response rate and brightness and contrast. If a laptop has a washed out, not very bright screen, we will find out.
From this point we test the system's core functionality and hardware in a mixture of benchmarks and real world usage tests. If the system is fast, intuitive and easy to use, with applications like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop running smoothly then we'll tell you. As too, if it has gaming credentials, what sort of score it gets in 3DMark, as well as how it runs modern AAA games likes Cyberpunk 2077.
Penultimately, we test the system's battery life. We lean towards real world battery testing here at T3 as we feel it gives the most accurate results, so we use a laptop to undertake our normal computing routine for a few days on end and see how far the battery stretches. If a system's battery has us running to a wall socket after only 6 hours we will let you know.
Finally, we sum up the whole system and compare it to other systems on the market that offer the same sort of performance or cost the same sort of money. We then bestow a star score on the Dell laptop (out of 5, with 5 being the best) and if it scores well we then consider it for out best Dell laptops buying guide.
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