If you’re looking for the best laptop in 2021 we’re here to help. T3’s jargon-free, no-nonsense guide takes you through the top options you can buy right now from budget bargains to premium powerhouses.
We take laptops very seriously: we use them for work, for play and for our families, so we know how important it is to find the best laptop for your specific circumstances. And we know that what’s right for one person may not be the ideal solution for somebody else – so while you’ll find the brilliant Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) at the top of our list, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right laptop for you.
That’s why we’ve covered such a wide range of options in our round-up. You may be looking for the best Windows 10 laptop or a sleek and snappy Chromebook, a MacBook Pro with the latest Apple processor or an affordable everyday laptop that covers the basics for a super low price. Whatever kind of laptop you’re looking for, you’ll find the top-rated options here.
If you have a more specific laptop in mind, though, we have specific guides to cater for you – so for example we have a guide to the best student laptops and one for the best Chromebook, a guide to the best gaming laptops and one for the best lightweight laptops for lugging around from meeting to meeting. Fancy a hybrid system? Then check out our best 2-in-1 laptop guide.
We also have some manufacturer-specific roundups, too, so if you’re looking for a Dell portable we have a guide to the very best Dell laptops right here.
All of the laptops in this guide will also work perfectly with one of the best NAS drives, too. And if you're after some more storage space for your MacBook if you take the Apple route, have a look at our best external hard drives for Mac guide too.
It's worth pointing out that we're coming into the very best time of year to buy the best laptops: every year the best Black Friday deals make some of the very best laptops even more affordable, and with Black Friday extending well beyond a single weekend and into most of the pre-Christmas period there are going to be lots of great deals in the coming weeks.
Let's find out which laptops you should put on your shortlist.
The best laptops you can buy today
As our MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review explains, Apple's cheapest laptop is the start of a revolution. Think thin and light laptops have to sacrifice power? Not any more. Or that big performance means smaller battery life? Nope. Or that getting all of these things in one machine would be expensive? Wrong again. This is the best of all worlds. It's all thanks to the M1 processor – the first Apple-made chip for Macs. It's an eight-core chip that's as powerful as what you find in the high-end MacBook Pros or gaming PCs, but uses a fraction of the power. Combined with the speediest storage in the business, this laptop is fast. But it also runs cool enough that it doesn't need any fans at all, so it's silent.
It's even got pretty solid graphics performance, playing games far more smoothly than anything else with an integrated GPU (though, being a Mac, the selection is more limited). And it can give you around 15 hours of battery life in real-world use (for things like light browsing) – a huge leap over previous Macs. Comfort and usability is top-notch too – the keyboard and trackpad are excellent, it's a great size and weight to be portable, and the all-aluminium build is solid and feels premium. The sharp screen is also a pleasure to use, with a good level of brightness.
It's not quite perfect. It's a shame that it only has two USB-C ports (which also must be used to power it), since that means you'll probably need adapters, but maybe you're all in on wireless and cloud already anyway. There can also be some issues with software compatibility with the new processor, but these tend to only be with really niche stuff, so won't be a worry for the vast majority of people.
The base specs of 256GB storage and 8GB of RAM may also be too little for some people, but you can upgrade and customise when you buy – though you can't add more after purchase, we should note. If you really need more power, you might be better with a Macbook Pro (#4 in our list) – head to our Macbook Air M1 vs Macbook Pro M1 comparison to help you decide. As long as you can live without Windows, the MacBook Air is a laptop that balances portability and power with hardly any compromises.
To learn even more about the MacBook Air M1 2020, as well as how it looks set to stack up against a 2021 version, be sure to also check out our should I buy it guide.
Wedded to Windows? The best mid-range Windows 10 laptop you can buy now is the Asus VivoBook S15. It's lightweight despite the 15.6-inch screen, it's stylish, and it wraps just about everything you could want in a laptop in one appealing package. The price is a little on the high side, but you do get a lot back for your money, including the latest 11th-gen Intel CPUs – i5 or i7 is the choice. Those chips will guarantee excellent performance without sucking up too much battery life, and unless you're wanting to play top-tier games or do some 4K video editing, this portable computer will cope with everything you've got to throw at it.
There are plenty of ports to play around with, and the fingerprint sensor built into the trackpad makes logging into Windows a breeze. Simply put, the Asus VivoBook S15 will be the perfect laptop for many users, combining a quality tech spec and everyday-versatile design at a very firmly mid-range price point. Find out more in our Asus VivoBook S15 review.
The Dell XPS 13 series has consistently wowed us here at T3, and the latest version of the laptop continues that trend. In our Dell XPS 13 (9310) review we found it to be powerful, supremely well built, and compact – essentially just about everything you could possibly want in your search for the best laptop around at the moment.
With the latest 11th-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 super capable and powerful laptop.
It's that 13.4-inch display with the super-thin bezels that really makes the XPS 13 stand out though, as it is a beauty. You can opt for a 4K option, however we think that to most people the Full HD screen will be enough. Colors a deep and vibrant and detailing is pin sharp. The whole screen is also coated with Corning Gorilla Glass.
You can see how the Dell XPS 13 shapes up against our top pick in our Dell XPS 13 (2020) vs Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) showdown.
A premium laptop through and through, the Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 has a leather coating over the lid and a glass touchpad integrated into the matching palm rest. It may seem a little over the top but anyone who loves a touch of class is sure to appreciate how sophisticated the design actually is.
What makes it ideal for streaming video is the combination of its high-quality 4K display paired with its very own miniature soundbar with Dolby Atmos, which produces ultra-clear 360-degree audio. That's not something you see very often and the difference really shows.
Business users will also appreciate the sheer speed of it, this laptop is perfect for productivity. Packing the 11th Gen Intel Core processors, it's seriously fast and can cope with just about anything. Helping you get work done, the low-profile keyboard is a joy to type on, and you'll be able to convert this PC into a tablet as well by pushing the screen backwards. There's even a stylus that comes garaged in the body of the laptop.
Admittedly, the battery life could be better and the touchpad wasn't always that efficient but those are just minor downsides in an otherwise outstanding piece of kit. The Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 will best suit business users, and could also be a great choice for students who are willing to splash out on a high-end PC.
As we noted in our full LG Gram 17 review (2021), this is a laptop that, despite having a large 17-inch screen, weighs in at a super light 1,350 grams (that's nearly 3 lbs) and this, along with its lithe dimensions (26.01 x 38.02 x 1.78 cm), make it incredibly portable.
This portability is enhanced by a really strong core hardware spec that includes an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, Intel Iris XE graphics chip, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for storage. Throw a fresh copy of Windows 10 on top, and you've got one incredible system.
An incredible system that is backed up with an impressive battery life, quality keyboard and, for a laptop, good audio, too.
Overall, then, the LG Gram 17 is premium ultraportable laptop that will suit well-heeled professionals down to the ground, and prepare them perfectly for when they once more find themselves travelling to a from the office and briefings frequently.
As the name suggests, the Surface Laptop 4 is the fourth incarnation of this particular laptop, so Microsoft has had plenty of opportunity to get it right – and we think it has got it right, very much so. The Surface Laptop 4 excels in pretty much every area, from the quality of the screen to the battery life.
Serious gamers and video editors are going to want a bit more oomph in the processor and graphics departments, but we think everybody else is going to be more than happy with what the Surface Laptop 4 has to offer. Not only is there plenty of power under the hood, but the computer looks great too, and there's a choice of appealing colours to pick from.
Another reason to go for the Surface Laptop 4 is that you've got so many different configurations to pick from – Intel and AMD CPUs are offered with this laptop, together with a choice of RAM and storage options, so you can pick the perfect one to match your needs and budget.
The Spectre just keeps getting better with every new version, and the 2021 model boasts 11th generation Intel Core processors and improved graphics in the form of Intel Iris Xe.
The 2021 Spectre retains the 2-in-1 design and spectacular good looks of its processor, and in terms of build quality its closest rival is Apple’s M1 MacBook Pro: this is in a whole different league from other Windows 10 laptops. The keyboard is superb, the screen is bright and clear and it’s a genuinely good-looking machine with good ergonomics and strong security, and the only real criticism we can think of is that the fans can get a bit noisy when you drive it hard.
This isn’t a gaming laptop, but it’s perfectly powerful for other kinds of computing. It’s capable of 13 hours from a single charge and transforms from a laptop into a tablet, and there are lots of configuration options. It’s not the cheapest Windows laptop around but deals will be out there if you shop around.
We think the M1 MacBook Air is the best laptop for most people, but power users aren't most people. The M1 MacBook Pro is a more powerful machine in several respects: it has a more powerful 8-core GPU, and it has a fan – so where the MacBook Air has to throttle performance to stay cool under sustained load, the MacBook Pro doesn’t. You won’t notice the difference or hear the fan in everyday computing, but for intensive tasks such as video rendering the Pro is significantly faster than the Air.
There are some obvious trade-offs between this MacBook Pro and the current Intel ones, not least the screen size: 13.3” is nice and portable but it obviously lacks the screen area of the 16-inch Intel MacBook Pro. The 16-inch is configurable with more storage and RAM, although memory specs are not directly comparable, and the bigger Pro has more ports; here you’re stuck with two. But the M1 Mac boasts almost double the battery life of its bigger sibling, and that’s a huge difference for pros on the go. This is a Pro laptop that really does last all day on a single charge. For a more in-depth look at this machine, head to our Apple MacBook Pro (M1, 2020) review.
If you're a creative at the start of their career, you'll ideally want one of the more expensive laptops on this list. But if your budget is tight, this mid-priced laptop is a good compromise to make.
Designed with creatives in mind, it has some unique functionality to help you use software such as Photoshop, including a sensitive trackpad and a virtual dial for making small tweaks to fine detail. It also boasts a beautiful high resolution screen, that beats the picture quality of more expensive models.
Be aware, though, that there's no touchscreen or pen input. And while it bats above its weight with its screen, its processor, graphics performance and battery are more what you'd expect from a mid-ranger.
When it comes to value-for-money laptops, it's difficult to beat the Lenovo IdeaPad 3: it's lightweight, it's stylish, and yet it won't cost you much at all. Not everyone needs the laptop with the biggest screen, or the most powerful components – some people want a lot of bang for their laptop buck first and foremost, and that's where the IdeaPad 3 delivers. Everything else falls into place around that.
As cheap as the IdeaPad 3 is, it still looks great, and will handle all the everyday tasks you need it to very nicely indeed. As long as you're sticking to some light web use and office work, you won't be disappointed with what this laptop has to offer, and the dedicated battery saving mode comes in handy too. A variety of different spec configurations are available, which affect the price accordingly – but whatever model you go for, you get a reliable and attractive 14-inch laptop. Head to our full Lenovo IdeaPad 3 review for more info.
The Dell XPS 15 is more of a niche recommendation as a premium laptop choice than our best premium laptop, the Dell XPS 13. And this is despite the fact that it can be scaled up to a superior spec. The reason it doesn't get the nod over its younger brother is that, for most users, the power and performance delivered by a maximum spec Dell XPS 15 is just not necessary, and unless you have to have the 15.6-inch screen size, we'd recommend the 13 instead.
If you are a power user who does want the 15-inch screen size then the Dell XPS 15 is undoubtedly a brilliant choice, though. At maximum spec it delivers a 10th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU, 64GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and a 4K Ultra HD+ screen. In layman's terms it is an absolute beast of a system, and one that will crush any application you throw at it. This is the sort of system that, if specced in its upper echelons, can edit 4K and even 8K video. And, thanks to a strong internal cell stack, the battery life on it is great, too, meaning you can do high-level processing on the go.
All of this awesomeness costs, though, and shoppers will be blasting over the three grand mark to bring the system home. Is it worth it? Yes, you are getting a superb powerhouse laptop – but we still think most users looking for a premium laptop would be better off with a Dell XPS 13. Head to our Dell XPS 15 9500 review for more details.
The main party trick offered by the Asus ZenBook Duo 14 – and it's a good one – is a second screen just below the main one. You can use it for whatever you like, from Photoshop dialog boxes to Spotify playlists to social media feeds, and Windows will treat it just like any other second display.
It's fair to say that this laptop isn't going to have the same appeal if you can't see yourself using that second screen on a regular basis, but it's also very well built and well specced, with a fantastic main display. Battery life is good too, so you don't have to worry about lasting a day away from the office.
With the latest 11th-gen Intel laptops inside, the ZenBook Duo 14 will give you plenty of power under the hood, although serious gamers will need more oomph in the GPU department. A laptop with a crazy gimmick that's actually not that gimmicky, and currently one of the best laptops around.
Razer is of course better known for its gaming laptops, but the Razer Book 13 is something rather special in the non-gaming category: it lacks the GPU of Razer's other portable computers, but it keeps the solid build quality, the customisable keyboard backlighting, and the strong performance.
The premium nature of the Razer Book 13 is evident as soon as you turn the 13.4-inch display on: you can get this configured with up to a 4K resolution, and whether you're browsing the web or binge watching movies, everything is vivid and smooth. In short, it's a pleasure to use, including the typing experience.
With 11th-gen Intel processors inside, this laptop can handle its fair share of demanding tasks, and can even cope with some light, dialled down gaming if necessary. If you decide to splash your cash on the Razer Book 13, then you're not going to be disappointed.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 does what a lot of laptops strive to but don't pull off – it delivers a portable and powerful system that also has some genuine gaming chops.
Yes, this is a system that thanks to its Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card can play the latest AAA PC games like Cyberpunk 2077 with state-of-the-art special effects like real time ray tracing turned on, but also be transported with ease.
It also looks professional, too, making it useable in a business setting, meaning it is just as at home in the office as it is at the heart of a battle station.
It's internal specs read incredibly well, with a Ryzen 7 processor joined with 16GB of RAM and a massive 1YB NVMe SSD.
The only downside to this system is that it does not come with a webcam built in, so streamers and those who need to partake in office meetings will need to invest in a separate webcam if they ring this system up.
Overall, though, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 ticks basically every box you could want from a best laptop, and also throws in some strong gaming functionality, too.
With the Blade Stealth 13, Razer has managed to take the gaming expertise that it's known for and mix in other influences to create a laptop with broad appeal. Yes, it can play games better than pretty much any other laptop of this size, but it's also going to appeal to creatives and professionals with a clean design and a 4K touchscreen display.
There's a reason that just about every gaming laptop out there is 15 inches or above in terms of its display size: the extra room is needed for heat dissipation. The Blade Stealth 13 does its best in packing a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q 4GB inside its compact frame, though you will notice it getting hot during gaming (and battery life isn't great either). That GPU won't give you frame rates up there with the best gaming laptops on the market, but you can still play top-tier games at reasonable quality and at very decent frame rates. Add to that a really nicely designed laptop with a fantastic screen that excels at other tasks too, and Razer has another winner on its hands. Head to our Razer Blade Stealth 13 (2020) review for more info.
Dell makes arguably the finest laptops in the world, and if you are a Windows 10 user who is looking to invest in a large-screened, powerful laptop upgrade, you must check out the Dell XPS 17. At maximum spec, the XPS 17 delivers what could be the best screen on any laptop, ever, in the form of a 17.0" UHD+ (3840 x 2400 resolution) InfinityEdge Touch panel, which also comes with an Anti-Reflective coating. The screen, in partnership with tiny bezels, means real estate is bountiful and thanks to the Ultra HD resolution, everything on it is absolutely pin sharp. It is truly a stunning display.
When kitted out to maximum, this laptop's hardware spec is also incredibly powerful, with buckets of performance on tap no matter what application or game you are running. A titanic 64GB of RAM in partnership with an Intel Core i9 handles even 8K video editing with ease. Working in Photoshop? You can edit huge TIF files side-by-side without the Dell XPS 17 breaking sweat. And an Nvidia GeForce RTX2060 6GB ensures that modern AAA games are crushed.
Throw in the rest of the typical Dell package, which includes a fantastic fit and finish, excellent connectivity options, a built-in webcam and microphone, a stereo woofer and multiple speakers and a full fat copy of Windows 10 Home 64-bit, and it becomes easy to see how this laptop will serve its owner for years to come.
Another excellent Windows laptop, the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 comes in so many different configurations that you can really tailor it to suit your own particular needs and budget – there's even a choice of 14-inch or 15.6-inch displays, with resolutions up to 4K, so you can decide whether you want to prioritise portability or screen space. There aren't many laptops that give you the option of AMD or Intel chips, and you've got a few choices when it comes to integrated or discrete graphics as well. At the very top level spec, the laptop will be able to take everything you can throw at it, and it can even cope with some light gaming.
You've got further options when it comes to the design: a fabric-covered model is available alongside with the standard aluminium, for example, and you can pick opt for slate grey or a more striking orchid as the basic colour. Whichever configuration you go for, the laptop looks really good. Add in an impressive level of battery life, plenty of ports for your peripherals and external monitors, and a competitive price, and the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 looks a great all-round package. Whatever you're looking for in a laptop, it's worth giving this one some serious consideration. Head to our Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 review for more on this one.
The Galaxy Book S from Samsung earns a place in our best laptop ranking for a number of reasons: it's really lightweight and stylish, the battery goes on and on between charges, and it offers cellular connectivity which means you can always be online (data plans and signal coverage permitting). You've got the option of a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip (as in our Samsung Galaxy Book S review), which means it can wake up and get online very quickly, but it also means performance isn't quite on a par with similarly priced Windows laptops. Alternatively, there's the more traditional Intel processor (which earned this laptop a full five stars in our Galaxy Book S (Intel) review). It all depends on what you want most from a laptop, and we think the Galaxy Book S is going to appeal to a lot of people.
As more and more Windows applications are optimised to run on ARM chips, the usefulness of the Galaxy Book S should increase. In our eyes, it's a case of the positives far outweigh the negatives on this laptop – just don't try to do any 4K video editing with it.
There's a lot of competition in the market if you're wanting to spend more than £500, and the Acer Swift 3 is one of the best sub-£1,000 laptops. This 14-inch compact star really shines in terms of its design and lightness, and the internal specs mean it can cope with just about anything you want to do with your portable computer too, excluding the more demanding games and video renderings. In our Acer Swift 3 review we were impressed with how snappy and responsive the laptop was while watching movies and browsing the web (even as the number of open tabs started to rack up).
Okay, the battery life isn't fantastic, but it should still get you through the working day quite comfortably, and given the pedigree of previous Acer machines, we'd bet that the Swift 3 is going to serve you well for a number of years. A variety of configurations are available (with many falling under that £1,000 mark), so you can tailor it to suit your budget and needs.
The Huawei MateBook X Pro is a bit of a stunner, what with its 13.9-inch screen, its ultra-thin bezels, and that new Emerald Green colour option that we have to admit we're huge fans of. If you're looking for a compact but powerful Windows laptop, then you can't go far wrong with this. The internal specs hold up very well too – you get a 10th-gen quad-core Intel Core i7-10510U processor (an i5 model is also available), 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of SSD storage space. If you don't want to settle for integrated graphics then you can get the entry level Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU installed instead.
All of this means the laptop will be very comfortable handling web browsing, image editing and document editing, and will even handle some light video editing and 2D gaming as well. We thought the MateBook X Pro 2019 was good, but the 2020 version has bettered it. Head to our full Huawei MateBook X Pro (2020) review for more of what we thought.
For the best of both worlds, the Microsoft Surface Book 3 is one of the best 2-in-1 laptops around. Yes, the screen can be detached and used as a tablet, but that doesn't mean this isn't an absolute beast of a laptop. The Surface Book 3 can be packed full of power as well – you can fit an Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics chipset in this laptop if you need to, and multiple configurations are available (so you don't necessarily need to max out on the internal components). You've got a choice of 13.5-inch and 15-inch screens, which gives you even more options when it comes to deciding which Surface Book 3 model is right for you, and as usual for Surface hardware, the build quality is excellent.
For more info, head to our full Microsoft Surface Book 3 review. Alternatively, see how it compares to other popular 2-in-1s in our Asus ZenBook Flip 13 vs Microsoft Surface Book 3 face-off, or our Microsoft Surface Book 3 vs New Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 comparison.
Before the M1 Macs came along, the 16-inch MacBook Pro was the best Apple laptop you could buy, and it's still a great computer for pro and power users. As you would expect from a high-end Apple laptop, the MacBook Pro 16-inch is supremely slick and powerful, built with a best-in-class fit and finish, and loaded with a vastly improved keyboard that's leaps and bounds better than previous incarnations. The fact the system runs the very latest version of macOS, Big Sur, which delivers a plethora of of exclusive, quality apps, and that it is supported by Apple's first-rate support network if anything goes wrong, adds a layer of sheen that many Windows 10 machines can't compete with.
On raw specs alone the MacBook Pro 16-inch is pipped to the post slightly by the Dell XPS 15, which can be outfitted with a 4K OLED screen, 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and a more powerful Nvidia GPU, but it is the overall package and usage experience where the MacBook Pro shines. The M1 Macs may be getting all the attention right now, but the 16-inch MacBook Pro remains a powerhouse computer for pro-level apps. Head to our Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review for more details.
As we noted in our Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 review, this is our absolutely the best laptop for playing games on the market today in 2021. Building on last year's competition-slaying GX501, the new Zephrus ensures it stays on the gaming laptop throne by dialling things up to 11. That means the system rocks an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card (Ray Tracing bliss!), a juiced up Intel Core i7-8750H CPU capable of running up to 4.1GHz and a 24GB stack of DDR4 RAM.
The result of all this top-end gaming hardware is, for a portable machine, ludicrous levels of AAA gaming performance. Metro Exodus, with all graphics settings turned up to maximum, and with the gorgeous Ray Tracing lighting tech enabled, looked absolutely stunning and ran like a dream. And, the GX701 crushed our 3DMark benchmark tests, too. A gorgeous and thin magnesium chassis, fantastically engineered vent cooling system, and a 17.3-inch, Full HD (1,920x1,080) IPS, Pantone Validated, 144Hz refresh rate with Nvidia G-Sync panel complete the package.
The HP Envy 13 contains the same 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor seen in many other systems in this guide, but doubles down with 16GB of RAM and graphics handled by the Nvidia GeForce MX250, utilising an extra 2GB of dedicated video memory. It doesn’t lose out in the pricing stakes, either, costing only a little over a thousand pounds for excellent performance.
With some decent security features – a fingerprint scanner and a physical webcam kill switch on the side of the machine – it’s a great laptop for general work, whether that’s spreadsheets or image manipulation. It’s also equipped with audio tech from Bang and Olufsen, along with HP’s own Audio Boost technology, meaning that the sound is as clear as a bell.
The trackpad feels a little flimsy but the backlit keyboard is solid and feels nice to use. The integrated USB Type-A ports are a bit tricky to use due to their snap-open design, but it’s a welcome sight to see regular USB compatibility on an ultralight laptop. The 1080p screen is clear and high-quality, with a little ridge at the base that pushes the lower half of the laptop up at a slight angle when opened on a flat surface, to make typing that little bit easier.
If you like subtlety and refinement in your gaming laptops, then the Dell G5 15 could be just what you're looking for – it combines plenty of performance (across multiple configurations) with a tidy-looking chassis, a chassis that has one of the coolest lighting effects we've seen set. The 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display panel can up the refresh rate to an impressive 144Hz, and your games are sure to look fantastic on this screen. Some top-tier graphics and processor components are available to, so you shouldn't be troubled by any lag or stutter no matter what titles you're playing.
Even with some of the best laptop components packed inside, the Dell G5 15 is still relatively compact. Taking into consideration everything Dell has done here on both the inside and the outside of the laptop, it's absolutely worth a pick as one of our best laptops of 2021.
As we note in our official Asus ZenBook Pro 14 review, this "is a laptop that scores highly in a lot of departments. It looks really nice, it has plenty of power under the hood, and the price you're going to pay represents decent value for what you get in return." And, really, that sums it up. Well, that is apart from this system's unique feature: its ScreenPad. The SceenPad is a large touchpad that can also operate as a second screen, with Windows extendable and certain apps like Microsoft Office and Spotify granting you extra information or controls. It feels indebted to Apple's TouchBar.
Specs-wise the Pro 14 really is a rock-solid all-rounder, coming with an 8th-gen quad-core Intel Core i7-8565U processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage, as well as an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Max-Q chipset with 2GB of video RAM. In short, it is a powerful machine that will handle most computing tasks with ease.
When it comes to Chromebooks and Chrome OS, you've got a huge number of models to choose from – and the Pixelbook Go from Google is one of the best Chromebooks around right now. It's stylish, it's lightweight, and you can customise the specs of the device to meet your exact requirements as well. Every Pixelbook Go comes with a 13.3-inch screen: it runs at a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution on the cheaper models but does go up to 4K if you're willing to pay for it. The other internal components can be specced out as required, so it's really up to you how much you spend.
We like the black and pink colour options, we like the grippy rubber on the bottom to keep the laptop in place, and we like the smooth and subtle lines of the design as well. You're not going to be embarrassed to pull this Chromebook out at a coffee shop or your next meeting at work. And as for Chrome OS, it continues to get better and better. It doesn't slow down, it's easy to use, and the addition of Android apps means that it's now more versatile than ever before. Head to our Google Pixelbook Go review for an in-depth look at this machine.
Finding the middle ground between affordability and knockout performance is perhaps the biggest challenge facing a new laptop buyer. It's a sweet spot most manufacturers miss, but with the Predator Helios 300, Acer has certainly found it, pairing an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and a meaty Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU.
This powerful laptop sports a Full HD 17.6-inch display (perfect for giving your favourite Steam games a good showing when on the move) complete with a 144Hz refresh rate and 16GB of in-built RAM to keep you fully stocked with content. As a sub-£1,000 laptop, it's got some serious chops.
Laptops are usually labelled as gaming laptops when they come packed with high-end components and some nice visual flair – but of course you don't have to be a gamer to appreciate those attributes in a laptop. The Razer Blade 15 Advanced is a case in point, and shows Razer is getting better and better at building incredibly premium laptops.
The chassis holding the 15.6-inch display is simply beautifully put together, the internal components are hyper premium, and the lighting system around the keys is really well done too. Whether you're gaming or working on some spreadsheets, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced really impresses.
While it has become the norm that companies issue employees with laptops, there are some cases where this isn't true. Lenovo, having adopted the iconic ThinkPad brand, is here for those exact customers. The design is nothing too fancy, but don't let that fool you: beneath the surface is a capable laptop at an excellent price point. This is one of the best laptops for business-focused users who aren't too concerned about jazzy looks.
The base model, which retails for just over a grand, comes stocked with an Intel i5 CPU at 1.60GHz and beyond, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, double what many manufacturers offer as standard. For those willing to splash out, Lenovo offers an i7 alongside double the RAM and storage for about a grand and a half.
How to choose the best laptop for you
The laptop market continues to evolve, with new components and price pressure from low-end Chromebooks meaning you can now get more bang for your buck than ever before: it really is a great time to be choosing a laptop. If you're not familiar with the jargon you're coming across, we'd recommend first heading to our laptop terms and specs explainer first.
Picking the best laptop for 2021 for you is all about compromise. If you want something as powerful as possible, then it's going to be bigger and less easy to lug around on your travels. If you want something slim and ultra-light, then you simply can't pack in as many components.
Another important consideration is which operating system you're going to go with: you may already have a favourite, but Windows is best for gaming, macOS is great for creatives, and Chrome OS is brilliant as a lightweight computing platform. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of each before committing.
Make sure you've weighed up exactly what you need to do with your laptop and the features that it needs to have before parting with any cash – otherwise you could be looking for an upgrade sooner rather than later.
Of course price is going to play a big part in your decision-making as well, and with that in mind we've included links to all the latest and greatest deals on the web for easy reference. Keep checking back here often as we update our guide with newer models.
Types of laptops explained
General purpose laptops: These laptops come in a variety of types, from the best cheap laptops to serious, silicon-stuffed systems that deliver massive power and performance. These sorts of systems work well if you're just looking for a solid all-round system that is geared mostly toward work and productivity.
Gaming laptops: The best gaming laptops are ideal for serious gamers, as they come with dedicated graphics cards. These dedicated GPUs mean that you can play video games at higher resolutions and higher framerates, as well as enjoy advanced graphical effects like real time ray tracing. They tend have a higher entry price than general purpose laptops.
Ultraportable laptops: Ultrabooks and the best lightweight laptops are specialists at portability, and often come with thinner and lighter designs that general purpose or gaming laptops. These systems are a good choice for working professionals who need to carry their laptop around with them and travel frequently. Specs vary, but due to the lithe designs these laptops tend to retail for more than general purpose laptops.
Hybrid laptops: The best 2-in-1 laptops on the market offer two-fold functionality, capable of being used both as a laptop and a tablet. This obviously makes them very versatile and can also be a great way to save money, as you can buy one product instead of two. Some 2-in-1 laptops have fixed screens that can be rotated all the way round on 360-degree hinges, while others have screens that actually detach from their keyboard base.
Chromebooks: If you find yourself shopping on a budget for a new system then scoping out the best Chromebooks is a smart call. That's because these systems are cheap to buy and typically highly portable. Where they differ to other laptops is that they run Google's Chrome OS, which is designed primarily for use while connected to the internet. Chrome OS isn't as feature-packed as Windows or macOS, but it is streamlines and offers excellent access to all of Google's G-Suite apps such as Gmail, Gdocs and Google Calendar.
Student laptops: As you would expect, the best student laptops tend to ring in cheaper than other specialist laptops, and there is often crossover to Chromebooks due to this. Student laptops tend to offer small to medium-sized laptop screens and mid-tier specifications, although more premium recommendations can stretch into Apple MacBook Air territory. These laptops aren't the most powerful on the market, but they're designed to do the basics well and not cost too much, while also remaining portable.
Who are the best laptop makers?
The truth is that today there are very few makers who are pumping out bad laptops. Indeed, we think the biggest mistake a person can make today is buying a laptop that is badly suited to their needs.
However, there are laptop makers who have proven themselves over decades of strong laptop production. These makers produce laptops with a high level of fit an finish, strong core functionality and, crucially, excellent after care service in terms of support.
The makers we consider that do these things best are: Dell, Lenovo, HP, Apple, Asus, Acer, Microsoft and LG.