"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."
Whether you're in the mood for a movie night, keeping your social media game strong, embarking on an online grocery shopping trip, or settling in for a marathon gaming session, a laptop is your trusty sidekick.
Choosing one, though, is not a quick or simple decision. You’ll need to figure out the right machine to supercharge your productivity or fuel your passion for gaming. But beware, a misstep in your choice could leave you lugging around an expensive piece of plastic. Luckily, the laptop market is brimming with options to suit various needs and budgets, and I've handpicked some gems for you.
Before you whip out that credit card, you must first choose sides in the age-old Mac or Windows debate. Apple's MacBooks shine brightly with their top-tier build quality and reliable operating system. They're a dream come true for those who rely on something other than Windows-specific software. However, Apple's ecosystem can be a bit like Hotel California—you can check out anytime, but never leave. If gaming is your jam, consider looking elsewhere.
Now, let's talk style. Do you want a traditional laptop or one that can transform into a superhero? If you desire a laptop that moonlights as a tablet, a 2-in-1 device is your new BFF. These nifty gadgets come equipped with a keyboard that can vanish when you don't need it, perfect for typing, streaming, or unleashing your inner artist on the touchscreen. But here's the catch: those touchscreens can sometimes leave you longing for the crystal-clear clarity of regular screens, especially when knee-deep in an epic writing session.
The Best Laptops
Best Overall: Apple 2023 MacBook Pro Laptop M3 Pro chip
Best 2-in-1: Lenovo Yoga 9i
Best Budget Laptop: Gateway Ultra Slim Notebook
Best Gaming Laptop: ASUS ROG Strix G16
Best Work Laptop: Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro
The Expert: I spend nearly all of my working days typing on laptops while working as a technology journalist. So, it’s safe to say that I’m a laptop fanatic and always on the lookout for the latest and greatest. I spent more than a dozen hours trying out new laptops for this review and also relied on my personal collections of models ranging from MacBooks to Chromebooks to 2-in-1s.
What to Look for in a Laptop
You'll want a laptop that cuts through every task you throw at it while also lasting as long as you do. The selections below are packed with the latest processing and graphics technology to rise to the occasion.
If you travel frequently or commute with your computer, look for thin, light designs like the MacBook Air—the 13-inch model weighs in at just 2.7 pounds and the 15-inch at 3.3 pounds.
Gamers or content creators will want higher-end processors and graphics cards as well as bright, detailed screens. Students, and those who will spend most of their time logging into classes and watching the occasional movie or surfing the web, might want to consider a convertible laptop that also functions as a tablet.
With the latest laptops, battery life keeps improving. The reason newer laptops last longer on the same size battery is because modern processors are getting more energy efficient. Today’s laptops will run between 8 and 20 hours on a single charge. Look for a battery that lasts at least 10 hours.
There are more than a dozen types of ports, including HDMI for video out and USB-C, which can be for almost anything with the right adaptor, such as charging, but most users will only need a USB-C port. That’s because it’s possible to connect almost any type of peripheral to USB-C by itself or using an adaptor.
If you don’t want to pack an adapter, consider a laptop with HDMI ports that can output video and audio from your laptop to a TV, monitor, or projector. They can support high-definition resolutions up to 4K and surround sound formats. Another handy option is ethernet ports that can connect your laptop to a wired network for faster and more reliable internet access.
The fastest processors on the market now offer blistering speeds and are great for gaming or video editing. But quicker speeds can sometimes make for a pricier laptop that has less battery life.
In laptop chips, Intel’s most popular lineup is its Core series, while Apple’s is its proprietary M-series processors (starting with the base M1). The middle ground in the Core and Ryzen lineups offers the best mix of performance and value. The most expensive laptops offer Intel Core i9 H-Series processors while mid-range models tend to have Core i5 processors that offer a good balance between price and performance.
Screen quality is also crucial to a satisfying experience. Buy the best screen you can afford; your eyes will thank you later. Higher-resolution screens allow for greater image detail, though fonts on high-resolution displays can be small and difficult to read.
The most suitable screen size for most people ranges from 13- to 15-inches—the sweet spot between portability and enough real estate to get things done. The most common resolutions on laptops and 2-in-1 PCs currently hover just above 1920 x 1080 (also known as 1080p or Full HD). This keeps panel prices relatively low and fonts still large enough to view comfortably.
Pick a keyboard with a broad enough design and widely spaced keys if you’ll be doing a lot of typing. Also consider key travel (how far a key needs to be depressed until the keystroke is recognized), which can vary widely between models. Larger laptops tend to have better keyboards since the dimensions don't have be downsized for smaller frames.
How We Selected These Laptops
I poured over the specs and reviews of dozens of the latest laptops to assemble my choices. I looked for laptops that I would be happy to use myself, but also tried to find models that would fit a range of budgets and preferences. I also own several models recommended here, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, and can vouch for those from personal experience.
2023 MacBook Pro Laptop M3 Pro chip
I use the previous version of this MacBook on a daily basis, and with the latest M3 processor, I recommend it even more highly. It’s Apple’s top-of-the-line MacBook and a beast in every way.
It offers a bright, colorful Liquid Retina XDR 16.2-inch screen, which uses over 10,000 custom-designed mini-LEDs spread uniformly across the entire back of the display.
Apple says it delivers higher LED density than any other display of its kind, which means amazing contrast with deep blacks right next to bright images. Also worth mentioning is the comfortable, quiet Magic Keyboard, which comes with Touch ID, giving you fast, easy access to unlock your Mac and sign in to apps and sites.
It has a speedy processor, long battery life (up to 22 hours), and, most importantly, includes Apple’s renowned MacOS operating system that runs without a hitch. One thing to note: Macs, generally, aren’t great for running games.
The Lenovo Yoga is a renowned series of convertible laptops that can switch between laptop and tablet modes with a 360-degree hinge.
The 9i features a sleek and sturdy metal body, a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader, and facial recognition for sign-ins. Delivering solid performance and battery life (10 hours) for its class, the Yoga 9i can easily handle various tasks and applications, and it offers a bright and vivid display for streaming video and basic content creation.
Note: Its integrated graphics limit its gaming and media creation potential and it does not come with an active pen for drawing or writing on the screen.
Ultra Slim Notebook
The Gateway is a budget laptop that offers decent performance and battery life (about 10 hours) for its price. It has a 12th Generation Intel processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and Intel Iris Xe Graphics. The Gateway sports a sleek and sturdy body, a fingerprint scanner, and a 1080p webcam.
The 14.1-inch screen is bright and crisp, and the THX speakers are loud and clear. Be aware that this model's touch pad isn't overly responsive to the movements of your fingers, and its integrated graphics limit its gaming and media creation potential. It’s also on the heavier side (4 pounds) compared to other slim laptops.
ROG Strix G16
The Strix G16 stands out as a formidable gaming laptop, boasting a sleek, compact design without sacrificing power. Under the hood lies a potent Intel Core i9 processor, ensuring smooth and efficient performance.
The innovative cooling system operates quietly, even under heavy load, enhancing the gaming experience. Its notable battery life of 6 hours (substantial for a gaming laptop) and upgradable memory and storage options further cement its status as a top choice for gamers seeking a perfect blend of style and substance.
Galaxy Book3 Pro
The Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro impresses with its outstanding performance, enhanced by a visually stunning OLED display (16:10 aspect ratio--the largest for a Galaxy) and high-quality audio with four immersive speakers tuned with AKG and Dolby Atmos.
This laptop stands out for its vivid, eye-catching visuals, perfect for both work and leisure activities. It's especially appealing to those who need a reliable device on the move, thanks to its slim, lightweight design (3.44 pounds) that doesn't sacrifice a premium look and feel. With its attractive minimal design, the Galaxy Book3 Pro is both a practical and stylish choice.
The HP Spectre x360 is a 2-in-1 laptop that offers nearly everything you could want. It has a stunning OLED touch screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio that delivers attractive colors and crisp details. The Spectre has a sleek and sturdy aluminum body and a comfortable keyboard, with keys that are easy to depress.
It also includes generous port selection, with two Thunderbolt 4 ports and one USB port. There is a headphone/microphone port so you won’t have to use an adaptor to attach different peripherals.
The laptop is powered by the latest Intel Core processors, giving a fast and smooth performance for most tasks. It also has a long battery life of up to 15 hours.
The x360 is one of the better laptops money can buy, but it does have some minor flaws, such as loud fans, no HDMI port, and no internal pen storage, a drawback because it’s easier to lose the stylus, which sticks onto the side.
The latest MacBook Air is a dream come true for anyone who loves thin and light laptops. It has a sharp 15.3-inch Retina display and a powerful Apple M2 processor that will make any of your tasks fly.
The Air also boasts plenty of RAM and SSD storage to keep your apps and files running smoothly. Its sleek, durable (100-percent recycled) aluminum body is complemented by long battery life of up to 18 hours, so you can work or play all day without worrying about plugging in. The fanless design ensures peace and quiet along with top-notch performance.
Chromebook Plus CX34
The CX34 is a standout in the Chromebook market, offering a great blend of affordability and functionality. It's an excellent choice for everyday use (10 hours of battery life), focusing more on delivering a seamless user experience rather than just hardware specifications.
Performance is quick and efficient even with its lower-end processor thanks to the lightweight Chrome operating system, making it well-suited for day-to-day tasks. Despite its budget-friendly price, it's surprisingly premium in quality with a sturdy plastic build. However, the sound quality is just meh, and gaming isn’t an option with Chromebooks.
Expert Sascha Brodsky Gives the Lowdown on Laptops: Life Expectancy, Keyboard Basics, and Top Features.
How many years can I expect to get out of my laptop?
The more money you spend on your laptop, the longer you can expect it to last. In general, Macs have a reputation for lasting longer than Windows laptops. I have an eight-year-old MacBook Air that’s still going strong.
One factor to consider is that operating system updates that are released regularly tend to take up hard drive space, so if you buy a model with a larger drive, your laptop may last longer. To make the most of your laptop’s lifespan, keep the laptop clean, cool, updated, and backed up.
If I'm on a budget, what is the most important factor to consider?
The weak spots of inexpensive laptops tend to be the keyboard, trackpad, and display. Manufacturers may skimp on these items hoping that potential buyers will focus more on processor speed. For starters, even if your funds are limited, look for a screen with at least Full HD (1920-by-1080) resolution.
What do I look for in the keyboard?
It pays to be fussy when it comes to a laptop keyboard as that’s the component you’ll be interacting with the most. Buying a laptop with keyboard backlighting can help you see the keys better and avoid typing mistakes.
Some keyboards have adjustable brightness and color options for backlighting. Another important feature is a laptop keyboard with a full-size layout instead of a compact or tenkeyless layout without a numeric keypad.
You Might Also Like