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The laptop space is not what it used to be — it's now more exciting than ever. The market is constantly growing with new options catered to more specific needs, like the person who wants their laptop to double as a tablet or the pro gamer who always needs to play on the go.
We've been researching and testing out laptops for years, and we're constantly keeping our eye out for new laptop launches that might rival one of our favorites. We're always scrutinizing specs and putting laptops through hands-on testing to determine the best worth buying. For our guide this year, we evaluated products from Apple, Microsoft, Dell, HP, and Acer, among other leading brands.
Best Laptops of 2021
Best PC Laptop: HP Envy x360 (13-inch)
Best MacBook: MacBook Pro with M1 Chip
Best Chromebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Best Budget: Acer Aspire 5
Best Gaming Laptop: HP Omen 15
Best 2-in-1 PC: Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Best PC Ultrabook: Dell XPS 13 (9310)
What to Consider
Before choosing your next laptop, think about how you plan to use it the most. Larger laptops typically pack a more powerful processor and often a sharper display. But that also means that they're not the most portable options. You’ll also want to consider the design, specs, performance, and battery life, but don't worry if you're not familiar with a processor or a graphics card — we're here to spell it out for you.
For those looking for a lightweight notebook to use on the go, you’ll want a display that measures 13 inches or less diagonally. For longer battery life, seek out a laptop with a Full HD screen, because it’ll last longer between battery charges. But if you’re someone who needs a laptop for design work, or typically uses demanding computer programs, you’ll need an option with a more powerful processor and a display with higher resolution.
How We Chose
We looked for laptops at various price points with the most up-to-date hardware specs in their product categories. Having a notebook with the latest processor and graphics will all but guarantee many years’ worth of reliable performance between upgrades.
Bluetooth 5.0 (or higher) and Wi-Fi 6 are two wireless connectivity features worth keeping an eye out for as well. The former will ensure that your notebook can effortlessly pair with the latest wireless headphones and earbuds, while the latter guarantees a reliable Wi-Fi experience for many years to come. Dependable webcam and onboard microphones are also essential, especially considering the remote-work reality that many are living in.
With all that in mind, read through our guide to find the best laptops worth buying in 2021.
Best PC Laptop
11th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics
8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage
13.3-inch IPS touchscreen with Full HD resolution
By offering top-tier design and craftsmanship, excellent performance, and reasonable pricing, the latest-generation HP Envy with a 13-inch screen is the best PC laptop you can find. The notebook has powerful and futureproof hardware, a high-quality touchscreen with thin bezels, and long battery life.
Thanks to Intel’s latest Core i7 chip and Iris Xe graphics, the Envy can make quick work of just about any task you throw at it. Best of all, the notebook is priced below $1,000, so it's not in the budget-busting realm.
The HP Envy's all-metal case is elegant and comfortable to use. The notebook has plentiful wired connectivity options for a 13-inch laptop, as well as up-to-date Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Other key features of the notebook include a convenient fingerprint sensor and stereo speakers tuned by Bang & Olufsen. I also really like that the Envy has a hardware button for disabling its webcam when you don't need it.
If you are looking for a great 15-inch PC laptop, consider this sub-$1,000 HP Envy x360 iteration. It has a versatile 360-degree touchscreen and even more connectivity features.
Thanks to Apple’s groundbreaking M1 chip, the 13-inch MacBook Pro offers industry-crushing speed and battery endurance that no rival can match. It is Apple’s best MacBook yet and unless you really need a touchscreen, the 13-inch laptop is the one to get.
In addition to being sleek, light, and incredibly powerful, the M1 MacBook Pro features a captivating Retina display with True Tone tech. It also has a fantastic Magic Keyboard with the product family’s signature Touch Bar and Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
If you are shopping on a tighter budget, consider the MacBook Air with an M1 chip. For less than $1,000, it offers an equally amazing performance. It’s worth noting that the MacBook Air has a slightly less capable GPU in entry-level guise, as well as negligibly shorter battery life that’s still miles ahead of any PC or Chromebook.
10th-generation Intel Core i3 CPU (dual-core)
4GB of RAM; 64GB of eMMC storage
13.5-inch 2K touchscreen with 360-degree hinge
The Chromebook Spin 713 by Acer is today’s best Chrome OS laptop. After comparing the device with other top-rated offerings, my colleague Brandon Carte rightfully made it our product category’s top pick. “If you want a slim, portable, and reliable Chromebook that delivers premium performance without a premium price, you won’t be disappointed,” he concluded.
Acer’s notebook is elegant and tough, and thanks to a 360-degree touchscreen with high resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio, it’s incredibly versatile. It also packs a powerful Intel chip and a wide array of futureproof wired and wireless connectivity features.
Rather impressively and unlike most laptops, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is built to meet military-grade standards for durability. It can survive drops from up to 4 feet, and its maker claims that the MIL-STD-810G compliance has been independently verified. The notebook’s rugged metal housing and display panel with Corning Gorilla also have a premium look and finish.
Best of all, starting at $529, the Spin 713 is priced within reach. We do also recommend this variant for $100 more. It has a beefier chip, more RAM, and faster SSD storage with larger capacity.
11th-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics
8GB of RAM (upgradeable), 256GB of SSD storage
15.6-inch Full HD display with 1,920 by 1,080 pixels
The Acer Aspire 5 is the best PC laptop for budget-conscious buyers. Priced slightly north of $600, it offers solid hardware specs with upgradeable memory and robust performance. The full-size notebook is also impressively portable — it weighs just a tad above 4 pounds.
The Aspire 5 has an aluminum top cover, making it look like a luxury product. The full-size backlit keyboard and the fingerprint sensor are also good, especially considering the device's price point. The same goes for the notebook's superb set of wired and wireless connectivity features, headlined by a fast and futureproof Wi-Fi 6.
You can easily upgrade the device's hardware and add more RAM — it’s inexpensive. Doing so will have a noticeable impact on the multitasking capabilities of the Aspire 5.
If you're looking for an even more affordable option, consider this Acer Aspire 5 version with an AMD chip instead. For around $200 less, it has the same design, less RAM, and half the SSD storage capacity, but a slightly longer battery life.
Best Gaming Laptop
10th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q graphics
32GB of RAM (upgradeable), 512GB of SSD storage
15.6-inch Full HD display with 300 Hz maximum refresh rate
HP’s Omen 15 is the best laptop for gamers, thanks to a cool design, excellent hardware specs, and an uncompromising performance. With top-tier hardware specs out of the box, the full-sized gaming notebook is also a futureproof purchase that won’t need an upgrade for quite a while. It is a favorite of ours in this highly competitive product category.
The Omen 15's gaming performance is outstanding, especially for its price range. The device’s NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super GPU can easily power through today’s AAA gaming titles in full HD resolution with the highest levels of in-game detail.
We're also impressed by the display panel's ultrafast refresh rate, which ensures that the gameplay is also incredibly smooth. As expected from a gaming rig, the Omen 15 also packs a praiseworthy set of connectivity features (both wired and wireless).
If you are shopping for a big-screen portable gaming rig, consider the HP Omen 17 instead. It has similar design and specs, but a 17-inch Full HD display with a 144 Hz refresh rate that’s slightly lower, but still plenty brisk.
Best 2-in-1 PC
10th-generation Intel Core i3/i5/i7 CPU, Intel UHD/Iris Plus Graphics
Up to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of SSD storage
12.3-inch high-resolution PixelSense touchscreen
Well over a year since its launch, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is still the gold standard for 2-in-1 PCs. It has all of the qualities that make the tech giant's Surface products a hit with consumers: looks, craftsmanship, power, and versatility. You can instantly transform the Pro 7 from a tablet to a laptop by attaching the Signature Type Cover.
Microsoft offers the Surface Pro 7 in a plethora of hardware configurations, ensuring that buyers can find one that fits their budget. All of the variants feature Intel’s 10th-generation processors, as well as up-to-date Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6.
We only wish that the Type keyboard cover the Surface Pen didn't cost extra. I still highly recommend that you get these accessories if you opt for this product — they are essential for making the most out of its incredible capabilities.
In case you are shopping for a 2-in-1 PC on a tighter budget, consider the compact Microsoft Surface Go 2 instead. It packs a smaller, 10.5-inch display, an entry-level Intel processor (there are two options to choose from). Best of all, it has a starting price tag under $400.
Best PC Ultrabook
11th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics
16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage
13.4-inch IPS touchscreen with Full HD+ resolution
The XPS 13 by Dell is our favorite PC ultrabook. It has a peerlessly elegant design, top-tier hardware specs and performance, and robust battery life. Crafted from aluminum, carbon fiber, and Corning Gorilla Glass, the XPS 13 is a joy to interact with, too. This is the compact PC laptop to get if your budget permits.
I tip my hat to Dell for making the XPS 13 so compact and lightweight. Weighting less than 3 pounds, the notebook is thinner than a dime when closed. Because of its impossibly slim display bezels, the XPS 13 has the footprint of an 11-inch laptop despite rocking a 13.4-inch panel.
With a price tag that’s above $1,500 for a well-equipped variant, the XPS 13 is pricier than its competitors. However, its design and craftsmanship are worth splurging for.
I recommend that you consider an XPS 13 with a Full HD display, because it has a noticeably longer battery life than the model with a sharper 4K screen. If you are looking for even more versatility, consider the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 instead. It has a similar design and specs, but a more versatile 360-degree touchscreen.
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