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The best laptops you can buy in 2024

Apple, Acer, Dell, Lenovo, HP and more: Toss out everything you thought you knew about choosing a laptop. Here's the straight skinny.

What's the best laptop to buy? I get this question all the time, and the answer is quite different now than it was a decade ago — even five years ago. It starts with this: There's no one laptop brand that's markedly better than another. I know, I know... I'll give you a minute to absorb that.

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This isn't as blasphemous as it sounds. The reality is, when it comes to getting your work done, it really doesn't matter if you choose Acer, Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, Samsung or another major brand. They all make really good portable PCs, so it's hard to make a bad choice. (Whew! Relief, right?)

Instead, focus on the aspects that matter most: size, design, performance and, of course, price. Below, you'll find my top laptop picks in various categories, followed by a deeper discussion of these attributes and why they're important.

Hi, I'm Rick Broida. You might remember me from such print magazines as Computer Shopper and Home Office Computing. (If so, we're both older than we care to admit.) I've been writing about technology for most of my professional life, and during that time I've tested and reviewed more laptops than I can count. That's one reason I feel comfortable with my opening statement about laptop brands. Provided you get the specs you need and price you can afford, chances are good you'll come away happy.

These selections were made based on a number of criteria, including other professional reviews, user ratings, price-to-performance ratio and, where possible, personal experience. (I managed to get hands-on time with some of the models listed below, but not all of them.)

Processor: Intel Core i5 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB | Screen size: 14" | Screen resolution: 2,880 x 1,800 | Touchscreen: No | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Unless you have specialized needs — high-end gaming, for example, or heavy-duty video editing — what remains is to pick a laptop that's a good all-purpose machine, a utility player that can handle everyday computing tasks. The HP Pavilion Plus 14 is that machine.

For starters, it strikes a good balance between comfort and portability: The 14-inch screen is large enough to let you work without feeling cramped, while the 3.1-pound chassis is light enough for any carry-on.

The real standout here, however, is that screen: Even in the base configuration, HP serves up a beautiful high-resolution OLED panel. That's going to make everything look better, whether it's web pages or Netflix movies.

And speaking of resolution, the webcam captures up to 2,560 by 1,440 pixels, a major upgrade over the 720p or even 1080p webcams found in most laptops. You're going to look good on those Zoom calls.

The Pavilion's speakers aren't great, despite the B&O hardware behind them, but that's true of nearly all laptops. I'm more displeased with HP's ongoing use of small, weirdly arranged cursor arrow keys, which are a pain to use.

It's worth noting that there are multiple Pavilion Plus 14 configurations available, both at HP and elsewhere. Some models run on AMD processors rather than Intel, and HP will also custom-build one to your specifications. 

Whatever Pavilion Plus 14 you end up with, you're likely to find it a fast, flexible computing companion, both at home and on the road.

  • High-resolution OLED screen
  • 5-megapixel webcam
  • Fast-charge battery
  • Backlit keyboard
  • So-so built-in speakers
  • Half-size cursor arrow keys
$680 at HP

Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Screen size: 15.6" | Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Touchscreen: No | Weight: 3.8 pounds

What kind of laptop can you expect for under $500? In the case of Acer's Aspire 3, a pretty solid one. This machine should handle most mainstream computing tasks with no trouble, though there's one spec shortcoming you should note.

And it's this: Although the Aspire's Ryzen 5 processor has plenty of juice to power modern applications, and even some games, it comes with just 8GB of RAM. That's fine if you keep only, say, 10 browser tabs open at once, but anything more will start to tax the system. Same goes for running more than a few programs at once.

This wouldn't be a big deal if you could expand the RAM, but it's soldered to the motherboard and there's no slot for adding more. Acer also failed to provide a memory-card slot. Although you can easily plug an adapter into a USB port, the Aspire has only three of them — and only one is USB-C.

The good news is there's plenty to like about the Aspire 3, from the bright Full HD screen to the very good battery life. And let's remember that with a price tag below $500, a few hardware compromises are to be expected. If you're looking for a solid laptop to handle the basics, the Acer Aspire 3 A315-24P is definitely worth a look.

  • Priced below $500
  • Good battery life
  • Full HD screen
  • Current-gen Wi-Fi 6 onboard
  • No memory card slot
  • No room for additional RAM
  • A little on the heavy and chunky side
  • Non-backlit keyboard with reduced numeric keypad
$415 at Amazon
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$500 at Acer

Processor: Intel Core i7 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB | Screen size: 15.6" | Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,200 | Touchscreen: No | Weight: 5.1 pounds

The whole idea of a desktop replacement is a little old-fashioned now, as laptops have largely supplanted desktops as the preferred PC choice. Indeed, this is more likely to be end up replacing a previous laptop rather than a desktop.

That said, it definitely has the latter's bona fides, including lots of horsepower and one of the largest screens you can get. Whether for work or play, the XPS 17 wants for nothing.

Although the baseline configuration is extremely good, Dell lets you configure nearly every component of the system. If the Core i7 isn't fast enough for you, there's a Core i9 available. Need more RAM or storage? Easy. The default discrete graphics subsystem is great for games, but serious players have three upgrade options available. And you can even opt for a touchscreen if you want it.

One thing you can't change, alas, is the 720p webcam. It's decent, but a system with this kind of horsepower (and price tag) feels like it should have a higher-resolution camera. (HP's Pavilion Plus 14 has one, and it's less than half the cost.) I also wish the XPS 17 had at least one Type-A USB port for legacy devices; the four that are included are all USB-C (though Dell does provide a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter).

Those nitpicks aside, this is one seriously well-equipped machine. You'll pay for it, but chances are good you wouldn't need to upgrade again for a long, long time.

  • Very powerful even in the base configuration
  • Lots of upgrade options available at purchase
  • Discrete graphics subsystem
  • Very expensive
  • Low-resolution webcam
  • No Type-A USB ports
$2,199 at Dell

Processor: Intel Core i7 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB | Screen size: 17.3" | Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Touchscreen: No | Weight: 6.4 pounds

Gamers have very different needs than work-from-homers: Big screen, lots of storage and processing power and so on. The MSI Raider GE77HX ticks all the important boxes, starting with the raw speed needed to keep games running smoothly at the highest resolutions. To that end it packs a 12th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB solid-state drive and Nvidia's RTX 3080 TI GPU. And because bigger is always better when it comes to gaming, the screen spans a massive 17.3 inches.

That screen tops out at 1080p resolution, which seems a bit low given the rest of the specs, but you could always plug in an external 4K monitor; the processor and graphics subsystem can handle the extra pixels, no problem. The latter comes with a whopping 16GB of dedicated video RAM, on par with what you'd find on modern desktop video cards. And the 360Hz screen refresh rate rivals any gaming-minded monitor; standard ones top out at just 60Hz.

Unsurprisingly, this is a big, heavy machine (6.4 pounds), one designed not for backpacks but for basements and game rooms. Thankfully, it's also designed for pizazz: A color-changing LED light bar spans the entire front edge, and the keyboard backlights to match (though you can also customize it on a per-key basis, which is pretty cool).

Finally, the Raider serves up ample expansion ports along the sides and rear edge: Five USB, one HDMI, one mini Displayport and an Ethernet jack. It's the rare gamer who'd need anything more.

Although I didn't get the chance to test the Raider, it earned top marks from customers and reviewers alike. One item worth noting: Several customers indicated that the system runs hot and produces a fair amount of fan noise (both fairly common in gaming laptops).

This thing ain't cheap, but for anyone serious about gaming — either at home or on the go — it's worth the investment.

  • Packed with power
  • Nifty colored-LED accents
  • Plenty of expansion options
  • Very expensive
  • Fans can get noisy
  • Screen resolution a bit low
$2,580 at Amazon
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$2,599 at Adorama$3,313 at Office Depot

Processor: Apple M2 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Screen size: 13.3" | Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Touchscreen: No | Weight: 3 pounds

If you're concerned about the materials used to make your laptop — both what they are and where they came from — look to Apple's MacBook lineup. The company has made impressive commitments to energy efficiency, recycled materials and overall environmental friendliness.

For example, all MacBooks are free of mercury, arsenic, brominated flame retardants and PVC plastic. And Apple itself has pledged to be a 100% clean-energy company by 2030. Needless to say, choosing a MacBook helps support that mission.

Of course, there are other reasons: MacBooks are widely regarded as some of the best laptops you can buy, notable for their rock-solid construction, virus-resistant operating system and unrivaled customer support. The 2022 Pro models feature blazing-fast processors, backlit keyboards, amazing battery life (up to 20 hours, according to Apple) and Apple's dazzling Retina displays.

If you're coming from the Windows world, however, be prepared to battle a small- to medium-size learning curve, as Mac OS definitely works a little differently. You should also brace for the "Apple Tax," as the MacBook Pro lineup (normally) starts at $1,299 and rises sharply from there.

  • Made from eco-friendly materials
  • Fantastic screen
  • Top-of-class battery life
  • Works seamlessly with iPhones and iPads
  • Expensive
  • Not much RAM or storage in this configuration
$1,177 at Amazon
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$1,170 at Best Buy

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon SC7180 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB | Screen size: 13.3" | Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Touchscreen: Yes | Weight: 2.2 pounds

A Chromebook is simply a laptop that runs Google's Android-like Chrome operating system instead of Windows. Is that the right choice for you? Lenovo's IdeaPad Duet 5 certainly makes a strong case. It's one of the most versatile, affordable laptops on this list.

For starters, the Duet 5 features a 13.3-inch FHD OLED touchscreen — plenty big and bright for working in comfort, and accompanied by a full-size keyboard. (Beware smaller Chromebooks, which are likely to have cramped keys.) But here's the kicker: That keyboard is detachable, meaning the Duet — true to it name — is also a tablet. A big one. One that can run Android apps, just like phones.

Indeed, this isn't a mere parlor trick; the screen effectively becomes a full-fledged Android tablet, one equipped with front and rear cameras, four speakers, two microphones and a battery that's good for up to 15 hours (according to Lenovo). It also has a built-in kickstand, so you can easily prop it up for movies, video calls and so on. Feeling creative? The screen supports stylus input as well, though you'll have to buy that separately. (Here's a rechargeable, pressure-sensitive Chromebook pen for $30.)

The Duet 5 is available in a few different configurations; this one includes 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage — quite a lot for a Chromebook. And unlike most 2-in-1 laptops, this is actually on the lighter side at 2.2 pounds.

Given its shared DNA with modern smartphones, the Duet 5 does carry a few similar limitations. For example, it lacks a headphone jack. It has Bluetooth, of course, but if you prefer to plug in your favorite wired 'phones, you're out of luck. It also lacks an SD or microSD memory-card slot, though it does have a pair of USB-C ports for use with external drives and such.

If you're in the market for a Chromebook rather than a Windows laptop or MacBook, the IdeaPad Duet 5 is definitely one to consider.

  • Full-featured laptop that can transform into a full-featured tablet
  • Dazzling touchscreen display
  • Ample RAM and storage (for a Chromebook)
  • Weighs just over 2 pounds
  • No headphone jack
  • No memory-card slot
$435 at Amazon
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$499 at Best Buy

I'll say it again: Brand is arguably the least important part of the equation. The best laptop isn't the one made by XYZ Company; it's the one that ticks the boxes that matter to you. Here are the three main things to consider when choosing a laptop.

Three laptops of different sizes.
Size matters! Pick a laptop that'll best suit where, and how, you like to work (or play).

Where is this laptop going to spend most of its time? On a desk? In your lap? No matter where you work, a bigger screen is always better — but the bigger you go, the heavier and bulkier your travel companion. If commuting or working offsite is part of your regular routine, choose a laptop that has a 13- or 14-inch screen and travel weight of under three pounds. If you're mostly working at your desk, however, it's worth considering a larger model; things like weight and battery life aren't nearly as important.

When you take that step up in size, you may also step up to a keyboard that includes a dedicated numeric keypad — useful if your work involves numbers (think: spreadsheets, financial docs, etc.).

An example of a convertible laptop, one with a 360-degree hinge.
Except for a few niche cases, there's just not a ton of value in a laptop that can do this -- especially one that runs Windows. A 360-degree hinge usually results in a thicker, heavier machine, too. (Photo: Lenovo)

As you shop for laptops, you'll notice that some models (often referred to as 2-in-1s) boast a 360-degree hinge, meaning the screen can swivel around to accommodate other configurations — including a full-on tablet mode, which sounds great on paper but doesn't have as many practical applications as you might think.

Why? For starters, although Windows does have an app store, it offers only a fraction of the apps available for your Android tablet or iPad. But the real issue is size: A 10-inch tablet is light and comfortable enough to hold in one hand for long stretches of time, but a 13-inch that's hitched to a keyboard? Trust me: You won't like using it as a tablet.

I do like the option of using "tent mode" for watching videos. But even that's kind of superfluous; you can watch just as easily in the standard laptop configuration — and that makes it infinitely easier to type your Netflix search words, too.

My only real recommendation here is to decide whether a touchscreen is important. If you're accustomed to using a mouse anyway, it may not be. The touch capability can be nice at times, but it adds bulk, weight and cost to the machine. And you'll have to clean the screen more often owing to the fingerprints you'll leave behind.

Speaking of fingers, a backlit keyboard is a nice extra if you prefer (or are stuck with) a dimly lit workspace. And look for at least one USB-C expansion port, which will make it easier to work with newer peripherals and accessories.

In the old days, processor speed was arguably the single biggest consideration for any PC purchase. Now, they're all pretty fast, even at the lower end. When you consider that most modern computing takes place in a web browser, with occasional dips into apps like Word and Zoom, you don't need to worry too much about processor speed. An Intel Core i3 or i5 (or AMD's Ryzen equivalent) is more than sufficient for everyday tasks; choose a Core i7 only if your computing plans include gaming, massive spreadsheets and/or video editing.

Beyond that, take note of RAM — look for 8GB minimum, 16GB if your budget allows — and make absolutely sure the system has a solid-state drive (SSD), not a mechanical drive (HDD). The former makes a huge difference in terms of boot speed and overall performance. And the more RAM you have, the more apps and browser tabs you can keep open simultaneously without a performance hit.

I mentioned gaming; anyone serious about that hobby should look for a dedicated (aka discrete) graphics subsystem, or GPU. Check the specs for mention of Nvidia, the brand behind most of the dedicated GPUs found in modern laptops. If it's listed, the machine is well-suited to games.

Once upon a time, you bought a laptop only when you needed to work on the go. Now it's the default pick, even with so many of us still working from home. But is it the best option? Would a desktop setup make more sense?

I'm not talking about one of those hulking tower-PC systems of yesteryear, which are now almost exclusively the domain of hardcore gamers, but rather a mini PC. Small enough to hold in your hand, these little machines pack ample horsepower for everyday computing.

Here's why I like them: My laptop is currently connected to a big-screen monitor and full-size keyboard, meaning it's the brains of my comfortable, largely permanent workstation. Honestly it just takes up space on my desk — and kind of adds to the clutter. A mini PC would be barely visible, especially if I mount it on the back of my monitor (which is an option with most models).

For example, the excellent Geekom IT8 starts at around $380 (sometimes less when there's a sale) and offers just as much computing horsepower as most mainstream laptops. It comes with Windows 11 and offers plenty of expandability, both inside and out.

Bottom line: If your workstation plans include a big monitor and keyboard, consider a mini-PC instead of a laptop. You might save money; you'll definitely cut down on a desktop clutter.