In our increasingly mobile-data oriented world, tablets and smartphones have become the computing devices of choice for most people, despite the fact that they’re not well-suited to performing every digital deed under the sun. For jobs that call for complex multi-tasking, raw computational power or the ease-of-use that a trackpad and full-sized keyboard afford, a reliable laptop is still the best option. Choosing which laptop to use, however, is not easy.
Are you looking for something that's thin and light, has long battery life, carries a decent amount of power, and comes in under $1,000? We have a lot of great picks, but our number one laptop is the 13-inch HP Envy x360(available at Costco). Whether you use it in laptop or tablet mode, you'll find this is the perfect PC for the office and the classroom alike.
Does the way you work or play demand a higher-end model with top-of-the-line discrete graphics? Then you should check out our best gaming laptop, the HP Omen X 2S(available at Costco). Or maybe you need something for checking email and surfing the web. If that’s the case, then an inexpensive machine like the Acer Aspire 5(available at Amazon) should do you just fine.
Whatever your needs, Reviewed has your back: our team of computer hardware experts is constantly on the hunt for the latest laptops across a wide spectrum of prices and capability. We test everything from graphics power to battery life.
These are the best laptops we tested:
Best Laptop Under $1000: HP Envy x360
Best Laptop Under $500: Acer Aspire 5
Best Gaming Laptop: HP Omen X 2S
Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,000: Lenovo Legion Y545
Best 2-in-1 Laptop: Dell XPS 2-in-1 (XPS7390-7237SLV)
Best Ultrabook: HP Spectre x360 13t Touch
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
If you need 13-inch laptop with a day’s worth of battery, a powerful processor, and a graphics card that can handle occasional gaming, you may think you need to spend top dollar. Not so thanks to the HP Envy x360, which has an 8-hour battery life and impressive performance for a laptop well under $1,000.
It absolutely crushes the much pricier Macbook Air in performance, looks just as beautiful, packs a pleasantly springy keyboard, and turns into a 2-in-1 tablet. Usually, in laptops this affordable and powerful, the screen isn't as great. Not so with the Envy x360, whose screen is bright and colorful. While it doesn't pack a discrete graphics card, its integrated graphics processor is so good that it crushes anything found on Intel processors, and it can play some AAA games like No Man's Sky at a decent framerate.
HP really nailed it with this one, and you can't go wrong with any configuration. To get the best bang for your buck, we recommend getting an Envy x360 configured with an AMD Ryzen 5, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD storage. You can always upgrade storage later with a new drive or a microSD card if you need to.
The Acer Aspire 5 was the most powerful Windows laptop we tested thanks to its Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage. That’s enough to handle most everyday workloads—opening lots of browser tabs, dealing with large documents, and running multiple apps at once. For a laptop at this price point, its speed is impressive.
The external hardware is surprisingly high quality, too. The aluminum top cover is more durable and premium-feeling than previous plastic generations, and the 1080p IPS display ensures you get a colorful, sharp display that won’t look “off” at an angle. It even has a fingerprint scanner for quick logins—again, not always a given on affordable laptops—plus a springy keyboard and precise trackpad.
In the sub-$500 space, it often feels like you have to make a compromise somewhere. Maybe you can get a laptop with top-tier performance, but the build quality suffers. Or maybe you have a luxurious-feeling machine, but it’s a little hindered by its low-end processor. Even as a power user, though, we felt like the Acer Aspire 5 gave us the most important stuff we needed to get work done. Its larger 15-inch body may not appeal to everybody, though, since it’s not as portable as smaller models—if you’re lugging this around in your backpack, it’s going to feel a bit bulky. Its battery life was also good-not-great, coming in around seven hours. For most people, though, the Aspire 5 is the budget laptop to buy. Just don’t expect too many fancy bells and whistles.
HP’s Omen X 2S is a joy. Not only is it one of the best-looking laptops we’ve seen recently, but it’s also an innovative machine whose bells and whistles are intuitive and fun to use. Equipped with an Intel i7-9750H processor and a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card, it’s powerful enough to run most games on high or ultra settings. It also has a gorgeous 4K display, a smaller 6-inch 1080P display, and a Thunderbolt 3 port. Because it’s got a second screen built into the base—with touchscreen functionality—the keyboard placement is a little different than you’re probably used to. The keys run along the bottom edge of the machine, with the trackpad located in the bottom right. The X 2S comes with a sturdy but comfortable wrist rest, therefore, and it’ll take a second to get used to typing. But the trackpad positioning was an immediate adjustment for me, as natural as using a traditional PC mouse—assuming you’re right-handed.
Depending on your budget and the options you go with, this might run you north of $2,000 but the second screen’s a fantastic addition to the standard HP Omen, and it feels like the sort of hardware that’ll last a decade or more with regular use. The touchscreen acts as a second monitor where you can operate streaming software like Twitch, monitor your social-media notifications, or maybe consult a walkthrough guide while you’re playing. The Omen Command Center app also makes it simple to toggle between the laptop’s three modes: Comfort, Default, and Performance.
Its most serious drawback is battery life. In Performance mode, you could be seeing an hour of charge or less while unplugged, so don’t expect to get a lot of on-the-go use out of it.
With its elegant black-and-white color scheme, the Lenovo Legion Y545 is a gorgeous piece of hardware. This 15-inch laptop has a comfortable keyboard, a fantastic trackpad, and delivers strong, reliable performance for something under a grand. It comes with the same 16 gigabytes of RAM and Intel Core i7-series processor you find in most of the laptops that cost twice as much. Another standout feature that may be a make-a-break proposition is the power supply, which plugs into the back center of the base, as opposed to the side. We found this to be more comfortable and convenient than most laptops, but for most users, it will probably take some getting used to.
As for frame rates, the Legion Y545 stayed locked at a steady 60 frames per second the entire time we were playing Rise of the Tomb Raider—on low as well as high graphics settings—so hardcore enthusiasts who favor higher numbers over consistency may not be fully satisfied there. That said, for a budget machine, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 4GB graphics card doesn’t disappoint. And at two and a half hours, battery life is fairly unremarkable, but this laptop’s a lot of fun to use. It’s the bang-for-buck choice for players on a budget.
Dell’s XPS 13 has long been one of the best-engineered laptops on the market, and the 2-in-1 version of Dell’s flagship keeps a lot of the same features that make the standard XPS 13 so impressive. Its performance was among the best we tested, with our mid-tier configuration boasting a 10th-gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. Battery life came in squarely at seven hours, which is just about enough to get you through the workday, and a bright 1920x1200 screen will suit you even if you’re working outdoors. Most importantly, it has the same super-thin bezels as its non-touch sibling, meaning you get a 13-inch laptop in a tiny package more similar to competing 11-inch laptops.
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is lacking a few things compared to the non-touch model, though. Facial recognition is strangely absent, though you can use the included fingerprint reader for quick logins. The keyboard is also incredibly shallow—even more so than this year’s non-touch version—which means typing for long sessions isn’t as comfortable as other laptops. It’s not as bad as Apple’s disastrous keyboards of the past few years, but it’s still far from ideal. Finally, its storage is soldered onto the motherboard just like the RAM, which means you can’t upgrade it later on like you can with the non-touch version—so buy what you think you’ll need for the future, not just what you need now.
Still, even with those notable downsides, Dell is still ahead of the pack in terms of performance and product design. The trackpad is near-perfect, the touch screen hinge is smooth as butter, and the laptop is thin enough that it’s actually decent to use as a tablet, especially with the sold-separately Dell Active Pen. And even with that super-compact design, it still bested most of its competition in performance, which is no small feat. For that reason, it’s still the best overall 2-in-1 you can buy right now.
HP's Spectre x360 is a premium laptop that screams quality, with an eye-catching angular design, a beautiful screen, and plenty of ports—including both new USB-C ports and a classic USB-A port.
It's slim, has a great keyboard, and comes fully loaded with the latest 10th-gen Intel processors, Intel Iris Plus graphics, and a battery that is good for nearly eight hours of juice in our custom battery test.
Its entry-level model is competitively priced compared to the Dell XPS 2-in-1, and upgrading to a faster processor, more storage, more RAM, and even a wireless LTE modem are all more affordable. If you want a beautiful laptop that can do just about anything, the Spectre is a great pick.
Here at Reviewed, we test laptops for their processing capability, graphics, battery life, and screen brightness. We use popular benchmarks like Geekbench and 3DMark to gauge how well the laptop multitasks, runs games, and more. We also test multiple platforms, from Windows laptops to Macs and Chromebooks alike.
To test battery life, we set up our laptops to continuously cycle through various websites at a brightness of 200 nits—which is around 60% for many of these mid-range models—until they run out of power, estimating how much work you can get done on a single charge. We also use each laptop for an extended period of time, rating each on factors like build quality, price, portability, and design.
What You Should Know About Laptops
When it comes to laptops, there's a lot to consider. From display size to build quality, you definitely want a laptop that'll last a couple of years. Here's what you need to keep in mind:
Performance: The CPU, graphics chip, RAM, and storage inside your PC determine how well your computer can multitask, handle intensive tasks like gaming, and store all your files. The better the specs, the snappier the laptop will feel as you work.
Build Quality: Not only do you want a laptop that can take a beating (since you’ll probably be lugging it around with you), but you want one with a well-built keyboard and trackpad since they’re your primary form of interaction with the machine. A poor trackpad or finicky keyboard can really kill the experience.
Touch Screens, Portability, and Features: 2-in-1s have gained in popularity, but that touch screen and pen cost money to include. Similarly, cramming all those powerful components into a small, easy-to-carry package can often cost more than a larger laptop with fewer design constraints.
In addition, consider which operating system you need. Windows is still the dominant OS these days, and if you’re going to play games, edit photos and videos, or need certain software for work, you’ll probably stick with Microsoft’s offering. If you spend all your time on the web and want to save some money, though, a Chromebook may serve you well.
Between Netflix, Gmail, and Google Docs, you can do almost anything in a browser. Many of those web apps even work offline for those rare occasions you don’t have Wi-Fi. Chromebooks have the advantage of being cheaper (since they don’t need as much processing power) and virtually virus- and bloatware-free (since they run Linux under the hood).
From there, you’ll need to look a bit deeper at the form factor. You’ll usually find laptops in one of three main sizes, measured by the diagonal length of the display:
13 inches and under: These smaller laptops are great for carrying around, and more than suitable for light work like writing papers and browsing the web.
15 inches: Mid-sized laptops are a bit less portable, and won’t necessarily work in space-constrained spaces like airplane seats. But the larger display is useful for photo editing and watching videos.
17 inches: This is very large, and only recommended if you are doing video editing or other intensive work that requires a lot of screen real estate—and you don’t mind lugging it around.
There can still be varying sizes within those categories—for example, the XPS 13’s smaller bezels make it much smaller than most 13-inch laptops—and sizes in between, like the 14-inch Lenovo Yoga C740. But in general, picking a size range you’re comfortable with can help narrow down the field.
You’ll also want to consider how many USB ports the laptop has, whether you need HDMI and Ethernet, and how comfortable the keyboard and trackpad are to use—this can vary quite a bit from model to model, and it’s important to get something responsive and durable.
Under the Hood
Finally, you’ll need to consider the guts: the processor, graphics chip, RAM, and storage that determine your laptop’s capabilities. For browsing the web and using office software, lower-power chips (like the Intel Core i3 processor) are adequate, though midrange chips like the i5 are ideal if you can get them. 4GB of RAM is usable in a Chromebook, though even web browsing can eat up RAM these days, so 8GB is recommended if you tend to open lots of tabs, use lots of browser extensions, and want a laptop that’ll last you well into the future—I wouldn’t advise 4GB for most Windows users these days.
If, on the other hand, you run more intense workloads—whether that means heavy photo and video editing or running the latest PC games—you’ll want something with a bit more “oomph.” Intel’s higher-end i7 processors will make those video encodes run noticeably faster, and a dedicated graphics card will ensure your games run smooth as butter (instead of choppy like a bad flipbook).
No matter who you are, we recommend erring on the side of more storage rather than less—people often underestimate how much space they’ll fill up with all their music, photos, and videos over time, and it’s a hassle to lug an external drive around. Storage can be expensive, though, so if you can’t afford a 256GB solid-state drive, consider buying a laptop with an SD card slot and using a high-capacity card for cheap, expandable storage. Keep in mind internal upgradeability, too: many modern laptops solder their components onto the motherboard, meaning you can’t swap in more RAM or a bigger storage drive down the line. So either buy a laptop that keeps its components separate or spend a bit more to buy the specs you’ll need in a couple of years—not just what you need right now.
The Reviewed staff is based in the heart of Cambridge, MA. Backed by our knowledgeable writers and rigorous test labs, we're working hard to make sure you can make the right decisions about what to buy.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.