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The best laptops of 2021

  1. Product image of Apple MacBook Air (2020)
    Best Overall

    Apple MacBook Air (2020)

    Pros

    • Jaw-dropping battery life

    • Incredible performance

    • Iconic build quality

    Cons

    • Poor port selection

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Product image of Apple MacBook Pro (2020)
    Best Upgrade Pick

    Apple MacBook Pro (2020)

    Pros

    • Class-leading battery life

    • Insane performance

    • Premium build quality

    Cons

    • Poor port selection

    Skip to the full review below
MacBook lies on white table surrounded by plants
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The new M1 MacBook Air redefined what we expect from a laptop.

Best Overall
Apple MacBook Air (2020)

With almost thirteen hours of battery life, a crazy-powerful M1 processor, and an incredibly smooth trackpad and keyboard, it should be no surprise that the MacBook Air M1 shoved our previous top laptop out of its spot.

The new Air ditches Intel’s processors for Apple’s own M1 processors. Apple claimed this new M1 chip would be so amazing that we’d want to ditch our old Intel Macs. It delivered, with the M1 processor packing over 60% more power than its predecessor. The only processors that compete with the M1 for raw performance are the flagship Intel Core i9 and AMD Ryzen 9 processors. Basically, this laptop performs better than most laptops twice its price.

But it’s not just about speed. The most astonishing feature of the MacBook Air is its battery life. Our battery test is designed for real-world performance rather than optimal circumstances, so we expected the claimed 15-hour battery life to turn into 9 hours—instead, we got almost thirteen hours. It shattered the record for longest battery life we’ve seen from a laptop running Chrome (by comparison, the 2020 HP Spectre 14t ran for a little over nine hours). The only laptop able to beat the Air is the new M1 MacBook Pro 13, which gets you an extra hour of battery life but costs a fair bit more.

The MacBook Air M1 comes with the same aluminum chassis and Retina screen we loved in the earlier 2020 Intel MacBook Air, although we’d love to see a redesign for the MacBook Air’s next iteration (thinner bezels, perhaps?). This is one of the most surprising releases we’ve seen in years, and we can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with the M1 MacBook Air.

Pros

  • Jaw-dropping battery life

  • Incredible performance

  • Iconic build quality

Cons

  • Poor port selection

The MacBook Pro is on a white desk, with a phone to its side.
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The Apple M1 MacBook Pro 13 is its best laptop, ever.

Best Upgrade Pick
Apple MacBook Pro (2020)

While the M1 MacBook Air offers the best performance and value for most folks, the M1 MacBook Pro 13 packs a little extra juice. Its best-in-class Apple M1 processor broke our records in both benchmarks and real-world testing. Its power is on par with that of the flagship Intel Core i9 and AMD Ryzen 9 processors, but the base MacBook Pro 13 is actually quite affordable.

What's really impressive, however, is its battery power. The MacBook Pro 13 lasted fourteen hours in our Chrome-based battery test, which routinely chews through battery power faster than a video-based test. The longest-lasting Windows competitor, the HP Spectre 14t, lasted 9 hours before giving up.

The M1 MacBook Pro 13 ships with the same amount of ports and fans as the base Intel MacBook Pro 13: two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a single fan. However, unlike the last generation, the M1 MacBook Pro 13 rarely needs its single fan as its ultra-efficient processor stays cool even during exceptionally taxing tasks, like video editing.

If you’re interested in getting a new MacBook, there are only two reasons to turn away from the M1 MacBook Pro 13. Either you need an Intel-based Mac or discrete GPU (i.e. a MacBook Pro 16), or you’re considering the M1 MacBook Air 13. The MacBook Air 13 offers almost the same features for a more modest price tag. Upgrades over the Air include a Touch Bar, a bigger battery (the Air lasted one hour less than the Pro in our battery test), and a fan. For most people, the Air will be the better pick but it could be worth splurging on the Pro if you can afford it and you want a few extra features.

If you’re debating between an M1 MacBook and a premium Windows laptop, the M1 MacBooks win. They’re more powerful, have a significantly better battery life, and have a wonderful aesthetic and user experience. Unless you’re using Windows-only apps and features, we recommend the MacBook Pro 13 and MacBook Air.

Read our full review of the Late 2020 M1 MacBook Pro 13 here.

Pros

  • Class-leading battery life

  • Insane performance

  • Premium build quality

Cons

  • Poor port selection

Related content

How We Tested Laptops

These are the best gaming laptops available today.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

We test everything from processing capability to screen brightness.

The Testers

I'm Joanna Nelius, Senior Editor of Electronics at Reviewed. I've been reviewing gaming products and laptops for the last several years, having written for PC Gamer, Maximum PC, and Gizmodo in the past. In addition to gaming desktops and laptops, I also specialize in CPU and GPU reviews.

Hey there, I’m Adrien Ramirez, tech staff writer and laptop reviewer here at Reviewed. I’ve been working professionally with tech and PCs for six years, from game development to reviewing and everything in between. Before I came to Reviewed, I had worked with Lifewire and the MIT Game Lab. I’m passionate about all things tech, although I especially enjoy PCs. It takes a lot to make a great PC, and it takes a lot to know what a great PC looks like. It’s not just power: it’s build quality, touchpad sensitivity, keyboard ergonomics, display accuracy, aesthetics, and more. We all want our laptops and desktops to last as long as possible while giving us all the performance and comfort we need. When I’m not testing and evaluating laptops, I’m planning small-sized desktop builds.

I’m Whitson Gordon, and I’m a freelance tech writer charged with testing laptops here at Reviewed. I’ve been writing about tech professionally for almost 10 years, from building computers to setting up smart homes, and served as the editor-in-chief of Lifehacker and How-To Geek before freelancing for publications like the New York Times, PCMag, and Reviewed. This isn’t just my day job—it’s my calling. I’m obsessed with researching, testing, and finding the best possible gadget in a given category—so much so that my brother made it a central joke in his best man speech at my wedding.

The Tests

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 the 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. Most people will be more than happy with a current-generation Intel Core i5, Apple M1, or AMD Ryzen 5, which are mid-range processors. 8GB of RAM will give you enough room to lightly multitask, but we recommend 16GB or more of RAM for future-proofing.

Graphics chip and storage size needs will vary the most depending on what you plan to run on the laptop. While Chromebooks can get away with 64GB of storage with additional cloud storage, Windows laptops need 256GB or more of storage to run optimally. 512GB hits the sweet spot for many users. For most people, there is no need for a dedicated graphics card. Modern integrated graphics are more than capable of running things like esports games or small 3D modeling files. However, if you plan to play the latest AAA games or otherwise need to run a lot of vector calculations, you should consider a discrete graphics card.

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.

Generally, durable laptops are stiff and hard to deform, so metal is usually more rugged than plastic. A good keyboard should be quick to type on, and your fingers should easily reach all the keys without any missed hits. Check those elements like the Shift, Control, and Fn keys aren’t awkward to reach with your thumb and pinky fingers. Whether you prefer stiff or soft keys is up to you: stiff keys are harder to accidentally press but will tire you out faster, while soft keys are easier to type on for long periods of time but can be prone to poor feedback and typos. See what’s most comfortable for you.

Trackpads are a little easier to judge. A good trackpad reads all your finger movements accurately, so the mouse won’t feel jumpy or unresponsive. A larger trackpad gives you better control of your cursor, and the trackpad should have little friction so you don’t “skip” with your cursor.

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. They’re not as comfortable to use as dedicated tablets like iPads, but 2-in-1s can provide extra options for those who need something versatile. Display pens are great for those who take a lot of notes or draw, such as students or artists.

Operating Systems

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. MacOS has its own exclusive software and great integration with the Apple ecosystem, so it’s the preferred option for those with iPhones, iPads, or other Apple products.

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 bloatware-free (since they run Linux under the hood).

Display Size

You’ll usually find laptops in one of three main sizes, measured by the diagonal length of the display:

  • 14 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.
  • 15.6 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, and their larger chassis can house more powerful hardware.
  • 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. However, there are many small form factor desktops (like the Mac Mini) that can be much simpler to transport if you’re headed somewhere with extra keyboards, mice, and monitors—or you can bring your favorite wireless keyboard and mouse for a cable-free adventure.

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 they’re within your budget. 4GB of RAM is usable in a Chromebook, though even web browsing can eat up RAM these days, so 8GB to 16GB 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.


Other Laptops We Tested

Product image of HP Spectre x360 14t (2020)
HP Spectre x360 14t (2020)

For a luxurious PC laptop experience, look no further than the HP Spectre 14t. Its brilliant design, excellent battery life, and exceptionally snappy speed rise it to the creme de la creme of premium 2-in-1 laptops on the market. What sets it apart from its competitors is its bezel-free 3:2 screen, which gives you plenty of screen real estate for web pages, documents, spreadsheets, and more without the added weight and dead space around the screen.

While its performance isn't as breath-taking as that of the new Apple M1 Macs, it's still among the fastest laptops we've tested. For light video editing, office work, and casual games, the Spectre 14t will sing.

There are some formidable competitors, like the Apple MacBook Air and the Dell XPS 13, but the Spectre is the laptop to choose if you're after stunning aesthetics with solid power for a reasonable price.

Pros

  • Compact

  • Fast processor

  • Amazing battery life

Cons

  • No HDMI port

  • Webcam isn't great

Product image of Dell XPS 13 OLED (9310)
Dell XPS 13 OLED (9310)

Best-in-class keyboard? Check. 4K OLED touch screen? Check. High-end performance? Check. The Dell XPS 13 9310 is once again a standout laptop for those on the go.

It is one of the more expensive ultraportable laptops, but its attention to detail justifies it. The brilliant screen and Intel Core i7 processor make the Dell XPS 13 a great pick for serious workloads, while its sleek aluminum body is easy to slip into your backpack and use in a meeting. Its 16:10 body ratio gives a surprising amount of room for the keyboard and trackpad so your fingers can keep going.

Sadly, its small body limits its port selection. With only two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a microSD card reader, and a headphone jack, you will need to carry a couple of dongles if you need a USB-A or Ethernet port. The eight-hour battery life might get you through the day, but you may want to use it on a desk as the Dell XPS 13 tends to run hot. It’s expensive compared to its rivals, like the HP Spectre 14t and the Apple MacBook Pro 13, but its overall performance and function make the Dell XPS 13 it worth the extra cash.

Pros

  • Spectacular OLED display

  • Luxurious, robust design

  • Great keyboard and touchpad

Cons

  • No USB-A or Ethernet ports

  • Can run a bit hot

  • Battery life is just ok

Product image of HP Envy x360 15z
HP Envy x360 15z

Fast, beautiful, and affordable, the 15-inch HP Envy x360 is a dream for those in need of a larger laptop that won't break the bank. Inside its beautiful body, the 15-inch Envy packs an AMD Ryzen 5 processor that trades blows with laptops twice its price—perfect for photo editing, light gaming, and even a bit of video editing.

The HP Envy’s 15-inch display is nothing short of glorious. It’s huge, it’s bright, it’s vibrant, and it’s touch-enabled. While the laptop is a little bulky for tablet use in 2-in-1 mode, it’s nice to have the ability to tent your laptop.

What's even more impressive is that it can hit all the marks while still delivering almost seven hours of battery life. While it doesn't outdo the MacBook Air, it's on par with other 15-inch laptops, like the HP Spectre 15 or the Dell XPS 15—despite its budget laptop status. It's undoubtedly one of the best 15-inch laptops in its price range, and we doubt we'll see a worthy contender for its crown anytime soon.

Pros

  • Excellent performance

  • A beautiful design

  • Sturdy 2-in-1 hinges

Cons

  • So-so battery life

  • Heavy

Product image of Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition (2021)
Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition (2021)

The Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition is a unicorn among gaming laptops. With an amazing combination of hardware components, design, features, and battery life for its price point, it’d be hard to find another laptop that has this much value. It’s also one of the best laptops Asus has put out with an AMD processor and an AMD graphics card. Those two components in this form factor are truly a sight to behold.

The Ryzen 9 5900HX keeps programs running at tip-top speeds so every task feels snappy. Running 50 Chrome tabs at once, rendering 3D images, transcoding 4K video, working in Excel—it all flows seamlessly.

The Radeon RX 6800M GPU keeps your games running at high frame rates. At 1080p resolution, graphically demanding games like Control run at 96 fps on the highest graphical settings. Esports games like Overwatch reach up to 159 fps at the same settings, although to take advantage of the Strix G15’s 300Hz display, the graphics will need to be turned down.

Perhaps the most impressive (and surprising) aspect of this stellar gaming laptop is the battery life. It lasts for nine hours! In a world where gaming laptops generally last around four to five, the ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition is a powerhouse. Gaming on battery power will drain it fast. However, for your everyday computing needs, this laptop will last longer than an entire workday. It might get some inquisitive looks from those around you due to its size and color scheme, but if this is your only laptop it’ll serve all your needs.

Pros

  • Stellar battery life

  • 300Hz refresh rate

  • Great non-ray tracing performance

Cons

  • Mushy keys

  • CPU runs hot

  • Disappointing ray tracing

Product image of Razer Blade 14
Razer Blade 14

The main things we love about the Razer Blade 14 are its display, RGB lighting, and 1TB SSD. The QHD, 1440p IPS screen makes colors pop as bright as the keyboard lighting, and the large SSD provides enough storage space for many games that would look fantastic on the Blade 14's display. This laptop is also configured with AMD's FreeSync Premium, which helps prevent tearing or other unsightly visual artifacts on screen. Usually, AMD's FreeSync is paired with systems that have AMD graphics cards, but because this Blade 14 comes equipped with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, it can reap the benefits of AMD's gaming display tech too!

The thing that keeps Razer's Blade 14 from being higher on our list is its power-capped GPU. To keep the laptop from getting too hot and throttling its own performance, Razer caps the RTX 3070's power draw at 100W, while other manufacturers leave the graphics card's power draw at the standard 130W. However, Razer's power cap is one reason why its laptops are generally slimmer than the competition, and the performance trade-off isn't actually terrible. Compared to something like Lenovo's Legion Pro 5 Gen 6, the Blade 14 gets the same performance, but it's more aesthetically pleasing.

Pros

  • Gorgeous QHD display

  • Customizable gamer "glow"

  • Ample storage space

Cons

  • Gets hot quickly

  • Performance struggles

Product image of Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

If you spend all day typing away, you will adore the Surface Laptop 4’s gentle but tactile keyboard. It’s just about perfect for typing quickly and accurately without all that finger fatigue. Meanwhile, its 3:2 screen ratio is crisp and vibrant, with plenty of vertical space to get work done.

We tested the Intel Core i7 model, which was one of the fastest laptops we’ve reviewed so far, but there is also an AMD Ryzen model available with even better performance and battery life. We only managed to squeeze eight hours of battery life from our unit, but many users claim they can get north of ten hours or more. This inconsistency holds it back from being the best Windows laptop we’ve tested, but it’s still a darn good laptop.

Pros

  • Beautiful stylus-enabled touchscreen

  • Incredible keyboard and trackpad

  • Strong performance

Cons

  • Configuration options are limited

  • Battery life shorter than advertised

Product image of MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo (Intel 11th Gen)
MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo (Intel 11th Gen)

The MSI Summit Flip 13 Evo is a stellar 2-in-1 that's greater than the sum of its parts. With excellent performance, a responsive and vibrant touchscreen, hardy aluminum construction, and eight-hour battery life, this laptop makes a great companion for students and professionals always on the move.

It can come with up to 32GB of RAM, which is unusual in the 2-in-1 space, and its Intel Core i7 processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics is ideal for heavy multitasking, film editing, and graphic design and illustration work. Artists and notetakers, in particular, will enjoy the MSI Pen, a Surface pen-like pressure-sensitive stylus that's included with the Summit Flip 13.

Just about our only qualm with this laptop is its keyboard, which lacks tactile feedback and makes it hard to tell if you've pressed a key if you're a light typist. Its touchpad, on the other hand, is glossy smooth and recognizes finger gestures without a problem. The Summit Flip 13’s display is bright and vibrant, able to adapt to bright coffee shops and dark bedrooms with ease. All of the Summit Flip 13’s standout features, from its excellent touchscreen to its premium construction, help it stand tall among the fierce competition.

Pros

  • Excellent build quality

  • Phenomenal pressure-sensitive screen

  • MSI Pen stylus included

Cons

  • Runs hot

  • Mediocre keyboard

Product image of Asus Zenbook 14 (Q407IQ-BR5N4)
Asus Zenbook 14 (Q407IQ-BR5N4)

Compared to last generation’s Zenbook 13, the Zenbook 14 trades in an aluminum chassis and a gorgeous display for markedly better performance and battery life—all while maintaining the Zenbook line’s admirable portability. We're a little disappointed to see the premium build quality go, but we would still say this is a good midrange buy with some of the best battery life and weight in its class.

Its keyboard is deep and easy to type on, and it’s not as cramped as the Zenbook 13’s keyboard. The extra inch makes a difference. This model’s trackpad isn’t the glassy glider from, say, a Macbook, but it’s nonetheless comfortable to use thanks to its width and its excellent fingertip detection.

To be frank, we were not impressed with the Zenbook 14’s screen. This matte 1080p panel's black level gets darker than last gen’s glossy screen, but it’s also 70 nits dimmer at max brightness. Its colors are also a bit more washed out than those of the Zenbook 13’s display.

One aspect where the Zenbook 14 far surpasses its predecessor is in performance, arguably the aspect that most affects your experience with a laptop. Its new Ryzen 5 4500U processor is blazing fast, crushing the old Intel Core i5-8500U in benchmarks, and its lower power consumption means the Zenbook 14 has a battery life of almost eight and a half hours. If you’re looking for a laptop that’ll get you through the day for well under a grand, the Zenbook 14 is an awesome choice.

Pros

  • Fantastic battery life

  • Solid performance

  • Decent keyboard

Cons

  • Display is somewhat dull

Product image of HP Envy x360 (13z-ay000 touch)
HP Envy x360 (13z-ay000 touch)

If you need a day’s worth of battery, a powerful processor, and a laptop 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 very reasonable price.

It feels almost as snappy as the latest MacBook Air, it 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. With the Envy x360, you get a bright, colorful screen on par with pricier ultrabook picks.

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 the storage later with a new drive or a microSD card if you need to.

Pros

  • Great battery life

  • Impressive performance

  • Powerful processor

Cons

  • Nothing we could find

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