PCs are the center of business and play for most of us, from our weekly Zoom calls with grandma to gaming sessions with virtual reality headsets. A great laptop should not only provide the power you need to get things done, but it should also be convenient enough to stow away in your bag when you need to move. Our PC experts at Reviewed are always on the lookout for the best laptops for everyone, from gamers to students and frequent flyers. We work hard to make sure you find a laptop you love on this list.
Most people need to look no further than the Apple MacBook Air(available at Apple). It’s thin, light, packs thirteen hours of battery life, crushes most Windows laptops in benchmarks and real-world performance, and comes in a beautiful rose gold chassis. Our upgrade pick, the MacBook Pro (available at Apple) gives you a small battery life and graphics gain for not much more money. If you’re not so hot on MacOS, the HP Spectre 14t (available at HP) is our top Windows picks thanks to its nine hours of battery life, excellent performance and incredible keyboard and touchscreen. Whatever your needs, Reviewed has your back: our team of computer hardware experts is constantly on the hunt for the latest laptops, all to find the best laptop to suit your needs.
Here are the best laptops we’ve tested ranked, in order:
Apple M1 MacBook Air (Late 2020)
Apple M1 MacBook Pro 13 (Late 2020)
HP Spectre x360 14t
HP Envy x360 15z
Dell XPS 13 9310
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
Razer Blade 15 Advanced
Dell XPS 15 9500
HP Envy x360 13t
Acer Aspire 5
HP Stream 14
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
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 Silicon 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.
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 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’s 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 exactly 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.
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-1s 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. Read our full review of the HP Spectre 14t here.
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.
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 also 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 new keyboard and small-sized desktop builds.
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:
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.
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 that 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.
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).
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 in 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
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.
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 stands on par with the Air's competitors, like the HP Spectre 15 or the Dell XPS 15. It's undoubtedly one of the best 15-inch laptop in its price range, and we doubt we'll see a worthy contender for its crown anytime soon.
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 11th-gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD.
Battery life came in at almost 9.5 hours, which is more than 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 butterfly keyboards, 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 among the best 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 one of the best overall 2-in-1s you can buy right now.
The Zephyrus G14 exudes class. The first thing you notice is the color scheme—white, silver, and a hint of black—which calls to mind a two-tone paint job on a sports car. This sets it apart from the rainbow-colored lighting typical of out-of-the-box gaming laptops; you wouldn’t think twice about taking this to a quiet coffee shop to get a little work done. There is an all-black option available, though we can’t imagine choosing that version.
The keyboard feels especially durable, the touchpad’s sensitive and precise, and it’s got a stunning display. With its 14-inch high-def screen, games look great even on lower graphics settings. Text documents and web pages are smooth and crisp in a way you typically only see on Macbooks and tablets. And you’ll be amazed by how lightweight this thing is despite its formidable power; the G14 achieves a shocking balance between convenience and performance.
Most impressive of all is the battery life, which exceeded four hours running in Turbo mode without any power-saving measures active. Many gaming laptops would struggle to pull even two hours out of their battery in this scenario. This may well be the ideal solution for someone who really wants to game anytime, anywhere.
The Razer Blade 15 Advanced's performance is about as powerful as you can get from a gaming laptop. Inside the sleek aluminum exterior, there's an Intel Core i7-10875H, an Nvidia RTX 2080 SUPER, 16GB RAM and an entire terabyte of SSD storage.
It’s a phenomenal machine with more than enough computing power to edit videos, run simulations, or play games.
While it may be marketed as a gaming laptop, its body is suave enough to blend into any meeting, and its vivid screen is perfect for color-sensitive work. All this performance does come at a cost: the Blade 15 Advanced will set you back by thousands. However, the Blade Advanced is more than worth it If you need no-holds-barred power.
The Dell XPS 15 9500 is a little beefier than the 13-inch XPS 13 models, sure, but in return you get a ridiculous amount of power for not much more weight.
It may be overkill for those that just need an everyday office machine, but for those out there that need the latest, fastest processor, dedicated graphics, plenty of RAM, and the flexibility to upgrade it all later, the XPS 15 hits all the right marks.
Its trackpad and keyboard are as amazing as ever, its 4K screen is bright and beautiful, and the surprisingly thin laptop shouldn't be a hassle to carry around. We do wish it had a slightly longer battery life, but it's a common tradeoff to make when dealing with laptops that have a discrete graphics card and a larger screen.
We loved our review unit, which came equipped with an 8-core, 10th gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX1650Ti graphics card, but you can upgrade it up to an Intel Core i9 processor and 64GB RAM out of the box.
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 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 storage later with a new drive or a microSD card if you need to.
The Acer Aspire 5 is a powerful budget Windows laptop thanks to its 10th-gen 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. At this print point, 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 power users, 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, 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 is 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.
If you’ve ever shopped for a laptop this cheap, you know the market is a bit of a minefield. We’ve been testing $200 and $300 laptops for years, and while it’s a challenge to find worthwhile machines, we’re always excited to share the gems we dig up.
The HP Stream 14 is barely over $200, and it won’t blow anyone away with its performance, but it works. Its 1366 x 768p display is washed out, but comfortable enough to read on and watch an occasional video. Similarly, the trackpad and keyboard will get you through any reports or emails you may need to type, but it may not be the best for your next big novel.
While our top laptops pack a punch with super-fast processors, the Stream 14 offers something closer to a gentle nudge with its performance. We run Cinebench to test most Windows 10 laptops, but the Stream only rendered about half the image after an hour of chugging (an entry-level Lenovo Ideapad 3 finished rendering the image in less than 15 minutes, though it costs a fair bit more).
In real world applications, even the most basic web pages took a couple of seconds to load, and anything beefier than a single Chrome tab was just a nightmare. The Stream 14’s measly 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage mean that it can barely chug through the basic Windows processes, and adding anything else on top will notably reduce performance.
While you can’t expect the same performance from the Stream 14 as you can from the rest of the laptops on this list, it earns its spot here as one of the very, very few reliable laptops at its price point. However, there are a few caveats to be aware of before you purchase. Even if you don’t mind the slow performance, the storage isn’t upgradeable and a 32GB drive will fill itself up with Windows patches alone, so spring for the 64GB or 128GB model if you can afford it. If you need a new Windows laptop ASAP, this is one of the best laptops we’ve tested at this price range.
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.