Looking at specs is just the start: Whether you want a simple budget PC, a productivity workhorse, or a screamer of a gaming notebook, our deep-dive guide has the advice (and top picks!) You need the right laptop to suit your needs.
Looking at specs is just the start: Whether you want a simple budget PC, a productivity workhorse, or a screamer of a gaming notebook, our deep-dive guide has the advice (and top picks!) You need the right laptop to suit your needs.
The way that a smartphone revolutionizes your daily life is not possible with a laptop. It's not possible to whip it out quickly and use it as a way to capture stunning sunsets, take photos, or buy a coffee.
Laptops' abilities have improved over the many years that smartphones were able to do all of these tasks. If you're looking for amazing battery life or stunning screens, these are common features. It is possible to get the graphics power you need to enjoy full HD gaming. The basic features you don't get on any smartphone, like touchpads or full-sized keyboards, are better for every generation.
Great features have also come with great fragmentation. Amazon and Newegg offer a wide range of laptops at surprisingly low prices. Here at PC Labs, we review as many laptops as we can—hundreds each year—so we've seen pretty much every remix of laptop you can buy. Below are our top choices in each category, along with a buying guide that will help you learn everything about purchasing your next laptop.
The latest Dell XPS 13 is today's best ultraportable. It boasts a slim-to-the max chassis and a stunning screen.
- Performance Upgraded from Intel Tiger Lake CPU
- Elegant styling
- Vivid 16:10 screen
- Extremely compact chassis
- USB adapter available
- Battery life is long
The XPS 13 has been a perennial favorite among general-purpose portable Windows laptops. Its thin chassis is perfect for general-purpose use, and the display almost disappears from the screen is stunning. The battery lasts a long time. Although it is not a high-powered laptop for professionals, the speed is impressive, and the features are sufficient to allow you to work at home as well as on the go. This laptop is a winner because of its combination of design and substance.
If you love the design and feel of Apple's MacBook Air but prefer Windows to Mac, the XPS 13 is a great choice. The Dell XPS 13 is a premium-made machine that provides a great user experience while being fast and easy to use. This is the best portable laptop you can buy for your everyday office and home tasks. It has a low starting price, plenty of configuration options, and will please you every time you hold it.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14 Laptop is an excellent budget option. It offers great performance and has a host of modern trappings. The price tag for this laptop is less than 600 dollars.
- Amazing performance
- USB-C Port included
- Strong chassis
- Touchpad and keyboard with comfort
- Integral fingerprint scanner
- Upgrade RAM at your own risk
Are you looking for a well-built, reliable, and highly-equipped laptop that costs less than $1,000? This is the Lenovo IdeaPad 3, 14 that answers all of these questions for $520. It is incredibly affordable, boasting fast speeds, USB-C ports, and a comfortable keyboard. There's even a fingerprint scanner. All this in a small, lightweight body that lasts a long time. There are some compromises—chiefly a lackluster display and speakers—but it's still a tremendous value overall.
This laptop is great for those who have very basic needs and a budget of $500 to $1,000. Budget laptops often require some compromise. The best budget systems reduce these costs as much as possible. However, the flaws here won't be a dealbreaker. The PC cost has risen in recent years. If you are looking for a budget laptop and just want a lightweight device to use every day, then look no further.
Although it's a Chromebook that's a bit expensive, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is still a great alternative to Windows convertibles.
- High-resolution touch screens that are tall and high-resolution
- Perform well
- HDMI, Thunderbolt 4 and USB-A ports
- Large 256GB SSD storage instead of flash storage with eMMC
- A Chromebook is quite expensive
- A half a pound more than you should be
- There is no stylus nor fingerprint reader
While many Chromebooks aim to be as affordable and cost-effective as possible, there are other Chromebooks that offer more features for greater productivity. The Acer Chromebook Spin 713, which costs $700, is a sleek convertible that offers superior performance and a wide range of modern ports. The combination is a winner in its field, provided you have the ability to make full use of the extra power.
People who prefer ChromeOS, but aren't averse to laptops that offer Windows-equivalent performance and quality. Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI support are available. The SSD storage is larger than the flash. This is the Chromebook we recommend if you are looking for a Chromebook that suits your specific needs more than an alternative under $500.
A 12th Gen Intel CPU, a sharper webcam, and more display options cement the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon's place as the finest laptop for business—and likely the finest laptop, period.
- Ultralight, sleek, strong, and lightweight
- Thunderbolt 4 and USB-A ports as well as HDMI, HDMI, and USB-A ports
- Amazing keyboard
- High-quality options for screen, including OLED or 4K
- Excellent productivity and long battery life
- Price for business-class customers
- There is no SD/microSD card slot
- Option 5G not available yet
Laptops for business are an entirely different category. They have a unique design that meets the needs of office workers. It is a superbly designed notebook with top-quality keyboard and performance. It's portable, fast, reliable, lightweight, durable, extremely long-lasting and packed with connectivity options.
This laptop is ideal for professionals who need their business laptop to be very portable. The laptop will continue to be a pleasure to use throughout its life. Although it is costly, those on a tight budget should consider other options. However, the ThinkPad features set and performance are excellent.
Inspiron 16 Plus (7610) offers a great value within a growing category of laptops that have 16 inch displays and are equipped with Intel H-series processors as well as Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics.
- High-performance graphics and computing power
- Easy access to upgrades from a compact chassis
- Display with 3K detail
- Touchpads of immense size
- Reasonably priced
The Dell Inspiron 16 Plus (7610) is our top-rated desktop replacement laptop. It has a large, high-resolution display and powerful hardware, but it's not as heavy as the larger 17-inch versions. The Intel Core i7 H Series processor and Nvidia 3550 Ti graphics card give it near gaming-notebook graphics and processing speed. This laptop offers more than a large screen. Although the 16-inch screen may not suit everyone and it lacks a touch screen, it has a large touchpad and a comfortable keyboard and a battery that lasts nearly 14 hours. The port options are extensive, including Thunderbolt 4 as well as full HDMI output. It can do everything, from browsing the web to creating media (and even light gaming when needed). This laptop is powerful and affordable.
The Dell Inspiron 16 Plus (7610) is a great replacement for a desktop. It features a 16 inch display, an Intel Core i7 H Series processor and Nvidia RTX graphic. This laptop is great for gaming and demanding work, as well as a fantastic value.
Although the Spectre x360 is now available in a smaller screen, it is still a very expensive laptop. However, this flagship HP convertible laptop is a well-engineered and lightweight machine that will last a long time.
- Beautiful OLED touch screen with 3:2 aspect ratio
- Sturdy, elegant design
- Excellent performance and long battery life
- No HDMI port (but mini dock included)
- There is no pen storage, or LTE Mobile Broadband.
- A little disappointed with the keyboard layout
With a 2-in-1 convertible design, the HP Spectre x360 13.5 is both a 14-inch tablet and a sleek laptop. It features a 10-80p webcam and Thunderbolt/USB-C port capabilities. The 12th Generation Intel Core i7 processor provides enough power to do light editing and photo editing. It also delivers surprisingly high graphics, even for a system that does not have a discrete GPU. Its 15 hour battery life is due to the CPU's efficiency, making it one of our longest lasting 2-in-1s.
The real highlight is the OLED screen. It is stunning in rich and deep colors, with stark contrast.
HP Spectre x360 13.5 convertible 2-in-1 is a stunning device. The dazzling display and high-quality 1080p camera make it attractive to people who appreciate the sounds and sights that their laptop has to offer.
Microsoft's Surface Pro 8 isn't a revolutionary 2-in-1. However, it offers the most notable update in many years with a bigger display, redesigned chassis, and better performance.
- Contemporary design, with thinner bezels. Larger (13 inch) displays.
- Superior webcam 1080p
- Thunderbolt 4 support on two USB-C ports
- Kickstands that are well-implemented
- Accessible by the user
- Performance in Core i7 tested configuration
- Higher starting price diminishes entry-level appeal
- Prices for accessories and configuration changes are high
- Still available separately as a keyboard base
- Only USB-C ports
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is an improvement on the original Surface Pro 8. It offers a 2-in-1 detachable tablet that polishes and refines the design. Although it isn't a radical redesign, this update to previous models makes a significant difference. Unfortunately, despite the system's price, the key accessories like the keyboard and pen are still sold separately—and they aren't cheap.
This new design features anodized aluminum construction and an integrated kickstand that solves the issue of keeping tablets upright. Windows 11 offers pen interaction and features that are unmatched. The keyboard cover has a charging and storage slot. This tablet is the epitome of modern Windows. It has great performance, a longer-lasting battery and is extremely lightweight.
This 2-in-1 tablet is for you if you don't mind paying more to get a keyboard cover or other accessories. This tablet combines the classic Windows tablet design with smooth pen integration, and a thin-bezel update.
Apple's 2022 MacBook Air features a new design and the M2 processor. This makes it Apple's most portable laptop.
- Stunning, slim design
- Larger, more vibrant 13.6-inch display
- Numerous color options
- M2 chip delivers excellent performance
- Battery life is shorter than the 2020 M1 MacBook Air
- Display panel is encroached upon by camera notch
- Limit to 2 USB-C/Thunderbolt4 ports, though this is partially mitigated by the MagSafe connector
MacBook Air (M2,2022) combines the revolutionary Air design and the battery-life and performance enhancements of Apple’s M2 chips in an ultra-portable aluminum chassis. It weighs in at less than three pounds. Retina 13 inch display is stunning, keyboard and trackpad feel solid and Touch ID provides seamless and convenient security for Apple’s most affordable Mac laptop.
Apple's M2 chip has plenty of things going for it, with ample performance for everyday use and even some media editing, but it does so while sipping power and running silently—there are no noisy fans in the Air, and the performance is still top-notch. It is the ideal choice for both Apple lovers and Windows refugees, with its great capabilities and long battery life.
The M2 Apple MacBook Air, which is a general-purpose laptop, we highly recommend if you are an Apple fanatic or just not ambivalent about Windows. It's not the most affordable Mac laptop, but it does come at a cost. The M1 MacBook Air starts at $999. This is a great option if you prefer to save money than the extra benefits the M2 offers.
MSI's Katana GF66 gaming laptop is well priced and well designed. It cuts down on the size of rival models.
- For the components mix, aggressive price
- Gaming performance at 1080p is solid
- 144Hz display
- Large 1TB SSD
- The display isn't too bright and colorful
- Performance of the CPU is mediocre
- Battery life is very short
You won't find a more wallet-friendly gaming laptop than the Katana GF66. This top-of-the-line model, which we tested, has an eight-core Core i7-11800H at 2.3GHz (4.6GHz turbo), GeForce GTX 3060 graphics and 6GB of memory. It also features 16GB RAM and 1TB of SSD. What's the best thing? All this is only $1,200 This price is only applicable in-store at Micro Center. However, even though you pay up to $200 more online it still remains affordable. Although we would have preferred a brighter screen and a longer battery life for the MSI Katana GF66, it is still a decent budget gaming laptop. The Katana's cooling is satisfactory. It's not silent, but the fans don't interfere with your normal use of it.
People who are looking for the perfect combination of graphics power and price will love the Katana GF66. The Katana GF66 offers GeForce RTX3060 graphics for RTX3050 Ti or regular RTX3050 prices. This GPU also makes the most of its 144Hz screen. This laptop is a rarity in its price range, making it our number one choice for gaming laptops.
Acer's Predator 300 SE gaming laptop will be a hit with gamers thanks to its sleek design and powerful RTX3060 gaming performance.
- Sleek, compact, highly portable design
- The component mixture is very affordable
- Gaming performance of greater than 60fps at 1080p using GeForce GTX 3060 GPU
- 144Hz display
- Battery life is long
Predator Triton 300 SE, a gaming laptop that measures 14 inches, is lightweight and portable. It costs less than $1500. This gaming laptop is a midrange machine that makes few compromises. Its sleek design and extended battery life are two of the best features, which is something that other more costly options often lack. Next, the Intel Core i7 Tiger Lake-H processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX3060 GPU offer greater than 60fps gaming performance at 1080p. You could not ask for more, except perhaps the Triton 300SE's 144Hz display.
There are two major drawbacks to the Triton 300 SE: its small 14 inch screen, which may not be suitable for gamers, and the 512GB SSD that is too large for larger game collections. The Triton 300 SE, a gaming laptop that combines affordability and high performance, is a great choice if you don't have the ability to overcome them.
Alienware's m17R5 gaming laptop is powerful and features the most up-to-date components. This keeps the Alienware brand's distinctive aesthetic intact while delivering new levels of performance.
- Standing out style
- Our all-AMD testing unit has sky-high frame rates
- There are two display options: 480Hz Full HD or 120Hz 4K panels
- There are many configuration options, including Nvidia GPUs or a Cherry MX mechanical keyboard.
- Amazing battery life
- Heavy and bulky
- Our Ryzen chips are outperformed by Intel 12th Gen CPUs in terms of processing tasks
- Full speed mode can be very loud and offers little in the way of performance gains.
We have never seen a better laptop for gaming than the Alienware M17 R5. As well it should, given its $2,799 price in the configuration we reviewed—an all-AMD model with an eight-core Ryzen 9 6900HX processor and Radeon 6850M XT GPU. This laptop boasts a powerful performance combination, making it easy to play AAA-level games. The laptop has a 4K resolution panel with a 120Hz peak refresh rate. 1080p gamers can opt for a 480Hz panel that is incredibly fast.
For serious gamers, who may want to use their computers occasionally and don't mind spending a lot in exchange for lightning-fast performance. While the m17 is a true gaming enthusiast, its price tag is reasonable relative to other models. It also offers a wide range of configuration options, which allows for a lot more flexibility. MSI's GT77 Titan (Opens in new window) is for you if you are more adventurous.
Although it only displays 90% of DCI-P3's color range, the display is still very good.
- Trim, light design
- Extensive CPU and GPU power
- High-resolution touch screen with extra-bright colors
- Keyboard snappy
- Ports in full
The ThinkPad P1 has an assortment of ISV (independent software vendor) certifications that cover scientific applications, specialized design and CGI. It is Editors' Choice for light-weight mobile workstations. Although there is a lot to choose from in this market, the ThinkPad P1 stands out because of its slim design, abundant CPU and GPU power and a high-resolution, extra-bright touch screen. The ThinkPad P1's superior performance and port selection make it superior to the Dell Precision 5555. It's also lighter and thinner than Lenovo's ThinkPad P15Gen 2 flagship workstation. The only thing it doesn't have is an OLED screen option. The screen measures 3,840x2,400 pixels and is nearly as bright as an IPS panel. It has remarkable brightness, as well as fine details.
Users who require a fully-equipped muscle machine for work. It has both the USB-A, HDMI and USB-A ports the Dell Precision 5560 does not have. The ThinkPad P1 Gen 4 beats the Dell in all our benchmarks and is a worthy competitor. It's the best portable workstation if you don't want an OLED display over an IPS one.
Panasonic's Toughbook40 is a rugged, mission-critical laptop that features a remarkable construction and a lot of customizability.
- Invulnerable and almost invincible
- There are many modular options
- Incredible runtime using second battery
- Touchpad and keyboard don't need brute force
- High resolution webcam
Panasonic Toughbook 40, a 14 inch armored data carrier is almost indestructible and highly customizable. The Toughbook 40 is fully rugged, not semi-rugged. This puts it above its semi-rugged counterparts the Dell Latitude 55 Rugged and Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk2. The Toughbook 40 can take a six-foot fall and carries MIL-STD 810H, MIL-STD 461G, and IP66 ratings—it's dustproof (no dust can penetrate it) and immune to splashes and strong jets of water, though it can't survive actual immersion underwater as some smartphones can.
The Toughbook 40 is heavy due to all of its ruggedization. If you buy a single computer, expect to spend upwards of $4,000 on this seven-pound beast. The Toughbook 40 doesn't only come with one laptop. The majority of people who buy the Toughbook 40 are buying it for their police department, line technicians or any other similar organization. This usually means that they get significant and confidential discounts. You are not required to apply if you're an ordinary consumer.
It can be difficult to buy a laptop based on specs. Depending on how much you use the laptop, which features and what class you choose, it can be difficult to decide which feature or laptop type is best. When shopping, it's best to be systematic. We'll show you how to pick the right product.
Are you not interested in cutting-edge design or powerful components? A cheap laptop might suffice for you. The market today is saturated with affordable, but fully-featured laptops with lists under $500. Regular sales like Prime Day or Black Friday and actual holidays such as Presidents' Day bring about frequent discounts, which allows some models to be discounted even more.
They will do fine with word processing and email checking. However, they won't be able to handle more complex tasks like keeping multiple web browser tabs open or CPU-demanding programs open simultaneously. To compare the performance of these laptops, you can check out our reviews. PC Labs tested many budget laptop models on the market. Some are classic clamshells while others have convertible 2-in-1s or are detachable. Below are a few of our favorite budget-laptop models. Here's a longer list of all the top budget laptops we've reviewed.
You can access almost all the latest features of modern laptops by increasing your budget to about $1,000. They include a slim and sturdy aluminum chassis and brilliant touch-enabled 4K screens, powerful processors, graphics chips and batteries that can last throughout the day as well as long hours at night.
This price range has one major drawback. You will have to choose the most essential features. At this price you might find a laptop that has a stunning 4K screen or an enormous terabyte solid-state storage, but not both.
You can select almost any combination you like if your piggybank is $2,000 and more. The laws of physics apply to even the most powerful laptop money can buy. The heat generated by powerful hardware takes up space. Fans who are serious gamers and need a 17.-inch screen and an extremely fast graphics processor will not be able to fit it into a slim, lightweight laptop.
IT-manageable, security-conscious business laptops—models made primarily by Dell, HP, and Lenovo—have their own pricing dynamic, and they tend to cost a bit more, all else being equal. This is due to their superior warranty and support plans. Enterprise-specific silicon that focuses on security or manageability, face or fingerprint recognition login features, rugged build quality, and other premium features.
Windows is the most common operating system on laptops that you will find in stores or online. However, even if the seller is called Apple, it isn't the best. There are now alternatives to Windows for every budget level, thanks to Google's Chrome OS. A MacBook is the most affordable non-Windows laptop. Anything above that, a MacBook is your best option. Below it, a Chromebook is an alternative.
Chrome OS-based laptops are now the most affordable alternative to Windows budget laptops. For someone looking for a budget-friendly laptop that can watch videos, make text documents and write emails as well as to use basic spreadsheets, a Chromebook is a good choice. A Chromebook will have the most important features: a good screen and a comfy keyboard. Cloud services such as Google Drive are capable of handling your storage and processing requirements. If you are still looking for key creature comforts you will find Chromebooks in the midrange with full-HD (1080p), displays and keyboards that can be as comfortable as bargain-basement models.
An Apple MacBook may be the best option for people who have similar budgets and need to use macOS in their day-today computing lives. There won't be a 'cheap MacBook' anywhere within the Apple range, but there will be solid industrial design and a long-lasting battery. You'll also find tons of apps that can manage and sync your multimedia collections with your iCloud account.
The higher-end MacBook Pros are also suitable for content creators. They have the option of a 16 inch Retina screen and can run CPUs as high as Intel Core i9. The Mac's biggest drawback is the lack of touch screen support. This is available in many Chrome OS and Windows versions.
Windows machines have the most software access, with the exception of AAA titles. The macOS subset of top-ranking games is smaller, while Chrome OS games are restricted to running in browsers or can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store or as Android apps. Windows machines also offer the greatest form factor flexibility. Some Chromebooks are designed around foldable, detachable keyboards that can be used as tablets. However, Windows has a wider range of physical design options.
The vast array of Windows-based devices mean that Microsoft's OS allows you to choose the best laptop for your needs. The majority of other buying decisions that you make, which we will address later, relate mainly to Windows-based machines. We'll also be certain to mention when Chromebooks or Macs offer that feature.
A general-purpose notebook should be less than a half inch thick, and about three pounds in weight. These are generally the minimum dimensions and weight a laptop should have to be considered ultraportable. For most people, portability is key to maximising enjoyment and productivity.
The screen size of most laptops will be limited to 13-14 inches due to weight and thickness. However, some models have larger screens, up to 15 inches. You can choose from a standard clamshell laptop design or a 2-in-1 convertible model for most screen sizes. This hinge rotates 360 degrees the screen so that you can either use it as an impromptu tablet or set it up to watch movies.
Some laptops running Windows or Chrome OS have smaller screens, like 10 and 11 inches. These aren't laptops, in fact they can be considered tablets. These designs are not recommended unless you need a tablet for work or if your budget is tight. They're lighter than most 13-inch ultraportables, often less than 2 pounds, but they're not as good at being tablets as the Apple iPad is, and their detachable keyboards mean they're not much good at being laptops, either—typing on most of them tends to be subpar.
The 17-inch monsters are at the opposite end of this size range. These are primarily for gamers who enjoy extreme gaming, although you might find a 17-inch workstation or productivity machine if you prefer a bigger screen. A 17-inch laptop is able to replicate the desktop experience, but at a higher size and heavier weight.
These designs may weigh more than 8 pounds, and some can be over an inch thick. A 17-inch laptop is an option if you intend to keep your gaming equipment on your desk, and rarely move it. A 15-inch laptop is the best choice for most gamers.
The number of pixels in laptop screens has increased over the last decade. This allows for crisper text and sharper images. It also makes it possible to use more colors. Although display density can be measured in pixels per ini (ppi), the primary specification of a laptop screen's resolution is what it is called, and that is in horizontal and vertical pixels.
Laptops costing $500 and more usually have displays with at least full HD resolution. They are also known by the '1080p" display. These screens have a resolution 1,920x1,080 pixels or in some cases 1,920x1,200. The panels typically use in-plane switching technology. Although IPS screens can have varying quality, they excel at keeping images sharp and clear when viewed from an oblique angle. The other screen type found in laptops today is the thin-film transistor (TFT), which can shift colors and look blurred if it's not viewed directly on. That matters if you often share the contents of your screen with others—say, when giving impromptu presentations.
Chrome OS and Windows OS laptops that are cheaper will often have smaller-resolution thin film transistor (TFT), displays (1,280 x 720 pixels and 1,366 x 768 respectively). This means that text might appear less crisp and colors may not be as vibrant as what you expect on your TV or smartphone. A lower resolution display may be acceptable if you aren't too picky about the image quality.
Full HD is the best option for crisp text and vivid colors. As an option or standard, many laptops with high end specifications now come equipped with displays that have 4K native resolution (3840 by 2,160 pixels). While these screens use the same IPS technology used in full HD panels, a small number of them use OLED technology. This technology is similar to that found in modern smartphones. OLED screens are expensive and best for film buffs.
People who intend to use laptops outdoors or in brightly lit areas will need to ensure that their screen has at least 500 nits of brightness, regardless of whether it is IPS, OLED or TFT.