How to pick the best laptop for you
what makes a laptop worth buying? First, it needs to offer excellent value for money. That means budget laptops below the $400/£400 price point need to still offer good performance and build quality.
Meanwhile, ultra-expensive devices need to justify their high price tags with best-in-class performance, premium build quality and lengthy battery lives.
If you want something to work on, a laptop with a modern processor, at least 8GB of RAM and a large screen (and comfortable keyboard) are worth considering.
For gaming, you’ll want a gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card and fast and responsive screen.
Best laptop 2021
1.Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
The new Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) isn’t just the best laptop Apple has ever made, it’s the best laptop money can buy right now. This is the first time a MacBook has topped our list, but the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is worthy of this spot. Thanks to the revolutionary ARM-based Apple M1 chip that powers the new MacBook Air (Apple has ditched Intel for these new laptops), this is a stunning achievement: a thin and light laptop that offers great performance, even with 4K video editing, while also offering incredible battery life.
Easily managing over 11 hours on a single charge, this is a laptop you can easily carry around with you at work or school, and its price is incredibly competitive compared to Windows 10 rivals like the Dell XPS 15 (below). Running both new and old Mac apps, the new MacBook Air can now also run iOS apps for iPhone and iPads, giving it access to hundreds of brilliant mobile applications and games as well.
Even if you’ve only ever used Windows laptops before, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is well worth getting and making the jump to macOS. Yes, it really is that good.
2. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
While Apple blew us away with the new MacBook Air (above), arch rival Microsoft has also impressed us with its new Surface Laptop 4, landing straight in at number 2. As with previous Surface devices, build quality and design is absolutely top-notch here, and its gorgeous PixelSense touchscreen really sets it apart from the competition (a touchscreen is something we’ve yet to see on an Apple laptop, as Microsoft likes to remind us).
It also comes with a brilliant keyboard that’s a joy to type on, and some pretty great specs as well, which ensures that Windows 10, and all your favorite apps, run extremely well. Battery life is also very impressive – lasting over 13 hours in our tests – and the price is impressively competitive as well.
3. Dell XPS 15 (2020)
The Dell XPS 15 ticks pretty much every box when it comes to what we want from a laptop. The end result is that the Dell XPS 15 (2020) is about as close to perfect as a laptop can get and one of the best Dell laptops to date; there’s really not a lot we can fault it for. It’s got some of the latest, and best, mobile tech from Intel, and can even be configured with a discrete GPU, making it adept at images and as for video editing software, and even a spot of light gaming.
It also features one of the finest designs we’ve seen in a laptop, and is arguably the most stylish Windows 10 laptop in 2021. Battery life is also phenomenal, and the price, while high, isn’t that bad considering what you get. If the 15-inch screen is a little too big, then the Dell XPS 13 is worth considering.
4.HP Spectre x360 (2021)
Now coming with 11th-generation Intel Core processors, which offer a decent performance boost, and feature better integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, the HP Spectre x360 (2021) is better than ever.
It still features the impeccable 2-in-1 design and pristine gem-cut chassis that these laptops are known for, meaning that the HP Spectre x360 (2021) is one of the best looking 2-in-1 laptops ever made, and when it comes to build quality, it’s rivalled only by the excellent MacBook Air (M1, 2020).
While it’s certainly pricey, you’re getting some excellent extras, such as formidable security features and Bang & Olufsen speakers.
5. Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)
At this point, we doubt that the Dell XPS line can do anything wrong. Its yearly updates have consistently made it into our best laptops list, and they’re only getting better. The Dell XPS 13 (2020) is not only a gorgeous piece of kit. It also comes, as expected, with excellent performance, a stunning display and long battery life, alongside a few others.
Much like its predecessor, it’s a pricey investment – but that is barely reason enough for us to discourage Ultrabook fans.
6. Razer Blade 14
This luxurious thin and light gaming laptop from Razer just oozes class, and is an ideal laptop for people who want a gaming device they can take around with them. It’s solidly built, so you won’t worry about it getting damaged during your travels, and it’s one of the nicest looking modern gaming laptops we’ve seen.
It’s not all about looks, however, as the Razer Blade 14 comes with cutting edge components as well, including the awesome AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and up to an RTX 3080 graphics card. This means you’ll be able to play any AAA game you want in all its glory.
7. LG Gram 17 (2021)
The new LG Gram 17 once again features an incredibly light design, and comes with some of the best mobile tech in the world.
That includes Intel’s new 11th generation processors and Iris Xe graphics as well as two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, and coupled with up to 16GB of RAM and speedy SSDs, means this is a laptop that is brilliant for day-to-day tasks. Battery life is also phenomenal, easily lasting around 12 hours on a single charge.
It’s a great choice for carrying around for school and work, then. However, it is expensive, and the design is a little plain.
The long battery life and stunner of a screen are back, though so too is its steep price tag. It’s worth it though if you want the power and portability of Ultrabooks yet also need a bigger screen.
8. Acer Swift 3
Beyond the Acer Swift 3’s modest exterior, you’ll find an excellent laptop that boasts plenty of power for work and study. The Swift 3 (not to be confused with the Switch 3 another laptop from Acer) is an inexpensive laptop; however, that plain chassis is all-aluminum and packed with beefy components.
In terms of performance, it gets surprisingly close to the far more expensive Microsoft Surface Laptop. Its display is a little lower-res, but the two are otherwise strikingly similar – other than the price.
This laptop is incredible to use as well, with its roomy trackpad as well as its backlit keyboard that offers a comfortable typing experience with decent travel.
9. Asus ZenBook 13 (2021)
The Asus ZenBook 13 is a brilliant laptop, and the 2021 model comes with some of the best mobile tech you’ll find in a modern notebook. So, it packs a choice of an AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor, or Intel 11th gen CPU. It also has an absolutely stunning 13.3-inch OLED screen and one of the best battery lives around.
There’s also up to 32GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage, which makes this a brilliant laptop for working on.
It’s also supremely thin and light, as well as stylishly designed, which makes it a joy to carry around and use. It’s also pretty respectably priced compared to competitors like the Dell XPS 13. The only downsides are that there’s no headphone jack – which is a bit of a shame, but likely a result of its ultra-thin design, and during our time testing the Asus ZenBook 13, we found that the integrated AMD Ryzen graphics weren’t quite as good as Intel’s offering. Despite that, this is still a brilliant ultra-thin laptop that’s well worth considering.
10. Asus TUF Dash F15
The Asus TUF Dash F15 is ideal if you’re looking for a machine that can play the latest games, but doesn’t blow a hole in your bank balance.
Asus’ TUF lineup of laptops have been earning plaudits for their excellent value for money, and the new Asus TUF Dash F15 continues that fine tradition. With excellent build quality, a brilliant battery for a gaming laptop, and an impressively thin and light design, this is a brilliant value gaming laptop.