Smartphones and tablets may have appropriated much of people’s screen time, but there’s still a requirement for a true computer sometimes—and for many people, meaning a laptop. For school and office work and tasks like creating spreadsheets and editing video, there’s no good substitute for a decent keyboard and a big screen. But exactly which laptop you should get depends on how often you’ll use it, what you’ll use it for, and (of course) how much money you can afford to spend on it.
We regularly test the foremost promising laptops, from sleek ultrabooks to cheap Chromebooks to massive gaming laptops and beyond. Here are the simplest models you’ll stock every category, alongside advice on the way to choose which sort of laptop is true for you.
Mac or Windows (or something else)?
Many people already know whether or not they need a MacBook or a Windows laptop: If you’re already conversant in macOS or Windows, the simplest choice is to shop for a computer that runs that operating system. That said, macOS and Windows haven’t been more similar, and hottest apps work even as well on either platform (or a minimum of have alternatives that employment similarly). If you’re interested in switching, it isn’t as big a deal as it used to be.1
If you’re not tied to a platform, the biggest factor is how easy it is to get support. Do most of your family and friends use Macs? Do you have an Apple Store nearby? Do your most tech-savvy friends use Windows? If you’re a student, does your school have a help desk? Will your company’s IT department grant support for your home computer? If you’re not a self-sufficient techie and want the best service for your computer, buy a Mac, because you can take it to any Apple Store to get it fixed. No other computer maker provides that level of assistance. (If you are self-sufficient, go with what you like.)
Alternatively, since more tasks can be accomplished in a browser, without your downloading and installing any apps, you might not even need a traditional operating system—a Chromebook may be all you need.
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For most people: The best ultrabook
Dell XPS 13 (9300)
|Processor:||Intel Core i5-1035G1||Screen:||13.4-inch 1920×1200 non-touch|
|Memory:||8 GB||Weight:||2.65 pounds|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||10.5 hours|
Who these are for: Ultrabooks are the simplest laptops for many people, including college students, writers, office workers, and commuters. They have great keyboards, screens, and battery life, they provide enough power to try to do everything most of the people need a computer for, and they’re thin, light, and portable. You should expect to pay between $900 and $1,300 for a great Windows ultrabook that will last you three to four years.
Where they fall short: Great ultrabooks can cost more than many people want to spend on a laptop, even if such models provide a better experience and last longer than cheaper alternatives. Ultrabooks also lack the processing power to play high-end games or do demanding tasks like professional video editing or 3D modeling. If you would like a less expensive laptop or a more powerful one, inspect our other picks below.
Why we like this one: The Dell XPS 13 (9300) offers the simplest balance of what makes an ultrabook great: It’s exceptionally light and compact, its battery will last through a full day of work or classes, and it has a good keyboard and trackpad. It also offers fast performance and a spacious screen with a taller ratio that’s ideal for web browsing and document work. It has only two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports that you can use to transfer data, connect an external display, or charge the laptop. We wish the XPS 13 had a USB-A port, as well, but it does come with a USB-C–to–A adapter, and if you need more ports you can get a USB-C hub or dock.
You can read more about the Dell XPS 13 and our other picks in our guide to Windows ultrabooks.
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The best Mac laptop
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020)
|Processor:||quad-core Intel Core i5-1030NG7||Screen:||13.3-inch 2560×1600 IPS|
|Memory:||8 GB||Weight:||2.8 pounds|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||8 hours|
Who these are for: If you favor macOS or need great tech support, a MacBook may be a safe bet; the 13-inch models usually offer the simplest combination of size, weight, and speed. They’re great for writers, office workers, commuters, and college students. Expect to pay around $1,100 for one with ok specs and storage to last you three to four years.
Where they fall short: MacBooks are even costlier than Windows ultrabooks, especially if you would like to upgrade the memory or storage; Apple’s SSD upgrade prices are so high that we ordinarily recommend looking into cloud storage or an external SSD instead. And like Windows ultrabooks, our recommended MacBook configuration for many people lacks the processing power to play demanding games or do professional 3D modeling.
Why we like this one: The 2020 MacBook Air is Apple’s greatest laptop in years. Its performance is solid, its price is cheap, and you don’t need to pay extra to urge a usable amount of storage. and therefore the new Air’s keyboard is really good since Apple traded out the shallow and failure-prone butterfly switches under the keys of its previous MacBook Air for springier and more satisfying scissor switches. Like Apple’s other laptops, the Air has only a little number of homogenous ports (in this case, two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports which will require the utilization of hubs or new cables). But the Air’s lightweight, solid construction, and industry-leading support make it an excellent laptop, especially if you furthermore may own an iPhone or other Apple devices.
If you would like a more powerful Mac with a bigger screen, take a glance at our full guide to MacBook models.
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The best cheap ultrabook
Lenovo Yoga C740 (14″)
|Processor:||Intel Core i5-10210U||Screen:||14-inch 1920×1080 touch|
|Memory:||8 GB||Weight:||3.09 pounds|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||9.5 hours|
Who these are for: Most Windows computers around $500 or less are large and heavy and saddled with poor battery life—among other flaws—but a touch extra money can get you an ultrabook that’s almost nearly as good the maximum amount costlier options. Budget ultrabooks are ideal for college kids also as for anyone who can spend around $800 on a laptop.
Where they fall short: Budget ultrabooks tend to possess bigger, creakier bodies and worse build quality than our top picks, and that they also can have less responsive keyboards and trackpads, dimmer and fewer accurate screens, or fewer ports. But if you’ll find one that creates a few of those compromises as possible, you’ll be ready to save a couple of hundred dollars
Why we choose this: The Lenovo Yoga C740 (14″) may be an unbelievable price. It costs a couple of hundred dollars but our top ultrabook pick and has nearly identical specs. Compared with the XPS 13, the C740 is larger and heavier, it’s shorter battery life, and its keyboard isn’t quite as enjoyable to type on. But it’s powerful and portable enough to use for a full day of labor or classes. and in contrast to most inexpensive ultrabooks, the C740 is sturdy, features a fingerprint reader, and comes with a convenient and simply replaceable USB-C charger.
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The best Chromebook
Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 (13″)
|Processor:||Intel Core i3-10110U||Screen:||13.3-inch 1920×1080 touch|
|Memory:||4 GB||Weight:||2.97 pounds|
|Storage:||64 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||10 hours|
Who these are for: Chromebooks are ideal for college kids and youngsters , but you ought to also consider one if you spend most of your computer time during a browser , if you’re on a decent budget, or if you have already got an honest desktop PC. an honest Chromebook can do almost anything a daily laptop can do, including document work, video calls, and streaming video—as long as it’s possible during a browser or in Android apps. And Chromebooks are cheap: A $400 Chromebook is quicker , lighter, and sleeker than a $500 Windows laptop and blessed better battery life. Plus, Chromebooks are secure and straightforward to take care of .
Where they fall short: Chromebooks can’t run iTunes, Photoshop, Windows-specific games, or many of the programs you would possibly be wont to on your Mac or Windows computer. They don’t have much local storage, and that they work best with a full-time internet connection. But if you employ web-based email, if you’ll get by with Office 365, Google’s office web apps, and Android app alternatives, and if you stream your music and films over the web , a Chromebook should do exactly about everything you would like it to.
Why we like this one: The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 (13″) is an outstanding Chromebook—it’s quick, it’s an outstanding keyboard and trackpad, it’s compact and lightweight, and its 1080p touchscreen is vivid and bright. And it’s comparatively inexpensive. On top of being an all-around excellent laptop, our suggested model offers faster performance than most Chromebooks under $500. Most cheap Chromebooks feel slow with just a handful of tabs open, but the Flex 5 can handle everyday workloads and video calls with aplomb. The Flex 5’s battery life is simply long enough to last through each day of labor or classes; if you would like longer battery life than that, consider our other picks.
Acer Aspire 5 A515-55-378V
|Processor:||Intel Core i3-1005G1||Screen:||15-inch 1920×1080 non-touch|
|Memory:||4 GB||Weight:||4.19 pounds|
|Storage:||128 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||6.5 hours|
Who these are for: If you would like a Windows laptop for home, work, or school—and you can’t afford to spend a lot—you can find an honest one for $450 to $600. They’re ideal for grade and secondary school students, people on a strict budget, and other people who use their computers mostly reception within the evenings for doing schoolwork, browsing the online, managing a budget, or watching Netflix. Cheaper, lighter laptops tend to be too slow to recommend, while faster, sleeker ones usually cost an excessive amount of.
Where they fall short: to urge a laptop that doesn’t feel slow for an honest price, you’ve got to form tons of compromises. Most budget laptops with decent specs have 15-inch screens, weigh 5 or 6 pounds, and have enough more precise battery life equaled with ultrabooks. and since some budget laptops use a standard disk drive rather than a solid-state drive, they feel slower than an ultrabook with an equivalent processor and memory.
Why we like this one: The Acer Aspire 5 A515-55-378V features a 15-inch 1920×1080 IPS screen that’s much nicer to seem at than the other cheap Windows notebook we tested, and it’s a cushty keyboard and a reliable trackpad. Its battery lasts longer than other similarly priced Windows laptops, but it won’t last a full day just like the Chromebook’s. The Aspire 5’s 4 GB of memory may be a bit limiting if you often multitask, though it’s easy to upgrade. It also comes with bloatware; we recommend running Microsoft’s Refresh Windows tool to urge obviate it. And it’s Windows 10 in S mode—a version of Windows 10 that permits apps only from the Microsoft Store and limits you to Microsoft Edge for Web browsing—but you’ll switch it to Windows 10 Home for free of charge.
Choosing a budget laptop is hard , because you’ll find dozens—even hundreds—of configurations at a given time. Their prices fluctuate constantly, too, and corporations release and discontinue models with no warning. If our pick isn’t possible, check our full guide for additional available options. If those aren’t available, search for these specs in an all-purpose budget laptop: an eighth- or 10th-generation Intel Core i3 or i5 processor or a 3000-series or 4000-series AMD Ryzen 3 or 5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a solid-state drive (SSD), and a 1080p screen.
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The best Windows laptop for photo and video editing
Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2
|Processor:||Intel Core i7-9750H||Screen:||4K IPS|
|Graphics:||Nvidia Quadro T1000||Weight:||3.8 pounds|
|Memory:||16 GB||Tested battery life:||6 hours|
|Storage:||512 GB SSD|
Who these are for: If you’re an ingenious professional and you would like a Windows laptop that’s more powerful than an ultrabook, with a bigger, higher-resolution screen and a faster graphics processor, you ought to get what we call an influence notebook. These are ideal if you’re an audio, video, or photo editor, or if you are doing tons of 3D modeling, but you continue to want something fairly light and portable. They’re pricey, though, so expect to pay upwards of $2,500.
Where they fall short: Laptops by color-accurate screens and ample power for creative professionals are valuable. Power notebooks also tend to possess shorter battery life than ultrabooks due to their larger, higher-resolution screens and more power-hungry processors. and since they’re thin and lightweight enough to be reasonably portable, these laptops are often not as easy to upgrade as chunkier business or gaming laptops.
Why we like this one: The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 combines fast performance, a pointy 4K screen that’s reasonably (though not exceptionally) accurate, the simplest keyboard and trackpad you’ll get during a laptop, and every one the ports most of the people got to connect all their accessories and obtain work done. Its battery life is sweet, not great—as is typical of most powerful laptops—but it’s the lightest pro laptop we’ve tested. And if you would like to feature more memory or storage later, you’ll easily access the laptop’s memory and storage slots by popping the rock bottom panel off. It even features a second M.2 slot so you’ll install a second SSD (we have recommendations for the best SSDs), a singular feature not present in other pro laptops we’ve tested. Like all pro laptops, it’s costlier than a typical ultrabook, but it’s affordable for what it gives you.
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The best budget gaming laptop
Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL
|Processor:||Intel Core i7-9750H||Screen:||15-inch 1920×1080 144 Hz|
|Graphics:||Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660||Weight:||5.07 pounds|
|Memory:||16 GB||Tested battery life:||5 hours|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD|
Who these are for: Budget gaming laptops typically cost between $800 and $1,300 and are ideal for enjoying older games on high settings or new games on a minimum of medium settings. But as lately 2019, there has never been a far better time to shop for a budget gaming laptop, and that we recommend our current pick for anyone who plays PC games on the go. For the primary time, gaming laptops around $1,200 can play most new games on high settings or better at 1920×1080 resolution at or above 60 fps—you don’t got to spend $2,000 on a more powerful gaming laptop to urge great performance.
Where they fall short: Every affordable gaming laptop we’ve tested has had a minimum of one serious flaw. Some get way too hot, others have poor build quality, and a few have dim screens with poor viewing angles. And compared with more portable options, like ultrabooks, all gaming laptops are large, heavy, and saddled with short battery life.
Why we like this one: No other laptop we’ve tested provides the maximum amount gaming performance for the worth, and therefore the Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL keeps its components, also because the surfaces you touch most frequently, cool enough during games so it won’t overheat or burn your fingers. Its keyboard and trackpad are responsive and cozy, and therefore the laptop is straightforward to upgrade if you would like more storage within the future. But its fans issue an annoying whine during gaming, its battery lasted but 5 hours in our test, and it comes with plenty of bloatware.
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The best gaming laptop
Acer Predator Triton 500 PT515-51-75BH
|Processor:||Intel Core i7-9750H||Screen:||15.6-inch 1920×1080 144 Hz|
|Graphics:||Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060||Weight:||4.6 pounds|
|Memory:||16 GB dual-channel||Tested battery life:||5 hours|
|Storage:||512 GB SSD|
Who these are for: most of the people shouldn’t buy a high-end gaming laptop immediately. Laptops with RTX 2070 or RTX 2080 graphics cards cost more than $2,000 and don’t provide a worthwhile upgrade from a $1,200 laptop with a GTX 1660 Ti, which is what most people should get. While we wait for prices on those more powerful models to drop, we have a pick that is thinner and lighter than our budget pick, fits comfortably into a laptop bag, and can play games at frame rates similar to what our favorite cheap gaming laptop can achieve.
Where they fall short: Gaming laptops are typically huge and heavy because they need to make room for powerful components and proper cooling, and they also have abysmal battery life. They’re expensive, too. A $1,500 desktop computer is much more powerful and upgradable than a $3,000 gaming laptop; meanwhile, a $1,000 ultrabook is much smaller and lighter, capable of handling non-gaming tasks just as well as a gaming laptop and endowed with twice the battery life and much strong build quality.
Why we like this one: Our favorite gaming laptop is the Acer Predator Triton 500 PT515-51-75BH. Its powerful Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics can render most modern games on ultra settings and can easily hit 60 frames per second (fps) in the majority of titles, and it has 16 GB of DDR4 2666 MHz memory in dual-channel mode, which improves performance in some games compared with single-channel mode. In our tests, this laptop handled both internal and external temperatures the simplest of all the thin-and-light models we tried. The Triton 500 weighs 4.6 pounds and extends approximately five hours of battery life in non-gaming tasks. It has a vibrant 144 Hz 15.6-inch display and a cushty keyboard, but it’s tricky to upgrade and comes loaded with an excessive amount of bloatware.
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The best business laptop
Lenovo ThinkPad T490
|Processor:||Intel Core i5-8265U||Screen:||14-inch 1920×1080 non-touch|
|Memory:||8 GB||Weight:||3.41 pounds|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||9 hours|
Who these are for: most of the people don’t need a business laptop, and people who do will probably get one issued from their IT department. But there are a couple of great reasons to settle on a business laptop, albeit you’re paying for it yourself, including better long-term durability, easier serviceability and upgrades, more RAM and storage, and more plentiful and varied ports than you get with an ultrabook. Our main picks typically cost between $1,200 and $1,400, but we even have an excellent budget pick for around $1,000.
Where they fall short: Ultrabooks are a far better option than business laptops for many people because ultrabooks are thinner and lighter and that they offer similar performance for fewer money. the bulk of individuals don’t got to upgrade or repair their own laptops, and if you actually need business-centric features like open-end credit support and vPro, the place where you’re employed has probably already provided you a laptop that supports them. Dongles and docks, while inconvenient, can structure for a few ultrabooks’ limited port selection.
Why we like this one: The Lenovo ThinkPad T490 has an excellent keyboard and trackpad, a decent screen, and a good mix of new and old ports that should keep you from ever needing a dongle or adapter. And the T490 offers long enough battery life to last you through a full workday or a cross-country flight. Our pick’s specs are fast enough for everyday work, and upgrading the memory or storage or replacing the battery is exceptionally easy. Our recommended configuration costs around $1,200 to $1,400 and includes a backlit keyboard and a fingerprint reader.
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The best 2-in-1 laptop
HP Spectre x360 13
<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/out/link/37596/161473/4/113492?merchant=HP" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank">The best convertible laptop</a>
|Processor:||Intel Core i5-1035G4||Screen:||13.3-inch 1920×1080 touch|
|Memory:||8 GB||Weight:||2.88 pounds|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||10.5 hours|
What’s a 2-in-1 laptop? You’ll encounter two main sorts of 2-in-1 laptops. Convertibles are ultrabooks with a 360-degree hinge that allows you to fold the laptop’s screen all the way around, flat against rock bottom of the keyboard, to use the whole package as a bulky tablet or in any mode in between. Detachables, the opposite type, are more like tablets with a removable keyboard. they have a tendency to be awkward in a minimum of one among their two modes, and their operating systems are usually good for either laptop work or tablet work but not both.
Who these are for: A convertible may be a good selection if you would like an excellent laptop that you’ll occasionally use as a tablet or propped up sort of a tent; for instance, tent mode is often convenient for navigating recipes within the kitchen or watching Netflix on an airplane. A detachable is that the more appropriate option for people that need a tablet they will sometimes use it as a laptop. If you don’t need tablet features in the least, we recommend sticking with one among our ultrabook picks above.
Where they fall short: Even the simplest 2-in-1 makes for a bulky, awkward tablet; the model we recommend is a superb laptop first, with bonus modes for infrequent needs. And styluses for writing or drawing in tablet mode ordinarily cost more, on top of an already costly laptop.
Why we like this one: The HP Spectre x360 13 is a superb ultrabook with a 360-degree hinge—it’s the simplest option if you would like a laptop that also works as a tablet sometimes. The Spectre x360 may be a bit heavier than the non-convertible Dell XPS 13, but it’s similar in size and offers solid battery life, and it’s a reliable keyboard and touchpad, a vibrant touchscreen, and an included pen. Plus, it’s two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port for connecting older devices, and a fingerprint reader for straightforward logins.
If you would like a compact, light laptop in particular else, we recommend getting our ultrabook pick instead.