It doesn’t need to be an expensive struggle to make an upgrade to the best laptop for your needs. Scrolling through endless lists of identical-looking laptops to find the important information about how they actually work can be tough without any guidance, but our editors have tested dozens of different models to help you boil it down to a single choice.
We’ve tested dozens of different models in order to help you narrow your search for the best laptop, which doesn’t need to be an expensive, confusing process. A lot of laptops get reviewed at CNET and we have more specialized lists you can check out while you’re shopping, including the, , and , as well as the , the best laptop for and the best for the Windows set. And if you need to stay as low as possible on the price of a new laptop computer, check out our picks for and . This list is periodically updated.
This is our go-to recommendation for those in search of a MacOS laptop for everyday basic use. The MacBook Air was updated in the first half of 2020 with new Intel processors and, most importantly, a new keyboard. However, in November, Apple announced its new homegrown M1 processors would be replacing Intel’s CPUs in the Air. Using Apple’s M1, the company promises an operating system with better performance and longer battery life — up to 18 hours. The Intel-based models will still be around, though, and regardless of which chip is running the Air, you’re getting a great little Mac laptop starting at $999.
Read more about the new M1-based MacBook Air.
Regularly available for less than $700, this thin, 3-pound convertible is a solid choice for anyone who needs a laptop for office or schoolwork. The all-metal chassis gives it a premium look and feel, and it has a comfortable keyboard and a responsive, smooth precision touchpad. Though it’s light on extra features compared to its premium linemate, the Yoga 9i, it does have one of Lenovo’s sliding shutters for its webcam that gives you privacy when you want it. And it has a long battery life to boot.
The Dell XPS 13 is a perennial favorite for its size, weight and performance and just overall good looks. In 2020, Dell made the laptop even smaller, while making the laptop screen larger and increasing performance for both CPU and graphics-intensive tasks. It’s not a huge leap, but this Dell XPS is still the best in the category. And for those who want the latest and greatest Intel processors, the Dell XPS 13, as well as the company’s XPS 13 2-in-1 (also a great pick), are available with the chip-maker’s 11th-gen Core processors, with Intel Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 options. This Dell also offers a selection of solid-state storage and memory options, starting with a 256GB SSD hard drive and 8GB of memory.
Read our Dell XPS 13 (2020) review.
Tired of trying to work on documents or spreadsheets on a small widescreen display? The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 uses one of Acer’s bright VertiView displays, a 13.5-inch 2,256×1,504-pixel touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. As the name implies, it gives you more vertical room to work, but it still has the width of a typical 13.3-inch laptop with a 16:9 ratio. Between that and its battery life, which lasted nearly 13 hours in our tests, you’ll be able to get more work done in a day — and it’s still thin and light enough for an everyday carry.
The latest version of this Chromebook is the first to receive Intel’s Evo verification, which means you’ll be getting the best possible mobile experience with this model. It’s also the first with Thunderbolt 4 support, which lets you connect to multiple external displays as well as providing fast data speeds and networking. Read our Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review.
Co-engineered with Intel for its Evo platform, the Spectre x360 14 we tested had zippy performance and more than 14 hours of battery life. Along with an assortment of privacy features, it has a bright, 1,920×1,280-pixel-resolution, 13.5-inch touchscreen with a 3:2 screen ratio that is roughly the same as a standard A4 sheet of paper and gives you about 20% more vertical viewing space than a 16:9 display. That means you do less scrolling when you’re working. It also makes it more comfortable to use as a tablet, especially with the included active pen.
Read our HP Spectre x360 14 review.
The combination of the larger MacBook Pro’s hardware and MacOS extracts the maximum performance from the components while delivering class-leading battery life in a way the Windows operating system never seems to do, and the high-resolution display screen remains terrific. Plus, this powerful laptop model’s keyboard uses scissor-style switches under the keycaps, rather than the much-derided butterfly-style switch. You pay for it, though — base price for the 16-inch model of this premium laptop is $2,399.
Read our Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) review.
The Book 13 is a more office-friendly version of the company’s Razer Blade Stealth gaming laptop, with a 13.4-inch display with a taller 16:10 aspect ratio, fast mobile performance, long battery life and enough connection options to make working from home easier. Its high-quality build is up there with the best MacBooks but, like an Apple, it’s not necessarily the best laptop deal, even compared to other premium laptops.
Read our Razer Book 13 review.
Although it’s not the Surface Laptop, the Surface Pro continues to hit all the right notes if you’re looking for a do-it-all Windows tablet that doubles as a Windows laptop. This powerful Surface laptop features the 10th-gen Intel processor, fast Wi-Fi 6 wireless and long-lasting battery life. This Surface is also the first in the range to feature an honest-to-goodness USB-C port.
Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review.
A remarkable deal for simple tasks like email, word processing and much more, thanks to the new AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors. This budget laptop has a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader and a USB Type-C port, too. The Acer Swift 3 is also an incredibly lightweight laptop — less than 3 pounds — for a machine that can be found for less than $700.
In addition to this Acer Swift, we’re also fans of the Acer Aspire 5, which has a larger 15.6-inch display. The Acer Aspire 5 is available in a variety of configurations starting as low as $400, but can go up to $690 if you want entry-level discrete graphics for basic gaming and content creation.
Read our Acer Swift 3 (14-inch, 2020) review.
There are simply no other 17-inch laptops that are this light and also have long battery life. The Gram 17 lasted 13 hours on our streaming video test, beating last year’s model by 47 minutes on the same test. Processor performance is stepped up some from the 2019 version, too, thanks to the addition of a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 processor. This is partnered with more powerful Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics as well, giving you a little extra speed for photo and video editing and casual gaming.
Read our LG Gram 17 (2020) review.
The Asus ZenBook 13 is a stylish but not showy 13.3-inch ultraportable with the perfect footprint for squeezing onto a tiny table. You’ll get 12-plus hours of battery life depending on your configuration — it’s available with an Intel Core i5 processor or 11th-gen Core i7 processor and 8GB RAM — and plenty of performance to make quick work of daily office or school tasks. Plus, like many of Asus’ laptops, the ZenBook adds a few gadgety extras to hopefully make your life easier while you’re out and about.
Read our Asus ZenBook 13 review.
Though HP and Dell have excellent premium two-in-one convertible laptops, they have smaller 13.5- and 13.4-inch displays. If you want a bit more room for your work or entertainment, the Yoga 9i is a great choice. It’s available in 14- and 15.6-inch sizes with a variety of configuration options and everything about them is fast. Well, except for their battery lives, which are good and long. Plus, they come with pens that charge and are stored in the body.
Read our Lenovo Yoga 9i review.
Dell streamlined its G-series gaming laptops, going from three models down to just one — and it’s all for the best. Instead of having to decode the various feature and quality differences between them, there’s just one chassis available with a variety of configurations with an 11th-gen Intel processor or AMD Ryzen 5000 H-series processor. All of the processors can be paired with up to a 6GB Nvidia RTX 3060, 8GB or 16GB of memory and up to 1TB of storage. They’re basically a more budget-friendly version of those from its Alienware division, but still capable of playing the latest AAA titles. Due to availability issues, the prices are unstable but do normally start below $1,000.
If you’re going for the best, go big. Yes, there are faster 17-inchers, but I draw the line at dual humongous power bricks. The Blade Pro is fast and provides powerful gaming performance with an Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series graphics, but doesn’t sacrifice its svelte figure. While I recommend getting this Blade Pro laptop with its 4K-resolution display option for creators, gamers will want to get the display with a 360Hz refresh rate that Razer offers for this model.
Read our Razer Blade Pro 17 (early 2020) review.