The best laptops in 2021 for college, gaming and just about everything else

We help you find the best laptop for your needs and budget with this jargon-free guide

Best laptop 2021 best Windows 10 laptop
(Image credit: Asus)

Only the best laptops of 2021 are here in T3's no-nonsense, jargon-free guide through the top options on the market right now. We're serious about laptops: these are the machines we'd buy for ourselves, for our businesses and for our families to use.

We know that different people need different things from their laptops, so while you'll find the powerful, sturdy, battery-rich Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) at the top of our list, that won't be the best laptop for everyone. 

For that reason, we've covered a wide range of options in our ranking. Whether you're looking for the best Windows 10 laptop, a top-rated system running macOS Big Sur, or the streamlined and snappy ChromeOS, an everyday workhorse or pro-level performer, we have the best laptop to suit your needs right here.

Whether you're looking for the best laptop for video conferencing, gaming, academics or even seniors, our guide provides a complete list of top models that may work fo ryou.

This guide presents our absolute top picks of all the systems on the market today. If you already have a good idea of what you're looking for, you might want to head to one of our more specific laptop buying guides. Whether you're looking for the best laptop for video conferencing, gaming, academics or even seniors, however, our guide to the best laptops provides a complete list of top models that just may work for you.

For example, if you're a student looking for an affordable system to take to university then you'll want to check out the best student laptops and best Chromebooks on the market. While if you're a passionate gamer and need serious pixel-pushing power then one of the best gaming laptops will be more suitable.

If you're a creative, though, then one of the best 2-in-1 laptops will likely offer you the flexibility you need, while busy professionals will likely warm to the best lightweight laptops, as they are easy to lug around from meeting to meeting. If you want more information on any of these head on down to the section entitled 'Laptop types explained'. We've also got a brand-specific roundup for Dell, so if you're looking for one of the best Dell laptops head on over there.

Regardless of what laptop you're looking for, though, be sure to consider one of the best webcams to go with it.

If you are looking for the crème de la crème of portable PCs, though, then this best laptops guide presents our absolute top picks of all the systems on the market today.

Looking for laptops on sale? Check out our best laptop deals guide for the best deals on laptops this month.

What are the best laptops to buy in 2021

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(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

The best laptop for most people

CPU: Apple M1
Graphics: Apple M1
Screen: 13.3-inch 2,560 x 1,600 pixel-resolution Retina display
Storage: 256GB SSD
Connectivity: 2 x Thunderbolt 4 / USB-C
Camera: 720p FaceTime camera
Weight: 2.8lbs
Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches (W x D x H)
Reasons to buy
+Astounding power+Excellent build quality+Sturdy, luxe design+Giant battery life
Reasons to avoid
-More ports would be nice-Webcam still not great-Some potential niche software compatibility issues

As our MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review explains, Apple's cheapest laptop is the start of a revolution. Think thin and light laptops have to sacrifice power? Not any more. Or that big performance means smaller battery life? Nope. Or that getting all of these things in one machine would be expensive? Wrong again. This is the best of all worlds.

It's all thanks to the M1 processor – the first Apple-made chip for Macs. It's an eight-core chip that's as powerful as what you find in the high-end MacBook Pros or gaming PCs, but uses a fraction of the power. Combined with the fastest storage in the business, this laptop is fast. But it also runs cool enough that it doesn't need any fans at all, so it's silent.

It's even got pretty solid graphics performance, playing games far more smoothly than anything else with an integrated GPU (though, being a Mac, the selection is more limited). And it can give you around 15 hours of battery life in real-world use (for things like light browsing) – a huge leap over previous Macs.

Comfort and usability are top-notch too – the keyboard and trackpad are excellent, it's a great size and weight to be portable, and the all-aluminum build is solid and feels premium. The sharp screen is also a pleasure to use, with a good level of brightness.

It's a shame that it only has two USB-C ports (which also must be used to power it), since that means you'll probably need adapters, but maybe you're all in on wireless and cloud already anyway. There can also be some issues with software compatibility with the new processor, but these tend to only be with really niche stuff, so won't be a worry for the vast majority of people.

The base specs of 256GB storage and 8GB of RAM may also be too little for some people, but you can upgrade and customize when you buy (though you can't add more after purchase, we should note).

As long as you can live without Windows, the MacBook Air is a laptop that balances portability and power without compromises.

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The best laptop for most people? That's the Asus VivoBook S15.

(Image credit: Asus)

2. Asus VivoBook S15

The best Windows 10 laptop for most people

CPU: Intel Core i5-10210U or Intel Core i7-10510U
Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics
Screen: 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Reasons to buy
+Superb, vivid 15.6-inch screen+Very stylish and lightweight+Comfortable, eye-catching keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Not the cheapest out there-Screen sticks to 1080p-16:9 aspect ratio display

Wedded to Windows? The best mid-range Windows 10 laptop you can buy now is the Asus VivoBook S15. It's lightweight despite the 15.6-inch screen, it's stylish, and it wraps just about everything you could want in a laptop in one appealing package. The price is a little on the high side, but you do get a lot back for your money, including the latest 11th-gen Intel CPUs – i5 or i7 is the choice. Those chips will guarantee excellent performance without sucking up too much battery life, and unless you're wanting to play top-tier games or do some 4K video editing, this portable computer will cope with everything you've got to throw at it.

There are plenty of ports to play around with, and the fingerprint sensor built into the trackpad makes logging into Windows a breeze. Simply put, the Asus VivoBook S15 will be the perfect laptop for many users, combining a quality tech spec and everyday-versatile design at a very firmly mid-range price point. Find out more in our Asus VivoBook S15 review

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(Image credit: Dell)

3. Dell XPS 13 (2020)

The best premium Windows 10 laptop

CPU: Up to 10th-generation Intel Core i7-1065G7
Graphics: Up to Intel Iris Plus
RAM: Up to 16GB
Screen: 13.4-inch display (up to 4K, 3,840 x 2,400 resolution)
Storage: Up to 1TB
Reasons to buy
+Powerhouse performance+Will last you many years
Reasons to avoid
-Average battery life-Limited number of ports

The Dell XPS 13 series has consistently wowed us here at T3, and the latest version of the laptop continues that trend. In our Dell XPS 13 (2020) review we found it to be powerful, supremely well built, and compact – essentially just about everything you could possibly want in your search for the best laptop around at the moment. With the latest 10th-gen Intel processors installed and up to 16GB of RAM installed, this is a portable computer that's going to be able to handle everything that you want to throw at it. From late-night Netflix to early-morning report writing, you'll find the Dell XPS 13 a capable and competent laptop.

It's that 13.4-inch display with the super-thin bezels that really makes the XPS 13 stand out though: if you want to, you can go all the way up to a 4K resolution, but the 1,920 x 1,080 resolution models still look fantastic (4K doesn't make a huge amount of difference on a laptop display this size).

See how it shapes up against our top pick in our Dell XPS 13 (2020) vs Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) showdown.

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(Image credit: Apple)

4. Apple MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)

The best premium laptop for Mac users

CPU: Apple M1
Graphics: Apple M1
Screen: 13.3-inch 2,560 x 1,600 pixel-resolution Retina with P3 and True Tone
Storage: 256GB
Size: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches (W x D x H)
Weight: 3lbs
Reasons to buy
+Blazing speed+All-day battery+Excellent build quality
Reasons to avoid
-Lack of ports-Design is getting old

We think the M1 MacBook Air is the best laptop for most people, but power users aren't most people. The M1 MacBook Pro is a more powerful machine in several respects: it has a more powerful 8-core GPU, and it has a fan – so where the MacBook Air has to throttle performance to stay cool under sustained load, the MacBook Pro doesn’t. You won’t notice the difference or hear the fan in everyday computing, but for intensive tasks such as video rendering the Pro is significantly faster than the Air. 

There are some obvious trade-offs between this MacBook Pro and the current Intel ones, not least the screen size: 13.3” is nice and portable but it obviously lacks the screen area of the 16-inch Intel MacBook Pro. The 16-inch is configurable with more storage and RAM, although memory specs are not directly comparable, and the bigger Pro has more ports; here you’re stuck with two. But the M1 Mac boasts almost double the battery life of its bigger sibling, and that’s a huge difference for pros on the go. This is a Pro laptop that really does last all day on a single charge. For a more in-depth look at this machine, head to our Apple MacBook Pro (M1, 2020) review

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(Image credit: Dell)

5. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

The step-up power users will want over the Dell XPS 13

CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 – i9
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti
RAM: 8GB – 64GB
Storage: 512GB – 1TB SSD
Screen: 15.6" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS - UHD+ (3840 x 2400)
OS: Windows 10
Webcam: Yes
Dimensions: H34.4 x W34.4 x D23.01cm
Battery life: Up to 8 hours
Reasons to buy
+A beast at max spec+Stylish and light+WiFi 6 networking
Reasons to avoid
-It loves fingerprints-Only two USB ports

The Dell XPS 15 is more of a niche recommendation as a premium laptop choice than our best premium laptop, the Dell XPS 13. And this is despite the fact that it can be scaled up to a superior spec. The reason it doesn't get the nod over its younger brother is that, for most users, the power and performance delivered by a maximum spec Dell XPS 15 is just not necessary, and unless you have to have the 15.6-inch screen size, we'd recommend the 13 instead.

If you are a power user who does want the 15-inch screen size then the Dell XPS 15 is undoubtedly a brilliant choice, though. At maximum spec it delivers a 10th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU, 64GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and a 4K Ultra HD+ screen. In layman's terms, it is an absolute beast of a system and one that will crush any application you throw at it. This is the sort of system that, if specced in its upper echelons, can edit 4K and even 8K video. And, thanks to a strong internal cell stack, the battery life on it is great, too, meaning you can do high-level processing on the go.

All of this awesomeness costs, though, and shoppers will be blasting over $2500 to bring the system home. Is it worth it? Yes, you are getting a superb powerhouse laptop – but we still think most users looking for a premium laptop would be better off with a Dell XPS 13. Head to our Dell XPS 15 review for more details.

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(Image credit: Razer)

6. Razer Book 13

A superb laptop for professionals and creatives

CPU: 11th-gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 or i7-1165G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 8GB / 16GB
Storage: 256GB / 512GB
Screen: 13.4-inch 1920 x 1200 pixel or 3840 x 2400 pixel
OS: Windows 10
Webcam: Yes
Dimensions: 0.60”x 7.80” x 11.60” (15.15 mm x 198.50 mm x 295.60 mm)
Reasons to buy
+Brilliantly well built+Several cool touches+Crisp, bright 16:10 display
Reasons to avoid
-Not the thinnest of laptops-Doesn't do gaming much

Razer is of course better known for its gaming laptops, but the Razer Book 13 is something rather special in the non-gaming category: it lacks the GPU of Razer's other portable computers, but it keeps the solid build quality, the customizable keyboard backlighting, and the strong performance.

The premium nature of the Razer Book 13 is evident as soon as you turn the 13.4-inch display on. You can get this configured with up to a 4K resolution, and whether you're browsing the web or binge-watching movies, everything is vivid and smooth. In short, it's a pleasure to use, including the typing experience.

With 11th-gen Intel processors inside, this laptop can handle its fair share of demanding tasks, and can even cope with some light, dialed-down gaming if necessary. If you decide to splash your cash on the Razer Book 13, then you're not going to be disappointed.

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(Image credit: Asus)

7. Asus ZenBook Duo 14

The best laptop with two screens

CPU: 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 or i5-1135G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics up to Nvidia GeForce MX450 GPU
RAM: Up to 32GB
Storage: Up to 1TB
Screen: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel touchscreen and 12.65-inch, 1920 x 515 pixel touchscreen
OS: Windows 10
Webcam: Yes
Dimensions: 12.76" x 8.74" x 0.67" (324 mm x 222 mm x 16.9 mm
Weight: 3.46 lbs (1.57 kg)
Reasons to buy
+It has two displays+Solid typing experience+Plenty of power
Reasons to avoid
-The second screen – if you don't use it-Weird keyboard arrangement

The main party trick offered by the Asus ZenBook Duo 14 – and it's a good one – is a second screen just below the main one. You can use it for whatever you like, from Photoshop dialog boxes to Spotify playlists to social media feeds, and Windows will treat it just like any other second display.

It's fair to say that this laptop isn't going to have the same appeal if you can't see yourself using that second screen on a regular basis, but it's also very well built and well-specced, with a fantastic main display. Battery life is good too, so you don't have to worry about lasting a day away from the office.

With the latest 11th-gen Intel laptops inside, the ZenBook Duo 14 will give you plenty of power under the hood, although serious gamers will need more oomph in the GPU department. A laptop with a crazy gimmick that's actually not that gimmicky, and currently one of the best laptops around.

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(Image credit: Acer)

8. Acer Swift 3

One of the best compact and lightweight laptops around

CPU: Quad-core 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-Intel Core i7-1065G7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus
Screen: 14-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (16:9 aspect ratio)
Storage: 512GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Bright, sharp screen+Appealing design+Comfortable to type on
Reasons to avoid
-Limited integrated graphics-Ordinary battery life

There's a lot of competition in the market if you're wanting to spend more than $500, and the Acer Swift 3 is one of the best sub-$1,000 laptops. This 14-inch compact star really shines in terms of its design and lightness, and the internal specs mean it can cope with just about anything you want to do with your portable computer too, excluding the more demanding games and video renderings. In our Acer Swift 3 review we were impressed with how snappy and responsive the laptop was while watching movies and browsing the web (even as the number of open tabs started to rack up).

Okay, the battery life isn't fantastic, but it should still get you through the working day quite comfortably, and given the pedigree of previous Acer machines, we'd bet that the Swift 3 is going to serve you well for a number of years. A variety of configurations are available (with many falling under that $1,000 mark), so you can tailor it to suit your budget and needs.

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(Image credit: Asus)

9. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

The best laptop for a compact design with gaming credentials

Weight: 3.53 pounds (1.6kg)
Dimensions: W x D x H = 12.7 x 8.6 x 0.7 inches (32.4 x 22.0 x 1.79cm)
CPU: 2.9GHz AMD Ryzen 7 4800HS
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 (6GB GDDR6 VRAM)
Screen: 14-inch, WQHD (2560x1440) IPS (60Hz refresh rate)
Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Quality WQHD screen+Superb compact design+Powerful hardware+Genuine gaming chops
Reasons to avoid
-Whiny fans

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 does what a lot of laptops strive to but don't pull off – it delivers a portable and powerful system that also has some genuine gaming chops.

Yes, this is a system that thanks to its Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card can play the latest AAA PC games like Cyberpunk 2077 with state-of-the-art special effects like real-time ray tracing turned on, but also be transported with ease.

It also looks professional, too, making it useable in a business setting, meaning it is just as at home in the office as it is at the heart of a battle station.

Its internal specs read incredibly well, with a Ryzen 7 processor joined with 16GB of RAM and a massive 1YB NVMe SSD.

The only downside to this system is that it does not come with a webcam built-in, so streamers and those who need to partake in office meetings will need to invest in a separate webcam if they ring this system up.

Overall, though, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 ticks basically every box you could want from a best laptop, and also throws in some strong gaming functionality, too.

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(Image credit: Lenovo)

10. Lenovo IdeaPad 3

The best budget laptop

CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 7 3700U
Graphics: AMD Radeon/Integrated Graphics
RAM: Up to 8GB
Screen: 14-inch (1920 x 1080 or 1366 x 768 pixels)
Storage: Up to 1TB
Reasons to buy
+Appealing price point+Stylish and lightweight+Battery saving mode
Reasons to avoid
-Screen could be brighter-Average battery life-Low-powered components

When it comes to value-for-money laptops, it's difficult to beat the Lenovo IdeaPad 3: it's lightweight, it's stylish, and yet it won't cost you much at all. Not everyone needs the laptop with the biggest screen, or the most powerful components – some people want a lot of bang for their laptop buck first and foremost, and that's where the IdeaPad 3 delivers. Everything else falls into place around that.

As cheap as the IdeaPad 3 is, it still looks great and will handle all the everyday tasks you need it to very nicely indeed. As long as you're sticking to some light web use and office work, you won't be disappointed with what this laptop has to offer, and the dedicated battery saving mode comes in handy too. A variety of different spec configurations are available, which affect the price accordingly – but whatever model you go for, you get a reliable and attractive 14-inch laptop. 

See how it compares to our best premium Windows 10 laptop in our Dell XPS 13 vs Lenovo IdeaPad 3 head-to-head. 

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(Image credit: Dell)

11. Dell XPS 17

The best laptop for Windows 10 users who need a premium spec and large screen

Starting weight: 4.65 lb (2.11 kg)
Dimensions: 9.76" x 14.74" x 0.77"
Screen: 17.0" UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch
CPU : 10th Generation Intel Core i9-10885H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB
Storage: 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Large, top-tier screen+Powerful hardware spec+Superb Dell fit and finish
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most portable-Newer model now available

Dell makes arguably the finest laptops in the world, and if you are a Windows 10 user who is looking to invest in a large-screened, powerful laptop upgrade, you must check out the Dell XPS 17. At maximum spec, the XPS 17 delivers what could be the best screen on any laptop, ever, in the form of a 17.0" UHD+ (3840 x 2400 resolution) InfinityEdge Touch panel, which also comes with an Anti-Reflective coating. The screen, in partnership with tiny bezels, means real estate is bountiful and thanks to the Ultra HD resolution, everything on it is absolutely pin-sharp. It is truly a stunning display.

When kitted out to maximum, this laptop's hardware spec is also incredibly powerful, with buckets of performance on tap no matter what application or game you are running. A titanic 64GB of RAM in partnership with an Intel Core i9 handles even 8K video editing with ease. Working in Photoshop? You can edit huge TIF files side-by-side without the Dell XPS 17 breaking sweat. And an Nvidia GeForce RTX2060 6GB ensures that modern AAA games are crushed. 

Throw in the rest of the typical Dell package – which includes a fantastic fit and finish, excellent connectivity options, a built-in webcam and microphone, a stereo woofer and multiple speakers, and a full-fat copy of Windows 10 Home 64-bit – and it becomes easy to see how this laptop will serve its owner for years to come.

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(Image credit: LG)

12. LG Gram 17

The best 17-inch laptop... unless you're a gamer

CPU: Quad-core 10th-gen Intel Core i7-1065G7
Graphics: Integrated Iris Plus
Screen: 17-inch, 2560 x 1800 pixels
Storage: 512GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic 17-inch screen+Lightweight, stylish design+Plenty of battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Graphics aren't up to much-It'll cost you quite a bit-A large laptop to carry around

The LG Gram 17 is an impressive laptop on many levels, not least with that gorgeous 17-inch, 2560 x 1600 pixel screen. Despite that large screen (well, large for a laptop anyway), this is an incredibly portable machine – in fact, it has earned a place in our best lightweight laptop guide. It's the sort of laptop that you'll barely notice you've got in your bag, and when you pick it up, it feels as though there are some components missing. Everything from the metal alloy finish to the backlighting on the keys is well judged and well done.

You get some up-to-date Intel processors, and plenty of RAM and SSD storage space if you're willing to pay for it – it's capable of taking on most tasks with aplomb. The integrated graphics card is perhaps the only weak spot, but as long as you're not doing any gaming or any heavy video editing, it'll serve you well.

Overall, the LG Gram 17 is a super stylish and lightweight system that will suit just about anyone other than those who necessitate proper gaming credentials. Its build quality and overall fit-and-finish are first-rate, and its remaining hardware will ensure plenty of future-proofing, too. For more details, head to our LG Gram 17 (2020) review.

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(Image credit: Razer)

13. Razer Blade Stealth 13

The best laptop for gaming and creative work

CPU: 10th-gen Intel Core i7-1065G7
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q 4GB
Screen: 13.3-inch 4K
Storage: 512GB
Reasons to buy
+Superb, sleek design+Enough GPU power to get by+4K touchscreen display
Reasons to avoid
-Gets hot quickly-Battery life isn't great

With the Blade Stealth 13, Razer has managed to take the gaming expertise that it's known for and mix in other influences to create a laptop with broad appeal. Yes, it can play games better than pretty much any other laptop of this size, but it's also going to appeal to creatives and professionals with a clean design and a 4K touchscreen display.

There's a reason that just about every gaming laptop out there is 15 inches or above in terms of its display size: the extra room is needed for heat dissipation. The Blade Stealth 13 does its best in packing an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q 4GB inside its compact frame, though you will notice it getting hot during gaming (and battery life isn't great either). That GPU won't give you frame rates up there with the best gaming laptops on the market, but you can still play top-tier games at reasonable quality and at very decent frame rates. Add to that a really nicely designed laptop with a fantastic screen that excels at other tasks too, and Razer has another winner on its hands. Head to our Razer Blade Stealth 13 (2020) review for more info.

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(Image credit: Lenovo)

14. Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7

Power and performance in a compact form

CPU: Up to Intel Core i7 / AMD Ryzen 7
Graphics: Up to Nvidia GeForce GTX
RAM: Up to 16GB
Screen: 14-inch or 15.6-inch, up to 3840 x 2160 pixels
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Polished and stylish design+Impressive battery life+Wide choice of spec options
Reasons to avoid
-No fingerprint scanner-16:9 display aspect ratio

Another excellent Windows laptop, the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 comes in so many different configurations that you can really tailor it to suit your own particular needs and budget – there's even a choice of 14-inch or 15.6-inch displays, with resolutions up to 4K, so you can decide whether you want to prioritize portability or screen space. There aren't many laptops that give you the option of AMD or Intel chips, and you've got a few choices when it comes to integrated or discrete graphics as well. At the very top level spec, the laptop will be able to take everything you can throw at it, and it can even cope with some light gaming.

You've got further options when it comes to the design: a fabric-covered model is available alongside the standard aluminum, for example, and you can pick opt for slate grey or a more striking orchid as the basic color. Whichever configuration you go for, the laptop looks really good. Add in an impressive level of battery life, plenty of ports for your peripherals and external monitors, and a competitive price, and the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 looks like a great all-round package. Whatever you're looking for in a laptop, it's worth giving this one some serious consideration. Head to our Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 review for more on this one. 

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(Image credit: Samsung)

15. Samsung Galaxy Book S

The best laptop for users on the go

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx
Graphics: Integrated
Screen: 13.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Great design and build+4G LTE connectivity everywhere+Amazing battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Low-powered processor-Trackpad isn't great-Some apps not optimised

The Galaxy Book S from Samsung earns a place in our best laptop ranking for a number of reasons: it's really lightweight and stylish, the battery goes on and on between charges, and it offers cellular connectivity which means you can always be online (data plans and signal coverage permitting). You've got the option of a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip (as in our Samsung Galaxy Book S review), which means it can wake up and get online very quickly, but it also means performance isn't quite on a par with similarly priced Windows laptops. Alternatively, there's the more traditional Intel processor (which earned this laptop a full five stars in our Galaxy Book S (Intel) review). It all depends on what you want most from a laptop, and we think the Galaxy Book S is going to appeal to a lot of people.

As more and more Windows applications are optimized to run on ARM chips, the usefulness of the Galaxy Book S should increase. In our eyes, it's a case of the positives far outweigh the negatives on this laptop – just don't try to do any 4K video editing with it.

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(Image credit: Microsoft)

16. Microsoft Surface Book 3

The best premium 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: Quad-core 10th-en Intel Core i7-1065G7
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 with Max-Q
RAM: 8GB / 16GB / 32GB LPDDR4x (3733Mhz )
Screen: 13.5-inch, 3000 x 2000 pixels (267 ppi)
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Reasons to buy
+A no-compromise laptop and tablet+Excellent PixelSense display+Powerful gaming GPU option
Reasons to avoid
-Not especially fast-Slightly chunky

For the best of both worlds, the Microsoft Surface Book 3 is one of the best 2-in-1 laptops around. Yes, the screen can be detached and used as a tablet, but that doesn't mean this isn't an absolute beast of a laptop. The Surface Book 3 can be packed full of power as well – you can fit an Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics chipset in this laptop if you need to, and multiple configurations are available (so you don't necessarily need to max out on the internal components). You've got a choice of 13.5-inch and 15-inch screens, which gives you even more options when it comes to deciding which Surface Book 3 model is right for you, and as usual for Surface hardware, the build quality is excellent.

See how it compares to another popular 2-in-1 in our Asus ZenBook Flip 13 vs Microsoft Surface Book 3 face-off, or for more info, head to our Should I buy the Surface Book 3? article.

We've also compared this premium 2-in-1 to Dell's best offering, too, so if you're torn between the two brands check out our Microsoft Surface Book 3 vs New Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 comparison feature.

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(Image credit: Apple)

17. Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch

The best laptop for Apple MacBook users

CPU: 2.6GHz six-core Intel Core i7
Graphics: AMD 5300M 4GB
RAM: 16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM
Screen: 16-inch, 3072x1920
Storage: 512 GB PCIe 3.0 SSD
Reasons to buy
+Big, sharp, accurate 16-inch display+Plenty of power+New keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-No 4K screen-720p webcam-Limited ports can still be an issue-Graphics power still a little behind

Before the M1 Macs came along, the 16-inch MacBook Pro was the best Apple laptop you could buy, and it's still a great computer for pro and power users. As you would expect from a high-end Apple laptop, the MacBook Pro 16-inch is supremely slick and powerful, built with a best-in-class fit and finish, and loaded with a vastly improved keyboard that's leaps and bounds better than previous incarnations. The fact the system runs the very latest version of macOS, Big Sur, which delivers a plethora of exclusive, quality apps, and that it is supported by Apple's first-rate support network if anything goes wrong, adds a layer of sheen that many Windows 10 machines can't compete with.

On raw specs alone the MacBook Pro 16-inch is pipped to the post slightly by the Dell XPS 15, which can be outfitted with a 4K OLED screen, 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and a more powerful Nvidia GPU, but it is the overall package and user experience where the MacBook Pro shines. The M1 Macs may be getting all the attention right now, but the 16-inch MacBook Pro remains a powerhouse computer for pro-level apps. Head to our Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review for more details.

asus rog zephyrus s gx701 blackT3 Award

(Image credit: Asus)

18. Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701

The money no object ultimate gaming laptop

CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H (hexa-core, 9MB cache, up to 4.1GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q (8GB GDDR6 VRAM); Intel UHD Graphics 630
RAM: 24GB DDR4 (2,666MHz)
Screen: 17.3-inch, Full HD (1,920x1,080) IPS, Pantone Validated (144Hz refresh rate with Nvidia G-Sync)
Storage: 1TB M.2 PCIe x4 SSD
Reasons to buy
+Incredible gaming power+Premium build quality+Very portable and thin design
Reasons to avoid
-Cramped keyboard-Battery life is short

As we noted in our Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 review, this is our absolutely the best laptop for playing games on the market today in 2021. Building on last year's competition-slaying GX501, the new Zephrus ensures it stays on the gaming laptop throne by dialing things up to 11. That means the system rocks an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card (Ray Tracing bliss!), a juiced-up Intel Core i7-8750H CPU capable of running up to 4.1GHz and a 24GB stack of DDR4 RAM.

The result of all this top-end gaming hardware is, for a portable machine, ludicrous levels of AAA gaming performance. Metro Exodus, with all graphics settings turned up to maximum, and with the gorgeous Ray Tracing lighting tech-enabled, looked absolutely stunning and ran like a dream. And, the GX701 crushed our 3DMark benchmark tests, too. A gorgeous and thin magnesium chassis, fantastically engineered vent cooling system, and a 17.3-inch, Full HD (1,920x1,080) IPS, Pantone Validated, 144Hz refresh rate with Nvidia G-Sync panel complete the package.

hp envy 13 grayT3 Award

(Image credit: HP)

19. HP Envy 13

A fantastic all-round laptop that delivers premium features at a competitive price

CPU: Up to 10th-gen Intel Core i7
Graphics: Up to Nvidia GeForce MX250
RAM: Up to 16GB
Screen: 13.3 inch, up to 3840 x 2160
Storage: Up to 1TB
Reasons to buy
+Great performance for an ultra-light laptop+High-quality audio design+Camera kill switch
Reasons to avoid
-Trackpad feels flimsy

The HP Envy 13 contains the same 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor seen in many other systems in this guide but doubles down with 16GB of RAM and graphics handled by the Nvidia GeForce MX250, utilizing an extra 2GB of dedicated video memory. It doesn’t lose out in the pricing stakes, either, costing well under a thousand dollars for an excellent performance.

With some decent security features – a fingerprint scanner and a physical webcam kill switch on the side of the machine – it’s a great laptop for general work, whether that’s spreadsheets or image manipulation. It’s also equipped with audio tech from Bang and Olufsen, along with HP’s own Audio Boost technology, meaning that the sound is as clear as a bell.

The trackpad feels a little flimsy but the backlit keyboard is solid and feels nice to use. The integrated USB Type-A ports are a bit tricky to use due to their snap-open design, but it’s a welcome sight to see regular USB compatibility on an ultralight laptop. The 1080p screen is clear and high-quality, with a little ridge at the base that pushes the lower half of the laptop up at a slight angle when opened on a flat surface, to make typing that little bit easier.

apple macbook pro grayT3 Award

20. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (intel)

A fantastic MacBook Pro, and the best laptop choice for many macOS users

CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 – 655
Screen: 13.3-inch, (2,560 x 1,600) IPS
Storage: 128GB – 512GB
Reasons to buy
+Super fast+Touch Bar is genuinely useful+Incredibly desirable
Reasons to avoid
-Loud fans-Not as fast as the M1 models

The new M1 Macs haven't made Intel MacBook Pros obsolete, and the Intel-powered 13-inch model is still a good choice for power users: the 10th-generation quad-core Core i5 is a speedy processor and you can configure your Mac with an even more powerful Core i7. You can also spec up to 32GB of RAM and a 4TB SSD, and while that takes the price up considerably that's not going to be an issue for the kind of users who need such a high-performing laptop. There are also four Thunderbolt 3 ports for easier expansion: the M1 MacBook Pro only has two ports.

You can add to those specs the gorgeous 13.3-inch 2,560 x 1,600 resolution Retina LED IPS display, and the Touch Bar: after a slow start it's now a genuinely useful part of the MacBook keyboard. Find out more in our Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review.

lenovo yoga c640 blackT3 Award

(Image credit: Lenovo)

21. Lenovo Yoga C640

Just about everything you could want from a laptop

CPU: 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10510U
Graphics: Intel UHD
Screen: 13.3-inch (1920 x 1080)
Storage: 512GB
Reasons to buy
+Versatile form factor+Up-to-date components+Minimal, subtle design
Reasons to avoid
-Not suited for gaming or video editing

Buying a laptop with a 2-in-1 form factor means you can turn the screen over and use it as a tablet, and prop it up in tent mode – perfect for enjoying movies on a screen bigger than the one on your mobile phone while you're away from home. The design of the Lenovo Yoga C640 is just part of the appeal though.

The Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage are going to be perfect for just about every day-to-day task you'll need your laptop for – though heavy gaming and video editing are out of the equation with the integrated Intel graphics. This is a laptop that will nip along at top speed.

The 13.3-inch display is bright and sharp, but no so big that it's going to be a struggle to lug the laptop around with you. The classic refined Lenovo style is in evidence here as well, and we think this is going to be the best laptop for a lot of people.

dell g5 15 blackT3 Award

(Image credit: Dell)

22. Dell G5 15 (2020)

A compact gaming powerhouse

CPU: Up to 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10750H
Screen: 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080 pixels)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
Storage: 512GB
Reasons to buy
+Compact design+Fast 144Hz screen+Decent graphics card
Reasons to avoid
-Plain looking for some gamers

If you like subtlety and refinement in your gaming laptops, then the Dell G5 15 could be just what you're looking for. It combines plenty of performance (across multiple configurations) with a tidy-looking chassis, a chassis that has one of the coolest lighting effects we've seen set.

The 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display panel can up the refresh rate to an impressive 144Hz, and your games are sure to look fantastic on this screen. Some top-tier graphics and processor components are available too, so you shouldn't be troubled by any lag or stutter no matter what titles you're playing.

Even with some of the best laptop components packed inside, the Dell G5 15 is still relatively compact. Taking into consideration everything Dell has done here on both the inside and the outside of the laptop, it's absolutely worth a pick as one of our best laptops of 2021.

asus zenbook pro 14 blackT3 Award

(Image credit: Asus)

23. Asus ZenBook Pro 14 UX480

Good specs and a tasteful design make this strong all-round laptop

CPU: Intel Core i7-10510U
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX250
Screen: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution
Storage: 512GB
Reasons to buy
+High-end specs+Attractive design+Bright, vibrant touchscreen
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life is average-Gamers will want more power-ScreenPad can be a distraction

As we note in our official Asus ZenBook Pro 14 review, this "is a laptop that scores highly in a lot of departments. It looks really nice, it has plenty of power under the hood, and the price you're going to pay represents decent value for what you get in return." And, really, that sums it up. Well, that is apart from this system's unique feature: its ScreenPad. The ScreenPad is a large touchpad that can also operate as a second screen, with Windows extendable and certain apps like Microsoft Office and Spotify granting you extra information or controls. It feels indebted to Apple's TouchBar.

Specs-wise the Pro 14 really is a rock-solid all-rounder, coming with an 8th-gen quad-core Intel Core i7-8565U processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage, as well as an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Max-Q chipset with 2GB of video RAM. In short, it is a powerful machine that will handle most computing tasks with ease.

dell xps 15 2-in-1 grayT3 Award

(Image credit: Dell)

24. Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

A thin and powerful hybrid laptop with genuine gaming credentials

CPU: 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G Processor (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.1 GHz)
Graphics: Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics, Intel HD Graphics 630
RAM: 6GB DDR4 (2,400MHz)
Screen: 15.6-inch, 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge anti-reflective touch display
Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+AMD Radeon RX Vega M+Luxe aluminium design+Innovative maglev keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Under full load it runs hot and loud-Top spec is rather expensive

As we note in our full Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review, "the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is one of the most complete hybrids ever made, scoring big across the board and leaving no obvious weak point for rivals – and critics – to launch a major counter-attack. A premium all-rounder 2-in-1 that should appeal to creative tech enthusiasts looking to both work and play hard."

A shoo-in on our best laptops 2021 list if ever we saw one, then, and a machine that should be at least considered by anyone who is looking for a premium upgrade right now. Yes, the Surface Book 2 does have a little bit more power-wise, and obviously has the ability to eject its screen, too, but the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is almost half the price.

alienware m15 grayT3 Award

(Image credit: Dell)

25. Alienware M15

A superb gaming system with all the trimmings

CPU: Up to 10th-gen Intel Core i9-10980HK
Graphics: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super
RAM: Up to 32GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, up to 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution
Storage: Up to 512GB
Reasons to buy
+Packed with power+Modern styling+Latest Intel processors
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life

An absolute powerhouse of a gaming laptop from Alienware, now owned by Dell, the M15 is well worth a look for anyone who wants to play top-tier games at top-tier frame rates in a portable computer that can still be moved from place to place (albeit with some effort), and still run off a battery (albeit not for very long).

Pick the Alienware M15 as the best laptop of 2021 for you, and you get a choice of 10th-gen Intel Core i7 and i9 processors, up to 32GB of RAM and 4TB of storage, and the option of several fantastic graphics cards – all the way up to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 for a stupendous level of performance. This'll run games without breaking a sweat and it'll carry on doing it for years to come.

It's all topped off with a bright, sharp 15.6-inch screen with the option of a 4K resolution if you really want to allow your games to shine. As you would expect, the Alienware M15 will have no problem with any other tasks either, from video editing to running dozens of programs at the same time.

google pixelbook go blackT3 Award

The Pixelbook Go is another excellent Chromebook from Google.

(Image credit: Google)

26. Google Pixelbook Go

One of the best laptops around for Chrome OS fans

CPU: Intel Core m3, i5, i7
Graphics: Integrated graphics
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3-inch up to 4K resolution
Storage: 64GB, 128GB or 256GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight and fast+Stylish and sensible design+Chrome OS rapidly improving
Reasons to avoid
-16:9 display feels squashed-No integrated stylus

When it comes to Chromebooks and Chrome OS, you've got a huge number of models to choose from – and the Pixelbook Go from Google is one of the best Chromebooks around right now. It's stylish, it's lightweight, and you can customize the specs of the device to meet your exact requirements as well. Every Pixelbook Go comes with a 13.3-inch screen: it runs at a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution on the cheaper models but does go up to 4K if you're willing to pay for it. The other internal components can be specced out as required, so it's really up to you how much you spend. 

We like the black and pink color options, we like the grippy rubber on the bottom to keep the laptop in place, and we like the smooth and subtle lines of the design as well. You're not going to be embarrassed to pull this Chromebook out at a coffee shop or your next meeting at work. And as for Chrome OS, it continues to get better and better. It doesn't slow down, it's easy to use, and the addition of Android apps means that it's now more versatile than ever before. Head to our Google Pixelbook Go review for an in-depth look at this machine.

acer predator helios 300 blackT3 Award

The Acer Predator can really deliver on gaming and normal laptop usage tasks.

(Image credit: Acer)

27. Acer Predator Helios 300

Impressive performance and specs at an affordable price point

CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H (hexa core 2.2GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 + Intel UHD Graphics 630
Screen: 15.6-inch, Full HD
Storage: 256GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Impressive set of specs+Competitively priced+Decent gaming chops
Reasons to avoid
-Can get warm 

Another top-notch gaming laptop from Acer, the Predator Helios 300 is big, fast, and stylish: you can absolutely tell that it's a gaming laptop from the first glance, but the design finds a nice balance between boring and over-the-top, and the laptop can fit into just about any setup you've got at home.

The generous 15.6-inch display comes with a 144Hz refresh rate to keep your games looking as smooth as possible, and under the hood, you've got plenty of power to keep those frame rates up. Check the online deals for details of the individual configurations that are available, but some seriously decent components are available.

We also like how many ports you get here, covering multiple USB and video out options, which is one reason to go for a gaming laptop as your best laptop pick rather than one of the ultraportable or super-compact laptops in this list – they tend to cut down on ports in the interest of space.

razer blade 15 advanced blackT3 Award

(Image credit: Razer)

28. Razer Blade 15 Advanced

A hyper-premium, do-anything laptop that should appeal to the enthusiast

CPU: up to 9th-gen Intel Core i7
Graphics: up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD
Storage: 512GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Oozes style+Capable of running anything+Screen looks fantastic
Reasons to avoid
-Gets hot spots while gaming

Laptops are usually labeled as gaming laptops when they come packed with high-end components and some nice visual flair – but of course, you don't have to be a gamer to appreciate those attributes in a laptop. The Razer Blade 15 Advanced is a case in point, and shows Razer is getting better and better at building incredibly premium laptops. The chassis holding the 15.6-inch display is simply beautifully put together, the internal components are hyper premium, and the lighting system around the keys is really well done too. Whether you're gaming or working on some spreadsheets, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced really impresses.

lenovo thinkpad t490 blackT3 Award

For business-focused users who aren't too concerned about jazzy looks, it's hard to do better than this. 

(Image credit: Lenovo)

29. Lenovo ThinkPad T490

The best laptop for business-focused users

CPU: Intel Core i5-8265U (starting at 1.60GHz)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
Screen: 14.0"FHD IPS LED, Full HD
Storage: 256GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Tried-and-tested design+Excellent keyboard and trackpad+Competitive price point
Reasons to avoid
-No jazzy looks

While it has become the norm that companies issue employees with laptops, there are some cases where this isn't true. Lenovo, having adopted the iconic ThinkPad brand, is here for those exact customers. The design is nothing too fancy, but don't let that fool you: beneath the surface is a capable laptop at an excellent price point. This is one of the best laptops for business-focused users who aren't too concerned about jazzy looks. The base model, which retails for just over a grand, comes stocked with an Intel i5 CPU at 1.60GHz and beyond, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, double what many manufacturers offer as standard. For those willing to splash out, Lenovo offers an i7 alongside double the RAM and storage for as little as $1,270.

Laptop buying advice: how to choose the best laptop for you

Surface Book 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The laptop market continues to evolve, with new components and price pressure from low-end Chromebooks meaning you can now get more bang for your buck than ever before: it really is a great time to be choosing a laptop.

Picking the best laptop for 2021 for you is all about compromise, though – if you want something as powerful as possible, then it's going to be bigger and less easy to lug around on your travels. If you want something slim and ultra-light, then you simply can't pack in as many components.

Another important consideration is which operating system you're going to go with: you may already have a favorite, but Windows is best for gaming, macOS is great for creatives, and Chrome OS is brilliant as a lightweight computing platform. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of each before committing.

Make sure you've weighed up exactly what you need to do with your laptop and the features that it needs to have before parting with any cash – otherwise you could be looking for an upgrade sooner rather than later.

Of course, price is going to play a big part in your decision-making as well, and with that in mind, we've included links to all the latest and greatest deals on the web for easy reference. Keep checking back here often as we update our guide with newer models.

Which brand is best for laptops?

While we've ranked Apple as the best in the biz, there's a good amount of great laptop brands out there. Each tends to deliver quality machines all-around, but their purpose may be better suited to specific niches' depending on what you're after.

Are you a creative type that likes to draw, edit photos or even create them in Photoshop? Apple MacBooks may be a good choice for you. Are you a gamer looking to get a solid mobile machine? Options from brands like Alienware, Razer and ASUS may be what you're looking for.

Check out our reviews for more details into just what each laptop is best at!

Types of laptops explained

General-purpose laptops: These laptops come in a variety of types, from the best cheap laptops to serious, silicon-stuffed systems that deliver massive power and performance. These sorts of systems work well if you're just looking for a solid all-round system that is geared mostly toward work and productivity.

Gaming laptops: The best gaming laptops are ideal for serious gamers, as they come with dedicated graphics cards. These dedicated GPUs mean that you can play video games at higher resolutions and higher framerates, as well as enjoy advanced graphical effects like real-time ray tracing. They tend to have a higher entry price than general-purpose laptops.

Ultraportable laptops: Ultrabooks and the best lightweight laptops are specialists at portability, and often come with thinner and lighter designs than general-purpose or gaming laptops. These systems are a good choice for working professionals who need to carry their laptop around with them and travel frequently. Specs vary, but due to the lithe designs these laptops tend to retail for more than general-purpose laptops.

Hybrid laptops: The best 2-in-1 laptops on the market offer two-fold functionality, capable of being used both as a laptop and a tablet. This obviously makes them very versatile and can also be a great way to save money, as you can buy one product instead of two. Some 2-in-1 laptops have fixed screens that can be rotated all the way around on 360-degree hinges, while others have screens that actually detach from their keyboard base.

Chromebooks: If you find yourself shopping on a budget for a new system then scoping out the best Chromebooks is a smart call. That's because these systems are cheap to buy and typically highly portable. Where they differ to other laptops is that they run Google's Chrome OS, which is designed primarily for use while connected to the internet. Chrome OS isn't as feature-packed as Windows or macOS, but it is streamlined and offers excellent access to all of Google's G-Suite apps such as Gmail, Gdocs and Google Calendar.

Student laptops: As you would expect, the best student laptops tend to ring in cheaper than other specialist laptops, and there is often crossover to Chromebooks due to this. Student laptops tend to offer small to medium-sized laptop screens and mid-tier specifications, although more premium recommendations can stretch into Apple MacBook Air territory. These laptops aren't the most powerful on the market, but they're designed to do the basics well and not cost too much, while also remaining portable.