Looking for the best best laptop around? We're here to help. This no-nonsense, jargon-free guide walks you through the top options on the market, whatever your budget or needs. Whether you're looking for the best Windows 10 laptop, a top-rated system running macOS Big Sur or ChromeOS, an everyday workhorse or pro-level performer, you'll find a top-quality notebook to suit you here.
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 laptop, 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. That's why this guide is so wide-ranging: there'll be an option for everyone here.
This guide is an excellent resource if you're just getting started on your hunt for the best laptop. If you already have a good idea of what you're looking for, you might want to head to one of our more specific guides: if price is paramount try the best budget laptops, for gamers there's the best gaming laptops, or if you're a fan of Chrome OS, you may want to check out the very best Chromebooks, for example.
If you are looking for the overall crème de la crème, though, then this best laptops guide presents our absolute top picks of all the systems on the market today.
The best laptops 2021
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 is top-notch too – the keyboard and trackpad are excellent, it's a great size and weight to be portable, and the all-aluminium 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 customise 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.
The Asus VivoBook S15 was a joy to review, which is usually a good sign when it comes to recommending one of the best laptops money can buy. 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.
The Dell XPS 13 series has consistently wowed us here at T3, and the latest version of the laptop continues that trend – it's powerful, supremely well built, and compact, so 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).
Should I buy the Dell XPS 13 laptop? T3's product guide has the answers.
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.
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 – the asking price depends on the configuration you go for, but you can usually get this laptop for well under £500 (check the widgets on this page for the latest pricing).
Not everyone wants 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.
As we've mentioned, 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. The dedicated battery saving mode comes in handy too.
Dell XPS 13 vs Lenovo IdeaPad 3: two top laptops go head to head
Dell arguably make 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, the maker's Dell XPS 17 is a system that simply has to be checked out.
This is because at maximum spec it 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 a Anti-Reflective coating on, too.
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.
It's also a system to check out as its hardware spec, when kitted out to maximum, is also incredibly powerful, with buckets of performance on tap no matter what application or game you are running.
An Nvidia GeForce RTX2060 6GB ensures that modern AAA games are crushed, while a titanic 64GB of RAM in partnership with an Intel Core i9 means even 8K video editing is handled with ease. Photoshop editing? Forget about it, you can edit huge TIF files side-by-side without the Dell XPS 17 breaking sweat.
Then 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.
The latest version of the LG Gram 17 is an impressive laptop on many levels, not least with that gorgeous 17-inch, 2560 x 1600 pixel screen. You also 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.
Despite that large screen (well, large for a laptop anyway), this is an incredible light and thin portable computer. 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.
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.
With the Razer 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 a 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.
The Lenovo Yoga 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 prioritise 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 even got options when it comes to the design – a fabric-covered model is available to go alongside with the standard aluminium, for example, and you can pick from slate grey and a more striking orchid as the basic colours. 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 Yoga Slim 7 looks a great all-round package. Whatever you're looking for in a laptop, it's worth giving this one some serious consideration.
The Galaxy Book S from Samsung is a fantastic laptop 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 – 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 – or a more traditional Intel processor. 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 optimised 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.
There's a lot of competition in the laptop market if you're wanting to spend more than £500 but a little less than £1,000, and several configurations of the Acer Swift 3 fit into that price bracket. This 14-inch compact star really shines in terms of its design and lightness, following on from a strong tradition of Swifts.
The internal specs mean the Acer Swift 3 can cope with just about anything you want to do with your portable computer, besides the more demanding games and video renderings. During testing 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, so you can tailor it to suit your budget.
The Huawei MateBook X Pro is a bit of a stunner, what with its 13.9-inch screen, its ultra-thin bezels, and that new Emerald Green colour option that we have to admit we're huge fans of. If you're looking for a compact but powerful Windows laptop, then you can't go far wrong with this one.
The internal specs hold up very well too – you get a 10th-gen quad-core Intel Core i7-10510U processor (an i5 model is also available), 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of SSD storage space. If you don't want to settle for integrated graphics then you can get the entry level Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU installed instead.
All of which means the laptop will be very comfortable handling web browsing, image editing and document editing, and will even handle some light video editing and 2D gaming as well. We thought the 2019 edition of the Huawei MateBook X Pro was good, but the 2020 version has bettered it.
Microsoft's Surface Book 3 is actually a 2-in-1 laptop, with a screen that can be detached and used as a tablet, but don't let that fool you – this is a beast of a laptop full stop and a worthy top entry in our best laptop buying guide, giving you the best of both worlds (laptop and tablet).
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, though 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.
Before the M1 Macs came along, the 16-inch MacBook Pro was the best Apple laptop you could buy. 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 of exclusive, quality apps, and that it is supported by Apple's first-rate support network for if anything goes wrong, really does add a layer of sheen that many competing Windows 10 machines do not.
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 usage 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.
As we noted in our Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 review, and then restated in our guide to the best gaming laptops on the market today, this gaming laptop is the absolute 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 dialling things up to 11. That means that the system comes rocking 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. Equally, 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.
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, utilising an extra 2GB of dedicated video memory. It doesn’t lose out in the pricing stakes, either, costing only a little over a thousand pounds for excellent performance.
With some decent security features such as 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.
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 tenth-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.
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 to, 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.
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 - it's ScreenPad. The SceenPad 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.
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 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.
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. It's stylish, it's lightweight, and you can customise 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 colour 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.
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.
Finding the middle ground between affordability and knockout performance is perhaps the biggest challenge facing a new laptop buyer. It's a sweetspot most manufacturers miss, but with the Predator Helios 300, Acer has certainly found it with a Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and a meaty Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU pairing.
This powerful laptop sports a Full HD 17.6-inch display (perfect for giving your favourite Steam games a good showing when on the move) complete with a 144Hz refresh rate and 16GB of in-built RAM to keep you fully stocked with content. As a sub-£1,000 machine, it's got some serious chops.
Laptops are usually labelled 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.
While it has become the norm that companies issue employees with laptops, there are some cases where this isn't true and 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.
The base model, which retails for around £1,069, 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 £1,429.99.
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, then we recommend the 13 over it.
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 will crush any application you through at in. 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 the three grand mark 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.
How to choose the best laptop for you
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 favourite, 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.