Best laptop 2021: top picks for every user and every budget

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Welcome to our pick of the best laptops 2021 has to offer. Throughout this year, we’ve seen some brilliant new laptops from brands such as Apple, Dell and HP, and on this page, we’ve gathered together the absolute cream of the crop.

You won’t just find the most powerful (and expensive) laptops in this list, either. We’ve also got amazing budget laptops, top Chromebooks and brilliant gaming laptops as well, covering all kinds of budgets.

In our view, the best laptop overall remains the MacBook Air (M1, 2020). This is a powerful and stylish thin and light laptop from Apple, and it offers great value for money as well.

However, if you want a more affordable device, then the Acer Swift tiga is our choice for the best budget laptop you can buy right now, offering a perfect balance of affordability and performance. If that doesn’t take your fancy then we have a rundown of the best cheap laptop deals to help you pick a device that won’t hurt your wallet.

All the laptops in this list have been thoroughly reviewed by us, and only the best are included here. Along with our built-in price comparison tool, you can buy in confidence knowing you’ve got the best deal for the best laptop for you. 

In addition, you might also want to check out the best 15-inch laptop. How to pick the best laptop for you

So, what makes a laptop worth buying? First, it needs to offer excellent value for money. That means budget laptops below the $400/£400 price point need to still offer good performance and build quality.

Meanwhile, ultra-expensive devices need to justify their high price tags with best-in-class performance, premium build quality and lengthy battery lives.

If you want something to work on, a laptop with a terkini processor, at least 8GB of RAM and a large screen (and comfortable keyboard) are worth considering.

For gaming, you’ll want a gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card and fast and responsive screen.

Check out our guide on what you should look for when buying a new laptop at the end of this page for more in-depth advice on buying a laptop. Best laptops 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

(Image credit: Apple)

(Image credit: Apple)

The best laptop of 2021Specifications

Graphics: Integrated 7-core /8-core GPU

Screen: 13.tiga-inch (diagonal) dua,560 x 1,600 LED-backlit display with IPS technology

Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.61cm; W x D x H)Reasons to buy

+Silent to use+Amazing battery lifeReasons to avoid

-No new design-Fanless design could impact performance

The new Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) isn’t just the best laptop Apple has ever made, it’s the best laptop money can buy right now. This is the first time a MacBook has topped our list, but the MacBook Air is worthy of this spot. Thanks to the revolutionary ARM-based Apple M1 chip that powers the new MacBook Air (Apple has ditched Intel for these new laptops), this is a stunning achievement: a thin and light laptop that offers great performance, even with 4K video editing, while also offering incredible battery life.

Design: On the outside it’s the classic MacBook Air design, sleek and handsome with few changes from previous models. You could actually argue that this design looks a bit dated at this point, with thicker bezels than PC rivals such as the Dell XPS 13. But it still looks good, and on the inside it’s revolutionary.

Performance: The new MacBook Air is seriously fast. In our extensive tests it booted up extremely quickly and in use feels as fast and responsive as any other laptop out there. The keyboard feels wonderful and the laptop runs silent even when under load.

Battery life: Apple’s M1 chip is more power efficient than Intel equivalents which means battery life is best-ever for a MacBook Air. Apple claims up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing, and though in our tests it scored a bit below that at 11 hours 1 minute, that still puts it up there with the best in group.

Screen: The 13.3-inch Retina True Tone display has a super sharp resolution of dua,560 x 1,600 and is very similar to previous MacBook Air models, with one exciting new feature. Support for the P3 wide color gamut means it can display more color accurate true to life images, making it even more great for photographers and video editors.

Verdict: The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is easily the most exciting Apple laptop of recent years. Its M1 chip is a real game-changer, and the ability to run both legacy apps, M1-optimized apps and iOS apps is very impressive. Right now, we’d recommend this over any other laptop.

Read the full review: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

(Image credit: Microsoft)

(Image credit: Microsoft)

(Image credit: Microsoft)

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The best Windows laptopSpecifications

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 /AMD Ryzen 5 – 7

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe / AMD Radeon

Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense (dua,256 x 1,504) touch

Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSDReasons to buy

+Comfortable keyboard+Beautiful screenReasons to avoid

-Not enough ports-Alcantara fabric might get gross over time

While Apple blew us away with the new MacBook Air (above), arch rival Microsoft has also impressed us with its new Surface Laptop 4, and for us right now it’s the best Windows laptop you can buy. As with previous Surface devices, build quality and design is absolutely top-notch here, and its gorgeous PixelSense touchscreen really sets it apart from the competition.

Design: The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 4 is absolutely gorgeous, thin and super lightweight with a sleek aluminum skin. There are four color options available too, and we have a special place in our hearts for the keyboard on this laptop. It’s so comfortable and wonderful to use, we think you’ll love it.

Performance: Available in many configurations, this laptop is a top performer. Seemingly nothing can slow it down in normal use, even if you’re the type of person that ends up with 100 Chrome tabs open before lunchtime.

Battery life: We managed to get 13 hours out of the Surface 4 laptop, a full two hours more than the MacBook Air (above) and the Dell XPS 13 (below). That puts it right at the very top of the class.

Screen: The 13-inch Surface Pro 4’s PixelSense display has a resolution of 1,256 x 1,504 which means it’s super sharp and it’s also a touchscreen. That will make it perfect if you want to run Android apps inside Windows 11, for example. We really wish Apple would add a touchscreen to the MacBook Air.

Verdict: With probably the best keyboard of any laptop out there, amazingly thin good looks and incredible performance and battery life, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is the best PC laptop money can buy.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 review

(Image credit: Apple)

(Image credit: Apple)

(Image credit: Apple)

The best laptop in 2021 for productivitySpecifications

CPU: Apple M1 Pro 8-core – M1 Max 10-core

Graphics: Integrated 14-core – 32-core GPU

Screen: 14-inch Liquid Retina XDR display

Storage: Up to 8TBReasons to buy

+ Brilliant performance+ Best screen on a laptopReasons to avoid

-14-inch screen may be a bit small

The brand-new MacBook Pro 14-inch is easily the best productivity laptop you can buy in 2021. For creative professionals such as photographers, video editors and music producers, the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is a dream to use, thanks to a choice between powerful new M1 Pro or M1 Max chips that can handle even the most intensive workloads with ease.

Design: The MacBook Pro has had a major much-needed redesign, now starting with a 14.2-inch screen, and also available as a 16-inch. Slimmer bezels give a more terkini look, it’s remarkably slim and light given the size of the screen and power inside.

Performance: Available with the new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors, whichever one you choose is blisteringly fast with equally impressive graphical performance. It’s the most powerful MacBook Pro ever.

Battery life: In our tests, the MacBook Pro lasted an incredible 15 hours while playing video with 50% screen brightness. That’s guaranteed all-day battery life right there. What’s more, the battery can also be charged from flat to 50% in just 30 minutes.

Screen: The MacBook Pro’s Liquid Retina XDR display with mini-LED technology is absolutely stunning, and for our money the best screen you can get on a laptop right now. A 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, P3 wide color gamut support and 120Hz refresh rate just three of the most impressive features.

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