Best laptops 2021: Reviews and buying advice

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With Windows 11 officially here, you might think all the best laptops would now be shipping with it, but we’re actually seeing many notebook vendors still offering both operating systems. Yes, many come with Windows 11. Some, however, still ship with Windows 10, but obviously include the option to upgrade them (though you may not want to). If you’re simply cramming to prepare for deals, we also recommend that you read our guide on what CPUs and GPUs you want right now, or skip the homework and check out our guide to the best laptop deals available right now, from budget to extreme.

But if you don’t care about the juiciest deals and simply want the best, period, read on for our picks for the best laptops around: 

HP Spectre x360 14 1Q881AV – Best thin-and-light laptop

When we think about the best thin-and-light laptop, it’s always been a close contest between the Dell XPS dua-in-1 and the HP Spectre x360. This time around, we’re giving the luxurious HP Spectre x360 14 some time in the sun, with a nod to the Dell XPS 13 dua-in-1 9310 that preceded it as our top pick.

The Spectre x360 14, now sporting the same Intel 11th-gen Tiger Lake CPU available in the Dell XPS line, trades blows with its eternal rival in test after test. It rises to the top because of a few key advantages: It offers longer battery life (thanks to a bigger battery), a far better keyboard, and little things like a USB-A port and a physical webam shutoff switch, all for a lower price. Well played.

Read our fullHP Spectre x360 14 1Q881AV review

Acer Aspire lima A515-43-R19L – Best laptop under $500

If this particular model of the Acer Aspire lima looks familiar, it’s probably because it’s been sitting atop Amazon’s laptop bestseller list for months. It’s easy to understand why. This AMD Ryzen tiga-powered Aspire lima packs some enticing features for the price, including a Full-HD 15.6-inch display, a slim-and-trim chassis, and solid performance on everyday computing tasks.

That said, a Windows 10 laptop this inexpensive has its compromises. In this case, we’re talking a scant 4GB of RAM and a cramped 128GB solid-state drive, while battery life falls significantly short compared to similar Aspire lima models that don’t cost much more. Read our full review.

Read our fullAcer Aspire lima A515-43-R19L review

HP Envy 14 14t-eb000 (2021) – Best 14-inch/15-inch workhorse

Laptops like the HP Envy 14 fall into the category of “content creation:”  notebook PCs with a modestly powerful discrete GPU that can play some games, edit video, or simply serve as a solid all-around PC. This 14-inch laptop satisfies all three.

In our tests, we found that while some laptops outperformed the Envy 14, many couldn’t do so for the price. Here, the Envy 14 offers top-notch battery life, support for powerful external Thunderbolt hardware, and a pleasing everyday typing experience.

Read our fullHP Envy 14 14t-eb000 (2021) review

Dell XPS 17 9710 – Best 17-inch workhorse

Dell’s updated XPS 17 packs a huge 17-inch screen, 11th gen Intel CPU and GeForce RTGX 3060 GPU. By packing as much screen real estate into such a compact laptop, the XPS 17 is the poster child for what a content creation workhorse laptop is.

Read our fullDell XPS 17 9710 review

Dell XPS 13 dua-in-1 9310 – Best convertible laptop

Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 is mostly an evolutionary update to the XPS 13 7390 dua-in-1 we reviewed last year, but with one key change. Thanks to Intel’s 11th gen Core i7-1165G7 chip, gaming is actually conceivable on this sub-three-pound laptop.

Most other things didn’t change, and we have our beefs about the design. But that game-ready performance boost alone makes the XPS 13 dua-in-1 special. Read our full review. 

Read our fullDell XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 review

Asus Zenbook Flip 13 – Best budget convertible laptop

The Asus ZenBook Flip 13 offers a lot for the money. It’s a beautiful laptop that offers decent battery life, very good graphics, and a lot of pep for most of what you’d do on a small 13-inch convertible laptop.

Some might fixate on its lack of a headphone jack, but that would be unfair to its impressive 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake Core i7-1165G7 chip and its drop-dead-gorgeous OLED screen.

Read our fullAsus Zenbook Flip 13 review

Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ – Best 2-in-1 / tablet / hybrid laptop

By naming this Windows tablet the Surface Pro 7+, Microsoft mistakenly implies that it’s some sort of minor upgrade from the Surface Pro 7. Nothing could be further from the truth: We rarely see such massive upgrades in CPU and GPU horsepower, as well as battery life. It also offers an LTE option and an absolutely dead-silent, fanless chassis.

A few decisions made us scratch our heads. Why do we have to choose between an integrated microSD slot or the LTE option? Thunderbolt still isn’t here, either. But even these flaws really can’t mar an exciting leap in performance. This is the best Surface Pro of several generations, and for the moment the best Windows tablet on the market, too.

Read our fullMicrosoft Surface Pro 7+ review

Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition – Best gaming laptop overall

If you’re on the hunt for an affordable yet stupidly fast laptop on a medium budget, just stop reading and buy the Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition right now because of its stunning price-to-performance ratio.

Read our fullAsus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition review

We’ve long been fans of Acer’s line of affordable Nitro 5 gaming laptops. This new entry in the series ups the ante with eye-popping CPU performance and great battery life. 

Note that it keeps the same GTX 1650 graphics card that we saw in a similar contoh last year, so don’t expect ray tracing or frame rates much higher than 60 fps or so. But with its revamped cooling system and Ryzen 4000-series CPU, the updated Nitro lima manages to squeeze every last ounce of performance from its limited GPU power, making it an enticing pick for gamers on a budget. Read our full review.

Read our fullAcer Nitro 5 AN515-44-R99Q review

Acer Predator Triton 300 SE – Best portable gaming laptop

An on-the-go gaming rig with ray-tracing chops that won’t break your budget or your back, the Acer Predator Triton 300 SE serves up an enticing mix of value and performance.

The Predator Triton 300 SE sports Intel’s cutting-edge Tiger Lake H35 “ultraportable gaming” CPU, along with GeForce RTX 3060 graphics and a slim 3.8-pound design. Crack open the lid, you’ll find a 14-inch, 144Hz Full HD display, three-zone RGB keyboard backlighting, and one-touch overclocking. Thunderbolt 4 and solid battery life make a good thing even better. Read our full review.

Read our fullAcer Predator Triton 300 SE review

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano 20UN000EUS – Best luxury laptop

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is just the kind of powerful, light, and long-lasting laptop you’ll want to take with you on post-pandemic business trips. It also performs right there in the ballpark with other 11th-gen Tiger Lake competitors, and at a hair under two pounds, it weighs less than almost all of them.

Equipped with an IR camera for facial recognition, a presence-detecting radar, a 2K display with Dolby Vision HDR, and a premium keyboard, the X1 Nano covers the most bases for corporate users, and we haven’t mentioned the superlative battery life yet. But with only two available ports (Thunderbolt 4, at least), you’ll need to invest in a USB-C hub to connect legacy accessories. Read our full review.

Read our fullLenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano 20UN000EUS review

Pixelbook Go – Best Chromebook

Google’s Pixelbook Go is a perfectly good Chromebook, and that’s exactly what the company set out to create. It offers a careful balance of quality features and economical compromises for a reasonable $649 starting price. And it’s a darn sight better than the typical bare-bones contoh. If you’re committed to the Chromebook universe, this is a laptop worth buying. 

Read our fullPixelbook Go review

HP Chromebook x360 12b-ca0010nr – Best budget Chromebook

The HP Chromebook x360 12b takes you a cut above the rock-bottom basic Chromebooks that hover around $250 (and continue to sell well). Get one of those for your kids—who cares if they destroy it? But you, the adult in the room, deserve this one, with its surprisingly good design and great battery life.

This is still a budget-grade Chromebook, so there are some compromises: Performance is mediocre, and the 3:dua display, while nice and tall, isn’t very bright. Still, we think HP made reasonable choices to provide a productive and enjoyable experience without breaking the bank. Read our full review.

Read our fullHP Chromebook x360 12b-ca0010nr review

MacBook Air (M1, 8‑core CPU, 7‑Core GPU, 256GB storage)

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