With Windows 11 officially here (review), you might think every single new laptop is now shipping with Windows 10, but we’re actually seeing many laptop vendors still offering both operating systems with the newest models typically shipping with Windows 11. Some, however, still ship with Windows 10 but obviously include the option to upgrade them. Before you make the move though, you’ll want to read this. 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.
Our top picks from currently available laptops are below, after the latest laptop news you need to know about:
Latest laptop news and reviews
- You probably heard about Windows 11 SE and may even be thinking about buying a laptop with Microsoft’s new lightweight OS. Unfortunately, right now, Windows 11 SE is mostly aimed at schools.
- If you’re looking for a Microsoft Surface on a budget, you’ll want to read our review of Microsoft’s newest Surface Go 3.
- We also recommend that you read our review of LG’s Gram 17 because it’s a class of laptop few understand. Most see a 17-inch screen and think powerful and heavy. LG’s take, however, is light and more mainstream.
- Finally, with the proliferation of laptop screens using different aspect ratios, it’s time to stop believing that a 17.3-inch laptop screen is “larger” than a 17-inch screen. Sound crazy? Read our take on why the old-fashion diagonal measurement has to go.]
- Apple’s long awaited MacBook Pro 14 and MacBook Pro 16 have finally arrived and they’re great laptops for professionals who need more performance and run MacOS. We still think that most Mac users are better served by the MacBook Pro M1, but if you’re curious about the higher-performance models, you can read our sister site’s review of the MacBook Pro 14.
Updated 11/19/21 to anoint a new pick for best 17-inch workhorse. Scroll down to read why the Dell XPS 17 9710 stands above the pack.
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 2-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 2-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 full review.
[ $1,590 on HP.com ]
Now that Apple’s M1 chip has raised the bar for lightweight laptop performance, there’s a question every ultraportable PC maker must address: Why would someone buy this instead of a MacBook Air?
Well, here’s an answer for the new Acer Swift 5: It’s fast enough to play Fortnite and a bunch of other games that are absent from Apple’s platform, but it weighs only 2.3 pounds and gets stellar battery life for work or web browsing. It also has a touchscreen and a bunch of useful ports, including HDMI out and USB-A, none of which you’ll find on Apple’s thin-and-light (ahem). Read our full review.
[Currently about $1,300 on Amazon.com, but prices fluctuate frequently.]
Best laptop under $500
If this particular model of the Acer Aspire 5 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 3-powered Aspire 5 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 5 models that don’t cost much more. Read our full review.
[Currently $410 on Amazon, but prices fluctuate frequently.]
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 full review.
[$1,149 at Amazon.com]
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.
[$2,800 at Dell.com]
Best convertible laptop
Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 is mostly an evolutionary update to the XPS 13 7390 2-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 2-in-1 special. Read our full review.
[$1,714 as tested; available on Dell.com]
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 full review.
[$1,199 on Amazon]
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.
[$1,650 MRSP as reviewed on Microsoft.com]
Best gaming laptop overall
It’s all-AMD, and that’s a very good thing. 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 full review.
[$1,650 as tested at Best Buy]
Best budget gaming laptop
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 model 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 5 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.
[$670 as tested via Bestbuy.com]
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.
[$1,500 as reviewed on Bestbuy.com]
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.
[$1,790 on Amazon.com]
Best overall 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 model. If you’re committed to the Chromebook universe, this is a laptop worth buying.
[$649 MSRP; available via Google]
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 3:2 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.
[$360 MSRP; available on Adorama]
The MacBook Air with the new M1 processor so absolutely and thoroughly trounces the Intel version released earlier this year (with Intel’s “Ice Lake” Y-series CPU/GPU) that it defies belief.
Unfortunately, Apple changed practically nothing else about the MacBook Air. This new model is exclusively a processor swap. But what a processor! You can read the full review of the MacBook Air M1 at our sister site, Macworld.
[$999.99 MSRP as reviewed by Macworld.]
One of founding fathers of hardcore tech reporting, Gordon has been covering PCs and components since 1998.