(Pocket-lint) - If you're looking for a new laptop, you've come to the right place.
Whether you're searching for a portable device that you can take between home and the office, or perhaps one that can be shared across multiple users in the family, we've tested all the top options for this guide.
Below, we've remained platform-agnostic, covering all systems that qualify, and every device on our list has been rigorously reviewed in order to check that it lives up not only to its manufacturer's claims - but also our own expectations.
We've also got a separate guide to the best Chromebooks, as well as the best gaming laptops and top 2-in-1 choices, too. For all the top choices for every type of user, though, dive into the picks below.
What is the best laptop?
- Apple MacBook Air (2020)
- Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
- Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)
- Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
- Lenovo Yoga Slim 7
Our Top Pick: Best Laptop
Apple MacBook Air
- Beautiful design
- M1 processor delivers outstanding performance
- Not as powerful as newer MacBook Pro models
With the addition of a True Tone display, a lower entry-level starting price and the M1 processor, the MacBook Air (2020) should be the go-to pick for those who want the best value-for-money Apple laptop.
The latest MacBook Air delivers a lot of what people have been waiting for – more resolution, thinner bezel, a smaller footprint – in a long-lasting and largely great package. For more power you could opt for the newer MacBook Pro, but the pricing is far more aggressive than this sleek laptop.
While this is our current top overall recommendation, though - largely because we believe it offers the best blend of features at a very good price - it may not be the best pick for professionals who rely on plenty of power-sapping apps. For that, we have other recommendations.
Laptops we also recommend
The Apple MacBook Air (2020) is currently our favourite laptop to recommend - and we believe it should be on the consideration list for most people hunting down a laptop. It's not necessarily the right pick for everyone, though, which is why we'd also suggest checking out the following four devices.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
- Clean design
- Excellent keyboard
- Good speakers
- Screen can disappoint
The Surface Laptop 4 is an absolute powerhouse that's gorgeous to look at, well built, silent in operation and a decent battery life, to boot.
Microsoft has been refining its design each time, and this is a real joy to use, with an excellent touchpad and a great keyboard. With excellent speakers as well, it's a good option for multimedia, too.
The display isn't best in class, but it's still a great alternative to Apple's MacBook Air line, for those who prefer to use Windows and need an all-rounder that can incorporate tons of different workflows.
Apple MacBook Pro (2021)
- Unreal processing power
- Plenty of ports
- Beautiful display
- Can get very expensive
- Chunky design may not be for everyone
The MacBook Pro got a full redesign in late 2021, with a minimal-bezel display (featuring a notch akin to the iPhone), the return of many lost ports (like the SD card reader and HDMI slot) and a huge amount of power.
It's an absolute beast of a laptop, thanks to Apple's own M1 Pro or M1 Max chips, which pretty much corrects all the things we quibbled about in previous reviews. Chief among those fixes was Apple's decision to ditch the Touch Bar and return to physical function keys.
It's certainly not designed for the casual laptop user - if the price wasn't already an indicator - and is instead better suited to heavy-use professional platforms, or for those who plan to use their laptop day-in and day-out for the next few years, at least.
If that sounds like you, you're getting one of the best laptops ever made, in our view, and one that gives you the option to extend its power even further.
Lenovo Yoga Slim 7
- Great build quality
- Impressive battery life
- Really good value
- Weak webcam
Lenovo might not have made the most glamourous-looking laptop here, and the company doesn't have the same natural pull as Apple or Microsoft, but the Yoga Slim 7 simply ticks too many boxes for that to matter.
It's got a really great price tag, offers impressive power and provides outstanding battery life - all while being super portable and well-made, with a very solid screen, as well. This is a laptop that feels reliable in all the best ways.
Like with most laptops, it definitely suffers from a sub-optimal built-in webcam, but this is one of the very few issues we encountered during testing. It offers arguably better value than the entry-level MacBook Air, too, and we think it's a great alternative option.
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
- 2-in-1 convenience
- Superbly bright screen
- Great build
- Middling keyboard
If you want a laptop that's also adaptable and can be used like a tablet, then this XPS model from Dell is about as good as they get.
It's got a superb screen with amazing brightness, really high build quality and is very portable, but can also rotate its screen all the way around in order to become effectively a tablet. And, while there's no stylus support here, the novelty doesn't really wear off in-use - it's a great example of how 2-in-1 devices can excel.
The only real downside is that you'll have to pay a little over the odds for it, as with any burgeoning area of technology. If that doesn't bother you, though, and you don't think you'll mind the feel of the shallow keyboard, there's plenty to fall in love with here.
Other products we considered
When initially putting together this list of the best laptops on the market, we spent hours testing and researching. We always consider a number of factors when it comes to recommending laptops - and apply the same criteria when a new device is being considered for inclusion. It's not all judged on our testing, either - we also try to factor in consumer reviews, brand quality and value.
In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.
How to choose a laptop
Choosing a laptop isn't that simple a process, but, with the help of these questions, you can hopefully try to narrow down your options.
What screen size is right for you?
Perhaps the biggest variable between different models of laptops, even from the same manufacturers, is how big they are. The size of a laptop's display tends to dictate the size of its body overall, so it's worth working out what size is going to be best for you.
13-inch models have become the standard size for many people, since they marry useability with real portability, but a bigger screen could be better if you're planning to use it for work - letting you multitask and have multiple windows open more easily.
What's the laptop for primarily?
Figuring out what you actually need a laptop for is essential - and also ties into figuring out what size laptop is best for you, as well as what other components you should prioritise. Are you looking for a laptop to take notes at college with? Or perhaps one to curl up in bed and watch TV and movies on? If you're looking to game on it, that'll change your needs as well.
This can help you narrow down whether you need a bigger display, more processing power or a graphics card in your laptop, or whether a simple and less powerful machine will do the job just as well.
What's your budget?
As important for a laptop as it is for any other tech purchase is knowing how much you want to spend - between upgradeable components and different versions, many popular laptops can easily become frighteningly expensive as you customise them, so it'll help in the long run if you have a clear idea of your budget ahead of time.
Do you need a 2-in-1?
While some people might say they're not laptops, a 2-in-1 device that lets you use it as a normal laptop or flip it up and use it like a tablet is becoming a more and more normal sight. We think these devices are really great, adaptable and interesting, but do keep in mind that the novelty may wear off for you after a few months.
So, before you get too tempted by a 2-in-1, think about whether you're actually liable to use it in its folded-up forms.
Have you used a Mac before?
Finally, there's still a big divide in the laptop market, between Apple and everyone else. If you're taken by the design of the MacBook line, it's worth heading into an Apple store or seeing if anyone you know has one you can try out, because the change from Windows to macOS (and vice versa) is one that can derail some people.
We think both operating systems are great, but, to some people, they're like water and oil, so it's worth test-driving either one if you're not familiar with it, as this could steer you in the right direction.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.
Laptops are key parts of our working routines, as is the case for so many people the world over, so we test them rigorously to make sure they hold up to constant use, and can bring enough power to bear to crunch through most common work tasks.
Of course, build quality and design are just as important as the specs under a laptop's hood, and we're also interested in how portable they are, and how easily they can connect to other devices like displays, cameras and accessories.
In all of our buyer's guides, including this one, we tend to skip over the spec comparisons and marketing spiel; we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use.
Our verdicts are concise, but this is in the interest of brevity - rest assured all the things on this list have been fully tested. You can also check out our reviews section for more in-depth coverage of all the top devices.