A reliable laptop is practically required in today’s world, whether you work at home, commute to an office, or look for a source of entertainment. However, the variety of notebook computers available can make it challenging to choose the best one for your needs.
We can help with that. To help you make an informed purchase, we put the newest laptops on the market from companies like Apple, Dell, and Samsung through rigorous testing. Here are some of the best laptops available, whether you need a new MacBook, a powerful gaming laptop, or something simple to check email.
Buying a laptop? Here’s what you need to know
There are many variables to consider when selecting a laptop, but the screen size should be your priority. Screen sizes on laptops typically range from 13 inches to 17 inches, with resolutions from 1080p to 4K (3840 by 2160). Touchscreens are becoming increasingly common on Windows computers.
We believe that a 13 to 15-inch laptop with a resolution of at least 1080p is the optimal size and price point for the vast majority of people since you will receive excellent clarity and a respectable amount of screen real estate on a device that is still very portable and affordable.
- Processor: Apple M1/M2, 12th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7, or AMD Ryzen 5 5000
- Display: 13″ to 15″ at 1920 x 1080 resolution
- RAM: 16GB
- Storage: 512GB or larger solid-state drive
- Ports: At least two USB-C ports
You can see more information in apps and movies with a higher screen resolution. You can obtain more display space for apps (if you’re willing to look at the tiny text), but this comes at the expense of a much greater price for the laptop.
If you do a lot of graphics work or use your laptop as your primary entertainment screen for movies and TV, a 4K display (or innovative screen technology alternatives like OLED, also accessible in really high screen resolutions) makes the most sense (while you’ll get the most advantage if you select a 15-inch or more prominent display). A small 13-inch notebook is perfect for working on the road. At the same time, a larger 17-inch machine will provide you with more screen space (and probably more performance) for operating at your desk.
Touch screens are an available extra on many Windows computers. Still, we recommend passing on them if you want to save money. A specialized tablet performs better at touch than a 2-in-1 laptop that serves as a tablet, and touch doesn’t offer much usefulness to a computer.
These days, a microSD card reader and a headphone connector are often the extents of a laptop’s external connections. Some of the heavier, business-class Windows notebooks from companies like Acer and Lenovo feature the ports necessary to connect to USB-A devices (of which you likely have many) and typical HDMI connections for external displays. In addition, you may purchase a USB-C hub to increase the number of devices you can connect to your Mac or Windows laptop.
There is a wide range of processor alternatives for Windows laptops; however, we find that the latest 11th Gen Intel Core i5 or the AMD Ryzen 5 5000 series provide good performance for general-purpose multitasking at a reasonable cost. And to support that processing power, go for at least 16GB of RAM to ensure all your apps are operating correctly.
Core i7/Ryzen 7 processors and 32GB of RAM are recommended for those who often engage in intensive creative tasks like video and photo editing. As for gaming, you’ll want a laptop with discrete graphics, like an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti or AMD RX 5600 XT, at the very least.
Whether you go with Windows or Mac is a matter of taste. Windows is available on the widest variety of laptops, from low-cost notebooks to high-powered 2-in-1 workstations. It has a larger library of games than other operating systems. While macOS is only available on a few Apple computers, its seamless integration with iOS devices makes it an excellent choice for Apple fans who already own multiple devices.
Macbooks start at $999 for the MacBook Air and go up to $1,999 for the MacBook Pro, whereas You can obtain Windows laptops for as little as a few hundred dollars.
Our testing methodology
Using quantitative and qualitative methods, we put all devices through their paces. We began with a laptop benchmark to provide a baseline for measuring future performance. These tests are standard fare for anyone who has read our in-depth analyses of individual devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
We ran the PCMark 10 and GeekBench 5 benchmarks on Windows laptops. These put the laptops through their paces by executing various standard workflows and application activities that you and I use regularly. Since PCMark 10 is not readily available on Mac machines, we used Geekbench 5 instead. To determine if a laptop is suitable for playing games, we put it to the Shadow of the Tomb Raider test. This game is often regarded as one of the most demanding games available for personal computers.
Each laptop, irrespective of the operating system, undergoes our usual battery test, which entails a full charge, a 50% brightness setting, and airplane mode to disable all wireless and cellular connections. After that, we play a 4K movie file indefinitely with the volume set to 15% until the battery is dead and the device shuts off.
When we put the devices through battery life and performance benchmark tests together, we have a quantitative sense of them and a concrete figure to make direct comparisons. Then, we utilized each computer as our primary device for a whole day, performing everything from running a variety of applications to checking email to watching a movie.
The best choice is: MacBook Air M2
The new MacBook Air M2 has raised the bar for Apple laptops everywhere because it combines unprecedented speed with an appealing and functional redesign.
Apple’s new laptop, the most significant update to the MacBook Air in almost a decade, has a more homogeneous chassis like the latest 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros. While it seems the same in terms of width as the M1 Air, it is thinner and lighter thanks to its 11.3-millimeter-thin bezels and 2.7-pound body. Thanks to these features, we found the laptop exceptionally lightweight and easy to carry around.
The display on the M2 Air has been updated to match the standards set by the larger MacBook Pros. The difference is noticeable with a 13.6-inch display compared to 13.3 inches on the past MacBook Air (and the new M2 MacBook Pro). Furthermore, the M2 has done away with the bulky black borders of the previous model in favor of a thin, seamless bezel so that your content will still look sharp and vibrant. The newest Air features Apple’s excellent Magic Keyboard without the controversial Touch Bar so that you can make quick modifications with the help of large, pleasant keys.
The updated MagSafe charger is the most noticeable external change to the M2 Air. Like the larger MacBook Pros, the M2 Air’s charging cord can be attached and detached with a fast magnetic snap. The MagSafe port does more than prevent your laptop from flying off the table if someone trips over your cord; it also frees up one of your two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports for additional peripherals.
MagSafe is great, and the color-matched braided cable and tiny charging brick with an extra connector for charging your phone are pleasant touches. However, we still prefer the MacBook Air to have a broader range of ports (the larger MacBook Pros feature HDMI, an SD card reader, and an additional USB port).
The 1080p webcam is an improvement over the 720p one in older generations. The upgraded sound technology produces full (still not the full speaker) sound. The Air also has one of the quickest laptop processors we’ve ever tested, thanks to the inclusion of the new Apple M2 chip.
The MacBook Air M2 never overheated despite being subjected to our typical multitasking workload (consisting of email, video calls, Slack, Discord, and far too many Chrome tabs). It remained cool and silent throughout several hours of moderate audio production in Ableton Live.
However, the proof is in our comparison results. On the general-purpose benchmark Geekbench 5 (that gauges performance in several areas), the MacBook Air achieved our highest-ever single-core result, which came remarkably close to matching the multi-core and graphics performance of the brand-new MacBook Pro M2.
Comparing our results to those of the 2020 MacBook Air M1, we found an improvement of around 16% in total performance. Light gaming is possible on this laptop, but we experienced low frame rates and excessive heat while playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the highest settings. An integrated fan for improved sustained performance under duress is one of the few benefits of the otherwise antiquated $1,299 MacBook Pro M2.
The MacBook Air M2’s battery life consistently exceeded our expectations, allowing us to power through full workdays with enough juice left over, easily matching Apple’s 18-hour battery claim. On our more demanding battery test, which involves continuously playing a 4K video, the new MacBook Pro outlasted the MacBook Air by around 45 minutes, with a runtime of 5 hours and 21 minutes. Expect incredible endurance daily, but always have a charger for intense gaming or lengthy video editing sessions.
The most significant drawback of the new MacBook Air is its starting price of $1,199, which is $200 higher than the still excellent MacBook Air M1. The M2 chip provides somewhat improved performance, but the main question is whether or not you’re prepared to spend an additional $200 for a larger screen, a higher quality webcam, a more attractive design, and practical MagSafe charging. If yes, the MacBook Air M2 is the most fantastic laptop you can buy, whether upgrading from an Intel-powered Mac or purchasing your first MacBook.
However, the $999 (and sometimes sold at a discount) MacBook Air M1 is still an excellent buy for individuals who need a laptop but are on a tight budget and are okay with forgoing some modern comforts.
The Apple MacBook Pro with a 14-inch display provides serious power users with exceptional performance and the most impressive ports, display, and speakers available on any MacBook.
The Dell XPS 13 has the finest display, keyboard, and battery life of any Windows laptop now on the market. It does so in a sleek, lightweight package that’s convenient to carry around.
Compared to other gaming laptops we’ve evaluated, the Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition provides the best balance of performance, battery life, features, and affordability.
The Surface Pro 8’s powerful processor, crisp screen, and superb keyboard are all housed in a convenient, removable chassis. It’s also a better deal than the current Surface Pro 9, which doesn’t improve upon its predecessor in any significant way beyond marginally faster CPUs and a 5G option.
We’ve also tried these:
The Surface Laptop 5 comes at a close second to the best Windows laptop thanks to its large, gorgeous, and unusually tall display, excellent keyboard, and powerful overall quality and battery life. However, the XPS 13 has superior specifications for the same price and has a sleeker, more modern look.
The MacBook Pro M2 is, simply said, one of the best computers we’ve reviewed. The M2 processor is far superior to other options in this price range, making this computer an excellent choice for demanding tasks like video editing and graphics creation. Its battery life is comparable to the MacBook Air, and it may last for an entire workday on a single charge.
However, all of this impressive capability is housed in a design that feels and looks precisely the same as the most recent versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. That means you’re stuck with the same 13.3-inch Retina display with chunky black borders and the Touch Bar you’re probably not interested in.
Suppose you’re looking at the 13-inch MacBook Pro. In that case, you should either save yourself $100 and get the MacBook Air M2, which offers comparable speed and a far superior design or splurge and get the 14-inch MacBook Pro, which contributes significantly more usable screen real estate.
Everything fantastic with the Surface Pro 8 is still present with the Surface Pro 9, although there aren’t many new features. It’s almost identical to the 2021 version, save for better 12th Gen processors, the removal of the headphone port, and the availability of a 5G configuration that severely compromises performance in exchange for constant online availability. If you don’t have a pressing need for 5G or a preference for the Pro 9’s color selections, the Pro 8 is a better value.
We have recommended the MacBook Air M1 for almost two years as the best Apple notebook. Its fast M1 performance and extended battery life are still competitive despite the introduction of newer alternatives. Its keyboard and screen are among the best available for this budget. The MacBook Air M2’s more contemporary look, MagSafe charger, and performance improvement are worth the additional $200. Still, the MacBook Air M1 is an excellent value for those on a tighter budget thanks to its regular discounts.
In terms of 2-in-1 laptops, the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 is among the best today thanks to its long battery life and swift performance. A large number of Samsung apps are preinstalled on the device. Although some of these may benefit you depending on your investment in the Samsung ecosystem, it’s just bloatware for everyone else. The Book 2 Pro 360’s bloatware and lower-than-desirable screen resolution are just two additional reasons why we recommend the Surface Pro 8 instead.
Nexym's editorial team handpicks all of the products and services it recommends, regardless of external influences. Affiliate links appear in some of our stories. We may receive an affiliate commission if you purchase something through one of these links, which helps us stay independent and support our great team.