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The best laptops: Premium laptops, budget laptops, 2-in-1s, and more

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The best laptops: Premium laptops, budget laptops, 2-in-1s, and more

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Our top picks feature the best tech advances in portable PCs, from new CPUs and GPUs to new materials.


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The best laptops are getting better. Computex 2021 (virtual) brought a heavy rain of news from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia, everything from new CPUs to technologies that enhance gaming performance. The laptop market is still tight, but if you yearn for the latest and greatest, this is your time. Keep reading for the latest news and reviews. 

Our top picks from currently available laptops are below: 

Latest laptop news and reviews

Here are the latest stories:

hp pavilion aero 13 laptop pc hero image of all four colors HP

The HP Pavilion Aero 13 offers Ryzen 5000 in a tiny, 2.2-pound laptop.

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 ]

Runner-up

acerswift5hero Jared Newman / IDG

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 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]

Keep reading for our top picks in gaming laptops and more.

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