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Best Laptops to buy for 2021

Updated: Jan 17

In short, you'll find a top-quality notebook to suit every kind of user. We're serious about laptops: these are the machines we'd buy for ourselves, for our businesses and for our families to use.



If you are looking for the overall crème de la crème, though, then this best laptop guide presents our absolute top picks of all the systems on the market today.


THE BEST LAPTOPS 2021

APPLE MACBOOK AIR (M1, 2020)

The best laptop for most people



REASONS TO BUY

+Astounding power

+Excellent build quality

+Sturdy, luxe design

+Giant battery life


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MacBook Air reviews explains, Apple's cheapest laptop is the start of a revolution. Think thin and light laptops have to sacrifice power? Not any more. Or that big performance means smaller battery life? Nope. Or that getting all of these things in one machine would be expensive? Wrong again. This is the best of all worlds.


It's all thanks to the M1 processor – the first Apple-made chip for Macs. It's an eight-core chip that's as powerful as what you find in the high-end MacBook Pros or gaming PCs but uses a fraction of the power. Combined with the fastest storage in the business, this laptop is fast. But it also runs cool enough that it doesn't need any fans at all, so it's silent.


It's even got pretty solid graphics performance, playing games far more smoothly than anything else with an integrated GPU (though, being a Mac, the selection is more limited). And it can give you around 15 hours of battery life in real-world use (for things like light browsing) – a huge leap over previous Macs.


Comfort and usability are top-notch too – the keyboard and trackpad are excellent, it's a great size and weight to be portable, and the all-aluminum build is solid and feels premium. The sharp screen is also a pleasure to use, with a good level of brightness.


It's a shame that it only has two USB-C ports (which also must be used to power it), since that means you'll probably need adapters, but maybe you're all in on wireless and cloud already anyway. There can also be some issues with software compatibility with the new processor, but these tend to only be with really niche stuff, so won't be a worry for the vast majority of people.


As long as you can live without Windows, the MacBook Air is a laptop that balances portability and power without compromises.


ASUS VIVOBOOK S15

The best Windows laptop for most people



REASONS TO BUY

+Superb, vivid 15.6-inch screen

+Very stylish and lightweight

+Comfortable, eye-catching keyboard


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The Asus VivoBook S15 is a lightweight despite the 15.6-inch screen, it's stylish, and it wraps just about everything you could want in a laptop in one appealing package.


The price is a little on the high side, but you do get a lot back for your money, including the latest 11th-gen Intel CPUs – i5 or i7 is the choice. Those chips will guarantee excellent performance without sucking up too much battery life, and unless you're wanting to play top-tier games or do some 4K video editing, this portable computer will cope with everything you've got to throw at it.


There are plenty of ports to play around with, and the fingerprint sensor built into the trackpad makes logging into Windows a breeze. Simply put, the Asus VivoBook S15 will be the perfect laptop for many users, combining a quality tech spec and everyday-versatile design at a very firmly mid-range price point.


DELL XPS 13 (2020)

The best premium laptop at the moment



REASONS TO BUY

+Powerhouse performance

+Will last you many years


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The Dell XPS 13 series has consistently wowed us here at T3, and the latest version of the laptop continues that trend – it's powerful, supremely well built, and compact, so just about everything you could possibly want in your search for the best laptop around at the moment.


With the latest 10th-gen Intel processors installed and up to 16GB of RAM installed, this is a portable computer that's going to be able to handle everything that you want to throw at it. From late-night Netflix to early-morning report writing, you'll find the Dell XPS 13 a capable and competent laptop.


It's that 13.4-inch display with the super-thin bezels that really makes the XPS 13 stand out though: if you want to, you can go all the way up to a 4K resolution, but the 1,920 x 1,080 resolution models still look fantastic (4K doesn't make a huge amount of difference on a laptop display this size).


APPLE MACBOOK PRO

Astonishing performance for power users



REASONS TO BUY

+Blazing speed

+All-day battery


REASONS TO AVOID

-Overkill for most people

-Limited ports


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We think the M1 MacBook Air is the best laptop for most people, but power users aren’t most people. The M1 MacBook Pro is a more powerful machine in several respects: it has a more powerful 8-core GPU, and it has a fan – so where the MacBook Air has to throttle performance to stay cool under sustained load, the MacBook Pro doesn’t. You won’t notice the difference or hear the fan in everyday computing, but for intensive tasks such as video rendering the Pro is significantly faster than the Air.


There are some obvious trade-offs between this MacBook Pro and the current Intel ones, not least the screen size: 13.3” is nice and portable but it obviously lacks the screen area of the 16-inch Intel MacBook Pro. The 16-inch is configurable with more storage and RAM, although memory specs are not directly comparable, and the bigger Pro has more ports; here you’re stuck with two. But the M1 Mac boasts almost double the battery life of its bigger sibling, and that’s a huge difference for pros on the go. This is a Pro laptop that really does last all day on a single charge.


LENOVO IDEAPAD 3

The best budget laptop


REASONS TO BUY

+Appealing price point

+Stylish and lightweight

+Battery saving mode


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When it comes to value-for-money laptops, it's difficult to beat the Lenovo IdeaPad 3: it's lightweight, it's stylish, and yet it won't cost you much at all – the asking price depends on the configuration you go for, but you can usually get this laptop for well under £500.


Not everyone wants the laptop with the biggest screen, or the most powerful components – some people want a lot of bang for their laptop buck first and foremost, and that's where the IdeaPad 3 delivers. Everything else falls into place around that.


As cheap as the IdeaPad 3 is, it still looks great and will handle all the everyday tasks you need it to very nicely indeed. As long as you're sticking to some light web use and office work, you won't be disappointed with what this laptop has to offer.


As we've mentioned, a variety of different spec configurations are available, which affect the price accordingly – but whatever model you go for, you get a reliable and attractive 14-inch laptop. The dedicated battery saving mode comes in handy too.


LG GRAM 17

The best 17-inch laptop... unless you're a gamer



REASONS TO BUY

+Fantastic 17-inch screen

+Lightweight, stylish design

+Plenty of battery life


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The latest version of the LG Gram 17 is an impressive laptop on many levels, not least with that gorgeous 17-inch, 2560 x 1800 pixel screen. You also get some up-to-date Intel processors, and plenty of RAM and SSD storage space if you're willing to pay for it – it's capable of taking on most tasks with aplomb.


Despite that large screen (well, large for a laptop anyway), this is an incredible light and thin portable computer. It's the sort of laptop that you'll barely notice you've got in your bag, and when you pick it up, it feels as though there are some components missing. Everything from the metal alloy finish to the backlighting on the keys is well judged and well done.


The integrated graphics card is perhaps the only weak spot in what is otherwise a very appealing laptop, even at well north of £1,000 – as long as you're not doing any gaming or any heavy video editing, it'll serve you well.


RAZER BLADE STEALTH 13

The best laptop for gaming and creative work



REASONS TO BUY

+Superb, sleek design

+Enough GPU power to get by

+4K touchscreen display


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With the Razer Blade Stealth 13, Razer has managed to take the gaming expertise that it's known for and mix in other influences to create a laptop with broad appeal – yes it can play games better than pretty much any other laptop of this size, but it's also going to appeal to creatives and professionals with a clean design and a 4K touchscreen display.


There's a reason that just about every gaming laptop out there is 15 inches or above in terms of its display size – the extra room is needed for heat dissipation. The Blade Stealth 13 does its best in packing an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q 4GB inside its compact frame, though you will notice it getting hot during gaming (and battery life isn't great either).


That GPU won't give you frame rates up there with the best gaming laptops on the market, but you can still play top-tier games at reasonable quality and at very decent frame rates. Add to that a really nicely designed laptop with a fantastic screen that excels at other tasks too, and Razer has another winner on its hands.


SAMSUNG GALAXY BOOK S

The best laptop for users on the go



REASONS TO BUY

+Great design and build

+4G LTE connectivity everywhere

+Amazing battery life


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The Galaxy Book S from Samsung is a fantastic laptop for a number of reasons: it's really lightweight and stylish, the battery goes on and on between charges, and it offers cellular connectivity which means you can always be online (data plans and signal coverage permitting).


You've got the option of a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip – which means it can wake up and get online very quickly, but it also means performance isn't quite on a par with similarly priced Windows laptops – or a more traditional Intel processor. It all depends on what you want most from a laptop, and we think the Galaxy Book S is going to appeal to a lot of people.


As more and more Windows applications are optimized to run on ARM chips, the usefulness of the Galaxy Book S should increase. In our eyes, it's a case of the positives far outweigh the negatives on this laptop – just don't try to do any 4K video editing with it.


ACER SWIFT 3

One of the best compact and lightweight laptops around


REASONS TO BUY

+Bright, sharp screen

+Appealing design

+Comfortable to type on


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There's a lot of competition in the laptop market if you're wanting to spend more than £500 but a little less than £1,000, and several configurations of the Acer Swift 3 fit into that price bracket. This 14-inch compact star really shines in terms of its design and lightness, following on from a strong tradition of Swifts.


The internal specs mean the Acer Swift 3 can cope with just about anything you want to do with your portable computer, besides the more demanding games and video renderings. During testing, we were impressed with how snappy and responsive the laptop was while watching movies and browsing the web (even as the number of open tabs started to rack up).


Okay the battery life isn't fantastic, but it should still get you through the working day quite comfortably, and given the pedigree of previous Acer machines, we'd bet that the Swift 3 is going to serve you well for a number of years. A variety of configurations are available, so you can tailor it to suit your budget.


HUAWEI MATEBOOK

The best laptop hybrid on the market for power users


REASONS TO BUY

+Decent battery life

+Superb, bright screen

+10th-gen Intel CPU


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The Huawei MateBook X Pro is a bit of a stunner, what with its 13.9-inch screen, its ultra-thin bezels, and that new Emerald Green colour option that we have to admit we're huge fans of. If you're looking for a compact but powerful Windows laptop, then you can't go far wrong with this one.


All of which means the laptop will be very comfortable handling web browsing, image editing, and document editing, and will even handle some light video editing and 2D gaming as well. We thought the 2019 edition of the Huawei MateBook X Pro was good, but the 2020 version has bettered it.


MICROSOFT SURFACE BOOK 3

The best premium 2-in-1 laptop


REASONS TO BUY

+A no-compromise laptop and tablet

+Excellent PixelSense display

+Powerful gaming GPU option


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Microsoft's Surface Book 3 is actually a 2-in-1 laptop, with a screen that can be detached and used as a tablet, but don't let that fool you – this is a beast of a laptop full stop and a worthy top entry in our best laptop buying guide, giving you the best of both worlds (laptop and tablet).


The Surface Book 3 can be packed full of power as well – you can fit an Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics chipset in this laptop if you need to, though multiple configurations are available (so you don't necessarily need to max out on the internal components).


You've got a choice of 13.5-inch and 15-inch screens, which gives you even more options when it comes to deciding which Surface Book 3 model is right for you, and as usual for Surface hardware, the build quality is excellent.


APPLE MACBOOK PRO 16-INCH

The biggest laptop for Apple Pro users


REASONS TO BUY

+Big, sharp, accurate 16-inch display

+Plenty of power