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 laptop for most people


+Astounding power

+Excellent build quality

+Sturdy, luxe design

+Giant battery life


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.


The best Windows laptop for most people


+Superb, vivid 15.6-inch screen

+Very stylish and lightweight

+Comfortable, eye-catching keyboard


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


+Powerhouse performance

+Will last you many years


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).


Astonishing performance for power users


+Blazing speed

+All-day battery


-Overkill for most people

-Limited ports


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.


The best budget laptop


+Appealing price point

+Stylish and lightweight

+Battery saving mode


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.


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


+Fantastic 17-inch screen

+Lightweight, stylish design

+Plenty of battery life


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.


The best laptop for gaming and creative work


+Superb, sleek design

+Enough GPU power to get by

+4K touchscreen display


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.


The best laptop for users on the go


+Great design and build

+4G LTE connectivity everywhere

+Amazing battery life


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.


One of the best compact and lightweight laptops around


+Bright, sharp screen

+Appealing design

+Comfortable to type on


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.


The best laptop hybrid on the market for power users


+Decent battery life

+Superb, bright screen

+10th-gen Intel CPU


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.


The best premium 2-in-1 laptop


+A no-compromise laptop and tablet

+Excellent PixelSense display

+Powerful gaming GPU option


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.


The biggest laptop for Apple Pro users


+Big, sharp, accurate 16-inch display

+Plenty of power

+New keyboard


Before the M1 Macs came along, the 16-inch MacBook Pro was the best Apple laptop you could buy. It's still a great computer for pro and power users.

As you would expect from a high-end Apple laptop, the MacBook Pro 16-inch is supremely slick and powerful, built with a best-in-class fit and finish, and loaded with a vastly improved keyboard that's leaps and bounds better than previous incarnations.

The fact the system runs the very latest version of macOS, Big Sur, which delivers a plethora of exclusive, quality apps, and that it is supported by Apple's first-rate support network for if anything goes wrong, really does add a layer of sheen that many competing Windows 10 machines do not.

On raw specs alone the MacBook Pro 16-inch is pipped to the post slightly by the Dell XPS 15, which can be outfitted with a 4K OLED screen, 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and a more powerful Nvidia GPU, but it is the overall package and usage experience where the MacBook Pro shines.

The M1 Macs may be getting all the attention right now but the 16-inch MacBook Pro remains a powerhouse computer for pro-level apps.


The money no object ultimate gaming laptop


+Incredible gaming power

+Premium build quality

+Very portable and thin design


As we noted in our Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 review, and then restated in our guide to the best gaming laptops on the market today, this gaming laptop is the absolute best laptop for playing games on the market today in 2021.

Building on last year's competition slaying GX501, the new Zephrus ensures it stays on the gaming laptop throne by dialing things up to 11. That means that the system comes rocking an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card (Ray Tracing bliss!), a juiced-up Intel Core i7-8750H CPU capable of running up to 4.1GHz, and a 24GB stack of DDR4 RAM.

The result of all this top-end gaming hardware is, for a portable machine, ludicrous levels of AAA gaming performance. Metro Exodus, with all graphics settings, turned up to maximum, and with the gorgeous Ray Tracing lighting tech-enabled, looked absolutely stunning and ran like a dream. Equally, the GX701 crushed our 3DMark benchmark tests, too.

A gorgeous and thin magnesium chassis, fantastically engineered vent cooling system, and a 17.3-inch, Full HD (1,920x1,080) IPS, Pantone Validated, 144Hz refresh rate with Nvidia G-Sync panel complete the package.


A fantastic all-round laptop that delivers premium features at a competitive price


+Great performance for an ultra-light laptop

+High-quality audio design

+Camera kill switch


The HP Envy 13 contains the same 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor seen in many other systems in this guide but doubles down with 16GB of RAM and graphics handled by the Nvidia GeForce MX250, utilizing an extra 2GB of dedicated video memory. It doesn’t lose out in the pricing stakes, either, costing only a little over a thousand pounds for an excellent performance.

With some decent security features such as a fingerprint scanner and a physical webcam kill switch on the side of the machine, it’s a great laptop for general work, whether that’s spreadsheets or image manipulation. It’s also equipped with audio tech from Bang and Olufsen, along with HP’s own Audio Boost technology, meaning that the sound is as clear as a bell.

The trackpad feels a little flimsy but the backlit keyboard is solid and feels nice to use. The integrated USB Type-A ports are a bit tricky to use due to their snap-open design, but it’s a welcome sight to see regular USB compatibility on an ultralight laptop. The 1080p screen is clear and high-quality, with a little ridge at the base that pushes the lower half of the laptop up at a slight angle when opened on a flat surface, to make typing that little bit easier.


A fantastic MacBook Pro, and a good laptop choice for many macOS users


+Super fast

+Touch Bar is genuinely useful

+Incredibly desirable


The new M1 Macs haven't made Intel MacBook Pros obsolete, and the Intel-powered 13-inch model is still a good choice for power users: the tenth-generation quad-core Core i5 is a speedy processor and you can configure your Mac with an even more powerful Core i7. You can also spec up to 32GB of RAM and a 4TB SSD, and while that takes the price up considerably that's not going to be an issue for the kind of users who need such a high-performing laptop. There are also four Thunderbolt 3 ports for easier expansion: the M1 MacBook Pro only has two ports.

You can add to those specs the gorgeous 13.3-inch 2,560 x 1,600 resolution Retina LED IPS display, and the Touch Bar: after a slow start it's now a genuinely useful part of the MacBook keyboard.

DELL G5 15

A compact gaming powerhouse


If you like subtlety and refinement in your gaming laptops, then the Dell G5 15 could be just what you're looking for – it combines plenty of performance (across multiple configurations) with a tidy-looking chassis, a chassis that has one of the coolest lighting effects we've seen set.

The 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display panel can up the refresh rate to an impressive 144Hz, and your games are sure to look fantastic on this screen. Some top-tier graphics and processor components are available too, so you shouldn't be troubled by any lag or stutter no matter what titles you're playing.

Even with some of the best laptop components packed inside, the Dell G5 15 is still relatively compact. Taking into consideration everything Dell has done here on both the inside and the outside of the laptop, it's absolutely worth a pick as one of our best laptops of 2021.


Good specs and a tasteful design make this strong all-round laptop


+High-end specs

+Attractive design

+Bright, vibrant touchscreen


Asus ZenBook Pro 14 is a laptop that scores highly in a lot of departments. It looks really nice, it has plenty of power under the hood, and the price you're going to pay represents decent value for what you get in return.

And, really, that sums it up. Well, that is apart from this system's unique feature - it's ScreenPad. The SceenPad is a large touchpad that can also operate as a second screen, with Windows extendable and certain apps like Microsoft Office and Spotify granting you extra information or controls. It feels indebted to Apple's TouchBar.

Specs-wise the Pro 14 really is a rock-solid all-rounder. In short, it is a powerful machine that will handle most computing tasks with ease.

DELL XPS 15 2-IN-1

A thin and powerful hybrid laptop with genuine gaming credentials


+AMD Radeon RX Vega M

+Luxe aluminium design

+Innovative maglev keyboard


The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is one of the most complete hybrids ever made, scoring big across the board and leaving no obvious weak point for rivals - and critics - to launch a major counter-attack. A premium all-rounder 2-in-1 that should appeal to creative tech enthusiasts looking to both work and play hard.

A shoo-in on our best laptops 2021 list if ever we saw one, then, and a machine that should be at least considered by anyone who is looking for a premium upgrade right now. Yes, the Surface Book 2 does have a little bit more power-wise, and obviously has the ability to eject its screen, too, but the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is almost half the price.


One of the best laptops around for Chrome OS fans


+Lightweight and fast

+Stylish and sensible design

+Chrome OS rapidly improving


When it comes to Chromebooks and Chrome OS, you've got a huge number of models to choose from – and the Pixelbook Go from Google is one of the best. It's stylish, it's lightweight, and you can customize the specs of the device to meet your exact requirements as well.

Every Pixelbook Go comes with a 13.3-inch screen: it runs at a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution on the cheaper models but does go up to 4K if you're willing to pay for it. The other internal components can be specced out as required, so it's really up to you how much you spend.

We like the black and pink colour options, we like the grippy rubber on the bottom to keep the laptop in place, and we like the smooth and subtle lines of the design as well. You're not going to be embarrassed to pull this Chromebook out at a coffee shop or your next meeting at work.

As for Chrome OS, it continues to get better and better. It doesn't slow down, it's easy to use, and the addition of Android apps means that it's now more versatile than ever before.


Impressive performance and specs at an affordable price point


+Impressive set of specs

+Competitively priced

+Decent gaming chops


Finding the middle ground between affordability and knockout performance is perhaps the biggest challenge facing a new laptop buyer. It's a sweet spot most manufacturers miss, but with the Predator Helios 300, Acer has certainly found it with an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and a meaty Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU pairing.

This powerful laptop sports a Full HD 17.6-inch display (perfect for giving your favourite Steam games a good showing when on the move) complete with a 144Hz refresh rate and 16GB of in-built RAM to keep you fully stocked with content. As a sub-£1,000 machine, it's got some serious chops.


A hyper-premium, do-anything laptop that should appeal to the enthusiast


+Oozes style

+Capable of running anything

+Screen looks fantastic


Laptops are usually labeled as gaming laptops when they come packed with high-end components and some nice visual flair – but of course, you don't have to be a gamer to appreciate those attributes in a laptop. The Razer Blade 15 Advanced is a case in point and shows Razer is getting better and better at building incredibly premium laptops.

The chassis holding the 15.6-inch display is simply beautifully put together, the internal components are hyper premium, and the lighting system around the keys is really well done too. Whether you're gaming or working on some spreadsheets, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced really impresses.


The best laptop for business-focused users


+Tried-and-tested design

+Excellent keyboard and trackpad

+Competitive price point


While it has become the norm that companies issue employees with laptops, there are some cases where this isn't true and Lenovo, having adopted the iconic ThinkPad brand, is here for those exact customers. The design is nothing too fancy, but don't let that fool you: beneath the surface is a capable laptop at an excellent price point.

The base model, which retails for around £1,069, comes stocked with an Intel i5 CPU at 1.60GHz and beyond, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, double what many manufacturers offer as standard. For those willing to splash out, Lenovo offers an i7 alongside double the RAM and storage for as little as £1,429.99.


The step-up power users will want over the Dell XPS 13


+A beast at max spec

+Stylish and light

+WiFi 6 networking


The Dell XPS 15 is more of a niche recommendation as a premium laptop choice than our best premium laptop, the Dell XPS 13. And this is despite the fact that it can be scaled up to a superior spec.

The reason it doesn't get the nod over its younger brother is that, for most users, the power and performance delivered by a maximum spec Dell XPS 15 is just not necessary and unless you have to have the 15.6-inch screen size, then we recommend the 13 over it.

If you are a power user who does want the 15-inch screen size then the Dell XPS 15 is undoubtedly a brilliant choice, though. At maximum spec it delivers a 10th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU, 64GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 4K Ultra HD+ screen.

In layman's terms, it is an absolute beast of a system and will crush any application you through at in. This is the sort of system that, if specced in its upper echelons, can edit 4K and even 8K video. And, thanks to a strong internal cell stack, the battery life on it is great, too, meaning you can do high-level processing on the go.

All of this awesomeness costs, though, and shoppers will be blasting over the three grand marks to bring the system home. Is it worth it? Yes, you are getting a superb powerhouse laptop – but we still think most users looking for a premium laptop would be better off with a Dell XPS 13.

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