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Best laptop 2021: Top 10 laptops you can buy

We rank all your best laptop and notebook options, with Apple, Microsoft, Dell and Samsung models all included


If you’re looking for a new laptop, be it for reading emails, editing video or just to snoop on social media, then you’re in the right place. We’ve assembled a top ten list of the very best laptop options currently available.

We’re including as much variety as possible, with Windows 10 laptops, Chromebooks and MacBooks all making an appearance. And if you can’t find a laptop to your liking right now, keep this page bookmarked and check back soon for future updates.

And if you’re looking for a laptop for a specific use case, you can also check out our Best Gaming Laptop, Best Student Laptop and Best Budget Laptop lists instead.

So without further ado, here are the best laptops you can buy in 2021.

How we test

Learn more about how we test laptops

Every laptop we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, performance, screen quality and battery life. 

These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how well it runs the most frequently used apps. 

We also make sure to use every laptop we review as our primary device for at least a week to ensure our review is as accurate as possible.

Dell XPS 13 OLED

The best overall Windows laptop
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  • The absolute best laptop screen for the price
  • Speedy productivity performance
  • Class-leading laptop design
  • Lots of configuration options


  • Short battery life
  • Stingy port offering

The Dell XPS 13 OLED is the absolute best Windows laptop you can buy right now, especially if you want a portable 13-inch design.

The XPS 13 has been the king of laptops for a while now, and the introduction of the OLED screen has made it even better for 2021, making it an excellent choice if you want to watch the likes of Netflix on the go. Although that gorgeous 3.5K display does push down the battery life.

By sporting Intel’s latest chips, it also offers a high-speed productivity performance. Only those craving a discrete GPU will need more power. Although the MacBook Air M1 is very good alternative if performance is your priority. The older Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020) is also still available if you’re not fussed about OLED technology.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Dell XPS 13 OLED review

MacBook Air (M1)

The most powerful ultra-portable laptop
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  • It’s so fast thanks to M1
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Strong app support
  • Great keyboard


  • Poor webcam
  • Same design as before
  • Poorly positioned (and only two) USB ports

The MacBook Air has arguably been lagging behind the rest of the laptop pack over the past few years, but that changes with the introduction of Apple Silicon and the revolutionary Apple M1 chip.

The MacBook Air M1 offers better CPU speeds than the majority of laptops on this list, and by quite a distance. Its integrated GPU is even powerful enough for 4K video editing and animation, despite the laptop’s lightweight design.

We’re still disappointed that Apple hasn’t introduced a more cutting-edge design to compete with the Dell XPS, but this is still a decent-looking laptop. If you do care about the looks, you may want to wait it out for the rumoured MacBook Air 2021 that could arrive before the end of the year.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: MacBook Air M1 Review

Surface Laptop Go

Best value laptop
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  • Incredible value
  • Small and classy design
  • Excellent performance
  • Comfortable keyboard


  • Low-resolution display
  • No keyboard backlight
  • No fingerprint scanner on base configuration

The Surface Laptop Go is one of the smallest laptops on this list with a 12.4in display, and lags behind the rest when performance is concerned, but it’s also far more affordable than its rivals.

With a starting price of just £549, the Surface Laptop Go is almost half the price of competitors from the likes of Apple and Dell. And while it’s not the most powerful machine here, it can still breeze through day-to-day productivity tasks without a hitch. The keyboard is also very comfortable to type on, making it a good option for student and office workers.

There are of course compromises here. The screen resolution falls below the standard 1920 x 1080 mark, and you don’t get a fingerprint scanner with the entry model, but these are small issues considering the incredible value on offer.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Surface Laptop Go Review

Lenovo Yoga Slim 7

Best mid-range laptop
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  • Great value price
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Speedy performance
  • Nice Full HD screen


  • Basic design
  • No Thunderbolt
  • No fingerprint scanner on select models

The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 isn’t quite as flashy as Dell XPS 13 and is a few hundred quid more expensive than the Surface Laptop Go, but we think it’s a fantastic middle-ground option that perfectly balances performance with price.

Packing a Ryzen 4000 chip, the Yoga Slim 7 doesn’t just have a solid productivity performance but also has a stellar battery life, lasting over 14 hours on a single charge during our benchmark tests. A lovely Full HD display also makes it a good laptop for video streaming.

However, its bland design may convince some to pay extra for an Apple or Dell machine, while the omission of Thunderbolt and a fingerprint scanner on select models can be irksome too. But if you’re not looking for a high-end laptop with all of the trimmings, the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 has every right to be on your shortlist.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 Review

LG Gram 16 (2021)

Best lightweight 16-inch laptop
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  • Incredibly light design
  • Big and detailed display
  • Speedy productivity performance
  • Generous port selection


  • Questionable build quality
  • Glossy screen
  • Not as powerful as rivals

The LG Gram 16 (2021) standouts on this list as a large 16-inch laptop that only weighs a dainty 1199g, which is even lighter than most of the 13-inch laptops here.

This makes the Gram the best option for those who crave a giant display for either Netflix or productivity purposes, but also want a laptop that’s light enough to sling in a bag and work on the go.

There are a couple of compromises for having such a lightweight design, as there’s a bit of flex to the chassis when you press down hard. But such flaws are easy to forgive when you’re getting a 16-inch laptop that hardly weighs a thing.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: LG Gram 16 (2021) Review

Acer Chromebook Spin 513

Best budget Chromebook
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  • Super-light and portable design
  • Sharp display with decent colours
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Whisper-quiet performance


  • Flat speakers
  • Mediocre performance
  • No keyboard backlight

The Acer Chromebook Spin 513 is arguably the finest example to show how far Chromebooks have come in recent years. It’s not the most powerful laptop on this list, but it’s perfectly good enough to coast through casual computing tasks.

The mediocre performance is forgiven considering the bargain price, undercutting even the Surface Laptop Go. With ChromeOS, you are of course limited to the app store for downloads, but this shouldn’t be an issue for the majority.

It’s worth knowing that the speakers are poor and there’s no keyboard backlight, but if you want the cheapest laptop possible for day-to-day tasks, then this is a fantastic option.

Reviewer: Reece Bithrey
Full review: Acer Chromebook Spin 513

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch

Best high-end laptop for creative tasks
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  • Incredibly powerful
  • Bigger display still looks stunning
  • Scissor keyboard a huge improvement
  • More stylish with smaller bezel


  • Very expensive
  • Stingy port offering
  • Lack of Wi-Fi 6

The performance of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is as you’d expect, offering processing speeds and GPU grunt that far exceeds the other laptops on this list. To be fair, Apple’s laptop is far more expensive than the other portable PCs here – but that’s the price you have to pay to blast through media tasks.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 is available now, too, but since that lacks a dedicated GPU, the smaller Pro can’t realistically be seen as a genuine alternative to this powerhouse portable. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is the best choice for animation and editing 4K video.

However, there’s a big issue with recommending Intel-powered Apple laptops right now, especially with the MacBook Pro 2021 launching this year. Apple has confirmed Intel MacBooks will still be supported via software updates for the foreseeable future, but the upcoming Apple-powered MacBook laptops are clearly the better option going forward.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: 16-inch MacBook Pro Review

HP Spectre x360 13 (2021)

Best 2-in-1 laptop
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  • Great keyboard
  • Excellent build quality
  • Bright, high-contrast screen
  • Sturdy 360-degree hinge


  • Max speaker volume is just OK
  • Not as powerful as a MacBook Air

The HP Spectre x360 13 (2021) is the best convertible laptop we’ve reviewed, as it excels at the basics like no other. It hit 12 hours in our battery benchmark test, flaunts an incredibly comfortable keyboard and offers the option of jaw-dropping 4K OLED touchscreen which is perfect for artwork.

It admittedly lacks Galaxy Book Flex2 5G features such as 5G and a slot-in stylus, but that’s forgivable when HP nails the fundamentals so well. Build quality is top-notch, despite the 2-in-1 laptop weighing a dainty 1.22kg.

The biggest issue with the Spectre x360 13 is arguably its performance, as it’s not quite as powerful as more conventional clamshell laptops. But if you’ve craving a convertible a laptop that can double up as a tablet, then this is our top recommendation.

Reviewer: Andrew Williams
Full review: HP Spectre x360 13 (2021) Review

Honor MagicBook 14 (2020)

Best budget 14-inch laptop
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  • Student-friendly premium style
  • Superb value
  • Pleasant typing experience
  • More than capable productivity performance


  • Webcam positioned on keyboard
  • Below average display

Most decent Windows laptops cost upwards of a grand these days, which is a serious lump of cash if you only want a system for web browsing and streaming video. The Honor MagicBook 14 is a fantastic exception to the rule, since its all-round performance is astonishingly good considering its bargain price.

Being half the price of some of other laptops inevitably means there are compromises; the MagicBook 14’s matte display is below average and the webcam is bizarrely located underneath the screen. However, we think the MagicBook more than makes up for its adequate screen with decent productivity performance, ultraportable design and fantastic battery life.

If you’re a student, or someone on a tight budget, then we reckon the Honor MagicBook 14 is one of the best laptops for you. Better quality can be had by spending more, but few other laptops offer better value.

Reviewer: Adam Speight
Full review: Honor MagicBook 14 Review

Acer Swift 5 (Late 2020)

Best lightweight 14-inch laptop
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  • Lightweight design
  • Superb battery life
  • Competitive performance
  • Plenty of ports onboard


  • Concerning build quality
  • Reflective screen could be an issue outdoors
  • Lack of Caps Lock indicator

The Acer Swift 5 (2020) aims to challenge the Dell XPS 13 and MacBook Air with one fairly unique skill: it’s incredibly light, weighing just 1kg. This makes this laptop a worthy option for those who like to travel around, as it’s barely noticeable when tucked away in a rucksack.

A competitive performance (thanks to 11th Gen Intel Core) and a stellar battery life also ensure this laptop can stream roll through day-to-day tasks when out of reach of a power supply. The option of a Nvidia MX350 also makes it possible to dabble with entry-level gaming and content creation, providing this portable with oodles of versatility.

So why can’t it knock the Dell off its perch? Well, aside from the lovely Mist Green and Safari Gold colour options, it has a rather bland aesthetic. And build quality is questionable, so it may not survive a couple of heavy knocks on your travels. Still, if you prioritize portability over build quality, then the Acer Swift 5 is an outstanding laptop option.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Acer Swift 5 (2020) Review

We also considered…

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What is an SSD?

The SSD (solid state drive) is essentially the component that determines how much storage your laptop has. A 512GB SSD is the norm these days, with anything less making storage space feel cramped if you download a lot of music, photos and videos.

What is a 2 in 1 laptop?

A 2 in 1 laptop is a device that has a flexible hinge, allowing it to be folded up into a tablet form. These laptops often have stylus support too, making them good options for doodlers and creatives.

What is RAM?

RAM (Random Access Memory) is computer memory that helps the processor offer a smooth performance. 8GB seems to be the default for laptops these days, with anything less potentially seeing noticeable slowdowns for your computer.

What is Thunderbolt?

Thunderbolt is a port technology that is typically found through USB-C connections. Thunderbolt is signalled with a small lightning bolt icon, and can allow for multi-purpose functions such as power delivery, display output and data transfer for an all-in-one solution.

Specs compared

Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Front Camera
Battery Hours
Size (Dimensions)
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Refresh Rate
Audio (Power output)
Display Technology
Screen Technology
Touch Screen
Bin capacity

Trusted Reviews test data

PCMark 10
Geekbench 5 single core
Geekbench 5 multi core
3DMark Time Spy
CrystalDiskMark Read speed
CrystalMarkDisk Write Speed
Black level
White Visual Colour Temperature
Adobe RGB
PCMark Battery (office)
Battery Life
Battery recharge time

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