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Best laptop 2021: Top 10 notebooks for every budget

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

Looking for a new laptop, be it for filling out spreadsheets at work, playing video games or just to snoop on social media? Then you’re in the right place, as we’ve assembled a list of the very best laptop options we’ve reviewed in the past 12 months.

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, as we’ll soon be reviewing the likes of the LG Gram 2021 and Surface Laptop 4.

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

1. Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020) – Best Windows Laptop

Dell XPS 13 2020 Late - Best Laptop

The best all-round Windows 10 laptop you can buy

Specs

Display: 13.4in FHD/4K | CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 8/16GB
GPU: Intel Iris Xe | Storage: 512GB/1TB | Weight: From 1.2kg

Pros:

  • Best performance seen in a Windows Ultrabook
  • Improved battery life
  • Drop-dead gorgeous design
  • Bright and colourful screen

Cons: 

  • More expensive than rivals
  • Still stingy on ports
  • Not as powerful as MacBook Air

The Dell XPS 13 (Intel 11th Gen) is our favourite all-round laptop that’s currently available, boasting the best performance we’ve seen in a Windows ultrabook while also flaunting unrivalled looks thanks to the gorgeous 16:10 InfintyEdge screen.

The introduction of the Intel 11th gen processors (aka Tiger Lake) has given this laptop a big performance boost compared to its Dell XPS 13 (2020) predecessor, although is more expensive as a result. We reckon the extra cost is worth it if you want to make use of the integrated graphics and play games such as Apex Legends and Fortnite, but its cheaper predecessor is still plenty powerful enough for day-to-day tasks.

There are some slight niggles here including the stingy number of ports, but that’s nothing an adaptor can’t fix. And if you want a larger and more powerful alternative, it’s worth considering the Dell XPS 15 2020 instead.

2. MacBook Air M1 – Best Apple Laptop

Best Apple Laptop - MacBook Air M1

The best MacBook Ultrabook you can buy

Specs

Display: 13.4in, 2560 x 1600 | CPU: Apple M1 | RAM: 8/16GB
GPU: Apple M1 | Storage: Up to 2TB | Weight: From 1.29kg

Pros:

  • It’s so fast thanks to M1
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Strong app support
  • Great keyboard

Cons: 

  • 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.

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. But 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.

3. Surface Laptop Go – Best Value Laptop

Surface Laptop Go

Our top recommended laptop for those on a budget

Specs

Display: 12.4in (1536 x 1024) | CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 4/8GB
GPU: Intel UHD | Storage: Up to 256GB | Weight: 1.11kg

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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, 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. If you like Surface laptops but want something more powerful, then it’s worth checking out the Surface Laptop 4.

Lenovo Yoga Slim 7

Our favourite mid-range laptop

Specs

Display: 14in (1920×1080) | CPU: Ryzen 7 4700U | RAM: Up to 16GB
GPU: Radeon graphics | Storage: 512GB | Weight: From 1.4kg

Pros:

  • Great value price
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Speedy performance
  • Nice Full HD screen

Cons:

  • 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 3 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.

5. MacBook Pro 16-inch – Best Creative Laptop

Best Creative Laptop - MacBook Pro 16

Best high-end laptop for creative tasks

Specs

Display: 16in (3072 x 1920) | CPU: 9th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 8GB
GPU: Radeon Pro 5300M/5500M | Storage: Up to 8TB | Weight: 2kg

Pros:

  • Incredibly powerful
  • Bigger display still looks stunning
  • Scissor keyboard a huge improvement
  • More stylish with smaller bezel

Cons:

  • 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.

HP Spectre x360 13 2021

Our favourite 2-in-1 laptop

Specs

Display: 13.3in FHD | CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 8GB
GPU: Intel Xe | Storage: Up to 1TB | Weight: 1.22kg

Pros:

  • Great keyboard
  • Excellent build quality
  • Bright, high-contrast screen
  • Sturdy 360-degree hinge

Cons:

  • 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.

7. Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) – Best Budget Laptop

Best Budget Laptop - MagicBook 14

An incredibly affordable budget laptop

Specs

Display: 14in FHD | CPU: Ryzen 5 3500U | RAM: 8GB
GPU: Intel UHD | Storage: 256GB | Weight: 1.4kg

Pros:

  • Student-friendly premium style
  • Superb value
  • Pleasant typing experience
  • More than capable productivity performance

Cons:

  • Webcam position on keyboard
  • Below average display

Most decent Windows laptops cost upwards of £1000 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 £549.99 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 offers better value.

8. Acer Swift 5 (2020) – Best Lightweight Laptop

An impressive ultrabook that’s shockingly lightweight

Specs

Display: 14in FHD | CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 8/16GB
GPU: Nvidia MX350 | Storage: Up to 1TB | Weight: 1.05kg

Pros:

  • Lightweight design
  • Superb battery life
  • Competitive performance
  • Plenty of ports onboard

Cons:

  • 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.

9. LG Gram 17 (2020) – Best 17 inch Laptop

Best 17 inch Laptop - LG Gram 17 (2020)

An incredibly lightweight 17-inch laptop

Specs

Display: 17in QHD | CPU: 10th Gen Intel | RAM: 16GB
GPU: Intel Iris Plus | Storage: 512GB | Weight: 1.4kg

Pros:

  • Unbelievably lightweight
  • Superb 17-inch display
  • Great battery life
  • Improved processor performance

Cons:

  • Gaming performance with Ice Lake is disappointing
  • Bland design compared to rivals
  • Annoyingly reflective screen

The 17-inch form factor seemed to be as dead as the dodo a couple years back, especially in terms of productivity focused laptops. That was no major surprise since such devices were large and heavy – but the LG Gram 17 (2020) looks to change that.

This 17-inch laptop weighs just 1350g, which isn’t too far off the smaller Dell XPS 13. This allows users to watch the likes of Disney Plus on a generously sized screen without having to suffer back cramps on the work commute as a consequence. For the 2020 iteration, LG has also fitted Intel’s 10th Gen Ice Lake processor. This ensures nippy multitasking performance, although gaming and creative talents are still lacking here.

The LG Gram 17 (2020) is our favourite 17-inch laptop you can buy, and one of the best laptops in general if video streaming is a top priority. We will be reviewing the Dell XPS 17 (2020) shortly, though, which may displace the Gram as the best large laptop.

10. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 – Best Gaming Laptop

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 - Best Gaming Laptop

A fantastic gaming laptop adept at day-to-say tasks

Specs

Display: 14in FHD | CPU: Ryzen 9 4900HS | RAM: 16GB
GPU: Up to Nvidia RTX 2060 | Storage: 1TB | Weight: 1.7kg

Pros:

  • Incredible CPU performance
  • Great for Full HD gaming
  • Ultraportable design
  • Impressive battery life

Cons:

  • Lack of RGB lighting
  • No integrated webcam
  • Underwhelming SSD speeds

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 feels like the odd one out in this list of laptops, since it prioritises gaming performance above all else. But unlike previous gaming laptops, the Zephyrus G14 is an ultraportable machine that can double up as a productivity powerhouse thanks to its insane CPU speeds, comparatively dinky 1.69kg weight and superb battery life.

The Zephyrus G14 is currently our top recommended gaming laptop and, with a reasonable £1100 starting price, it’s a genuinely worthwhile alternative to the likes of a Dell XPS and Surface Laptop. You’ll need to be into your gaming to make the most of it, but if you fancy playing a bit of Fortnite, Civilization or Sims on your lunch break, then there is no better choice.

Best Laptop Details Release Date RRP UK Trusted Reviews Star Rating
Dell XPS 13 (2020) 01/10/2020 From £1069 5 / 5
MacBook Air M1 17/11/2020 From £999 5 / 5
Surface Laptop Go 13/10/2020 From £549 4.5 / 5
Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 2020 From £849.99 4.5 / 5
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019) November 2019 From £2399 4.5 / 5
HP Spectre x360 13 (2021) 2021 From £1399.99 4.5 / 5
Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) 2020 From £549.99 4.5 / 5
Acer Swift 5
(Late 2020)
2020 From £999 4 / 5
LG Gram 17 (2020) 2020 From £1399.99 4.5 / 5
Asus ROG
Zephyrus G14
April 2020 From £899 5 / 5
Best Laptop Specifications Display CPU RAM GPU Storage Weight
Dell XPS 13 (2020) 13.4in FHD/4K 11th Gen Intel Core 8/16GB Intel Iris Xe 512GB/1TB From 1.2kg
MacBook Air M1 13.4in
(2560 x 1600)
Apple M1 8/16GB Apple M1 Up to 2TB From 1.29kg
Surface Laptop Go 12.4in
(1536 x 1024)
10th Gen Intel Core 4/8GB Intel UHD Up to 256GB 1.11kg
Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 14in FHD Ryzen 4000 Up to 16B Radeon graphics 512GB 1.4kg
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019) 16in
(3072 x 1920)
9th Gen Intel Core 8GB Radeon Pro 5300M/5500M Up to 8TB 2kg
HP Spectre x360 13 (2021) 13.3-in 1920×1080 11th Gen Intel Core 8GB  Intel Iris Xe Up to 1TB 1.2kg
Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) 14in FHD Ryzen 3000 8GB Intel UHD 256GB 1.4kg
Acer Swift 5 (Late 2020) 14in FHD 11th Gen Intel Core 16GB Optional Nvidia MX350 Up to 1TB 1.05kg
LG Gram 17 (2020) 17in QHD 10th Gen Intel Core 16GB Intel Iris Plus 512GB 1.4kg
Asus ROG
Zephyrus G14
14in FHD Ryzen 4000 16GB Up to Nvidia RTX 2060 1TB 1.7kg
Best Laptop Specifications PCMark 10 Geekbench 5 (single/multi core) 3DMark TimeSpy Read speed Write speed Battery life
Dell XPS 13 (2020) 4802 1548 / 5687 1657 3290 MB/s 2926 MB/s 9hrs 52mins
MacBook Air M1 NA 1731 / 7308 NA 12 hours
Surface Laptop Go 3296 1205 / 3386 507 1956 MB/s 706 MB/s 8hrs 44mins
Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 5159 1142 / 6757 1364 3448 MB/s 2182 MB/s 14hrs 39mins
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019) NA 1211 / 6631 NA 2884 MB/s 2730 MB/s 9hrs 30mins
HP Spectre x360 13 (2021) 4641 – / 5025 2260 MB/s 1122 MB/s 12hrs 15mins
Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) 3301 792 / 3035 3450 MB/s 1650 MB/s 9 hours
Acer Swift 5 (Late 2020) 4697 1414 / 5378 1504 2298 MB/s 1027 MB/s 15hrs 21mins
LG Gram 17 (2020) 4177 1284 / 3541 745 3391 MB/s 1981 MB/s 10 hours
Asus ROG
Zephyrus G14
5513 1219 / 3549 6129 1927 MB/s 1770 MB/s 6hrs 30mins

*Please note that some benchmark data is missing. This is either because the laptop’s OS was incompatible with the benchmark tool, the review preceded the latest version of the benchmark software, or the reviewer didn’t have the necessary equipment at the time for unforeseen circumstances. 

Still can’t find the best laptop for you? If you’ve had a look at our best laptop list and still can’t find the perfect system for you, why not try one of the following lists below? These are more specialised rankings, and so focus on specific features such as portability, gaming performance or price. Check it out below:

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