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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

What’s the best laptop in 2021?

We’ve assembled a list of the very best laptop options we’ve reviewed in the past 12 months, ranging from ultra-portable notebooks to gaming systems that can run the likes of Apex Legends and Fortnite.

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 Razer Book 13 and LG Gram 2021.

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

Related: Best Laptop Deals

1. Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020) – Best 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. 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 the best laptop for you. Better quality can be had by spending more, but no other laptop offers better value.

4. 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.

5. Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch) – Best Value Laptop

Best Value Laptop - Surface Laptop 3

One of the best value laptops available

Specs

Display: 13.5in (2256 x 1504) | CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 8/16GB
GPU: Intel Iris Plus | Storage: Up to 1TB | Weight: From 1.3kg

Pros:

  • Classy, ultraportable design
  • Excellent performance
  • Stunning 3:2 display
  • Available in four colours

Cons:

  • Average battery life
  • Lack of Thunderbolt 3

 

The Surface Laptop 3 13-inch comes closest to challenging the Dell XPS 13 as the best quality Windows Ultrabook. It packs great (albeit outdated) components including Intel’s 10th-generation Ice Lake processor, which also features integrated graphics for casual gaming and Photoshop work.

One area where Microsoft is arguably better than Dell is in the looks department. The Surface Laptop 3 is available in four colours, and looks very stylish; the iconic Alcantara design is optional this time round.

So, why isn’t the Surface Laptop 3 at the top of rankings? Underwhelming battery life and the frankly absurd exclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port are big enough flaws to make this Ultrabook miss out on the top spot. It’s also worth noting that the Surface Laptop Go is available at a more affordable price, albeit with a smaller screen.

6. Acer Swift 5 (2019) – Best Lightweight Laptop

Best Lightweight Laptop - Acer Swift 5 2019 Review

A great value ultraportable laptop

Specs

Display: 14in FHD | CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 8/16GB
GPU: Intel Iris Plus | Storage: Up to 1TB | Weight: 990g

Pros:

  • Solid performance, quiet running
  • Pleasingly slim and light
  • Incredibly good value
  • Great port offering

Cons:

  • Couple of keyboard issues

 

The Acer Swift 5 (2019) has no right to challenge the very best laptops considering its price, yet it offers high-end specs including Intel’s 10th Generation processor, up to 16GB of RAM and SSD storage maxing out at 1TB.

Acer’s Ultrabook even offers some added benefits, such as a lighter frame (just 990g) and the option of an Nvidia MX250 GPU. So why does the Swift 5 miss out? Its keyboard isn’t quite good enough to challenge the very best, and its design isn’t as jaw-dropping.

It’s worth knowing that the Acer Swift 5 (2020) is now available too, featuring the cutting-edge Intel Tiger Lake CPU. We’re yet to review this laptop, but hope to start testing very soon.

7. HP Envy 13 (2020) – Best Business Laptop

Best Business Laptop - HP Envy 13 2020

A great, affordable laptop for the office and home workers

Specs

Display: 13.3in FHD | CPU: 10th Gen Intel | RAM: 8GB
GPU: Intel Iris Plus | Storage: 512GB | Weight: 1.3kg

Pros:

  • Great privacy features
  • Relatively cheap price
  • Great performance
  • Ultra-portable design

Cons:

  • Loud fans
  • Reflective screen
  • Not as stylish as more expensive laptops

 

The HP Envy 13 (2020) is a similar device to the Acer Swift 5 above; they both offer great all-round performance, are available at a relatively low price, and sport solid (albeit unremarkable) designs. But while the Swift’s unique feature is its light design, the HP Envy 13 excels at privacy and security.

The Envy allows you to cut power to the webcam with a press of a key, while the screen can restrict the peripheral view of nosy snoopers thanks to the SureView feature. Such features make this an excellent business laptop, especially if you’re dealing with sensitive data.

The Envy 13 also has all the required specs to compete with the likes of Dell and Microsoft, even if it doesn’t look quite as fancy. While issues such as a glossy screen and loud fans are slightly irritating, they’re not significant enough to prevent this laptop from being a worthwhile device for work and leisure.

8. 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.

9. Samsung Galaxy Book Flex – Best 2-in-1 Laptop

Best 2 in 1 Laptop - Samsung Galaxy Book Flex

Our top-rated 2-in-1 laptop comes bundled with a S-Pen stylus

Specs

Display: 15.6in FHD | CPU: 10th Gen Intel | RAM: 8GB
GPU: Up to Nvidia MX250 | Storage: 512GB | Weight: 1.2kg

Pros:

  • Gorgeous QLED display
  • Bundled S-Pen stylus
  • Stylish blue design
  • Excellent battery life

Cons:

  • Shallow keyboard
  • Flimsy hinge
  • Squashed down Shift key

 

The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex is our favourite 2-in-1 laptop, with the included S-Pen stylus proving a great accessory for scribbling and sketching. The stunning QLED screen can be flipped at a 360-degree angle, turning the laptop into a makeshift tablet. Such Windows 10 “tablet” modes are never as user-friendly as you’d find on a Apple or Android tablet, but it still gives the Flex spades of versatility.

The Flex also offers up a respectable performance and a great battery life, lasting around 10 hours when ploughing through basic tasks. It also flaunts a lovely blue design, standing out from the majority of other laptops in this list.

It isn’t a perfect device, with a wobbly hinge and a shallow keyboard proving mild inconveniences. It’s also rather expensive, with the 13-inch model costing £1349. That’s a couple hundred quid more than the likes of the Surface Laptop 3, so you really need to make the most of the “tablet” mode and stylus to make it a worthwhile purchase.

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 Videos

Best Laptop Details

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
Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) 2020 From £549.99 4.5 / 5
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019) November 2019 From £2399 4.5 / 5
Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch) October 2019 From £999 4.5 / 5
Acer Swift 5 (2019) 2019 From £899 4.5 / 5
HP Envy 13 (2020) 2020 From £899.99 4.5 / 5
LG Gram 17 (2020) 2020 From £1399.99 4.5 / 5
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex May 2020 From £1349 4.5 / 5
Asus ROG
Zephyrus G14
April 2020 From £899 5 / 5

Best Laptop Manufacturer Specifications

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
Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) 14in FHD Ryzen 5 3500U 8GB Intel UHD 256GB 1.4kg
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019) 16in
(3072 x 1920)
9th Gen Intel Core 8GB Radeon Pro 5300M/5500M Up to 8TB 2kg
Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch) 13.5in
(2256 x 1504)
10th Gen Intel Core 8/16GB Intel Iris Plus Up to 1TB From 1.3kg
Acer Swift 5 (2019) 14in FHD 10th Gen Intel Core 8/16GB Intel Iris Plus Up to 1TB 990g
HP Envy 13 (2020) 13.3in FHD 10th Gen Intel Core 8GB Intel Iris Plus 512GB 1.3kg
LG Gram 17 (2020) 17in QHD 10th Gen Intel Core 16GB Intel Iris Plus 512GB 1.4kg
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15.6in FHD 10th Gen Intel Core 8GB Up to Nvidia MX250 512GB 1.2kg
Asus ROG
Zephyrus G14
14in FHD Ryzen 9 4900HS 16GB Up to Nvidia RTX 2060 1TB 1.7kg

Best Laptop Benchmark Testing – Performance

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
Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) 3301 792 / 3035 3450 MB/s 1650 MB/s 9 hours
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019) NA 1211 / 6631 NA 2884 MB/s 2730 MB/s 9hrs 30mins
Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch) 3919 1151 / 4406 2344 MB/s 1583 MB/s 6 hours
Acer Swift 5 (2019) 3514 1639 MB/s 895 MB/s 10 hours
HP Envy 13 (2020) 4125 1356 / 3982 791 1760 MB/s 1749 MB/s 8hrs 40mins
LG Gram 17 (2020) 4177 1284 / 3541 745 3391 MB/s 1981 MB/s 10 hours
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 4087 1213 / 4033 1181 3334 MB/s 2353 MB/s 10hrs 20mins
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. 

Best Laptop Benchmark Testing – Screen

Best Laptop Screen Benchmarks Brightness Black level Contrast White visual temperature sRGB Adobe RGB DCI-P3
Dell XPS 13 (2020) 549 0.3221 1707:1 6296K 100% 76.60% 83.20%
MacBook Air M1
Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) 260 0.2172 1190:1 6373K 61.50% 42.60% 43.80%
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019) 478 0.3598 1329:1 6412K 100% 83.60%
Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch) 388 0.2718 1428:1 6490K 90.70% 62.70% 64.40%
Acer Swift 5 (2019) 300 100% 78%
HP Envy 13 (2020) 1063 0.4731 2248:1 5707K 96% 73.30% 75.40%
LG Gram 17 (2020) 382 0.246 1550:1 6930K 96.50% 67.40% 70%
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 462 0.3583 1290:1 6054K 100% 84.80% 97.90%
Asus ROG
Zephyrus G14

*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. 

Looking for something else?

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: