Our colleagues at The Verge are technology experts. Not only do they know the best TVs, connected thermostats, and tablets to buy, but the routers that will send the strongest Wi-Fi signals to them. They also have an extensive testing system for laptops and other devices. We’ll be relying on their expertise to inform some of our stories here at The Strategist, including this one.
If you don’t know anything about RAM or processor speed, diving into the world of laptops can feel like stepping on the court against Serena Williams without ever having held a racket. Laptops — and tech for that matter — are always changing and improving. That’s great for us as consumers, but it can be a challenge to keep up. Fortunately, we’re here to lead you through the search. While we’ve already collected the best laptops for kids and the best Chromebooks, here, with the help of our sister site, The Verge, we’ve found a laptop for nearly every type of person, whether you’re looking for a budget option or something much more powerful. (If you’re trying to hack into a “mainframe” somewhere — we see you! Although if you’re any good, we definitely don’t.)
Some of the things you’ll want to consider when buying a new laptop are size, speed, and storage space. If you spend most of your time browsing the web, shuffling between Google docs and making niche memes, there’s no need to spend $2,800 on a 16-inch MacBook Pro. But you don’t want to sleep on the MacBook Air, which is lightweight and comfortable and has enough horsepower to get you through the day. You’ll also want a responsive keyboard, a crisp display, and a smooth and sensitive trackpad. (A jumpy, slow-to-react cursor can ruin even the best laptop.) No laptop is perfect for everyone, but there is at least one that’s perfect for you.
The best laptop for most people
Monica Chin, The Verge’s laptop reviewer, calls this one of the best laptops you can buy. It’s well built, it has a powerful processor, and a vibrant 13-inch screen with almost no bezel. Which means you’ll have a that extra bit of room on your 4K screen to move around windows, browse the web and play games. In their testing, the Verge recorded seven hours of battery life and three hours of light gaming. The keyboard and touchpad feel smooth and responsive, and it weighs only 2.8 pounds.
The best (less-expensive) laptop for most people
“The HP Envy x360 2020 is one of the best midrange laptops you can buy, thanks to its sturdy and compact build, chic convertible design, and excellent performance,” Chin says. It’s shockingly thin, and like the XPS 13, has almost no bezel around the screen, which looks futuristic as hell. It also has a touchscreen, in case you ever want to quickly fold over the keyboard and mark up docs or PDF files while on the go. The speedy processor means it can run intensive games like Overwatch and also handle heavy multitasking.
The best laptop for Apple fans
This is one of the best options for people who already have Apple products and like the Apple ecosystem. All of your Apple devices will seamlessly sync. At 2.8 pounds, the Air is extremely lightweight. It has a clear Retina display, and a new and improved keyboard. (For the last few years Apple has been roasted for its annoyingly unresponsive keys, but the 2020 version of the Air’s keyboard is much more comfortable and responsive.)
The best laptop for Apple fans (who need more computing power)
Compared to the Air, Macbook Pros are a step up in power and storage capacity. They’re able to handle a lot of open windows and run multiple programs at once, and if you upgrade to the faster 1.7-ghz i7 processor, you’ll be able to easily manage audio, video, and photo editing. These laptops have bright screens and Apples new upgraded keyboards. They weigh about 3.1 lbs and have built-in speakers that won’t disappoint.
The best laptop for Windows fans
Chin considers the Surface 3 to be one of the most reliable laptops in the Microsoft Surface line up: “It features an outstanding keyboard and touchpad as well as a sturdy and attractive chassis that’s fairly portable at just 2.89 pounds,” she says. “And it packs great everyday performance, with enough horsepower to handle Lightroom and Photoshop, and even graphic-intensive tasks in Premiere Pro.” The biggest complaint you can throw at the Surface 3 is the lack of ports. It has one USB-C port and another USB-A port which can be a drawback for some people. But overall the Surface 3 is a well-built machine for people that want a reliable Windows computer that can handle multiple tasks.
The best large-screen laptop
The XPS 17 weighs 4.65 pounds, almost double the weight of the average laptop, but with that weight comes extreme computing capability. It’s a desktop in a laptop’s body, basically. “That system flew through gaming benchmarks and complex video work — and didn’t burn itself up in the process,” Chin says. It has an outstanding battery, lasting about a day on a single charge.
The best gaming laptops
Alienware just sounds like the name of a company that makes great gaming computers, and it happens to be true. The brand is synonymous with powerful PCs that are capable of running games that require exceptional specs. In her story on the best gaming laptops, Strategist contributor Tobey Grumet Segal says “the M15 R3 is well balanced between performance and price, and it has a sleek design that includes a glowing LED ring on the back of the laptop and a RGB-backlit keyboard.” The M15 R3 also has an excellent display with a fast 144 Hz refresh rate, giving you smooth performance in even the most graphics-heavy games.
The Razer Blade Pro is a higher-end gaming laptop with a large 17.3-inch screen, a 120 Hz refresh rate, a top-of-the-line graphics card, and an available 4K and touch display. “Weighing in just over six pounds, it comes with an RGB keyboard which adapts color effects to whichever game you’re playing,” Segal says. It’s heavy and a tad expensive, but you’re probably not toting it around with you that often.
The best (less expensive) gaming laptops
It’s a little small, with a 14-inch screen, but according to Chin, the ASUS Zephyrus is a powerful gaming laptop for a low price that can go blow for blow with some of the more expensive gaming laptops on the market. “It’s also quite light for such a powerful laptop, weighing just over 3.5 pounds. Its battery life is also impressive for a gaming rig; we got almost nine hours of multitasking,” she says. Chin also praised its retro design and its ability to work perfectly as a business or multitasking laptop, so you can quickly jump from fixing spreadsheets to playing games.
“This laptop ran every popular title we threw at it at very playable frame rates,” Chin says. Although the G5 isn’t the sleekest looking, it’s the perfect gaming laptop for people looking to spend less than $1,000. It also works well as a day-to-day laptop, with little noise from the fans, so you won’t think there’s a helicopter landing in your living room when you open too many windows, the way you can with some computers.
The best laptop for people who really prefer tablets
This 2-in-1 device serves as both a laptop and a tablet, thanks to its detachable keyboard and kickstand. It has a 10-inch screen and a battery life of more than 11 hours, and it weighs barely 2 pounds. The processor is not designed for heavy lifting, so this laptop is better for people who are usually working on emails or documents, or streaming shows. Think of it as a tablet that’ll stand in for your regular laptop in a pinch.
The best laptop for people who are concerned about security
The 2-in-1X360 is heavier than the Duet, weighing around 3 pounds, but its screen is 3” larger — and feels even larger than that, thanks to the small bezel. What impresses Chin is it’s “full-size keyboard and spacious trackpad.” It also has impressive security features, including “both facial and fingerprint biometric authentication, so you can choose which way you prefer to log in,” she says.
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