In the modern world, a laptop that suits your needs is extremely important. However, whether you’re in need of a productivity machine or prefer to game on the go, finding the best laptops for your needs can be tricky.
There are tons of things to consider when buying a new laptop, or computer of any kind, really. For starters, you’ll want to think about how high-performance of a laptop you need. If you’re mostly managing emails, using Microsoft Word, and perhaps editing the occasional spreadsheet, you can probably get by with a lower-performing laptop — though keep in mind that lots of browser tabs can clog up your computer real quick. The amount of RAM also impacts performance, especially if you multitask a lot.
Some people will also want to consider graphics performance. That’s mostly true for those who want their laptop for gaming and video editing. Other things to consider include the type and size of the display, and the ports around the edges.
Lastly, you’ll want to keep in mind that a laptop is a portable machine. That means that the thickness and the weight of the device may be important for you, especially if you plan on taking it to school or work.
Without further ado, here are the best laptops money can buy in 2021.
Best laptop overall: Apple MacBook Air
Pros: Great performance, sleek design, incredible battery life, good keyboard
Cons: Limited port selection
If you simply want a high-quality laptop that can get the job done for 99% of people, the MacBook Air is the way to go. Apple breathed new life into the MacBook Air with the new M1 chip, and while we are expecting a redesign for the device at some point soon, if you need a laptop now, you simply can’t go wrong with the MacBook Air.
The M1 chip radically changes how the MacBook Air performs. Not only is the laptop able to handle more than ever before, but it also gets an incredibly long battery life. In fact, the vast majority of users will be able to get away without charging their MacBook Air throughout an entire day, or maybe even two.
Under the hood, apart from the M1 chip, the MacBook Air offers either 8GB or 16GB of RAM, and between 256GB and 2TB of storage. That should be more than enough for the vast majority of users.
The MacBook Air is a great machine, but it’s not perfect. Notably, the laptop only has two USB 4 ports, which may not be enough for many users. And, while it’s not overly expensive, it’s still not cheap — despite being Apple’s cheapest laptop. The laptop starts at $999.99, though it often gets discounts from different retailers.
Best Windows laptop: Dell XPS 13
Pros: Great design, excellent performance, lots of variations
Cons: Expensive, limited port selection
The Dell XPS 13 has long been one of the best laptops out there, and the 2021 model is no exception to that rule. The laptop boasts excellent performance, a thin and lightweight design, and a stunning display, especially if you shell out for more expensive models.
The base model of the laptop offers an Intel Core i3 processor, coupled with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It also has an FHD+ touch display. The laptop can, however, be upgraded to offer an Intel Core i7 processor with up to 32GB of RAM, 2TB of storage, and a 3.5K OLED display — though different combinations of specs may be available or not available at any given moment.
The laptop is nice and thin, but that doesn’t mean it has a subpar keyboard or trackpad. The keyboard offers more than enough travel for most situations, while the trackpad is large and accurate.
So what are the downsides? Well, the main one is that it’s expensive, especially if you upgrade the specs on offer. Also, the port selection is only fine, with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a MicroSD card slot, and a headphone jack.
Best gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15
Pros: Relatively portable, great design, great keyboard and trackpad, stunning display
If you’re a gamer, it can be a struggle to find a great laptop. There are gaming laptops with desktop-like performance, but they tend to be overly chunky and expensive. The Razer Blade 15 offers a great compromise between portability and performance. Note, there are two Razer Blade 15 models — the Razer Blade 15 Base and Razer Blade 15 Advanced. They both come in a range of configurations.
The base model of the Razer Blade 15 comes with an Intel Core i7-11800H processor, with 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card. Impressive. The Advanced model can offer even more advanced specs.
On the Base model, you’ll get three USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, one Thunderbolt 3 port, one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, one HDMI 2.1 port, and one Ethernet port. That should be more than enough ports for most users.
So what are the issues with this laptop? Well, it’s not cheap, even when you buy the base model. That said, considering its excellent performance, it will be worth the cash for those that can afford it.
Best budget gaming laptop: Dell G15 Gaming Laptop
Pros: Great performance for the price, good battery life
Cons: Display is only fine
Not everyone has the cash to spend on the Razer Blade 15. Thankfully, if you want a great gaming laptop, you don’t have to spend a ton to get quality. The Dell G15 gaming laptop offers excellent performance and plenty of features for the money.
The base model of the Dell G15 comes with an Intel Core i5-11400H processor, coupled with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of solid-state storage, and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card. It can, however, be upgraded to offer up to an Intel Core i7-11800H, with 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and an NVIDIA RTX 3060 graphics card. Of course, you’ll pay to upgrade the machine.
The laptop has other things going for it too. It may be a little chunky, but you’ll get a decent port selection around the edges and on the back. It’s also got a nice, sleek black look.
So what are the downsides to the Gell G15 gaming laptop? Well, as mentioned, it’s not the lightest machine. Also, while it’s cheaper than the likes of the Razer Blade 15, it’s still not the cheapest laptop out there. That said, if you’re a gamer, you will need the performance on offer by the G15.
Best laptop for college: HP Envy x360 13t
Pros: Sleek and portable, relatively powerful
Cons: Glossy display is reflective
Looking for a decent, portable laptop for college that doesn’t cost as much as the MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13? The HP Envy x360 13t is a great option. The laptop isn’t cheap, but it’s also not overly expensive, and offers almost everything an average college student would need.
The base model of the HP Envy x360 13t comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, coupled with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. That should be more than enough for the vast majority of users, including those who need to access web apps, edit documents, and so on. The laptop can be upgraded to offer up to an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage. It’ll cost you, but for some, that upgrade may be worth it.
The device isn’t very expensive either. At the time of this writing, the base model came at $699.99, which isn’t bad at all.
But what about downsides? Well, the Envy x360 13t’s display isn’t the best out there, though it’s also not bad. And, you can’t upgrade the memory — so make sure to get as much RAM as you’ll need when you buy. Still, if you can look past those things, the HP Envy x360 13t is a great option.
Best cheap laptop: Acer Aspire 5
Pros: Inexpensive, lots of ports, big display
Cons: Windows 10 S, a little under-powered
If you want a solid laptop that comes at the lowest price possible, then the Acer Aspire 5 is probably the laptop to go for. There are models as low as $350, and you’ll still get a decently high-quality device.
The base model of the laptop, the Acer Aspire 5 (A515-56-36UT), comes with an Intel Core i3 processor, coupled with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There are tons of configurations and options for the laptop, and if you can afford it we definitely recommend upgrading the processor and RAM.
Around the edges of the laptop, there should be enough ports for most users. You’ll get a HDMI port, a USB 2.0 port, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, and a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port. More USB-C ports might have been nice, though most will still be perfectly happy with what’s on offer here.
As you might expect from a lower-cost laptop, there are some compromises here. Notably, the laptop is still lower-performing, and as a result, it’s not for those that need extra oomph. That said, it should still easily handle things like web browsing, word processing, and basic tasks like that. Also, the laptop comes with Windows 10 in S Mode. It’s a bit scaled back, but you can upgrade it.