A woman using a Dell XPS 13 laptop at a desk.
Dell

What to Look For in a Laptop in 2021

There’s no one best laptop for everyone. You might want a Windows PC, a Mac, a Chromebook, or even one with Linux. You might want a thin and light computer with excellent battery life, or you might want a powerful tank of a machine with a big display or excellent graphics horsepower for playing games.

That’s not even all you’ll need to consider. Do you want a touchscreen? Do you want a 2-in-1 laptop that can also be used as a tablet? You might just want to save some cash, or you might want to spend extra for a premium device with powerful hardware.

But, even if you know roughly what you want in a laptop, choosing a laptop can be complicated. There are so many different models, and every laptop manufacturer is quick to tell you its hardware is right for you.

Where do you even start? We’re here to give you our top picks to make your shopping process as speedy and uncomplicated as possible.

Note: All the Windows laptops we recommend here will be able to upgrade to Windows 11 when it’s officially released in late 2021.

Best Laptop Overall: Dell XPS 13

woman using dell xps 13 at home
Dell

Pros

  • Great build quality
  • Long battery life
  • Solid PC performance
  • Incredibly customizable

Cons

  • Premium price
  • Integrated graphics means this isn't a gaming system
  • Not everyone wants Windows

The Dell XPS 13 is a great all-around PC laptop. If we had to recommend just one best Windows laptop—and it’s so hard to pick just one—this is the laptop we’d recommend to most people. It runs Windows 10 and will support Windows 11 when it’s released.

The XPS 13 is a 13-inch laptop, which is the most popular size for a reason. At 13 inches, you’re getting a substantial laptop with a full-size keyboard, but it’s also lightweight, compact, and portable. Of course, some people will want bigger laptops. 15-inch is a popular size if you want to step up, and Dell also offers a 15-inch version of this laptop.

Dell regularly updates the XPS 13 series with the latest Intel processors and other design improvements, and every release is better than the last. Of course, you can customize the Intel processor you get, as well as CPU, memory, and SSD.

Do you want an XPS 13 with a touch screen? Do you want a beautiful 4K screen, or would you rather have a 1920×1200 screen and longer battery life? Dell offers a lot of choices.

The XPS 13 is thin and light at 0.58 inches thick and starts at just 2.64 pounds without a touch screen. It’s got great build quality with a keyboard that feels great to type on and a smooth touchpad. Dell promises up to 14 hours of battery life while streaming video, although it will vary depending on what you’re doing—and you’ll get less battery life if you opt for the 4K display and/or touchscreen.

Unlike typical laptops, Dell uses a 16:10 display instead of a 16:9 display. This means the laptop’s display is slightly taller, giving you more vertical room on your screen. It’s also an “InfinityEdge” display with smaller bezels around the screen. Years ago, older versions of the XPS 13 design had a “nose cam” that looked up from below your screen, but modern XPS 13 laptops have a properly positioned webcam above the screen. The webcam even supports Windows Hello, so you can sign in with your face.

The biggest downside to Dell XPS 13 laptops is that they come with integrated Intel graphics. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop with a powerful GPU—or if you need a GPU for video editing, rendering, or other professional graphics applications—you’ll want to check our gaming laptop pick instead.

Of course, this is a Windows laptop, so if you’re a Mac person, you’ll want to look for the best MacBook. If you’re a Linux fan, though, you’re in luck! Dell offers a version of this PC that comes with Linux.

Best Laptop Overall

Dell XPS 13

Do you need a laptop that does it all? You’ll want the Dell XPS 13. This is a solid laptop with great battery life, so provided you’re fine with Windows, this is the way to go.

Best Budget Laptop: Acer Swift 3

acer swift on blue and purple background
Acer

Pros

  • An incredible hardware package
  • Excellent performance
  • Great value
  • Seriously, this is a lot of hardware for the price range

Cons

  • Higher end of budget
  • Build quality and battery life could be better

No one wants to spend more money than they have to. When shopping for a lower-priced laptop, you’re going to have to think about the tradeoffs you’re making. The less you spend, the more you compromise.

We’re fans of the Acer Swift 3 if you’re on a budget. It’s often available for a bit over $600, which might seem expensive, but you’re getting what you pay for. The Swift 3 has a 14-inch 1080p screen, a speedy AMD Ryzen 7 eight-core processor with Radeon graphics, 8 GB of RAM, 512GB of fast NVMe storage, Wi-Fi 6, and a fingerprint reader. That’s an incredible amount of powerful hardware in a mid-range laptop package at this price level. The keyboard and touchpad work well, too.

But what’s the best laptop under $500, you might ask? Well, first we’d recommend upping your budget a bit. Lots of solid PCs, like the Acer Swift 3, are available in the $550 to $650 range. You’ll end up getting a laptop that you’ll be much happier with for a longer period of time.

If you can’t go about $500, then we’d recommend getting not a PC, but a Chromebook. The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is an excellent Chromebook at any price range—although our favorite Chromebook is a bit more expensive—with speedy performance, solid battery life, and a good keyboard and trackpad. You won’t have to deal with Windows, either.

But just how cheap can you go? Well, there’s a computer called the HP Stream 11. It’s among the cheapest Windows laptops you can buy at just over $200. However, it has a slow Intel Celeron CPU, just 4 GB of RAM, and slow (and small) 32GB eMMC storage. At 11 inches, it’s smaller than the 13-inch laptops most people would be comfortable with. That’s a lot of compromises, and we wouldn’t recommend it for most people.

You’ll need to pick the machine that makes sense for you at your price point—but we think you’ll be pleased with an Acer Swift 3 as a PC laptop. It’s budget but doesn’t have too many compromises.

Best Budget Laptop

Acer Swift 3

Need a new laptop but on a budget? The Acer Swift 3 is a solid hardware package without breaking the bank.

Best Gaming Laptop: Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

asus rog on blue background
Asus

Pros

  • Blazing fast gaming performance
  • Beautiful screen
  • Surprisingly portable

Cons

  • One stick of RAM is soldered
  • No built-in webcam
  • A gaming desktop will always offer more performance per dollar

A gaming desktop will always be more powerful than a gaming laptop, but you might be shocked by just how powerful gaming laptops have become. You might also be shocked by just how sleek they look compared to the lumbering tanks of a few years ago.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 is one such gaming laptop. It pairs a high-end AMD CPU with an incredibly powerful NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 GPU for blazing-fast performance. The base model comes with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage.

This 15-inch laptop’s screen is beautiful. It’s not a 4K display, but it is QHD—in other words, 2560×1440 resolution. It has a fast 165Hz refresh rate, too.

You don’t necessarily want 4K in a gaming laptop, anyway. It takes more graphical horsepower to render games on a 4K screen, so a mobile GPU would have more trouble delivering high FPS (frames per second) at maximum graphics quality in the latest games. In other words, you’re better off running a game with higher graphical settings on a lower-resolution display than with lower graphical settings on a higher-resolution 4K display.

Despite all that power, this 15-inch laptop boasts all-day battery life when you’re not gaming. It weighs about four pounds, so you don’t have to give up portability.

The ROG Zephyrus G15 is really awesome value for money. That being said, one of the RAM modules is soldered to the motherboard, which will prevent you from upgrading the RAM in that slot in the future.

This laptop also doesn’t have a built-in webcam, but you can always use an external webcam, and it does have a fingerprint reader.

Best Gaming Laptop

Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

While desktops are usually better for gaming, if you want a gaming laptop, you can’t beat the Asus ROG line. This is a sleek, light gaming laptop that will suit all your gaming needs.

Best Laptop for College: HP Envy x360 13

hp envy on dark background
HP

Pros

  • 2-in-1 convertible
  • Allows pen input
  • Good value for money

Cons

  • Not a premium laptop
  • Not the cheapest laptop, either

For college students who want a powerful yet portable system with long battery life at a significantly lower price than that of our best Laptop overall, we recommend the HP Envy x360 13.

This laptop is a 13-inch 2-in-1 PC with a touchscreen. As the name suggests, it can flip around 360 degrees so you can use it as a tablet. The screen supports pen input, too, making it good for taking notes at school. HP claims it gets up to 9 hours of battery life, so you don’t need to seek out a charging station in between classes.

Overall, the HP Envy x360 is a solid package with good performance for the price level. It’s not as “premium” in build quality or hardware as many of our other picks, but it’s hundreds of dollars cheaper and is ready for touch and pen input. It’s not even as high-performing as our recommended budget laptop, but it’s easier to throw into a bag and will be perfect for most students. It’s significantly cheaper than the best 2-in-1 laptop, too.

HP offers a variety of models of this laptop, and you can choose whether you get an 11th-generation Intel Core CPU or an AMD Ryzen chip.

All that being said, it’s hard to go wrong with many of the other laptops here for college, either. Maybe you want a more premium laptop without the touch and pen input, a Chromebook, or a beefier PC laptop you can play games on.

If you want a Mac, the quintessential Mac for college is the MacBook Air. Students can save $100 on a MacBook with Apple’s education pricing. Or, for something more premium, check out our pick for the best MacBook. Students can save on it, too.

Best Laptop for College

HP Envy x360 13

When you’re a student, your laptop needs to work all day. The HP Envy 13 has up to 9 hours of battery life on a single charge, and its general performance is great, too.

Best 2-in-1 Laptop: HP Spectre x360 13

hp spectre on red background
HP

Pros

  • A great laptop at heart
  • Excellent touch and pen input
  • Unique color options

Cons

  • Not the cheapest
  • Screen doesn't detach, as with some 2-in-1s

HP’s Spectre x360 13 is an excellent 2-in-1 PC. It’s an excellent laptop in and of itself, and it lets you rotate it 360 degrees so it can function as a tablet. The Spectre has a touch screen and included stylus so you can write on the screen, too. Like our best laptop overall pick, this 14-inch laptop has a 3:2 display so you can see more content on the screen at a time.

The specs are solid: A powerful Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU, great all-day battery life, and a great keyboard are all a given.

The HP Spectre x360 also has excellent build quality. Unlike the average laptop, it offers some stylish, unique color options that help it stand out in a crowded field.  Choose from Natural Silver, Nightfall Black (with gold highlights), or Poseidon Blue, and have your laptop stand out.

If you want a 2-in-1, HP has done an excellent job of combining a premium ultraportable laptop with tablet features and a unique design language to create a standout system.

Of course, some people might prefer the kind of 2-in-1 with a detachable keyboard. If you’re looking for that, we recommend Microsoft’s Surface line, from the inexpensive Surface Go 2 to the Surface Pro 7 all the way to the premium Surface Book 3. However, aside from the Surface Book, these devices feel a bit closer to tablets with keyboard covers than 2-in-1 laptops. It depends on what you’re going for, really!

Best 2-in-1 Laptop

HP Spectre x360 13

The Spectre works like any good laptop would, and then you can flip it around completely on its hinges and use it as a tablet (with included pen). It’s the best of both worlds!

Best Laptop for Video and Photo Editing: MacBook Pro (16-inch)

mackbook pro intel on pink background
Apple

Pros

  • Fast Intel CPU and powerful hardware
  • AMD Radeon Pro discrete graphics
  • Excellent speakers

Cons

  • Uses an Intel CPU instead of Apple's newer M1
  • Expensive
  • No SD card slot

Apple’s MacBook Pro has long been one of the top choices for graphics professionals, photographers, and other creative professionals. If the software you use works on a Mac, the largest and most powerful MacBook Pro is a great choice.

You get a beautiful 16-inch Retina display with 3072×1920 native resolution at 226 pixels per inch (PPI). Unlike your average MacBook, it includes AMD Radeon Pro graphics for applications that require discrete graphics hardware. However, it also includes Intel graphics: Like many PC laptops, this MacBook will automatically switch between integrated and discrete graphics to optimize power consumption and extend battery life.

This 16-inch MacBook is packed with some serious hardware, and it’s also very customizable. The base model includes an Intel Core i7 CPU, but you can pay extra for an even more powerful Intel Core i9 CPU. It starts at 16GB of RAM, but you can go to 32GB or even 64GB. It starts at 512GB of storage, but you can go all the way to 8TB.

The MacBook Pro also has excellent speakers. That’s a feature that’s often forgotten on a laptop—it’s easy to skimp on speakers. Apple also includes a “studio-quality three-mic array,” which may not be as good as a high-quality studio microphone but is certainly better than the average laptop.

Unfortunately, there’s no SD card slot. That’s a feature many photographers would find useful. You’ll need a dongle for that.

If you want a Windows PC with a big screen for photo and video editing, consider our best 15-inch laptop instead. Or, if you need powerful discrete graphics hardware, consider a gaming laptop.

Best Laptop for Editing

Apple MacBook Pro 16-ich with Intel Core i7

The MacBook Pro may not have an M1 chip, but with the Intel chip and AMD Radeon Pro, you'll have plenty of power to edit videos and photos with ease.

Best Laptop for Business: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9

lenovo thinkpad on green background
Lenovo

Pros

  • Powerful hardware and long battery life
  • Durable and lightweight
  • Optional cellular connectivity
  • Classic ThinkPad nub

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No discrete GPU, so it's not the best for gaming
  • Some people will prefer a MacBook

Nearly any laptop can be good for business, but the ThinkPad is the classic line of business laptops for a reason. From battle-tested durability to a wide variety of ports and optional cellular connectivity, this line of laptops stands out.

With the 14-inch Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 9, Lenovo has created a premium line of business ThinkPads. At 2.49 pounds, it’s even lighter than our favorite overall laptop while still being robust thanks to the use of lightweight carbon fiber. Lenovo says ThinkPads are tested against military-grade requirements to ensure they will run in extreme conditions.

This is the Dell XPS 13, but better—and, of course, more expensive. It has a 16:10 display for more vertical screen real estate, which is great for productivity. You get great hardware like an 11th generation Intel Core i7 processor and a variety of ports, including traditional USB-A and full-size HDMI ports, so you can connect nearly any device you need to connect. Most ultraportable laptops skimp on the ports, forcing you to rely on dongles, so this is a bigger feature than you’d expect!

And, of course, this machine has the classic red “TrackPoint” nub you can use to control your mouse cursor from the center of your keyboard. It’s a ThinkPad, after all!

You can optionally get a 4G LTE / 5G modem built-in, giving your laptop an internet connection anywhere you can get a cellular signal (with a cellular data plan, of course). That’s one of the things that makes this type of machine the best laptop for work: An always-on internet connection so you don’t have to worry about finding Wi-Fi.

If this laptop seems a bit too expensive for you, our pick for best laptop overall is a great, ultraportable business laptop as well. And of course, if you want a Mac, definitely consider our top MacBook.

Best Laptop for Business

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9

ThinkPads are well-known productivity laptops, and you can’t go wrong with this latest model. It’s durable and lightweight, making it easy to work no matter where you are.

Best Laptop for Kids: Lenovo Chromebook Duet

lenovo duet on yellow background
Lenovo

Pros

  • 2-in-1 with a touchscreen
  • Inexpensive
  • No Windows to cause problems

Cons

  • Lower-end performance

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a great laptop for kids. It’s a Chromebook, so you’re getting a simplified operating system—a kid won’t have to deal with the complexity of Windows.

For under $300, you’re getting a capable 2-in-1 device with a touch screen. A kid can use it as a tablet or a laptop and go back and forth. At 10 hours of battery life, you’re getting a lot of runtime before you have to plug this machine in, as well. Like many of our favorite laptops, it even has a 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the typical 16:9 aspect ratio.

The Duet is on the small side for a laptop at 10.1 inches, essentially a normal size for a tablet. The smaller-than-typical keyboard may not be a concern for a child, and the small size could make the system easier to use, especially as a tablet. Unlike some convertible computers, it comes with a keyboard and doesn’t make you purchase that separately.

Of course, sacrifices have to be made to hit this under $300 price point. This system has a lower-end processor (a MediaTek ARM chip), so it’s not going to compete with laptops that have high-end Intel CPUs, especially when doing a lot of multitasking.

If you’re looking for a Windows PC option, consider the Microsoft Surface Go 2. It’s a 10.5-inch 2-in-1 laptop starting at $400—but the keyboard will cost you extra. You get an Intel CPU, but it’s a slower Core M CPU. Just don’t expect the multitasking performance of a higher-end Intel laptop.

Best Laptop for Kids

Lenovo Chromebook Duet

If you’re looking for technology for children, it’s important for it to be easy to use and durable. The Chromebook Duet is both, and Chrome OS takes some of Window’s oddities out of the equation.

Best Touch Screen Laptop: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

surface laptop on pink background
Microsoft

Pros

  • All models include touch screens
  • Long battery life
  • Great touchpad, too

Cons

  • Not a transformable 2-in-1
  • Can't officially use Android apps until Windows 11

Many laptops have touch screens these days—but not always by default. For example, our favorite overall laptop is available with a touch screen, but the base model does not include one.

While you can find lots of great laptops with touch screens, we like Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4. All Surface Laptop models include a touch screen, so you’re not guessing whether or not your model has one. It supports 10-point touch input (so you can use all your fingers at once), and you can also draw on it with the Microsoft Surface Pen. Unlike most other Surface devices, this is a standard laptop form factor, so it doesn’t feel like a tablet.

Since all models have a touch screen, you don’t have to sacrifice battery life, as you might with some laptops. The base model with an AMD Ryzen 5 processor boasts up to 19 hours of battery life, while the Intel models get a few hours less.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 also includes a particularly excellent touchpad for moving your mouse cursor along with a comfortable keyboard. This is just a solid, all-around laptop. (If you want more of a “transformable tablet with a keyboard cover” experience, the Surface Pro 7 is also a great computer.)

If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 system that can transform into more of a laptop form factor, consider our favorite 2-in-1. Or, if you want a touch laptop that can run Android apps, check out the best Chromebook. Android apps will officially arrive on Windows with Windows 11, so if you don’t mind waiting, the Surface Laptop 4 is a good choice.

Best Touch Screen Laptop

Surface Laptop 4

If you want a laptop with a touch screen that’s not a 2-in-1, the Surface Laptop 4 is your best option. With all models having a touch screen and a long battery life, this is a solid choice.

Best 15-inch Laptop: Dell XPS 15

dell xps 15 on purple bakground
Dell

Pros

  • Many XPS 13 features in a 15-inch package
  • Excellent build quality
  • Almost bezel-free display

Cons

  • Won't perform as well as a gaming laptop
  • The price is relatively premium

Dell makes a great 13-inch laptop, and the company also makes a great 15-inch laptop. The Dell XPS 15 is a solid, modern system that takes many of the Dell XPS 13’s great features: A screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio, a great keyboard, and an excellent glass touchpad. You also get a camera that can sign you in with Windows Hello and a fingerprint reader.

Like the Dell XPS 13, the Dell XPS 15 sports an almost bezel-free “InfinityEdge” display. At 15.6 inches, you get a much larger display than your average 13-inch laptop. However, it’s still very portable, starting at 3.99 lbs for the base model. Battery life will vary depending on which model you choose as different battery sizes and components are available, but you should get all-day battery life away from a power outlet.

You can definitely spend less for a 15-inch laptop and pick up a mid-range or budget system, but you won’t get a piece of hardware this nice.

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop, take a look at our gaming laptop pick instead. Compared to our favorite gaming laptop, the base Dell XPS 15 with Intel integrated graphics is $600 cheaper. If you want a larger laptop without screaming-fast gaming performance, this is a solid system with great build quality.

If you’re a Mac fan, however, you should check out Apple’s 16-inch MacBook instead. Of course, both a MacBook and a gaming laptop will be much more expensive than this system.

Best 15-inch Laptop

Dell XPS 15

Need something a little bigger than the typical 13-inch laptop? The Dell XPS 15 is a bigger version of our overall top pick.

Best MacBook: MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1)

M1 macbook Pro on grey background
Apple

Pros

  • New M1 Apple Silicon chip with active cooling
  • 20-hour battery life
  • More features than the MacBook Air

Cons

  • M1 MacBook Air is almost as good for a few hundred dollars less
  • A bit thicker and heavier than the MacBook Air

The best Apple laptop you can buy is the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 chip. It’s a few hundred dollars more expensive than the MacBook Air with an Apple Silicon M1 chip, but you do get quite a few upgrades.

Despite both systems having an M1 chip, the MacBook Pro is guaranteed to have an 8-core GPU, while the base MacBook Air will have a 7-core GPU. The MacBook Pro has a very quiet built-in fan that provides active cooling, letting the M1 chip maintain high-performance levels for longer versus the MacBook Air’s fanless design.

Beyond that, the MacBook Pro offers a touch bar, better speakers, and improved microphones. It’s a bit heavier than the MacBook Air, but it also contains a larger battery. Apple says you’ll get 20 hours of battery life on a charge versus 18 hours with the MacBook Air.

Of course, the MacBook Air with the M1 chip is a solid system if you’re looking to save a few hundred bucks. It’s hard to go wrong with either, but the MacBook Pro is clearly a superior machine that’s just a little heavier and a bit more expensive.

You can also get MacBooks with Intel chips, but Apple is transitioning to its own ARM CPUs starting with the M1 models. We recommend picking up an M1 MacBook unless you really need a feature that requires Intel models. (For example, professional video-editing workloads that need discrete graphics hardware still require an Intel Mac like the 16-inch MacBook Pro.)

RELATED: The Best MacBooks of 2021 for School, Gaming, and More

Best MacBook

Apple MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip

Apple's M1 chip is great, and the MacBook Pro is the greatest of the M1 chip MacBooks. You get more features than the less expensive MacBook Air, including fans to keep your MacBook cool.

Best Chromebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 713

acer spin on green and blue background
Acer

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Big, beautiful touch screen
  • Solid build quality
  • 2-in-1 laptop with Android apps

Cons

  • Less battery life than a lower-end Chromebook
  • High-end for a Chromebook

Asus has delivered a beautiful system with the 2021 version of the Chromebook Spin 713. It may be expensive for a Chromebook, but it’s a bargain compared to premium Windows laptops—and this is very much a premium laptop down to its solid keyboard and touchpad.

This Chromebook is packed with modern hardware. You’re getting an 11th-generation Intel Core processor (or you can opt for the i5 or i7). The USB-C ports support Thunderbolt 4 for speedy peripherals. Internal storage starts at 256 GB.

It’s in a whole different performance class compared to a budget Chromebook. Battery life will also be a bit lower than on a less powerful Chromebook, of course.

The screen is beautiful at 2256×1504 pixels. That means it’s a 3:2 screen, so it has even more vertical space than the 16:10 screens on our favorite Windows laptops here. This Chromebook has a touch screen, and the “spin” in the system’s name is a clue: This is a 2-in-1 convertible. Unlike a Windows 10 PC, you can install Android apps on a Chromebook and effectively use it as an Android tablet—or just run Android apps alongside Chrome.

You don’t have to spend this much on a Chromebook. We picked some great Chromebooks as the best laptop under $500 and our favorite laptop for kids. But, if you are willing to spend this much, you’re going to have a great Chrome OS experience.

Best Chromebook

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

You need to pay for the best Chromebook experience, but it's worth it. The Acer Chromebook Spin has a detachable keyboard, an 11th-generation Intel core, and Thunderbolt 4 compatibility.

Best Linux Laptop: Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition

woman using dell xps 13 at home
Dell

Pros

  • Dell officially supports Linux on our favorite overall laptop
  • Great build quality, long battery life, and excellent performance

Cons

  • You can install Linux on a cheaper laptop, if you're savvy

You can install Linux on a lot of laptops, but most manufacturers don’t support Linux on their hardware. If you pick up a random laptop and install Linux on it, you may get stuck dealing with hardware driver problems.

We recommend getting a laptop that officially supports Linux. Dell offers a Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition model that comes with Linux. This is a version of our favorite laptop overall, but this model comes with Linux. But Dell didn’t just throw Ubuntu on any old laptop and call it a day.

Dell officially supports Linux on this hardware, so you know that everything is going actually to work properly. Whether you’re looking for a developer system for Linux programming or you just want an open-source operating system, this is the hardware we recommend.

If you want to spend more money for a more premium experience, Lenovo also offers a Linux edition of its ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 laptop. It’s our favorite laptop for business, so it’s great to see that Linux users have options for premium laptops with good official support for Linux operating systems.

Best Laptop for Linux

Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition

Many laptops can have Linux installed on them, but few are built with the operating system in mind. This version of our best overall pick is ready for Linux, and all the hardware will work properly.

The Best Linux Laptops of 2021 for Developers and Enthusiasts

Best Linux Laptop Overall
Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition
Best Budget Linux Laptop
Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Best Premium Linux Laptop
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 With Linux
Purism Librem 14
Best Linux Laptop for Gamers
System76 Oryx Pro

Best Laptop That Isn’t a Laptop: iPad Pro + Magic Keyboard

ipad with keyboard and pencil on blue and green background
Apple

Pros

  • The simplicity of an iPad
  • Laptop-class performance with Magic Keyboard
  • A high-end, premium iPad experience

Cons

  • Doesn't run traditional Mac or Windows apps
  • About as expensive as a MacBook Pro

If you don’t want a laptop with a traditional computer operating system like Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, or Linux, the iPad is your best choice.

Of course, we don’t mean just any iPad! We recommend the 11-inch iPad Pro (or the 12.7-inch iPad Pro if you want a larger screen) with the M1 chip. This is the same processor Apple put in its MacBooks and desktop Macs, so you’re getting desktop-class performance on this system.

Apple sells a Magic Keyboard that will effectively run an iPad Pro into a laptop replacement (get the larger 12.7-inch Magic Keyboard if you buy the larger iPad Pro). The Magic Keyboard functions as a case with a stand for the iPad. It even includes a trackpad—yes, you can use the built-in trackpad or even pair a mouse with your iPad and use a mouse alongside the touch screen.

Despite all that powerful hardware, this is still very much an iPad with iPadOS. That will be a blessing to some and a curse to others. (Apple is making the iPad’s multitasking more powerful with iPadOS 15 in fall 2021, too.)

Of course, once you buy both the powerful iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard, you’re looking about spending as much as a MacBook Pro would cost. However, this is a seriously premium iPad experience. If you don’t need a full-on laptop, the iPad and Magic Keyboard combo might be for you!

RELATED: The Best iPads for Holiday 2021 for Drawing, Travel, and More

Best Laptop Replacement

Apple 11-inch iPad Pro

Want a tablet that works like a laptop instead? You can't go wrong with the iPad Pro. A powerful tablet with a big screen and solid hardware, this tablet is worth the asking price.

Don't Forget the Keyboard!

Apple Magic Keyboard

If you want a true laptop replacement, you need to pick up the Magic Keyboard. It makes you feel like you're using a MacBook!

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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