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Best Laptop of 2023

These are our top picks for MacBooks, Windows machines and Chromebooks -- including the best laptop overall -- all tested and reviewed by CNET editors.

Updated on Sept. 19, 2023

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Written by  Joshua Goldman
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
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Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
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What to consider

Price

Operating System

Size

Screen

Processor

Graphics

Memory

Storage

$949 at Best Buy
Best laptop overall
Apple MacBook Air M2
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$999 at Dell
Best Windows laptop
Dell XPS 13
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$750 at Best Buy
Best MacBook for students
Apple MacBook Air M1
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$630 at HP
Best Windows laptop for students
HP Pavilion Aero 13 (2023)
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$549 at Amazon
Best cheap laptop
Acer Aspire 5
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$1,000 at HP
Best Chromebook
HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook
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$730 at Walmart
Best Microsoft Surface laptop
Microsoft Surface Pro 8
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$1,200 at Lenovo
Best convertible 2-in-1
Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8
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$2,000 at Dell
Best laptop for gaming
Alienware m18
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$900 at Dell
Best budget gaming laptop
Dell G15 Gaming Laptop
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$2,499 at Best Buy
Best laptop for creators
M2 Pro MacBook Pro (2023, 16-inch)
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$2,800 at Samsung
Best Windows laptop for creatives
Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra
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What is the best laptop overall?

The Apple MacBook Air M2 continues to hold the top spot on our list of the best laptops 2023. It's a solid choice for most people, with a great combination of everything we look for when we're testing: reliable everyday performance, long battery life and a design that works for a broad range of users. And it's now available in a larger, 15-inch size with the same great performance and features. The latest MacBook Air starts at $1,199, though, which is why we still recommend the MacBook Air M1 as a lower-cost alternative to the newest Air model, as it's still an all-around excellent laptop. For those looking for a cheaper option, HP's Pavilion Aero 13 is an excellent 13-inch, 2.2-pound laptop starting at $880, but frequently available for less than $600 and, in our tests, punches above that price in performance.

At CNET, we test all kinds of laptops -- from budget models for everyday tasks to high-performance laptops for gaming and content creation and everything in between. Each member of our team has decades of experience testing and reviewing laptops. We conduct performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use. This helps us find not only the best laptop overall but also the best laptop for your needs and in your price range.

Also readHow We Test Computers

Best laptops of 2023

$9 at Best Buy

Best laptop overall

Apple MacBook Air M2

Pros
  • Bigger, brighter screen
  • A high-res webcam
  • Excellent performance and battery life
Cons
  • More expensive than the model it replaces
  • New power adapter is a paid upgrade on some configs
  • New webcam adds a screen notch
Battery Life/Runtime 1,039 minutes
Weight 2.7 pounds
Display size/type 13.6-inch 2560 x 1664 Liquid Retina
Processor tested Apple M2 8‑core
Graphics tested Apple M2 8‑core

Thanks to a new design, a larger display (13.6 inches versus the previous 13.3 inches), a faster M2 chip and a long-awaited upgrade to a higher-res webcam, the 2022 version of the MacBook Air remains our top choice for the most universally useful laptop in Apple's lineup, with one caveat. At $1,199, the $200 increase over the traditional $999 MacBook Air starting price is a disappointment. That's why you'll still find the M1 version of the Air retains a spot on our best laptop list. Still, we like everything else about it and it's our first choice if you're considering an Air and don't mind spending more.

Apple MacBook Air M2 review

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$999 at Dell

Best Windows laptop

Dell XPS 13

Pros
  • All-aluminum design gives it a polished, modern look
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good configurations are reasonably priced
Cons
  • No audio jack
  • 720p webcam
  • Clicky touchpad
Battery Life/Runtime 611 minutes
Weight 2.6 pounds
Display size/type 13.4-inch, FHD+ 1920x1200
Processor tested Intel Core i5-1230U
Graphics tested Intel Iris Xe Graphics

The Dell XPS 13, like the MacBook Air, is a perennial favorite for its size, weight and performance as well as overall good looks. Plus, despite its sub-$999 starting price, this sturdy little laptop is thinner and smaller than past versions and packed with excellent components. The design is great (though there's no headphone jack; a USB-C adapter is included instead) and the battery life is long. And, if the 13-inch display is too small for your needs, the XPS line includes 15- and 17-inch models.

Dell XPS 13 9315 review

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$8 at Best Buy

Best MacBook for students

Apple MacBook Air M1

Pros
  • Great battery life and performance
  • Fanless design runs cool and quiet
Cons
  • No external design or feature changes
  • Still more expensive than equally capable Windows laptops
Battery Life/Runtime 1,026 minutes
Weight 2.8 pounds
Display size/type 13-inch, 2560 x 1600 IPS LCD
Processor tested Apple M1 8‑core
Graphics tested Apple M1 7-core

Despite the availability of the new bigger and better M2 MacBook Air, the M1 MacBook Air (one of the first to switch from Intel to Apple silicon) is staying around and that's a good thing. As Apple's entry-level laptop it is still our go-to recommendation for a MacOS laptop for basic everyday use. It has great performance and long battery life -- up to 18 hours -- and is a solid choice for school or work.

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$630 at HP

Best Windows laptop for students

HP Pavilion Aero 13 (2023)

Pros
  • Weighs under 2.2 pounds
  • Long battery life
  • Excellent performance for everyday tasks
Cons
  • Backlit keyboard not standard
  • No touchscreen option
  • Memory is soldered on
Battery Life/Runtime 640 minutes
Weight 2.2 pounds
Display size/type 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1200 IPS LCD
Processor tested AMD Ryzen 5 7535U
Graphics tested AMD Radeon Graphics

HP packed a lot of value into the Aero 13: Eye-pleasing magnesium-aluminum chassis, strong processing performance, long battery life, a bright, colorful display and a weight of just 2 pounds (0.94 kilogram). Amazingly, with all that it offers, it doesn't break the bank in terms of price at around $800 well configured, but it is frequently discounted for hundreds less. 

HP Pavilion Aero 13 review

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$5 at Amazon

Best cheap laptop

Acer Aspire 5

Pros
  • Available in three sizes with a wide range of component options
  • Full port assortment including Ethernet, HDMI out
Cons
  • Build quality is in line with its budget price
  • Backlit keyboard not on all models
Battery Life/Runtime 420 minutes
Weight 3.9 pounds
Display size/type 15-inch FHD 1920 x 1080 IPS display
Processor tested Intel Core i7-1260P
Graphics tested Intel Iris Xe Graphics

The Acer Aspire 5 continues to be one of the best Windows laptop deals around. Available in 14-, 15.6- and 17.3-inch sizes, I am partial to the 15.6-inch size because it's relatively compact and lightweight but still full-featured. Acer has a wide range of configurations to choose from, starting under $500. This budget laptop also features a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, Ethernet and an HDMI port. Aside from internal components, the Acer Aspire 5 has changed little since we first reviewed it in 2020. However, the components inside continue to improve, continuing to deliver excellent performance and features for its price.

Acer Aspire 5 review

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$1,000 at HP

Best Chromebook

HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook

Pros
  • Gorgeous design
  • Roomy, high-res and bright display
  • Solid performance
Cons
  • Pricey among Chromebooks
  • Previous-gen Intel silicon
  • Pen not included
Battery Life/Runtime 521 minutes
Weight 3.3 pounds
Display size/type 14-inch 2560x1600 touch IPS LCD
Processor tested Intel Core i5-1235U
Graphics tested Intel Iris Xe Graphics

Most Chromebooks fall below $500, and for general use, they're all most people will need. However, Google's ChromeOS is capable of doing much more than it could more than a decade ago when it first appeared. Consider this HP the MacBook Pro of Chromebooks: beautiful design, excellent display, keyboard and touchpad and enough processing power to take advantage of today's ChromeOS features. And if you're an Android phone user, it's the perfect companion. But, it is $1,000, and if that's more Chromebook than you need, check out our full list of the best Chromebooks we've reviewed.

HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook review

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Best Laptops of 2023 Tested by CNET

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$7 at Walmart

Best Microsoft Surface laptop

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

Pros
  • Bigger, better display from previous generation
  • Nice haptic slim stylus
  • Can charge via USB-C
Cons
  • All-important keyboard still isn't included in the box
  • No 5G options, 4G only for business customers
  • Fan can get loud
Battery Life/Runtime 524 minutes
Weight 1.2 pounds
Display size/type 13-inch 2880 x 1920 IPS LCD
Processor tested Intel Core i7-1185G7
Graphics tested Intel Iris Xe Graphics

Although this Microsoft Surface laptop is not the Surface Laptop, the Surface Pro continues to hit all the right notes if you're looking for a do-it-all Windows tablet that doubles as a Windows laptop. Microsoft updated it for the Surface Pro 9, but little has changed beyond a processor upgrade from 11th-gen Intel Core processors to 12th-gen chips, as well as an option for a Microsoft SQ 3 processor with 5G wireless. If you were contemplating a Pro 8, it's still around but now with a lower price, and is our go-to choice. However, here's our review of the Surface Pro 9 so you can see how they measure up. 

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review

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$12 at Lenovo

Best convertible 2-in-1

Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8

Pros
  • Strong multicore performance jump
  • Great visual and audio experience
  • Laptop sleeve and active pen included
Cons
  • Cluttered with pitches for optional services, software
  • Speakers add vibration to palm rests
Battery Life/Runtime 611 minutes
Weight 3.1 pounds
Display size/type 14-inch 2880 x 1800 touch OLED
Processor tested Intel Core i7-1360P
Graphics tested Intel Iris Xe Graphics

Lenovo's flagship 14-inch Yoga 9i Gen 8 is everything we loved about last year's model but made new for 2023 with 13th-gen Intel processors that improve performance. The design features comfortable, rounded edges, a beautiful OLED display and excellent audio, making it a fine choice for work, video conferences and entertainment. And, because it's a two-in-one, you get the added flexibility to use it as a tablet, and Lenovo includes an active pen and a laptop sleeve to complete the premium package. 

The powerful speakers do add some vibration to the palm rests when turned up, and Lenovo has cluttered the laptop with pitches for optional services and software. But, overall, the Yoga 9i remains the two-in-one convertible laptop to beat.

Lenovo Yoga 9i review

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$2,000 at Dell

Best laptop for gaming

Alienware m18

Pros
  • Massive screen for gaming
  • Amazing performance from the Nvidia RTX 4090 GPU
  • Tactile CherryMX keyboard
  • Lots of ports and connections
  • Less expensive than the other 18-inch gaming laptop we've reviewed
Cons
  • Bland color options than the previous gen
  • Better components drive up the price
  • Fans can get loud while gaming
Battery Life/Runtime 249 minutes
Weight 8.9 pounds
Display size/type 18-inch 2560 x 1600, 16:10 QHD+, 165Hz Display
Processor tested Intel Core i9-13980HX
Graphics tested Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090

One of the first of the new generation of 18-inch laptops, the m18 can get expensive if you push it up to a high configuration -- an RTX 4090 and Core i9-13900HX will get you to $3,300, without even a lot of memory or storage. But if the big screen is most important to you, it starts at $2,000 with a respectable i7-13650HX and RTX 4050. And don't expect great battery life, plus the fans can get loud when you're pushing it.

Alienware m18 review

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$9 at Dell

Best budget gaming laptop

Dell G15 Gaming Laptop

Pros
  • Very inexpensive way to get into PC gaming
  • Many screen options
  • Can double as an everyday work PC
Cons
  • Least-expensive config has scant storage
  • Mediocre keyboard and touchpad
  • Limited ports
Battery Life/Runtime 307 minutes
Weight 2.8 pounds
Display size/type 15-inch FHD 1920 x 1080, 120Hz display
Processor tested Intel Core i5-12500H
Graphics tested Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050

Dell's G15 has been a favorite budget gaming laptop for the past few years, along with the HP Victus line. It was joined this year by a 16-inch version, the G16. We tested both and were impressed with what each offers. 

If you're looking for a gaming laptop bargain, the G15 is the way to go. But if you can afford to spend a couple hundred dollars more, the G16 is a better bet for longevity. Either way, you'll get a good gaming laptop for the money, but we strongly recommend waiting for a sale. 

Dell G15 and G16 Gaming Laptop review

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$25 at Best Buy

Best laptop for creators

M2 Pro MacBook Pro (2023, 16-inch)

Pros
  • Fast with solid battery life
  • Good, bright screen
  • Wi-Fi 6E and HDMI 2.1 support
Cons
  • Heavy
  • iPhone-like camera notch
Battery Life/Runtime 1,474 minutes
Weight 4.8 pounds
Display size/type 16-inch 3456-by-2234 Liquid Retina XDR
Processor tested Apple M2 Pro 12-core
Graphics tested Apple M2 Pro 19-core

Apple's 2023 update to its flagship MacBook Pro 16-inch line is a modest refresh from the more significantly redesigned 2021 model; notably, it upgrades to the latest generation of M2-class processorsWi-Fi 6E and HDMI 2.1. With those updates, it gains support for displays up to 8K/60Hz and 4K/240Hz as well as variable refresh rates. The combination of the old and new enhances the veteran laptop's chops as a powerhouse computer for creation and development work. 

You pay for it, though: The base price for the 16-inch model of this premium laptop is $2,499.

Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch) review

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$28 at Samsung

Best Windows laptop for creatives

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra

Pros
  • Seamless integration with other Galaxy devices
  • Excellent performance, battery life
  • Big, beautiful display
  • Relatively lightweight
Cons
  • Disappointing audio
  • Off-center touchpad may bother some
Battery Life/Runtime 634 minutes
Weight 4 pounds
Display size/type 16-inch 3K 2880 x 1800 AMOLED display
Processor tested Intel Core i7-13700H
Graphics tested Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050

Samsung (with help from Intel and Microsoft) has created a near-seamless experience for using the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra with its other Galaxy devices. That means you can do things like quickly share files between your Galaxy phone, Tab or Galaxy Book, use the Galaxy Book's keyboard and trackpad to control your other devices, instantly pair your Galaxy Bud earbuds as soon as you put down your phone and open the Galaxy Book, and the list goes on and on. 

But even if you don't own another Samsung device, the Ultra is still a great pick if you need a high-end 16-inch display covering 100% DCI-P3 color space, strong processing and graphics performance and relatively long battery life, all wrapped up in a thin, stylish body that weighs just 4 pounds. 

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra review

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Other laptops we've tested

LG Gram 17 (2023): The Gram is amazing for its size and weight, but its dGPU is a generation behind, and the price is high.

Lenovo Yoga 7i 16: The 14-inch Yoga 7i has long been a favorite for offering more for less. The "more" on this version includes a 16-inch display with a low resolution that makes text fuzzy and it's an awkward size for a two-in-one.

Asus VivoBook F1502ZA: We liked the design and comfortable keyboard on our review unit, but its performance and display came up short. 

Acer Swift X 14: The 14-inch Swift X delivered excellent performance and an OLED display in a small package and with plenty of ports to boot. Its design, keyboard, touchpad and speakers didn't match the rest of the package.

Lenovo Slim Pro 7: Much like the Acer Swift X, the Slim Pro 7 gets you good performance in a small body, but the other parts aren't quite as nice. 

HP Dragonfly Pro: While we really liked this 14-incher's design and the performance was good, some of its other features such as the display didn't live up to its price. 

Asus Vivobook 16X OLED: Outside of its affordability for a big 16-inch OLED display, this Vivobook was a letdown. 

HP Victus 15: HP's entry-level gaming laptop is a bargain, but the Dell G15 outclasses in design and features.  

Dell XPS 17 9730: The performance and battery life are spot-on but the lack of an OLED display option and an outdated 720p webcam hold it back.

How we test laptops

The review process for laptops consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our reviewers. This includes evaluating a device's aesthetics, ergonomics and features with respect to price. A final review verdict is a combination of both objective and subjective judgments. 

We test all laptops with a core set of benchmarks, including Primate Labs Geekbench 5 and 6Cinebench R23PCMark 10, a variety of 3DMark benchmarks (whichever can run on the laptop), UL Procyon Photo and Video (where supported), and our own battery life test. If a laptop is intended for gaming, we'll also run benchmarks from Guardians of the GalaxyThe Rift Breaker (CPU and GPU) and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

For the hands-on, the reviewer uses it for their work during the review period, evaluating how well the design, features (such as the screen, camera and speakers) and manufacturer-supplied software operate as a cohesive whole. We also place importance on how well they work given their cost and where the manufacturer has potentially made upgrades or tradeoffs for its price.

The list of benchmarking software and comparison criteria we use changes over time as the devices we test evolve. You can find a more detailed description of our test methodology on our How We Test Computers page. 

Factors to consider

There are a ton of laptops on the market at any given moment, and almost all of those models are available in multiple configurations to match your performance and budget needs. So if you're feeling overwhelmed with options when looking for a new laptop, it's understandable. To help simplify things for you, here are the main things you should consider when you start looking.

Price

The search for a new laptop for most people starts with price. If the statistics chipmaker Intel and PC manufacturers hurl at us are correct, you'll be holding onto your next laptop for at least three years. If you can afford to stretch your budget a little to get better specs, do it. And that stands whether you're spending $500 or more than $1,000. In the past, you could get away with spending less upfront with an eye toward upgrading memory and storage in the future. But laptop makers are increasingly moving away from making components easily upgradable, so again, it's best to get as much laptop as you can afford from the start. 

Generally speaking, the more you spend, the better the laptop. That could mean better components for faster performance, a nicer display, sturdier build quality, a smaller or lighter design from higher-end materials or even a more comfortable keyboard. All of these things add to the cost of a laptop. I'd love to say $500 will get you a powerful gaming laptop, for example, but that's not the case. Right now, the sweet spot for a reliable laptop that can handle average work, home office or school tasks is between $700 and $800 and a reasonable model for creative work or gaming upwards of about $1,000. The key is to look for discounts on models in all price ranges so you can get more laptop for less. 

Operating system

Choosing an operating system is part personal preference and part budget. For the most part, Microsoft Windows and Apple's MacOS do the same things (except for gaming, where Windows is the winner), but they do them differently. Unless there's an OS-specific application you need, go with the one you feel most comfortable using. And if you're not sure which that is, head to an Apple store or a local electronics store and test them out. Or ask friends or family to let you test theirs for a bit. If you have an iPhone or iPad and like it, chances are you'll like MacOS, too. 

But when it comes to price and variety (and, again, PC gaming), Windows laptops win. If you want MacOS, you're getting a MacBook. While Apple's MacBooks regularly top our best lists, the least expensive one is the M1 MacBook Air for $999. It is regularly discounted to $750 or $800, but if you want a cheaper MacBook, you'll have to consider older refurbished ones. 

Windows laptops can be found for as little as a couple of hundred dollars and come in all manner of sizes and designs. Granted, we'd be hard-pressed to find a $200 laptop we'd give a full-throated recommendation to, but if you need a laptop for online shopping, email and word processing, they exist. 

If you are on a tight budget, consider a Chromebook. ChromeOS is a different experience than Windows; make sure the applications you need have a Chrome, Android or Linux app before making the leap. But if you spend most of your time roaming the web, writing, streaming video or using cloud-gaming services, they're a good fit. 

Size

Remember to consider whether having a lighter, thinner laptop or a touchscreen laptop with a good battery life will be important to you in the future. Size is primarily determined by the screen -- hello, laws of physics -- which in turn factors into battery size, laptop thickness, weight and price. And keep in mind other physics-related characteristics, such as an ultrathin laptop isn't necessarily lighter than a thick one, you can't expect a wide array of connections on a small or ultrathin model and so on. 

Screen

When it comes to deciding on a screen, there are a myriad number of considerations: how much you need to display (which is surprisingly more about resolution than screen size), what types of content you'll be looking at and whether or not you'll be using it for gaming or creative work.

You really want to optimize pixel density; that is, the number of pixels per inch the screen can display. Though there are other factors that contribute to sharpness, a higher pixel density usually means sharper rendering of text and interface elements. (You can easily calculate the pixel density of any screen at DPI Calculator if you don't feel like doing the math, and you can also find out what math you need to do there.) We recommend a dot pitch of at least 100 pixels per inch (ppi) as a rule of thumb.

Because of the way Windows and MacOS scale for the display, you're frequently better off with a higher resolution than you'd think. You can always make things bigger on a high-resolution screen, but you can never make them smaller -- to fit more content in the view -- on a low-resolution screen. This is why a 4K, 14-inch screen may sound like unnecessary overkill, but may not be if you need to, say, view a wide spreadsheet.

If you need a laptop with relatively accurate color, that displays the most colors possible or that supports HDR, you can't simply trust the specs -- not because manufacturers lie, but because they usually fail to provide the necessary context to understand what the specs they quote mean. You can find a ton of detail about considerations for different types of screen uses in our monitor buying guides for general purpose monitors, creators, gamers and HDR viewing.

Processor

The processor, aka the CPU, is the brains of a laptop. Intel and AMD are the main CPU makers for Windows laptops. Both offer a staggering selection of mobile processors. Making things trickier, both manufacturers have chips designed for different laptop styles, like power-saving chips for ultraportables or faster processors for gaming laptops. Their naming conventions will let you know what type is used. You can head to Intel's or AMD's sites for explanations so you get the performance you want. Generally speaking, though, the faster the processor speed and the more cores it has, the better the performance will be. 

Apple makes its own chips for MacBooks, which makes things slightly more straightforward. But, like Intel and AMD, you'll still want to pay attention to the naming conventions to know what kind of performance to expect. Apple uses its M-series chipsets in Macs. The entry-level MacBook Air uses an M1 chip with an eight-core CPU and seven-core GPU. The current models have M2-series silicon that starts with an eight-core CPU and 10-core GPU and goes up to the M2 Max with a 12-core CPU and a 38-core GPU. Again, generally speaking, the more cores it has, the better the performance. 

Graphics

The graphics processor (GPU) handles all the work of driving the screen and generating what gets displayed, as well as speeding up a lot of graphics-related (and increasingly, AI-related) operations. For Windows laptops, there are two types of GPUs: integrated (iGPU) or discrete (dGPU). As the names imply, an iGPU is part of the CPU package, while a dGPU is a separate chip with dedicated memory (VRAM) that it communicates with directly, making it faster than sharing memory with the CPU.

Because the iGPU splits space, memory and power with the CPU, it's constrained by the limits of those. It allows for smaller, lighter laptops, but doesn't perform nearly as well as a dGPU. In fact, there are some games and creative software that won't run unless they detect a dGPU or sufficient VRAM. Most productivity software, video streaming, web browsing and other nonspecialized apps will run fine on an iGPU, though.

For more power-hungry graphics needs, like video editing, gaming and streaming, design and so on, you'll need a dGPU; there are only two real companies that make them, Nvidia and AMD, with Intel offering some based on the Xe-branded (or the older UHD Graphics branding) iGPU technology in its CPUs.

Memory

For memory, we highly recommend 16GB of RAM (8GB absolute minimum). RAM is where the operating system stores all the data for currently running applications, and it can fill up fast. After that, it starts swapping between RAM and SSD, which is slower. A lot of sub-$500 laptops have 4GB or 8GB, which in conjunction with a slower disk can make for a frustratingly slow Windows laptop experience. Also, many laptops now have the memory soldered onto the motherboard. Most manufacturers disclose this, but if the RAM type is LPDDR, assume it's soldered and can't be upgraded. 

However, some PC makers will solder memory on and also leave an empty internal slot for adding a stick of RAM. You may need to contact the laptop manufacturer or find the laptop's full specs online to confirm. And check the web for user experiences, because the slot may still be hard to get to, it may require nonstandard or hard-to-get memory or other pitfalls.

Storage

You'll still find cheaper hard drives in budget laptops and larger hard drives in gaming laptops, but faster solid-state drives (SSDs) have all but replaced hard drives in laptops. They can make a big difference in performance. But not all SSDs are equally speedy, and cheaper laptops typically have slower drives; if the laptop only has 4GB or 8GB of RAM, it may end up swapping to that drive and the system may slow down quickly while you're working. 

Get what you can afford, and if you need to go with a smaller drive, you can always add an external drive or two down the road or use cloud storage to bolster a small internal drive. The one exception is gaming laptops: We don't recommend going with less than a 512GB SSD unless you really like uninstalling games every time you want to play a new game. 

Laptop FAQs

How much do good laptops cost?

Setting a budget is a good place to start when shopping for the best laptop for yourself. The good news is you can get a nice-looking, lightweight laptop with excellent battery life at prices under $500. If you're shopping for a laptop around $500 or less, check out our top picks here, as well as more specific buying advice for that price range.

Higher-end components like Intel Core i-series and AMD Ryzen processors and premium design touches like thin-display bezels and aluminum or magnesium bodies have made their way to laptops priced between $500 and $1,000. You can also find touchscreens and two-in-one designs that can be used as a tablet or a laptop -- and a couple other positions in between. In this price range, you'll also find faster memory and ssd storage -- and more of it -- to improve performance. 

Above $1,000 is where you'll find premium laptops and two-in-ones. If you're looking for the fastest performance, the best battery life, the slimmest, lightest designs and top-notch display quality with an adequate screen size, expect to spend at least $1,000. 

Which is better: MacOS or Windows?

Deciding between MacOS and Windows laptop for many people will come down to personal preference and budget. Apple's base model laptop, the M1 MacBook Air, starts at $999. You can sometimes find it discounted or you can get educational pricing from Apple and other retailers. But, in general, it'll be at least $1,000 for a new MacBook, and the prices just go up from there. 

For the money, though, you're getting great hardware top to bottom, inside and out. Apple recently moved to using its own processors, which resulted in across-the-board performance improvements compared to older Intel-based models. But, the company's most powerful laptop, the 16-inch MacBook Pro, still hasn't been updated to Apple silicon. 

But, again, that great hardware comes at a price. Also, you're limited to just Apple laptops. With Windows and Chromebooks (more on these below), you get an amazing variety of devices at a wide range of prices. 

Software between the two is plentiful, so unless you need to run something that's only available on one platform or the other, you should be fine to go with either. Gaming is definitely an advantage for a Windows laptop, though.

MacOS is also considered to be easier and safer to use than Windows, especially for people who want their computers to get out of the way so they can get things done. Over the years, though, Microsoft has done its best to follow suit and, with Windows 11 hereit's trying to remove any barriers. Also, while Macs might have a reputation for being safer, with the popularity of the iPhone and iPad helping to drive Mac sales, they've become bigger targets for malware.

Are Chromebooks worth it?

Yes, they are, but they're not for everyone. Google's Chrome OS has come a long way in the 10-plus years since they arrived and Chromebooks -- laptops that run on Chrome OS -- are great for people who do most of their work in a web browser or using mobile apps. They are secure, simple and, more often than not, a bargain. What they can't do is natively run Windows or Mac software. 

What's the best laptop for home, travel or both?

The pandemic changed how and where a lot of people work. The small, ultraportable laptops valued by people who regularly traveled may have suddenly become woefully inadequate for working from home. Or maybe instead of needing long battery life, you'd rather have a bigger display with more graphics power for gaming.

If you're going to be working on a laptop and don't need more mobility than moving it from room to room, consider a 15.6-inch laptop or larger. In general, a bigger screen makes life easier for work and is more enjoyable for entertainment, and it also is better if you're using it as an extended display with an external monitor. It typically means you're getting more ports, too, so connecting an external display or storage or a keyboard and mouse are easier without requiring a hub or dock. 

For travel, stay with 13- or 14-inch laptops or two-in-ones. They'll be the lightest and smallest while still delivering excellent battery life. What's nice is that PC-makers are moving away from 16:9 widescreens toward 16:10- or 3:2-ratio displays, which gives you more vertical screen space for work without significantly increasing the footprint. These models usually don't have discrete graphics or powerful processors, though that's not always the case.

Which laptop is best for gaming or creating?

You can play games and create content on any laptop. That said, what games you play and what content you create -- and the speed at which you do them -- is going vary greatly depending on the components inside the laptop. 

For casual browser-based games or using streaming-game services like Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming, you don't need a powerful gaming laptop. And similarly, if you're trimming video clips, cropping photos or live-streaming video from your webcam, you can get by with a modestly priced laptop or Chromebook with integrated graphics. 

For anything more demanding, you'll need to invest more money in discrete graphics like Nvidia's RTX 30- or 40-series GPUs. Increased system memory of 16GB or more, having a speedy SSD of at least 512GB for storage and a faster processor such as an Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 will all help you get things moving faster, too. 

The other piece you'll want to consider is the display. For gaming, look for screens with a high refresh rate of 120Hz or faster so games look smoother while playing. For content creation, look for displays that cover at least 100% sRGB color space or, better yet, 100% DCI-P3.