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As we wrap up the year and welcome 2024, it's not a bad time to buy a new laptop to start the New Year fresh. The market is brimming with options, and there are deals to be had with hundreds of laptops catering to a wide range of budgets and requirements. To assist you in making an informed choice, we've updated our best laptop recommendations.
It's important to note that, while this list is up-to-date as of late 2023 – early 2024, there will be several new models rolling out in the coming weeks and months with Intel's new Meteor Lake CPUs and AI features.
It remains to be seen if first-gen models with NPUs will make any difference to the average user (probably not for a while), however this should translate into even better deals on current Windows laptop models. In many instances, those discounts are already showing.
In this update, we're introducing a few new laptops, though many of the top models we've been recommending for the past year continue to be among the best available. As usual, the guide is split into categories, including the best ultraportables, productivity-focused models, and budget-friendly options. The top overall winners of our Best Gaming Laptops are also included here.
- Best Ultraportable
- Best Windows Ultraportables
- Best Budget Laptops
- Best for Productivity
- Best Gaming Laptops
- Best Budget Chromebook
If you're looking for the best lightweight laptop on the market, the MacBook Air M2 is a top contender. Since Apple transitioned to its M-series SoCs, Apple laptops have been hailed as the top choice for a broad range of users.
The MacBook Air M2 is even more compact than its already slim predecessor, shaving 20% off its size to a mere 0.44 inches and weighing 2.7 pounds. It features a vibrant 13.6-inch True Tone display, boasting a resolution of 2560 x 1664 and 500 nits of brightness. There's a MagSafe 3 charging connector, Touch ID, high-quality speakers, and a full-height scissor-switch keyboard that's a delight for typing. You also get a 1080p webcam integrated into the somewhat controversial screen notch.
In terms of performance, the MacBook Air M2 surpasses competitors like the Dell XPS 13, primarily due to its Apple SoC. The M2 chip, with its 8 CPU cores and a choice of 8 or 10 GPU cores, outperforms many Windows laptops in the same price range. It also excels in energy efficiency, offering exceptional battery life.
The MacBook Air M2 can be upgraded to 24GB of RAM to accommodate more demanding workloads. Storage options include up to 2TB, with the standard configuration offering 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Priced at $1,200 for the base model (closer to $1050 at retail as of writing), it is more expensive than many Windows counterparts but not necessarily if you're looking for the same quality of display, build and hardware.
However, the MacBook Air M2 is not without its downsides. Its screen notch has drawn criticism, and it only includes two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports. Despite these drawbacks, the MacBook Air M2 continues to lead its category, at least for now, with rumors of an M3 version expected in the first half of 2024.
While Apple's macOS may not appeal to everyone, it is a solid operating system that receives frequent updates and full OS upgrades at no additional cost. For those committed to Windows, the Windows laptop category below offers excellent ultra-lightweight options.
Best Windows Ultraportables
When picking the top Windows ultraportable laptops, the Dell XPS 13 emerges as a standout choice. Its latest revision retains the elegant design while introducing new features. This model debuts an aluminum keyboard deck, replacing the carbon fiber palm rests, and offers a new Umber color – a subtle purple/grey hue. The laptop's slim and sturdy chassis impresses with high build quality, yet it remains lightweight at just 2.59 pounds.
Key reasons to choose the Dell XPS 13 include its exceptional keyboard, nearly all-day battery life from the 51Wh battery, and a 16:10 aspect ratio infinity-edge display. This display features 500 nits of brightness and slim bezels, with an optional touch feature, at a resolution of 1920 x 1200 @ 60Hz. But that's a reflection of the low price, and you're not going to be playing games on this thing. You can always upgrade to the 3840 x 2400 UHD+ display for a bit extra if you want, too.
Hardware-wise, the laptop offers a choice between an Intel Core i5-1230U or Core i7-1250U processor, both with 10 cores and 12 threads. It can be configured with up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. Other features include a fingerprint reader, a 720p IR camera, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports. Although it lacks a 3.5mm port, it includes a USB-C to 3.5mm headset adapter.
Interestingly, buyers have the choice of Ubuntu as an operating system instead of Windows.
Starting at around $599, the XPS 13 is an appealing choice for those seeking a stylish, lightweight, affordable, and capable laptop for work or study. For more power, the Dell XPS 13 Plus upgrades the CPU to 13th-gen Intel processors, although reviews have been mixed.
While limited port selection and the redesign might not suit everyone, the XPS 13 remains a top Windows laptop, competing closely with the more expensive MacBook Air.
An Excellent Alternative
The HP Spectre x360 14 is another superb laptop, particularly attractive for those looking for a slim, lightweight 2-in-1 device. It features a premium design with a CNC-machined aluminum body and uniquely designed corners that accommodate multiple ports, setting it apart from other convertibles.
The Spectre x360 boasts a 13.5-inch OLED display with a 3000 x 2000-pixel resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio. This laptop excels as a tablet, thanks to its 360-degree hinge. It includes a rechargeable stylus that attaches magnetically to the side, reminiscent of a modern iPad.
The laptop is equipped with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a headphone jack, Intel Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, Bang & Olufsen speakers, a high-resolution webcam, and a USB Type-A port. Elsewhere, there's a USB-C hub featuring extra USB-A ports, an HDMI port, and USB-C for pass-through charging.
Internally, it houses an Intel Core i7 CPU (up to 13th-gen), 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 66 WHr battery, promising all-day longevity. Starting at around $1,249 (closer to $1180 at retail as of writing), the Spectre x360 is an outstanding laptop in many ways, with its only drawbacks being the lack of a dedicated graphics card and a higher price.
The only other Windows laptop that rivals the XPS 13 and Spectre x360 in this category is the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7. This 14-inch 2-in-1 also features a stunning OLED display. While offering more specifications options than the Spectre x360, it falls short in battery life and design elegance compared to the HP model and starts at a higher price.
Best Budget Laptops
Choosing a budget laptop can be tricky due to a significant drop in quality below a certain price point. However, the Acer Swift 3 is a notable exception. It is available with a variety of specifications, including 11th or 12th-gen Intel i5 or i7 processors, and options for Ryzen 5 5625U or Ryzen 7 5700U. But the impressive part is the price, starting at around $540 for the model equipped with a Core i7-1165G7.
This price point includes a 14-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display, though upgrades to 2560 x 1440 or a 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio are available. Whichever display you choose, each one is very bright. The Swift 3 is also designed with a sleek, lightweight aluminum body, and is an excellent choice for students thanks to its all-day battery life and robust performance.
In terms of ports, the laptop features a USB Type-C with Thunderbolt 4 support (a notable inclusion at this price), a fingerprint reader, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 port, a USB 2.0 port, and an HDMI input.
Select models also include Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6E. While the Swift 3 may not have the most distinctive design, nor top-of-the-line keyboard, speakers, or webcam, it's hard to find a better option so cheaply. It's certainly a top choice for budget-conscious buyers.
OLED Alternative, on a Budget
For those within a similar budget seeking an OLED screen, the Asus ZenBook 13 OLED is an excellent alternative. Currently available for as low as $750 on Amazon, this laptop is thin (0.5 inches) and light (2.5 pounds). This model is powered by an 8-core Ryzen 7 5700U CPU and includes HDMI 2.0b, USB 3.2 Type-C, and USB 3.2 Type-A ports. However, it does lack the Thunderbolt support found in the Acer.
The ZenBook 13 OLED also boasts a built-in IR camera, a durable build, the fancy ErgoLift hinge, backlit keyboard with number pad, and extended battery life. But the standout feature is definitely its OLED screen, offering 100% DCI-P3 and 133% sRGB color gamut coverage, alongside familiar OLED features like perfect blacks.
Best Productivity Powerhouse
If your workloads are not Windows-exclusive or you're not averse to using Apple products, there really is nothing that can match the latest MacBook Pro 16 packing the powerful and efficient Apple M3 Pro or M3 Max SoC. Apple changed the laptop landscape when it dropped Intel and started using its own silicon a few years ago. Each iteration of the SoC has brought improvements to the power and efficiency, with the M3 series sitting at the top of the pile.
Performance is the big draw here. Whether you opt for the 6 P-cores/6 E-cores M3 Pro or the M3 Max, which tops out at 12 P-cores/4 E-cores, the MacBook Pro 16 should cover all your video/photo editing needs. It's also adept at handling other demanding jobs carried out by creators – the laptops can be specced with up to 48GB of unified memory and 8TB of storage, too.
And when you're not working, Apple says features like hardware-accelerated mesh shading and dynamic caching combined with an up to 40-core GPU vastly improve the gaming experience on MacBooks (but no, we wouldn't buy this machine for gaming anyway).
Elsewhere, the 3456 x 2234 XDR display looks amazing, able to reach a peak HDR brightness of 1,600 nits and refresh at up to 120Hz. Being a MacBook means you get a stunning aluminum alloy chassis, along with a snazzy new space black option, complete with three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, an HDMI input, an SDXC reader, MagSafe charge port, and a headphone jack.
With battery life that puts high-end Windows laptops to shame, the MacBook Pro 16 ticks all the boxes for those who want the best productivity laptop around. However, a $2,249 starting price for the M3 Pro model and $3,799 for the M3 Max mean buyers should question if they really need all that power, especially if they have an M1 or M2 MacBook Pro already.
Reports that a MacBook Air M3 is coming next year is also worth taking into account.
Best Gaming Laptops
Pro Tip: Check out our Best Gaming Laptops feature for a larger variety of gaming machines in several categories. The Asus Strix Scar 16 and Lenovo Legion Pro 7i (Gen8) are the joint winners of the Best Premium Gaming laptop award, and for good reason...
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 represents a significant leap forward in the realm of high-performance gaming laptops. This 2023 model, particularly in its Core i9 and RTX 4080 variant, stands out for a combination of blistering performance, a competitive price point, and an eye-catching mini LED display.
The 16-inch, 16:10 miniLED panel, which Asus likes to call the "ROG Nebula HDR" display, is a highlight. It offers a 240Hz refresh rate on the 2560x1600 screen, fast response times, 100% sRGB and DCI-P3 color gamut coverage, and 1,024 dimming zones. It can also reach over 1,100 nits of peak brightness, ensuring excellent HDR performance. The vivid colors and brightness make it perfect for both gaming and media consumption.
The refreshed semi-transparent design of the Scar 16 is as sturdy as ever, offering something that feels solid and well-built if a little heavier than previous models. The chassis features blunted edges and corners that are user-friendly, and the hinges allow for easy screen adjustments. It's also covered in RGB lighting.
The ROG Strix Scar comes in two versions with the Nebula display: one with the RTX 4090 ($3,600) and the other with an RTX 4080 ($2,899.99). Both pack a 13th-Gen Core i9-13980HX, and you can add up to 64GB of RAM, too; the performance on offer here is monstrous. A less expensive version without the miniLED display (FHD 165Hz) is offered with an RTX 4070 for significantly less ($1699), while still keeping the same Core i9 chip.
There are also plenty of connectivity options, including Thunderbolt 4 support, though the ports are only on the sides as the rear is reserved for cooling. Other reasons to buy include a Dolby Atmos quad-speaker system, a virtual numeric keypad on the trackpad, good battery life for a gaming laptop, and a built-in array microphone.
Some less-welcome elements include the Strix getting quite toasty after prolonged use. It also lacks biometrics features like an IR camera or fingerprint sensor, and the 4080/4090-only models are pretty expensive. However, that breathtaking screen, cool design, top-tier performance, and solid build quality make the Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 an excellent choice for those who want a true gaming laptop.
A Worthy Joint Winner
If you want a 16-inch laptop that offers a similar configuration as the Strix with a less extravagant design and can live without the miniLED screen, check out the Lenovo Legion Pro 7i (Gen 8). Like the Asus, the Legion can be specced with up to an RTX 4090, while all models come with an Intel Core i9-13900HX processor.
Where the two machines differ most is the display. The Legion has the same 2560x1600 (WQXGA, 16:10) resolution combined with a 240Hz refresh rate, and it does look nice. But the 500 nits brightness and HDR 400 certification illustrate how it can't compare to the Strix's stunning miniLED display.
At the time of writing, the $2,849 price of the RTX 4080 model has been reduced to $2,249, so it is good value. It also has a more grown-up design, even with enough RGB lighting to satisfy fans.
Other features include the Coldfront 5.0 thermal tech, Lenovo's usual excellent keyboard, and an ability to squeeze so much performance out of the RTX 4080 (150W TGP) that it can match some RTX 4090-powered laptops when it comes to framerates.
The battery life might be on the weaker side, but the power and competitive price of the Legion Pro 7i make it a worthy joint winner.
Best Budget Chromebook
For users seeking a feature-rich Chromebook without breaking the bank, the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga is an excellent choice. While the range of configurations available directly from Lenovo's website is somewhat limited, many models from previous years, including those with Ryzen 3000 APUs and Vega graphics, are readily available in stores. This availability often leads to the Yoga 13 being offered at discounted prices.
The specifications of the basic versions are modest (dual-core Athlon, 4GB RAM, 32 or 64GB of eMMC storage), but the rest of the package more than compensates. The 13.3-inch 1080p screen is bright and rich in color, with the capability to rotate fully and lie flat against the back of the keyboard. Some models even feature 4K displays, though these come at a significantly higher price.
Classic ThinkPad features are present, such as the red TrackPoint nub in the center of the keyboard. Optional extras include a match-on-chip fingerprint reader and a touchscreen stylus.
Regardless of the version chosen, the device offers an array of connectivity options: four USB 3.2 ports (2x Type-C and 2x Type-A), an HDMI 2.0 socket, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader.
While opting for every available feature can lead to a higher price, another potential drawback is battery life. However, for those who need a durable, capable Chromebook for on-the-go use, the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook is an excellent fit. Considering its features and build quality, it represents a compelling value proposition.