What’s the best laptop in 2021?
If you want to start the new year by buying the best laptop possible, then you’re in the right place. We’ve reviewed the latest and greatest portable PCs you can currently buy, and ranked our top ten picks right here.
We’ve included laptops for all budgets, whether you want a cheap system for basic office work or an all-powerful machine that can breeze through demanding multimedia tasks. We’re also included as much variety as possible, with Windows 10 laptops, Chromebooks and MacBooks all starring.
So without further ado, here are the best laptops you can buy in 2021.
Related: Best Laptop Deals
1. Dell XPS 13 (2020)
The best all-round Windows 10 laptop you can buy
Display: 13.4in FHD / 4K | CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 8/16 GB
GPU: Intel Iris Plus | Storage: 512GB / 1TB | Weight: From 1.2kg
- Ideal 16:10 InfinityEdge display
- Comfortable and clicky keyboard
- Remarkably thin and compact
- Productivity performance perfection
- Short on ports
- Keyboard can get a tad warm
The Dell XPS 13 2020 is the best laptop you can buy right now, delivering a stellar all-round performance with very few flaws. If anyone is looking for a 13-inch ultrabook that can blast through productivity tasks, then this has to be on your shortlist.
The new InfinityEdge display also ensures this is one of the most gorgeous laptops available, while also ensuring a 16:10 aspect ratio that is well suited to social media and web browsing. Plus with the Ice Lake chip, you’ll not only be able to multitask efficiently, but also dabble with gaming and creative applications. Although it’s worth bearing in mind we’ll be reviewing the Dell XPS 13 with a Tiger Lake processor very soon.
Is there any reason why you shouldn’t buy a Dell XPS 13? It’s more expensive than its rivals, but it absolutely justifies the extra expense. And if you fancy a bit more size and graphical horsepower, then you may want to consider the new Dell XPS 15 2020 instead.
2. MacBook Air M1
The best MacBook ultrabook you can buy
Display: 13.4in, 2560 x 1600 | CPU: Apple M1 | RAM: 8/16 GB
GPU: Apple M1 | Storage: Up to 2TB | Weight: From 1.29kg
- It’s so fast thanks to M1
- Exceptional battery life
- Strong app support
- Great keyboard
- Poor webcam
- Same design as before
- Poorly positioned (and only two) USB ports
The MacBook Air has arguably been lagging behind the rest of the laptop pack in the past few years, but that has changed now Apple has introduced the M1 chip.
The MacBook Air M1 offers better CPU speeds than the majority of laptops on this list, and by quite a distance. Its integrated GPU is even powerful enough for 4K video editing and animation, despite the laptop’s lightweight design.
We’re still disappointed that Apple hasn’t introduced a more cutting-edge design to compete with the Dell XPS, but this is still a very good looking laptop. If you’re looking for an ultrabook running on macOS, this is no-brainer choice.
3. Honor MagicBook 14 (2020)
An incredibly affordable budget laptop
Display: 14in FHD | CPU: Ryzen 5 3500U | RAM: 8GB
GPU: Intel UHD | Storage: 256GB | Weight: 1.4kg
- Student-friendly premium style
- Superb value
- Pleasant typing experience
- More than capable productivity performance
- Webcam position on keyboard
- Below average display
Most decent Windows laptops cost upwards of £1000 these days, which is a serious lump of cash if you only want a system for web browsing and streaming video. The Honor MagicBook 14 is a fantastic exception to the rule, as its all-round performance is astonishingly good considering its £549.99 price.
Being half the price of some of other laptops inevitably means you have to make compromises, as the MagicBook 14’s matte display is below average and the webcam is bizarrely located underneath the screen. But with a decent productivity performance, ultra-portable design and fantastic battery life, the MagicBook more than makes up for its adequate screen.
If you’re a student or someone on a tight budget, then we reckon the Honor MagicBook 14 is the best laptop for the job. You’ll get better quality by spending more, but no other laptop offers better value.
4. MacBook Pro 16-inch
Best high-end laptop for creative tasks
Display: 16in (3072 x 1920) | CPU: 9th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 8GB
GPU: Radeon Pro 5300M / 5500M | Storage: Up to 8TB | Weight: 2kg
- Incredibly powerful
- Bigger display still looks stunning
- Scissor keyboard a huge improvement
- More stylish with smaller bezel
- Very expensive
- Stingy port offering
- Lack of Wi-Fi 6
The performance of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is just as excellent as you’d expect, with the processing speeds and GPU grunt that far exceeds the other laptops on this list. To be fair, Apple’s laptop is also a lot more expensive than the other portable PCs here, but that’s the price you have to pay to blast through media tasks.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 is now available too, but since that lacks a dedicated GPU, the smaller Pro can’t realistically be seen as a genuine alternative to this powerhouse portable. This is the best choice for animation or editing 4K video.
However, there’s a big issue with recommending Intel-powered Apple laptops right now, especially with the MacBook Pro 2021 launching this year.. Apple has confirmed Intel MacBooks will still be supported via software updates for the foreseeable future, but the upcoming Apple-powered MacBook laptops are clearly the better option going forward.
5. Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch)
One of the best value laptops available
Display: 13.5in (2256 x 1504) | CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 8/16GB
GPU: Intel Iris Plus | Storage: Up to 1TB | Weight: From 1.3kg
- Classy, ultra-portable design
- Excellent performance
- Stunning 3:2 display
- Available in four colours
- Average battery life
- Lack of Thunderbolt 3
The Surface Laptop 3 13-inch comes the closest to challenging the Dell XPS 13 2020 as the best quality Windows ultrabook. It packs great components including Intel’s 10th-generation Ice Lake processor, which also features integrated graphics for casual gaming and Photoshop work.
One area where Microsoft is arguably better than Dell is in the looks department, as the Surface Laptop 3 is available in four different colours and looks drop-dead gorgeous, while the iconic Alcantara design is optional this time round.
Why isn’t the Surface Laptop 3 at the top of rankings? Underwhelming battery life and the frankly absurd exclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port are big enough flaws to make this ultrabook miss out on the top spot. It’s also worth considering that the Surface Laptop Go is available at a more affordable price.
6. Acer Swift 5 (2019)
A great value ultra-portable laptop
Display: 14in FHD | CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core | RAM: 8/16GB
GPU: Intel Iris Plus | Storage: Up to 1TB | Weight: 990g
- Solid performance, quiet running
- Pleasingly slim and light
- Incredibly good value
- Great port offering
- Couple of keyboard issues
The Acer Swift 5 (2019) has no right to challenge the Dell XPS 13 considering its price, yet it offers similar high-end specs including Intel’s 10th Generation processor, up to 16GB RAM and SSD storage maxing out at 1TB.
Acer’s ultrabook even offers some added benefits too, such as a lighter frame (just 990g) and the option of an Nvidia MX250 GPU. So why does the Swift 5 miss out? Its keyboard isn’t quite good enough to challenge the very best, and its design isn’t as jaw-dropping.
It’s worth knowing that the Acer Swift 5 (2020) is now available too, featuring the cutting-edge Intel Tiger Lake CPU. We’re yet to review this laptop, but hope to start testing very soon.
7. HP Envy 13 (2020)
A great affordable laptop for the office and home workers
Display: 13.3in FHD | CPU: 10th Gen Intel | RAM: 8GB
GPU: Intel Iris Plus | Storage: 512GB | Weight: 1.3kg
- Great privacy features
- Relatively cheap price
- Great performance
- Ultra-portable design
- Loud fans
- Reflective screen
- Not as stylish as more expensive laptops
The HP Envy 13 (2020) is very similar device to the Acer Swift 5 above; they both have a great all-round performance, are available at a relatively low price and have solid (albeit unremarkable) designs. But while the Swift’s unique feature is its light design, the HP Envy 13 excels at privacy and security.
The Envy allows you to cut power to the webcam with a press of a key, while the screen can restrict the peripheral view of nosy snoopers thanks to the SureView feature. Such skills make this an excellent business laptop, especially if you’re dealing with sensitive data.
The Envy 13 also has all the required specs to compete with the likes of Dell and Microsoft, even if it doesn’t look quite as fancy. And while issues such as a glossy screen and loud fans are slightly irritating, they’re not significant enough to prevent this being an worthwhile device for work and leisure.
8. LG Gram 17 (2020)
An incredibly lightweight 17-inch laptop
Display: 17in QHD | CPU: 10th Gen Intel | RAM: 16GB
GPU: Intel Iris Plus | Storage: 512GB | Weight: 1.4kg
- Unbelievably lightweight
- Superb 17-inch display
- Great battery life
- Improved processor performance
- Gaming performance with Ice Lake is disappointing
- Bland design compared to rivals
- Annoyingly reflective screen
The 17-inch form factor for laptops seemed to be as dead as the dodo a couple years back, especially for productivity focused machines. That was no major surprise since such laptops were so large and heavy, but the LG Gram 17 (2020) looks to change that.
This is a 17-inch laptop that weighs just 1350g, which isn’t too far off the smaller Dell XPS 13. This allows users to watch the likes of Disney Plus on a massive screen without suffering back cramps on the work commute as a consequence. For the 2020 iteration, LG has also fitted in Intel’s 10th Gen Ice Lake processor. This ensures a nippy multi-tasking performance, although the gaming and creative talents are still lacking here.
The LG Gram 17 (2020) is our favourite 17-inch laptop you can buy, and one of the best laptops in general if video streaming is your top priority. We will be reviewing the Dell XPS 17 (2020) shortly though, which may displace the Gram as the best large laptop.
9. Samsung Galaxy Book Flex
Our top-rated 2-in-1 laptop comes bundled with an S-Pen stylus
Display: 15.6in FHD | CPU: 10th Gen Intel | RAM: 8GB
GPU: Up to Nvidia MX250 | Storage: 512GB | Weight: 1.2kg
- Gorgeous QLED display
- Bundled S-Pen stylus
- Stylish blue design
- Excellent battery life
- Shallow keyboard
- Flimsy hinge
- Squashed down Shift key
The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex is our favourite 2-in-1 laptop, with the included S-Pen stylus proving a great accessory for scribbles and sketches. The gorgeous QLED screen can be flipped at a 360-degree angle, turning the laptop into a makeshift tablet. Such Windows 10 ‘tablet modes’ are never as user-friendly as you’d find with a Apple or Android tablet, but it still gives the Flex spades of versatility.
The Flex also offers up a respectable performance and a great battery life, lasting around 10 hours when ploughing through basic tasks. It also flaunts a lovely blue design, standing out from the majority of other laptops in this list.
It’s not a perfect device, with a wobbly hinge and a shallow keyboard proving mild inconveniences. It’s also rather expensive, with the 13-inch model costing £1349. That’s a couple hundred quid more than the likes of the Surface Laptop 3, so you really need to make the most of the ‘tablet mode’ and stylus to make it a worthwhile purchase.
10. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
A fantastic gaming laptop adept at day-to-say tasks
Display: 14in FHD | CPU: Ryzen 9 4900HS | RAM: 16GB
GPU: Up to Nvidia RTX 2060 | Storage: 1TB | Weight: 1.7kg
- Incredible CPU performance
- Great for Full HD gaming
- Ultra-portable design
- Impressive battery life
- Lack of RGB lighting
- No integrated webcam
- Underwhelming SSD speeds
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 feels like the odd one out in this list of laptops, since it prioritises gaming performance above all else. But unlike previous gaming laptops, the Zephyrus G14 is an ultra-portable machine that can double up as a productivity powerhouse thanks to its insane CPU speeds, comparatively dinky 1.69kg weight and superb battery life.
The Zephyrus G14 is currently our top recommended gaming laptop, and with a reasonable £1100 starting price it’s a genuinely worthwhile alternative to the likes of a Dell XPS and Surface Laptop. You’ll need to be into your gaming to make the most of it, but if you fancy playing a bit of Fortnite, Civilization or Sims on your lunch break, then there is no better choice.
Still can’t find the best laptop for you?
If you’ve had a look at our best laptop list and still can’t find the perfect system for you, why not try one of the following lists below? These are more specialised rankings, and so focus on specific features such as portability, gaming performance or price. Check it out below: