Best laptops 2024: Premium, budget, gaming, 2-in-1s, and more

Table of Contents

Picking up a brand new laptop can be a stressful experience. How much storage will I need? Which GPU is the best for my budget? The sight of the alphabet soup model numbers are enough to set your heart racing. If you’re not sure where to begin, don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re looking for a lightning fast gaming laptop or a lightweight 2-in-1 for office work, we’ve got something for every type of consumer.

Why you should trust us: Hey, it’s in our name. PCWorld prides itself on laptop experience and expertise. We’ve been covering PCs since 1983, and we now review more than 70 laptops every year. All of the picks below have been personally tested and vetted by our experts, who’ve applied not only performance benchmarks but rigorous usability standards. We’re also committed to reviewing PC laptops at every price point to help you find a machine that matches your budget.

Looking for sweet discounts? Check out our regularly updated roundup of the best laptop deals available right now.

Updated April 10, 2024: We replaced the HP Pavilion Plus Laptop 14 with the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED as the best OLED laptop under $1,000. This laptop has better battery life (16 hours!) and better overall performance. Plus, the OLED touchscreen display delivers excellent contrast ratio as well as vivid colors. We’ve also updated our list of recently reviewed laptops.

The best laptops we’ve tested

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024) – Best overall

Pros

Strong performance

Exceptional battery life

Wonderful typing experience

Cons

CPU throttles under heavy loads

No user upgrades




Why we like the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus

The Dell Inspiron 14 Plus is one of the most well-rounded laptops money can buy. It offers strong performance, exceptional battery life, and a vibrant display. The best part is that it costs about $1,000, which is a reasonable price point considering the price to performance ratio. In fact, it performed exceptionally in PCMark 10’s benchmark, according to our review. With a PCMark 10 score of 7,061, it beat out the Acer Swift Go 14, which has similar specs to the Dell, and the more expensive Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The Inspiron 14 Plus also lasted an impressive 17 hours on a single charge, which is definitely more than a full workday or school day. You don’t have to worry about finding a wall outlet to charge up.

Who should buy the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus

Anyone looking for a really good, well-rounded laptop. In addition to the impressive performance and battery life, it also has a lovely 14-inch 1400p display. According to our review, “the display is exceedingly well suited to office work and static imagery.” It has a peak brightness level of a stunning 418 nits as well as an anti-glare coating, which means you can use this laptop in different lighting environments. It may not have the prettiest design we’ve ever seen, but its hardware capabilities and astoundingly long battery life make up for the blah aesthetics.

Read our full

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus review

Acer Aspire 3 – Best budget laptop

Pros

Reliable performance

1080p display

HD webcam

Solid build

Cons

Speakers sound tinny when playing music

A little heavy





Best Prices Today:



$299.99 at Amazon

Why we like the Acer Aspire 3

The Acer Aspire 3 laptop offers both reliable performance and a rugged build at an imminently affordable price. It’s fast enough for everyday tasks like checking e-mail, watching Netflix, and browsing the web. You’re also getting a full-sized keyboard as well as a 1080p screen. The Aspire 3 also blew the competition out of the water with a Cinebench R15 score of 1,925, beating out the Acer Aspire Vero 14, which has similar hardware. Cinebench is designed to run all of the cores of a laptop’s CPU and determine how well a laptop handles processor-intensive multi-threaded workloads.

Who should buy the Acer Aspire 3

Anyone who’s on a restricted budget! To get more specific, we feel as though the Acer Aspire 3 is a good option for students and remote workers. It’s inexpensive and the HD webcam produces “clean, crisp video” according to our review, which means you’ll always look your best in videoconferencing calls. It also delivers strong performance for the price.

Alternative option: Although it didn’t make the cut, the HP Laptop 14 deserves its own special call-out. This sub-$500 laptop offers strong everyday performance as well as a compact build. It also lasted over 15 hours on a single charge (light load), which beats the Acer Aspire 3’s eight hours.

Read our full

Acer Aspire 3 review

MacBook Air (M3) – Best MacBook

Pros

Excellent battery life

Great combination of price, features, and performance

256GB SSD is now two NAND chips, maintaining performance

Cons

Expensive memory upgrades

Dual external display support requires closed lid

Why we like the MacBook Air (M3)

The MacBook Air (M3) has a lot to offer for the $1,299 price. In fact, it received high marks across the board thanks to the 8-core CPU (M3) and the 10-core GPU. It’s capable of chewing through office work as well as casual use tasks. While performance is comparable to the MacBook Pro (M3), there is one difference: the fans or lack thereof. The MacBook Air doesn’t have any fans, which results in quieter operation before heavy-duty tasks will likely put more pressure on the chip. That said, battery life is the real star of the show here. The MacBook Air (M3) lasted a whopping 19 hours on a single charge, which is perfect for those with busy schedules.

Who should buy the MacBook Air (M3)

Anyone who prefers MacOS over competing operating systems. Battery life is outstanding and the laptop itself is both slim and light, weighing in at just over three pounds. The 15-inch Liquid Retina (LED) screen might be considered a step-down from the MacBook Pro’s Liquid Retina XDR (mini-LED) display, but that doesn’t mean it’s a poor screen. It still looks fantastic for day-to-day use. The $1,299 price tag is also reasonable for the performance and features you’re getting.

Read our full MacBook Air (M3) review

Dell Inspiron Plus 16 7630 – Best midrange laptop

Pros

All-day battery life

Good graphics performance

Reasonable price

Cons

Light on ports

Gets warm under heavy workloads




Why we like this Dell Inspiron Plus 16

The Dell Inspiron 16 7630 packs a lot of power for the price thanks to the Intel Core i7-13700H CPU and the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 GPU. This machine can handle both day-to-day activity as well as some gaming. The RTX 4060 GPU actually turned in a respectable 3DMark Time Spy result of 8,754. It’s not the most cutting-edge graphics performance we’ve ever seen, but you should be able to play most games on the Medium or High graphics setting. The 1600p display also has a taller 16:10 aspect ratio screen, which is ideal for office work, and the battery lasted over 11 hours on a single charge.

Who should buy the Dell Inspiron Plus 16

The Dell Inspiron Plus 16 7630 is great for young professionals, students, or anyone who’s looking for a powerful yet affordable machine. The battery will last you a full work day and then some, and it can pull double duty playing games. Dell laptops often go on sale, so you may be able to score this machine at a steep discount.

Read our full

Dell Inspiron Plus 16 7630 review

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus – Best Chromebook

Pros

Snappy day-to-day performance

Versatile 2-in-1 design

Good typing experience

Cons

Stylus not included

Heavier than expected




Why we like the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus

From the convertible design to the beautiful touchscreen, the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus has a lot to offer, especially for under $500. The 2-in-1 design allows you to swing the screen around and use the laptop like a tablet, upping the versatility factor. You can also expect snappy day-to-day performance as well as lightning fast boot-up times.

Who should buy the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus

If you’re looking to pick up a premium Chromebook for work or personal use, then the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus is a fine choice. While the $499 price tag is very much in the high end when it comes to Chromebooks, we feel the overall fit, finish, and firepower make it worth the extra cash.

Read our full

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus review

HP Dragonfly G4 – Best ultraportable

Pros

Fast performance

Lightweight

Sure View privacy filter

Lots of connectivity options

Cons

High price




Why we like the HP Dragonfly G4

Weighing just 2.64 pounds, the HP Dragonfly G4 is so lightweight it may very well float up into the clouds. In addition to its featherlight form factor, it also boasts a whopping 17.5 hours of battery life, which means it’s equipped to handle long international flights and commutes. The Sure View privacy filter also prevents others from getting a clear view of your screen, which is especially important if you’re working with sensitive documents. Performance is good enough for office applications and multimedia programs, but it’s probably going to struggle a bit with video editing tasks.

Who should buy the HP Dragonfly G4

The HP Dragonfly G4 is the perfect machine for frequent travelers due to its incredibly low weight and slim profile. It’s also a good option for office workers because of the Sure View privacy filter and the taller screen, as more vertical pixels means more room for scrolling through documents and working on spreadsheets. The fans are also spin quietly even when under a heavy workload.

Note February, 27th 2024: Though we liked its compact form factor and 4G modem, the recently reviewed HP Elitebook 640 G10 couldn’t quite knock the HP Dragonfly G4 off of its pedestal. The display’s 16:9 aspect ratio isn’t the best size for office work and it doesn’t deliver strong contrast values. The HP Dragonfly G4, however, has a taller display and better contrast.

Read our full

HP Dragonfly G4 review

Acer Swift Edge 16 – Best budget ultraportable

Pros

Gorgeous OLED display

Lightweight

Strong CPU performance

Cons

Mediocre battery life

Weak speakers

Keyboard and touchpad are just OK




Why we like the Acer Swift Edge 16

The Acer Swift Edge 16 is lightweight, affordable, and powerful. It weighs just 2.71 pounds, which is a little heavier than our top ultraportable pick. The 2000p OLED screen is super vibrant, too. According to the review, the display “delivers an infinite contrast ratio and deep, inky black levels that produce convincing shadows in dark scenes.” This machine even managed a strong PCMark 10 score of 6,494, pushing out the expensive Acer Swift Go 16. That means the Swift Edge 16 is capable of out-performing machines that cost hundreds of dollars more.

Who should buy the Acer Swift Edge 16

If you’re looking for a lightweight ultraportable with strong performance, the sub-$1,000 Acer Swift Edge 16 is the one to pick. It’s light enough to take with you from class to class or meeting to meeting. The display is also fantastic for office work, school work, watching movies, and so on.

Read our full

Acer Swift Edge 16 review

Alienware m16 R2 – Best gaming laptop

Pros

Solid gaming performance

Rugged build quality

Good battery life

Cons

Display is dimmer than we like




Why we like the Alienware m16 R2

The Alienware m16 R2 delivers strong graphics performance and good battery life. This specific model comes loaded with an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 GPU, which is nothing to sneeze at. It lasted a respectable 11 hours and fifteen minutes on a single charge and it averaged 144 frames-per-second when running the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark. According to our review, it’s only “four frames-per-second slower than the Razer Blade 16,” which has an RTX 4090 GPU and a price tag of over $3,000.

Who should buy the Alienware m16 R2

Anyone looking for a great gaming laptop. You’re getting strong graphics performance as well as long battery life, which is unusual for a gaming laptop, as most tend to die around the six hour mark. The 16-inch IPS display also has a resolution of 2560×1600 and a refresh rate of 240Hz, so gameplay should be nice and smooth. The picture quality is good, but it’s not an OLED panel. While it may not be the brightest or most color rich display we’ve ever seen, it’s perfectly fine for gaming. Besides, you can always plug into an external monitor if need be.

Alternative option: If you’re looking for a more lightweight option, you should definitely check out the $1599 Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. It weighs just 3.31 pounds, which means you can easily take it anywhere with you. That said, it didn’t make the cut because of ho-hum battery life. Plus, the Alienware m16 R2’s RTX 4070 GPU is more powerful than the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14’s RTX 4060 GPU.

Read our full

Alienware m16 R2 review

Asus TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition – Best budget gaming laptop

Pros

Impressive all-day battery life

Gorgeous 16:10 display

Rugged chassis

Cons

Keys feel a bit soft

720p webcam leaves little to be desired




Why we like the Asus TUF Gaming A16

The Asus TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition is something of a unicorn and I mean that in the best way possible. This specific machine exhibits strong graphics performance as well as long battery life. Long battery life? A gaming laptop? How preposterous. Well, not anymore! The Asus TUF managed an incredible 11 and a half hours on a single charge. Also, thanks to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU, the laptop achieved 123 frames-per-second in the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark. That’s impressive, especially for a sub-$1,000 gaming machine.

Who should buy the Asus TUF Gaming A16

The Asus TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition is a good option for those on a tight budget. For under a grand, you’re getting reliable graphics performance, a spacious keyboard, and long battery life. It also works as a good general purpose machine. With a Cinebench R20 score of 589, it should have “no trouble running lightweight apps and programs,” according to our review.

Alternative option: The $1,000 Lenovo LOQ 15 stands as another solid budget option. It’s more than capable of 1080p gaming and the design is very sci-fi inspired. It didn’t nab the top pick because of the poor battery life (not unusual for a gaming laptop) and limited ports, but if you’re looking for more raw GPU horsepower, its RTX 4060 is a step above the RTX 4050 included in the Asus TUF.

Read our full

Asus TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition review

Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED – Best 2-in-1

Pros

Long battery life

Connectivity includes two Thunderbolt 4 ports

Fast performance

Cons

Function keys are small

The display is a little dim





Best Prices Today:



$1,199.99 at Amazon

Why we like the Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED

When it comes to 2-in-1 laptops, the Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED just gets it right at the start. It has a gorgeous OLED display, a zippy Intel Core i7-1360P CPU, and a versatile convertible design. You can flip the screen around 360 degrees and use it like a tablet or prop the device up like a tent if you so wish. Colors on the 1800p OLED display are also “remarkably bright and saturated,” according to our review. The battery even lasted a whopping 12 hours on a single charge, dominating laptops with similar hardware like the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i and the Acer Aspire Vero 14.

Who should buy the Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED

The Asus Zenbook 14 Flip is a good option for business professionals because of its convertible, lightweight design and stunning OLED display. You can take this machine with you anywhere and you don’t have to worry about finding an outlet to charge up. How can you go wrong with that?

Read our full

Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED review

Dell XPS 17 (2023) – Best content creation laptop

Pros

Powerful internals

Big 17-inch display

Amazing battery life

Cons

720p webcam





Best Prices Today:



Not Available at Best Buy

Why we like the Dell XPS 17

The Dell XPS 17 is one heck of a creation workhorse. It comes armed with an Intel Core i7-13700H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 GPU, which means it’s powerful enough to handle editing tasks as well as some gaming on the side. The 1TB of SSD storage is perfect for storing videos or pictures and Dell somehow managed to pack a 4K panel into this compact laptop. It even brought in a PCMark 10 score of over 7,000, which means general performance is lightning fast.

Who should buy the Dell XPS 17

Content creators… duh! It’s a real powerhouse thanks to the internal components. Plus, 1TB is an ample amount of storage and the screen is a massive 17-inches. If you’re a video editor or photographer, you’ll need a lot of screen real estate as well as storage space. The one big downside is the price, as it will set you back about $2,000.

The Dell XPS 16 (2024) is a sleek, sturdy laptop with a gorgeous OLED display, along with excellent CPU performance and a discrete GPU that helps when it comes to heavier workloads. Its limited port selection may not be ideal for creatives toting around lots of dongles, however.

Read our full

Dell XPS 17 9730 review

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED – Best OLED display under $1,000

Pros

Robust build quality

Attractive OLED touchscreen

Good CPU and integrated GPU performance

Outstanding battery life

Cons

Blah design

Keyboard isn’t memorable

Mediocre connectivity options




Why we like the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED

The Asus Zenbook 14 OLED wowed us with its zippy CPU performance, phenomenal battery life, and attractive OLED touchscreen display. According to our review, “movies and games look realistic and vibrant” on the 1200p OLED touchscreen, although it can be difficult to use in bright environments due to the reflective surface. It also lasted 16 hours on a single charge, which is absolutely wild! That result really trumps otherwise excellent competitors like the Lenovo Slim 7 14 Gen 9 and the HP Pavilion Plus Laptop 14. As for performance, the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED absolutely crushed the PCMark 10 benchmark with an impressive score of 6,772. That means it’s very fast and responsive during real-world tasks like web browsing, video conferencing, and so on.

Who should buy the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED

Anyone looking for a powerful, affordable laptop with an OLED display! It’s so much more than its OLED screen, though. The build quality is quite good and day-to-day performance is zippy. Plus, you won’t have to go looking for an outlet often thanks to the long battery life. Connectivity options are a bit limited, but that’s not unusual for a laptop in this price range. Overall, it’s a great Windows machine that hits all the right marks.

Read our full

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED review

Recent laptop reviews

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED: AMD’s Ryzen 7 8840HS powers the new Zenbook 14 OLED to strong benchmark results and long battery life.

Razer Blade 16: Razer’s Blade 16 backs up its stunning looks with athletic performance, but a few issues keep it from a podium finish.

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2: The Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 has all the hallmarks of an ultra-portable. It’s lightweight, easy on the eyes, and performance is zippy enough for office work as well as day-to-day tasks. That said, key travel is quite shallow and connectivity options are lacking.

Lenovo Slim 7 14: Lenovo’s Slim 7 14 is a competent, well-executed laptop with good performance and plenty of RAM, yet it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

How we test laptops

The PCWorld team puts each and every Windows laptop through a series of benchmarks that test GPU and CPU performance, battery life, and so on. The idea is to push the laptop to its limits and then compare it against others we’ve tested. Chromebooks, on the other hand, go through a series of web-based tests. It wouldn’t be fair or possible to run the same kinds of tests on a Chromebook, as they’re Chrome OS-based machines.

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each test and the reasons why we run them. For a much deeper look at our review methodology, check out how PCWorld tests laptops.

Windows laptops

PCMark 10: PCMark 10 is how we determine how well the laptop handles lighter tasks like web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, and so on.

HandBrake: HandBrake is more intensive than PCMark 10. It basically measures how long a laptop’s CPU takes to encode a beefy 30GB file.

Cinebench: Cinebench is a brief stress test of the CPU cores. It does this by rendering a 2D scene over a short period of time.

3DMark: 3DMark checks if 3D performance remains consistent over time by running graphic-intensive clips.

Video rundown test: To gauge battery life, we loop a 4K video using Windows 10’s Movies & TV app until the laptop dies.

Chromebooks

CrXPRT 2: The CrXPRT 2 benchmark tests a Chromebook’s battery life.

Speedometer 2.0: This test determines a Chromebook’s web browser performance. It simulates this by adding, completing, and removing a to-do list.

Basemark Web 3.0: This benchmark gauges how well a Chromebook can handle web-based applications.

Kraken 1.1: Kraken 1.1 is a JavaScript performance benchmark.

Jetstream 2: Jetstream 2 is a combination of WebAssembly and JavaScript benchmarks. This is a way to gauge how well a Chromebook runs advanced workloads.

FAQ

1.

What form factor is best for a laptop?

The first question you should ask yourself is what kind of laptop you’re looking for. There’s traditional clamshells, 2-in-1’s, Chromebooks, and much more. The displays on convertible laptops (aka 2-in-1’s), for example, can swing around 360 degrees. This allows you to use the laptop like a tablet. They can also be propped up like a tent for viewing movies or participating in video calls. Chromebooks, on the other hand, exclusively run Google’s web-focused Chrome OS and are generally used for everyday tasks. All you need is a Gmail account and boom, you’re in. There are pros and cons to each of them. Chromebooks are affordable and generally have good battery life whereas convertibles are normally lightweight and portable.

2.

How much processing power do I need in a laptop?

If it’s CPU power you’re looking for, look for processors with higher numerical names. A Core i7 is more suited to gaming and more intense work than everyday tasks. Intel processors are available in Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9. The higher the number, the more powerful the CPU. If you don’t need a ton of power, Intel Core i5 processors are your best bet, as they offer good performance at a decent price. Basic office and web work gets along just fine on a Core i3. As for AMD options, the Ryzen 3 is good for basic productivity and web browsing, while Ryzen 5 chips rival Intel’s Core i5 as solid all-arounders. If you need more power, the Ryzen 7 chip is well suited for content creation like video editing. Finally, if you’re dealing with 4K video, spring for a Ryzen 9.

3.

Discrete graphics vs. integrated graphics?

You’ll want a discrete graphics card for hardcore gaming or editing videos. It’s separate from the processor, so you can expect higher performance out of it. Integrated graphics, on the other hand, are attached to the CPU and uses less power as a result. This is perfectly fine for everyday tasks, especially if you’re not doing anything that’s graphics-intensive.

4.

How much memory do I need in a laptop?

8GB of RAM is zippy enough for general use. If you’ve got a gaming laptop, 16GB of RAM is the way to go, and content creators will want even more.

5.

Do I need a big display on a laptop?

If you’re a video editor or someone who does a lot of multimedia work, you’ll want a display that’s anywhere from 15- to 17-inches. The sweet spot is really anywhere from 13- to 14-inches, though. The bigger the display, the heavier your laptop is going to be. A 13- or 14-inch display is the best in terms of portability and value.

6.

How long should my laptop last on a single charge?

If you plan on taking your laptop anywhere with you, aim for something that can last 10 to 12 hours on a single charge. That’s more than a full work day, so it should theoretically get you through long flights or a day of classes. Obviously, more is always better. Just know that the bigger the battery, the heavier the laptop. Read our round-up of the best laptop chargers.

7.

How much does a good laptop cost?

Many good laptops cost around $500 to $750, but the price really depends on your budget. If you’re strapped for cash (been there, trust me), go for a Chromebook or an entry-level business laptop. You can find solid options for under $500. Spending $750 to $1,000 can get you better displays, additional performance, more storage, and nicer designs. If you splurge for a laptop that costs over $1,000, you’re usually paying up for premium build quality, great extras, and top-shelf performance.

Gaming laptops are different. You can sometimes find gaming laptops with entry-level discrete graphics on sale for around $850, but you’ll usually need to spend at least $1,000 for a system with decent 1080p gaming chops. You can pay more — often much more — for better graphics firepower and nicer displays, but the costs can rise rapidly depending on your hardware of choice. Some fully loaded gaming laptops can go for multiple thousands of dollars but you’re getting the equivalent of a desktop replacement in return. Spending $1,200 to $2,000 usually gets you a very good gaming laptop.

8.

Are connectivity options important on a laptop?

A wide array of ports is always a plus in my book, as it eliminates the need for an adapter. I’d recommend a laptop that has both USB-C and USB-A. An HDMI port is good, too. This is especially useful for when you want to hook up to an external monitor.

Laptops

PCWorld  Picking up a brand new laptop can be a stressful experience. How much storage will I need? Which GPU is the best for my budget? The sight of the alphabet soup model numbers are enough to set your heart racing. If you’re not sure where to begin, don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re looking for a lightning fast gaming laptop or a lightweight 2-in-1 for office work, we’ve got something for every type of consumer.

Why you should trust us: Hey, it’s in our name. PCWorld prides itself on laptop experience and expertise. We’ve been covering PCs since 1983, and we now review more than 70 laptops every year. All of the picks below have been personally tested and vetted by our experts, who’ve applied not only performance benchmarks but rigorous usability standards. We’re also committed to reviewing PC laptops at every price point to help you find a machine that matches your budget.

Looking for sweet discounts? Check out our regularly updated roundup of the best laptop deals available right now.

Updated April 10, 2024: We replaced the HP Pavilion Plus Laptop 14 with the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED as the best OLED laptop under $1,000. This laptop has better battery life (16 hours!) and better overall performance. Plus, the OLED touchscreen display delivers excellent contrast ratio as well as vivid colors. We’ve also updated our list of recently reviewed laptops.

The best laptops we’ve tested

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024) – Best overall

Pros

Strong performance

Exceptional battery life

Wonderful typing experience

Cons

CPU throttles under heavy loads

No user upgrades

Why we like the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus

The Dell Inspiron 14 Plus is one of the most well-rounded laptops money can buy. It offers strong performance, exceptional battery life, and a vibrant display. The best part is that it costs about $1,000, which is a reasonable price point considering the price to performance ratio. In fact, it performed exceptionally in PCMark 10’s benchmark, according to our review. With a PCMark 10 score of 7,061, it beat out the Acer Swift Go 14, which has similar specs to the Dell, and the more expensive Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The Inspiron 14 Plus also lasted an impressive 17 hours on a single charge, which is definitely more than a full workday or school day. You don’t have to worry about finding a wall outlet to charge up.

Who should buy the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus

Anyone looking for a really good, well-rounded laptop. In addition to the impressive performance and battery life, it also has a lovely 14-inch 1400p display. According to our review, “the display is exceedingly well suited to office work and static imagery.” It has a peak brightness level of a stunning 418 nits as well as an anti-glare coating, which means you can use this laptop in different lighting environments. It may not have the prettiest design we’ve ever seen, but its hardware capabilities and astoundingly long battery life make up for the blah aesthetics.

Read our full

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus review

Acer Aspire 3 – Best budget laptop

Pros

Reliable performance

1080p display

HD webcam

Solid build

Cons

Speakers sound tinny when playing music

A little heavy

Best Prices Today:

$299.99 at Amazon

Why we like the Acer Aspire 3

The Acer Aspire 3 laptop offers both reliable performance and a rugged build at an imminently affordable price. It’s fast enough for everyday tasks like checking e-mail, watching Netflix, and browsing the web. You’re also getting a full-sized keyboard as well as a 1080p screen. The Aspire 3 also blew the competition out of the water with a Cinebench R15 score of 1,925, beating out the Acer Aspire Vero 14, which has similar hardware. Cinebench is designed to run all of the cores of a laptop’s CPU and determine how well a laptop handles processor-intensive multi-threaded workloads.

Who should buy the Acer Aspire 3

Anyone who’s on a restricted budget! To get more specific, we feel as though the Acer Aspire 3 is a good option for students and remote workers. It’s inexpensive and the HD webcam produces “clean, crisp video” according to our review, which means you’ll always look your best in videoconferencing calls. It also delivers strong performance for the price.

Alternative option: Although it didn’t make the cut, the HP Laptop 14 deserves its own special call-out. This sub-$500 laptop offers strong everyday performance as well as a compact build. It also lasted over 15 hours on a single charge (light load), which beats the Acer Aspire 3’s eight hours.

Read our full

Acer Aspire 3 review

MacBook Air (M3) – Best MacBook

Pros

Excellent battery life

Great combination of price, features, and performance

256GB SSD is now two NAND chips, maintaining performance

Cons

Expensive memory upgrades

Dual external display support requires closed lid

Best Prices Today:

$1599 at Best Buy$1699 at AppleNot Available at Adorama

Why we like the MacBook Air (M3)

The MacBook Air (M3) has a lot to offer for the $1,299 price. In fact, it received high marks across the board thanks to the 8-core CPU (M3) and the 10-core GPU. It’s capable of chewing through office work as well as casual use tasks. While performance is comparable to the MacBook Pro (M3), there is one difference: the fans or lack thereof. The MacBook Air doesn’t have any fans, which results in quieter operation before heavy-duty tasks will likely put more pressure on the chip. That said, battery life is the real star of the show here. The MacBook Air (M3) lasted a whopping 19 hours on a single charge, which is perfect for those with busy schedules.

Who should buy the MacBook Air (M3)

Anyone who prefers MacOS over competing operating systems. Battery life is outstanding and the laptop itself is both slim and light, weighing in at just over three pounds. The 15-inch Liquid Retina (LED) screen might be considered a step-down from the MacBook Pro’s Liquid Retina XDR (mini-LED) display, but that doesn’t mean it’s a poor screen. It still looks fantastic for day-to-day use. The $1,299 price tag is also reasonable for the performance and features you’re getting.

Read our full MacBook Air (M3) review

Dell Inspiron Plus 16 7630 – Best midrange laptop

Pros

All-day battery life

Good graphics performance

Reasonable price

Cons

Light on ports

Gets warm under heavy workloads

Why we like this Dell Inspiron Plus 16

The Dell Inspiron 16 7630 packs a lot of power for the price thanks to the Intel Core i7-13700H CPU and the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 GPU. This machine can handle both day-to-day activity as well as some gaming. The RTX 4060 GPU actually turned in a respectable 3DMark Time Spy result of 8,754. It’s not the most cutting-edge graphics performance we’ve ever seen, but you should be able to play most games on the Medium or High graphics setting. The 1600p display also has a taller 16:10 aspect ratio screen, which is ideal for office work, and the battery lasted over 11 hours on a single charge.

Who should buy the Dell Inspiron Plus 16

The Dell Inspiron Plus 16 7630 is great for young professionals, students, or anyone who’s looking for a powerful yet affordable machine. The battery will last you a full work day and then some, and it can pull double duty playing games. Dell laptops often go on sale, so you may be able to score this machine at a steep discount.

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Dell Inspiron Plus 16 7630 review

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus – Best Chromebook

Pros

Snappy day-to-day performance

Versatile 2-in-1 design

Good typing experience

Cons

Stylus not included

Heavier than expected

Why we like the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus

From the convertible design to the beautiful touchscreen, the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus has a lot to offer, especially for under $500. The 2-in-1 design allows you to swing the screen around and use the laptop like a tablet, upping the versatility factor. You can also expect snappy day-to-day performance as well as lightning fast boot-up times.

Who should buy the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus

If you’re looking to pick up a premium Chromebook for work or personal use, then the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus is a fine choice. While the $499 price tag is very much in the high end when it comes to Chromebooks, we feel the overall fit, finish, and firepower make it worth the extra cash.

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Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus review

HP Dragonfly G4 – Best ultraportable

Pros

Fast performance

Lightweight

Sure View privacy filter

Lots of connectivity options

Cons

High price

Why we like the HP Dragonfly G4

Weighing just 2.64 pounds, the HP Dragonfly G4 is so lightweight it may very well float up into the clouds. In addition to its featherlight form factor, it also boasts a whopping 17.5 hours of battery life, which means it’s equipped to handle long international flights and commutes. The Sure View privacy filter also prevents others from getting a clear view of your screen, which is especially important if you’re working with sensitive documents. Performance is good enough for office applications and multimedia programs, but it’s probably going to struggle a bit with video editing tasks.

Who should buy the HP Dragonfly G4

The HP Dragonfly G4 is the perfect machine for frequent travelers due to its incredibly low weight and slim profile. It’s also a good option for office workers because of the Sure View privacy filter and the taller screen, as more vertical pixels means more room for scrolling through documents and working on spreadsheets. The fans are also spin quietly even when under a heavy workload.

Note February, 27th 2024: Though we liked its compact form factor and 4G modem, the recently reviewed HP Elitebook 640 G10 couldn’t quite knock the HP Dragonfly G4 off of its pedestal. The display’s 16:9 aspect ratio isn’t the best size for office work and it doesn’t deliver strong contrast values. The HP Dragonfly G4, however, has a taller display and better contrast.

Read our full

HP Dragonfly G4 review

Acer Swift Edge 16 – Best budget ultraportable

Pros

Gorgeous OLED display

Lightweight

Strong CPU performance

Cons

Mediocre battery life

Weak speakers

Keyboard and touchpad are just OK

Why we like the Acer Swift Edge 16

The Acer Swift Edge 16 is lightweight, affordable, and powerful. It weighs just 2.71 pounds, which is a little heavier than our top ultraportable pick. The 2000p OLED screen is super vibrant, too. According to the review, the display “delivers an infinite contrast ratio and deep, inky black levels that produce convincing shadows in dark scenes.” This machine even managed a strong PCMark 10 score of 6,494, pushing out the expensive Acer Swift Go 16. That means the Swift Edge 16 is capable of out-performing machines that cost hundreds of dollars more.

Who should buy the Acer Swift Edge 16

If you’re looking for a lightweight ultraportable with strong performance, the sub-$1,000 Acer Swift Edge 16 is the one to pick. It’s light enough to take with you from class to class or meeting to meeting. The display is also fantastic for office work, school work, watching movies, and so on.

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Acer Swift Edge 16 review

Alienware m16 R2 – Best gaming laptop

Pros

Solid gaming performance

Rugged build quality

Good battery life

Cons

Display is dimmer than we like

Why we like the Alienware m16 R2

The Alienware m16 R2 delivers strong graphics performance and good battery life. This specific model comes loaded with an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 GPU, which is nothing to sneeze at. It lasted a respectable 11 hours and fifteen minutes on a single charge and it averaged 144 frames-per-second when running the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark. According to our review, it’s only “four frames-per-second slower than the Razer Blade 16,” which has an RTX 4090 GPU and a price tag of over $3,000.

Who should buy the Alienware m16 R2

Anyone looking for a great gaming laptop. You’re getting strong graphics performance as well as long battery life, which is unusual for a gaming laptop, as most tend to die around the six hour mark. The 16-inch IPS display also has a resolution of 2560×1600 and a refresh rate of 240Hz, so gameplay should be nice and smooth. The picture quality is good, but it’s not an OLED panel. While it may not be the brightest or most color rich display we’ve ever seen, it’s perfectly fine for gaming. Besides, you can always plug into an external monitor if need be.

Alternative option: If you’re looking for a more lightweight option, you should definitely check out the $1599 Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. It weighs just 3.31 pounds, which means you can easily take it anywhere with you. That said, it didn’t make the cut because of ho-hum battery life. Plus, the Alienware m16 R2’s RTX 4070 GPU is more powerful than the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14’s RTX 4060 GPU.

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Alienware m16 R2 review

Asus TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition – Best budget gaming laptop

Pros

Impressive all-day battery life

Gorgeous 16:10 display

Rugged chassis

Cons

Keys feel a bit soft

720p webcam leaves little to be desired

Why we like the Asus TUF Gaming A16

The Asus TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition is something of a unicorn and I mean that in the best way possible. This specific machine exhibits strong graphics performance as well as long battery life. Long battery life? A gaming laptop? How preposterous. Well, not anymore! The Asus TUF managed an incredible 11 and a half hours on a single charge. Also, thanks to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU, the laptop achieved 123 frames-per-second in the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark. That’s impressive, especially for a sub-$1,000 gaming machine.

Who should buy the Asus TUF Gaming A16

The Asus TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition is a good option for those on a tight budget. For under a grand, you’re getting reliable graphics performance, a spacious keyboard, and long battery life. It also works as a good general purpose machine. With a Cinebench R20 score of 589, it should have “no trouble running lightweight apps and programs,” according to our review.

Alternative option: The $1,000 Lenovo LOQ 15 stands as another solid budget option. It’s more than capable of 1080p gaming and the design is very sci-fi inspired. It didn’t nab the top pick because of the poor battery life (not unusual for a gaming laptop) and limited ports, but if you’re looking for more raw GPU horsepower, its RTX 4060 is a step above the RTX 4050 included in the Asus TUF.

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Asus TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition review

Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED – Best 2-in-1

Pros

Long battery life

Connectivity includes two Thunderbolt 4 ports

Fast performance

Cons

Function keys are small

The display is a little dim

Best Prices Today:

$1,199.99 at Amazon

Why we like the Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED

When it comes to 2-in-1 laptops, the Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED just gets it right at the start. It has a gorgeous OLED display, a zippy Intel Core i7-1360P CPU, and a versatile convertible design. You can flip the screen around 360 degrees and use it like a tablet or prop the device up like a tent if you so wish. Colors on the 1800p OLED display are also “remarkably bright and saturated,” according to our review. The battery even lasted a whopping 12 hours on a single charge, dominating laptops with similar hardware like the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i and the Acer Aspire Vero 14.

Who should buy the Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED

The Asus Zenbook 14 Flip is a good option for business professionals because of its convertible, lightweight design and stunning OLED display. You can take this machine with you anywhere and you don’t have to worry about finding an outlet to charge up. How can you go wrong with that?

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Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED review

Dell XPS 17 (2023) – Best content creation laptop

Pros

Powerful internals

Big 17-inch display

Amazing battery life

Cons

720p webcam

Best Prices Today:

Not Available at Best Buy

Why we like the Dell XPS 17

The Dell XPS 17 is one heck of a creation workhorse. It comes armed with an Intel Core i7-13700H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 GPU, which means it’s powerful enough to handle editing tasks as well as some gaming on the side. The 1TB of SSD storage is perfect for storing videos or pictures and Dell somehow managed to pack a 4K panel into this compact laptop. It even brought in a PCMark 10 score of over 7,000, which means general performance is lightning fast.

Who should buy the Dell XPS 17

Content creators… duh! It’s a real powerhouse thanks to the internal components. Plus, 1TB is an ample amount of storage and the screen is a massive 17-inches. If you’re a video editor or photographer, you’ll need a lot of screen real estate as well as storage space. The one big downside is the price, as it will set you back about $2,000.

The Dell XPS 16 (2024) is a sleek, sturdy laptop with a gorgeous OLED display, along with excellent CPU performance and a discrete GPU that helps when it comes to heavier workloads. Its limited port selection may not be ideal for creatives toting around lots of dongles, however.

Read our full

Dell XPS 17 9730 review

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED – Best OLED display under $1,000

Pros

Robust build quality

Attractive OLED touchscreen

Good CPU and integrated GPU performance

Outstanding battery life

Cons

Blah design

Keyboard isn’t memorable

Mediocre connectivity options

Why we like the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED

The Asus Zenbook 14 OLED wowed us with its zippy CPU performance, phenomenal battery life, and attractive OLED touchscreen display. According to our review, “movies and games look realistic and vibrant” on the 1200p OLED touchscreen, although it can be difficult to use in bright environments due to the reflective surface. It also lasted 16 hours on a single charge, which is absolutely wild! That result really trumps otherwise excellent competitors like the Lenovo Slim 7 14 Gen 9 and the HP Pavilion Plus Laptop 14. As for performance, the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED absolutely crushed the PCMark 10 benchmark with an impressive score of 6,772. That means it’s very fast and responsive during real-world tasks like web browsing, video conferencing, and so on.

Who should buy the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED

Anyone looking for a powerful, affordable laptop with an OLED display! It’s so much more than its OLED screen, though. The build quality is quite good and day-to-day performance is zippy. Plus, you won’t have to go looking for an outlet often thanks to the long battery life. Connectivity options are a bit limited, but that’s not unusual for a laptop in this price range. Overall, it’s a great Windows machine that hits all the right marks.

Read our full

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED review

Recent laptop reviews

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED: AMD’s Ryzen 7 8840HS powers the new Zenbook 14 OLED to strong benchmark results and long battery life.

Razer Blade 16: Razer’s Blade 16 backs up its stunning looks with athletic performance, but a few issues keep it from a podium finish.

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2: The Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 has all the hallmarks of an ultra-portable. It’s lightweight, easy on the eyes, and performance is zippy enough for office work as well as day-to-day tasks. That said, key travel is quite shallow and connectivity options are lacking.

Lenovo Slim 7 14: Lenovo’s Slim 7 14 is a competent, well-executed laptop with good performance and plenty of RAM, yet it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

How we test laptops

The PCWorld team puts each and every Windows laptop through a series of benchmarks that test GPU and CPU performance, battery life, and so on. The idea is to push the laptop to its limits and then compare it against others we’ve tested. Chromebooks, on the other hand, go through a series of web-based tests. It wouldn’t be fair or possible to run the same kinds of tests on a Chromebook, as they’re Chrome OS-based machines.

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each test and the reasons why we run them. For a much deeper look at our review methodology, check out how PCWorld tests laptops.

Windows laptops

PCMark 10: PCMark 10 is how we determine how well the laptop handles lighter tasks like web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, and so on.

HandBrake: HandBrake is more intensive than PCMark 10. It basically measures how long a laptop’s CPU takes to encode a beefy 30GB file.

Cinebench: Cinebench is a brief stress test of the CPU cores. It does this by rendering a 2D scene over a short period of time.

3DMark: 3DMark checks if 3D performance remains consistent over time by running graphic-intensive clips.

Video rundown test: To gauge battery life, we loop a 4K video using Windows 10’s Movies & TV app until the laptop dies.

Chromebooks

CrXPRT 2: The CrXPRT 2 benchmark tests a Chromebook’s battery life.

Speedometer 2.0: This test determines a Chromebook’s web browser performance. It simulates this by adding, completing, and removing a to-do list.

Basemark Web 3.0: This benchmark gauges how well a Chromebook can handle web-based applications.

Kraken 1.1: Kraken 1.1 is a JavaScript performance benchmark.

Jetstream 2: Jetstream 2 is a combination of WebAssembly and JavaScript benchmarks. This is a way to gauge how well a Chromebook runs advanced workloads.

FAQ
1.
What form factor is best for a laptop?

The first question you should ask yourself is what kind of laptop you’re looking for. There’s traditional clamshells, 2-in-1’s, Chromebooks, and much more. The displays on convertible laptops (aka 2-in-1’s), for example, can swing around 360 degrees. This allows you to use the laptop like a tablet. They can also be propped up like a tent for viewing movies or participating in video calls. Chromebooks, on the other hand, exclusively run Google’s web-focused Chrome OS and are generally used for everyday tasks. All you need is a Gmail account and boom, you’re in. There are pros and cons to each of them. Chromebooks are affordable and generally have good battery life whereas convertibles are normally lightweight and portable.

2.
How much processing power do I need in a laptop?

If it’s CPU power you’re looking for, look for processors with higher numerical names. A Core i7 is more suited to gaming and more intense work than everyday tasks. Intel processors are available in Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9. The higher the number, the more powerful the CPU. If you don’t need a ton of power, Intel Core i5 processors are your best bet, as they offer good performance at a decent price. Basic office and web work gets along just fine on a Core i3. As for AMD options, the Ryzen 3 is good for basic productivity and web browsing, while Ryzen 5 chips rival Intel’s Core i5 as solid all-arounders. If you need more power, the Ryzen 7 chip is well suited for content creation like video editing. Finally, if you’re dealing with 4K video, spring for a Ryzen 9.

3.
Discrete graphics vs. integrated graphics?

You’ll want a discrete graphics card for hardcore gaming or editing videos. It’s separate from the processor, so you can expect higher performance out of it. Integrated graphics, on the other hand, are attached to the CPU and uses less power as a result. This is perfectly fine for everyday tasks, especially if you’re not doing anything that’s graphics-intensive.

4.
How much memory do I need in a laptop?

8GB of RAM is zippy enough for general use. If you’ve got a gaming laptop, 16GB of RAM is the way to go, and content creators will want even more.

5.
Do I need a big display on a laptop?

If you’re a video editor or someone who does a lot of multimedia work, you’ll want a display that’s anywhere from 15- to 17-inches. The sweet spot is really anywhere from 13- to 14-inches, though. The bigger the display, the heavier your laptop is going to be. A 13- or 14-inch display is the best in terms of portability and value.

6.
How long should my laptop last on a single charge?

If you plan on taking your laptop anywhere with you, aim for something that can last 10 to 12 hours on a single charge. That’s more than a full work day, so it should theoretically get you through long flights or a day of classes. Obviously, more is always better. Just know that the bigger the battery, the heavier the laptop. Read our round-up of the best laptop chargers.

7.
How much does a good laptop cost?

Many good laptops cost around $500 to $750, but the price really depends on your budget. If you’re strapped for cash (been there, trust me), go for a Chromebook or an entry-level business laptop. You can find solid options for under $500. Spending $750 to $1,000 can get you better displays, additional performance, more storage, and nicer designs. If you splurge for a laptop that costs over $1,000, you’re usually paying up for premium build quality, great extras, and top-shelf performance.

Gaming laptops are different. You can sometimes find gaming laptops with entry-level discrete graphics on sale for around $850, but you’ll usually need to spend at least $1,000 for a system with decent 1080p gaming chops. You can pay more — often much more — for better graphics firepower and nicer displays, but the costs can rise rapidly depending on your hardware of choice. Some fully loaded gaming laptops can go for multiple thousands of dollars but you’re getting the equivalent of a desktop replacement in return. Spending $1,200 to $2,000 usually gets you a very good gaming laptop.

8.
Are connectivity options important on a laptop?

A wide array of ports is always a plus in my book, as it eliminates the need for an adapter. I’d recommend a laptop that has both USB-C and USB-A. An HDMI port is good, too. This is especially useful for when you want to hook up to an external monitor.

Laptops 

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