Our current favourite 2022 laptop is the Apple MacBook Air M2, which is a great option for most buyers. It combines all the qualities we look for in a tested product, such as solid everyday performance and good battery life. And an approachable design that can appeal to a wide audience.
The current MacBook Air begins at $1,199. But the 2020 MacBook Air M1 is still a superb laptop and a good value at its lower price point. HP’s Pavilion Aero 13 is a fantastic tiny, light laptop starting at $550. And it’s still an affordable $900 when fully loaded.
Our laptop specialists at CNET have decades of experience between them testing and reviewing notebooks for everything from speed to cost to runtime. We’ve compiled a list of the top laptops for every budget and need, including Windows, macOS, and Chromebooks.
Other Laptop Options
Additional laptop brands and possibilities can be found on our speciality lists, such as the best gaming laptops, best 15-inch laptops, Asus 2-in-1 q535, best two-in-ones, and best Chromebooks, as well as the best laptops for college students, best laptops for designers, and best alternatives to the MacBook Pro.
Check out our best budget laptop and best budget gaming laptop recommendations if you’re on a tight budget and in the market for a new portable computer.
As we continue to test and review new laptops, we will add them to this list of the finest. Jump down to our laptop frequently asked questions to learn more about which portable computer is perfect for you, and don’t forget to check out our best laptop offers page if you’re trying to save money on your purchase.
Questions & Answers for Best Laptop
The cost of a decent laptop, roughly speaking?
Before going out and buying the best laptop for yourself, it’s a good idea to set a spending limit. The good news is that for less than $500, you can acquire a sleek, lightweight laptop with great battery life. Explore our recommended laptops and in-depth purchase guidance if you’re looking to spend less than $500.
Modern laptops costing between $500 and $1,000 often have high-end components such as Intel Core i-series and AMD Ryzen processors and premium design details such as low display bezels and aluminium or magnesium casings. Touchscreens and convertible designs that can function as a tablet, laptop, or somewhere in between are also available. Faster memory and ssd storage are also available at this price range, with more available to boost performance.
Premium laptops and two-in-ones can be found at prices above $1,000. Expect to spend at least $1,000 if you want top-tier performance. Or battery life, slim and light designs, and display quality with a screen size that’s just right.
Do you recommend macOS or Windows?
Many people decide between a laptop running macOS and Windows to personal preference and cost. The M1 MacBook Air is Apple’s entry-level notebook and costs a minimum of $999. It is sometimes on sale, and schools can get special pricing from Apple and other vendors. A new MacBook will set you back at least $1,000, with prices only increasing from there.
However, for the price, you get first-rate hardware in every respect, inside and out. Apple’s recent switch to custom CPUs has improved performance in all areas over previous Intel-based models. But Apple’s most powerful laptop, the 16-inch MacBook Pro, hasn’t received an update to the latest silicon.
However, there is a cost to having such advanced gear. You can also only use computers made by Apple. You can buy a huge selection of devices in a wide price range with Windows and Chromebooks (more on these below).
Unless you have a specific requirement to run an application that is only available on one platform or the other, you can get by with either one, as there is a plethora of software available for both. A Windows laptop, however, is superior for gaming.
It is widely agreed that MacOS is safer and simpler to use than Windows, especially for those who just want their computers to get out of the way and let them work. Microsoft, however, has made concerted efforts over the years to keep up, and with Windows 11, the company is attempting to eliminate any remaining obstacles.
How beneficial are Chromebooks?
Sure, but not everyone will benefit from them. Chromebooks, or laptops that run Google’s Chrome OS, have improved greatly over the past decade, and are now a good choice for those who perform the bulk of their work in a web browser or on mobile apps. They offer safety, ease of use, and cost savings in most cases. The one thing they can’t do is use Mac or Windows programmes in their native formats.
Can you recommend a good laptop for both home and travel use?
The pandemic influenced many people’s schedules and locations. People who travel frequently may have found that their beloved little, ultraportable laptops are suddenly grossly inadequate for functioning at home. Perhaps you don’t care about battery life as much as you’d like a larger screen with better graphics power for gaming.
Think about getting a laptop that’s 15.6 inches or larger if you’re going to be using it for business and don’t need to be able to take it with you too far. When working, playing, or using as an expanded display with an external monitor, a larger screen makes things easier and more pleasurable. You can usually expect to have more ports available, making it simpler to attach peripherals like as a monitor, hard drive, keyboard, and mouse without resorting to a hub or dock.
13- or 14-inch laptops or convertibles are ideal for trips. They’ll have the best battery life of any other similarly sized and lightweight device. The trend among PC manufacturers away from 16:9 widescreens toward 16:10- or 3:2-ratio displays is a positive development because these aspect ratios provide additional vertical screen space for work without considerably increasing the footprint. Though exceptions exist, typically these machines do not feature discrete graphics or powerful processors.
What is the greatest laptop for gaming and/or making things?
Any portable computer can be used to play games and make media. However, the components within the laptop will significantly affect the games you can play, the content you can create, and the pace at which you can do so.
There’s no need for a high-end gaming laptop if you’re only going to play games in your browser or use services like Google Stadia, Nvidia GeForce Now, and Xbox Cloud Gaming. You can get by with a low-cost laptop or Chromebook with integrated graphics if your video editing needs are limited to short clips, cropping photographs, or live-streaming from a webcam.
Discreet graphics, like as Nvidia’s RTX 30-series GPUs, are a better investment for more demanding tasks but cost more money. A speedier processor, like an Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7, and more system memory (preferably 16GB or more), would also help things move along more quickly.
The screen is another important component. Try to find monitors with a refresh rate of 120 hertz or more for gaming, as this will ensure a fluid visual experience. If you’re making content, you should use a screen that can display the whole sRGB colour gamut.
What Approaches we do for Computer Testing
Laptops, desktops, tablets, and other computer-like devices go through two stages of testing before being reviewed: performance testing in the CNET Labs and thorough hands-on use by our professional reviewers. Assessing a product’s design, usability, and functionality are all part of this process.
As the devices we use to benchmark progress, so does the suite of applications we employ. We are now running Primate Labs Geekbench 5, Cinebench R23, PCMark 10, and 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra, which are our four most crucial core tests on every compatible computer we have.
Our How We Test Computers page provides a more in-depth explanation of each test and how we apply it.