As we start a new year, you might wish to replace your technology, but selecting a new laptop computer might be challenging. There have never been more options for brands, features, and settings, and given that inflation is still a problem, you might also be concerned about price increases. The good news is that manufacturers are still producing a ton of new laptops, so you have a ton of options to select from, including the affordable HP Pavilion Aero 13, the convertible Microsoft Surface Pro 9, and our top pick, the Apple MacBook Air M2. We’ve made it simpler for you to choose the ideal laptop for your requirements.
How to prepare
You likely already have a general notion of your budget, but just so you’re aware, the majority of contemporary laptops with the best specifications can run you anywhere from $1,800 to $2,000 these days. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy a solid machine for less than $1,000; many high-end 13-inch ultraportables with Core i3 or i5 series processors start at $1,000. You can still find good solutions in the $600 to $800 price bracket if that’s too expensive, though they can have older, slower processors and dark screens. I’ve included our most budget-friendly model in our roundup of the best laptops, but you can also check out our list of other affordable laptops.
The operating system of the laptop is typically the first thing you have to narrow down after determining your budget. As usual, those who choose MacBooks find the selection to be a little bit simpler. Your only real considerations now that Apple has rolled out its M-series CPUs across the board are price, screen size, and how much power you require.
The transition to ARM-based CPUs, however, hasn’t gone as smoothly over on Team Windows. PC manufacturers have been constrained by Windows’ flaws, despite Apple’s ability to significantly extend battery life while retaining (and in some cases boosting) performance with its own chips. Windows 11 was released by Microsoft last year, and it is designed to perform better on ARM-powered devices. We are unable to evaluate the first of these laptops because they have not yet been made available for assessment, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s or 10w tablet. Although ARM-based PCs can be upgraded to run Windows 11, for the time being it’s still safer to go with an Intel or AMD processor.
Overall best: Laptop Air M2
I hesitate to call an Apple MacBook the best overall laptop because I use Windows. I can’t dispute, though, that Apple’s switch to its own silicon has improved its products. The most recent MacBook Air M2 is a deserving follow-up to the M1 that was released in 2020, delivering a brand-new design and a performance bump that all customers will value.
This is not to imply that the M1 was a slow machine; on the opposite. We found it to be remarkably quick, and the M2 only improves upon that outstanding performance. Although it’s certainly overkill for a MacBook Air, the majority of people will find it useful for both work and play. Additionally, with a 16.5-hour battery life that is remarkable, anyone should be able to complete a day’s worth of work and then some.
Regarding the design, we appreciate that Apple ditched the wedge shape of the previous model in favor of a more equally thin look. The only thing stopping the M2 Air’s gorgeous 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, which also houses its 1080p webcam, is the top notch. Its quad-speaker arrangement is an improvement, and all of these minor hardware adjustments together result in a laptop that looks and feels more different from its predecessor than you might anticipate. The Apple M1 and M2 MacBook Air notebooks are still reliable devices, nonetheless. Given that the M2 starts at $1,199, customers on a tight budget might be ready to give up the new design upgrades in order to receive a faster laptop for less money.
Dell XPS 13 Plus has the best Windows.
I still advise anyone who doesn’t want a Mac to get one of Dell’s well-rounded XPS 13 series computers because it has long been the best PC. There is no headphone jack on the new XPS 13 Plus, and we haven’t received one to test yet. But the XPS 13 is still one of the most attractive PCs available and a well-rounded Windows notebook.
The Dell XPS 13 Plus, like its forerunners, has a gorgeous OLED screen with remarkably low bezels and a spacious, ergonomic keyboard. It also has a new, more contemporary minimalist design. The row of capacitive keys at the top instead of traditional function keys is something I’m not too sure about, but I’m sure the laptop’s 12th-generation Intel Core processors will give it a noticeable speed improvement over the previous model.
The earlier models are still good choices if you’re unsure about the XPS 13’s upgrades from Dell or if you really want a headphone jack. There is also the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro line, which has tiny and light frames, gorgeous OLED panels, and crisper cameras. I really prefer Microsoft’s Surface Laptops, and even if the most recent model has an old design, it still has excellent performance and battery life.
Razer Blade 15 Advanced is the best gaming laptop
In order to best assist them in defeating their virtual foes, gamers should opt for computers with responsive screens and plenty of ports for their preferred peripherals. You should read my colleague Devindra Hardawar’s guide on buying a gaming laptop to learn about various CPUs and GPUs, minimum specifications, and other topics. It goes into greater detail about what to take into account. The Razer Blade 15 Advanced, which costs $2,500 and boasts an Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA RTX 3070 graphics, is our choice for the finest gaming laptop.
Although it is the priciest item on this list, you also get a 15-inch quad HD screen with 240Hz refresh rate. Depending on your preferences, various configurations are offered, including a Full HD 360Hz and a 4K 144Hz version. Another one of the most well-made gaming laptops available is the Blade series.
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14, which was our favorite model the previous year, is a good option for those searching for a cheap gaming laptop. The 2022 refresh costs over $600 extra, which is the main reason it was reduced in price. Despite its tiny size, it is nevertheless a reliable gaming laptop with a great display, spacious trackpad, and lots of connectors.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i is the top Chromebook.
The Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook is our favorite model, and Engadget’s resident Chrome OS expert Nathan Ingraham called it “a terrific deal.” With a 13-inch Full HD touchscreen, an excellent keyboard, and an Intel Core i3 processor from the 10th generation, this laptop excels in the fundamentals. Despite having only 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the Flex 5 performed admirably in our tests. The Flex 5’s eight-hour battery life, one USB-A port and two USB-C connections, and 360-degree hinge make using it as a tablet a breeze. The fact that Chrome OS now enables Android apps is a bonus.
Despite being almost two years old, the Flex 5 is still a good value at roughly $400. In fact, it occasionally goes on sale for as little as $300, making it an excellent choice for someone searching for a straightforward browser-based laptop on a small budget.
Overall, the Intel Surface Pro 9 is one of your finest options if you’re looking for a device that can easily convert from a laptop to a tablet. Of course, you should think about getting an iPad Pro if you’re committed to the Apple ecosystem.