Best Laptops for 2020: Upgrade with Our Advice

Best Overall LaptopBest Apple LaptopBest Affordable LaptopBest Gaming Laptop
Dell XPS 13MacBook ProASUS Chromebook FlipMSI GS65 Stealth Thin
View on AmazonView on AmazonView on AmazonView on Amazon

Data effective 8/22/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

What laptop is best?

The best laptop depends on what you need to use it for. Want the latest and greatest tech with a slick look? Or do you just need something to get you through school? Since “best” is all relative, we’ve broken our review into four categories to help you narrow your search to find what the best machine is for you.

Top laptops of 2019

ModelPriceDisplay sizeProcessor
Best Laptop OverallDell XPS 13$$$13.3"Intel Core i7View on Amazon
Best Apple LaptopMacBook Pro$$$13.3"Intel Core i5View on Amazon
Best Affordable LaptopASUS Chromebook Flip$$12.5"Intel Core M3View on Amazon
Best Gaming LaptopMSI GS65 Stealth Thin$$$$15.6"Intel Core i7View on Amazon
Best Laptop Overall
ModelDell XPS 13
Price$$$
Display size13.3"
ProcessorIntel Core i7
View on Amazon
Best Apple Laptop
ModelMacBook Pro
Price$$$
Display size13.3"
ProcessorIntel Core i5
View on Amazon
Best Affordable Laptop
ModelASUS Chromebook Flip
Price$$
Display size12.5"
ProcessorIntel Core M3
View on Amazon
Best Gaming Laptop
ModelMSI GS65 Stealth Thin
Price$$$$
Display size15.6"
ProcessorIntel Core i7
View on Amazon

*Price at time of writing. Prices are subject to change.

Whether you want a gaming behemoth, a killer couch-surfing convertible, or just a great laptop to use every day, we’ve got the best you can buy in their respective categories. There’s something for everyone.

Dell XPS 13

Best Overall Laptop

  • Display size: 3″
  • Display resolution: Up to 4K
  • Processor: Intel Core i7
  • Battery life: Up to 12 hours
  • Price: $$$

The Dell XPS 13 has been one of the most popular Windows laptops in the world for several years now, and for good reason: this laptop gets a lot of things right and very few wrong.

The build quality is top-notch, with an aluminum frame and carbon-fiber keyboard deck that feels great under your palms. The keyboard itself is better than average, and the trackpad is good enough (it just can’t match up to a MacBook trackpad though). The display is easy on the eyes, with options for up to 4K resolution and a touchscreen. And under the hood? There’s plenty of horsepower.

But the best part is the portability: this remains one of the most compact 13-inch laptops on the market—with excellent battery life to boot. It’s also lightweight, making it the perfect laptop to throw in your bag and go all day.

Pros

  • Compact and portable design
  • Excellent build quality
  • Good keyboard and battery life

Cons

  • Top-tier configurations can be expensive

MacBook Pro

Best Apple Laptop

  • Display size: 3″
  • Display resolution: 2560 x 1600
  • Processor: Intel Core i5
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours
  • Price: $$$

Whether you’re a long-time Apple fan or just want to try something new with your next computer, the MacBook Pro has a lot to offer. It’s slim and light (though not as slim and light as the XPS 13), has an attractive aluminum body, and comes in two colors: silver and space gray. We’re fans of the space gray.

Battery life on the MacBook Pro is good but not great, averaging about 10 hours on a single charge. This is enough to get through a day at work or school, but it doesn’t give much wiggle room for intensive use. The plus side is It does charge quickly.

Our biggest gripe with the MacBook Pro—and all modern Apple laptops—is the keyboard. It’s extremely shallow to the point that the keys don’t even feel like they move when you press them. While you do eventually get used to it, expect to make a lot of typing errors during the first week or so if it’s your first Mac. It’s also prone to breakage, so keep that in mind.

Pros

  • Slim, attractive design
  • Amazing trackpad
  • Beautiful display

Cons

  • Touch Bar can be hit-or-miss
  • Shallow keyboard

ASUS Chromebook Flip

Best Affordable Laptop

  • Display size: 5″
  • Display resolution: 1080p
  • Processor: Intel Core M3
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours
  • Price: $$

If you just need a laptop for couch use and basic day-to-day tasks like paying the bills, you may not want to spend a ton of money. After all, most people these days just grab their phone or a tablet when they need a computer. Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to get a great laptop experience anymore, and the Chromebook Flip is proof of that.

This laptop comes in two sizes: 12.5 inches and 14 inches. The 14-inch model may be better if you’re planning on using your laptop as your main computer, but the 12.5-inch model makes an excellent travel companion. The hinge allows the screen to fold back, turning the Chromebook Flip into a tablet for easy reading and watching.

Chrome OS does have its limitations. When you have it as your operating system, it means you can only use Google and web-based programs. Not sure if you’d like that? Try using just a Google Chrome web browser for a week and see how it feels. It’s a little bare-bones, but you won’t have to worry about updates or antivirus software—Google will handle that.

Pros

  • Convertible design
  • Good performance and battery life

Cons

  • Chrome OS may still be too limiting for some

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

Best Gaming Laptop

  • Display size: 6″
  • Display resolution: 1080p
  • Processor: Intel Core i7
  • Battery life: Up to 6 hours
  • Price: $$$$

Gaming laptops always come with a bit of a compromise: if you want the power to play modern games on high settings, you have to sacrifice portability. And if you want portability, you might as well forget about gaming.

Not so with the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin though. This powerhouse comes the closest of any laptop we’ve seen to the perfect balance of having power and still being, well, a laptop.

With an Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU, the GS65 can handle gaming with ease, and the 15.6-inch display comes with a 144Hz refresh rate to make sure what you’re seeing is as fresh and smooth as possible. The laptop itself is surprisingly thin, considering all the power packed inside. It should fit fine in a backpack.

The one major downside is its battery life. Even if you’re not gaming, the high-performance components eat battery for breakfast, leaving you with about half the battery life of the other laptops on this list. This is par for the course with gaming laptops, so just make sure to pack your charger and you’ll be fine.

Pros

  • Outstanding performance
  • Surprisingly portable build for a gaming laptop

Cons

  • Disappointing battery life

What to look for in a laptop

Wondering what features we consider when evaluating laptops? Here are the major items to watch for when comparing models.

PC or Mac?

The first step in choosing a new laptop is deciding whether you want a Windows PC or a Mac. If the software you want to use on your laptop runs on only one or the other, that will guide your decision. Additionally, Windows is an open-source software, so a wide variety of companies make laptops that run on Windows. Macbooks, on the other hand, are made only by Apple.

Macs are also known for being more geared toward designers and other creative professionals while Windows is the ubiquitous option. That said, most programs can work on both (you can run Microsoft Word on a Mac), so there isn’t as much divide between the two as there has been in the past.

Battery life

A laptop isn’t very exciting if you’re constantly tethered to a wall—that’s what desktops are for. As for how much battery life you need, consider how you’ll use it most. If you expect to be away from a charger for a full work or school day, look for something that’s rated for at least 10 hours. Most of the laptops on this list will meet these needs and then some.

Display

There are two aspects of a laptop display to consider: size and resolution.

Size

Bigger is better, right? Not necessarily—especially when it comes to laptops. The bigger the screen, the bigger the laptop, and we all remember those 17-inch monsters from the past that weighed about a thousand pounds. On the flip side, if it’s too small, you’ll be hunched over and squinting.

In our experience, the sweet spot for laptop size is about 13 inches. This gives enough real estate to get some work done but also allows the computer to fit comfortably in a bag. You might want a bigger screen than that if you have decreased vision or do really screen-intensive work like photo editing.

Resolution

Resolution can make a significant difference, especially when it comes to text. A high-resolution display will have much sharper text than a lower one, and the difference can make it hard to go without.

The lowest resolution we recommend for a laptop is 1080p, or 1920 x 1080. For an even better experience, spring for a screen like the MacBook Pro’s Retina display or the 4K option on the Dell XPS 13. Your eyes will thank you.

Keyboard and trackpad

The trackpad will be your primary way of interacting with the system, and nobody does it better than Apple. The Force Touch trackpad on the MacBook Pro is a joy to use: it’s accurate, responsive, and the comical size gives you plenty of room to maneuver.

Apple used to be the leader of the pack in keyboards, but we’d consider the company’s current boards tolerable at best. That’s up for interpretation though. If we had to pick one, we’d say the Dell XPS line offers one of our favorite typing experiences on a laptop, with good key travel and a responsive feel.

Our verdict

Overall, the Dell XPS 13 is our pick for the best laptop for most people. It’s got it all: a great screen, great battery life, great keyboard and trackpad, great build, and a compact size. There’s really not much to complain about here.

If it doesn’t fit your needs or you’d rather get a Mac, there are plenty of other options.You can’t go wrong with any of our picks.

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Best laptop FAQ

What’s the best laptop processor?

The best laptop processor for everyday use is an Intel Core processor. There are a few versions, with higher numbers being faster (a Core i7 is faster than a Core i5). For serious programming or video editing, look for a Core i7 processor or better.

What are the best laptop brands?

Apple is the laptop brand with the best overall laptop line—each of the models is a quality machine, and each offers something distinct from the others. Dell, ASUS, Lenovo, HP, and Microsoft also offer excellent laptops.

What’s the best gaming laptop?

We think the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin is the best gaming laptop for its combination of portability, good looks, and power.

What’s the most portable laptop?

The Dell XPS 13 remains one of the most compact and portable 13-inch laptops on the market, thanks to its extremely small bezels.

Author -

Dave has written professionally for tech companies and consumer technology sites for nearly five years, with a special focus on TV and internet. He uses his industry expertise to help readers at HighSpeedInternet.com get the most out of their services. No matter the project, he prefers his coffee black (the stronger, the better).

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.

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