This article was last updated by Digital Trends Computing Editor Luke Larsen on June 23, 2020.
We have tested and reviewed well over 400 laptops over the years and searched for the best of the best. So when it came to choosing the best laptop for 2020, there was a clear winner:. With fantastic performance, a display with modern-looking thin bezels, a well-built keyboard and touchpad, and excellent battery life, the Dell XPS 13 performs well in all major aspects of a laptop.
However, if you are looking for the best MacBook, Chromebook, gaming laptop or 2-in-1 device, we have made a selection for you too.
The best laptops at a glance:
The best laptop: Dell XPS 13
Why should you buy that?: It is portable, fast, attractive and inexpensive.
Who is it for?: All except players.
Why we chose the Dell XPS 13:
No laptop has been more influential than the XPS 13 in recent years. It started this race for thinner frames in 2015, which has now expanded to any device with a screen.
In the latest version, Dell pushed things even further. The 2020 XPS 13 enlarged the screen with an aspect ratio of 16:10 and at the same time reduced the lower aperture. The result is a larger screen without the need for a larger laptop.
This year's XPS 13 also has a larger keyboard and a larger touchpad, making use of every possible surface of the device. Of course, it is just as powerful and durable as before, and does not sacrifice function over form. It's no longer a cheap laptop, but for me the XPS has earned its place as a premium brand. It all adds up to the best laptop you can buy.
Read our in-depth review of Dell XPS 13 (2020)
The best MacBook: MacBook Air
Why should you buy that?: Those who want to bring something shiny to school.
Who is it for?: Students and Apple fans.
Why we chose the MacBook Air:
The latest update for the MacBook Air is not a reinvention, but it does a number of things right. First of all, the price will drop, starting at $ 999 (or $ 899 for students). This also includes an impairment of the basic memory with 256 GB.
Most importantly, the defective butterfly-style keyboard is replaced with the new Magic keyboard. That said, when you buy the MacBook Air, you get a reliable laptop that you can type on for many years without the keyboard failing.
However, performance should be considered. Even the quad-core Core i5 MacBook Air can't keep up with the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. It uses a much less powerful processor and the screen isn't that colorful either. If you want to create content, be it photography or music production, you should stick to a MacBook Pro. But for those who have relatively low computing requirements – email, web surfing, productivity apps, Netflix streaming – the Air offers a lot of performance. For most people, the MacBook Air is the best Mac you can buy.
Read our in-depth MacBook Air review
The best laptop for students: Asus ZenBook 13 UX333
Why should you buy that?: You want an affordable Windows PC to do your homework with.
Who is it for?: Pupils and students who want mobility, performance and long battery life – but don't want to spend an arm or a leg.
Why we chose the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333:
Students don't often have the budget to house premium laptops like the Dell XPS 13. We therefore recommend the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333. It's an ultrabook that meets our highest recommendation and only costs $ 850. While most laptops in this price range shorten important factors such as battery life or display quality, this ZenBook 13 has it all. It's not as powerful as the Dell XPS 13 or a MacBook Pro, but in its latest version, it almost matches the XPS 13 in terms of its tiny frame. It's also a great looking laptop that keeps things light and thin without affect the quality of workmanship.
The price-performance ratio is particularly impressive. The base model has an eighth generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB solid-state drive. It hasn't been updated to the latest 10th generation Intel processor, but it's still a fast, powerful laptop.
It is remarkable how much laptop you can get for so little money, and that should be of particular interest to students who are short of money. If you need to lower the price, we recommend, which is typically sold for around $ 550.
Read our detailed information Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 review
The best Chromebook: Google Pixelbook Go
Why should you buy that?: You want an inexpensive but well-built Chromebook.
Who is it for?: Students, people who only need basic functions, everyone who wants to use a cheap laptop as a second PC.
Why we chose the Google Pixelbook Go:
Chromebooks are known as cheap alternatives to Windows PCs, and there are plenty of great options for under $ 500. However, the Pixelbook Go is a serious argument for a Chromebook with a little more finesse. It is beautifully designed, rigidly built and a pleasure to use.
Thanks to its ultra-light weight of 2.3 pounds and fantastic battery life, it's a great option for students and people doing their work on the go.
Starting at $ 649, this is not a significant cut from the original $ 999 Pixelbook. With Chrome OS you are of course faced with the usual restrictions. It's based on Google's Chrome web browser, so you won't be able to download your normal Windows applications. However, it is wonderfully easy and intuitive to use. With the Google Play Store you can close some gaps in the software with Android apps.
Read our detailed Google Pixelbook Go test
The best 2-in-1 laptop: Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Why should you buy that?: You want a great laptop and a good tablet.
Who is it for?: Anyone who needs versatility in addition to performance.
Why we chose the Surface Pro 7:
The Surface Pro series has made a name for itself over the years with its excellent removable keyboard and full Windows 10 performance. It's the familiar PC experience you're used to, with the added interest in 2-in-1 features, compatibility with Surface Pen pens, and a tablet mode. It is an extremely well-built device with a beautiful, high-resolution display and a solid stand.
The latest model, the Surface Pro 7, does not make any significant changes to the formula, but does offer some important improvements. You now get a USB-C port instead of a Mini DisplayPort and can improve performance with 10th generation Ice Lake processors from Intel. That means faster performance and improved integrated graphics.
Do we want the Surface Pro 7 to have the sleeker body and smaller frames of the new Surface Pro X? Naturally. However, the Surface Pro 7 is cheaper, faster, and more universal in terms of app support.
Read our in-depth review of Surface Pro 7
The best business laptop: HP Elite Dragonfly
Why should you buy that?: This is a business laptop like no other.
Who is it for?: Business professionals looking for a laptop that doesn't embarrass them.
Why we chose the HP Elite Dragonfly:
Business laptops have a certain stigma. It is often believed that they have to be chunky, ugly, and full of bloatware. Not so.
The Elite Dragonfly offers everything your IT department needs (and you will appreciate it) without being in the way of an extremely beautiful and modern laptop. The ideal person for the dragonfly is someone who takes their work with them on the go, whether on long flights or on the subway. This is where the dragonfly comes to life as a portable laptop that may actually fit in your pull-down compartment.
In addition, the Dragonfly is one of the first 5G-enabled laptops that could prove useful in introducing the standard for faster connectivity.
Read our in-depth HP Elite Dragonfly review
The best affordable laptop: Lenovo Yoga C640
Why should you buy this: Good performance for so little money and a complete addition to the hardware features.
Who is it for: Those who want to do a Windows laptop for everything without breaking the bank.
Why we chose the Lenovo Yoga C640:
Spending less than $ 1,000 on a laptop is dangerous. I'm not saying this because there are no good options, but because there is a lot to sift through to find the gems. The Yoga C640 is the brightest of them. It offers a beautiful 1080p screen, a large keyboard and a touchpad as well as a fantastic battery life. For a laptop starting at $ 600, it's hard to ask for more.
The 10th generation dual-core Intel Core i3 is not the fastest processor, although it does basic computing with no problems. If your daily schedule consists only of Chrome, Slack, YouTube and Spotify, you will find a lot of performance under the hood.
For those who rely on intense multitasking or who occasionally need to do heavy lifting, you'll get four cores and twice as much storage when you switch to the $ 690 model. Even at this price, you get an affordable laptop that should last for many years.
Read our detailed review of the Lenovo Yoga C640
The best gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15
Why should you buy that?: It offers a fantastic gaming experience on the go.
Who is it for?: People who want a fantastic laptop that can also play.
Why we chose the Razer Blade 15:
From the outside, you may not even know that the Razer Blade is a gaming laptop. It's as light and thin as a MacBook Pro, with thin bezels, a premium keyboard and touchpad, and a bright, vibrant 15-inch display. Even if it wasn't a gaming laptop, the Razer Blade would probably still be a contender for one of the best 15-inch laptops. The fact that it can play games with respectable frame rates makes it a miracle.
With new RTX Super graphics, which are maximum in the RTX 2080 Super, and a display with a high refresh rate, the Razer Blade is a killer slot machine. The Razer Blade did almost everything we threw at it in a short amount of time – as long as you stay away from 4K, of course. Razer has redesigned its thermal system to ensure that the blade can play almost any game at maximum settings despite some throttling. This includes heavy loads like Assassins Creed: Odyssey and Battlefield V.
Simply put, this is the most elegant and beautiful gaming laptop you have ever seen. The latest update of the options for an OLED 4K panel or a refresh rate of 300 Hz sweeten the business even more. If you need something cheaper, the new AMD-based Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is an excellent choice.
Read our in-depth review of Razer Blade 15
The best laptop for video editing: Dell XPS 15
Why should you buy that?: You want a portable PC that goes through your video editing projects.
Who is it for?: Video editors who want powerful components and a large, beautiful display.
Why we chose the Dell XPS 15:
When editing videos, you want a lot of space to display both the results and the user interface of your favorite application. However, if you use a laptop instead of a desktop PC, you want to be able to edit on the go. This is where 15-inch laptops come into play – they are both powerful and, thanks to today's clockwork with a thin bezel, extremely portable.
The best 15-inch laptop is the Dell XPS 15 – and in 2020 Dell re-launched the product line with a completely new design. It is wonderful. It has an even thinner bezel that now surrounds a 16:10 aspect ratio screen. The 4K screen is slightly larger and feels much more haunting thanks to the thin edges. There are also some improved speakers, a larger touchpad, and four Thunderbolt 3 ports. Dell even inserts the full-size SD card slot – great convenience for video editors.
Internally, you still have an option for a Core i9 processor with eight cores and the latest GTX 1650 Ti graphics. With multithreaded applications like Adobe Premiere you can expect impressive rendering times.
There are two restrictions. First, the Core i9 configuration is not yet available. Second, the XPS 17 is expected to drop soon. It is a larger and more powerful version of the same laptop.
Read our in-depth review of Dell XPS 15 (2020)
The best laptop for photo editing: Apple MacBook Pro 16 inch
Why should you buy that?: You want the most comprehensive software support for a laptop and a beautiful display.
Who is it for?: Image editors who want a display that gives them real results.
Why we chose the Apple MacBook Pro:
Apple's MacBook series has always been a favorite among photo editors. The company has built such a large fan base by ensuring that the best software runs on MacOS and by offering some of the best and most accurate displays you can buy.
The MacBook Pro continues to focus on creatives, especially if you choose the new 16-inch model. It offers a lot of performance in a very thin and light form factor, up to eighth generation Intel Core i7 CPUs, 16 GB RAM and 2 TB fast memory. The display is great for editing photos because the 16:10 aspect ratio offers more vertical space and a wide color gamut (100% from sRGB and 91% from AdobeRBG) with the most accurate colors you can get.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro has a similarly great display with new ninth-generation Intel CPUs and offers the larger screen that some photographers will appreciate. It also has improved keyboard and powerhouse performance.
Windows laptops are catching up, but the MacBook Pro remains at the top of the photo editing laptop market. It's not the cheapest photo editing platform, but it's still the best.
Read our in-depth review of the Apple MacBook Pro 16
How we test
You have read our laptop reviews. You have read our conclusions. And now you're wondering how we got to them.
Good question. Reviews often lack the context, which can be seen in the very different reviews that some laptops receive from different publications. Contradicting opinions can actually make purchasing a laptop more difficult if the criteria for the review are not clarified.
Allow us to lift the veil. Here we explain the benchmarks we use for objective tests and the perspective from which we approach subjective issues. We don't expect everyone to agree with us, but we hope that by sharing our process, you'll be better equipped to decide which laptop best suits your needs.
Research and buying tips
What is the best laptop brand?
Choosing just one laptop brand as the best lately has been a challenge lately. There are so many great laptops today that come from multiple manufacturers. However, keep our feet to the fire and we have to choose Dell as the best. Dell appears to be investing in the latest materials to improve the performance of its laptops and is constantly developing new innovative designs.
HP is also no fool. Again, some unique materials are used and some customer-friendly design decisions are made, e.g. B. resistance to the trend of increasing battery capacity.
In terms of customer service and reliability, Apple carries the flashlight for its convenience. The issues with the latest keyboards have been fixed, making MacBooks extremely durable. Customer service is top notch.
What is a 2-in-1 laptop?
A 2-in-1 laptop is not limited to the traditional clamshell configuration. Instead, a 2-in-1 device can be converted from a clamshell into a kind of tablet PC that enables natural coloring and media consumption.
The concept is not entirely new – Microsoft already sold a “Tablet PC” version of Windows in 2001 that supported pen input but never really prevailed. As the electronics have become more powerful and fit into smaller housings and the capacitive touch and active pen technology has been improved, the modern 2-in-1 system was created. Microsoft launched the form factor in 2012 with its Surface line, and most manufacturers followed with their versions.
Today you can choose from a variety of different 2-in-1 types. The most popular types are the tablet with a removable keyboard, which is embodied by Microsoft Surface Pro 7, and the 360-degree convertible, in which the display is turned over to turn into a (usually larger) tablet.
The main advantage of the 2-in-1 tablet is portability – tablets are extremely thin, light and easy to carry – and they are also best suited for drawing and writing on the pen-compatible display. The 360-degree convertible 2-in-1, on the other hand, is not quite as practical as a tablet, but it works better in clamshell laptop mode – especially when used on the lap, where it is more stable than most other removable ones Tablets.
Which processor should I buy?
The most popular CPUs for laptops today are Intel's eighth-generation Whiskey Lake processors, which include the low-power Y-series and the fast and efficient U-series. For Windows 10 users with the highest productivity, we recommend at least the Core i5-8265U, a high-performance processor that can perform most productivity tasks without slowing down. It is also efficient, which means that you will enjoy a long battery life. When you return to older generations of Intel processors, you'll have slower clock speeds and fewer cores. This means that bottlenecks may occur when multitasking or running multithreaded applications.
Chromebooks that run on Google’s more efficient Chrome OS can use slower processors and still perform well, e.g. B. an Intel Core i3 or even a Pentium processor. Not many Chromebooks work with the fastest Core i7 CPU.
If you are looking for a gaming or content creation laptop, we recommend either the eighth generation of last year or the latest ultra-power CPUs of the ninth generation of the H series. You can find them in laptops ranging from the MacBook Pro 15 to the Razer Blade.
How much RAM do I need?
The sweet spot for storage for laptops and desktops is 8 GB. For more information, see our story "How Much RAM Do I Need?". In general, 8 GB is enough, regardless of whether you're using Windows, MacOS, or even the lighter Chrome OS. And it offers plenty of headroom for multitasking and more demanding applications. If you are doing high-end photo or video editing, we recommend 16 GB (or more).
Should I buy a laptop or tablet?
As mentioned above, you can get a tablet that can turn into a laptop by attaching a keyboard. So if you want to take advantage of Windows 10 performance in a form factor that's easier to carry, you can choose a tablet 2-in-1. We do not recommend these devices as tablets per se, since Windows 10 tablet mode is still quite limited. If you want maximum simplicity and an even smaller device, a pure tablet like the iPad is ideal for surfing the Internet, testing e-mails, consuming media and for other tasks for which the full performance of one is not "Real" PCs is required.
Where does a tablet not work? If you are a hardcore player, you need a laptop that can handle videos and large photos, or multitasking. Tablets are very thin and typically use slower CPUs and integrated graphics that don't speed up creative applications or don't support modern games. In the meantime, the software on these devices isn't as fully functional as a desktop operating system like Windows 10 or MacOS.
Should my laptop have USB-C?
The short answer is yes, you should try to include a laptop with at least one USB-C port. This is the latest connectivity that ensures that you can connect to older devices (via adapters) while still being covered for future devices. USB-C can provide data transfer, power, and display connections, and USB-C hubs can greatly expand the number of peripherals you can easily connect to your laptop.
The good thing is that laptops, including budget models, increasingly contain USB-C. The longer answer is: you want not only USB-C, but also connections that support the even more powerful Thunderbolt 3 standard. Thunderbolt 3 offers up to 40 gigabits per second (Gbit / s) over a single connection and supports multiple 4K displays and external GPU housings, which can significantly improve graphics performance. Recently, even laptops under $ 1,000 have Thunderbolt 3 ports.