Best Laptops of 2021

A laptop won’t revolutionize the minutiae of your life the way a smartphone can. You can’t easily whip one out to kill time in the elevator, capture a breathtaking sunset, or pay for a cup of coffee.

But in the years since smartphones took on all these jobs, laptops have honed their own talents. Amazing battery life and breathtaking screens are now common, if you look in the right place for them. The graphics muscle to play games at full HD is affordable. And those basic old-guard features that you won’t find on any mobile device, such as touchpads and full-size keyboards, tend to get better with almost every generation.

With great features, though, has come great fragmentation. Amazon, Newegg, and even your local electronics megamart have a dizzying array of cheap laptopsgaming laptops2-in-1 laptopsChromebooks, and ultraportables. Here at PC Labs, we review as many laptops as we can—hundreds each year—so we’ve seen pretty much every remix of laptop you can buy.

1.  Dell XPS 15 9500 (2020)

SPECIFICATIONS
Processor: Intel Core i7-10750H
Graphics: 4GB Nvidia 1650 Ti
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 15.6” FHD+, 1920 x 1200
Weight: 1.8 kg
REASONS TO BUY
+Very portable+Screen ideal for productivity+Dedicated graphics+Big trackpad
REASONS TO AVOID
HeatingNo USB Type-A

The Dell XPS 15 is the poster child of a thin and light powerhouse. It takes the series’ portability to the next level while also improving on the internals. The 2020 variant moves to a welcome 16:10 display with up to a 15.6-inch 4K display. Even with the bigger size, it weighs just about 1.8 kgs.

On the inside, it can be equipped with a 10th gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, m.2 PCIe NVMe SSD storage, and most importantly, an Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti. Multimedia and content creation are the Dell XPS’s strong points with a large trackpad and a very color accurate and bright display.

2. HP Spectre x360 13

SPECIFICATIONS
Processor: Intel Core i7-1065G7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 13.3-inch
Weight: 1.27 kgs
REASONS TO BUY
+Stylish and high-quality finish+Great all-around performance+Built-in security features are useful
REASONS TO AVOID
New components means battery life takes a hitCan run hot at times

The HP Spectre x360 from late last year continues to be one of the classiest laptops around. with its thin, elegant design, improved hardware and long battery life. And so, the tradition of greatness that the Spectre line has long-established continues on. With HP making some big changes to its design, this new 2019 model certainly has both a strong base to build upon as well as some high bars to stand up to.

The HP Spectre x360 (2019) is just as thin and sleek and powerful as ever before, though perhaps with more up-to-date components, which always come with updates like this. Essentially, this laptop delivers unparalleled performance, thanks to powerful hardware, with a smart and sleek design that many of its rivals couldn’t even begin to emulate as well as a hinge that delivers that 2-in-1 feature.

3. Acer Swift 3 (Project Athena)

Processor: Intel Core i5, 10th Gen
Graphics: Iris Plus
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 13.5-inches QHD
Weight: 1.19 Kgs
REASONS TO BUY
+Very portable+Great battery life+3:2 display+Multi-tasking
REASONS TO AVOID
Not great for graphicsSpeakers

The Acer Swift 3 series has always been known to be extremely compact yet powerful. The Project Athena certified variant takes that to the next level by maintaining the performance but managing to improve the battery life even further.

Professionals will love the tall 3:2 aspect ratio of the display, the classy design as well as the 1.1kg of weight. It is not the most powerful in comparison but will suffice for regular use. The port selection is also above average.

3. Microsoft Surface Pro X

SPECIFICATIONS
Processor: Microsoft SQ1 (based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx)
Graphics: Adreno 680
RAM: 8GB RAM
Storage: 256GB SSD
Display: 13.3-inch Full HD
Weight: 774 grams
REASONS TO BUY
+Slick, refined design+Comfortable typing+Super thin and light
REASONS TO AVOID
Just OK battery life

The Microsoft Surface Pro X is an undoubtedly stellar looking and feeling tablet. Microsoft’s newest attempt at an ARM-based Surface Pro device could have been impressive as well. It even boasts Microsoft’s first-ever original processor, the SQ1, which it co-developed with Qualcomm.

However, it unfortunately falls short of expectations. We’re more than a little let down by a few key Pro X design choices. Particularly, this tablet/laptop hybrid doesn’t have an audio jack, and its battery life, while decent, is subpar compared to predecessors and contemporaries. And, that’s without getting into the pricing.

4. Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch)

SPECIFICATIONS
Processor: Intel Core i9, 9th Gen
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5500M
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 16-inch Retina display
Weight: 1.9 kgs
REASONS TO BUY
+Stunning 16-inch screen+New and improved keyboard+Excellent speakers+Same price as previous model
REASONS TO AVOID
Limited to four Thunderbolt 3 ports

With the 16-inch MacBook Pro 2019, Apple has refined its prosumer laptop in ways we couldn’t have predicted – with a brand new addition to the popular line. The 16-inch MacBook Pro brings with it a few needed refinements under the hood and some notable upgrades like the Magic Keyboard. But, it also comes with its own unique features, particularly a larger, more spectacular display, making it the best MacBook Pro to date.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro 2019 has certainly made up for the letdown that was the MacBook Pro 15-inch 2019, which came a few months before it. Fans of the MacBook Pro line are finally getting – in Apple’s own words – “more of what they love.” And, even with the newer 13-inch MacBook Pro 2020 out in the wild and also touting that exquisite Magic Keyboard on top of additional storage and the 10th-generation Intel chip, this 16-inch model still rules over the MacBook kingdom.

5. Asus ZenBook 14 (2020)

SPECIFICATIONS
Processor: Intel Core i7-1065G7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 14-inch Full HD
Weight: 1.17 kg
REASONS TO BUY
+Interesting design+Innovative ScreenPad+Price to performance+Lightweight
REASONS TO AVOID
Integrated graphics only

Asus’s ZenBook series are easy recommendations for those looking for a high-end laptop without having to pay the big bucks. As always, you get a premium metallic body in a sleek form factor, along with an innovative ‘ScreenPad’ that transforms into a NumPad when needed and a trackpad when not.

The ZenBook 14 UX425 comes with a thin 2.5 mm bezel and a 90% screen-to-body ratio and weighs just 1.2 kg. The ErgoLift hinge is also present to improve ventilation and typing angles. In terms of ports, there are two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, an HDMI 2.0 and a MicroSD Reader.

6. Xiaomi Mi NoteBook 14 Horizon Edition

SPECIFICATIONS
Processor: 10th gen Intel core i5/i7
Graphics: Nvidia MX350
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 14-inch Full HD
Weight: 1.35 Kgs
REASONS TO BUY
+Price-performance ratio+Sleek and compact+Very fast storage+Minimal metallic design+Fast charging
REASONS TO AVOID
No inbuilt webcamNo backlit keyboardFlimsy trackpad

While it may not be perfect, the Xiaomi Mi NoteBook 14 Horizon Edition brings unmatched performance to the thin and light segment. There are minor yet questionable design choices that will be the key decision factors for any potential customers, especially at a price of Rs 59,999.

For our regular usage which primarily involves writing and publishing, followed by media creation, it served us well and didn’t make us miss our usual desktop setup for the most part. That is also because a webcam or a backlit keyboard isn’t crucial for our workflow. Just like its competition, Xiaomi will also offer a proper after-sales service, with all of its stores across the country acting as customer service points in case of a mishap.

7. Honor MagicBook 15

SPECIFICATIONS
Processor: Ryzen 5 3500
Graphics: Vega 8
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch Full HD
Weight: 1.53Kgs
REASONS TO BUY
+Type-C fast charging+Fingerprint scanner+Design+Affordable
REASONS TO AVOID
Limited storage

The Honor MagicBook 15 is the company’s first laptop in India. At a price of around Rs 40,000, it gets a lot of things right. Its design is cool and classy with a silver finish and blue chamfers. There’s also a hidden webcam in the keyboard which pops up only when needed.

Powered by Ryzen 3000 series chipsets, it is plenty powerful and efficient for a laptop in this class. The only downsides could be the limited 256GB of storage and a small customer service network.

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