Best laptop 2021: top picks for every user and every budget

Matt (Twitter) is TechRadar’s Senior Computing editor. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there’s no aspect of technology that Matt isn’t passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming.

The best laptops in 2021 come in all shapes and sizes, and that means no matter what kind of device you’re after (or what budget you have), they’ll be a great laptop for you.

To make buying a new laptop as easy as possible, we’ve listed the very best laptops, notebooks, Chromebooks and more on this page. Each one has been rigorously tested by us, and we take into account every aspect of the laptop, including their value of money, which means this list isn’t just packed with the most powerful laptops out there.

Instead, we have a range of laptops for all kinds of budgets and use cases. This guide is always being updated as well, so you have the most up-to-date laptop buying advice.

If you’re after the best laptop overall, then our pick remains the MacBook Air (M1, 2020), as it’s yet to be beaten when it comes to design, performance, value and battery life.

Meanwhile, the Acer Swift 3 is our choice for the best budget laptop you can buy right now, offering a perfect balance of affordability and performance. If that doesn’t take your fancy then we have a rundown of the best cheap laptop deals to help you pick a device that won’t hurt your wallet.

How to pick the best laptop for you

So, what makes a laptop worth buying? First, it needs to offer excellent value for money. That means budget laptops below the $400/£400 price point need to still offer good performance and build quality.

Meanwhile, ultra-expensive devices need to justify their high price tags with best-in-class performance, premium build quality and lengthy battery lives.

If you want something to work on, a laptop with a modern processor, at least 8GB of RAM and a large screen (and comfortable keyboard) are worth considering.

For gaming, you’ll want a gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card and fast and responsive screen.

Check out our guide on what you should look for when buying a new laptop at the end of this page for more in-depth advice on buying a laptop.

Best laptops 2021

The new Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) isn’t just the best laptop Apple has ever made, it’s the best laptop money can buy right now. This is the first time a MacBook has topped our list, but the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is worthy of this spot. Thanks to the revolutionary ARM-based Apple M1 chip that powers the new MacBook Air (Apple has ditched Intel for these new laptops), this is a stunning achievement: a thin and light laptop that offers great performance, even with 4K video editing, while also offering incredible battery life. 

Easily managing over 11 hours on a single charge, this is a laptop you can easily carry around with you at work or school, and its price is incredibly competitive compared to Windows 10 rivals like the Dell XPS 15 (below). Running both new and old Mac apps, the new MacBook Air can now also run iOS apps for iPhone and iPads, giving it access to hundreds of brilliant mobile applications and games as well.

Even if you’ve only ever used Windows laptops before, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is well worth getting and making the jump to macOS. Yes, it really is that good. Make sure you check out all the best MacBook Air deals and sales available now before you buy.

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