Best laptops 2024: Top picks by the PC experts – PCWorld

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Picking up a brand new laptop can be an anxiety-inducing task. You have to take a lot of things into careful consideration: CPU and GPU, battery life, form factor, performance, and more. Well, PCWorld has done the heavy lifting to put together this list of recommendations. Whether you’re looking to score a lightning-fast gaming laptop or a portable everyday laptop with great battery life, we’ve got something for everyone.
Why you should trust us: Hey, it’s in our name! PCWorld prides itself on laptop experience and expertise. We’ve been covering PCs since 1983, and we now review more than 70 laptops every year. All of the picks below have been personally tested and vetted by our experts, who’ve applied not only performance benchmarks but rigorous usability standards. We’re also committed to reviewing PC laptops at every price point to help you find a machine that matches your budget.
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With its affordable price point, decent performance, and robust build, the Acer Aspire 3 is a good budget option for most people. It might not be the most aesthetic laptop, but the build is surprisingly rugged. It has a solid, durable feel reminiscent of laptops with much higher price points. The full-size keyboard is nice, too. It has a spacious layout, which is perfect for longer typing sessions. With a budget laptop you will need to accept sacrifices in terms of performance, but the Aspire 3 is plenty fast enough for general use tasks like writing emails and browsing the web. If you’re shopping around for a solid everyday laptop that won’t break the bank, the Aspire 3 offers plenty of bang for relatively few bucks.
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The Dell Inspiron Plus 16 7630 is a good midrange option, as it packs quite a bit of power for the price. For $1,299.99, you’re getting an Intel Core i7-13700H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of NVMe PCIe SSD storage. That’s more than enough power for everyday use as well as some gaming. The 1600p display is rather spacious at 16 inches with an aspect ratio of 16:10. The taller screen is nice, especially for office work. Battery life is fantastic, too. The Inspiron 16 Plus lasted over 11 hours on a single charge, which is nothing short of impressive. Additional features also include a 1080p webcam with a physical privacy shutter as well as a fingerprint reader.
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The Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus puts a lot on the table, as it offers everything from a convertible design to a beautiful touchscreen. For under $500, that’s an amazing value. The 2-in-1 design, which really ups the versatility factor, allows you to prop the laptop up like a tent or swing the screen around and use it like a tablet. The 14-inch touchscreen also has a resolution of 1920×1080 and a refresh rate of 60Hz, which is fine for casual use. As for the hardware, you’re getting an Intel Core i3-1315U CPU, Intel UHD graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of SSD storage. The reviewer was pretty darn impressed with the snappy day-to-day performance as well as lightning-fast boot-up times.
If you’re in the market for a peppy, affordable 2-in-1, the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus will surely deliver.
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Weighing in at just 2.64 pounds, the HP Dragonfly G4 is so lightweight it may very well float up into the clouds. It doesn’t get more portable than this. In addition to its featherlight form factor, it also boasts a whopping 16 hours of battery life on a single charge, which means it’s well-equipped to handle long international flights or commutes. According to our reviewer, it’s the ideal laptop for office work. The webcam even has a Sure View privacy filter that prevents others from getting a clear view of your screen, which is useful when you’re working on sensitive documents. The inner components aren’t bad, either.
The Dragonfly G4 offers zippy performance thanks to the Intel Core i7-1355U CPU and 32GB of RAM. If you spend a lot of time in specific programs, the 32GB of memory should help them run faster. The 13.5-inch only has a resolution of 1920×1080, which isn’t very high but is perfectly fine for casual use and office work. The only real drawback is the ridiculously high price tag, which will leave your wallet screaming in agony.
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The Acer Swift Edge 16 has a lot to offer for a sub-$1,000 machine. Not only is it thin and light, but the OLED screen is gorgeous and super vibrant. It weighs just 2.71 pounds, which is considered featherlight as far as laptops go. You’re even getting a 16-inch 2000p OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate. According to our reviewer, the display “delivers an infinite contrast ratio and deep, inky black levels that produce convincing shadows in dark scenes.” While the screen is a delight to watch movies on, the 54 watt-hour battery is small and lacking, managing only six to seven hours of battery life on a single charge. That’s not a horrible result, but we’ve seen better.
This machine comes with an AMD Ryzen 7 7840U CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of DDR5 RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. It’s basically designed with day-to-day productivity in mind. The design itself is on the blander side, as it’s just a black square, but some folks may dig the simplicity of it. If you’re looking for a thin-and-light laptop with a stunning 16-inch OLED display, then the Acer Swift Edge 16 is your best bet. The price (just over $1,000) isn’t too bad, either.
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The Razer Blade 14 is a real standout as far as gaming laptops go, as it’s both portable and powerful. This machine weighs a little over 4 pounds, which is super lightweight for a gaming laptop. For context, most gaming laptops tip the scales at 6 pounds or more. It’s impressive under the hood, too. You’re getting an AMD Ryzen 9 7940HS CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 GPU, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of PCIe SSD storage. In other words, it’s powerful enough to run most games (even those fast-paced, competitive ones) on the High or Ultra graphics preset. The 14-inch display has a resolution of 2560×1600, a refresh rate of 240Hz, a response time of 3ms, and an aspect ratio of 16:10. Our reviewer really liked the tall aspect ratio in particular, as it allowed him to have a “large viewing area” to enjoy his games and videos. It also has AMD’s FreeSync technology built in, which keeps games running nice and smooth.
If you have the budget for it, the Razer Blade 14 truly offers the ultimate gaming experience.
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If you’re looking for a reasonably priced laptop that’s both portable and powerful, the MSI Thin GF63 is the winning ticket. It weighs just over four pounds, which is lightweight for a gaming laptop. For context, most gaming machines tip the scales at six pounds or more (and sometimes much more). In addition to the lightweight form factor, it also packs a good amount of power for 1080p gaming.
The MSI Thin GF63 has an Intel Core i7-12650H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. This machine is capable of running games on the Medium or High graphics preset. For more graphically demanding games in which every second of response time matters, we’d recommend dialing back the graphics a bit. The 15.6-inch display has a resolution of 1920×1080 and a refresh rate of 144Hz. Although it manages just 300 nits of brightness (which is common for a budget gaming laptop), gameplay should be smooth thanks to the high refresh rate. It’s not the most vibrant or color-accurate screen we’ve ever seen, but it’s passable, especially for a sub-$1,000 gaming laptop.
If you can live with those compromises, then the MSI Thin GF63 is a great budget option for most gamers.
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From the stunning OLED display and affordable starting price to the long battery life and fast-performing CPU, the Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED is a fantastic 2-in-1 laptop. It weighs 3.31 pounds and measures 0.63 inches at the chassis, so it’s a pretty lightweight machine. The review unit we looked at came with a 1800p OLED display, which covers 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut (according to Asus). Our reviewer found a “high level of detail” in images and colors were “remarkably bright and saturated.” As for CPU performance, it blasted right through Maxon’s R20 multithreaded benchmark, earning a score of 3,437, which means it’s more than capable of handling demanding programs.
The Zenbook 14 Flip comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-1360P CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of PCIe SSD storage. In addition to running more resource-heavy programs, the Flip will whiz through day-to-day tasks as well. It also last to the 12-hour mark during our battery test, which runs a 4K movie on repeat. Still not convinced? Well, the $999 starting price is pretty darn good if I say so myself, especially for such a premium machine. The Flip really has it all, which is why we’d highly recommend it.
We also recently reviewed the HP Spectre x360, which scored the same as our current best 2-in-1 pick. Although we liked the fast performance and stylish design, it’s heavier than the Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED and far more expensive, which is why it didn’t make the final cut on this list.
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Dell’s updated XPS 17 boasts a huge 17-inch screen, 13th-gen Intel Core i7-13700H CPU, and a GeForce RTX 4070 GPU. Not only is that enough performance to breeze through all of your content projects, but it also brings a 1TB SSD giving you plenty of storage for all of them as well. By packing its 4K, touch screen panel into such a compact laptop, and loading the notebook itself with every feature professionals ask for (hello, SD card reader and abundant Thunderbolt 4 ports), the XPS 17 is the poster child for what a content creation workhorse laptop should be.
The one real downside is that the XPS 17 weighs just under five and a half pounds, so it’s a real beast. The webcam is only 720p, as well, which may be a downside if you have to do any online classes or video-conferencing. Buy if you can live with those minor shortcomings, the latest XPS 17 is a phenomenal choice for all content creators.
Read our full Dell XPS 17 review
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The Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro 360 checks off a lot of boxes when it comes to laptops for students. It’s powerful and long lasting, and it has great audio and video capabilities. Our review unit lasted a little over 13 hours on a single charge, which is great if you’re jumping from class to class. This configuration includes an Intel Core i7-1360P CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. In other words, it has enough juice for things like writing papers, conducting research, checking e-mail, and so on. The 16-inch AMOLED display has a resolution of 2880×1800 and a maximum brightness of 400 nits. The picture is lovely, but you’re going to want to only use this laptop in a well-lit room, as the screen is quite glossy and reflective. It also comes with a 1080p webcam, which will come in handy if you’re taking online classes.
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If you’re the kind of person that likes to upgrade your laptop, you should definitely consider the Framework Laptop 16 (2024). It’s a modular laptop, which means you can replace any part of this machine. The parts are labeled with QR codes, which, when you scan them with your smartphone, direct you to the replacement part on Framework’s website. There’s a lot of freedom to be had here. These laptops encourage its users to repair, replace, or upgrade. As for the machine we reviewed, let’s jump into why we like it so much.
The Framework Laptop 16 (2024) offers good battery life and a robust design. The beefy 85 watt-hour battery lasted over nine hours on a single charge, which is a respectable result. As for the design, it’s made of relatively strong material that kept the panel flex to a minimum. The review unit needed to be assembled out of the box, but the instructions are easy to follow according to our reviewer. Fortunately, if you don’t want to put together the laptop at the get-go, Framework sells pre-configured models.
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The Asus ROG Flow Z13 (2023) is a bit of an odd duck, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a gaming-focused tablet with a detachable keyboard, which means it’s pretty lightweight. The Flow Z13 weighs 2.6 pounds without the AC adapter and 3.7 pounds with it. That’s unusual for a gaming machine, as most of them tip the scales at around six pounds or more. The hardware is impressive, too. Underneath the hood, you’ll find an Intel Core i7-13900H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. When we played the visually demanding Cyberpunk 2077, the Flow churned out 50 fps with “good visual fidelity.” That’s impressive for a gaming laptop this size.
If you’re looking for a powerful gaming machine with a removeable keyboard and a lightweight form factor, then the Asus ROG Flow Z13 is the one to pick.
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The HP Spectre Foldable is one sleek and versatile machine. In fact, according to our reviewer, the 2-in-1 is “rocking one of the most unobtrusive folds” he’s seen to date. It isn’t cumbersome or awkward to handle when in traditional laptop mode and, when you feel like ditching the detachable keyboard and unfolding the screen to its full size, tablet mode is perfect for following recipes in the kitchen or watching one of those how-to YouTube videos.
The Foldable boasts some decent hardware, too. Inside you’ll find an Intel i7-1250U CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. Power users may find the specs to be limiting, but if you’re just looking for a lightweight machine for office work or basic tasks, then the Foldable is the one for you. The 2560p touch OLED display offers wonderful color depth, which is good news for both artists and movie-watchers.
The PCWorld team puts each and every Windows laptop through a series of benchmarks that test GPU and CPU performance, battery life, and so on. The idea is to push the laptop to its limits and then compare it against others we’ve tested. Chromebooks, on the other hand, go through a series of web-based tests. It wouldn’t be fair or possible to run the same kinds of tests on a Chromebook, as they’re Chrome OS-based machines. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each test and the reasons why we run them.
The first question you should ask yourself is what kind of laptop you’re looking for. There’s traditional clamshells, 2-in-1’s, Chromebooks, and much more. The displays on convertible laptops (aka 2-in-1’s), for example, can swing around 360 degrees. This allows you to use the laptop like a tablet. They can also be propped up like a tent for viewing movies or participating in video calls. Chromebooks, on the other hand, exclusively run Google’s web-focused Chrome OS and are generally used for everyday tasks. All you need is a Gmail account and boom, you’re in. There are pros and cons to each of them. Chromebooks are affordable and generally have good battery life whereas convertibles are normally lightweight and portable.
If it’s CPU power you’re looking for, look for processors with higher numerical names. A Core i7 is more suited to gaming and more intense work than everyday tasks. Intel processors are available in Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9. The higher the number, the more powerful the CPU. If you don’t need a ton of power, Intel Core i5 processors are your best bet, as they offer good performance at a decent price. Basic office and web work gets along just fine on a Core i3. As for AMD options, the Ryzen 3 is good for basic productivity and web browsing, while Ryzen 5 chips rival Intel’s Core i5 as solid all-arounders. If you need more power, the Ryzen 7 chip is well suited for content creation like video editing. Finally, if you’re dealing with 4K video, spring for a Ryzen 9.
You’ll want a discrete graphics card for hardcore gaming or editing videos. It’s separate from the processor, so you can expect higher performance out of it. Integrated graphics, on the other hand, are attached to the CPU and uses less power as a result. This is perfectly fine for everyday tasks, especially if you’re not doing anything that’s graphics-intensive.
8GB of RAM is zippy enough for general use. If you’ve got a gaming laptop, 16GB of RAM is the way to go, and content creators will want even more.
If you’re a video editor or someone who does a lot of multimedia work, you’ll want a display that’s anywhere from 15- to 17-inches. The sweet spot is really anywhere from 13- to 14-inches, though. The bigger the display, the heavier your laptop is going to be. A 13- or 14-inch display is the best in terms of portability and value.
If you plan on taking your laptop anywhere with you, aim for something that can last 10 to 12 hours on a single charge. That’s more than a full work day, so it should theoretically get you through long flights or a day of classes. Obviously, more is always better. Just know that the bigger the battery, the heavier the laptop. Read our round-up of the best laptop chargers.
The price really depends on your budget. If you’re strapped for cash (been there, trust me), go for a Chromebook or an entry-level business laptop. These laptops are good choices for students or young professionals. If you can afford to spend more, the versatility of a 2-in-1 laptop is really worth it.
A wide array of ports is always a plus in my book, as it eliminates the need for an adapter. I’d recommend a laptop that has both USB-C and USB-A. An HDMI port is good, too. This is especially useful for when you want to hook up to an external monitor.
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