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The best laptop brands for 2021

If you like to write, browse, game, or work in different parts of your home or office, a good laptop is a necessity. There are many to choose from — with even more making their debut at CES 2021 — but you can narrow down your options by going for one of the most established and respected brands.

Here’s a list of the best laptop brands in 2020 to get you started.

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The best

Dell

Dell XPS 13
Greg Mombert/Digital Trends

Dell’s work, particularly in the ultrabook field, has yielded an incredible new crop of ultraportable laptops that are powerful, portable, and have excellent battery life. If you need a PC for work or school and want it to last for as long as possible, Dell’s machines are a great choice. And Dell has arguably one of the best business laptops in its Latitude 7400 2-in-1, which offers a solid design and multi-day battery life.

This is especially true with its latest XPS models, which do everything to a high standard. They have the latest high-resolution screens, connections, software, and innovative materials. The latest XPS 13 2020 model is no exception, staying on top as the compact laptop to compare everything else to. The newer versions even have the webcam back on the top bezel, like a more traditional laptop, and can be configured with up to a six-core Intel 1oth-gen Comet Lake processor. For those who like larger screens, the 17-inch XPS 17 was one of our favorite reviewed models this year.

And Dell isn’t standing still. It was among the first to introduce Intel’s Ice Lake 10th-gen CPUs, and the upcoming Tiger Lake refresh should give them enough graphical power for entry-level gaming, as well as improved general compute performance. Existing XPS 13 and XPS 15 models are some of our favorites laptops ever, ticking just about every box you can think of. Additionally, if you want to update to the very latest 11th-gen Intel processors, Dell models like the Inspiron 14 5000 are currently one of the most affordable options.

Dell’s whole lineup of laptops look great, offer decent internal hardware, and have heaps of style. They’re made with premium materials, sport solid battery life, and are light and portable. Some of Dell’s budget or business-oriented laptops can be a little lackluster, but in the XPS line, it’s hit after hit.

The rest

Apple

cheap macbook deals

If there’s one thing that nearly everyone agrees on, it’s that Apple laptops are reliable and predictably high quality. When you buy a MacBook, you know what to expect. You’ll get a fantastic screen, solid battery life, and a beautiful chassis with thin bezels. They do tend to be a little more expensive than their Windows counterparts, and sometimes the hardware doesn’t always quite measure up, but when it comes to style, ease of use, and reliability, Apple laptops are top-notch.

Apple also updated the MacBook line with faster CPUs in the Pro family, along with an added Touch Bar to all MacBook Pros — and all without raising prices. There’s also a new MacBook Pro 16-inch model that we reviewed and consider the best Mac in years, and the smaller MacBook Pro 13-inch now comes with a revamped keyboard and other improvements.

The MacBook Pro line is easily its best, but that doesn’t mean the standard MacBooks aren’t worth considering. Apple recently refreshed the MacBook Air lineup with 10th-gen Ice Lake processors, and the MacBook Air 2020 is an excellent starting place for those getting their first, ultra-portable Mac.

If you haven’t purchased a MacBook yet and don’t mind waiting for the right time, Apple is gearing up to release new MacBook versions that will, for the first time, use its own ARM Silicon processors. This will be an important sea change for the MacBook line and well worth waiting for if you are still deciding.

HP

HP-Spectre-x360-15-inch-2018
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

HP may not have always had the best laptop reputation, but the latest HP laptops have taken some design cues from their contemporaries and have really raised the bar. The current crop of notebooks are fast, powerful, and easier for consumers to adopt for their personal projects. They’re also quite lovely, with the new gem-cut design adorning the Spectre line and a sleek, modern look to the latest Envy 13. Through it all, HP has earned a reputation for reliable laptops with very competent customer services.

Today HP regularly goes head to head with some of the best laptop manufacturers in the world. Its Spectre x360 stole the show against the Surface Laptop in our head to head and even gave the Surface Book 2 a run for its money. There are even AMOLED versions of the Spectre x360 15 and brand-new Spectre x360 13 that provide incredibly bright and vibrant displays that will please creative types and Netflix bingers alike. The new Spectre x360 13 even fixes its large bezel problem and cuts the smallest figure for a 13.3-inch 2-in-1 with AMD Ryzen 4000 processing power.

Customer support options place HP in the top five of all manufacturers. With options for up to three years of comprehensive warranty, you can net yourself some serious protection for your new laptop too.

HP’s laptops may not always steal the show, but its lineup of hardware is stronger today than it’s ever been and is all well worth considering if you want an alternative to some of the above offerings.

Microsoft

Surface Book 2 op-ed header
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

A decade ago no one would have thought that Microsoft would be one of the best laptop brands in the world, but today it has a well-earned spot on this list. After a few iterations of Surface tablets with some reliability issues, today Microsoft claims a 99 reliability on its new Surface devices and offers hardware that is often class-leading in its own way.

The Surface Book 2 has some of the best battery life we have ever seen in a laptop, convertible or no, and Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 7 is one of our favorite 2-in-1s right now. Even more mid-range devices like the Surface Laptop 3 (now with a 15-inch version) and a budget tablet like the Surface Go help bolster Microsoft as one of the best laptop brands today. The company also offers a standard one year warranty for Surface products should new owners run into trouble, with 90 days of free technical support. If you are more interested in a tablet-like 2-in-1 for professional purposes, Microsoft has also updated the Surface Pro X (2020), an alternative to the iPad Pro with more connection options and Windows 10 on an AMD chip.

Not all the Surface devices are fantastic, and we certainly have our favorites, but that’s no different from the other entries on this list.

If you’ve been missing Microsoft mobile devices, you should check out the Surface Duo, which is very much a first step into the dual-screen market but still has potential. (Here’s what we’d like to see improve.)

Asus

Asus ZenBook S13 Hands-on UX392
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Asus laptops might not often take the top spot in our best-of lists, but they usually warrant a medal placing due to their fantastic all-round capabilities. The current crop of its laptops includes thin and light Zenbooks, affordable Chromebooks, as well as powerful gaming machines like the incredible 2020 ROG Zephyrus G14. And as much as anyone, Asus is leading the movement to tiny bezels that pack as much laptop as possible into the smallest chassis.

The Asus Zenbook 13 has one of the most attractive and distinct designs we’ve seen, an excellent 1080p screen, and long battery life. The Asus ZenBook S13 UX392 is also a stunner, and it comes in with a 97% screen-to-body ratio thanks to bezels that are just 2.5 millimeters thick. Other excellent choices from Asus include the Asus Zenbook 15 UX534FN and the Zenbook 14 UX425, both of which come with thin bezels and small and light chassis, along with plenty of performance.

Consider Asus the David to the Goliaths of Dell, HP, and Apple. It makes great laptops at attractive prices, and the company even tosses in a year of accident and spill protection for free.

It can be hard to make a choice when there are countless laptop brands out there, however, leveraging the Black Friday laptop deals can help you get there, as you can find a certain laptop at a lower price than others.

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