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The best laptops for writers for 2021

Writers tend to be incredibly particular about one thing on their laptops: the keyboard. That makes sense. We spend hours and hours typing, and even on the best keyboard, that can be a fatiguing process. An uncomfortable keyboard not only slows us down, but it’s a miserable experience to boot.

It’s not that we don’t care about performance, display quality (especially contrast, meaning black text on white backgrounds), and other laptop characteristics, but the keyboard is the one component that affects us the most. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best laptops for writers across several categories. Many of them show up in a variety of our best-of lists, including best laptops, best 2-in-1s, best Chromebooks, and more. Depending on your needs, one of these laptops is bound to give you, the writer, the keyboard you’ve been looking for.

The best laptop for writers at a glance:

 Apple MacBook Air M1

Macbook Air M1
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: The MacBook Air is the best overall laptop for writers you can buy.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants to type at full speed with minimal fatigue and doesn’t need Windows 10 .

Why we picked the Apple MacBook Air:

Once upon a time — and quite recently, in fact — Apple used its butterfly keyboard in its MacBook line. This keyboard had almost zero travel and a very abrupt bottoming action, creating an experience that many fast typists found exhausting. Some writers described it as feeling like typing on a block of wood.

All that changed with Apple’s most recent MacBooks, which now use the company’s new Magic Keyboard. This version employs more traditional scissor switches and adds a bit of travel — not a lot at 1mm, but more than before — and a crisp, precise, and responsive feel that no other laptop keyboard can duplicate. The keys respond immediately to every press and they bounce back quickly, making the Magic Keyboard pretty close to perfect for the fastest typists. Perhaps most important, the key feel is consistent across the entire keyboard with great spacing, and there’s no wobble or other sensations that might contribute to fatigue. Of course, the keyboard uses the typical MacBook layout with no surprises.

There are other reasons to buy a MacBook, including beautiful (and high-contrast) displays and the powerful new Apple M1 CPU. But the keyboard is the one that will make writers the happiest. We’ll highlight the Apple MacBook Air M1 here because if you’re mostly writing copy, then you don’t need the most power, but you’ll certainly appreciate the portability and price.

Read our in-depth Apple MacBook Air M1 review

HP Spectre X360 14

HP Spectre x360 14 Keyboard
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: The HP Spectre line has the best keyboard you’ll find in convertible 2-in-1s, and the Spectre x360 14 offers writers what they want most.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants the flexibility of a 2-in-1 but doesn’t want to give up an awesome keyboard.

Why we picked the HP Spectre x360 14 :

HP’s Spectre convertible 2-in-1 lineup has shared the same excellent keyboard for several generations now. There’s plenty of travel but not too much, and the switches provide a nice click with a bouncy bottoming action that all adds up to a very precise feel. There’s just the right amount of pressure required to depress a key — not too much, not too little — and so this is a keyboard you can type on for hours without getting tired.

The keyboard has a few additional features in the latest iterations, including buttons to turn off the microphone and slide a physical cover over the webcam, and the power button is now on the top row almost to the very right. You’ll find a row of Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End along the right-hand side, which is convenient once you get used to it, and HP manages to maintain perfect spacing and just the right key sizes. One negative on the newest models is the fingerprint reader that takes the place of the right control key — that can be a problem in apps that hard-code that button.

Perhaps the best version currently available is the Spectre x360 14. It offers a beautiful OLED display with otherworldly contrast and colors, and its display is in the 3:2 aspect ratio that’s great for viewing long documents. Writers will love this machine.

Read our in-depth HP Spectre x360 14 review

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13 9310 Keyboard and Touchpad
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: Dell’s XPS line of laptops has the best keyboard available in a Windows 10 clamshell machine and the XPS 13 is the writer’s best choice.

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs Windows 10 and prefers a traditional laptop form factor.

Why we picked the Dell XPS 13:

Talk to 10 writers, and half would pick the HP Spectre keyboard and half would pick the version on the latest Dell XPS clamshell laptops. It’s close to a tossup in the Windows 10 world as to which keyboard is better. Dell’s has a little less travel than the Spectre, but it’s more than enough and its switches are just as bouncy and precise. Probably, the Dell XPS keyboard has a bit of a lighter feel, which over many, many hours of typing might be a little less fatiguing.

The keyboard also has spacious keycaps and great key spacing, filling the entire keyboard deck and eschewing any additional keys along the side. It’s a very traditional layout that works well. There’s little to dislike about this keyboard, and a lot to love.

The Dell XPS 13 is likely the best laptops for writers, with a 16:10 display that’s a bit taller and better for documents and web pages. The display also enjoys great contrast, making blacks pop on white backgrounds. And, the XPS 13 is arguably the best 13-inch laptop you can buy, so you simply can’t go wrong.

Read our in-depth Dell XPS 13 review

HP Elite C1030 Chromebook

HP Elite C1030 Chromebook Keyboard
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s the best keyboard you’ll find in a Chromebook.

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs a Chromebook but you don’t want a cheap, uncomfortable keyboard.

Why we picked the HP Elite C1030 Chromebook:

Chromebooks are often inexpensive laptops that cut some corners, including in the keyboard that’s installed. That’s not the Elite C1030 Chromebook, which pulls over the same keyboard from HP’s commercial Windows 10 Elite line and which we love. Like the Spectre keyboards, it has excellent travel and an even more uniform build that ensures every key feels the same. And that’s a great feeling — the switches are sharp and responsive, with a springy bottoming action that ensures a precise response. The keyboard utilizes the usual Chromebook layout and so, like with Apple’s Magic Keyboard, there are no surprises.

The Elite C1030 Chromebook is also a great machine in other ways. It’s incredibly well built, offers a high-quality display with plenty of contrast, and is a top performer. It’s not inexpensive, though. But if you’re a writer who needs a Chromebook, you’ll find the investment to be well worth it.

Read our in-depth HP Elite C1030 Chromebook review

Lenovo ThinkPad x12 Detachable

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable keyboard
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s the best detachable keyboard that you can connect to a Windows 10 tablet.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a tablet with a detachable keyboard but doesn’t want something flimsy or wobbly.

Why we picked the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable:

Detachable tablets are an interesting breed. They’re trying to straddle the fence between being easy to use as traditional tablets and functional as a laptop. The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable does a commendable job at both, being a very nice Windows 10 tablet with great pen support and a display with a 3:2 aspect and good contrast.

More important, though, it has a detachable keyboard the leverages the usual ThinkPad keyboard excellence with good travel, comfortable keycaps, a familiar layout (except for the inverted Fn and Ctrl keys on the left), and a responsive and precise feel. Even better, and what makes the ThinkPad’s keyboard superior to the also excellent Microsoft Surface Type Cover is that it’s solid with no give when it’s propped up for typing. That’s something that few detachable keyboards can boast.

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable is one of the best you can buy in the form factor, and it’s a great choice for writers. And if you like ThinkPads, then you get the typical ThinkPad look and feel to go with it.

Read our in-depth Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable review

Acer Swift 3

Why you should buy this: It has one of the best keyboards you’ll find in a budget laptop.

Who it’s for: Anyone who doesn’t have a lot to spend but can’t stomach a bad keyboard.

Why we picked the Acer Swift 3 (2020):

The Acer Swift 3 (2020) is our favorite budget laptop for a number of reasons. First is its excellent performance thanks to an AMD Ryzen CPU — it’s one of the fastest laptops we’ve tested for around $650. Fortunately for writers, it doesn’t suffer from the poor keyboard you’ll find on many budget machines.

The Swift 3’s keyboard has a surprisingly good keyboard, in fact, with good spacing and a comfortable layout and switches that provide better-than-class clickiness and precision. It’s a comfortable keyboard thanks to a good bottoming action, although we should note that the keys are a little small. Overall, you won’t be slowed down by this keyboard, and you won’t be ready to take a break too soon into a writing session.

Buy the Acer Swift 3 (2020) if your budget doesn’t allow for another machine on our list. But know that you won’t be giving up a lot when it comes to the typing experience.

Read our in-depth Acer Swift 3 review

HP Elite Dragonfly Max

Elite Dragonfly Max

Why you should buy this: It has the best keyboard you can get on a business-class laptop.

Who it’s for: You need business features but don’t want a subpar typing experience.

Why we picked the HP Elite Dragonfly:

We loved the first-generation HP Elite Dragonfly, and the company has since provided a couple of updates. First is the Elite Dragonfly G2, which refines the design and upgrades to modern 11th-gen CPUs. Second is the Elite Dragonfly Max, which has everything the G2 offers along with enhanced audio and video for some of the best videoconferencing functionality you’ll find on a laptop.

HP also enhanced the keyboard on the latest generations, taking what was already an excellent version and making it better. The Elite Dragonfly Max enjoys a keyboard that’s perfectly consistent across every key in terms of its switches, which offer tons of travel and a springy bottoming action with exactly the right amount of pressure required to register a keystroke. This is at least on par with the Spectre’s keyboard, with a lighter yet confident feel that makes typing an actually pleasant experience. The keyboard layout is also functional and more traditional than the Spectre’s.

The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is a great business 2-in-1 that any professional would love to see added to its company’s fleet of laptops. If you’re a writer, you’ll buy it for one of the best keyboards you can find on any laptop, period.

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