The Best Laptops for 2020: XPS, Surface, MacBook, Razer, and More

Best Laptops for 2020: XPS, Surface, MacBook, Razer, and More

We’ve tested and reviewed well over 400 laptops over the years, searching for the best of the best. So, when it comes to picking the best laptop overall for 2020, there was a clear winner: The Dell XPS 13. With fantastic performance, a display with modern-looking thin bezels, a well-built keyboard and touchpad, and great battery life, the Dell XPS 13 performs well in every important aspect of a laptop.

But if you’re looking for the best Chromebook, gaming laptops, or 2-in-1, we’ve made choices for these as well.

The best laptops at a glance:

The best laptop: Dell XPS 13

The best laptops for 2020: xps, surface, macbook, razer, and more

Why should you buy this: It’s portable, fast, attractive, and reasonably priced.

 

Who’s it for: Everyone except gamers.

Why we picked the Dell XPS 13:

No laptop in the past few years has been more influential than the XPS 13. It started this race to thinner bezels back in 2015, which has now spread to every gadget that has a screen.

In its latest iteration, Dell’s taken things even further. The 2020 XPS 13 has made the screen larger using a 16:10 aspect ratio, all while shrinking the bottom bezel. The result is a larger screen without needing a larger overall laptop.

This year’s XPS 13 also gets a larger keyboard and touchpad, making use of every possible surface of the device. Of course, it’s just as powerful and long-lasting as before, not sacrificing function over form. It’s no longer a cheap laptop, but as far as I’m concerned, the XPS has earned its spot as a premium brand. It all adds up to what is undoubtedly the best laptop you can buy.

Read our in-depth Dell XPS 13 (2020) review

The best laptop for students: MacBook Air

Macbook air 2020
Why should you buy this: Those who want something shiny to bring to school.

 

Who’s it for: Students and Apple fans.

Why we picked the MacBook Air:

With the recent announcement that Apple is moving to its own ARM-based silicon in future Macs, you should proceed carefully about buying a new MacBook today. Rumors hint that a new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro could be the first to get the all-important update to Apple Silicon later this year. However, the current MacBook Air is a solid choice if you absolutely must have a new Mac laptop today.

It’s not the most powerful laptop in the world, but it makes up for raw performance with an excellent screen, world-class build quality, and a surprisingly good set of speakers. For a laptop that starts at just $999 (or $899 for students), it’s hard to beat. Even the keyboard is a delightful experience, now that Apple has ditched the troublesome butterfly keyboard. If you’re doing any kind of content creation, bumping up to the MacBook Pro is wise.

For most college students, though, the MacBook Air is as much laptop as you’ll need.

Read our in-depth MacBook Air review

The best budget laptop: Lenovo Yoga C640

The best laptops for 2020: xps, surface, macbook, razer, and more

Why you should buy this: Good performance for so little money, and a complete complement of hardware features.

 

Who’s it for: Those who want a do-everything Windows laptop without breaking the bank.

Why we picked the Lenovo Yoga C640:

Spending under $1,000 on a laptop is dangerous. I say that not because there aren’t good options, but because there’s a lot to dig through to find the gems. The Yoga C640 is the brightest of them. It offers a beautiful 1080p screen, a large keyboard and touchpad, and fantastic battery life. For a laptop that starts at $600, it’s hard to ask for more.

The dual-core, 10th-gen Intel Core i3 isn’t the fastest processor, though it’ll handle basic computing tasks just fine. If your daily routine consists of no more than Chrome, Slack, YouTube, and Spotify, you’ll find plenty of performance here under the hood.

For those that rely on intense multitasking or need to do some occasional heavy lifting, moving up to the $690 model will get you four cores and twice the storage as well. Even at that price, you’re getting an incredible value laptop that should last you for many years. For even cheaper laptops, check our choices for the best laptops under $500.

Read our in-depth Lenovo Yoga C640 review

The best Chromebook: Google Pixelbook Go

Google pixelbook go screen

Why should you buy this: You want an inexpensive but well-built Chromebook.

 

Who’s it for: Students, people who need only basic functionality, anyone who wants a cheap laptop to use as a second PC.

Why we picked the Google Pixelbook Go:

Chromebooks are best-known as cheap alternatives to Windows PCs, and there are plenty of good options for under $500. The Pixelbook Go, though, makes a serious case for a Chromebook with a bit more finesse. It’s beautifully designed, rigidly built, and a joy to use.

Thanks to its ultra-light 2.3-pound weight and fantastic battery life, it’s a great option for students and people taking their work on the go.

With a starting price of $649, it’s not a significant cut from the $999 original Pixelbook. You do, of course, face the usual limitations with Chrome OS. It’s designed around Google’s Chrome web browser, meaning you can’t download your normal Windows applications. It’s wonderfully simple and intuitive to use, however, and with the inclusion of the Google Play Store, you can fill some of the gaps in software with Android apps.

Read our in-depth Google Pixelbook Go review

The best 2-in-1 laptop: Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft surface pro 7 front

Why should you buy this: You want a great laptop and a good tablet.

 

Who’s it for: Anyone who needs versatility on top of performance.

Why we picked the Surface Pro 7:

The Surface Pro line has earned its dedicated following over the years with its excellent detachable keyboard and full Windows 10 performance. It’s the familiar PC experience you’re used to, with the added interest of 2-in-1 capability, Surface Pen stylus compatibility, and a tablet mode. It’s a supremely well-built device, complete with a beautiful, high-resolution display and rock-solid kickstand.

The latest model, the Surface Pro 7, doesn’t make any substantial changes to the formula, but it does offer a couple of key upgrades. You now get a USB-C port rather than a mini-DisplayPort, as well as upgrade performance with 10th-generation Ice Lake processors from Intel. That means snappier performance and improved integrated graphics.

Do we wish the Surface Pro 7 had the slimmer chassis and smaller bezels of the new Surface Pro X? Of course. But the Surface Pro 7 is cheaper, faster, and more universal in terms of app support.

Read our in-depth Surface Pro 7 review

The best business laptop: HP Elite Dragonfly

The best laptops for 2020: xps, surface, macbook, razer, and more

Why you should buy this: This is a business laptop unlike any other.

 

Who’s it for: Business pros who want a laptop that won’t embarrass them.

Why we picked the HP Elite Dragonfly:

Business laptops have a certain stigma around them. It’s often assumed that they need to be clunky, ugly, and full of bloatware. Not so.

The Elite Dragonfly has everything your IT department will need (and you’ll appreciate), without getting in the way of a supremely beautiful and modern laptop. The ideal person for the Dragonfly is someone who takes their work on the go with them, whether that’s in long flights or subways. That’s where the Dragonfly really comes alive as a highly portable laptop that might actually fit on your pull-down tray.

On top of all that, the Dragonfly is one of the first 5G-enabled laptops, which could come in handy as the faster connectivity standard rolls out.

Read our in-depth HP Elite Dragonfly review

The best gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15

The best laptops for 2020: xps, surface, macbook, razer, and more

Why should you buy this: It provides a fantastic gaming experience on the go.

 

Who’s it for: People who want a fantastic laptop that can also game.

Why we picked the Razer Blade 15:

From the exterior, you might not even know the Razer Blade is a gaming laptop. It’s as light and thin as a MacBook Pro, with thin bezels, a world-class keyboard and touchpad, as well as a bright, vivid, 15-inch display. Even if it weren’t a gaming laptop, the Razer Blade would probably still be a contender for one of the best 15-inch laptops. The fact that it can play games at respectable frame rates makes it a bit of a miracle.

Now with new RTX Super graphics, maxing out at the RTX 2080 Super, and a 300Hz refresh rate display, the Razer Blade is a killer gaming machine. The Razer Blade made short work of just about everything we threw at it — as long as you stay away from 4K, of course. Razer redesigned its thermal system to ensure that despite some throttling, the Blade can play nearly any game with settings maxed. That includes heavy loads like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Battlefield V.

Simply put, this is the most elegant, beautiful gaming laptop you’ve ever seen. If you need something a bit more affordable, the new AMD-powered Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is an excellent choice.

Read our in-depth Razer Blade 15 review

The best laptop for video editing: Dell XPS 17

The best laptops for 2020: xps, surface, macbook, razer, and more

Why should you buy this: You want a portable PC that can churn through your video editing projects.

 

Who’s it for: Video editors who want powerful components and a big, beautiful display.

Why we picked the Dell XPS 17:

When you’re editing video, you want plenty of space to view both the results and your favorite application’s interface. But, if you’re using a laptop rather than a desktop PC, then you want to be able to do your editing on the go. That’s where larger laptops come in — they’re both powerful and, thanks to today’s thin-bezel movement, highly portable.

The biggest and most powerful of the bunch is the Dell XPS 17. Despite having a 17-inch screen, the overall size of the laptop is not much bigger than your average 15-inch laptop. That’s thanks to the tiny bezels, of course. It even comes with four powerful Thunderbolt 3 ports and a full-size SD card slot for convenient transfers directly from your camera.

But the performance is what really counts. Between the eight-core, Core i9 processor and an Nvidia RTX 2060, the XPS 17 is the most powerful editing laptop I’ve ever tested, blowing through video exports in Adobe Premiere like nobody’s business. The gorgeous 4K display is the final piece of the puzzle, which is bright, beautiful, and has nearly perfect color reproduction. You can trust your color edits with this one.

Read our in-depth Dell XPS 17 review

The best laptop for photo editing: Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch

The best laptops for 2020: xps, surface, macbook, razer, and more

Why should you buy this: You want the most extensive software support in a laptop and a picture-perfect display.

 

Who’s it for: Photo editors who want a display that will give them real-world results.

Why we picked the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch:

Apple’s MacBook line has been a favorite among photo editors forever. The company has built up such a huge following by ensuring that the best software runs on MacOS, and by offering some of the best and most accurate displays you can buy.

The MacBook Pro maintains that focus on creative professionals, especially if you opt for the new 16-inch model. It offers plenty of power in a very thin and light form factor, up to 8th-gen Intel Core i7 CPUs, 16GB of RAM, and 2TB of fast storage. And, its display is great for editing photos thanks to a 16:10 aspect ratio providing more vertical space and wide color gamut (100% of sRGB and 91% of AdobeRBG) with the most accurate colors you can get.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has a similarly-great display with new Intel 9th-gen CPUs, and provides the larger screen that some photographers will appreciate. It also features an improved keyboard and powerhouse performance.

Windows laptops are catching up, but the MacBook Pro retains its place at the top of the photo editing laptop market. It’s not the least expensive photo editing platform around, but it’s still the best.

Read our in-depth Apple MacBook Pro 16 review

How we test

You’ve read our laptop reviews. You’ve read our conclusions. And now you’re wondering how we came to them.

Good question. Reviews often lack context, which is evident in the wildly different scores some laptops receive from different publications. Conflicting opinions can actually make buying a laptop more difficult if the review’s criteria aren’t made clear.

Allow us to lift the veil. Here we’ll explain the benchmarks we use for objective testing and the perspective from which we approach subjective topics. We don’t expect everyone to agree with our opinions, but we hope that sharing our process will leave you better equipped to decide what laptop best fits your needs.

Tips for buying and researching

Which is the best brand of laptop?

It is difficult to pick one laptop brand that is the best. There are many top-quality laptops on the market today. They also come from multiple manufacturers. We’ll be sticking our noses in the fire and pick Dell to be the best. Dell is investing in the most recent materials to enhance the performance of its laptops and constantly creating new designs.

HP is not a weakling either. HP too uses unique materials and makes customer-friendly design choices, such as resisting thin-and light trends to add more battery capacity.

Apple is the leader in customer service and reliability. The keyboard issues that Apple had with recent MacBooks have been resolved, making them extremely durable. Its customer service team is outstanding.

What is a 2-in-1 laptop and what are its advantages?

A 2-in-1 laptop doesn’t have to be limited to the traditional clamshell design. A 2-in-1 laptop can be converted from a clamshell to a tablet computer that supports media consumption and natural inking.

This idea is not new. Microsoft did sell a Tablet PC version of Windows in 2001, which supported pen input. However, it never became popular. The modern 2-in-1 was born as electronics have become more powerful and can fit into smaller chassis. Capacitive touch and active pen technology have improved and so has capacitive touch. Microsoft introduced the 2-in-1 form factor in 2012 with its Surface line. Most manufacturers soon followed suit with their own versions.

There are many types of 2-in-1s available today. The most common types include the tablet with a removable keyboard, which is best represented by the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 and the 360-degree convertible that flips up to become a slate.

The tablet 2-in-1’s main advantage is portability. Tablets are very thin and light and can be carried around easily. They also make it easy to draw and take notes on the pen-enabled screen. While the convertible 2-in-1 360-degree tablet isn’t as portable as a tablet, it works better in clamshell laptop mode, especially when it’s on the lap. It’s also more stable than many detachable tablets.

Which processor should I purchase?

Intel’s eighth-generation Whiskey lake processors are the most popular for laptops. They include low-power Y series and fast, efficient U-series. We recommend that Windows 10 users use at least the Core i5-8265U for productivity. This processor is highly efficient and can handle most productivity tasks quickly. You’ll also enjoy a long battery life because it’s efficient. You may experience bottlenecks when multitasking or running multithreaded apps if you go back to the older Intel processors.

Chromebooks running Google’s more efficient Chrome OS may use slower processors but still work well. Many Chromebooks don’t use the fastest Core i7 CPU.

We recommend the latest ultra-power H series CPUs, either the eighth generation of last year or the ninth-gen. These are found in laptops from the MacBook Pro 15 up to the Razer Blade.

How much RAM do you need?

8GB is the ideal amount of memory for desktops and laptops. For more information, please see our article “How much RAM should I have?” However, 8GB should be sufficient regardless of whether you are running Windows, MacOS or the lighter Chrome OS. It will also allow you to multitask and run more complex applications. We recommend 16GB or more if you are doing video or high-end editing.

Do I choose a tablet or a laptop?

You can attach a keyboard to transform a tablet into a laptop, as we have already mentioned. A tablet 2-in-1 is a great option if you want Windows 10 power in a smaller size that you can carry around. These devices are not recommended as tablets as Windows 10 tablet mode is still quite limited. A pure tablet such as the iPad is a great choice for web browsing, email triaging, media consumption, and other tasks that don’t require the full power and speed of a real PC.

A tablet is a great option. A tablet is the best choice for gamers who need to play video, take large photos and multitask. Tablets are thin and use slower CPUs. They also have integrated graphics that don’t speed up creative applications or run modern games. These tablets don’t have as much software as desktop operating systems like Windows 10 and MacOS.

Do I need USB-C on my laptop?

You should buy a laptop that has at least one USB C port. This latest technology in connectivity allows you to connect to legacy devices (via adapters), while also providing coverage for future devices. USB-C is able to provide data transfer, power and display connections. USB-C hubs are a great way to expand the number of peripherals that you can connect to your laptop.

It’s good to know that even the cheapest laptops now include USB-C. You need ports that can support Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C. Thunderbolt 3 can provide up to 40 gigabits of speed (Gb/s), and can also support multiple 4K displays as well as external GPU enclosures, which can significantly improve graphics performance. Lately, even laptops under $1,000 sport Thunderbolt 3 ports.

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