The 15 Best Laptops to Work and Play: 2023

BUYING ANY LAPTOP is a big decision. You may end up using it for several years before getting another, and there are many makes, models, and chip configurations to choose from. Lucky for you, we’ve tested many of the new releases in the past year. These are our top picks for the best laptops you can buy right now.

If you don’t know exactly what you need, or what all the various hardware jargon means, be sure to read our How to Buy a Laptop guide. And check out our many other computing guides, including the Best MacBooksBest Cheap LaptopsBest Gaming Laptops, and Best Laptop Backpacks.

These are our favorite Windows notebooks, MacBooks, and Chromebooks:
PHOTOGRAPH: APPLE

Best MacBook

Apple MacBook Air (13 and 15 Inch):

Apple’s newest MacBook Air comes in two sizes: 13 inches and 15 inches. Both are very similar, powered by the company’s second-gen M2 processor, and they feature larger and brighter displays, a 1080p webcam, a flatter, more modern design, and the return of the MagSafe connector—handy if you tend to trip over the charging cord. This is one of the very first lower-priced MacBooks with a large screen, and having all that screen real estate is fantastic for productivity. The bigger machine also has a slightly louder six-speaker sound system, but they’re otherwise the same.

Battery life remains ahead of the competition, and performance is breezy for most average tasks. You’ll notice some stuttering here and there if you push your devices hard with demanding apps, but this becomes less of an issue if you bump the unified memory to 16 GB instead of the base 8 GB. It’s a fan less design, so it won’t sound like you’re sitting in a jet, but this Mac does tend to run warm. One big downside? It can only connect to one external monitor, which means no dual-monitor setup for you.

Specs to look for: Apple M2, 8-Core or 10-core GPU, 16 GB of Unified Memory, 256-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: ASUS

Best Windows Laptop

Asus Zenbook 14 (2023):

Asus Zenbook offers a good combination of performance, great battery life, and an OLED display—all for $700. The model we like uses an AMD Ryzen 5 7530U CPU, with 8 gigabytes of RAM and a 256-gigabyte SSD. That may not sound like much, but we were impressed with the performance, especially given the price. Graphics and gaming aren’t entirely workable, with rather pitiful frame rates throughout, but battery life is outstanding, clocking in at 12.5 hours (measured looping a YouTube video at full brightness).

This is a small, portable machine too (3.1 pounds and 19 mm thick), and it manages to pack in plenty of ports despite the slim form. There are two USB-C ports (one of which is needed for charging), one full-size USB 3.2 port, a full-size HDMI output, and a microSD card reader. The keyboard has small arrow keys but is otherwise nice to type on. If you want to bump the specs, you can get the model with 16 GB of RAM and a 512-GB SSD for not much more.

Specs to look for: AMD Ryzen 5 7000 series, 8 GB of RAM, 256-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: LENOVO

Best Budget Laptop

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5:

Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 5 range has been a tremendous value proposition for several years now, and things are no different with this 2-in-1 model. Alongside a tablet mode and a 360-hinge, accommodating a tent mode for better movie-viewing angles, there’s a snappy AMD Ryzen chip. It’s not enough for gaming or video editing, but these specs are plenty for typical office apps and web-based work. There are two USB-A ports, an HDMI, an SD card reader, one USB-C, a headphone jack, and a charging port (though you can use the USB-C to recharge the laptop too).

Specs to look for: AMD Ryzen 5 7000 series, 16 of GB RAM, 512-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: SYSTEM76

Best Linux Laptop

System76 Pangolin Laptop:

System’s Pangolin is a 15-inch, AMD-powered monster of a laptop. It’s based around an AMD Ryzen 7 6800U, with 32 gigabytes of RAM (soldered), and a 250-gigabyte SSD. You can configure the Pangolin with up to a whopping 8 terabytes of storage, and it offers every port a sysadmin could hope for—a single USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, three USB-A ports, a 3.5-mm headphone/microphone combo jack, a full-size SD card reader, HDMI 2.0, and Gigabit Ethernet. The battery life is good for the size, it lasts all day in most use cases, and the keyboard is fantastic (though I wasn’t a fan of the off-center trackpad). Otherwise, this is a beast of a Linux machine.

Specs to look for: AMD Ryzen 7 6800U, 32 GB of RAM, 250-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: FRAMEWORK

Best Repairable, Upgradeable Laptop

Framework Laptop 13 (2023):

If you want to buy a laptop you can keep for five, maybe 10 years, look no further than Framework’s Laptop 13 or 15. The user-repairable and upgradable Framework Windows laptop comes in many flavors (it’s Linux-friendly too), but we’re fans of the DIY build options, which allow you to assemble the machine yourself, screwing in SSD, RAM, screen bezel, and more. The 2023 Intel version features much-improved battery life and an excellent matte 3:2 screen.

The hot-swappable, extensible port system means you can add and remove ports according to your needs. When a new chipset is released, you can upgrade instead of buying a whole new laptop. There are two downsides: The AMD model isn’t currently available yet, and, fully tricked out on Framework’s site, the high-end models are pricey for what you get.

Specs to look for: Intel Core i5 or higher, 16 GB of RAM, 512-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: HP

Best When You Want It All

HP Envy 16 (2023):

Laptops have always been a compromise–you have to trade something for portability, after all. But HP’s new Envy 16 comes tantalizingly close to having it all. It offers amazing performance, thanks to its Intel Core i9 chip and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 Max-Q video card; excellent battery life; and a good keyboard. Perhaps most importantly, it delivers all of the above at a decent weight and price.

The Envy’s 16-inch 2,560 X 1,600-pixel screen OLED touchscreen isn’t amazingly bright, but it is impressively clear and, despite running it at near full brightness, we managed to get a full workday (nine hours) before needing to find a wall socket. The Envy 16 also has plenty of ports, offering two USB-C ports, two full-size USB 3.1 ports, an HDMI output, and a microSD card slot. All of this in a fairly portable package (the Envy weighs just over 5 pounds) makes it pretty close to a true desktop replacement.

Specs to look for: Intel Core i9, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 Max-Q, 16 GB of RAM, 1-TB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: APPLE

Best MacBook Upgrade

Apple MacBook Pro (16-Inch, 2023):

Apple’s latest MacBook Pro models don’t reinvent the wheel—in fact, they barely fit shiny new rims. All the changes come on the inside, with the big difference being the M2 chips. If you have an M1 Pro or M1 Max MacBook Pro, then you don’t need to upgrade. Otherwise, these are the versions to buy if you’re looking to nab a powerful Apple laptop.

Get the new M2 Pro if you’re a serious productivity user or content creator—if you regularly have more than 20 tabs in Chrome and dabble in some multitasking or light video editing. Take a look at the M2 Max if you need some serious power for demanding creative and production tasks, like 3D modeling and complex video editing. As for screen sizes, the 16 incher will nab you better battery life and a larger display versus the 14-inch model. Like the previous models, the keyboard and trackpad are excellent, if lacking some travel. The display is bright and luxurious. The new selection of ports will allow most to live a welcome dongle-free life too.

Specs to look for: 16-inch M2 Max, 64 GB of Unified Memory, 256-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: DELL

Best MacBook Pro Alternative

Dell XPS 15 (2023):

Dell’s XPS 15 comes in a dizzying array of configurations. The model I suggest is toward the high end, with a 13th-generation Intel i7 chip, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 graphics, 16 gigabytes of RAM, and a 512-gigabyte SSD. The key is the 15.3-inch 3.5K OLED display. It hurts battery life, but it is gorgeous and, thanks to Dell’s super thin bezels, impressively immersive. The review linked above is the 2021 model, but the only change in this year’s update is the processor.

Everything I said about the chassis design and screen remains true. Alas, even the not-so-great battery life. Looping a 1080p video at 75 percent brightness, the XPS 15 managed just about 7.5 hours. In real-world use I found I could make it through a workday most of the time—depending on what I was doing—but not always. Keep the charger handy.

Specs to look for: Intel Core i7, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 (or better), 16 GB of RAM, 512-GB SSD.

PHOTOGRAPH: HP

Best 2-in-1 Laptop

HP Envy x360 (15 Inch, 2023):

HP’s Envy x360 line has long offered some of our favorite convertibles. There’s just one problem—which one should you get? You have to sort through dozens of sizes and configurations ranging from bargain models to high-end performance machines. This 15.6-inch Envy x360, powered by an AMD Ryzen 7 7730U CPU, is one of our favorites.

It has enough power for most workloads—though video editors and gamers will want something more powerful—and there are plenty of ports (two USB-C ports with DisplayPort capabilities, two USB-A ports, and an HDMI 2.1 port, plus a full-size SD card reader). The touchscreen is bright and has excellent color accuracy. The Envy is eerily quiet, with fans hardly ever spinning up, but the click pad is one of the loudest we’ve tested. Read our Best 2-in-1 Laptops guide for more convertible options.

Specs to look for: AMD Ryzen 7 7730U CPU, 16 GB of RAM, 512-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: APPLE

Best Cheap MacBook

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020):

The 13-inch MacBook Air from 2020 is still one of the best laptops around. It was the first from Apple to ditch Intel chips for the company’s very-own M1 processor. Even with the new MacBook Air and its M2 processor (see above), this older version is just as appealing considering it’s frequently available for $900 or less (especially with the education discount).

Battery life is great, easily lasting more than a full workday, and we’ve encountered fewer hiccups with performance (and fewer thermal issues) with this MacBook over the latest Air. It’s not as svelte as the latest Macs, but it’s still slim and lightweight with good speakers, an excellent keyboard, and a nice screen. I love how it now instantly wakes from sleep, just like an iPhone or iPad. If you want a Mac and aren’t planning on taxing it too much with demanding tasks like video editing, this is the MacBook you want.

Specs to look for: Apple M1, 8 GB of Unified Memory, 256-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: ASUS

Best Chromebook

Asus Chromebook Flip CX5:

There’s a lot to love with this Asus Chromebook. The keyboard is excellent, for starters. Typing is often the first to get trashed when manufacturers seek to save money, but Asus has clearly focused on this area—there’s a ton of travel and a satisfying click. I could happily type for hours on end on this device. The material used on the inside is also exquisite—its soft touch and immensely smooth. There’s nothing else quite like it on the market.

Down to the nitty gritty. With 16 GB of RAM and an 11th-Gen Intel Core i7, our review model has a lot in the tank for a device that’ll just be used for web browsing and productivity tasking. This laptop is a tab hoarder’s wonder. The display won’t knock your socks off but it is one of the better 1080p panels I’ve used and gets bright enough for most typical conditions. The port selection is strong, with a focus on variety. There are two USB-Cs, a USB-A, a headphone jack, a microSD, and even an HDMI.

Specs to look for: Intel Core i5, 16 GB of RAM, 128-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: LG

Best for Big Screen Productivity

LG Gram 15.6-Inch SuperSlim:

The LG Gram SuperSlim retains its spot as our favorite large laptop, and how could it not? It’s impossibly thin—just 15 mm thick including the elevating standoffs underneath the chassis—and all of 2.2 pounds in weight. Despite that thin, light frame, it manages to be a solid machine. The only difference between models is the amount of RAM and storage; the CPU, a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-1360p, remains the same no matter which one you opt to get.

There is a trade-off to be made for that thinness: performance. On business apps, the Gram scored lower than the $700 Asus above, and it wasn’t much better on graphics performance. Still, that ultrabright 15.6-inch screen is a joy to use, and the fans are so quiet you barely notice them. We also managed an excellent 10.5 hours out of the Gram’s battery on a full-brightness YouTube playback, which is impressive considering the luminosity of the screen.

Specs to look for: Intel Core i7, 16 GB of RAM, 512-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: LENOVO

Best Windows Display

Lenovo Slim Pro 9i:

Lenovo’s Slim Pro 9i is one of the company’s most powerful laptops, but it’s not actually the thinnest. That’s OK, it’s still thin-ish at 25 mm thick, and it weighs just under 4 pounds. With a 13th-generation 2.4-GHz Intel Core i7-13705H processor, 32 GB of RAM, a 1-TB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 graphics card, you won’t hurt for power. The overclockable CPU and switchable graphics pulled solid benchmark numbers on both business and graphics tests. It’s not as fast as the HP Envy (above), which uses the more powerful Core i9 CPU, but it’s plenty speedy for most tasks.

The keyboard is one of the best we’ve used, and the screen offers a 16:10 aspect ratio, which gives you a bit more headroom for working on documents. It has a somewhat oddball resolution of 3,072 x 1,090 pixels, but the LED-lit display offers great contrast and is super bright. The major downside is battery life. The dedicated graphics and bright screen will cost you there, and we rarely got more than five hours out of it with average use. The fan is quite loud too.

Specs to look for: Intel Core i7-13705U, 32 GB of RAM, 1-TB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: LENOVO

A Dual-Screen Dream Machine

Lenovo Yoga Book 9i (2023):

The Lenovo Yoga Book 9i  is not the first laptop to add a second screen, but it might be the first to actually succeed in this somewhat niche design. With the Yoga Book 9i, “second screen” means a full screen. There’s no keyboard here at all; the lower half of the laptop is a touchscreen identical to the upper half. Take two 13.3-inch OLED displays and sandwich them together with a hinge in between and you’ve got the idea.

You can use the Yoga Book as if it were two Windows tablets or one giant one, putting different apps on either side of the device and holding it like a giant book. That may sound frivolous, but the Yoga Book 9i is surprisingly well positioned for getting real work done—and potentially succeeds on that front better than a standard laptop. It’s a portable dual-screen setup that actually works (mostly). It even comes with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The downside is the price and the sometimes clumsy interactions between screens. Performance is also lackluster for the price.

Specs to look for: Intel Core i7-1355U, 16 GB of RAM, 512-GB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: ACER

Windows for Budding Creators

Acer Swift 3X:

Intel is in the middle of a graphics revolution, and the Acer Swift 3X is one of the first devices to sport its XE Graphics technology. The GPU won’t give you high-end gaming performance—far from it—but it does provide a graphical boost, making this light and thin machine capable of entry-level content creation.

It’s pricey for the quality, but the mix of performance and diminutive size makes an excellent combo for creative and design students. It doesn’t match Apple’s M1 (or M2) MacBook Air, but it’s a comparable Windows equivalent if you don’t want to enter Apple’s garden. Make sure to choose “Buy New” otherwise the product page defaults to a used model for a much lower price.

Specs to look for: Intel Core i7 with XE Graphics, 16 GB of RAM, 1-TB SSD

PHOTOGRAPH: CHARLES O'REAR/GETTY IMAGES

Laptop Buying Tips

How to Choose the Right Laptop for You:

If none of these laptops quite rings your bell, that’s OK! There are far more laptops out there than we have time to test. To help you make smart choices, we put together a complete laptop buying guide. We recommend sticking to these guidelines:

  • RAM: Make sure you get at least 8 GB of RAM—16 GB would be even better, and 32 GB means you really never have to worry about RAM.
  • 10th-generation or higher: There are dozens of chips on the market, but we prefer 10th-generation or higher Intel chips (we’re currently in the 13th generation). For AMD machines we recommend at least 5000 series Ryzen chips (AMD’s 7000 series is the latest model)
  • Core i5 or higher: We suggest going with at least an Intel Core i5, though an i7 will give you more power, which you’ll be glad you have if you’re doing anything taxing, like editing video or even processing large batches of photos. AMD has wisely elected to follow a similar naming convention, and we suggest a Ryzen 5 chip—though again, for more processor-intensive tasks the Ryzen 7 is the better choice. Currently, the newest chips are Intel’s 13th-generation Core chips and AMD’s 7000 series Ryzen chips.
  • Screen resolution: The display depends on the size of the laptop. A 1080p (HD) screen on a 13-inch laptop looks good enough. A 1080p screen on a 15-inch laptop does not. If you spend all day staring at your screen, a higher-resolution screen (like a 4K screen) can ease eyestrain.
  • 10 hours of battery: Make sure it’s advertised to get at least 10 hours of battery life if not more. Realistically, that should be enough to get you through a workday.

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