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Best Windows laptop for 2021

Best Windows laptop for 2021

Whether you’re looking for a Windows laptop for work, school, entertainment or gaming — or all of the above — you’ll find CNET’s top picks from the best Windows laptop brands on the market: Dell, HP, Microsoft, Asus, Acer, Lenovo and more. What you won’t find here are the best Apple laptops or Chromebooks (but here’s where you can find our top picks for those, too). This list is only loaded with the best laptops we’ve tested running Windows 10.

Because 2021 models are only now starting to roll out, many of the laptops on this list were tested in 2020 but are the most current models available. This list will be updated periodically when new models are tested, reviewed and make the cut. 

Also, while there are a lot of laptops here, we have more granular recommendations for the best gaming laptops15-inch laptopstwo-in-one and Chromebooks, as well as the best laptop for college students, the best laptop for creatives and the best MacBook Pro alternatives for the Windows set. Need to stay as low as possible on the price of a new laptop computer? Check out our picks for budget laptops and budget gaming laptops.

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The Dell XPS 13 is a perennial favorite for its size, weight and performance and just overall good looks. In 2020, Dell made the laptop even smaller, while making the laptop screen larger and increasing performance for both CPU and graphics-intensive tasks. It’s not a huge leap, but this Dell XPS is still the best in the category. And for those who want the latest and greatest Intel processors, the Dell XPS 13, as well as the company’s XPS 13 2-in-1 (also a great pick), are available with the chip-maker’s 11th-gen Core processors, with Intel Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 options. This Dell also offers a selection of SSD storage and memory options starting with a 256 GB SSD hard drive and 8 GB of memory.

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The Book 13 is a more office-friendly version of the company’s Razer Blade Stealth gaming laptop, with a 13.4-inch display with a taller 16:10 aspect ratio, fast mobile performance, long battery life and enough connection options to make working from home easier. Its high-quality build is up there with the best MacBooks but, like an Apple, it’s not necessarily the best deal, even compared to other premium laptops. 

Read our Razer Book 13 review.

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The Asus ZenBook 13 is a stylish but not showy 13.3-inch ultraportable with the perfect footprint for squeezing onto a tiny table. You’ll get 12-plus hours of battery life depending on your configuration — it’s available with 10th gen Intel processor or 11th gen Intel Core i7 processor — and plenty of performance to make quick work of daily office or school tasks. Plus, like many of Asus‘ laptops, the ZenBook adds a few gadgety extras to hopefully make your life easier while you’re out and about.

Read our Asus ZenBook 13 review.

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The HP Envy x360 13 is a great pick for an older high school or college student or anyone looking for a small, stylish two-in-one with a vibrant screen to travel with. This HP laptop is light at just less than 3 pounds (1.3 kg) and battery life is long despite the size. It’s also available with a choice of AMD Ryzen 5-4500U or Intel 11th-gen Core processors. Essentially, you’re getting a speedy little two-in-one that’s ready for working from home or remote learning but is also ready for your backpack. 

Read our HP Envy x360 13 review.

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Although it’s not the Surface Laptop, the Surface Pro continues to hit all the right notes if you’re looking for a do-it-all Windows tablet that doubles as a Windows laptop. This powerful Surface laptop features the 10th gen Intel processor, fast Wi-Fi 6 wireless and long-lasting battery life. This Surface laptop is also the first to feature an honest-to-goodness USB-C port.

Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review.

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A remarkable deal for simple tasks like email, word processing and much more, thanks to the new AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors. This budget laptop has a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader and a USB Type-C port, too. The Acer Swift 3 is also an incredibly lightweight laptop — less than 3 pounds — for a machine that can be found for less than $700.

In addition to this Acer Swift, we’re also fans of the Acer Aspire 5, which has a larger 15.6-inch display. The Acer Aspire 5 is available in a variety of configurations starting as low as $400, but can go up to $830 if you want entry-level discrete graphics for basic gaming and content creation.

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Dell’s G-series gaming laptops are cheaper than those from its Alienware division, but still capable of playing the latest AAA titles. There are three separate models — the G3, G5 and G7 — available in 15- and 17-inch sizes. The midrange G5 15 hits the mark with an excellent price-to-performance ratio, build quality and design. The newest versions start at $900, including a special-edition model with AMD’s impressive Ryzen 5 4600H processor.

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There are simply no other 17-inch laptops that are this light and also have long battery life. The Gram 17 lasted 13 hours on our streaming video test, beating last year’s model by 47 minutes on the same test. Processor performance is stepped up some from the 2019 version, too, thanks to the addition of a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 processor. This is partnered with more powerful Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics as well, giving you a little extra speed for photo and video editing and casual gaming.

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Though HP and Dell have excellent premium two-in-one convertible laptops, they have smaller 13.3- and 13.4-inch displays. If you want a bit more room for your work or entertainment, the 14-inch Yoga 9i is a great choice. One of Intel’s Evo platform laptops, the 9i is tuned to be more responsive and for longer battery life. Everything about it is fast. Plus, it’s one of the few that come with a pen, which charges and is stored in the body. 

Read our Lenovo Yoga 9i review.

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Acer updated the Spin 5’s design and features in 2020 to improve its mobility, it but also added a bright 2,256×1,504-pixel resolution, 13.5-inch touchscreen. The 3:2 screen ratio gives you much more vertical space and, since it’s roughly the size of a sheet of paper, it’s more comfortable to use for note taking and sketching with the included active pen. 

Read our Acer Spin 5 (2020) review.

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If you’ve ever wished for just a little extra screen space on your thin-and-light laptop, your wish is granted. The Duo 14’s 12.6-inch secondary touchscreen behaves just like any other attached display except it’s built into the body above the keyboard. You can use it for extending the main 14-inch display so it works like one large screen, or use it for apps that would normally be buried behind what you’re working on. If that’s not enough, it’s pen-enabled so you can write and draw on it with the included pen. Plus, Asus’ ScreenXpert software lets you turn it into a giant touchpad, a number pad or even a tool deck for Adobe Creative Cloud software. 

Read our Asus ZenBook Duo 14 review.

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Regularly available for less than $700, this thin, 3-pound convertible is a solid choice for anyone who needs a laptop for office or schoolwork. The all-metal chassis gives it a premium look and feel, and it has a comfortable keyboard and a responsive, smooth precision touchpad. Though it’s light on extra features compared to its premium linemate, the Yoga 9i, it does have one of Lenovo’s sliding shutters for its webcam that gives you privacy when you want it. And it has a long battery life to boot.

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Yes, the best gaming laptop at the moment is the same as our top pick for a MacBook Pro alternative. There is one small exception, though: While we recommend getting this Blade Pro laptop with its 4K-resolution display option for creators, gamers will want to get the display with a 300MHz refresh rate that Razer offers for this model.

Read our Razer Blade Pro 17 (early 2020) review.

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The Flow X13 keeps you from having to choose between getting a 13-inch two-in-one and a powerful gaming laptop. The little laptop is great for productivity, but its unique external USB-C hub has an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 mobile GPU inside for when you need a graphics boost for gaming or content creation. 

Read our Asus ROG Flow X13 review.

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