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Best laptops 2020: Reviews and buying advice

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The best laptops of 2020 are part of a pitched battle between AMD and Intel: Ryzen 4000’s cores vs. Core’s clock speeds. Most recently, Intel launched its Tiger Lake CPUs for thin-and-light laptops, promising yet again that thanks to flexible clock speeds, and its potent new Iris Xe discrete graphics, it would hammer Ryzen 4000. Or so Intel says. And meanwhile, AMD’s laptop share is increasing. Check out the latest news and reviews, along with our top picks below. Looking for holiday laptop deals? We have those—and much more, in our Black Friday deal roundups

Laptop buyer’s cheat sheet

Our quick-hit recommendations

Latest laptop news and reviews

The laptop innovations keep coming. Here are the latest news and reviews:

  • So Apple just announced some new Macs, and we had hoped MacBooks would catch up to Windows laptops on some key features. But no, Apple just revealed its proprietary M1 chip, with outrageous performance claims we can’t wait to test. 
  • Bargain alert! Acer’s Nitro 5 budget gaming laptop is surprisingly good for the price. Don’t expect the latest hardware, but do expect great bang for buck—that’s why it’s our new top pick for best budget gaming laptop (replacing itself from a prior generation). Read our full review.
    acer nitro 5 an515 44 r99q main Ben Patterson/IDG

    The Acer Nitro 5 is both cheap and good, a budget gaming laptop we’re happy to recommend.

  • Razer’s known for its gaming laptops, but its Razer Book 13 is stealthily fun—officially built for work, but true to its play roots with per-key RGB lighting and Razer’s signature CNC-machined aluminum chassis. 
  • Dell’s Latitude 7310 (about $2,700 from Dell after discounts) is all about privacy, which is just as important if you’re stuck at home and jostling for workspace with family members. Read our full review.
  • If you love laptop displays you’ll love the Asus ZenBook 13 ($1,499 from Asus), whose OLED display is state-of-the-art gorgeous. It’s worth a look. But it’s missing—a headphone jack?! Now that’s interesting. Read our full review.

Best thin-and-light laptop

It’s official: You can have both performance and light weight in the same laptop, and Dell’s new XPS 13 7390 is here to prove it. With its 6-core Intel Core i7-10710U CPU, this thin, light machine (available via Dell.com) has actually outpaced bigger workhorse models.

And no, before we get you too worked up: The XPS 13 7390 and its Comet Lake-U CPU aren’t going to outpace a current workstation with, say, a smoking-fast, state-of-the-art Core i7-9750H. But it is the first ultraportable laptop to actually outrun older 7th-gen “H”-class CPUs in heavier laptops, including those in its XPS 15 cousins.

The amount of performance in this amount of portability was simply unheard of just, well, earlier this year. Read our full review

[$1,620 as tested; available on Dell.com]

Best laptop under $500

If this particular model of the Acer Aspire 5 looks familiar, it’s probably because it’s been sitting atop Amazon’s laptop bestseller list for months. It’s easy to understand why. This AMD Ryzen 3-powered Aspire 5 packs some enticing features for the price, including a Full-HD 15.6-inch display, a slim-and-trim chassis, and solid performance on everyday computing tasks.

That said, a Windows 10 laptop this inexpensive has its compromises. In this case, we’re talking a scant 4GB of RAM and a cramped 128GB solid-state drive, while battery life falls significantly short compared to similar Aspire 5 models that don’t cost much more. Read our full review.

[Currently $410 on Amazon, but prices fluctuate frequently.]

Best 14-inch/15-inch workhorse

The Dell XPS 15 9500, an overdue refresh to the company’s high-end workhorse, arrives just in time for it to be truly considered the “MacBook Pro killer” it’s always aspired to be. Dell gave it a top-to-bottom redesign, including a 16:10 aspect ratio, 15.6-inch panel running 4K+ with HDR400 and Dolby Vision support—and the slenderest of bezels. The result is a stunning all-screen look that is likely to set the style for other laptop makers to emulate. Read our full review.

[$2,254 at Dell.com]

Runner-up

The Lenovo Yoga C940 15 is a workhorse laptop with a few bonus features: a touchscreen that flips around into tablet mode, a built-in stylus for writing or sketching, and—thank heavens—a full-sized USB-A port to complement its two USB-C connections. It even fits in a number pad without cramping its excellent keyboard. While screen backlighting is a bit uneven and audio quality could be better, it’s a solid choice for those who want a luxurious workhorse PC. Read our full review.

[$1,700 at time of review on Bestbuy.com. Other configurations available on Lenovo.com.

Best convertible laptop

HP’s latest Spectre x360 13t has something to say to other thin-and-light laptops, which, it seems, are all about taking good things away from you. Where others say No, the HP Spectre x360 13t simply says Yes. You want a standard M.2 SSD? Got it, the Spectre x360 13t says. NBA-level of travel in your keys? Sure thing. USB Type-A port?! Of course the Spectre x360 13t has that, too. When we head-to-head compared the HP Spectre x360 13t to the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390, another leading convertible, the HP came out on top. Read our full review.

[ $1,299 as reviewed ]

Runner-up

Dell’s Latitude 7400 2-in-1 (available via Dell.com) is a 14-inch business laptop that delivers all-day battery life and performance. It achieves a simply incredible 18 hours of battery life using a powerful Intel 8th-gen Whiskey Lake processor, and it offers a full complement of ports plus a slightly gimmicky feature called ExpressSign-in (yes, it’s really spelled that way). While our review unit clocked in at a whopping $2,800, the starting price is $1,599, meaning you could make prudent downgrades to the configuration to fit your budget. Read our full review.

[$2,802 as reviewed.]

Best budget convertible laptop

The Lenovo Yoga C740-15IML (currently $790 on Lenovo.com) is one of the most impressive 2-in-1 laptops we’ve seen in its price range. Weighing in at just three pounds and jammed with nifty features, the slim, sturdily built, Yoga C740 packs in plenty of productivity pep, and it can last the whole day without its AC adapter. A bright, Dolby Vision-enabled display plus Dolby Atmos sound provide plenty of eye and ear candy. A physical camera shutter (which, unfortunately, is a little tough to slide open and closed) and a fingerprint reader help to bolster security.

In a world where high-end laptops no one can afford get all the attention, and budget laptops can be a bucket of compromises, it’s nice to see a mid-priced laptop that has so much going for it. The Lenovo Yoga C740 easily earns our Editor’s Choice award and our top pick for budget convertibles.

[$900 MSRP; $790 as reviewed]

Best 2-in-1 / tablet / hybrid laptop

This category originally started out as the best “Surface” category because, well, for a time, there was nothing like Microsoft’s 2-in-1 / tablet / hybrid device. Competitors picked up the pace, and the Lenovo Miix 520reigned for over a year. No longer.

The Surface Pro 7 represents Microsoft’s return to form, both with an up-to-date 10th-gen “Ice Lake” processor inside, but also a tweaked, modernized design that recognizes that USB-C is the wave of the future. Some legacy ports have disappeared (adios, MiniDisplayPort) but otherwise Microsoft’s tablet retains its traditional light weight and form factor. Sadly, a pen and Signature Type Cover are still extra. Read our full review for more details. 

[$1,499 SRP as reviewed, excluding keyboard and pen; currently $1,199 on Microsoft.com]

Keep reading for our top picks in gaming laptops and more.

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