Best laptop for 2020 – CNET
Black Friday and Cyber Monday always offer a ton of great savings on laptops. But if you want to get started early on your hunt for the best laptop, this list is a good place to start. This best laptop list has all the top models we’ve tested for work, school, gaming or entertainment from the best laptop brands on the market: Dell, HP, Microsoft, Apple, Acer, Lenovo, Asus and more. If, like many of us, you’re working from home or doing remote learning, this list can help you find the perfect new laptop to meet your needs.
We review a lot of laptops, and not all of them are on this list. You can also read our recommendations for the best gaming laptops, 15-inch laptops, two-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. Plus, if you just want pure power or a long-life battery, our rankings of performance and battery life are for you. 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 or see all of CNET’s laptop reviews.
The XPS 13 is a perennial favorite for its size, weight and performance and just overall good looks. For 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 it’s still the best in the category. And for those who want the latest and greatest Intel processors, the XPS 13, as well as the company’s XPS 13 2-in-1, are available with the chipmaker’s 11th-gen Core processors.
HP outdid itself on its premium small two-in-one. With features like active pen support, four display choices including a UHD-resolution OLED and a 1080p display with HP’s Sure View privacy screen, an instant mic mute button and other privacy and security features like an IR camera and fingerprint reader and a switch to disable its webcam. And now this HP laptop is available with Intel’s 11th-gen Core processors for better performance and battery life.
The combination of the larger MacBook Pro’s hardware and MacOS extracts the maximum performance from the components while delivering class-leading battery life in a way Windows systems never seem to do, and the high-resolution display screen remains terrific. Plus, this model’s keyboard uses scissor-style switches under the keycaps, rather than the much-derided butterfly-style switch. You pay for it, though — base price for the 16-inch model of this premium laptop is $2,399.
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 laptop features the 10th gen Intel processor, fast Wi-Fi 6 wireless and long-lasting battery life. It’s also the first to feature an honest-to-goodness USB-C port.
This is our go-to recommendation for those in search of a MacOS laptop for everyday basic use. The MacBook Air was updated in the first half of 2020 with new Intel processors and, most importantly, a new keyboard. However, in November, Apple announced its new homegrown M1 processors would be replacing Intel’s CPUs in the Air. Using Apple’s M1, the company promises better performance and longer battery life — up to 18 hours. The Intel-based models will still be around, though, and regardless of which chip is running the Air, you’re getting a great little Mac laptop starting at $999.
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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. It’s also an incredibly lightweight laptop — less than 3 pounds — for a machine that can be found for less than $700.
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.
This is essentially a Chrome version of the first Microsoft Surface Go. Like the Go, the Chromebook Duet is a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard and touch screen. Unlike Microsoft, though, Lenovo includes the keyboard. It also costs much less than the Go (including the new Go 2), with laptop deals starting at $279 for a 64GB version or $299 for one with 128GB of storage. It’s essentially a smaller, albeit less powerful, Pixel Slate that makes more sense for more people with a price that’s more in line with what people expect a Chromebook to cost.
The Chromebook Duet does have a small screen, however, so if you’re regularly using it at a desk, we recommend attaching an external monitor to its USB-C port. You’ll probably want to connect a wireless keyboard and mouse, too. Or, if you want a more traditional laptop experience rather than tablet mode, the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is worth searching out.
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.
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.
While Asus and Lenovo have turned out great business laptops this year, this Latitude is our top pick at the moment. Co-engineered with Intel, the 9510 puts a 15-inch display in a 14-inch body but gets more than 20 hours of battery life and has a powerful Core i7 processor with vPro for security and remote management. It’s available with 4G or 5G mobile connectivity and uses AI to learn how you work to give you the best performance regardless of if you’re on battery or plugged in. Plus, it’s available as either a traditional clamshell laptop or a two-in-one.
Though HP and Dell have excellent premium two-in-one convertible laptops, they have small 13.3- and 13.4-inch displays. If you want a bit more room for your work or entertainment, the 14-inch C940 is a great choice. One of Intel’s Project Athena laptops, the C940 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 stores and charges in the body. The C940’s replacement, the Yoga 9i, recently started shipping and, while we haven’t tested it yet, not too much has changed and we expect it to be just as good if not better than its predecessor.
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 responsive, smooth precision touchpad. Though it’s light on extra features compared to its premium linemate, the C940, 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.
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Originally published last year and updated periodically.