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Faced with the question "what's the best laptop?", the first sensible response is: "What do you want to use it for?" That's because the best laptop for knowledge workers in the office or home, for example, will be very different from the kind of device that's suitable for power users and creators, or for students and the otherwise cash-strapped, and so on. Then there are the platform enthusiasts who will only consider Windows, MacOS, Chrome OS, or Linux devices, for whatever reason, or determined early adopters who must have the latest and greatest mobile technology.
As a result, this 'best laptop' roundup covers a range of different use cases and compute platforms to provide an early 2023 overview of the cream of the laptop market. As always, though, individual requirements and preferences will vary, so when choosing a laptop check out other similar models, examine the specifications and price points, visit the manufacturers' online forums to see how customer relations are working out in practice, get hands-on, if you can, to get a feel for the ergonomics -- and, of course, read the reviews.
Editor's note: Samsung recently announced the third generation of its Galaxy Book laptop series. There are four new Intel Evo-branded Galaxy Book 3 laptops -- three traditional clamshell designs and a 2-in-1 convertible. Screen sizes have stepped up a notch, from 13.3-inch and 15.6-inch models in the first two generations. Your choices now include the 14-inch and 16-inch Galaxy Book 3 Pro, the 16-inch Galaxy Book 3 Pro 360, and a new flagship 16-inch Galaxy Book 3 Ultra with Nvidia's latest GeForce RTX 4050/4070 Laptop GPU. ZDNET is currently considering whether the laptops should be added to this guide.
OS: MacOS (Ventura) | CPU: Apple M2 (8-core) | GPU: Apple M2 (8 or 10 cores) | RAM: 8GB, 16GB, 24GB | Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB | Screen: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, 2560 x 1664 (224ppi), 500 nits | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) | Ports and slots: 2x Thunderbolt 3/USB4, MagSafe 3 | Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD | Audio: 4 speakers, 3 mics, 3.5mm headphone jack | Battery: 52.6Wh (18h movie playback, 15h web browsing) | Dimensions: 304.1mm x 215mm x 11.3mm (11.97in. x 8.46in. x 0.44in.) | Weight: 1.24kg (2.7lbs) | Price: from $1,199 (8-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD), $1,499 (10-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD)
Apple's M2 MacBook Air offers a bigger (13.6-inch), brighter (500 nits) screen than its M1-based predecessor, in a sleek redesign that's actually 20% smaller by volume. Sturdily built despite its thin-and-light chassis, the M2 MacBook Air is equipped with a quad-speaker system, two Thunderbolt 3/USB4 ports and a MagSafe power connector. There's also a welcome upgrade to 1080p webcam.
Fanless and therefore silent in operation, the M2 MacBook Air delivers excellent all-round performance, while its 52.6Wh battery powered the system for nearly 16 hours -- two full working days -- in ZDNET's rundown test.
Also: Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Sleeker, faster - and more expensive
Also: Apple's M2 MacBook Air: ZDNET Product of the Year
Rated as 'Outstanding' and "one of the lightest and most elegant ultraportable laptops we've seen," the M2 MacBook Air is not only ZDNET's choice for best overall laptop of 2022, but also our Product of the Year.
OS: Windows 11 (Home, Pro), Ubuntu Linux 20.04 LTS | CPU: Intel Core i5-1230U, Core i7-1250U | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB | Storage: 512GB, 1TB | Screen: 13.4in. InfinityEdge, FHD+ (1920x1200, 169ppi), non-touch/touch, 500 nits | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) | Ports and slots: 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, MicroSD | Camera: HD (720p) RGB and IR | Audio: 2 mics, stereo speakers, USB-C to 3.5mm headset adapter | Battery: 51Wh | Dimensions: 295.4mm x 199.4mm x 13.99mm (11.63in. x 7.86in. x 0.55in.) | Weight: from 1.17kg (2.59lbs) | Price: From $749 (Core i5), $999 (Core i7)
Knowledge workers spend a lot of time staring at the screen and pounding the keyboard, mostly running a mix of productivity and collaboration apps. As well as a decent screen and keyboard, knowledge workers need solid all-round performance, a spare connection for an external monitor, if required, and a good webcam/mic/speaker combo for handling video calls (this will be particularly important if the user is working remotely). Many devices could perform these duties, but the leads the field, in our opinion.
The 2022 model (9315) is compact, lightweight yet durable, and is powered by 12th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics. The minimal-bezel InfinityEdge display is available at 16:10 FHD+ resolution with 500 nits of brightness, with or without touch capability, while the keyboard is responsive and well laid out. This model lacks a 3.5mm audio jack, but you do get a USB-C adapter in the box. Performance is fine for mainstream productivity workloads and all-day battery life should be achievable from the 51Wh battery, depending on the workload mix and screen brightness setting.
Also: Dell XPS 13 9310 review
Dell offers a variant of the previous-generation XPS 13 (9310) with a 3.5K (3456 x 2160 pixels) OLED touch display with 400 nits brightness. At the time of writing, there isn't an OLED version of the 9315 model.
OS: Windows 11 (Home, Pro), Windows 10 Pro, Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora) | CPU: Intel Core i5 (1235U, 1240P, 1250P), Core i7 (1260P, 1270P, 1280P) | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: up to 32GB | Storage: up to 2TB | Screen: 14-inch WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS non-touch/touch • 2.2K (2240 x 1400) IPS • 2.8K (2880 x 1800) OLED • WQUXGA (3840 x 2400) non-touch/touch, 16:10 | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), optional mobile broadband (LTE, 5G) | Ports and slots: 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, 2x USB-A (3.2 Gen 1), HDMI, optional Nano-SIM | Camera: 1080p, 1080p + IR | Audio: 4 speakers, 4 mics, 3.5mm audio in/out | Battery: 57Wh | Dimensions: 315.6mm x 222.5mm x 15.36mm (12.43in. x 8.76in. x 0.60in.) | Weight: from 1.12kg (2.48lbs) | Price: from $1,152
Lenovo's 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the standard-setter for business laptops and the latest Gen 10 model brings 12th-generation Intel Core processors, an OLED screen option, Wi-Fi 6E (with 6GHz support) and a 1080p webcam. Along with these features you get a compact, lightweight and durable design, a good set of ports including Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI, and optional LTE or 5G mobile broadband.
Also: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 10) review: The best business laptop?
The keyboard is as good as you'd expect from a ThinkPad, while the Dolby Atmos quad-speaker system delivers excellent audio quality for a moderate-sized laptop. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 delivers perfectly good performance when running mainstream productivity apps and undemanding games, but its integrated GPU rules out more serious graphics-heavy workloads. Battery life is perhaps the main drawback with this superb laptop, and you may struggle to get an 8-hour day's work out of it away from a mains socket. It also lacks an SD or MicroSD card slot.
OS: Windows 11 Home 64 | CPU: Intel Core i7-1240P, Core i7-1260P | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB, 1TB | Screen: 14-inch touch screen: FHD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS, 400 nits • 2.8K (2800 x 1800) OLED, 400 nits • WQUXGA (3840 x 2400), OLED, 400 nits | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) | Ports and slots: 1x USB 3.2, 1x USB-C 3.2, 2x Thunderbolt 4 | Camera: 1080p with IR | Audio: Bowers & Wilkins rotating sound bar, 2x mics, 3.5mm audio in/out jack | Battery: 75Wh | Dimensions: 318mm x 230mm x 15.2-16.5mm (12.52in. x 9.06in. x 0.6-0.65in.) | Weight: 1.48kg (3.26lbs) | Price: from $1,453
Convertible 2-in-1 devices that can be used in conventional laptop mode or as a tablet, and can orient the 360-degree-hinged screen at points in between, can satisfy a variety of use cases depending on the specification. Leading the field, in our opinion, is Lenovo's 14-inch Yoga 9i, a premium 2-in-1 that currently starts at $1,453.
The entry-level model has an FHD+ (16:10) IPS touch screen, but the Yoga 9i's true glory is its vibrant OLED screen, which is available in 2.8K or 4K resolution. This is housed in a rounded and solidly built Comfort Edge chassis weighing 3.26lbs. Inside, you'll find 12th-generation P-series Intel Core processors, 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage, which deliver good performance for a wide variety of apps, although the integrated Iris Xe Graphics rule out more demanding graphics apps and games.
Also: Lenovo Yoga 9i 7th Gen review: The best 2-in-1 laptop, if you can buy it
The edge-to-edge keyboard is quiet, although somewhat 'mushy' of feel, and the touchpad huge. You get a 1080p IR-equipped webcam, a fingerprint reader and a decent set of connections including two Thunderbolt 4 ports. You also get a stylus pen with the Yoga 9i, but there's no on-device housing for it. Another highlight of the Yoga 9i is its speaker system, which comprises a pair of tweeters in a 'rotating soundbar hinge' and a pair of subwoofers on the underside of the chassis.
Perhaps the only disappointment with the Yoga 9i Gen 7 is its battery life. In ZDNET's test, the 75Wh battery averaged eight hours under an everyday mix of workloads -- that's good, but not class-leading.
OS: MacOS (Ventura) | CPU: Apple M1 Pro, M1 Max (10 cores) | GPU: Apple M1 Pro (16 cores), M1 Max (24, 32 cores) | RAM: 16GB (M1 Pro), 32GB, 64GB (M1 Max) | Storage: 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB | Screen: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display, 3456 x 2234 (254ppi), 1000 nits (1600 nits max) | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) | Ports and slots: 3x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, SDXC slot, MagSafe 3 | Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD | Audio: 6 speakers, 3 mics, 3.5mm headphone jack | Battery: 100Wh (21h movie playback, 14h web browsing) | Dimensions: 355.7mm x 248.1mm x 16.8mm (14.01in. x 9.77in. x 0.66in.) | Weight: 2.1kg/4.7lbs (M1 Pro), 2.2kg/4.8lbs (M1 Max) | Price: from $2,499 (M1 Pro, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD), $3,499 (M1 Max, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD)
Laptops designed for creators will usually command premium prices because they need high-end features such as serious processing muscle, powerful graphics, copious memory and storage, a large high-quality screen and a robust industrial design with plenty of ports. Apple has long been a leading purveyor of such devices, and addresses the market with its 16-inch MacBook Pro, based on the company's M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.
The M1 Pro/Max-based MacBook Pro is slightly larger and heavier than its Intel-based predecessor, but it does house a larger 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display with higher resolution (3456 x 2234 pixels, 254ppi), higher brightness (1000 nits) and dynamic refresh rate adjustment (47.95Hz - 120Hz) via Apple's Promotion technology. As a result, the upgraded 1080p webcam now lives in a phone-style in-screen notch.
Other design changes include a Touch Bar-free Magic Keyboard, a MagSafe 3 power connector, an HDMI port, three USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports and an SDXC card reader.
Also: Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro (M1 Max, late 2021)
Where the 16-inch MacBook Pro excels, particularly in its M1 Max incarnation, is in its performance and battery life. In our tests, the M1 Max MacBook Pro delivered 1.66x the multi-core CPU performance of the first-generation M1 (in the 24-inch iMac) and 2.95x the GPU performance (under Geekbench 5 in both cases). It also beat Dell's Precision 5750 mobile workstation, based on a 10th-generation Intel Core i9, by a similar margin (1.68x) on CPU performance. When it came to battery life, our review unit streamed a full-screen video for a very impressive 11 hours and 42 minutes via its 100Wh battery.
Also: Best laptop for graphic design in 2021
The 16-inch MacBook Pro is expensive, though, starting at $2,499 with an M1 Pro, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, rising to a princely $6,099 with an M1 Max, 64GB of RAM and an 8TB SSD.
OS: Windows 11 (Home, Pro) Windows 10 Pro, Ubuntu Linux 20.04 | CPU: 11th generation Intel Core i5, i7, i9, Xeon processors | GPU: Nvidia T1200 (4GB), Nvidia RTX A2000 (4GB), RTX A3000 (6GB), RTX A4000 (8GB), RTX 5000 (16GB), AMD Radeon Pro W6600M (8GB) | RAM: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB | Storage: 4x M.2 slots for up to 8TB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, 250 nits, 400 nits, 1000 nits with privacy screen • 4K (3840 x 2160) IPS, 600 nits, DreamColor | Wireless: Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), optional LTE mobile broadband, optional NFC | Ports and slots: 2x USB-A (5Gbps), 2x Thunderbolt 4/USB4 (40Gbps), RJ-45 Ethernet, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, smart card reader, SD card reader | Cameras: 720p, with IR option | Audio: 2x Bang & Olufsen speakers, 2x mics, 3.5mm audio in/out | Battery: 94Wh | Dimensions: 14.21in. x 9.55in. x 1.02in. | Weight: from 5.18lbs | Price: from $1,507 (Core i5-11500H, Nvidia T1200, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, FHD IPS)
Many people require more compute, graphics, memory and storage than even a power user/creator laptop provides. These demanding professionals include 3D designers, architects, engineers, scientists, video editors, VR developers and more, and what they need is a full-blown mobile workstation.
As well as Core i7/i9/Xeon or Ryzen 9 CPUs, Nvidia RTX or Radeon Pro GPUs, at least 16GB of RAM (32GB or more preferable) and multiple terabytes of storage, workstation-class laptops need high-quality IPS or OLED screens with high resolution (4K preferable) and good colour space support (sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3). To signify that specific configurations are optimised for mission-critical apps, they also need certifications from ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) such as Adobe, Autodesk, Avid, and others.
The leading mobile workstation vendors are Dell, HP and Lenovo, but your search for a suitable solution may also encompass recent entrants from the gaming market such as Gigabyte, MSI and Razer. We've chosen HP's 15.6-inch , which is a compact but highly configurable all-rounder (and also available with a 17-inch screen).
The ZBook Fury 15 G8 can be had for a modest $1,507 with a Core i5-11500H processor, a 4GB Nvidia T1200 GPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage and an FHD IPS screen with 250 nits brightness and just 45% of NTSC colour gamut coverage. But that doesn't touch the sides of what this well-built chassis can pack in. Processor options rise through 11th-generation Core i7, i9 and Xeon CPUs, discrete GPUs go up to a 16GB Nvidia A5000, RAM to 128GB, SSD storage to 8TB. The top-end screen configuration is a superb 4K IPS DreamColor panel with 600 nits brightness and 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 colour gamut. It's a shame the webcam is only 720p, though.
High-end specifications don't come cheap, and you can rack up an impressive price tag by piling them on: with a Core i9-11900H processor, the DreamColor display, an 8GB Nvidia RTX A4000 GPU, 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, the price is currently $3,348 -- and you can easily more than double that.
OS: Windows 11 Home 64 | CPU: 11th & 12th-generation Intel Core i5, i7 • AMD Ryzen 5 5625U, AMD Ryzen 7 5700U | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics • AMD Radeon Graphics, AMD Radeon Vega 8 | RAM: 8GB, 16GB | Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB | Screen: 14in. FHD (1920 x 1080), QHD (2560x1440) • 13.5in. 2256x1504 | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.x, Wi-Fi 6 & 6E (802.11ax) | Ports and slots: USB-A, USB-C, HDMI | Camera: HD (720p) | Audio: 1 mic, stereo speakers, 3.5mm headphone/mic combo | Battery: 7-16h | Dimensions: 323 x 218 x 18mm (12.71in. x 8.58in. x 0.71in.) | Weight: from 1.2kg (2.65lbs) | Price: from $600 (Intel), $800 (AMD)
Not everyone can afford the laptop they might like to have (students and employees of small businesses spring to mind), but that doesn't mean you have to settle for a substandard device. The all have 'affordable' ranges, and there's any number of unashamedly budget brands, many of which offer excellent-value devices. Our choice, Acer's Intel- or AMD-powered , is from a top-tier vendor and gets the nod thanks to its excellent combination of sub-$1,000 price and solid performance without making too many trade-offs on features, build quality or support options.
Most Swift 3 models come with 14-inch FHD (16:9) screens and either Intel or AMD processors, with current prices ranging from $600-$1,100 (Intel) and $800-$880 (AMD). There is one current Intel-based Swift 3 variant with a 13.5-inch 3:2 aspect ratio screen at 2256x1504 resolution, and one with a 14-inch 16:9 QHD (2560x1440) screen.
Not only are CPU, RAM and storage options well up to scratch, but wireless connectivity -- up to Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6E on certain models -- is bang up to date, which is impressive in this price band. The Swift 3's build quality is good, there's a good selection of ports (including Thunderbolt 4 on some models), the keyboard is backlit, and you can expect to get a full day's (not too demanding) work done on battery power. It's not too heavy either, starting at 2.65lbs.
As noted earlier, there's any number of affordable laptops out there, and you can easily find usable Windows 11 devices for under $500 if your budget is more constrained. If you've got a bit more to spend, here's two more good-value laptops from top vendors:
OS Windows 11 Home | CPU Intel Core i7-1260P | GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 2050 (4GB) | RAM 16GB | Storage 1TB | Screen 17-inch IPS 2560 x 1600 (177.6ppi) | Wireless Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) | Ports and slots 2x USB-C Thunderbolt (4), 2x USB-A, HDMI, MicroSD card slot | Camera FHD IR webcam | Audio 2W or 1.5W stereo speakers, 3.5mm audio jack | Battery 90Wh | Dimensions 381mm x 274mm x 19.8mm (14.97in. x 10.24in. x 0.70in.) | Weight 1.43kg (3.16lbs) | Price $1500 ($500 off at time of writing)
Many laptop users would like a large screen -- for more expansive knowledge work (multiple document windows, large spreadsheets), video viewing, or gaming, for example -- but are wary of the weight of a typical 17-inch device. If you fall into that category, the may be the laptop for you. It weighs from an astonishing 2.98lbs (1.35kg), but despite this its slim, lightweight magnesium alloy chassis is robust to MIL-STD 810G standard.
The screen on the highlighted Core i7-1260P model is a 17-inch IPS panel with a 16:10 WQXGA resolution of 2560 by 1600 pixels and support for 99% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. Graphics are handled by Nvidia's discrete RTX 2050 GPU with 4GB of video RAM and there's 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. The LG Gram 17's large-footprint chassis provides plenty of room for the backlit keyboard, a separate number pad, and a large 16:10 touchpad.
Also: LG Gram 17 (2021) review
Wired connections run to two USB-A (3.2 Gen 2x1), two Thunderbolt 4/USB4, HDMI and a 3.5mm headphone jack, with one of the USB-C ports used to charge the 90Wh battery. The wi-fi module supports the latest Wi-Fi 6E standard with support for the 6GHz band. Note that the 1.43kg/3.16lb model highlighted here weighs a little more than the base 1.35kg/2.98lb unit, thanks in part to its discrete Nvidia GPU (other models use integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics).
OS: Chrome OS | CPU: 12th-generation Intel Core i3, i5, i7 | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB | Screen: 13.5-inch IPS touch screen: QHD+ (2256x1504) 400 nits • WUXGA+ (1920x1280) 400 nits • WUXGA+ (1920x1280) 1000 nits, Sure View Privacy | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), optional mobile broadband | Ports and slots: 2x USB-C Thunderbolt 4/USB4 (40Gbps), USB-A (10Gbps), HDMI 2.0, MicroSD card slot | Camera: 5MP | Audio: 2x speakers, 3.5mm audio in/out jack | Battery: 50Wh | Dimensions: 294.4mm x 221.7mm x 16.51mm (11.59in. x 8.73in. x 0.65in.) | Weight: from 1.27kg (2.8lbs) | Price: from $1,099
Chromebooks came into their own during the coronavirus pandemic, their combination of simplicity, affordability and long battery life delivering exactly what was needed for students and knowledge workers forced to study and work from home. The Chromebook market has declined since the heights of 2020/21, with analyst firm IDC reporting -34.4% year-on-year growth in , while noting that "Chromebooks face a number of challenges in the industry, not all of which are because of limitations to the platform."
Chromebooks come in many shapes and sizes, and at many price points, but the current pick of the crop is HP's , a premium 13.5-inch 2-in-1 convertible that costs from at the time of writing, rising to over $3,000 for a Enterprise device. Described in ZDNET's review as "a no-compromise, Google-powered laptop that functions as well as it looks," the Eilte Dragonfly Chromebook is "clearly not for the average consumer". It is, however, probably the current state of the art in Chromebooks.
Also: The HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook has no business being this good
Here are some other excellent -- and more affordable -- Chromebooks:
OS: Windows 11 Pro, Windows 10 Pro (downgrade option) | CPU: Intel Core i5-1145G7 vPro, Core i7-1185G7 vPro | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics • AMD Radeon Pro W6300M | RAM: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB | Storage: 512GB, 1TB, 2TB | Screen: 14-inch IPS FHD (1920 x 1080) touch, 1200 nits | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), optional 4G LTE & 5G (sub-6GHz + mmWave), optional dedicated GPS | Ports and slots: 2x USB-A (10Gbps), Thunderbolt 4 (40Gbps), RJ-45 Ethernet (1Gbps), Micro SDXC card slot, HDMI, power, port replicator connector, quad pass-through antenna connector | Camera: 5MP + IR + privacy cover | Audio: 2x speakers, 4x mics, 3.5mm audio in/out jack | Battery: 6500mAh (18h, 36h with 2nd battery) | Dimensions: 354mm x 301mm x 54.4mm (13.84in. x ) | Weight: from 3.36kg (7.4lbs) | Price: from $4,899
Laptops must often brave the elements, which can include bright sunshine, rain, a dust storm, baking heat, serious vibration, and drops from a variety of heights onto different surfaces. No wonder that 'rugged' laptops come in many shades -- 'extreme' or 'fully' rugged, 'semi' or 'business' rugged, for example. Two main classifications are used to assess the ruggedness of laptops and other equipment: the US military's series (810G, or the latest 810H); and the . There are numerous MIL-STD 810 tests, and most laptops will only undergo a subset, so check the specs carefully to see which they are. The IP code reports two numbers, the first concerning resistance to solids (5 denotes 'dust protected', for example, while 6 means a device is 'dust tight') and the second to liquids (1 = 'dripping water', 9K = 'powerful high-temperature water jets').
Our choice in this tough-laptop category is Panasonic's 14-inch a fully rugged modular device that can be configured for a wide range of challenging use cases in sectors like the military, police and utility companies. As well as undergoing MIL-STD 810H temperature, humidity and vibration tests, and carrying an IP66 rating, the Toughbook 40 has been extensively drop-tested from a height of 1.8 meters (6 feet).
Also: Rugged laptops: Panasonic's modular Toughbook 40 is built for the toughest use cases
There are multiple configuration options thanks to the Toughbook 40's modular design. As well as the ability to swap out the main battery, RAM and SSD drives, there are four areas – left and right sides, rear and palm-rest – that can accept a variety of options. These include a second SSD and a second battery, an optical drive, a smart card reader, various combinations of ports and a fingerprint reader. If that's not enough, there's a fully featured desktop port replicator available too, along with an ecosystem of accessories including a vehicle mount and a four-bay battery charger. Panasonic claims the Toughbook 40 will last for 18 hours on one battery and double that with two batteries installed. There's even a one-touch Concealed Mode function designed for military operations that disables light and electronic transmissions.
Top PC manufacturers like Lenovo, HP and Dell all offer rugged laptops, and there are a number of specialist vendors as well as Panasonic, including , and . Here are some more notable rugged devices:
OS: Windows 11 Home | CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti Laptop (8GB) | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB | Screen: 14-inch QHD (2560 x 1440), 165Hz | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) | Ports and slots: 2x USB-A (10Gbps), 2x USB-C (USB4, 40Gps), HDMI 2.1 | Camera: 1080p + IR | Audio: 2 speakers, array mic, 3.5mm audio in/out jack | Battery: 61.6Wh | Dimensions: 220mm x 319.7mm x 16.8mm (8.66in. x 12.59in. x 0.66in.) | Weight: 1.78kg (3.92lbs) | Price: $2,200
The Razer Blade 14 delivers a 'perfect balance of power and portability', according to ZDNET's roundup of the best gaming laptops. With a powerful AMD processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti graphics, along with a 165Hz QHD (2560 x 1440) screen, it packs a lot into a 1.78kg chassis. Quality specs mean a hefty price tag, but at the time of writing Razer is offering this specification at 15% off.
Also: What is the best gaming laptop and is there a good one for under $1,000?
OS: Windows 11 Home, Pro | CPU: Intel Core i7-1250U | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB | Screen: 17.3-inch folding OLED, 2560 x 1920 (4:3 aspect ratio), 500 nits | Wireless: Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) | Ports and slots: 2x Thunderbolt 4 (40Gbps) | Camera: 5MP + IR | Audio: 1 speaker, array mic, 3.5mm audio in/out jack | Battery: 75Wh | Dimensions: 378.5mm x 287.6mm x 8.7-2.9mm (14.90in. x 11.32in. x 0.34-0.51in.) | Weight: 1.5kg (3.31lbs) - without keyboard | Price: $3,499
A subset of the laptop-buying population will always be hankering after the latest form factors and platforms -- no matter what the cost -- and there has been plenty of innovation in recent years, mostly centred around folding screens.
We've picked out the , which was announced in January 2022 at CES and is only now making its way through and onto the market. It's a folding display that can work in laptop, tablet or desktop mode. Strictly speaking, the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold isn't a brand-new laptop form factor because Lenovo got there in 2020 with the first-generation 13.3-inch ThinkPad X1 Fold (now superseded by a model). However, it's definitely the first 17-inch transformer-style laptop.
Unfolded, the 17.3-inch OLED screen -- which offers 2560x1920 resolution, 500 nits brightness and 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut -- can be used as a large tablet, or propped up with its kickstand and used along with a Bluetooth keyboard as a desktop PC. Inside there's a 12th-generation Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage. There's no discrete GPU, which benefits battery life but rules out demanding graphical apps and games. Fold the screen down the middle and you can use an on-screen keyboard or drop the physical one onto the bottom half of the screen, giving you a 12.5-inch clamshell laptop.
Also: CES 2022: Asus launches 17-inch folding OLED laptop and space-themed Zenbook
This is a new way of making a portable but flexible computer, and there remain issues with the smoothness of hardware and software interaction when flipping between usage modes. It's also an expensive device right now, although battery life seems to be pretty good considering the size of the screen and internal specification. Watch this space to see how the foldable laptop concept develops.
Here are some other innovative laptop form factors out there that might catch the eye of the early adopter:
The best laptop for 2022/3 is the 13.6-inch Apple MacBook Air (M2). This thin, light and fanless MacBook offers useful new features and upgrades compared to the previous 13.3-inch M1-based model, and with a sleek redesign, good performance and long battery life, is one of the lightest and most elegant ultraportable laptops we've seen. It's also ZDNET's overall Product of the Year for 2022.
|Apple MacBook Air (13.6-inch, M2)||from $1,199||13.6 inches||Apple M2|
|Dell XPS 13||from $749||13.4 inches||12th-gen Intel Core i5, i7|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10||from $1,152||14 inches||12th-gen Intel Core i5, i7|
|Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7||from $1,543||14 inches||12th-gen Intel Core i7|
|Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021)||from $2,499||16.2 inches||Apple M1 Pro, M1 Max|
|HP ZBook Fury 15 G8||from $1,507||15.6 inches||11th gen Intel Core i5, i7, i9, Xeon|
|Acer Swift 3||from $600||14 inches||11th/12th-gen Intel Core i5, i7 • AMD Ryzen 5, 7|
|LG Gram 17||$1,500||17 inches||12th-gen Intel Core i7|
|HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook||from $1,099||13.5 inches||12th-generation Intel Core i3, i5, i7|
|Panasonic Toughbook 40||from $4,899||14 inches||11th-gen Intel Core i5, i7|
|Razer Blade 14||$2,200||14 inches||AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX|
|Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED||$3,499||17.3 inches||Intel Core i7-1250U|
The key question when buying a laptop -- as with any product -- is: 'What do you want to do with it?' Once you've established the use case, you'll have a focus for your research, and should quickly get a feel for the key features to look out for. If you're a mobile knowledge worker, for example, you'll want a usable and performant combination of lightweight, flexible configuration, sturdy build, connectivity, security, battery life, and design credibility. But if you're a largely deskbound graphic designer or creator who occasionally needs to visit a client, with laptop in tow, your priorities will be different.
Once you have a long list of potential candidates, your budget will likely trim it down at the top end, while your cautionary instincts should kick in at the bottom end (if something appears too good to be true, it probably is). Armed with a well-researched shortlist, you should have a good chance of ending up with a laptop that will satisfy your requirements.
|Choose this laptop...||If you need...|
|Apple MacBook Air (13.6-inch, M2)||An elegant, portable, capable and long-lasting 13.6-inch laptop|
|Dell XPS 13||A compact and lightweight 13-inch laptop for mobile knowledge work|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10||A well-specified 14-inch laptop for business users|
|Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7||An elegant 14-inch 2-in-1 convertible with a great speaker system|
|Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021)||A powerful, long-lasting 16-inch laptop for creators|
|HP ZBook Fury 15 G8||A highly configurable 15-inch mobile workstation|
|Acer Swift 3||An affordable 14-inch laptop for students and home users|
|LG Gram 17||An astonishingly lightweight 17-inch laptop|
|HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook||A well-designed and capable 13-inch 2-in-1 convertible Chromebook|
|Panasonic Toughbook 40||A modular and highly configurable 14-inch rugged laptop|
|Razer Blade 14||A powerful and portable 14-inch gaming laptop|
|Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED||An innovative 17-inch foldable laptop|
I have been writing, commissioning and editing reviews of laptops (and many other types of tech product) since the 1990s. The selection process for this 'Best' list is based on a combination of personal usage and experience, involvement in the ZDNet reviews process, and analysis of other reviews and roundups.
These days, a 'computer', for most people, is a laptop of some kind. The desktop form factor -- particularly in the shape of all-in-one (AIO) devices -- is by no means finished, but laptops span the range from thin, light and ultraportable to bulky, powerful and deskbound, and cover a lot of use cases (as seen above). If screen real estate with smaller laptops is a problem you can always attach an external monitor, and there are plenty of hybrid 2-in-1 devices that straddle the divide between laptop and tablet.
Every computing platform has its committed supporters, but most people end up using a particular operating system because key applications run on it, or because it's chosen for them by their employer, or because of budgetary issues -- Windows spans the range from budget to premium, but Chrome OS is largely confined to the affordable end of the market, while Apple's MacOS laptops are mostly premium devices.
All of the Windows devices listed here qualify for Windows 11, so if you buy one with Windows 10 installed you'll be able to upgrade to version 11 if you wish. If you don't, note that Windows 10 support ends on October 14 2025, after which there will be no more security patches or feature updates.
See: Windows 11 hands on: Microsoft's biggest minor upgrade ever is all about new hardware
Generally speaking, the leading PC vendors have the broadest range of offerings and the best-documented track records in terms of product development and customer relations. So in the absence of a specialised use case or budgetary constraint, you're usually going to be looking at the likes of Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, and Asus -- which currently lead the in terms of shipments -- plus a handful of other well-known brands.
Concerned about the environment? Take a look at these sustainable laptops.