24th September 2020

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Best small laptopDell XPS 13 2020

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We already had the XPS 13 as a top pick for anyone looking for great performance and battery life in the smallest chassis possible for a 13.3-inch screen size display. But for 2020 Dell made the laptop even smaller, while making the 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.  Read our Dell XPS 13 (2020) review.$1,000 AT DELL

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Read more: Best laptop backpack for 2020Best 2-in-1HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2019)

Sarah Tew/CNETED I T O R S ’ C H O I C EDEC 2019

HP outdid itself on its latest ultraportable premium two-in-one. At first glance it might seem like little more than a processor update — it’s running on a great 10th-gen Intel CPU — the latest x360 is significantly smaller than its predecessor without sacrificing usability. New features like an instant mic mute button join other privacy and security features like an IR camera and fingerprint reader and switch to disable its webcam. Plus, it’s available with 4G LTE wireless so you can get your work done wherever and whenever you want.  Read our HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2019) review.$1,130 AT HPBest MacBook ProApple MacBook Pro (16-inch)

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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 device is $2,399.  Read our Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) review.$2,399 AT APPLE$1,939 AT BACK MARKETRefurbished$2,099 AT AMAZON

Read more: Best laptops, desktops and tablets for designers and creatives in 2020Best Surface laptopMicrosoft Surface Pro 7

Sarah Tew/CNETED I T O R S ’ C H O I C ENOV 2019

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. These powerful laptops feature 10th-gen Intel Core processors, fast Wi-Fi 6 wireless and long-lasting battery life. It’s also the first to feature an honest-to-goodness USB-C port. Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review.$1,200 AT BEST BUY$699 AT ADORAMA$1,500 AT HSNBest MacBook AirApple MacBook Air 2020

Sarah Tew/CNETED I T O R S ’ C H O I C EMAR 2020

This is our go-to recommendation for those in search of a MacOS laptop for everyday basic use. The MacBook Air was updated for 2020 with new processors and, most importantly, a new keyboard. Apple also dropped the entry price back down to $1,000 making its most affordable laptop more affordable. Still, it’s not exactly a bargain and you can get a lot more computer for your money if you go with Windows. Regardless, the Air remains one of the best laptops available for battery life, performance and design.  Read our Apple MacBook Air 2020 review.$999 AT APPLE$950 AT BEST BUY$989 AT ADORAMA

Read more: Best 2-in-1 PCs in 2020 for when you need a laptop and tablet in oneBest cheap laptopAcer Swift 3

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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 device has a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader and a USB Type-C port, too. It’s also incredibly light — less than 3 pounds — for a laptop that can be found for less than $600.  

We’re also fans of the Acer Aspire 5, which has a larger 15.6-inch display. It’s available in a variety of configurations starting as low as $400, but can go up to $730 if you want entry-level discrete graphics for basic gaming and content creation.   Read our Acer Swift 3 (14-inch, 2020) review.$680 AT AMAZON$830 AT WALMARTBest ChromebookLenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

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This is essentially a Chrome version of the first Microsoft Surface Go. Like the Go, the Duet is a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard and touchpad. Unlike Microsoft, though, Lenovo includes the keyboard. It also costs much less than the Go (including the new Go 2), 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.    

It is 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. $300 AT BEST BUYBest cheap gaming laptopDell G5 15

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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 $830, including a special-edition model with AMD’s impressive Ryzen 5 4600H processor.$830 AT DELLBest large screen laptop with long battery lifeLG Gram 17

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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 i7-1065G7 CPU. This is partnered with more powerful Iris Plus integrated graphics as well, giving you a little extra speed for photo and video editing and casual gaming. Read our LG Gram 17 (2020) review.$1,667 AT AMAZON$1,850 AT BEST BUY$1,847 AT ADORAMABest 2-in-1 with a penLenovo Yoga C940

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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.  Read our Lenovo Yoga C940 (14-inch) review.$1,300 AT BEST BUY$1,329 AT WALMART

Read more: Best tablets in 2020Best MacBook Pro alternativeRazer Blade Pro 17

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The Blade Pro 17 deftly straddles the line between thin-and-light 17-inch general-purpose power models like the Dell XPS 17 9700 ($2,940 at Dell, Inc.) and hulking, steroidal gaming systems like the Acer Predator Helios 700 and Gigabyte Aorus 17x ($3,982 at Amazon). Despite appearances, the Blade Pro isn’t really a competitor to the MacBook Pro. However, it does have the system performance and high-quality display you would expect from one of Apple’s top laptops. Creators will definitely want to get it with Razer’s 4K-resolution display option.  Read our Razer Blade Pro 17 (early 2020) review.$3,700 AT AMAZON$3,800 AT BEST BUY$3,600 AT ADORAMABest MacBook Air alternativeLenovo Yoga C740

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Regularly available for less than $750, 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. Read our Lenovo Yoga C740 (14-inch) review.$800 AT BEST BUY$790 AT WALMARTBest business laptopAsus ExpertBook B9450

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Asus wowed us when we first saw the B9450 at CES 2020 and again when we got to actually use it. Several novelties make the 14-inch ExpertBook B9450 stand out from a crowd of me-too business laptops, in addition to the yowza 16-plus-hour battery life as tested. Read our Asus ExpertBook B9450 review.$1,699 AT AMAZON$1,887 AT WALMARTBest gaming laptopRazer Blade Pro 17

Lori Grunin / CNET

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 Acer Predator Triton 500 review.$3,000 AT BEST BUY

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Best college laptop in 2020: Apple, Dell, Microsoft and more

Find an affordable laptop for every type of student.

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Justin JaffeAug. 12, 2020 1:10 p.m. PT

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Though the phone may be central to social life, for most college students, the laptop is the primary academic tool. It’s also likely to be one of the most significant investments. 

Students on a budget may find a tolerable entry-level laptop — with a decent hard drive, display, graphics card and battery life — for under $300. But rather than go for an ultracheap laptop, we think it’s worthwhile to spend a few hundred more on a machine with better performance, a bigger and faster SSD hard drive and longer battery life. This list of the best laptops for college students is based on our own hands-on use and benchmark testing. We update it regularly as we review new products.

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Note that most of our choices for the best laptops for college run between $500 and $1,000. If you’re looking for a less expensive college laptop — or if you’re open to an alternative to Apple’s MacOS and Microsoft Windows — we recommend checking out the best Chromebooks for students. The best budget laptop options are less expensive but still powerful enough to handle student-life basics such as email, getting on the internet, creating documents or working with spreadsheets.

If you’re looking for something that can double as a gaming laptop, has a ton of storage or can handle powerful programs like video-editing software, however, read on for our picks of the best laptops for college students.

Read more: Best laptop backpack for 2020  Best MacBook for studentsApple MacBook Air with Retina Display (2020)

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The newest Apple MacBook Air hits all the right notes: It’s back to the old $999 starting price, and it has Apple’s new Magic Keyboard, which most people prefer to the previous model’s butterfly design. Even better, this Apple laptop features current-era Intel processors, a new Force Touch trackpad and 256GB of storage for the entry-level configuration. The major drawback: The base model of this Apple MacBook Air with Retina Display features a Core i3 processor, and stepping up to the Core i5 costs an extra $100. 

Still, the brand new Apple MacBook Air and older models are frequently on sale. At the moment, the 2020 MacBook Air is available for around $950, which is a decent deal. That noted, the 2019 base configuration — which comes with an older but more powerful Core i5 processor — is still a great laptop worth a look, especially when it’s discounted to less than $900, even though you’ll be stuck with that pesky older MacBook keyboard design. Read our 2020 MacBook Air preview.$949 AT B&H PHOTOBest all-purpose Windows laptop for studentsDell XPS 13

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If you’re committed to the Windows operating system and want a balance of portability, power and price, it’s hard to find a better 13-inch laptop than the XPS 13. Dell has been making incremental improvements to this Dell XPS 13 machine for so long that it’s hard to find a flaw. For 2020, Dell made the laptop even smaller, while making the 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. Read our Dell XPS 13 review.$1,000 AT DELLBest Windows 2-in-1 for studentsMicrosoft Surface Pro 7

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The Surface Pro remains the standard-bearer for Windows devices that work as both as a Surface laptop and touch screen tablet, though this convertible laptop makes for a better tablet than it does for a laptop. (If you’re looking for the opposite, Lenovo’s two-in-one Yoga devices are better laptops than they are tablets.) In addition to the typical great performance and battery life you can expect, the seventh-edition Surface Pro finally gets a USB-C port. The Surface laptop’s super-portable size makes it ideal for high school and college students who may be carrying a lot of gear. Though this company still sells the Surface laptop Pro without its essential Type Cover keyboard and Surface Pen included, it can frequently be found for a good price– sometimes with one or both accessories. Read our Surface Pro 7 review.$599 AT BEST BUYBest entry-level gaming laptop for studentsDell G5 15

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Dell’s G series laptops deliver a smart balance of build quality, battery life and performance, with plenty of graphics card power for college students looking to play the latest AAA games when they aren’t hitting the books. The slim, compact design masks its gaming pedigree and power. And even the entry-level configuration is powerful, equipped with a 10th-gen Intel Core processor and Nvidia GTX GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU. This machine currently starts at $800, and we’ve found some higher-power configurations on sale for around $1,000.$800 AT DELLBest Chromebook for studentsLenovo Yoga Chromebook

Lenovo

The Yoga Chromebook is a versatile student laptop — and it doubles as a convincing tablet. It has a 15.6-inch 4K touchscreen display, solid battery life and, with an Intel Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM, enough performance for everyday office and entertainment tasks. The aluminum chassis gives it a premium aesthetic, and it has a comfortable keyboard and touchpad. Though it lacks some of the higher-end features you find on the company’s Windows-equivalent C740 and C940, the Chromebook version does have a privacy webcam shutter. It starts at $900 — but is often on sale for less. Read our Lenovo Yoga C740 (14-inch) review.$800 AT BEST BUY$790 AT WALMARTMost powerful gaming laptop on a student budgetAsus ROG Zephyrus S

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I reviewed the Zephyrus S in 2018 and loved its 15.6-inch HD screen size and backlit keyboard. It’s a couple of years old now, yes, but it’s solid enough for serious gaming on a student budget, with potent components for the price. Read our Asus ROG Zephyrus S review.$1,099 AT BEST BUY

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Discuss: Best college laptop in 2020: Apple, Dell, Microsoft and more

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Best MacBook Air alternatives for 2020

Here are the best non-Apple light and small laptops priced around $1,000 or less.

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Joshua GoldmanJustin JaffeAug. 13, 2020 4:00 a.m. PT

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Apple’s popular MacBook Air set the bar for years for what you could expect from a $1,000 laptop and gave you a great entry point into MacOS without having to shell out for an iMac or MacBook Pro. However, PC makers have caught up and, in some cases, surpassed what’s possible for an ultraportable laptop. 

Despite having what’s arguably the best computer operating system around, MacOS, Apple rarely delivers the best value on major components (processor, RAM and hard drive capacity), battery life, ports and connections. And the Apple MacBook Air doesn’t offer a touchscreen option — a useful feature found on an increasing number of competitive models, as well as Apple’s own wildly popular iPad and iPad Pro.

Watch this: CNET’s laptop reviewers pick their favorite 2020 laptops 4:01

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All six laptops highlighted below as MacBook Air alternative options cost roughly as much as Apple’s MacBook Air, have a 13.3-inch or slightly larger screen, weigh less than 3 pounds (1.4 kg), and are reasonably streamlined and stylish. Each will make a worthy alternative to a new MacBook. Check them out.A superb Windows laptopDell XPS 13

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If you’re a Windows person and want a balance of portability, power and price, it’s hard to find a better laptop than the XPS 13. Starting at $1,000, this lightweight laptop is attractive, easy to use, incomparably slim and offers a ton of configuration (and price) flexibility. For 2020, Dell put in a taller 13.4-inch display giving you a little more room to see your spreadsheets, but still managed to make the body overall smaller. That said, that taller display also improves users’ web browsing and streaming experiences on this Dell laptop. Dell also makes a 15-inch version, which starts at $1,000. Read our Dell XPS 13 (2020) review.$1,000 AT DELLStrong battery, great keyboardHP Spectre x360 13

Sarah Tew/CNETED I T O R S ’ C H O I C EDEC 2019

Refreshed toward the end of 2019, the HP’s premium two-in-one looks like its predecessor right up until you see them next to each other and realize just how much smaller the newer x360 is. It’s also running a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 that handily outperforms the last-gen model running a similar configuration with an Intel eighth-gen CPU. It also has a battery that kept it running for more than 10 hours in our tests. Read our HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2019) review.$1,130 AT HPMicrosoft’s laptopMicrosoft Surface Laptop 3

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The Surface Laptop 3 nails almost everything you want in a mainstream, portable laptop. It’s thin and light, has a fantastic trackpad and keyboard combo and, thanks to a processor upgrade, offers a notable power boost over 2018’s Surface Laptop 2. And it has a touch screen. The price can get high depending on the configuration, but like the rest here, it does start around $1,000Read our Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch review.$999 AT ABT ELECTRONICS$1,000 AT BEST BUY$1,299 AT ADORAMAAir-like design, but with a 2-in-1 twistLenovo Yoga C740

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Regularly available for less than $750, 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. Read our Lenovo Yoga C740 (14-inch) review.$800 AT BEST BUY$790 AT WALMARTCheap but powerfulAcer Swift 3 (14-inch, 2020)

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Featuring AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series mobile processors, the Swift 3 is a remarkable bargain for anyone in need of a low-cost, lightweight laptop for work or school. This 14-inch laptop weighs only 2.7 pounds (1.2 kg), costs around $600 and has processor performance that bests laptops twice its price. As you might expect, a couple of corners were cut to keep the price down, but if price, performance and weight are your main concerns, this will have you covered.  Read our Acer Swift 3 (14-inch, 2020) review.$680 AT AMAZON$830 AT WALMARTFor Chrome loversAsus Chromebook Flip C436

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The Asus Chromebook Flip C436 is not your ordinary Chromebook. It’s not even an ordinary premium Chromebook. Starting at $800, the ultraportable two-in-one looks and feels as good as top Windows 10 laptops like the 2020 Dell XPS 13 or Apple’s latest MacBook Air. It’s also one of the first Chromebooks to be co-engineered with Intel as part of its Project Athena program, which means it meets certain requirements that make it speedier than others. Read our Asus Chromebook Flip C436FA review.$800 AT AMAZON$800 AT ASUS

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Best 15-inch laptop of 2020 for work, gaming or both

When 13 inches is too small and 17 is too big, a 15-inch laptop from a company such as Dell, Lenovo, Apple, Acer or someone else may be just right.

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Lori GruninAug. 13, 2020 4:00 a.m. PT

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Why a 15-inch laptop? As the middle child between smaller, less powerful 13-inch laptops and more expensive, big-screen 17-inch models, 15 inches strikes the Goldilocks balance between price, performance and size for many people — at least in the US. Some other regions find 14 inches more to their liking, which is why we have so many similar laptop computer options to choose from in both sizes.

There are a lot of powerful laptops out there, so we’ve culled a lineup of our best 15-inch laptop picks based on design, performance for a given set of specs (aka, their configuration) and features for the money. Because configurations, specs, designs and availability tend to change so frequently, we’ve limited our choices for this particular roundup to laptops we’ve reviewed roughly in the past year. So, for instance, the LG Gram 15, which blew us away with its battery life and light weight back in March 2018, isn’t listed here because we haven’t run our battery tests on current configurations. 

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We’ve included both budget and premium laptops, and taken into consideration features like battery life, GPU and graphics card, processor, hard drive, SSD storage, whether or not it has a touchscreen, fingerprint reader, 4K display or a backlit keyboard, and more. Screen size shouldn’t be the only thing dictating your laptop computer purchasing decisions! 

If you’re looking for a focus on lower prices or a broader set of options, check out our picks for budget laptops and budget gaming laptops. And picking just a handful out of a sea of hundreds pretty much ensures that you’ll miss some important devices, especially if you’re looking for a more powerful laptop that’s tailored to specific needs, like video editing, so you should also head over to see our best gaming laptopstwo-in-ones and Chromebooks, as well as the best choices for college students, our picks of computers and tablets for creatives and the best MacBook Pro alternatives for the Windows set. Plus, if you just want a model with pure power or long battery life, our rankings of battery life and performance are for you. We update this list periodically with new products and information.

Read more: Best laptop backpack for 2020  Best budget 15-inch laptopAcer Aspire 5

Sarah Tew/CNETED I T O R S ’ C H O I C ENOV 2019

It’s hard to find a budget laptop that’s also thin and light, much less one that has decent performance and battery life. The Aspire, which starts at less than $500, hits all those targets and more, including a solid assortment of ports (including a USB type-C port) and easily upgradable hard drive storage and memory. It’s got a budget build, but you can’t expect everything for so little money. Read our Acer Aspire 5 (2019) review.$489 AT AMAZONBest 15-inch for work and playRazer Blade 15 Advanced

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Razer’s featureless-slab aesthetic fits seamlessly into almost any environment, making it the best 15-inch laptop for work and play. If you opt for one of the higher-end configurations and specs — like a great graphics card — the Razer Blade 15 Advanced is a great device for creative work and is a stellar gaming laptop. If you’re willing to go with a black Razer Blade and an emptied wallet (this is among the most premium laptops), you can get an Adobe RGB calibrated 4K OLED display and a GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q for $3,300. The less-expensive Base Edition starts at $1,800 and isn’t too shabby, either. Read our Razer Blade 15 Advanced review.$2,999 AT AMAZONSEE BLADE 15 BASE EDITION AT BEST BUY


Best 15-inch desktop replacementLenovo Yoga C940

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A middle ground between smaller 13-inch ultraportable two-in-ones and heavier, faster or more expensive models — it weighs about the same as a 16-inch MacBook Pro, at 4.4 pounds (2 kg) — the Yoga C940 incorporates a six-core Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 1650 Max-Q discrete graphics. The result is quite respectable performance for a two-in-one. Plus, you gain design flexibility — kiosk mode (also called “stand mode“) and tent mode (my personal favorite), which are the best ways to use a laptop with a touch screen that hangs around the house. Read our Lenovo Yoga C940 (15.6-inch) review.SEE AT BEST BUYBest mainstream 15-inch Windows laptop for photo editingDell XPS 15 9500

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If, like me, you’re not a big fan of OLED screens for photo editing — they’re not optimized for Adobe RGB and aren’t great at tonal range in the shadows — then what you need is a laptop with a good IPS display. The Dell XPS 15 9500 with the 4K screen option delivers that, and it’s not as reflective as the OLED screens I’ve seen. It doesn’t qualify as an “RTX Studio” laptop because it tops out at a GTX 1650 Ti, but that graphics processor is sufficient for most photo editing and you don’t need the Nvidia Studio drivers for most photo editing. Dell’s PremierColor software isn’t perfect, but it gives you more control over screen settings than most I’ve seen, and it’s got two Thunderbolt 3 controllers to make your external drives happy.

If you’re willing to go a little bigger for a lot more graphics power, the 17-inch XPS 17 9700 doesn’t feels smaller than it looks. Read our Dell XPS 15 9500 review.$1,300 AT DELLSEE XPS 17 9700 AT DELL


Best 15-inch ChromebookLenovo Yoga Chromebook C630

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The Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630 further expands the boundaries of what you can expect from a Chromebook in 2020. The standout feature is a terrific 15.6-inch, 4K convertible display — but it also has a complement of solid components and a sturdy, tasteful aluminum chassis (though the keyboard is a little mushy and you can’t run those few Windows- and MacOS-only applications on Chrome OS).The battery in this device should last about 10 hours after being fully charged. Like most Chromebooks, it costs hundreds less than a similarly configured Windows counterpart. Read our Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630 review.$749 AT AMAZON$630 AT BEST BUY

Best 15-inch budget gaming

Dell G5 15 5590

Sarah Tew/CNETED I T O R S ’ C H O I C ENOV 2019

Dell’s G series comprises some of the best mainstream gaming laptops you can find, with strong performance, a variety of component options and a more travel- and user-friendly design than most. Plus, battery life is a lot better than a typical gaming laptop’s, and a solid-performance base configuration starts at less than $1,000.

Note: This 2019 model is no longer available; our testing for the 2020 model is in progress, but we don’t expect it to be a weak competitor in this category. Don’t assume it will continue to be an Editors’ Choice, however. Read our Dell G5 15 5590 review.SEE G5 5500 AT DELL


Best 15-inch for creative workGigabyte Aero 15 OLED XA

Sarah Tew/CNETED I T O R S ’ C H O I C ENOV 2019

OLED displays have a combination of color gamut (100% P3) and contrast that IPS panels are struggling to match, but need calibration to keep your colors from chaos. The 15-inch Gigabyte is sleek and powerful — it’s got all the Nvidia Studio specs, it just lacks the logo, and you can download the more creative-application-focused Studio driver yourself. A color-profile switcher utility makes it more convenient to use, and it’s a well-designed laptop that performs solidly. Note that the battery life isn’t great, though better than a lot of the gaming notebooks these laptops are based on, and the webcam is in a ridiculous spot. Read our Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED review.$2,599 AT AMAZON$2,600 AT BEST BUY$2,599 AT ADORAMABest balance of speed and battery lifeApple MacBook Pro

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It may now have a 16-inch screen, but the MacBook Pro remains a 15-incher in size and spirit. I’m not a fan of the Touch Bar, but at least the keyboard’s improved, and the combination of the 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 Retina Display screen remains terrific. You pay for it, though — base price for the 16-inch MacBook Pro model is $2,399. Read our Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) review.SEE AT BEST BUYBest dual-screenAsus ZenBook Pro Duo

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Given that there are only really two dual-screen options available at the moment — the other is the fast HP Omen X 2S gaming laptop — choosing one doesn’t seem that big a deal. But the ZenBook Pro Duo has a lot going for it, including a color-accurate OLED screen plus a smaller IPS panel below it. The secondary display may be only about half an extra screen, but it’s still really useful for video editing and other tasks when you want to fit more video or photos on the main 15-inch monitor or work in a small space. The ZenBook Pro Duo’s primary OLED touchscreen display provides excellent color accuracy for Adobe RGB and P3, plus it’s got a high-powered i9-9980HK eight-core processor, making it a portable powerhouse. It’s relatively heavy for its class at 5.5 pounds, though, and the high-end model we loved costs $3,000 — don’t expect blazing speed from the less expensive Core i processor and RTX 2060 configuration (though it should be respectable). Plus, the battery life isn’t very good and the keyboard can be uncomfortable without the wrist rest. Read our Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review.SEE AT AMAZONBest 15-inch processing performanceOrigin PC Eon15-X

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It’s not for everyone — it’s not from a mainstream manufacturer and it’s not an Intel processor — but for pure speed in something smaller than a megalithic 17-inch, the Eon15-X’s Ryzen 3900 desktop processor packs in the CPU cycles, turning it into a rendering powerhouse. With its GeForce RTX 2070 it’s not quite a gaming powerhouse, though. Read our Origin PC Eon15-X (2020) review.$1,829 AT ORIGINBonus 14-inch: Best business laptop for travelersLenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen)

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Dropping down to 14 inches does confer some benefits, notably lighter weight, and since the components tend to be less powerful than in the 15-inch models, battery life is typically much better. Toss in Lenovo’s latest privacy and security updates and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon makes a great business travel companion. If you want a two-in-one instead, its sibling the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th gen) earns a similar recommendation. Read our ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen) review.$950 AT LENOVO

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Best MacBook Pro alternatives for 2020

Think different about your laptop options.

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Lori GruninAug. 3, 2020 4:00 a.m. PT

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As much as some of us may deride the MacBook Pro for its awful keyboardannoying Touch Bar and overreliance on USB-C connections, its balance of screen quality, weight, battery life and performance had no Windows-based peer for a long time. But now that OLED displays are beginning to hit the market, that balance is tipping. OLED delivers true blacks, which means high contrast, as well as a wide gamut of colors and high dynamic range that can rival or outperform the MacBook’s Retina Display.

The 16-inch update to the MacBook Pro changes things up a bit. It’s still the size of the 15-inch but slightly heavier and ditches the butterfly-switch keyboard in favor of a slightly better scissor-switch-based one (I still don’t like it). It’s basically the same, however, still with no 4K options. On the other hand, like its predecessors, its performance beats similarly configured Windows systems on a lot of tasks.

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Read more: Best MacBook Air alternatives for 2020

But even an entry-level MacBook can stretch the limits of your budget, and those who’ve set aside a nice chunk of cash might want something a little more customizable. No one can deny that one appealing thing about Windows laptops is the variety. Even when trying to imitate the offerings of a MacBook (heck, or even an iPad or iPad Pro) there are all sizes of far less expensive Chromebooks, as well as 14- and 15-inch laptops that are slightly smaller and lighter than the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but not quite as small as the 13-inch MacBook Air, across the price spectrum. Plus, we’re seeing lots of experimentation with multiscreen designs.   

Read moreBest 15 inch laptops for 2020Best 13-inch 2-in-1 alternativeHP Spectre x360

Joshua Goldman/CNETED I T O R S ’ C H O I C EDEC 2019

With longer battery life than the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the more flexible feature set of a two-in-one, the Spectre is a great choice for work and play. The backlit island keyboard is a pleasure to type on, making it great for typing on. Software-wise, the HP Spectre comes with Windows 10 Home 64, a 10th Generation Intel Core i5 processor and 256 GB SSD storage. Users are also a fan of its trackpad. Read our HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2019) review.$1,130 AT HP

Read more: The best premium midsize laptops of 2020Best 14-inch 2-in-1 alternativeLenovo Yoga C940

Sarah Tew/CNETED I T O R S ’ C H O I C EMAR 2020

Just a little bigger than a 13-inch MacBook Pro, the Yoga C940 is fast, attractive and feature packed. Plus it gives you something you can’t get in a MacBook: the 360-degree screen that lets you use it like a tablet or prop it up in a tent or kiosk configuration. Read our Lenovo Yoga C940 (14-inch) review.$1,300 AT BEST BUY$1,329 AT WALMARTBest MacBook Pro 16 alternativeDell XPS 17 9700

Lori Grunin/CNET

If, like me, you’re not a fan of OLED screens for photo editing — they’re not optimized for Adobe RGB and aren’t great at tonal range in the shadows — then what you need is a laptop with a good IPS display. The Dell XPS 17 9700 with the 4K screen option delivers that, and it’s not as reflective as the OLED screens I’ve seen. Dell’s PremierColor software isn’t perfect, but it gives you more control over screen settings than most I’ve seen, and it’s got two Thunderbolt 3 controllers to make your external drives happy. It’s heavier than the MacBook, but not much bigger, especially given its larger 17-inch screen. And while its battery life isn’t terrific, it’s performance can certainly keep up.

The Razer Blade Pro 17 is a strong runner-up here if you’re willing to trade higher performance and a similar design for a bigger, heavier model. Read our Dell XPS 17 9700 review.$2,940 AT DELL, INC.SEE RAZER BLADE PRO 17 AT AMAZON


Read more: Best two-in-one PCs in 2020 for when you need a laptop and tablet in one  Best MacBook Pro lookalikeRazer Blade Stealth

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re drawn to a MacBook Pro for its featureless-slab aesthetic, Razer’s your Windows go-to. If you want one that matches the 13-inch Pro for design, size and weight, the Stealth is your option. Razer seems to have discontinued its Mercury White version, though, so for your light-color fix you’ll have to go with the bigger 15-inch Razer Blade Advanced.

It’s priced similarly to the top-end of the smaller MacBook Pro options, and should provide better performance, since it incorporates discrete GeForce GTX 1650 Ti.  Read our Razer Blade Stealth (2019) review.$1,999 AT AMAZONSEE WHITE RAZER BLADE 15 AT RAZER.COM


Read more: Best college laptops for 2020Best for commutersDell XPS 13

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Dell’s is a 13.3-inch laptop that’s so trimmed up that the body is basically the size of an older 11.6-inch laptop. Being part of the company’s XPS line means both its chassis and components are top notch for its class, so you’re getting great battery life and performance, too. Power delivery is via USB-C and it comes with a MicroSD reader and headphone jack. Read our Dell XPS 13 (2020) review.$1,000 AT DELL

Read more: Best laptops, desktops and tablets for designers and creatives in 2020Best budget optionAsus Chromebook Flip C436

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Cheaper than even the MacBook Air with roughly the same footprint but lighter. The 14-inch C436 has the flexibility of a two-in-one if everything you do is cloud-based. Its sleek look and feel at a Chrome OS price makes it a cost-effective alternative.  Read our Asus Chromebook Flip C436FA review.

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