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The best laptops of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed

The best laptops of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed
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ZDNET’s reviewers spend weeks to months testing each laptop on this list, using it for both everyday tasks like browsing, streaming, and gaming, to more performance-intensive work like photo and video editing. We aim to give you a view into how each laptop could actually fit into your life and workflow, and the pros and cons of their various features like performance, display, and battery life.

Significant advancements in laptop technology have occurred this year, and we’re only about halfway through 2024. With the new Snapdragon X Elite processors on the way for Windows PCs, new chips looming on the horizon for MacBooks, and unprecedented leaps forward with AI technology, now is a great time to pick up a new laptop as we approach the calm before the storm of new product launches. 

Also: The best all-in-one computers: Expert tested and reviewed

If it all seems a little daunting, you’re not alone. Fortunately, we’ve gone all-in on our testing to bring our top laptops of 2024 to the forefront. The “best laptop” can mean different things to different people, so we broke our list down into the top five most common use cases and assigned a solid machine to each one. 

You can also check out some great Memorial Day laptop deals just in time for the holiday. These serious steals on various machines are all on sale this week. 

What is the best laptop in 2024?

Our pick for the best laptop overall is the MacBook Pro (M3 Max). This laptop has an incredible 22-hour battery life, powerful performance with the M3 Max chipset, and a smooth 120Hz display refresh rate, all in a compact and sleek form factor that is as portable as it is versatile. 

The best laptops of 2024: Expert tested

MacBook Pro (M3 Max)

Best laptop overall

Desktop-class laptop — that is what ZDNET’s editor-in-chief Jason Hiner called the MacBook Pro M3 Max. It’s a very apt description because the performance of this device can rival a Mac Studio. This machine can take sizeable RAW image files, process them through Adobe Photoshop’s AI Denoise feature, and remove their graininess in less than 20 seconds. That’s less than half as long as it would take on a MacBook Pro sporting an M1 Pro chip.

Review: MacBook Pro (M3 Max)

The MacBook Pro M3 Max’s performance is pushed even further thanks to its GPU’s unique architecture called Dynamic Caching, a more sophisticated form of graphics memory allocation. This allows for faster mesh shading, enabling high-quality graphics, better rendering, and even ray tracing, which you usually only see on high-end graphics cards. It also allows for more “photorealistic” lightning, perfect for enhancing immersion.

The accolades don’t stop there. The MacBook Pro M3 Max sports a stunning display capable of outputting a 120Hz refresh and 1,600 nits of peak brightness for a level of clarity people have been asking for for a long time. Plus, it’s very power efficient, allowing it to last up to 22 hours with a low-end configuration. You can activate High-Power Mode to have it fire off on all cylinders when unplugged.

If it wasn’t already clear, the MacBook Pro M3 Max is a monster. It’s arrived at a perfect time, too, because the next generation of virtual reality is here, and we’ll need this to experience Apple’s Vision Pro at its peak.

MacBook Pro M3 Max features: Display size: 14-inch and 16-inch | Display type: Liquid Retina XDR | Resolution: 3456 x 2234 pixels | RAM: Up to 128GB | Storage: Up to 8TB | CPU: 14-core M3 Max | Battery life: Up to 22 hours

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MSI Prestige 13 AI Evo

Best lightweight laptop

MSI is a well-known brand among gamers due to its wide selection of gaming laptops and accessories. However, the company also offers plenty of great everyday options. Case in point: The Prestige 13 AI Evo. Despite weighing a little over two pounds, the device packs quite a bit of muscle thanks to the Meteor Lake processor underneath.

Review: MSI Prestige 13 AI Evo

During our review, we ran the Prestige 13 through some benchmark tests to see how well it performs compared to other top picks, and the results were interesting. The numbers show MSI’s laptop performs better than a MacBook with an M1 chip. It can’t outspeed a MacBook with an M2 chip, but that’s still impressive. The M1 hardware was cutting-edge for a brief time. A computer with these specs can run hot, so MSI equipped the Prestige 13 with powerful fans to keep it cool (although they run rather loudly).

It’s important to mention that it has a stunning 2.8K (2,880 x 1,800 pixels) resolution screen supporting the entire DCI-P3 color gamut. Translated into plain English, the Prestige 13 has a gorgeous display. It is a bit of a strange laptop in that MSI installed gaming software, yet it has an Intel Arc GPU. The model isn’t great at running video games; however, that doesn’t detract from its overall quality. The machine is solid, regardless.

MSI Prestige 13 AI Evo features: Display size: 13.3 inches | Display type: OLED | Resolution: 2880 x 1800 | RAM: Up to 32GB | Storage: Up to 1TB SSD | CPU: Intel Core Ultra 7 155H | Battery life: 16 hours of video playback

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Dell XPS 16

Best Windows laptop

With so many fantastic Windows laptops out there, it was hard to pick just one, but we had to give it to the XPS 16. It is such a good computer. We feel confident that it’s good enough to become your primary device. Dell’s machine has a stunning 4K resolution display surrounded by thin bezels. Having a thin frame is a slight touch, but it makes the screen seem significantly more prominent than it is.

Review: Dell XPS 16 (2024)

Under the hood, you’re looking at an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H with a Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series graphics card. Our review unit came with an RTX 4070 GPU. Combine these specs with its 32GB of RAM (64GB max), and you’re looking at a laptop that can easily handle all demanding workloads, from gaming to video editing.

The XPS 16’s also has a stylish design. The zero lattice keyboard and the Function key touch panel give it a distinct look seen nowhere else. On the sides of the keys are the device’s room-filling speakers. We want to warn you that the XPS 16 is rather heavy and doesn’t have a wide array of ports so that you may need a docking station. Be sure to check out ZDNET’s list of the best laptop docking stations for recommendations.

Dell XPS 16 features: Display size: 16.3 inches | Display type: OLED | Resolution: 4K | CPU: Intel Core Ultra 7 155H | RAM: Up to 64GB | Storage: Up to 4TB SSD | Battery life: 12 hours

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Acer Aspire 3

Best laptop under $500

The budget-friendly Aspire 3 from Acer retails for less than $500, yet it doesn’t sacrifice power. It’s quite capable. It can run on an Intel Core i3-11154G4 processor, an integrated Intel UHD graphics card, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. If you want extra power, you can upgrade your CPU and GPU to AMD versions. For processors, you can opt for an AMD Ryzen 5 7520U, while for the graphics card, customers can install an AMD Radeon integrated GPU instead.

Also: The best VPN services of 2024: Expert tested

Altogether, this means the Aspire 3 is fantastic for different workloads. You can use it casually, for surfing the internet or doing some homework, and for more labor-intensive actions like streaming. Its 15.6-inch screen outputs a 1080 resolution image. The built-in webcam and microphone make it excellent for video calls, virtual meetings, and online learning courses.

Reviews on Amazon state that Aspire 3 is “good value for the money,” as users say they appreciate its speed and quality.

Acer Aspire 3 features: Display size: 15.6 inches | Display type: LCD | Resolution: 1080p | CPU: Intel Core i3-11154G4, Up to AMD Ryzen 5 7520U | RAM: 8GB | Storage: Up to 1TB | Battery life: 8.5 hours 

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MSI Creator Z17 HX Studio

Best laptop for content creators

The Creator Z17 HX Studio from MSI is designed from the ground up to be the ultimate machine for content creators and creative professionals. The 17-inch QHD display not only gives you excellent color, detailing, and contrast, but it also supports touch inputs via the MSI Pen 2. This is excellent for anyone who wants to take notes during client meetings, create digital drawings and paintings, or have more control over their apps and programs. 

Review: MSI Creator Z17 HX Studio

What’s particularly interesting about the MSI Pen 2 is that it can also write directly on paper via special graphite tips. This means you won’t have to carry a bunch of pencils for meetings and work. It can all be done directly on the Creator Z17.

The laptop can house up to 64GB of RAM, an Intel Core i9-13950HX processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 GPU, and a 2TB SSD, giving you all the power and performance you’ll ever need. Plus, the device supports Wi-Fi 6 for lightning wireless internet speeds. MSI saw fit to equip their hardware with Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, enabling quick file transferring, battery charging, and the ability to set up a secondary display. 

MSI Creator Z17 features: Display size: 17 inches | Display type: LCD | Resolution: 2560 x 1600 | CPU: Intel Core i9-13950HX | RAM: 64GB | Storage: 2TB SSD | Battery life: 7 hours 

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Corsair Voyager a1600

Best gaming laptop

ZDNET writer Taylor Clemons went hands-on with the Corsair Voyager a1600, and we can confidently say that it’s one of the best (if not the best) gaming laptops on the market. It’s built with an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU, AMD Radeon RX 6800M graphics card, 32GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD. This gives you tons of power and performance to handle just about any triple-A title in your library or on your wishlist and the ability to smoothly multitask for streaming on Twitch or play videos and music while you work or play games. 

Review: Corsair Voyager a1600

The laptop also has Elgato Stream Deck integration, which means you’ll get unprecedented control over your favorite programs and your computer. Additionally, it houses one of the better batteries in a gaming laptop that I’ve seen, providing about six hours of use on a full charge. And while that does sound like it’s on the shorter side, it’s an eternity for gaming laptops where you might only average three hours before you need to plug in.

Corsair Voyager a1600 tech specs: Display size: 16 inches | Display type: IPS/LCD | Resolution: 2560 x 1600 | CPU: AMD Ryxen 9 6900HS | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 2TB SSD | Battery life: 6 hours 

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ZDNET’s top pick for the best laptop is Apple’s MacBook (M3 Max, which features a stunning Liquid Retina XDR display, great performance, and promises 22 hours of battery life. This chart breaks down how the laptop stacks up with the top features on other devices, from price, to CPU/GPU, screen size, and display resolution. 

Best laptop Starting price CPU/GPU RAM/Storage
MacBook Pro (M3 Max) $3,299 M3 Max Up to 128GB, up to 8TB
MSI Prestige 13 AI Evo $949 Intel Core Ultra 7 155H, Intel Arc  Up to 32GB, up to 1TB
Dell XPS 16 $1,899 Intel Core Ultra 7, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 Up to 64GB, up to 4TB
Acer Aspire 3 $264 Up to 11th gen Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 5 7000 series, Intel or AMD integrated graphics 8GB, up to 1TB
MSI Creator Z17 HX Studio $2,829 Intel Core i9-13950HX, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 64GB, 2TB
Corsair Voyager a1600 $1,300 AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS, AMD Radeon RX 6800M 32GB, 2TB

The main question when buying a laptop is: “What do you want to do with it?” Once you’ve established that, you can focus your research on finding the right machine for you. 

For example, if you’re on the move a lot, you’ll want a good combination of flexibility, sturdiness, connectivity, security, and a long battery life. However, if you’re a largely deskbound graphic designer or content creator, you should opt for a laptop with powerful hardware. Devices with top-tier processors and graphics cards tend to be heavier than most.

Here’s a well-researched (and tested) list of our favorite laptops for a wide array of use cases. 

Buy this best laptop… If you need…
MacBook Pro (M3 Max A powerful, well-rounded laptop for the office and home. This MacBook Pro model features the new M3 Max chip, resulting in a big increase in power and performance for everything from spreadsheets and video calls to content creation.
MSI Prestige 13 AI Evo The best lightweight laptop. MSI’s Prestige 13 weighs around two pounds yet packs series muscle courtesy of its Meteor Lake processor and OLED screen.
Dell XPS 16 A Windows-based laptop. The Dell XPS 16 is sports seriously powerful hardware and is highly configurable so you can create one that meets your needs.
Acer Aspire 3 A budget-friendly laptop. The Acer Aspire 3 retails under $500, and is perfect for web browsing, classwork, and streaming.
MSI Creator Z17 HX Studio A high-end laptop for content creators. With 64GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and RTX 4070 graphics card, you’ll have plenty of power and performance for video and image editing as well as digital art and streaming.
Corsair Voyager a1600 A quality gaming laptop. The Corsair Voyager a1600 features AMD components as well as a QHD display and 2TB storage drive.

Multiple factors go into choosing the laptops for this list. We look for machines with great designs, performance, and effective storage and RAM. We also considered the different purposes for which you may need or use your laptop and the overall value (including the price point) that the laptop promises. 

  • Design: Whether your laptop is your ultimate workstation or source of entertainment, its design, display, and portability determine how you interact with the unit. 
  • Performance: For many, laptops are essential for workflow and communication. The best laptops promise efficient speed and performance, powered by the greatest and latest chipsets (like the Apple M3 Max). 
  • Storage and RAM: It’s likely you’ll use a laptop to store key documents or memories, and the best models have plenty of room for you to do so. 
  • Purpose: We strive to answer the question, “What laptop should I get if ___” as we know you have different workflow and entertainment needs and preferences, from graphic design to gaming. 
  • Value: The best laptop can be a pricey investment, so we considered qualities that assure you’ll get your money’s worth. 

There are so many great laptops out there in the world, and we get access to many of them to review. It was tricky to narrow things down to just a handful for this list. So we ultimately relied on our own experiences with these devices in order to make our selections. 

We looked at which models had the nicest displays, the best performance, the best keyboards, and so on. Our tests involve surfing the internet with the laptops in order to get a feel for them, then we put them through specific use cases. The goal here is to see what they’re capable of in real-world use.

Once all the testing is complete, the ones we liked the most are reviewed and sorted, given a specific category like best Windows laptop, and place on the list.

While the desktop form factor, especially in the form of all-in-one (AIO) devices, still exists, laptops come in various sizes and cover many use cases. They range from thin, light, and ultraportable to bulky, powerful, and deskbound. Because of how good laptops are nowadays, most people opt for sticking with a laptop to serve as their main computer. If a small laptop screen is an issue, an external monitor can be connected. 

While every computing platform has its loyal supporters, most people end up using a particular operating system because of key applications running on it, employer preferences, or budgetary constraints. Windows, which ranges from budget to premium, and Apple’s MacOS, which is exclusive to premium devices, cover a broad spectrum. Chrome OS is mostly limited to mid-range devices.

Also: The best lightweight laptops you can buy: Expert tested

All Windows devices listed here meet the requirements for Windows 11. If you purchase a device with Windows 10 installed, you will be able to upgrade to Windows 11 if you choose to do so. Note that after October 14, 2025, Windows 10 support will end, and there will be no further security patches or feature updates.

In general, the leading PC vendors have the most extensive range of offerings and the best-documented track records for product development and customer relations. Therefore, if you do not have a specialized use case or budgetary constraints, you will typically consider vendors such as Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, or Asus. These vendors currently lead the PC market in terms of shipments, along with several other well-known brands.

The good news is that you don’t need to have the biggest, best, newest components to get a decent gaming laptop. To play most triple-A and indie titles, we recommend a rig with at least 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, a 120Hz refresh rate for the display, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card. 

Also: Best gaming laptops you can buy right now

And if you want to try your hand at content creation, something like the Corsair Voyager a1600 is a sure bet. You might also want to consider equipping with accessories. An Elgato Steam Deck integration, for example, can offer streamlined workflows when editing videos, livestreaming, and even setting up video calls with channel moderators or collaborators.

It really depends on the student, but there are some common factors to consider when shopping for a laptop for school. You’ll want something small and lightweight for easier commutes to and from school, as well as in between classes. 

Also: The best laptops for college students 

You’ll also want something with at least an 8-hour battery life to get through a typical school day without needing to plug in (which is excellent for younger kids who may be forgetful and leave their charging cable at home). Also look for a laptop with at least 4GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and cloud-storage backup to create duplicate copies of important files and classwork. You’ll also want to avoid laptops with dedicated graphics cards aimed toward gaming to help cut down misuse and procrastination

Whether you’re looking for a single laptop for yourself or a fleet for your business, the best laptops for work not only offer great performance but also multiple connectivity options and durable builds. 

You’ll want to look for a model that has at least 8GB of RAM, a 512GB storage drive, a quad-core CPU, and a display that is large enough to work on without being too bulky to travel with. You’ll also want a model with, at least,  8 hours of battery life to get through a typical shift without needing to plug in.

We strongly recommend getting a MacBook Pro (M3 Max) and purchasing Final Cut Pro, an editing software exclusive to the Mac ecosystem. There’s also the option of buying the 16-inch MacBook Pro from early 2023. It sports an M2 Max chip and offers great performance for content creators. The machine can handle 4TB of footage with ease.

Review: Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Max, 2023): A content creator’s dream machine

Therefore, Apple MacBook Pros are a popular choice as are any laptops with powerful processors, dedicated graphics cards, and high-resolution displays such as the Dell XPS 13 and 15. 

There are many laptops on the market other than those listed above. If you’re still looking around, consider these alternative best laptops we’ve tested.

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ZDNET writer Taylor Clemons also contributed to this list.

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