The best laptops of 2021

The best laptops of 2021
RyDesk

The best laptops of 2021

Whether you’re making the switch from a desktop machine to something more portable, looking at an all-in-one gaming beast, or just after an upgrade on your existing laptop, now’s a great time to compare the best laptops around.

Here at TechRadar, we review all the latest and greatest notebooks, ultrabooks and 2-in-1s, so we have the benefit of being able to thoroughly weigh up their pros and cons.

Apple has really come out swinging with its own M1 chipset and, for the first time in quite a while, their MacBook Air and MacBook Pro have beaten out many of the powerful Windows competition (including the almighty Dell XPS 13).

There are also some excellent ultra-affordable options in the Chromebook category if you’re just after a machine for some casual browsing and document editing to take on the go.

If you’re unsure where to start, at the foot of the page we’ve put together a quick buying guide to steer you in the right direction – are you a gamer or do you need something affordable and versatile?

Best laptops in New Zealand 2021 at a glance

  1. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
  2. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
  3. Apple MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)
  4. Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)
  5. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
  6. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6
  7. Acer Swift 3
  8. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook
  9. Asus TUF Dash F15
  10. Asus VivoBook S15

The best laptops of 2021:

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Apple MacBook Air

(Image credit: Apple)

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Apple MacBook Air

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

The best laptop of 2021

CPU: Apple M1 | Graphics: Integrated 7-core /8-core GPU | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) 2,560 x 1,600 LED-backlit display with IPS technology | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD | Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.61cm; W x D x H)

Silent to use
Amazing battery life
No new design
Fanless design could impact performance

The new Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) isn’t just the best laptop Apple has ever made, it’s also the best value laptop money can buy right now. This is definitely the highest placement an Apple laptop has ever found itself in one of our lists, but the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is worthy of this spot. Thanks to the revolutionary ARM-based Apple M1 chip that powers the new MacBook Air (Apple has ditched Intel for these new laptops), this is a stunning achievement: a thin and light laptop that offers great performance, even with 4K video editing, while also offering incredible battery life. Easily managing over 11 hours on a single charge, this is a laptop you can easily carry around with you at work or school, and its price is decently competitive compared to Windows 10 rivals (for once). Running both new and old Mac apps, the new MacBook Air can now also run iOS apps for iPhone and iPads, giving it access to hundreds of brilliant mobile applications and games as well.

Even if you’ve only ever used Windows laptops before, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is well worth getting and making the jump to macOS. Yes, it really is that good.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review

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Best laptop 2021: Surface Laptop 4

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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Best laptop 2021: Surface Laptop 4

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Best laptop 2021: Surface Laptop 4

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Best laptop 2021: Surface Laptop 4

(Image credit: Microsoft)

2. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

The best Windows laptop

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 /AMD Ryzen 5 – 7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Xe / AMD Radeon | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense (2,256 x 1,504) touch | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Comfortable keyboard
Beautiful screen
Not enough ports
Alcantara fabric might get gross over time

While Apple blew us away with the new MacBook Air (above), arch rival Microsoft has also impressed us with its new Surface Laptop 4, landing straight in at number 2 of our best laptops 2021 list. As with previous Surface devices, build quality and design is absolutely top-notch here, and its gorgeous PixelSense touchscreen really sets it apart from the competition (a touchscreen is something we’ve yet to see on an Apple laptop, as Microsoft likes to remind us).

It also comes with a brilliant keyboard that’s a joy to type on, and some pretty great specs as well, which ensures that Windows 10, and all your favourite apps, run extremely well. Battery life is also very impressive – lasting over 13 hours in our tests – and the price is impressively competitive as well. If you’re looking for the best laptop of 2021 that runs Windows 10, this is it.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

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Amazon Boxing Day sales

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MacBook Pro deals sales

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3. Apple MacBook Pro 13 (M1, 2020)

The best ultrabook of 2021

CPU: Apple M1 | Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) 2,560 x 1,600 LED-backlit display with IPS technology | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD | Dimensions: 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56cm; W x D x H

Silent to use
Amazing battery life
No new design
Fanless design could impact performance

While the most recent MacBook Air is arguably the laptop in Apple’s latest lineup to benefit most from the brand new M1 chip, the MacBook Pro’s upgrade makes it the most compelling ultrabook the tech giant has ever offered. Well and truly a household name at this stage, the MacBook Pro has finally earned its place further up our list thanks to the tech giant ditching Intel and designing its own chip (M1). With the best performance-to-battery life ratio we’ve seen on an Apple laptop to date, the Pro is classy, stylish, powerful, and comfortably portable. While the Dell XPS 13 above is the best Windows machine on offer, this MacBook performs better for its price, has a gorgeous display, and can now run iOS apps natively.

If you’ve been a Windows fan to date and need a little more than the M1 Air above has to offer, this could be the machine that makes you jump ship.

Dell XPS 13 9310

(Image credit: Dell)

4. Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

Return of the king

CPU: 11th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Xe | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Screen: 13.4-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – 4K (3840 x 2160) | Storage: 512GB – 1TB SSD

Gorgeous design
Big CPU and GPU boost
Excellent battery life
Expensive

This is the second XPS 13 that Dell released in 2020 (also known as the 9310, being more recent than the 9300 launched earlier in the year), and thankfully it does a lot more to offer excellent value for Aussies than its predecessor. This ‘New XPS 13’ packs in the 11th-gen Intel Core processors, as well as the superbly impressive Iris Xe, integrated GPU – an upgrade that almost doubles its graphical prowess. This means that not only is the XPS 13 9310 a great option for business and everyday use with its gorgeous, sleek design and powerful innards, but it’s now viable for casual gamers. It’s also sporting the upgraded ‘Infinity Edge’ display which dramatically reduces bezels and the overall size of the unit.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020) review

Asus Zephyrus G14

The Asus Zephyrus G14 is an absolute beast of a laptop. (Image credit: Asus)

5. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

The ultimate blend of work and play

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4800HS – 9 4900HS | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 | RAM: Up to 32GB | Screen: 14-inch Non-glare Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS-level panel, 120Hz – 14-inch Non-glare WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS-level panel, 60Hz | Storage: 512GB / 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0

Best battery life in a gaming laptop
Excellent performance
Thin and light
No webcam
Fans can get loud

We know, this is technically a gaming laptop, but for those that want to balance work and play, there’s little else out there that’s better value than the Zephyrus G14 right now. It’s worth noting that it’s missing a webcam and a Thunderbolt 3 port, so if that’s a concern this isn’t for you, but its solid battery life, compact form, and powerful specs do a fine job at balancing everything that you’ll need from a laptop. This is an absolute beast for performance, with its AMD Ryzen 4000 processors and Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card, best-in-class battery life that will last you all day long, a fast display with a 120Hz refresh rate and a lightweight, ultrathin design. The best part is that you’re getting all that without burning a hole in your pocket. Don’t get us wrong; it isn’t cheap. However, for a laptop this impressive, we’re surprised Asus isn’t asking for more.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop with the screen open

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop folded backwards in tent mode

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop with keyboard folded backwards

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop with the screen open

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop in tablet mode with a document showing on the screen

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6. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6

The best 2-in-1 laptop of 2021

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Screen: 14-inch, 1920 x 1200p, IPS touchscreen | Storage: up to 2TB SSD

Outstanding performance
Excellent battery life
Expensive compared to other 2-in-1 laptops

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 is the latest refresh for Lenovo’s flagship 2-in-1 business laptop and the addition of Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors with Iris Xe graphics, along with Intel Evo certification, make it one of the best 2-in-1 laptops we’ve tested.

Add in the outstanding 16:10 touchscreen display, garaged stylus, and excellent battery life, and there’s very little that we can find fault with here. It’s got a great selection of ports that puts the MacBook Air to shame, but it does miss an SD card slot, which some creatives may be disappointed to learn.

But apart from that, and a bit of a straight-laced design (as a ThinkPad device, this is a laptop aimed primarily at business users), the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 is easily one of the best laptops to come out in 2021, especially if you’re looking for something that can be used as both a traditional laptop and as a tablet-like device as well.

Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6

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Acer Swift 3

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Acer Swift 3

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Acer Swift 3

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Acer Swift 3

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7. Acer Swift 3

The best budget laptop in the world

CPU: up to Intel Core i7-8565U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX150, Intel HD Graphics 620 or AMD Radeon Vega 8 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS – 15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) | Storage: 128GB – 1 TB HDD, 16 GB Intel Optane Memory

Superb keyboard and trackpad
Excellent performance
Very reasonably priced
Looks a little plain

Beyond the Acer Swift 3’s modest exterior, you’ll find an excellent laptop that boasts plenty of power for work and study. The Swift 3 (not to be confused with the Switch 3 another laptop from Acer) is an inexpensive laptop; however, that plain chassis is all-aluminum and packed with beefy components.

In terms of performance, it gets surprisingly close to the far more expensive Microsoft Surface Laptop. Its display is a little lower-res, but the two are otherwise strikingly similar – other than the price.

This laptop is incredible to use as well, with its roomy trackpad as well as its backlit keyboard that offers a comfortable typing experience with decent travel. If you’re going to be writing a lot – whether you’re traveling or at the office, this is one of the best budget laptops 2021 has on offer.

Read the full review: Acer Swift 3

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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

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8. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

The best affordable Chromebook

CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T Processor | Graphics: ARM G72 MP3 800GHz | RAM: 4 GB LPDDR4X | Screen: 10.1″ FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS, glossy, touchscreen, 400 nits | Storage: 64 GB eMMC

Lightweight and portable
Long battery life
Very affordable
Tiny keyboard and finicky trackpad
Charger and headphones share a single port

Lenovo doesn’t just make some of the best laptops in the world, it also makes some of the best Chromebooks as well, and the brilliant Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook proves how good these Chrome OS-powered laptops really are. It can be used as a laptop or a tablet, and it’s backed up by some very impressive specs.

Is it a Chromebook or is it a tablet? Well, luckily, you won’t have to decide with the brilliant Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook. True to its name, this Chromebook delivers two form factors in one, while utilizing the versatility of the Chrome OS and setting you back much less than many of the top Windows tablets out there.

Like all the best Chromebooks, its battery packs an incredibly long life of almost 22 hours – so you could pull an all-nighter, work through the day and mid-afternoon, and you’ll still pass out before it runs out of juice.

For this price, sacrifices have to be made, naturally – the keyboard is tiny, the trackpad isn’t as reliable, and the charger and headphones share one port. However, if budget is your top priority, those are definitely not deal-breakers.

Read the full review: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

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Asus TUF Dash F15

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Asus TUF Dash F15

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Asus TUF Dash F15

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Asus TUF Dash F15

(Image credit: Asus)

9. Asus TUF Dash F15

The best affordable gaming laptop

CPU: Up to Intel Core i7-11375H | Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 | RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4-3200 | Screen: Up to 15.6-inch WQHD anti-glare 165Hz IPS-level display with Adaptive Sync | Storage: Up to 1TB SSD

Long battery life
Strong gaming performance
No webcam
Keyboard lighting color can’t be changed

If the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED above is out of your price range, then the Asus TUF Dash F15 is a decent alternative if you’re looking for a machine that can play the latest games, but doesn’t blow a hole in your bank balance.

Asus’ TUF lineup of laptops have been earning plaudits for their excellent value for money, and the new Asus TUF Dash F15 continues that fine tradition. With excellent build quality, a brilliant battery for a gaming laptop, and an impressively thin and light design, this is easily one of the best gaming laptops money can buy right now.

It also features Intel Tiger Lake processors, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 mobile GPUs, and up to a 240Hz 1080p display.

Read the full review: Asus TUF Dash F15

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ASUS VivoBook S15

(Image credit: Asus)

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ASUS VivoBook S15

The Asus VivoBook S15 is the best affordable laptop (Image credit: Asus)

The Asus VivoBook S15 is the best mid-range laptop

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ASUS VivoBook S15

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ASUS VivoBook S15

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10. Asus VivoBook S15

The best budget 15-inch laptop

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Screen: 15.6-inch full HD (1920 x 1080) | Storage: 512GB SSD

Bright, colorful 15.6-inch screen
Weighs just 1.8kg
Average battery life
ScreenPad is a bit weird…

The new Asus VivoBook S15 hasn’t been out for long, and it’s made its way straight into our best laptops list. This is because it combines a thin and light design with great performance and an excellent price.

If you’re looking for a mid-range laptop that doesn’t cost too much, but still performs brilliantly, then this is the best laptop for you.

Thanks to its powerful Intel processor, 8GB of RAM and fast SSD storage, this is a laptop that can handle almost any task with ease – though gaming is out of the question. Its 15.6-inch screen is bright and vibrant, and it has loads of ports that makes it easy to hook up your favorite peripherals.

However, it doesn’t have the longest battery life for a laptop, and the ScreenPad, which replaces the traditional touchpad below the keyboard with a touchscreen, takes a bit of getting used to.

Read the full review: Asus VivoBook S15

Which type of laptop is best for you?

General laptops: This broader category is dedicated to devices that focus more on practicality than style, portability or power. That’s not to say they can’t be fast, but you’ll typically find a non-Ultrabook clamshell laptop with an HD screen and spinning drive-based storage for less than NZ$1,000.

Ultrabooks: Where you’ll find thin-and-light notebooks sporting SSD storage and display resolutions that exceed 1080p. Paired with powerful, albeit mobile-centric components and especially long battery life, the best Ultrabooks will cost a pretty penny – closer to NZ$1,000 to NZ$3,000.

2-in-1 laptops: Where notebooks that double as tablets are located. Outfitted with both detachable and 360-degree rotating hinges, these hybrids are the most versatile way to experience Windows 10 (or Chrome OS) on a touchscreen.

Chromebooks: Where you’ll find the best Chromebooks running Chrome OS. These do much of what Windows and macOS can in the browser, focused on cloud storage over local, while recently getting Android app support for touchscreen models. They generally cost less than NZ$700.

Gaming laptops: Need a laptop to play games (almost) just like a shiny desktop PC can? Then you’ll want one of the best gaming laptops. These machines generally cost more than NZ$1,500 and can quickly get into the NZ$5,000 range for the beastlier models.