Whether you work from home, go to an office or just want something to keep yourself entertained, a good laptop is all but a necessity these days. But with so many brands and models to choose from, finding the right notebook for you can be overwhelming.
That’s where we come in. We extensively test the latest laptops on the market from the likes of Apple, Dell and Samsung in order to help you figure out what’s actually worth spending your money on. Whether you’re in search of the perfect MacBook, a tricked-out gaming notebook or just something basic for your daily emails, here are our picks for the best laptops you can buy now.
MacBook Air M2
The MacBook Air M2 is the best Apple laptop for most people, perfect for everyday multitasking and able to handle a good amount of gaming and video editing. It’s the fastest laptop you can get for the money, and an especially big upgrade if you’re coming from an Intel-powered Mac.
The best laptop overall: MacBook Air M2
The MacBook Air M2 is the new gold standard for Apple laptops, marrying some of the best performance we’ve ever seen in a notebook with an overhauled and attractive design that has lots of practical benefits.
The biggest refresh to the MacBook Air in over a decade, Apple’s new laptop ditches the iconic wedged look of old in favor of a more uniform chassis that’s in line with the latest 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros. And while it doesn’t appear slimmer than the M1 Air at first glance, it actually is, with pleasingly thin 11.3-millimeter edges and a 2.7-pound body that’s marginally lighter than its predecessor. That all translates to a laptop that we’ve found incredibly easy to pick up, and one that we barely felt in our backpack while on the go.
The M2 Air also adopts all of the modern niceties of the larger MacBook Pros, including the display. You get a noticeable amount of extra screen space compared to the previous MacBook Air (and the new M2 MacBook Pro) at 13.6 versus 13.3 inches, plus the M2 ditches the thick black borders of old for a thin, seamless bezel, while content still pops with plenty of color and detail.. Apple’s Magic Keyboard feels as great as ever on the latest Air, and you get satisfying, full-size function keys for making quick adjustments — no dreaded Touch Bar here.
Perhaps the biggest physical upgrade to the M2 Air is the revamped MagSafe charger, which, like on the bigger MacBook Pros, allows you to easily attach and detach the charging cable with a quick magnetic snap. On top of reducing the chances that your laptop goes flying after someone trips on your wire, the MagSafe port also frees up the two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports for your accessories. We still wish the MacBook Air’s port selection wasn’t so slim (the larger MacBook Pros have HDMI, an SD card reader and an additional USB port), but the addition of MagSafe is a welcome one — as is the nice color-matched braided cable and compact charging brick that includes an extra port for charging your phone.
Other notable upgrades include a 1080p webcam that looks marginally better than the 720p one on previous models, as well as a more robust sound system that pumps out rich (but not speaker-replacing) audio. And then there’s the Air’s new Apple M2 processor, which makes it one of the fastest laptops we’ve ever tested.
The MacBook Air M2 held up to our usual multitasking workload (a mix of email, video calls, Slack, Discord and way too many Chrome tabs) without ever breaking a sweat, and stayed cool and quiet during hours of light music production in Ableton Live. But our benchmark results tell the real story. The MacBook Air posted the highest single-core result we’ve ever gotten on Geekbench 5 (which measures general performance), and came impressively close to the new MacBook Pro M2 when it came to multi-core and graphics capabilities. We also saw roughly a 16% gain in overall performance scores compared to the MacBook Air M1 from 2020. You can certainly do some light gaming on this machine, though we saw low framerates and an excess of heat when running Shadow of the Tomb Raider at its maximum settings. That highlights one of the few advantages of the otherwise dated $1,299 MacBook Pro M2, which sports an internal fan for better sustained performance under pressure.
The MacBook Air M2 frequently got us through long workdays with plenty of battery to spare, largely matching up to Apple’s 18-hour battery rating. However, on our more intensive battery test, which consists of continuous 4K video playback, the MacBook Air’s 5 hours and 21 minutes of runtime fell to the new MacBook Pro by about 45 minutes. Expect great day-to-day endurance, but definitely keep a charger handy for gaming or video-editing sessions.
The new MacBook Air’s biggest caveat is its price — starting at $1,199, it’s $200 more expensive than the still-excellent MacBook Air M1. You’ll get marginally better performance from the M2 chip, but the real question is this: Are you willing to pay an extra $200 for a bigger display, a better webcam, a sleeker design and a useful MagSafe charger? If the answer is yes, and if you’re coming from an Intel-powered Mac or getting your first MacBook, then the MacBook Air M2 is the best laptop you can buy. But if you’re on a budget and can live without those modern conveniences, the $999 (and often discounted) MacBook Air M1 remains an excellent purchase.
Other laptops we recommend
Dell XPS 13
The Dell XPS 13 is the best Windows laptop you can buy, offering a stunning display, a great keyboard and long battery life within an attractive, slim design that’s easy to take anywhere.
MacBook Pro 14inch
The 14-inch MacBook Pro offers beastly performance for serious power users, as well as the best ports, display and speakers you can find on a MacBook.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8
The Surface Pro 8 delivers fast performance, a vivid display and an excellent keyboard within a versatile, detachable design. It’s also a much better value than the newer Surface Pro 9, which doesn’t add much beyond slightly faster processors and an optional 5G variant.
Asus ROG Strix G15
The Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition offers the best combination of performance, battery life, features and value of any gaming laptop we’ve tested, all packed into an attractive and highly customizable design.
How our recommendations compare
|MacBook Air M2||Dell XPS 13||MacBook Pro 14inch||Microsoft Surface Pro 8||Asus ROG Strix G15|
|Display||13.6-inch, 2560 x 1664 Liquid Retina display||13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200 display||14.2-inch, 3024 x 1964 Liquid Retina XDR display||13-inch, 2880 x 1920 display||15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 and 300 Hz display|
|Processor||Apple M2||12th Gen Intel Core i5 / i7||Apple M1 Pro or M1 Max||11th Gen Intel Core i5 / i7||AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX with AMD Radeon RX 6800M graphics|
|Memory||8GB / 16GB / 24GB||8GB / 16GB / 32GB||16GB / 32GB / 64GB (M1 Max only)||8GB / 16GB / 32GB||16GB|
|Storage||256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB SSD||512GB / 1TB SSD||512GB / 1TB / 2TB / 4TB / 8TB||128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB||512GB|
|Camera||1080p FaceTime HD||720p|
1080p FaceTime HD
|1080p front camera, 1080p rear camera with 4K video||N/A|
|Ports||Thunderbolt 4 (2), MagSafe charging port, headphone jack||Thunderbolt 4 (2), microSD card slot (USB-C to USB-A adapter included)||Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (3), SDXC card slot, HDMI port, MagSafe charging port, headphone jack||Thunderbolt 4 (2), Surface Connect port, headphone jack||USB-C (1), USB-A (3), HDMI, Ethernet port, headphone jack|
|Battery Life||Up to 18 hours||Up to 12 hours||Up to 17 hours||Up to 16 hours||8 hours|
|Size and Weight||11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches, 2.7 pounds||11.63 x 7.86 x 0.55 inches, 2.59 pounds||12.31 x 8.71 x 0.61 inches, 3.5 pounds||11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches, 1.96 pounds||13.8 x 10.2 x 1.1 inches, 5.5 pounds|