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Best laptops in SA for 2021 - the perfect productivity tools

Included in this guide:

best laptops
You’ll find the best laptop for your needs on this list. (Image credit: Future)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Staying productive while on the move can be challenging if you're not properly equipped. On the other hand mobile productivity can be a stress-free experience if you're fitted with one of the laptops on this list.

Every aspect of these laptops has been rigorously tested from the quality of the build and the materials used to the processing power, portability and, most importantly, the battery life. 

While you will find many of the traditional flagships here, like the Dell XPS 15 and the latest Apple MacBook Air, you will also find more affordable options like the Acer Swift 3 and older models like the HP Envy x360 (2019).  

They're not cheap of course. For that you should our check line up of best budget laptops. Otherwise here are the best laptops available in South Africa right now.

And remember to check back week to week to see what new models have made the list.

The best laptops 2020 at a glance

  1. Apple MacBook Air (M1)
  2. Dell XPS 15 
  3. HP Spectre x360 
  4. Dell XPS 13 
  5. Acer Swift 3
  6. Apple MacBook Pro (2019)
  7. Asus TUF Dash F15
  8. HP Elite Dragonfly
  9. HP Envy x360 13 (2019)
  10. Asus VivoBook S15
  11. Asus VivoBook S14 S433
  12. MS Surface Laptop 3

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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)

The best laptop of 2020

Specifications
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)
Reasons to buy
+Silent to use+Amazing battery life
Reasons to avoid
-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 the best laptop money can buy right now. This is the first time a MacBook has topped our best laptops list, 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 incredibly competitive compared to Windows 10 rivals like the Dell XPS 15 (below). 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: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

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Dell XPS 15

(Image credit: Dell)
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Dell XPS 15

(Image credit: Dell)

2. Dell XPS 15

The best laptop of 2020

Specifications
CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics - Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti
RAM: 8GB – 64GB
Screen: 15.6" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS - UHD+ (3840 x 2400)
Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Fast performance+Eye-catching design
Reasons to avoid
-GTX 1650 Ti is a little weak-15-inch screen might be too large for some

The Dell XPS 15 ticks pretty much every box when it comes to what we want from a laptop. The end result is that the Dell XPS 15 (2020) is about as close to perfect as a laptop can get and one of the best Dell laptops to date; there's really not a lot we can fault it for. It's got some of the latest, and best, mobile tech from Intel, and can even be configured with a discrete GPU, making it adept at images and as for video editing software, and even a spot of light gaming.

It also features one of the finest designs we've seen in a laptop, and is arguably the most stylish Windows 10 laptop on the market right now. Battery life is also phenomenal, and the price, while high, isn't that bad considering what you get. If the 15-inch screen is a little too big, then the Dell XPS 13 (also on this list) is worth considering, as is the MacBook Air above.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 15 (2020)

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the best laptop: HP Spectre x360

(Image credit: HP)
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the best laptop: HP Spectre x360

(Image credit: HP)
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the best laptop: HP Spectre x360

(Image credit: HP)

3. HP Spectre x360

The best 13-inch laptop

Specifications
CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS BrightView micro-edge WLED-backlit multitouch – 13.3" diagonal 4K (3840 x 2160) UWVA BrightView micro-edge AMOLED multitouch
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Stylish and high-quality finish+Great all-around performance
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life takes a hit-Can run hot at times

The HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 laptop has had a big refresh for 2020, and the boost in specs, with 10th-generation Intel Core processors and Intel Iris Plus graphics, along with the impeccable 2-in-1 design and pristine gem-cut chassis, means that the new version has a well-deserved spot towards the top of our best laptops list.

HP has been on a roll of late, with the excellent HP Elite Dragonfly also appearing high in our best laptops list (you'll find it a few places below), but when it comes to build quality, design and pure performance, the HP Spectre x360 (2020) is by far the best 13-inch laptop you can buy right now in 2020.

While it's certainly pricey, you're getting some excellent extras, such as formidable security features and Bang & Olufsen speakers. If you care about aesthetics as much as you do performance and overall quality, this is the laptop for you.

Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 (2020) 

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Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

(Image credit: Dell)
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Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

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Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

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Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

(Image credit: Dell)
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Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

(Image credit: Dell)

4. Dell XPS 13

Dell does it again

Specifications
CPU: Up to 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1165G7
Graphics: Up to Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: Up to 32GB 4267MHz LPDDR4x
Screen: 13.4" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit – 13.4" UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit Display
Storage: Up to 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe
Reasons to buy
+Stunning design+Gorgeous 16:10 display+Excellent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Sound quality is just OK-Pricey

At this point, we doubt that the Dell XPS line can do anything wrong. Its yearly updates have consistently made it to our best laptops list, and they’re only getting better. The Dell XPS 13 (2020) is not only a gorgeous piece of kit. It also comes, as expected, with excellent performance, a stunning display and long battery life, alongside a few others. Much like its predecessor, it’s a pricey investment – but that is barely reason enough for us to discourage Ultrabook fans. This is among the best laptops of 2020, and it’s worth every penny.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 (2020) 

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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

(Image credit: Acer)

5. Acer Swift 3

The best budget laptop in the world

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Superb keyboard and trackpad+Excellent performance+Very reasonably priced
Reasons to avoid
-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 2020 has on offer.

Read the full review: Acer Swift 3

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MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

(Image credit: Apple)
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MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

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MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

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MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

(Image credit: Apple)

6. Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

The best Apple laptop ever

Specifications
CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M – Radeon Pro 5500M
RAM: 16GB – 64GB
Screen: 16-inch Retina display with True Tone
Storage: 512GB – 8TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Stunning 16-inch screen+New and improved keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Limited to four Thunderbolt 3 ports

While we are sad that the 15-inch MacBook Pro is no more, we’ve welcomed the MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) with open arms. As thin, light and sleek as ever, you wouldn’t think this was a 16-inch behemoth. 

Yet, you’re getting that extra real estate on that stunning display, as well as the latest and greatest components behind it. This is, without a doubt, the best MacBook for content creators, designers and other creative professionals. With amazing (and loud) speakers and a much, much better keyboard to boot.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

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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)
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Asus TUF Dash F15

(Image credit: Asus)

9. Asus TUF Dash F15

The best affordable gaming laptop

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Long battery life+Strong gaming performance
Reasons to avoid
-No webcam-Keyboard lighting color can't be changed

If the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 above is out of your price range, then the Asus TUF Dash F15 will be the best laptop for 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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HP Elite Dragonfly

(Image credit: HP)
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HP Elite Dragonfly

(Image credit: HP)
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HP Elite Dragonfly

(Image credit: HP)
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HP Elite Dragonfly

(Image credit: HP)
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HP Elite Dragonfly

(Image credit: HP)

7. HP Elite Dragonfly

The best 2-in-1 laptop

Specifications
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB - 16GB
Screen: 13.3" diagonal Full HD touch display – Full HD touch Sure View display
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Impeccable design+Excellent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty expensive

This laptop from HP is our pick for the best business laptop – put simply, this is one of the most stylish and slimline laptops you'll ever see, and it's also packed with some brilliant features and powerful components.

While the HP Elite Dragonfly is primarily aimed at business users, don't let that put you off. Its incredible design and gorgeous screen makes this the best laptop for anyone who can afford it. Battery life is excellent, the keyboard is a joy to type on, and it also has LTE connectivity. This lets you plug in a SIM card and access mobile internet wherever you are, without having to connect to slow (and potentially compromised) Wi-Fi hotspots.

It's expensive, but if you can afford it, it's easily one of the best laptops of 2020.

Read the full review: HP Elite Dragonfly

HP Envy x360 13 (2019)

(Image credit: HP)

8. HP Envy x360 13 (2019)

The best affordable 2-in-1

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 3300U – AMD Ryzen 7 3700U
Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 6 – Radeon Vega 10
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3" diagonal FHD IPS (1,920 x 1,080)
Storage: 256 GB – 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Slim and sleek for a 2-in-1+High quality chassis+Improved battery life
Reasons to avoid
-CPU performance merely adequate-Graphics performance disappointing

Thanks to its sleek, 13-inch design, this 2-in-1 is leaner that you might have expected, which works in your favor when engaging it in tablet mode. There are other compelling reasons why the HP Envy x360 (2019) is worth considering when you’re on the lookout for the best laptops, especially in the 2-in-1 form factor. 

This HP beauty offers a premium build, boasts 9 hours of video playback and delivers a performance that will get you through most of your schoolwork and project, at a very reasonable price.

Read the full review: HP Envy x360 (2019)

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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

(Image credit: Asus)
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ASUS VivoBook S15

(Image credit: Asus)

9. Asus VivoBook S15

The best budget 15-inch laptop

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: 8GB DDR4
Screen: 15.6-inch full HD (1920 x 1080)
Storage: 512GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Bright, colorful 15.6-inch screen+Weighs just 1.8kg
Reasons to avoid
-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

Asus Vivobook S14

Asus Vivobook S14 (Image credit: asus)

10. Asus VivoBook S14 S433

Great form factor and build quality

Specifications
CPU: 10th-generation Intel i7
Graphics: Nvidia® GeForce MX250
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; touch)
Storage: 512GB SSD
Weight: 1,4kg
Reasons to buy
+Great in-hand feel
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly expensive

It might be priced above the mid-range but you're getting a well-appointed PC for your buck. The compact shape is neatly finished with diamond cut bevelled edges, which make it a delight to handle, and the all-aluminium alloy chassis ensures there is none of the flex we associate with most affordable ultrabooks. 

The keyboard is remarkably spacious for its small footprint, and the key travel was very comfortable too for marathon typing sessions. We also like the fingerprint sensor built into the trackpad which speeds up logins and access to web sites and services. As a nice bonus you can get an optional Nvidia MX250 gaming graphics chip which will handle most games, albeit with settings turned down. 

Read the full review: ASUS VivoBook S14 S433 

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Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 shows Microsoft can produce one of the best laptops in the world (Image credit: Microsoft)
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Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

11. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

The best laptop by Microsoft

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5 - i7 / AMD Ryzen 5 / AMD Ryzen 7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics / AMD Radeon Vega 9 / AMD Radeon RX Vega 11
RAM: 8GB - 16GB
Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense (2,256 x 1,504) / 15-inch PixelSense (2,496 x 1,664)
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Excellent battery life +Choice of Intel or AMD CPU
Reasons to avoid
-No Thunderbolt 3 option-Too few ports for its size

With the third version of the Surface Laptop 3, Microsoft has made its best laptop yet. While it's not a huge leap over its predecessor, the Surface Laptop 3 does improve on almost every aspect. 

Best of all, with the 15-inch version you now get a choice of either Intel or AMD hardware. Previously, only Intel tech was included. Elsewhere, the Surface Laptop 3 continues the Surface Laptop's reputation for being a stunningly designed laptop. 

These are some of the most desirable laptops in the world that don't have a logo of an apple on them, with a new aluminium body that gives it a premium feel, while protecting it from knocks and drops. There are still a few niggles, like the continued lack of ports, but in general this is one of the best laptops in the world right now.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

What should you look for when buying a new laptop?

There are certain things you can look out for when buying a new laptop that can ensure you get the best laptop for your money.

Make sure you take a look at the specifications of a laptop before buying. This is a good way of quickly seeing how powerful a laptop is, and what it is capable of – as long as you know what you’re looking for.

First of all is the processor. This is essentially the brain of the laptop, and a laptop will usually have a processor (also known as a CPU) made by either Intel or AMD. Intel is by far the most popular CPU maker for laptops, though we’re seeing an increasing number of AMD-powered laptops as well.

As a general rule of thumb, Intel processors offer better performance, but AMD processors are better value.

To make things more simple, both Intel and AMD have numbered their processors to give you a rough idea of what sort of tasks a laptop with that processor can perform.

If you’re after a budget laptop for simple tasks like browsing the web or watching Netflix, then a laptop with an Intel Pentium, Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3, processor will do that job without making the laptop too expensive.

If you’re after something with a bit more oomph – perhaps to do more complex task like editing your home videos or playing games – then go for a laptop with an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor as a minimum.

The best laptops for media creation, and more complex tasks, come with an Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processor, or an AMD Ryzen 7 processor. Laptops with these processors in them are top-of-the-range laptops that will provide brilliant performance no matter what you want to do – but be warned that they are often found in the most expensive laptops.

Finally, keep an eye on how new the processor is. Intel handily gives its processors generations, so the higher the generation, the newer it is. The latest generation is the 10th generation, though 9th generation Intel Core processors are also pretty recent.

A newer processor performs better and is more power efficient – so battery life will last longer. They are more expensive, though.

RAM (Random Access Memory) is another important specification to look for in a laptop. You’ll want 4GB at the very least for a Windows laptop – though we’d actually recommend for many people to go for 8GB. That will ensure that the laptop runs well for years to come.

When it comes to graphics, you don’t need to worry too much, as laptop processors come with built-in (integrated) graphics. However, if you want to play PC games on your laptop, then you’ll want a gaming laptop with a discrete GPU – either from Nvidia or AMD.

Battery life considerations

Finally, there’s battery life. This is likely to be one of the most important considerations you have when choosing what laptop to buy. The best laptops need to be able to let you work - and play - for hours on end without you having to scramble for a power adapter. Modern laptops are getting ever more power-efficient, which has led to longer battery lives. For a laptop to be included in our best laptops list, it needs to offer a battery life of five hours or more.

Bear in mind that the battery life that the laptop makers claim their device has could be quite different to what you actually experience. This is because many laptop makers test their batteries in very controlled environments, with the laptop used in ways that you might not necessarily use. So, while a laptop might have a claimed battery life of 10 hours, you may find that when using it for certain tasks – like streaming high definition content – your battery life could run out faster.

That’s where our in-depth reviews come in. We run a series of tests on each laptop in this guide to see how long the battery life lasts under certain conditions. If a laptop’s battery is ridiculously short (or impressively long) we’ll tell you.

Which type of laptop is best for you?

General laptops: Where the best cheap laptops are found, 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 $600 or £400.

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 – $700 or £500 to $2,000 or £1,800.

2-in-1 laptops: Where notebooks that double as tablets are located. The Surface Book 2 might be a ways off, but many of the best 2-in-1 laptops are available right now. 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 $300 or £200 and some can even withstand a slight tussle.

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 from $800 or £600 to upwards of $3,000 or £2,800 and they’ll likely be the ones to take advantage of AMD’s laptop-grade Ryzen processors first. If you're really on a budget, then you can check out the best cheap gaming laptop deals.

Laptop-tablet hybrids: Designed from the tablet-first approach to laptop-tablet hybrids, the best Windows tablets pack beyond-HD touchscreens, sometimes with kickstands in their frames or provided via keyboard covers. These generally shine with a stylus, and range from the budget to the premium price ranges.

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Asus TUF Dash F15

(Image credit: Asus)
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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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Long battery life+Strong gaming performance
Reasons to avoid
-No webcam-Keyboard lighting color can't be changed

If the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 above is out of your price range, then the Asus TUF Dash F15 will be the best laptop for 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