The Best Laptop Buyer’s Guide – Fall 2021
Choosing the Right Laptop, Made Easy!
Need a new laptop but haven’t quite kept up with all the latest product releases? Well, we’ve got you covered – this guide profiles our top 10 picks on the market today, in a variety of categories, from home office to work on-the-go to enthusiast-level gaming.
The Best Laptops, Right Now!
For Fall 2021, nearly every one of our top 10 picks is new, which goes to show how truly dynamic the laptop market. That’s in part due to renewed competition between Intel and AMD, each vying for dominance in the laptop processor market like never before. Translation: consumers win with every new CPU released! And that’s why you need this guide… so you don’t get stuck with last year’s also-ran, which many vendors will be more than happy to sell you!!!
There truly is a great laptop for everyone on this list, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs the same thing. That’s why we have budget choices for families and students, ultra-light choices for serious travelers, and of course, gaming laptops, all of which are equipped with Nvidia’s latest RTX 3000-series GPUs. Anything less would be a mistake!
Key Things to Look For
As noted, Intel and AMD are now competing hard for the attention of laptop buyers, and we’ve incorporated the best from both companies in our selections. Notably, Intel has had to work overtime to keep up with a resurgent AMD, releasing multiple laptop CPU lines in quick succession. Today, you should focus on buying Intel’s 11th-Gen Core chips, which are far superior to any of the 10th-Gen chips that debuted in 2020. Things really are changing that fast!
AMD’s best options come from the 5000 series, with the best of the best being even-numbered (yes, we know that’s odd!). So, for example, the 5800U is far better than the 5700U, which is basically just a rebadged last-gen 4800U. Just pay attention to our recommendations and you’ll do fine. The most important change in the market over the past year is that AMD has scored a huge number of design wins, which is industry-speak for partners signing on to actually use AMD’s offerings. That means you can actually find its Ryzen 5000 series CPUs in big-name laptops available right now!
One last thing: keep in mind some minimum specs required for a decent user experience. You must have a solid-state drive (hard drives do not belong in modern laptops, period), and you must have 8GB of RAM (unless you’re getting a Chromebook, which will run fine on 4GB). Most laptops under $1000 have 256GB SSDs and 8GB of RAM, and are differentiated based on weight, screen size, and which Intel or AMD CPU they use. To get more storage capacity, you’ll typically need to pay over $1000.
We update this guide quarterly, as new laptops are constantly hitting the market, and Intel and AMD update their CPU offerings at least once a year. To help support continued development of this guide, please use the Amazon and Newegg links we provide. Our Amazon links will will auto-convert for readers in Canada, the UK, and parts of the EU, with automatic substitutions made where necessary based on regional variations.
The Touchscreen Chromebook –
HP Chromebook X360$349Chromebooks took on a huge new life once so many people found themselves (and their kids) at home, because these devices can be ideal low-cost machines. The one concern we have is that they’ve become so popular that no-name models often sell for more than much more powerful Windows-based PCs. That’s why we strongly recommend the HP x360, which is far and away the best Chromebook you can buy for a reasonable price. It has a feature that is simply critical from our point of view: a touchscreen, and a big 14″ one at that. We can’t believe so many Chromebooks are sold without touchscreens given the OS they are running comes from a smartphone! Also onboard are an Intel Pentium Silver N5000 quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 64GB solid-state drive. You even get full 360-degree flip functionality with this Chromebook, another reason it is head-and-shoulders above all the similarly-priced competition!
Fun fact: Chrome OS is now the second most popular operating system in the world, behind Windows 10 and ahead of macOS!
The Home Office Laptop –
HP 14-fq1021nr$505If you want the perfect work-from-home laptop at a great price, go with the HP 14. It packs in an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U six-core, 12-thread processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB NVMe solid-state drive (NVMe means fast!), and a 14” 1080p screen. And graphics and video conferencing will be super-smooth thanks to the advanced Radeon onboard graphics. Topping it off is next-gen WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5 for the latest in connectivity!
This model comes in at just 3.78lb, a far cry from the heavy bricks of old!
The Affordable Ultralight –
ASUS ZenBook 13$800
If you simply want the lightest laptop you can buy for under $1000, you want the Zenbook 13 from Asus. The Zenbook line is the gold standard for well-designed, well-priced ultra-lights. This model packs in a powerful Intel Core i5-1135G7 quad-core processor with Turbo Boost to 4.2GHz and Iris Xe graphics, an eye-popping 13.3″ 1920×1080 OLED screen, 8GB of DDR4 memory, and a 256GB PCIe-based solid-state drive. And it’s just 2.45lb, making it a breeze to carry.The Guru’s Tip
This laptop really hits the sweet spot in terms of price, performance, and portability!
The Extreme Ultralight –
LG Gram 14Z90P (2021)$1247The LG Gram is the gold standard for super-ultra lights, and it’s what we personally use here at TBG for our business travel! While the rest of the PC industry plods on with 2.5-3lb. laptops, LG has been blazing a trail with its Gram line of sub-1kg laptops. The latest LG Gram 14 offers a 14″ 1920 x 1200 screen for enhanced productivity versus standard 1080p screens, Intel’s next-gen Core i7-1165G7 quad-core CPU with Turbo up to 4.7GHz, and Intel’s latest Xe graphics chip. Also on board are 16GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe solid-state drive, and an absolutely-massive 80Wh battery that provides a simply astounding 25.5 hours of battery life. All this and the Gram is just 2.2 pounds, which is mind-blowing given its awesome specs. Don’t think it’s worth paying more to drop nearly a half pound in weight versus competing laptops? You’ll think again once you tote this featherweight laptop on your shoulder during a day of traveling!
We're listing three top-notch business-class laptops in the same price range here, each with its own unique characteristics. The Gram maximizes portability and battery life - nothing else comes close! The laptops listed below provide increased performance with higher weight and shorter battery life. The choice is up to you!
The Ultimate Business Laptop –
HP ProBook x360 435 G8$1258
We’re not kidding when we say that the HP ProBook is in a class by itself! Despite a slim 3.2-pound chassis, it’s simply loaded with features: a 13.3″ touchscreen, a 360-degree hinge for 2-in-1 flexibility, and the sleeper CPU hit of the year, AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800U, an 8-core, 16-thread CPU with shocking performance given its energy-efficient design. The 5800U is nearly twice as fast as competing Intel Core i7 U-series models, a delta that would have been impossible to imagine a few years ago. Also onboard are 16GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive, and Windows 10 Pro. It really does check all the boxes!The Guru’s Tip
This slim and light laptop truly fits the description of a portable workstation, and will be the perfect choice for mobile workers needing power and portability in equal measure.
The Content Creation Machine –
ASUS ROG Strix G15 5800H/3050 Ti$1300
This laptop is bursting with power, despite a weight of just 4.6 pounds! It all starts with the shockingly-fast AMD Ryzen 7 5800H 8-core, 16-thread processor, which will rip through anything you can throw at it. Backing this CPU up is an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, along with 16GB DDR4 and a 1TB PCIe SSD. And the display is impressive too: it’s a 15.6” 300Hz IPS panel with a resolution of 1920×1080.The Guru’s Tip
Yes, this is marketed for gamers, but the combination of an 8-core CPU and GeForce graphics makes it perfect for serious content creation!
The Budget Gaming Laptop –
Lenovo Legion 5$1050 The Guru’s Tip
Don't be afraid of going with an AMD CPU - the 5800H absolutely decimates anything you would have found at this pricepoint last year!
The High-End Gaming Laptop –
MSI Pulse GL66 11800H/RTX 3060 @Newegg$1500 The Guru’s Tip
Another really nice thing about this model is its lightweight design: just 4.63 lbs.!
The Extreme Gaming Laptop –
Gigabyte AORUS 15P XD 11800H/RTX 3070 @Newegg$1850 The Guru’s Tip
AMD forced Intel's hand with its Ryzen chips, and now Intel has come storming back with the biggest gen-on-gen boost in nearly a decade!
The Ultimate Gaming Laptop –
Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 5900HX/RTX 3080 @Newegg$2400 The Guru’s Tip
All this and the laptop weighs a very reasonable 5.1 pounds!
- The Touchscreen Chromebook – HP Chromebook X360 ($349)
- The Home Office Laptop – HP 14-fq1021nr ($505)
- The Affordable Ultralight – ASUS ZenBook 13 ($800)
- The Extreme Ultralight – LG Gram 14Z90P (2021) ($1247)
- The Ultimate Business Laptop – HP ProBook x360 435 G8 ($1258)
- The Content Creation Machine – ASUS ROG Strix G15 5800H/3050 Ti ($1300)