The Best Laptop Buyer’s Guide – Summer 2021

By Ari Altman | Published July 16, 2021 | Updated July 16, 2021

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 basic home use to work on the go to pro-level gaming.

For Summer 2021, nearly every one of our top 10 picks is new, which goes to show how truly dynamic the laptop market is right now. That’s in part due to a massive 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!!!

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!

Now, let’s make something very clear: we’ve drawn a firm line on minimum specs to make sure our readers enjoy their new laptops for years to come. In short, while there are plenty of Windows laptops being peddled by the biggest manufacturers with 4GB of RAM or a mechanical hard drive, they’re complete junk, period. Don’t touch them. You will have a bad user experience, and we don’t want that to happen! The one exception we make in terms of the RAM limit is for Chromebooks, which work fine on 4GB given their simpler operating system.

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 are really changing that fast! AMD’s best options come from the 5000 series, and within a few short months, AMD has scored a huge number of design wins, i.e., you can actually find its Ryzen 5000 series CPUs in laptops available right now!

As always, 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.

Home/Small Office

  • The Touchscreen Chromebook

    HP Chromebook X360

    $290
    Chromebooks 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!
    The Guru’s Tip

    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 15-dy2021nr

    $598
    If you want the perfect work-from-home laptop at a great price, go with the HP 15. It packs in an Intel Core i5-1135G7 quad-core CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB NVMe solid-state drive (NVMe means fast!), and a 15.6” 1080p screen. And graphics and video conferencing will be super-smooth thanks to the advanced next-gen Intel Xe graphics onboard.
    The Guru’s Tip

    This model comes in at just 3.75lb, a far cry from the heavy bricks of old!

  • The Convertible Ultralight

    ASUS ZenBook Flip 13

    $949
    If you simply want the lightest, most versatile laptop you can buy for under $1000, you want the Zenbook Flip 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, a 13.3″ 1920×1080 OLED touchscreen, 8GB of DDR4 memory, and a 512GB PCIe-based solid-state drive. And it’s just 2.87lb despite offering a 360-degree hinge and full table functionality!
    The Guru’s Tip

    This model also has a stylus pen included in the box!

  • The Content Creation Machine

    ASUS ROG Strix G15 5800H/3050 Ti

    $1200

    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 Extreme Ultralight

    LG Gram 14Z90P (2021)

    $1347
    The 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!
    The Guru’s Tip

    A few other notable features that make the Gram the perfect travel companion: a backlit keyboard, a microSD card memory slot, a full-size HDMI port, two full-size USB 3.0 Type-A ports plus dual Thunderbolt 4 Type-C ports for truly next-gen connectivity options!

  • The Ultimate Content Creation Laptop

    Gigabyte Aero 15

    $3000

    If you’re a serious content creator who needs to take the ultimate workstation on the road, the Gigabyte Aero 15 is the one for you! It’s packing in Intel’s latest Core i9-11980HK 8-core, 16-thread processor using the 10nm Tiger Lake architecture, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 8GB GPU, 32GB of RAM, dual solid-state drives (one 512GB, the other 1TB, and a mesmerizing 15.6″ 4K Samsung OLED display capable of displaying HDR400 and 100% of the DCI-P3 color space.

    The Guru’s Tip

    Sure, this is powerful enough for the most elite gamers, but it's custom-tailored for creators!

Gaming

  • The Budget Gaming Laptop

    Lenovo Legion 5

    $1050
    This is the perfect entry point into serious laptop gaming. The Legion 5 features a potent AMD Ryzen 7 5800H 8-core, 16-thread processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive, an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti 4GB video card, and a 15.6″ 1920×1080 screen with a smooth 165Hz refresh rate.
    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

    Gaming laptops have come a long way in a short time, and this is a perfect example of how much you can now get in the mainstream market. Powered by Intel’s Tiger Lake-based Core i7-11800H 8-core, 16-thread processor and the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 6GB GPU, it can rip through games. Also onboard is 16 GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe solid-state drive and a 1TB hard drive, giving you plenty of game storage capacity. And the screen is impressive too: a 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 IPS panel with a 144 Hz refresh rate.

    The Guru’s Tip

    Another really nice thing about this model is its lightweight design: just 4.63 lbs.!

  • The Extreme Gaming Laptop

    MSI GP66 11800H/RTX 3070 @Newegg

    $1900

    This gaming laptop from MSI is truly ahead of the curve. It all starts with the Tiger Lake-based Intel Core i7-11800H 8-core, 16-thread CPU, which is leagues ahead of previous-gen Intel chips. It’s backing up pNvidia’s GeForce RTX 3070 8GB GPU, which is driving an amazing 15.6″ 1080p IPS screen with a 240Hz refresh rate. Also onboard are 16GB of RAM and a 1TB NVMe-based solid-state drive.

    The Guru’s Tip

    AMD forced Intel's hand with its Ryzen chips, and now Intel has coming 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

    Just when you thought a gaming laptop couldn’t get any faster, along comes the Scar 15, featuring AMD’s shockingly-powerful Ryzen 9 5900HX 8-core, 16-thread CPU. Also on board is an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 8GB, a 15.6″ screen with a 300Hz refresh rate, a 1TB PCIe-based SSD, and 16GB of DDR4 RAM.

    The Guru’s Tip

    All this and the laptop weighs a very reasonable 5.1 pounds!

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