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The best laptops in 2024, tried and tested by experts

Time for a laptop upgrade? These are our top-rated devices from Dell, Apple, Microsoft and more

Steve Hogarty
Tech writer
Thursday 06 June 2024 17:35 BST
The latest Windows laptops feature cutting edge OLED screens and desktop-grade performance
The latest Windows laptops feature cutting edge OLED screens and desktop-grade performance (The Independent)
Our Top Picks

When looking for the best laptop to suit your needs, you’ve never had a wider selection to choose from. Fans of Apple have the easiest decision to make, but look past the MacBooks and you’ll find blisteringly fast Windows laptops alongside great budget options and versatile Chromebooks.

The latest laptops from the likes of Dell and Acer actually trounce Apple’s MacBook in one key area: OLED displays. The vibrant colours, sharpness and perfect contrast offered by an OLED screen make many Windows laptops the ideal choice for creatives, videographers, gamers, or anyone who wants to stream entertainment in the best possible quality.

If you want to spend next to nothing on a laptop you’ll use only occasionally then Chromebooks have you covered. Google’s range of Chrome OS laptops has come a long way since a decidedly underwhelming launch in 2011. We’ve included the Asus Chromebook plus CX34 in our list of the best laptops below.

So, which laptop should you buy? However much you want to spend, the breadth of options out there can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help, with our comprehensive reviews of the best laptops on the market.

How we tested the best laptops

Two of the laptops in testing: the Huawei MateBook 14 and Asus Zenbook Pro 14 OLED
Two of the laptops in testing: the Huawei MateBook 14 and Asus Zenbook Pro 14 OLED (The Independent)

We test each laptop by first running benchmarking software to accurately rank the performance of the device against every other laptop we’ve reviewed. Where possible, we stress-test each laptop’s performance using a selection of graphically demanding PC games. For our most recent round of testing, we ran Forza Horizon 5, Cyberpunk 2077 and Cities: Skylines II.

Even if you don’t plan on using your laptop for gaming, these kinds of performance tests tend to reveal any underlying problems with a laptop’s heat dissipation and thermal throttling – that’s when a CPU slows itself down to avoid damaging the components. It’s a common issue with fanless ultrabooks in particular.

We put a range of laptops for all budgets through their paces
We put a range of laptops for all budgets through their paces (Steve Hogarty)

To get the best idea of what they’re actually like to use on a daily basis, we swap out our regular laptop for our testing unit and put it through several weeks of our regular work schedule. That includes photo-editing, video-rendering, Zoom calls, extensive writing sessions, moving from home to the office and connecting to external monitors.

Most of the laptops featured here can be configured to have more RAM, a bigger hard drive or a faster processor. You can also find a bargain by searching for earlier models of the laptops we’ve picked, though, be aware some of the features we mention might not appear in previous generations.

The best laptops for 2024 are:

  • Best laptop overall – Dell XPS 15: £1,258.99, Dell.com
  • Best budget laptop – Lenovo Yoga slim 7: £849.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best Windows ultrabook – Asus Zenbook pro 14 OLED: £1,899, Currys.co.uk
  • Best Chromebook – Asus Chromebook plus CX34: £299, Currys.co.uk
  • Best laptop for creatives – Apple MacBook pro M3: £1,539.97, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best laptop for gaming – Razer blade 15: £1,799, Amazon.co.uk

Dell XPS 15

dell xps 15 2023
  • Best: Laptop overall
  • CPU: 13th-gen Intel Core i7 / i9
  • Graphics: Intel Arc / GeForce 4050, 4060, 4070
  • RAM: 16GB-64GB
  • Screen: 15.6in, 1,920 x 1,200px touchscreen
  • Storage: 512GB-4TB SSD
  • Why we love it
    • Excellent performance
    • Highly customisable
    • Great build quality
  • Take note
    • Low-quality web-cam

Dell’s flagship laptop, the XPS 15 combines a sleek design with top-end specifications. From the crisp and bright OLED display to the 13th-generation Intel CPU – backed up with a generous 16GB of memory in the base model – it’s one of the best Windows ultrabooks you’ll find for productivity.

In our full review of the Dell XPS 15, our tester was impressed by the upgraded display and performance, calling it “a high-performance and productivity-focused Windows machine with a spectacular OLED display and a better battery life than ever”.

Build quality is solid, and Dell has even found room to add some touches of character to the chassis, such as the textured carbon fibre palm rest to prevent sweaty palms while working.

At just shy of 2kg, the Dell XPS 15 isn’t the lightest laptop we’ve tested, but it feels nicely balanced to hold. Port selection is generous, with a pair of Thunderbolt USB-C ports alongside a DisplayPort connection for external monitors.

The base model doesn’t use an OLED display – you’ll have to fork out extra to get that impressive screen – but Dell gives you plenty of options to choose between when configuring the Dell XPS 15 to your budget.

  1. £1,258 from Dell.com
Prices may vary
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Asus ZenBook pro 14 OLED

asus zenbook pro 14 oled
  • Best: Windows ultrabook
  • CPU: Intel Core i9
  • Graphics: GeForce RTX 4060 8 GB
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Screen: 14in, 2.8K 120Hz
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Why we love it
    • Impressive display
    • Great performance
    • Thin and lightweight design
  • Take note
    • No non-OLED version available

The Asus ZenBook pro 14 OLED packs impressive performance into a slim and lightweight 14in ultrabook package. It’s configurable up to a whopping Intel Core i9 processor and a dedicated RTX 4070 GPU, but even the mid-spec models come with a 4000 series GPU, making them capable enough for serious creative work, such as 4K video-rendering and browsing giant Adobe Bridge libraries.

The display is similarly impressive: a 2.8K OLED screen running at 120Hz with a decent 550 nits of brightness. Images and video look great on this display, the OLED tech delivering perfect blacks and rich contrast, while the 100 per cent DCI-P3 gamut makes it suitable for colour work.

Despite its thin profile, the ZenBook pro 14 OLED feels reassuringly sturdy. The keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience with ample key travel. Unique to this laptop – and because Asus loves being weird sometimes – there’s an iPod-style rotary dial on the trackpad that can be customised to control the application you’re using.

The ZenBook pro 14 OLED is as good as a 14in ultrabook gets. During testing, the standard shortcomings of any super-thin laptop came to light: battery life is eaten up by that glorious OLED screen and GPU, and, while the dynamic fan controls work perfectly, performance gets dialled down to prevent overheating when running several demanding processes at once. That’s to be expected in such a compact device, but we rate the ZenBook pro 14 OLED as a top performer in this category all the same.

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Lenovo yoga slim 7

lenovo yoga slim 7
  • Best: Budget laptop
  • CPU: Intel Core i5 1135G7 through to Intel Core i7 1165G7
  • Graphics: Intel iris xe
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Screen: 14in, 1,920 x 1,080px
  • Storage: 256GB through to 512GB SSD
  • Why we love it
    • Unbeatable value
    • Excellent battery life
    • Great performance
  • Take note
    • 1,080px display

Lenovo has been quietly producing excellent laptops and tablets at affordable prices for years, and the Lenovo yoga slim 7 is the manufacturer’s best ultrabook so far. This year’s model sees a refresh, with the newest CPUs from Intel and AMD, making it a great option for productivity-focused users looking for portability and battery life.

The all-metal chassis feels reassuringly sturdy, despite its slim and featherweight design, and the lack of heavy branding gives the laptop a minimalist, MacBook-esque aesthetic. The battery life is equally impressive, consistently lasting us a full workday on a single charge.

You’re also getting a 14in OLED display as standard, which is great to see in a Windows laptop in this price range. The port selection is decent, with a pair of USB-C Thunderbolt ports and the option to connect to an external display using HDMI 2.1. The Lenovo yoga slim 7 is a well-rounded laptop that delivers excellent performance, long battery life, and a comfortable typing experience, making it a strong contender for everyday use.

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Apple MacBook pro M3

macbook pro 2023 m3
  • Best: Laptop for creatives
  • CPU: M3 / M3 Pro / M3 Max
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • RAM: 8GB to 36GB
  • Screen: 14.2in, 3,024 x 1,964px
  • Storage: 512GB to 1TB
  • Why we love it
    • Powerful M3 chip
    • Retina display
  • Take note
    • MacBook air is better value for most people

Apple’s premium laptop is still the go-to machine for specialist users, creatives and editors who need every last bit of processing power. Powered by Apple’s latest proprietary M3 chip, the MacBook pro can handle tasks that would have its slimmer cousin wheezing into a brown paper bag. Like the MacBook air, the power button has a built-in fingerprint sensor, the keyboard is comfortable and the trackpad is big and responsive.

The best laptop for productivity and creative tasks – and the only laptop that can reasonably claim to have fashion credibility – the MacBook pro is a masterpiece of design.

Read the full MacBook pro M3 review

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Razer blade 15

Razer Blade 15.jpg
  • Best: Laptop for gaming
  • CPU: 11th-gen Intel Core i7 to 13th-gen Intel Core i9
  • Graphics: GeForce 3060 to 4080 Ti
  • RAM: 16GB / 32GB
  • Screen: 15in, Full HD to 4K
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Why we love it
    • Gaming PC performance
  • Take note
    • Newest models are expensive

A blisteringly fast gaming laptop that delivers desktop-grade performance, the Razer blade 15 is the best gaming laptop we’ve tested. Highly configurable, our test model ran the latest 12th-generation Core i7 processor with 32GB of memory, Nvidia’s 3080 Ti GPU and a ridiculously fast 360Hz display.

The configuration we’ve linked to here is just one option available. For even more performance, the 2023 version of the Razer blade 15 runs on 13th-generation Intel processors and Nvidia’s 4000-series graphics cards.

Both configurations will happily run every new PC game with the graphics settings dialled way up and – unlike so many gaming laptops that resemble Fisher Price toys – the Razer blade 15 has a subtle, minimalist design you could take into important business meetings without raising too many eyebrows.

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Microsoft Surface laptop 5

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5
  • Best: Laptop for students and writers
  • CPU: Intel Core i5 to i7
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • RAM: 8GB to 16GB
  • Screen: 13.5in or 15in, 2,496 x 1,664px
  • Storage: 256GB through to 1TB SSD
  • Why we love it
    • Clean and tidy Windows experience
    • Premium design
  • Take note
    • There are better displays out there

The Surface range showcases Windows 11 at its absolute best, allowing Microsoft to take control of both the hardware and software to create tablets and laptops that feel unified, streamlined and uncompromised. Whereas most other Windows laptops come preloaded with sketchy third-party apps and anti-virus bloatware, Microsoft’s Surface laptops are much closer to the Apple-style user experience: clean, tidy, and simple to use.

This is a fast and thin touchscreen laptop, with even the slowest and cheapest configuration running on a decently powerful Intel Core i5 processor. The laptop is unlocked with facial recognition; the keyboard is a delight to type on for hours; battery life is enormous, and it’s finished in an optional fine faux-suede alcantara material.

Read our full Microsoft Surface laptop 5 review

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Huawei MateBook 14

huawei matebook 14 2024
  • Best: For work and home
  • CPU: Intel Core Ultra 7
  • Graphics: Intel Arc
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Screen: 2.8K OLED, 120Hz
  • Storage: 1TB
  • Why we love it
    • Slim and lightweight design
    • Impressive OLED display
    • Comfortable keyboard
    • Great performance
  • Take note
    • You can have it in any colour so long as it’s green

The Huawei MateBook 14 is a lightweight 14in Windows laptop with a gorgeous 2.8K OLED touchscreen display running at a buttery smooth 120Hz. The display is the highlight of the show: sharp and decently bright, humming with rich vibrancy, deep blacks and respectable HDR performance for a laptop.

Elsewhere the MateBook 14 is a great all-round laptop, powered by the Intel Core Ultra 7 processor giving it impressive productivity credentials. It handled a relatively demanding daily workload without stuttering or slowdown, churning through photo editing tasks and even some gaming sessions without breaking a sweat. Battery life can go a full day with light use but evaporates quickly if you push the MateBook 14 too hard for too long. If you plan on watching Netflix on that sweet OLED display after a day at the office, make sure your charger is on hand.

The aluminium unibody is unfussy and sturdily built, with some stylish design touches like that smoothly machined dip from the palm rest into the keyboard. The only colourway available is metallic green though, which might divide opinion. It’s a subtle enough tint, and we like it.

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Apple MacBook air M3

macbook air 136in m3
  • Best: Apple laptop
  • CPU: Apple M3 chip
  • Graphics: Integrated M3 GPU
  • RAM: 8GB to 16GB
  • Screen: 13.6in, 2,560 x 1,664px
  • Storage: 256GB to 512GB
  • Why we love it
    • Great display
    • Lightweight and thin design
    • Fast M3 performance
  • Take note
    • Limited number of ports

Apple’s thinnest, lightest MacBook transcended the tech world to become an instantly recognisable design icon, the profile of which many rival laptops have since followed. If you’ve ever held one of these machines, you’ll understand why it’s such an alluring device: the MacBook air is an elegant piece of engineering, weighing just 1.24kg and measuring 1.13cm thin. The 2024 model is powered by Apple’s latest M3 processor, an ARM-based chip that unlocks notable performance boosts and better battery efficiency over the older Intel CPU seen in previous generations.

Read our full MacBook air M3 review

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Asus Chromebook plus CX34

asus chromebook plus cx34
  • Best: Chromebook
  • CPU: Up to Intel Core i7
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • RAM: Up to 16GB
  • Screen: 14in, Full HD
  • Storage: Up to 512GB
  • Why we love it
    • Google One AI tier included
    • Boots up instantly
    • 10 hour battery life
  • Take note
    • Doesn’t run Windows software or games

If you mostly work inside a browser tab, especially on Chrome, you should consider making your next laptop a Chromebook. The Asus Chromebook plus CX34 uses Google’s web-based Chrome OS operating system: a streamlined, simplified and securer alternative to a traditional laptop. That means no regular Windows apps, which can be limiting, but you get an operating system that’s always up to date and secure.

The Chromebook plus CX34 is one of the better examples of the form, pairing a sleek minimalist design with sensible specifications. Developed in partnership with Google, it’s specced to match a decent entry-level Windows laptop with an Intel Core i3 processor backed up by 8GB of RAM. Higher configurations are available if you want even better performance.

Google’s given its entire Chromebook Plus range a big AI upgrade, so the CX34 comes with 12 months of free access to its Google One AI Premium plan, which includes the most advanced version of the Gemini large language model.

Usually priced at £18.99 per month, the plan also bags you two terabytes of Google Drive storage. That’s a £227 saving built into a £299 laptop.

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MSI Prestige 14 evo

msi prestige 14 evo
  • Best: Laptop for business
  • CPU: Intel Core i7
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Screen: 14in Full HD, 60Hz
  • Storage: 512GB
  • Why we love it
    • Sturdy, durable design
    • Great external monitor connections
  • Take note
    • Basic display

This laptop is squarely targeted at business users. Our review model runs on the 13th-generation Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB of memory, and, while it lacks the support of a dedicated GPU, it comfortably handles demanding workplace tasks, such as photo editing and some light video rendering without breaking a sweat.

The design is polished, using a lightweight and slim chassis that’s sturdy to the touch. MSI claims the Prestige 14 evo has “military-grade” durability, and while we didn’t feel compelled to try rolling over our test unit in a tank, the laptop feels like it could take a few knocks. The keyboard is particularly delightful to work on all day, with plenty of travel in the keystrokes, though MSI has inexplicably decided to cram the ‘page up’ and ‘page down’ keys into a tiny space surrounding the arrow keys.

The dull-looking 60Hz display is the biggest mark against the Prestige 14 evo, but the addition of an HDMI 2.1 port, a USB-C port and a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports gives you plenty of options to connect to external monitors instead. Extra touches such as a fingerprint reader and facial recognition round off a capable productivity laptop.

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Laptop FAQs

Which is the best processor for a laptop?

The range of CPUs on offer can seem bewildering but don’t sweat it. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you don’t need to worry too much about the differences between the two main brands: AMD and Intel. They both make roughly similar versions of one another’s CPUs.

What’s the difference between AMD and Intel?

Intel’s most popular range is called the Core series. These include the affordable Core i3, the mid-range Core i5, the high-end Core i7, and the specialist Core i9. The bigger the number, the faster the processor. For most users, the Core i3 is more than enough power. For gaming and processor-intensive tasks, such as rendering large files and video editing, the Core i5 or Core i7 can be a useful upgrade.

Mirroring this, AMD has the Ryzen range. These include the Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, and Ryzen 9 processors. They’ll offer similar levels of performance to their Intel counterparts. While the underlying hardware is different, you’ll notice no difference in how your laptop actually functions.

Apple MacBooks are another kettle of fish entirely. Until recently, Apple used Intel processors, before it upgraded its entire range to its proprietary M1, M2 and M3 CPUs. These are, at least, a little easier to think about: M3 is faster than M2.

What does generation mean in processors?

As newer processors are always improving, these four simple tiers don’t change in number. They’ll always refer to the most and least powerful processors each CPU brand manufactures. What changes are the digits following the CPU name, with the first two digits usually referring to the CPU’s generation.

New generations of processor arrive each year. They’re faster, obviously enough, but they’re also designed to be more energy efficient or support new features such as artificial intelligence and raytracing.

What is Celeron?

There are other Intel CPUs on the market, such as the Celeron series. Celeron is designed to be super affordable and low-end, for users who really don’t need much processing power. You’ll find them in budget laptops.

How much RAM does a laptop need?

Most users can get away with 8GB of RAM (or memory), though 16GB has lately become the standard. RAM is storage your laptop is constantly using to juggle data, so it’s essentially a measure of how many things your device can do at once before it starts to slow down. This gives you enough memory to load Windows smoothly, and run a few demanding apps.

As software becomes more complex, it starts to demand more memory – 16GB should future-proof your laptop against this for a few years to come.

MacBooks have less RAM on paper because they work a little differently. The M3 chip is handling a lot of the data-juggling itself, so the device needs less dedicated RAM, which means your 16GB goes a little further than it does on a Windows laptop.

What is the difference between a Chromebook and a laptop?

Most laptops use Microsoft’s Windows operating system, while MacBooks use Apple’s macOS operating system.

Chromebooks are different. They run on Chrome OS, an operating system designed by Google. Anyone can license this operating system, so you’ll see Chromebooks manufactured by a wide range of brands (called OEMs) and available in various styles.

Google’s operating system doesn’t run traditional desktop programs. Instead, it behaves more like the Chrome web browser, using online apps such as Google Docs and some Android apps.

This sounds limiting – and, for most users, it is – but there are upsides. Because most of the processing is happening over the internet, Chromebooks don’t need to be so powerful. This means they generally have a longer battery life, are much cheaper, far more secure and boot up faster than regular laptops.

The verdict: Laptops

The Dell XPS 15 is our top pick of Windows laptops, thanks to its all round great performance, excellent screen (if you stump up extra) and unbeatable build quality. For gaming, we recommend the Razer blade 15. It will break the bank but it’s worth every penny.

Apple users have an easier choice, and the latest models of the MacBook pro and MacBook air are among our favourite laptops right now.

Want something even more portable? Here’s our guide to the best tablets

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