The Best Laptops 2021 | TechSpot
Dell checks all the right boxes with the XPS 17: fast performance, lovely keyboard, gorgeous and massive display, and excellent audio all packed into a stunning body. It can be equipped with the latest 11th-gen Core i9 CPU from Intel and an RTX 3060, making it a capable gaming machine, too. The 2021 models can range from an i5-11400H and 8GB RAM ($1,549), up to a Core i9-11980HK. You can also add up to 64GB of RAM, a 2TB PCIe SSD, and that RTX 3060 (70W), which would cost $3,849 with the touchscreen.
But when you buy a laptop like the XPS 17, you’re not buying it for the specs alone. The big 17-inch display is meant for creative work and productivity. The XPS now uses a 16:10 ratio in either full HD+ non-touch or 3840 x 2400 touch options, the latter reaching 500 nits, rated for DisplayHDR 400, and covering 100 percent of the Adobe RGB spectrum and 94 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut.
Buyers also get amazing thermal performance thanks to the vapor chamber cooling system. Taking a leaf from Apple, it’s entirely USB-C; it has four, all supporting Thunderbolt 4, though Dell does include a USB-C to USB-A 3.0 and HDMI 2.0 dongle in the box if you need it. There’s also a full-sized UHS-III compliant SD card reader, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, and 2×2 MIMO antenna configuration.
Despite the 17-inch screen, XPS 17’s footprint and weight make it feel closer to a 15-inch laptop. It features Windows Hello, a CNC-machined aluminum chassis, clean edges, and soft-touch carbon fiber palm rests that scream quality. Moreover, the quad-speaker arrangement beneath two upward-facing speaker grilles offers some of the best audio you’ll find in any laptop.
Things can get expensive when you spec it with high-end hardware, and not everyone loves the trackpad and the lack of anything other than USB Type-C, but this is an unbeatable Windows machine for tasks such as video editing on the move.
Apple’s classic favorite
MacBook Pro 16
Image credit: Digital Trends
Editor’s note: The MacBook Pro 16 remains Apple’s top mobile workstation but we don’t recommend buying one now. It’s long due for an upgrade to Apple Silicon (M1 or M2 SoC) which will result in much better performance and thermals.
Apple isn’t whom you turn to for a bargain. But if you’re a fan of the company’s products and want one of the best productivity laptops out there, check out the MacBook Pro 16. Aimed squarely at professionals means plenty of power and storage. The MacBook Pro 16 can be configured with 9th-gen Core i7 and Core i9 CPUs, up to 64GB of RAM, Radeon Pro 5600M graphics, and reaches 8 TB of SSD storage. Worryingly for your wallet, it starts at $2,399 and can hit a massive $6,699.
Compared to previous models, the Pro 16 addresses the problematic butterfly keyboard by returning to a much-improved scissor mechanism. The Esc key also returns, while the Touch ID key is no longer integrated into the Touch Bar. What’s especially appealing in this model is the display. Even though the screen size has gone up from 15.4 inches to 16 inches, the smaller bezels mean the overall footprint remains the same. The 16:10 aspect ratio display is not quite 4K, but the 3,072 x 1,920 picture (226 PPI) looks stunning and can reach 500 nits. Pros will also appreciate the 100 percent sRGB and 84 percent Adobe RGB coverage.
Like Dell’s XPS 17, ports are limited to four USB Type-C (all Thunderbolt 3), which some people might not like. There’s no Wi-Fi 6, and the battery is unlikely to last the 11 hours Apple claims, especially when using pro apps.
Despite the few drawbacks (and that price), usually there’s not much that can challenge the large MacBook Pro, except for an imminent overhaul to its internals, so if you’re into Apple laptops and run pro-level creativity tasks on macOS, you are surely waiting for the new and improved model that is rumored to feature a mini-LED display, updated MagSafe and HDMI. It could also see the Touch Bar replaced with a set of physical keys, but most importantly it will run faster and more efficient Apple Silicon.
MacBooks also tend to conserve their value over time, more than any Windows laptop by far.
Also worth looking
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
Microsoft certainly can’t be accused of changing the Surface Laptop’s design much over its four iterations, but the company probably thinks if it isn’t broke, why fix it? You know what you’re getting with the latest version of its machine: a best-in-class keyboard, brilliant battery life, a great 3:2 display, and excellent performance from both Intel’s and AMD’s processors.
Microsoft has long imitated Apple’s minimalist design with the Surface Laptop, using sleek, clean lines on the aluminum chassis with its luxurious build quality. It’s also remarkably light for a sturdy 15-inch machine, weighing 3.5-pounds, less than rivals like the XPS 15 (4.5 pounds).
The screen is another plus point. Microsoft has long known that 3:2 aspect ratios are great for productivity tasks. This 2496 x 1664 PixelSense touchscreen with Surface Pen support is bright, vibrant, and excellent for working on the move.
Internally, buyers get to pick team red or team blue. Sadly for AMD fans, the Ryzen option is limited to the Zen 2-era Ryzen 7 4980U Surface Edition (8 core/16 threads, 4.4GHz boost), rather than any of the Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 CPUs, but it’s still a powerful processor. Alternatively, you can opt for an 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 (4 cores/8 threads, 4.8GHz boost) with its Iris Xe Graphics. Both of which offer plenty of performance.
With the Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft has turned one of its predecessor’s worst elements, battery life, into one of the best. The company claims the 46.6Wh battery offers around 17.5 hours of use when paired with the Ryzen processor or 16.5 hours with the Intel option.
There’s the choice of 8GB, 16GB or 32GB LPDDR4x RAM, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB replaceable SSDs, a Windows Hello 720p camera, Dolby Atoms speakers, 1 x USB Type C, 1 x USB Type A, a 3.5mm headphone jack, WiFi 6: 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0, and a big Precision trackpad. The big bezels, lack of Thunderbolt support, and SSDs that could be faster are disappointing. It’s also a little pricey: the AMD version starts at $1,299.99, while the Intel option is $1,499. Overall, though, the Surface Laptop 4 is a great productivity machine