The best laptops of 2023: Expert tested and reviewed

It’s been a month since Apple announced the newest member of its laptop lineup at its Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC): the 15-inch Macbook Air. With a starting price of $1,299 (that’s $100 above last year’s impressive 13-inch iteration), the 15-inch Macbook Air includes an M2 chipset, 18-hour battery life, and a lightweight form factor. 

These specs, coupled with Apple’s integrated ecosystem and new MacOS features, may have you wondering whether the price tag is worth it for your productivity or creative needs. But you also might be looking at which laptops stack up against it, and on the note of productivity and creative needs, the MSI Creator Z17 HX Studio provides a beautiful 17-inch display for editing bright colors and small details. 

Also: How to preorder Apple’s new MacBook Air, Mac Studio, and Mac Pro

This list of best laptops serves not only to answer the question of if anything compares to Mac, but that of “what laptop should I get if I need it for (fill in the specific use-case blank),” and considers yes, MacOS, but Linux, Windows, and Chrome operating systems, as well.

Going hands-on and testing most of our top picks, we considered individual preferences like gaming and graphic design, and examined and analyzed crucial specs like display and RAM, form factor, and price. Based on that criteria, here are our top picks, with our overall choice for best laptop being another Apple favorite — the 16-inch MacBook Pro

Best laptops of 2023

Pros

  • M2 Max chip
  • 22 hour battery life
  • 240Hz refresh rate

MacBook Pro M2 Max-16 inch specs: Display size: 16.2-inches | Display type: Liquid Retina | Resolution: 3456 x 2234 | Refresh rate: 240Hz | RAM: Up to 96GB | Storage: Up to 8TB | CPU: 12-core M2 Max | GPU: 38-core M2 Max | Battery life: Up to 22 hours of movie playback

Hitting the market earlier this year, the newest 16-inch MacBook Pro is powered by Apple’s powerful M2 Max chip, which promises faster connectivity than the earlier generation — M1– chip. ZDNET went hands-on with the laptop, along with sports editor and producer, Tom Filip to test out the powerhouse features. 

Ultimately, both ZDNET’s Technology Editor, June Wan, and Filip found that the laptop touted faster performance when powering through pro-grade apps and services, making workflow even more efficient with an upgraded battery life. In what June calls a “testament to Apple’s golden age of mobile computing,” the $3,499 laptop is fast and impressive but could do with some upgrades like a lighter form factor and a notch that isn’t as complacent with older, dated models. 

Review: Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Max 2023): A content creator’s dream machine

Pros

  • M2 chip
  • 18 hour battery life
  • Configurable RAM and storage
  • Lightweight
Cons

  • Lack of utility ports
  • Slower refresh rate
  • Pricey

MacBook Air 15-inch specs: Display size: 15.3 inches | Display type: Liquid Retina | Resolution: 2560 x 1664 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | RAM: Up to 24GB | Storage: Up to 2TB SSD | CPU: Apple Silicon M2 | GPU: Apple Silicon M2 | Battery life: 18 hours

Will Apple’s MacBook Air go two for two with winning ZDNET’s title of product of the year? It might be a little early to make the official call, but so far, 2023’s 15-inch model is quite impressive on its specs alone. Powered by an M2 chipset, packing in 24GB of RAM, an 1080p camera, and what looks to be a bright Liquid Retina display with an 18-hour battery life to boot, the 3.3-pound model is a lightweight powerhouse. 

“To keep it simple, besides the larger chassis and some upgrades under the hood, the new 15-inch MacBook Air is the same system as last year’s 13-inch model,” said ZDNET’s Reviews Editor, June Wan after going hands-on with the unit. 

Overall, Wan is impressed by the newest Mac, even if the lack of utility ports and slower refresh display made it not necessarily the laptop for him. “This is the MacBook most people have been waiting for and is the one that most people should buy,” he concludes. 

Review: I can’t recommend the 15-inch MacBook Air enough, even if it’s not for me 

Pros

  • Tons of configuration options
  • Excellent design pedigree
  • 4K display
Cons

  • Expensive
  • No Dolby Atmos or HDR support
  • No voice control integration

Dell XPS 17 specs: Display size: 17 inches | Display type: LED | Resolution: 4K | CPU: Up to 13th Gen Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 or 40 series | RAM: Up to 64GB | Storage: Up to 8TB SSD | Connectivity: 4x Thunderbolt 4, 3.5mm AUX, SD reader, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth | Battery life: 10 hours 

ZDNET reviewed the Dell XPS 17 back in 2021 and gave it our top spot in our list of the best 17-inch laptops. The latest iteration of XPS 17 has tons of configuration options with either a 12th or 13th generation Intel Core CPU, up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 graphics card, up to 64GB of RAM, and up to 8TB of storage. 

Also: The laptops with the best battery life

It also features a 4K, LED display for crisp, clean detailing and rich colors for more lifelike images. The display also works with touch inputs for more ways to control your laptop and use your favorite programs. With Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, you’ll get super-fast wireless internet speeds for smoother streaming, gaming, and virtual work or learning.

Pros

  • Under $500, AMD and Intel configurations
  • Lots of storage configurations
Cons

  • No dedicated GPU
  • Somewhat short battery life

Acer Aspire 3 specs: Display size: 15.6 inches | Display type:  | Resolution: 1080p HD | CPU: Intel Core i3-11154G4, Up to AMD Ryzen 5 7520U | Graphics: Intel UHD Integrated, AMD Radeon Integrated | RAM: 8GB | Storage: Up to 1TB | Connectivity: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, HDMI, AUX | Battery life: 8.5 hours 

This budget-friendly laptop from Acer retails for under $500 without sacrificing power or performance. It’s built with an AMD Ryxen 5 7520U or Intel Core i3-11154G4 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB storage drive, and either Intel UHD or AMD Radeon integrated graphics. 

Also: The best 2-in-1 laptops: Top flexible, hybrid, and convertible notebooks

This means that the Acer Aspire 3 is great for web browsing, streaming, homework, and casual home use. The 15.6-inch display produces excellent 1080p resolution, while the built-in webcam and microphone make it easy to join video calls, virtual meetings, or online learning courses.

Pros

  • Excellent components
  • Great display
  • MSI Pen 2 writes on paper and screen
Cons

  • Somewhat short battery life
  • Expensive
  • No 2-in-1 lid hinge
  • MSI Pen 2 sold separately

MSI Creator Z17 specs: Display size: 17 inches | Display type:  | Resolution: 2560×1600 | CPU: Intel Core i9-13950HX | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 | RAM: 64GB | Storage: 2TB SSD | Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, USB 3.2, Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, AUX, Bluetooth, SD card reader | Battery life: 7 hours 

The Creator Z17 HX Studio from MSI is designed from the ground up to be the ultimate machine for content creators and creative professionals. The 17-inch, QHD display not only gives you excellent color, detailing, and contrast, but it also supports touch inputs via the MSI Pen 2; which is great for anyone who wants to take notes during client meetings, create digital drawings and paintings, or have more control over your apps and programs. The MSI Pen 2 can also write on paper, meaning you won’t have to worry about carrying around multiple writing implements for meetings and work. 

Also: What is the best rugged laptop, and what does military grade mean?

It’s also built with 64GB of RAM, an Intel Core i9-13950HX processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 GPU, and a 2TB SSD for all of the power, performance, and storage you’ll need for both raw and finished files. It also supports Wi-Fi 6 for faster wireless internet speeds as well as Thunderbolt 4 connectivity for quick file transfers, charging devices, and setting up secondary displays. The only downside is that you’ll have to keep your charging cable handy as the battery only gives you about 7 hours of use on a full charge, and it doesn’t have a 2-in-1 style lid hinge for drawing.

Pros

  • Elgato Stream Deck integration
  • Great power and performance
  • Excellent display
  • Great battery for a gaming laptop
Cons

  • Very expensive
  • No Intel version
  • On the heavy side at 5.3 pounds

Corsair Voyager a1600 specs: Display size: 16 inches | Display type: IPS/LCD | Resolution: 2560×1600 | CPU: AMD Ryxen 9 6900HS | Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 6800M | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 2TB SSD | Connectivity: Bluetooth, RF, Wi-Fi, AUX, USB | Battery life: 6 hours 

I was able to get some hands-on testing experience with the Corsair Voyager a1600, and I can confidently say that it’s one of the best (if not the best) gaming laptops on the market. It’s built with an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU, AMD Radeon RX 6800M graphics card, 32GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD. This gives you tons of power and performance to handle just about any triple-A title in your library or on your wishlist as well as the ability to smoothly multitask for streaming on Twitch or play videos and music while you work or play games. 

The laptop also has Elgato Stream Deck integration, which means you’ll get unprecedented control over your favorite programs as well as your laptop. Additionally, it houses one of the better batteries in a gaming laptop that I’ve seen, providing about six hours of use on a full charge. And while that does sound like it’s on the shorter side, it’s an eternity for gaming laptops where you might only average three hours before you need to plug in.

Also: The best budget gaming laptops of 2023

ZDNET’s top pick for the best laptop is Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro, which is powered by Apple’s new M2 Max chip, features a beautiful Liquid Retina display, and promises 14 hours of battery life. This chart breaks down how it compares with other laptop’s top features, including price, CPU/GPU, display size, and resolution. 

Best laptop

Starting price

CPU/GPU

RAM/Storage

MacBook Pro 16

$3250

M2 Max

Up to 86GB, up to 8TB

MacBook Air 15

$1299

M2

Up to 24GB, up to 2TB

Dell XPS 17

$2049

Up to 13th gen Intel Core i7, Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 or 40 series

Up to 64GB, up to 8TB

Acer Aspire 3

$330

Up to 11th gen Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 5 7000 series, Intel or AMD integrated graphics

8GB, up to 1TB

MSI Creator Z17 HX Studio

$2250

Intel Core i9-13950HX, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070

64GB, 2TB 

Corsair Voyager a1600

$1700

AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS, AMD Radeon RX 6800M

32GB, 2TB

The key question when buying a laptop — as with any product — is: “What do you want to do with it?” Once you’ve established the use case, you will have a focus for your research, and should quickly get a feel for the key features to look out for. 

If you’re a mobile knowledge worker, for example, you’ll want a usable and performant combination of lightweight, flexible configuration, sturdy build, connectivity, security, battery life, and design credibility. But if you’re a largely desk-bound graphic designer or creator who occasionally needs to visit a client with a laptop in tow, your priorities will be different.

Here’s a well-researched (and tested) shortlist of our favorite laptops for an array of use cases. 

Buy this best laptop…

If you need…

MacBook Pro 16

A well-rounded laptop for work and home use. The MacBook Pro 16 features the new M2 Max chip for dramatic increases in power and performance for everything from spreadsheets and video calls to streaming and content creation.

MacBook Air 15

A lightweight laptop, and MacBook’s latest model. The 15-inch MacBook Air weighs just 3.3 pounds, making it perfect for mobile professionals and students alike.

Dell XPS 17

A Windows-based laptop. The Dell XPS 17 is highly configurable so you can get the perfect build for your needs.

Acer Aspire 3

A budget-friendly laptop. The Acer Aspire 3 retails under $500, and is perfect for web browsing, classwork, and streaming.

MSI Creator Z17 HX Studio

A high-end laptop for content creators. With 64GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and RTX 4070 graphics card, you’ll have plenty of power and performance for video and image editing as well as digital art and streaming.

Corsair Voyager a1600

A quality gaming laptop. The Corsair Voyager a1600 features AMD components as well as a QHD display and 2TB storage drive.

Based on our extensive research and hands-on testing, we chose laptops that had superior design, performance, and effective storage and RAM. We also considered the different purposes for which you may need or use your laptop and the ultimate value (including the price point) that the laptop promises. 

  • Design: Whether your laptop is your ultimate work station or source of entertainment, it’s design, display, and even portability determines how you interact with the unit. 
  • Performance: For many, laptops are essential for workflow and communication. The best laptops promise efficient speed and performance, powered by the best and latest chipsets (like the Apple M2 Max). 
  • Storage and RAM: It’s likely you’ll use a laptop to store key documents or memories and the best models have plenty of room for you to do so. 
  • Purpose: We strive to answer the question, “what laptop should i get if ___” as we know you have different workflow and entertainment needs and preferences, from graphic design to gaming. 
  • Value: The best laptop can be a pricey investment, so we considered qualities that assure you’ll get your money’s worth. 

For most people these days, a “computer” is a type of laptop. While the desktop form factor, especially in the form of all-in-one (AIO) devices, still exists, laptops come in various sizes and cover many use cases (as mentioned above). They range from thin, light, and ultraportable to bulky, powerful, and deskbound. If a smaller laptop screen is an issue, an external monitor can always be connected. Additionally, many hybrid 2-in-1 devices straddle the divide between laptop and tablet. 

While every computing platform has its loyal supporters, most people end up using a particular operating system because of key applications running on it, employer preferences, or budgetary constraints. Windows, which ranges from budget to premium, and Apple’s MacOS, which is mostly available in premium devices, cover a broad spectrum, while Chrome OS is mostly limited to affordable devices.

Also: Comparing the best Macs: Is a MacBook or Mac Studio right for you?

All Windows devices listed here meet the requirements for Windows 11. If you purchase a device with Windows 10 installed, you will be able to upgrade to version 11 if you choose to do so. Note that after October 14, 2025, Windows 10 support will end, and there will be no further security patches or feature updates.

In general, the leading PC vendors have the most extensive range of offerings and the best-documented track records for product development and customer relations. Therefore, if you do not have a specialized use case or budgetary constraints, you will typically consider vendors such as Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, and Asus. These vendors currently lead the PC market in terms of shipments, along with several other well-known brands.

The good news is that you don’t need to have the biggest, best, newest components to get a decent gaming laptop. To play most triple-A and indie titles, you’ll need a rig with at least 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, a 120Hz refresh rate for the display, and at least an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card. 

Also: Best gaming laptops you can buy right now

And if you want to try your hand at content creation, something like the Corsair Voyager a1600 is a sure bet with Elgato Steam Deck integration for streamlined workflows when editing videos and thumbnails, going live for streams, and even setting up Zoom meetings and video calls with channel moderators or collaborators.

It really depends on the student, but there are some common factors to consider when shopping for a school-specific laptop. You’ll want something small and lightweight for easier commutes to and from school, as well as between classes. 

Also: Students, take note: These are the best laptops for college

You’ll also want something with at least an 8-hour battery life to get through a typical school day without needing to plug in (which is great for younger kids who may be forgetful and leave their charging cable at home). Also look for a laptop with at least 4GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and cloud-storage backup to create duplicate copies of important files and classwork. You’ll also want to avoid laptops with dedicated graphics cards that are aimed towards gaming to help cut down misuse and procrastination.

Whether you’re looking for a single laptop for yourself or a fleet for your business, the best laptops for work not only give you great components but also tons of connectivity options as well as robust, durable builds. 

You’ll want to look for a model that has at least 8GB of RAM, a 512GB storage drive, quad-core CPU, and a display that is large enough to work on without feeling bulky and clunky to travel with. You’ll also want a model with at least an 8-hour battery life to get through a typical shift without needing to plug in.

There are many laptops on the market other than those listed above. If you’re still looking around, consider these alternative best laptops listed below.

Close-up of the MSI Stealth Studio laptop

Great alternative for content creators

MSI Stealth 14 Studio

This is a great option for gamers looking to upgrade or buy their first gaming-specific laptop. It features a 165Hz refresh rate, 13th generation Intel Core i7 CPU, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 graphics card.

An Acer Enduro Urban N3 on a grey background

Best rugged alternative

Acer Enduro Urban N3

This laptop is designed from the ground up to be able to handle anything your life throws at it. It has an antimicrobial surface and it’s also tested against MIL-STD-810H standards for shock, drop, moisture, and temperature resistance.


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