These are the Best Laptops you can buy this holiday: Dell XPS, Alienware, HP Spectre, and more!
As much as smartphones have become the central tool for many aspects of our lives, there are some things you can only do on a PC. Even if smartphones have the power to do almost anything, some things are just more convenient on a laptop. To me, buying a new laptop is always an incredibly exciting experience (keep in mind, though, I’m a tech writer), and choosing the right one is incredibly important. It’s always hard to find the right balance of everything you want or need in a laptop. That’s why we’re here to help. We’ve rounded up the best laptops you can buy today, just in time for you to get your holiday shopping done.
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right laptop for you. Screen size, form factor, performance, and the overall design can all play a huge role in choosing the right fit for you. The choices we’ve rounded up cover a good range of use cases, and you’re sure to find something you like on this list. Let’s get right into it. Keep in mind, we’re mostly focused on Windows laptops on this list, but we also have a list of the best Macs if that’s what you’re looking for. Also, all the Windows laptops on this list either come with Windows 11 or support the upgrade, so you’ll be supported for the next few years.
Navigate this article:
- Best overall: Dell XPS 13 9310
- Best 15-inch laptop: HP Spectre x360 15
- Best 17-inch laptop: Dell XPS 17 9710
- Best business laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
- Best convertible: Surface Laptop Studio
- Best gaming laptop: Dell Alienware X15
- Best budget laptop: HP Pavilion Aero 13
- Best detachable laptop: Surface Pro 8
- Best Chromebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Best overall: Dell XPS 13 9310
Dell’s XPS lineup is absolutely iconic, and a big standout among Windows laptops. The latest Dell XPS 13 is no exception, carrying the legacy of Dell’s ultra-compact laptops with tiny bezels around all sides of the display. This is one of the most compact laptops you can buy today, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in power.
The latest generation of the Dell XPS 13 comes with Intel’s 11th-generation Core processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7, and that means it also includes Iris Xe graphics. These are naturally the best processors Intel has made so far, and the integrated Iris Xe graphics mean you can feasibly run some older games on this laptop, even though it’s incredibly light. Not only that, but you also get up to 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, so you won’t be lacking in performance whatsoever.
The display is also phenomenal on the Dell XPS 13. Coming in with a 16:10 aspect ratio, it’s taller and gives you more surface area than a typical 16:9 display, so reading and writing content is much more convenient and efficient. The base configuration, with a 1920 x 1200 resolution, is already great, but you can go up to a 3.5K (3465 x 2160) OLED panel which is not only incredibly sharp, but gives you amazing contrast ratios, punchy colors, and true blacks. You really can’t go wrong with this screen. The one big compromise is that with the tiny bezels Dell uses, the webcam is also very small, and thus, camera quality isn’t great, plus you don’t get Windows Hello facial recognition. Webcam quality isn’t a big deal if you’re not making a ton of calls, but you do miss out on some convenience without facial recognition. You can check out our list of the best webcams to add to the laptop, if you’d like, and some of them even include Windows Hello support.
And that’s not all. If you want to really play games on this laptop, you can use the Thunderbolt 4 ports to connect an external GPU. Or you can use them to connect external displays, or a Thunderbolt dock to connect a wide range of peripherals at your desk setup. Thunderbolt gives you the ability to greatly expand your laptops’ usefulness, and getting one port on each side of the laptop is fantastic. You also get a headphone jack and a microSD card reader, which isn’t a super wide array of ports, but perfectly acceptable for a tiny compact laptop like this. The laptop also includes a USB Type-C to Type-A adapter, so you’re not completely out of luck if you want to connect a legacy peripheral.
This is also one of the more unique-looking laptops you can buy, thanks to the materials on the keyboard deck. The Dell XPS 13 comes with a black carbon fiber interior, which isn’t very common among laptops, paired with an aluminum exterior in “platinum silver”. Some models also come with a white interior made of fiber glass composite (in this case, this aluminum shell comes in a “frost” color), and either way, you’ll stand out from the sea of silver aluminum laptops out there.
Best 15-inch laptop: HP Spectre x360 15
Much like Dell’s XPS lineup, the HP Spectre family is not just the flagship device for the brand, but for Windows laptops as a whole. But in this case, it’s not just a laptop – the HP Spectre x360 is a convertible, and a fantastic one at that.
It starts with great performance, powered by an Intel Core i7-1165G7, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to a 2TB SSD. Right off the bat, it’s almost impossible to get a bad experience with that combination, especially since the Intel processors also include Iris Xe graphics. And if you value speed over storage capacity, the option for PCIe Gen 4 SSDs is also available in a 1TB size, so you get even faster transfer speeds – but realistically, any SSD will be super fast. You also get a large battery, so your laptop should last you through the day without a hitch.
The display is also fantastic, being a 15.6-inch panel with full 4K resolution (3840 x 2160). It’s incredibly sharp, but not only that, this is also an AMOLED panel, so you’re getting fantastic contrast ratios, pure blacks, and bright and vivid colors across the board. Plus, minimal bezels all around help make the experience more immersive. Being a convertible also means the display supports touch and active pens, so you can doodle and take notes in a more natural way. You can rotate the display 360 degrees to use the laptop as a tablet, or use it in a variety of stances for watching movies and other content.
Even with its small bezels, the HP Spectre x360 15 packs a few goodies. The webcam supports Windows Hello facial recognition – though the camera itself is still small and only 720p resolution – and it even has a physical shutter, so if you’re worried about privacy, you can cover it up. The Spectre x360 15 also does something increasingly rare – it has a full number pad built right in. Many laptops, even bigger ones, still don’t do this, so it’s fantastic to see. There’s also a fingerprint reader below the keyboard, so you can choose between facial or fingerprint recognition for logging in.
Design-wise, the HP Spectre x360 is one of my personal favorites. It uses a dual-tone design, combining black and bronze tones in the Nightfall Black version, or blue-ish and gold colors in the Poseidon Blue variant. Both feel incredibly classy, but Poseidon Blue also has a certain edge to it that really helps it stand out. The chassis itself is unique with its cut-off corners under the display, and these corners actually house the power button and one of the Thunderbolt ports. Aside from that, you get another Thunderbolt port, USB Type-A, HDMI 2.0a, and a headphone jack, so you have plenty of connectivity options here.
The HP Spectre x360 15 may be compact, but it truly doesn’t miss out on any of the essentials, while also looking beautiful. It certainly deserves to be considered one of the best laptops out there.
Best 17-inch laptop: Dell XPS 17 9710
It hasn’t been that long since we praised the Dell XPS family, but the Dell XPS 17 is almost the perfect 17-inch laptop. When you buy a laptop with this screen size, it’s very often a gaming laptop, taking advantage of that bigger screen to pack a ton of power. The Dell XPS 17 is still a powerful beast, but it’s still true to the XPS family.
Let’s start with performance, because the Dell XPS 17 has it. It comes with 11th-generation Intel processors, but these aren’t 15W U-series processors. It’s using Intel’s 45W H-series, and it comes with up to an Intel Core i9-11900H, an 8-core. 16-thread processor that can boost up to 4.9GHz. But that’s not all, because you also get dedicated NVIDIA RTX graphics, making this a viable gaming PC, but also a fantastic one for tasks like video editing. And on top of that, you can get up up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage – but those are just the configurations available now. You can upgrade the Dell XPS 17 yourself to give it up to 64GB of RAM and 8TB of storage with the two SODIMM and M.2 slots inside. This is truly a laptop you can use for years to come.
And the display is no joke, either. It’s a 17-inch panel, of course, and the base configuration comes with Full HD+ resolution (1920 x 1200), but you can upgrade all the way to a 4K+ display which is absolutely fantastic. We’ve reviewed the Dell XPS 17, and it covers pretty much the entirety of sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3, and NTSC. There isn’t much more you can ask for. Plus, it’s a touchscreen (if you choose the 4K panel), so you can use it a bit more intuitively. Plus, you get quad stereo speakers for an immersive audio experience that most other Windows laptops can’t match.
But here’s the kicker: this isn’t a gaming laptop design. This isn’t a bulky 17-inch laptop that you can’t really take anywhere. It keeps the same compact design as the rest of the XPS lineup, with minimal bezels around the display and a relatively thin chassis. All of this power is condensed into a laptop that still fits in most backpacks easily, even if it is a little heavy. And for connectivity, you have four Thunderbolt ports, with an adapter for USB Type-A and HDMI included in the box so you can still easily connect legacy peripherals and non-Thunderbolt monitors.
The only downsides are that, once again, the minimal bezels make for a below-average webcam (though you do get facial recognition on this one), and even though it’s compact for a 17-inch laptop, it’s still a bit heavy. But this is still a phenomenal laptops, and one of the best ones out there.
Best business laptop: Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon
When it comes to business laptops, Lenovo has been one of the most recognizable brands in the space, and for good reason. Its ThinkPad lineup has an absolutely classic look, business-oriented features, and highly configurable specs to match the specific needs of every user. Out of the ThinkPad family, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the most well-known, and the latest iteration is better than ever.
Performance-wise, of course, it’s packing the latest Intel Core processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7, which is a quad-core processor capable of boosting up to 4.8GHz and featuring Iris Xe graphics. Plus, you can get it with up to 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for storage. The best part about this is that customization is very flexible, so you can mix and match these specs to fit your needs. If you want 1TB of storage and just 8GB of RAM, you can do that, but you can also get 32GB of RAM and just 256GB of storage. It’s up to you.
The display comes in a few variants, but no matter which one you go for, you’re getting a 16:10 aspect ratio, and that taller screen gives you more surface area, which is great for reading, browsing the web, and writing. The base configuration is a Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) display, but you can upgrade to add a touchscreen, add a Privacy Guard to protect your screen from people around you, or skip all of that and get the Ultra HD+ (3840 x 2400) panel, complete with HDR support. Again, this is independent from the rest of the specs, so you can save money on the processor and RAM but still get a fantastic display.
The webcam above the display is just 720p, but it’s not as small as some other laptops, so the quality will be a bit better. It comes with a physical shutter to protect your privacy, and you can also opt to add an IR camera for Windows Hello authentication and Human Presence Detection so the laptop can lock when you move away from it and wake up when you get close.
Ports and connectivity are also a highlight for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. You get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB Type-A ports, HDMI, and a combo audio jack. This is what you expect in a business laptop, and Lenovo goes further by also adding cellular network support for those that need to work on the go. You can choose between adding 4G LTE or 5G, or skip cellular connectivity if you don’t need it. The design of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon may be a bit boring to some, but it’s a perfect fit for business environments. And of course, you get other classic business features like the pointing stick and buttons above the touchpad many business users still appreciate.
This is a fantastic laptop with tons of configuration options available on Lenovo’s website, and it definitely earns its spot as one of the best laptops out there.
Best convertible: Surface Laptop Studio
Microsoft’s own Surface brand is one of the most recognizable names in the industry, but they haven’t always been known for their high-end performance. The Surface Laptop Studio changes that, and Microsoft truly knocked it out of the park with the first entry in this new line of products.
The Surface Laptop Studio is Microsoft’s most powerful PC yet, representing the merger of the Surface Studio and Surface Laptop lines, while also being a successor to the Surface Book series. But the Surface Boo had 15W Intel processors, the Surface Laptop Studio is using Intel’s H35-series CPUs, which are much more powerful for CPU tasks, but also feature Intel Iris Xe graphics, something you wouldn’t get with the 45W Intel processors. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get dedicated graphics – if you get an Intel Core i7 CPU, you also get an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, making this a fantastic laptop for video editing and even gaming. You can also get up to 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, so you really won’t be begging for more.
Then there’s the display, and the Surface Laptop Studio shines here, too. It has a 14.4-inch display with a 2400 x 1600 resolution, and that’s going to be very sharp and look great for basically any use case. But the true highlight here is that it has a 120Hz refresh rate, and that’s a feature you’d usually find on gaming laptops. The Surface Laptop Studio brings that to a much more sleek and premium-feeling form factor, and it’s great to see because a high refresh rate is good for everyone, not just gamers. And of course, this is a touch screen with Surface Pen support, too.
And writing on this display is going to feel better than ever if you have a Surface Slim Pen 2. Combined with the Surface Laptop Studio, this pen can give you the feel of writing on paper thanks to subtle vibrations as you draw. It’s a truly unique feature that makes a big difference if you want that feel of pen on paper.
What’s truly unique about the Surface Laptop Studio, however, is its form factor. To be fair, it’s not the first to use a design like this, but that doesn’t make it any less fantastic. When you open the Surface Laptop Studio, it’s just a laptop, and you can use it like a laptop. But then you can grab the display and pull it closer to you to watch videos or movies. Or you can fold it down over the keyboard, turning it into “studio mode”, the ideal stance for drawing or writing on the display.
This is also the first laptop on this list to have a 1080p webcam, making it one of the best laptops you can get for video calls, especially paired with the dual studio mics built right in. Plus, it’s the first time Microsoft is including Thunderbolt ports in a Surface device, while also keeping Surface Connect around. However, that’s pretty much all you get in terms of connectivity, so you will be missing out on legacy ports if you don’t have a dock or USB-C hub. But at least it’s much easier to find Thunderbolt docks compared to Microsoft’ Surface Dock.
The Surface Laptop Studio is one of the best laptops Microsoft has ever made, and a personal favorite of mine, too. It’s an easy recommendation.
Best gaming laptop: Dell Alienware X15
For the gamers out there, the Dell Alienware X15 is one of the best options you can get today. It offers a fantastic blend of performance and a sleek design considering its powerful specs. The Alienware X15 is part of the new X-series, and it’s meant to be the pinnacle of the company’s designs.
Of course, the Alienware X15 packs seriously powerful specs, featuring 11th-generation Intel Core H-series processors, along with up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 GPU. That’s about what you’d expect, but to keep things running cool and smooth, Alienware has also created a brand-new thermal compound using something it calls Element 31. This is a gallium-silicone liquid metal compound, and Alienware says it perform 25% better than competing thermal solutions on the market. That means the laptop can stay cool for longer, and thus, sustain its peak performance for longer so you don’t start seeing your frame rate drop. Of course, you can also get up to a 1TB SSD and 32GB of RAM.
Another important factor for gaming is a high-refresh rate display, and the Alienware x15 delivers. It comes with a Full HD display with a minimum 165Hz refresh rate, but you can go all the way up to a 360Hz panel. This variant also includes NVIDIA G-Sync and Advanced Optimus support. One thing you might not like is that that there aren’t options for higher resolution panels, but framerate tends to be more important for many gamers.
One of the most impressive things about the Alienware x15 is its design. Somehow, these powerful specs fit in a laptop that’s under 16mm thin, something unheard of for a gaming laptop until just recently. In addition to the new thermal element, the fans and thermal vents are designed to maximize airflow and keep things cool. This is helped by the fact that there are almost no ports on the sides of the laptop, making room for ventilation.
Instead, all the ports are on the back, and that includes two USB Type-C ports, one of which supports Thunderbolt 4, a USB Type-A port, and HDMI 2.1. This also frees up space next to the laptop for moving your mouse more freely during gaming sessions. Also on the back is a ring of RGB lighting so you can customize the look of your laptop.
While there are undoubtedly plenty of great laptops out, there Alienware x15 is one of the best you can buy today.
- The Dell Alienware x15 is a powerful, yet surprisingly slim gaming laptop. In addition to high-end specs, it has a new cooling solution exclusive to Alienware, which allows it to be thinner than many other gaming laptops. Plus, it has RGB lighting on the back.
Best laptop on a budget: HP Pavilion Aero 13
Affordable laptops don’t get much better than the HP Pavilion Aero, and in many ways, it’s surprising that this is part of HP’s budget Pavilion family. If you’re looking for a relatively affordable laptop that’s still more than good enough for day-to-day use, this is it. At a base price of $750, it’s not as affordable as some other options, but you get incredible value for that price.
Let’s start with performance, which is fantastic starting with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600U, though you can go up to a Ryzen 5 5800U. That’s an 8-core, 16-thread processor, which is going to give you fantastic performance for not just day-to-day tasks, but also things like video rendering, so you can use this for editing Full HD videos with no issue. You also get a minimum of 8GB of RAM, and you can upgrade to 16GB, another rarity for a budget laptop. You can also configure it with up to 1TB of SSD storage, with the base model giving you 256GB, a great starting point already.
But it gets even better. The HP Pavilion Aero is one of the very few laptops in this price range that comes with a 16:10 aspect ratio for the display. Taller aspect ratios have been a premium feature for a while now, but the Pavilion Aero brings it to a much lower price point and a new market. They give you more surface area, which is great for reading and writing, making this a fantastic choice for students. Not only that, but even the base configuration comes with Full HD+ resolution (1920 x 1200), while many other budget laptops tend to start with a resolution like 1366 x 768. You can even upgrade to a Quad HD+ (2560 x 1600) display, making this a truly great experience.
All of that comes together in an package that starts at under 2.2lbs, or less than one kilogram. That’s the where you’d usually see a budget laptop cut costs to get higher-end specs. You might find a chunky plastic design, but not here. The HP Pavilion Aero is lightweight, it uses magnesium for its chassis, and it’s just 17mm thin. It even includes niceties like a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello. It’s also got a solid port selection with one USB Type-C port, two USB Type-A ports, HDMI 2.0, and a headphone jack. There’s no Thunderbolt here, but that’s to be expected with an AMD-powered laptop since Intel owns Thunderbolt.
Of course, you do miss out on some things, like a touchscreen or Windows Hello facial recognition. But what you get is already fantastic, and on top of that, you get a bunch of color options – something that’s even rare on far more expensive laptops.
Overall, the HP Pavilion Aero is a fantastic deal for its base price, and at the time of writing, it’s even discounted to $669.99. At that price, it’s a bargain, and you certainly can’t go wrong with it.
- The HP Pavilion Aero is an absolute standout when it comes to budget laptops. It offers high-performance AMD Ryzen processors and up to 16GB of RAM, all in a lightweight magnesium chassis that still feels premium. It certainly punches above its weight.
Best detachable laptop: Surface Pro 8
Microsoft’s Surface lineup has long offered some of the best detachable laptops you can buy, but with the Surface Pro 7, the design was starting to get a little stale. But the Surface Pro 8 is an all-new device, and it finally makes the Surface Pro family exciting again with new hardware inside and out.
The most exciting thing about the Surface Pro 8 is undoubtedly its display, so let’s start there. It now comes with a 13-incch screen and a very sharp resolution of 2880 x 1920. That also means it has the typical 3:2 aspect ratio of Surface devices, giving you more vertical space (in landscape mode) for text, web pages, and so on. But that’s not all: Along with the Surface Laptop Studio, the Surface Pro 8 is the first Surface device to support a 120Hz refresh rate, a feature that’s typically been reserved for gaming laptops. This higher refresh rate makes animations, transitions, and motion appear much smoother on the screen. Plus, this screen is brighter than before, and it supports Dolby Vision.
Another similarity with the Surface Laptop Studio is support for haptic feedback with the Surface Slim Pen 2. Thanks to a special microprocessor inside the Surface Pro 8, the new pen can make it truly feel like you’re using a pen on paper, and it’s fantastic.
Performance is also significantly improved from the Surface Pro 7. The Surface Pro 8 comes with Intel’s 11th-generation processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7. That’s a quad-core processor, and now it comes with Intel Iris Xe graphics, making the Surface Pro better than ever for some light gaming and video editing. That’s paired with up to 32GB of RAM (and the minimum is now 8GB), and up to 1TB of SSD storage, which is easily replaceable under the device’s kickstand.
The design is another highlight for the Surface Pro 8, which looks much more modern now. As we’ve mentioned the display is bigger than previous generations, but the bezels are also smaller, so this looks a lot sleeker, too. Another big change with this design is that it now comes with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, so you can connect docks, monitors, and even external GPUs if you want to use the Surface Pro 8 for gaming at your desk. It truly expeands your possibilities by a lot, but if you already have a Surface Dock, the Surface Connect port is still here. You also get a microSD card reader and a headphone jack, but no legacy ports like USB Type-A or HDMI.
The biggest downside of the Surface Pro 8 is potentially its starting price of $1,099, but to be fair, this is now a much more advanced device than the Surface Pro 7 was. Plus, it no longer comes with an Intel Core i3 processor (it starts with a Core i5), in addition to having double the RAM in the base configuration. It’s definitely the best detachable laptop you can buy today, though tou’ll need to buy the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen 2 separately.
Best Chromebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 713
While it’s true that this list is mostly focused on Windows laptops, we thought we’d highlight one of the best Chromebooks you can buy as well. The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is an incredible value proposition that you really can’t find anywhere else, and if you’re more familiar with Chrome OS than Windows, then this is definitely the way to go.
First off, it’s powered by an Intel Core i5-1135G7, a quad-core processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics. Many Chromebooks opt for lower-power processors like Intel’s Pentium or Celeron series, so this is going to give you one of the best experiences you can get on a Chromebook. Not only that, but you also get 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, which is a fantastic combination for performance and storage. 256GB isn’t a lot for a Windows PC, but with so much of the Chrome OS experience being web-based, you’ll probably be just fine with this amount. You’ll probably be storing a lot of files on Google Drive, and many apps are web apps, so they won’t be taking up space on your device.
The display is another standout feature of the Chromebook Spin 713, being a 13.5-inch panel with a 3:2 aspect ratio that’s rarely seen on anything other than Microsoft’s Surface lineup, and even more rare among Chromebooks. It’s got a high-resolution display, too, coming in at 2256 x 1504, it’s more than sharp enough for reading and consuming content. It’s also an IPS display, and since this is a convertible, it’s a touch screen protected by Corning Gorilla Glass.
That’s another thing that’s fantastic about the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 – the premium feeling. In addition to having a glass-covered display, it also uses Corning Gorilla Galss for its trackpad, making it feel much better than a plastic touchpad would. Plus, the chassis is made of sandblasted aluminum, so it feels premium in just about every way. It’s also just 17mm thin. And that premium feel isn’t just for show, as it also boasts a MIL-STD-810H rating for durability. On top of all of that, you get a solid selection of ports with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one USB Type-A, HDMI, a microSD card reader and a headphone jack. That’s not a bad setup at all, and many laptops at this price have nothing close to this combination.
And here’s where it gets even better. All of this – the powerful specs, sharp and high-quality display, the premium build, and the solid selection of ports – comes in at just $699.99. That’s even more affordable than the budget Windows laptop we recommended, and it has advantages over it, too, like Thunderbolt support and a touch screen. It’s pricier than most Chromebooks, but it definitely offers the best experience you can find on Chrome OS, and better than most Windows laptops in this price range, too. If you’re looking for a new Chrome OS laptop that can last you a while. this is definitely the best choice you can find today.
- The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is the best Chromebook you can buy today, and it comes at a price point that's almost hard to believe for what it offers. It has an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a high-resolution touchscreen, and a premium and durable design.
Those are what we’d consider the best laptops you can buy right now, and some of the best choices as gifts for someone who might be looking to upgrade. The Dell XPS 13 9310 is the best overall offering because it offers a blend of high-end performance for day-to-day tasks, a very compact design with minimal bezels around the display that makes it ideal for portability, an incredibly sharp OLED display, and a unique design that’s subdued enough on the outside to not get too much attention, but unique on the inside so it feels a lot less boring when you’re using it.
But if the 13-inch display is too small for you or you have more specific needs, there are other fantastic options on this list. The Surface Laptop Studio is a personal favorite, and that’s all thanks to its form factor. I love the versatility of going from a laptop to tablet, and the way it’s implemented here means it’s still an incredibly powerful device, and I find this design less cumbersome than a 360-degree hinge on the display. But that’s a matter of personal preference, and you can surely find something you love on this list, too.