The Apple MacBook Air M2 continues to hold the top spot on our list of the best laptops 2023. It is a solid choice for most people with a great combination of everything we look for when we’re testing: reliable everyday performance, long battery life and a design that works for a broad range of users. And, it’s now available in a larger, 15-inch size with the same great performance and features. The latest MacBook Air starts at $1,199, though, which is why we still recommend the MacBook Air M1 as a lower-cost alternative to the newest Air model, as it’s still an all-around excellent laptop. For those looking for a more value-oriented option, HP’s Pavilion Aero 13 is an excellent small and light laptop starting at $880, but frequently available for hundreds less.
If you want more laptop brands and options for a particular category, we also have specialized lists you can look at, including the best gaming laptops, best 15-inch laptops, best two-in-ones and best Chromebooks, as well as the best laptops for college students, designers and the best MacBook Pro alternatives. If you need to stay as low as possible on the price of a new laptop computer, check out our best budget laptop and best budget gaming laptop picks.
Best laptops 2023
Thanks to a new design, a larger display (13.6 inches versus the previous 13.3 inches), a faster M2 chip and a long-awaited upgrade to a higher-res webcam, the 2022 version of the MacBook Air remains our top choice for the most universally useful laptop in Apple’s lineup, with one caveat. At $1,199, the $200 increase over the traditional $999 MacBook Air starting price is a disappointment. That’s why you’ll still find the M1 version of the Air retains a spot on our best laptop list. Still, we like everything else about it and it’s our first choice if you’re considering an Air and don’t mind spending more.
The Dell XPS 13, like the MacBook Air, is a perennial favorite for its size, weight and performance as well as overall good looks. Plus, despite its sub-$999 starting price, this sturdy little laptop is thinner and smaller than past versions and packed with excellent components. The design is great (though there’s no headphone jack; a USB-C adapter is included instead) and the battery life is long. And, if the 13-inch display is too small for your needs, the XPS line includes 15- and 17-inch models.
Despite the availability of the new bigger and better M2 MacBook Air, the M1 MacBook Air (one of the first to switch from Intel to Apple silicon) is staying around and that’s a good thing. As Apple’s entry-level laptop it is still our go-to recommendation for a MacOS laptop for basic everyday use. It has great performance and long battery life — up to 18 hours — and is a solid choice for school or work.
HP packed a lot of value into the Aero 13: Eye-pleasing magnesium-aluminum chassis, strong processing performance, long battery life, a bright, colorful display and a weight of just 2 pounds (0.94 kilogram). Amazingly, with all that it offers, it doesn’t break the bank in terms of price at around $800 well configured, but it is frequently discounted for hundreds less.
The Acer Aspire 5 continues to be one of the best Windows laptop deals around. Available in 14-, 15.6- and 17.3-inch sizes, I am partial to the 15.6-inch size because it’s relatively compact and lightweight but still full-featured. Acer has a wide range of configurations to choose from, starting under $500. This budget laptop also features a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, Ethernet and an HDMI port. Aside from internal components, the Acer Aspire 5 has changed little since we first reviewed it in 2020. However, the components inside continue to improve, continuing to deliver excellent performance and features for its price.
Although this Microsoft Surface laptop is not the Surface Laptop, the Surface Pro continues to hit all the right notes if you’re looking for a do-it-all Windows tablet that doubles as a Windows laptop. Microsoft updated it for the Surface Pro 9, but little has changed beyond a processor upgrade from 11th-gen Intel Core processors to 12th-gen chips, as well as an option for a Microsoft SQ 3 processor with 5G wireless. If you were contemplating a Pro 8, it’s still around but now with a lower price, and is our go-to choice. However, here’s our review of the Surface Pro 9 so you can see how they measure up.
Lenovo’s flagship 14-inch Yoga 9i Gen 8 is everything we loved about last year’s model but made new for 2023 with 13th-gen Intel processors that improve performance. The design features comfortable, rounded edges, a beautiful OLED display and excellent audio, making it a fine choice for work, video conferences and entertainment. And, because it’s a two-in-one, you get the added flexibility to use it as a tablet, and Lenovo includes an active pen and a laptop sleeve to complete the premium package.
One of the first of the new generation of 18-inch laptops, the m18 can get expensive if you push it up to a high configuration — an RTX 4090 and Core i9-13900HX will get you to $3,300, without even a lot of memory or storage. But if the big screen is most important to you, it starts at $2,000 with a respectable i7-13650HX and RTX 4050. And don’t expect great battery life, plus the fans can get loud when you’re pushing it.
Dell’s G15 has been a favorite budget gaming laptop for the past few years, along with the HP Victus line. It was joined this year by a 16-inch version, the G16. We tested both and were impressed with what each offers.
Apple’s 2023 update to its flagship MacBook Pro 16-inch line is a modest refresh from the more significantly redesigned 2021 model; notably, it upgrades to the latest generation of M2-class processors, Wi-Fi 6E and HDMI 2.1. With those updates, it gains support for displays up to 8K/60Hz and 4K/240Hz as well as variable refresh rates. The combination of the old and new enhances the veteran laptop’s chops as a powerhouse computer for creation and development work.
Samsung (with help from Intel and Microsoft) has created a near-seamless experience for using the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra with its other Galaxy devices. That means you can do things like quickly share files between your Galaxy phone, Tab or Galaxy Book, use the Galaxy Book’s keyboard and trackpad to control your other devices, instantly pair your Galaxy Bud earbuds as soon as you put down your phone and open the Galaxy Book, and the list goes on and on.
How we test laptops
The review process for laptops consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our reviewers. This includes evaluating a device’s aesthetics, ergonomics and features with respect to price. A final review verdict is a combination of both objective and subjective judgments.
For the hands-on, the reviewer uses it for their work during the review period, evaluating how well the design, features (such as the screen, camera and speakers) and manufacturer-supplied software operate as a cohesive whole. We also place importance on how well they work given their cost and where the manufacturer has potentially made upgrades or tradeoffs for its price.
The list of benchmarking software and comparison criteria we use changes over time as the devices we test evolve. You can find a more detailed description of our test methodology on our How We Test Computers page.
How much do good laptops cost?
Setting a budget is a good place to start when shopping for the best laptop for yourself. The good news is you can get a nice-looking, lightweight laptop with excellent battery life at prices under $500. If you’re shopping for a laptop around $500 or less, check out our top picks here, as well as more specific buying advice for that price range.
Which is better, MacOS or Windows?
Deciding between MacOS and Windows laptop for many people will come down to personal preference and budget. Apple’s base model laptop, the M1 MacBook Air, starts at $999. You can sometimes find it discounted or you can get educational pricing from Apple and other retailers. But, in general, it’ll be at least $1,000 for a new MacBook, and the prices just go up from there.
Are Chromebooks worth it?
Yes, they are, but they’re not for everyone. Google’s Chrome OS has come a long way in the 10-plus years since they arrived and Chromebooks — laptops that run on Chrome OS — are great for people who do most of their work in a web browser or using mobile apps. They are secure, simple and, more often than not, a bargain. What they can’t do is natively run Windows or Mac software.
What’s the best laptop for home, travel or both?
The pandemic changed how and where a lot of people work. The small, ultraportable laptops valued by people who regularly traveled may have suddenly become woefully inadequate for working from home. Or maybe instead of needing long battery life, you’d rather have a bigger display with more graphics power for gaming.
Which laptop is best for gaming or creating?
You can play games and create content on any laptop. That said, what games you play and what content you create — and the speed at which you do them — is going vary greatly depending on the components inside the laptop.