Best laptops under $1,500 Windows Central 2021
Price plays a huge role when shopping for a new laptop, and it's always a great feeling if you can stick to a set budget. Luckily, there are a ton of awesome laptops under $1,500, whether you're looking for something for gaming, productivity work, or general entertainment. We've rounded up some of the best Windows laptops right here that cost less than $1,500.
- Best notebook: Dell XPS 13 (9310)
- Best convertible: HP Spectre x360 14
- Best 2-in-1: Surface Pro X 2-in-1
- Best performance: HP ENVY 14 Ultrabook
- Best gaming: Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
- Best lightweight: XPG Xenia 14
Best notebook: Dell XPS 13 (9310)
Dell's latest XPS 13 (9310) is essentially a perfect Ultrabook. Its thin, light body is built incredibly well, dual fans keep hardware cool, and the keyboard and touchpad make productivity a breeze. Unlike a lot of thin Ultrabooks, audio is quite good here. You also get Wi-Fi 6 connectivity for fast wireless speeds, though there is no LTE option.
Dell has quite a few customization options available, though a model costing about $1,284 has a good balance. It includes an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor (CPU), 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM, a 512GB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and a touch display with 1920x1200 (FHD+) resolution and anti-reflective finish. The 52Wh battery is capable of delivering around eight hours of real-world usage.
You can go cheaper, with Core i3 models starting at about $1,000. And, if you're interested in the 4K UHD+ display option, a model costing $1,480 has a Core i5 CPU, 256GB SSD, and 16GB of RAM. All XPS 13 configurations come with dual Thunderbolt 4, dual 2.5W speakers, IR camera, fingerprint reader, comfortable keyboard, and huge Precision touchpad.
If you're in search of a laptop with clamshell design (no convertible function) for productivity work, this is about the finest you'll find on the market today.
- 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs
- Plenty of display options
- Flawless design
- Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1
- Excellent keyboard and audio
- Limited port selection
- No convertible function
Best convertible: HP Spectre x360 14
HP's Spectre x360 14, which actually measures in at 13.5 inches, is undoubtedly one of the best laptops on the market today. Its convertible design means you can flip it around for tent, stand, and tablet modes; the touch display with 3:2 aspect ratio is ideal no matter how you use it. It's available with up to a 3000x2000 resolution, though this will bump you slightly past the $1,500 mark due to the high-end CPU required for the configuration.
Models do start at about $1,200 for an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD, and display with 1920x1280 (FHD+) resolution, anti-reflective finish, and 400 nits brightness. The display includes pen tilt support for inking, there's an IR camera for Windows Hello, plus there's a fingerprint reader for even more security. The keyboard and touchpad are excellent, and Wi-Fi 6 is there for fast wireless connectivity.
If you need even more performance and features, configure a model with a Core i7-1165G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD, and FHD+ touch display with 1,000 nits brightness and privacy screen for about $1,460. Those of you shopping around for a convertible PC somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 will surely love this laptop.
- 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs
- Wi-Fi 6
- Display with 3:2 aspect ratio
- Big 66Wh battery
- Quad speakers for great audio
- No LTE connectivity
- Slight touchpad looseness
Best 2-in-1: Surface Pro X
Microsoft's Surface Pro X is an evolution of the standard Pro line, moving to a Microsoft SQ1 or SQ2 ARM-based CPU, thinner design, a larger display with a thin bezel, and LTE connectivity as a standard feature. Adding a keyboard and Surface Slim Pen to the Pro X turns it into a truly versatile device, though the privilege adds some extra cost to the total price.
It's a device designed to suit the mobile professional; if you need to stay connected everywhere, need long battery life, and don't plan on undertaking any intensive design and development projects or gaming, the Pro X is likely going to be an ideal device. ARM has some limitations (namely having to emulate x86 apps), but native ARM64 apps are plentiful and run without issue. Performance hovers somewhere around an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU.
Models with the older SQ1 CPU start at $1,000 at Microsoft, while the SQ2 starts at $1,500. You can configure models with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM and up to a 512GB M.2 SSD that can be upgraded after purchase. Third-party retailers seem to be offering the device for quite a bit cheaper. Be sure to check out our Microsoft Surface Pro X SQ2 review for more information about the latest version of this PC.
- Unlocked 4G LTE and eSIM
- All-day battery life (ARM64)
- Excellent audio, display, and typing
- Outstanding build
- Upgradeable SSD
- ARM has limitations
- SQ2 not as impressive in 2021
- No 5G or Wi-Fi 6
Best performance: HP ENVY 14
The HP ENVY 14 isn't like most other compact Ultrabooks on the market. It weighs in at just 3.5 pounds (1.6kg) and measures 0.71 inches (18mm) thin, but it packs in a discrete NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q GPU for awesome performance. Alongside the Core i5-1135G7 or Core i7-1165G7 CPU, this laptop is perfect for creators.
The 14-inch display is available in touch and non-touch options, with 400 nits brightness and a 16:10 aspect ratio. There's only one resolution available, though, so you will have to settle for 1920x1200 (FHD+). The keyboard is comfortable, the touchpad is big, and there's a generous selection of ports, including Thunderbolt 4.
A model with Core i5 CPU, GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q GPU, 8GB of RAM, 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, and non-touch display starts at just $950. If you're looking to max things out with Windows 10 Pro, Core i7-1165G7 CPU, GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q GPU, 16GB of RAM, touch display, and a whopping 2TB of M.2 PCIe NVMe storage, you're still look at a modest $1,500 price tag.
- Strong performance
- Color-accurate 16:10 display
- Outstanding design
- Long battery life
- Excellent keyboard and audio
- No 4K display option
- Aggressive coil whine
Best gaming: Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
Lenovo's Legion 5 Pro is so far the best gaming laptop from the PC manufacturer. Its AMD Ryzen CPU options are top performers across the board (at least when plugged in), able to handle modern games without issue. Most ports live along the back edge for easy cable management, the TrueStrike keyboard with RGB lighting is better than ever, and the huge Precision touchpad is good for productivity when you're not using a gaming mouse.
The 16-inch IPS display has a 16:10 aspect ratio and 2560x1600 resolution, allowing for almost no bezel at all. There's just the one display option available, but it has a 165Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, G-Sync, Dolby Vision, and VESA DisplayHDR 400. It has more than 500 nits brightness and an anti-glare coating, plus 100% sRGB color reproduction. This is a fantastic display for portable gaming.
A model with Ryzen 5 5600H CPU, 8GB of DDR4-3200MHz RAM, 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD, and NVIDIA RTX 3050 GPU costs about $1,100, plus you can upgrade to a Ryzen 7 CPU and RTX 3050 Ti GPU for a bit more money. There's also a model for $1,500 that has a Ryzen 7 chip, 8GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, and NVIDIA RTX 3060 Laptop GPU if you need more power.
- Beautiful 16-inch QHD+ display with 165Hz refresh rate
- Performance to crush modern games
- Smart layout for ports
- Improved keyboard and touchpad
- Stable performance
- Runs hot under load
- Battery performance is lacking
- No fingerprint reader or IR camera
- Short battery life
Best lightweight: XPG Xenia 14
The Xenia 14 is so far the most impressive laptop from newcomer XPG. Its magnesium-alloy chassis weighs in at just 2.14 pounds (970g), making it lighter than LG's excellent gram lineup. Despite the size, the keyboard has ample travel, the touchpad is huge, and there are plenty of ports, including Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, and USB-A.
The display has a 16:10 aspect ratio and FHD+ resolution, with 98% sRGB color and about 360 nits brightness. Battery lasts about 10 hours, and you can upgrade RAM and SSD after purchase. This is an excellent laptop for anyone who wants to travel light without making the usual sacrifices to ease-of-use you find in many modern Ultrabooks.
A model with 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, 512GB M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD (so fast), and Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics costs about $1,200. You can also upgrade to a Core i7-1165G7 and otherwise similar specs for $1,350.
- 16:10 aspect ratio, slim bezel
- Enormous touchpad, comfy keyboard
- Lighter than LG's gram
- Thunderbolt 4, IR cam, Wi-Fi 6
- SSD (PCIe 4.0) and RAM upgradeable
- No webcam shutter
- Just one display option
- Magnesium alloy not as rigid as aluminum
Being financially conscious doesn't mean you can't get yourself one of the very best Windows laptop options available. The price range of somewhere around $1,000 to $1,500 is a sweet spot for many people shopping for a new device, which is what we focused on here.
If you prefer one of the best Ultrabooks that doesn't have the convertible function, something like Dell's XPS 13 (9310) will make a great choice. It is a laptop almost without flaw, and anyone who doesn't need the added performance of a dedicated GPU should find it handles anything you throw its way. It's well built, it has a comfortable keyboard and touchpad, and the display is beautiful. If, on the other hand, you're searching for a great convertible, HP's Spectre x360 14 can land you a lot of laptop for the asking price.
Looking for something a bit more affordable? Our roundup of the best budget laptops might have just what you're looking for.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
Daniel Rubino is the executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009 back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.
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