Best Upgradeable Laptop Windows Central 2020
A laptop you can save money with upfront but still upgrade down the line is a sound investment to increase the longevity and usefulness of your device. Generally speaking, we're referring to both RAM and solid-state drive (SSD) upgrades, and a laptop like the Dell XPS 15 is perfectly suited for this sort of plan.
- Best overall: Dell XPS 15
- Best for work: Lenovo ThinkPad L390
- Best budget: CHUWI HeroBook 14.1
- Best gaming: Lenovo Legion Y740 15
- Best desktop replacement: Alienware Area 51m
Best overall - Dell XPS 15
The XPS 15 shares a lot with its smaller sibling. But the extra space you get from making it a bit bigger pays dividends — especially if you're into adding your own upgrades. Dell doesn't exactly cut corners, though the spec sheet boasts Intel's latest high-end processors, NVIDIA graphics and a 4K OLED display all available as options.
However, if you flip it over, you'll find more than you might expect that you can change out. RAM and the SSD storage can be upgraded, as can the wireless card, so it's pretty straight forward to make an excellent portable PC even more exceptional.
Dell's stock parts in the XPS 15 are high quality; of that, there's no doubt. It would have been nice if there was space to add a second SSD, but you can add more memory at least, plus as big an NVMe SSD as your budget will allow. The XPS 15 remains one of the best laptops on the market today and being able to upgrade it is certainly a bonus.
- Excellent design and construction
- Gorgeous display
- Replaceable RAM and SSD
- Options for NVIDIA dedicated graphics
- Can be expensive
- Only room for one SSD
Incredible and upgradeable
With options that go up to an Intel Core i9 and NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti, the XPS 15 has so much to offer, with the bonus of upgrading your RAM and SSD.
Best for work - Lenovo ThinkPad L390
Lenovo's ThinkPad lineup is a staple in the enterprise laptop market. You always know pretty much what to expect when you buy one. You're getting a high-quality, durable laptop with a brilliant and comfortable keyboard, stable battery life, and enough ports to cover all your connectivity needs.
ThinkPads can be expensive though, but the L390 bucks that trend by being both a traditional ThinkPad great for the working environment and a device with an attractive price. Aside from the slightly lackluster display, this is an excellent laptop for home and the office, with all-day battery life, 8th Gen Intel processors and super-fast PCIe storage.
The storage and RAM on the L390 are also upgradeable. The 256GB stock SSD will only go so far, but you can add an NVMe drive with more storage while retaining lightning-quick data speeds. Additionally, the L390 uses standard SODIMM DDR4 memory, and you're free to upgrade it as high as 32GB in dual-channel if you wish.
- Outstanding keyboard
- Upgradeable RAM and SSD
- All-day battery life
- 8th Gen Intel processors
- Great price
- Lackluster display
- Chunky bezels
Best for work
More affordable ThinkPad with fewer features
As long as you don't mind the display and don't need some extra features, you can save a few hundred dollars here.
Best budget - CHUWI HeroBook 14.1
The HeroBook 14.1 is the only laptop here without upgradeable RAM, but it earns its place for two main reasons. The first is that it has upgradeable storage, and the second, and perhaps most impressive, is that it only costs around $200.
This isn't a laptop for heavy workflows, professional users, gamers, or anybody else who needs a semblance of power. It's a lightweight machine with an excellent 1080p IPS display, solid construction, and a classy design for folks who are on a super tight budget.
The 4GB of RAM might be fixed, but for the use case of this laptop that will fine. It's most significant shortfall is the eMMC storage, which is both slow and low capacity. But, CHUWI included a vacant m.2 SATA SSD slot behind a panel underneath the laptop, too. Slap in an SSD, move your Windows install to it, and you've suddenly got a much faster, still incredibly cheap laptop.
- Solid construction and design
- 1080p IPS display
- Upgradeable SSD
- Precision touchpad
- That price
- No keyboard backlight
- No 5GHz Wi-Fi
- Some light bleed from the display
About as budget as it gets
With an all-day battery, 1080p display, and vacant SSD slot, the HeroBook makes it easy to live with some of its shortcomings.
Best gaming - Lenovo Legion Y740
Gaming laptops are generally more likely to be upgradeable than, say, an Ultrabook purely based on their increased size. When it comes to the versatility of upgrades combined with features and performance, the Legion Y740 is about as good as it gets right now.
For one, it packs the latest and greatest in the form of Intel 8th Gen hexa-core processors and NVIDIA RTX 2070 graphics. It's all housed in a stylish aluminum chassis, comes with a suitably good keyboard (after all, it's a Lenovo), and a crazy fast 144Hz display with NVIDIA G-Sync for tear-free gaming. You can also get it in either a 15-inch or 17-inch form factor, with the larger option leaving more room for hardware upgrades.
Flip it over and pop the bottom off though and you're in for a treat. Not only is the m.2 SSD slot accessible to upgrade to a larger capacity NVMe SSD, but you can upgrade the RAM thanks to the use of standard SODIMM DDR4 memory sticks, and make use of the 2.5-inch drive bay for all the storage you need for your games.
- 144Hz display
- Upgradeable SSD, RAM, and 2.5-inch drive
- Choice of 15 or 17-inch form factor
- RTX 2070 GPU
- Great design
- Webcam is under the display
- Fairly small battery
You're going to have a great time
An RTX 2070 GPU and hexa-core Intel Core i7-8750H CPU paired with upgradeable RAM and SSD make this a great gaming laptop.
Best desktop replacement - Alienware Area 51m
With a desktop PC, even a pre-built option, you can usually upgrade just about everything inside it. Laptops are naturally more restricted, but Alienware is changing all that with the simply mad Area 51m. Like its Area 51 desktop, it's pushing boundaries. This is a laptop that you can upgrade pretty much everything on.
There are caveats, such as the custom-designed GPU, but Alienware has so far committed to releasing new parts compatible with the Area 51m in the future. You can also upgrade the CPU, though if you opt for the Core i9 model, you won't be doing that in a hurry. However, with completely upgradeable internals, this is essentially a desktop rig you can put in your backpack.
Of course, RAM and storage upgrades are also possible, and you'll be getting NVIDIA RTX graphics for your money as well. It's big, and it's expensive. But Alienware is challenging the very concept of what you can do with your laptop to keep making it better, and that's alright by us.
- Upgradeable CPU and GPU
- Upgradeable SSD and RAM
- NVIDIA RTX GPUs
- Up to Core i9 processors
- Pretty big
Best desktop replacement
A laptop that you can upgrade everything on
You can't usually upgrade the CPU and GPU on a laptop, but on the Area 51m its entirely possible, albeit with caveats.
Buying a laptop is a serious investment. One way to ensure you get as much life from it as possible is by purchasing one you can upgrade down the line. For starters, manufacturers will always charge more for RAM and storage upgrades than you could spend at a third-party retailer. There's also the fact that your use case may change over time, or you want the freedom for your laptop to grow as you do to prolong its life as much as possible.
You don't have to compromise either, with the Dell XPS 15 being living proof you can own a high-end, slim and light laptop that has upgradeable storage and RAM. It's also one of the best laptops you can buy, period.
While upgrading the parts of your laptop can be relatively simple, it's still worth noting that you can damage your device if you don't know what you're doing.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Richard Devine Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming.
Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.
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