Best Windows Laptops Windows Central 2021
It's a great time to be a fan of Windows laptops, and if you're in the market for a new device, there are plenty of options for a wide number of uses. Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 (7390) is no doubt the best bet for most people who are looking for a premium convertible laptop for everyday use, thanks to high build quality, brilliant touch display, and powerful performance from 10th Gen Intel Core processors (CPU). However, there are a bunch of other great laptops, which we've rounded up here.
- Best Overall: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (7390)
- Runner-up: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13.5
- Best 13-inch: Dell XPS 13 (7390)
- Best 15-inch: Dell XPS 15 (7590)
- Best Gaming: Razer Blade 15 Advanced
Best Overall: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (7390)
The original Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 was a bit of a letdown due to underpowered Intel Y-series CPUs and disappointing battery life, but the refreshed 7390 model has cleaned things up. You're now able to get 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs and a full workday of battery life, which is impressive from a convertible with this grade of touch display. It's sized at 13.4 inches with a 16:10 aspect ratio, available in either 1920x1200 or 3840x2400. With Dolby Vision HDR400 certification and excellent colour, you're going to love this laptop every time you open the lid.
The slim chassis is understated and gorgeous, with a dual-hinge setup that lets you rotate the display around for tent, stand, and tablet modes. Combined with an active pen, this laptop is quite versatile. Platinum, silver finish is available for the outer shell, while you have black carbon fibre or artic white woven fibre interior options. Ports include two Thunderbolt 3, a microSD card reader, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The design means you can't get inside to upgrade hardware yourself, but there are plenty of configuration options available from Dell.
The second-gen maglev keyboard included here for a responsive feel, and there's a large Precision touchpad to promote productivity. If you're interested in consuming media, know that the down-firing speakers on the XPS 13 2-in-1 are quite loud and full. For some extra security, a fingerprint reader is built into the power button.
- Dazzling HDR anti-glare touch display
- Robust audio
- Eight-hour battery life
- Clean, minimalist design
- 10th Gen Intel hardware
- Ports limited but powerful
- Hardware not upgradeable
Runner-up: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13.5
The Surface Laptop 2 was a fine Ultrabook, and Microsoft has made numerous small changes to the 13.5-inch Laptop 3 to make it even better. It's now available with 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs and up to 16GB DDR4x RAM, as well as Wi-Fi 6 connectivity and a faster solid-state drive (SSD) up to 1TB that can be replaced. It's also now rocking a USB-C port, as well as USB-A, Surface Connect, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The keyboard and touchpad are both quieter than the Laptop 2, and typing is about as good as it gets. The touchpad is about 20% larger, and it's using Precision drivers for the best experience possible.
The overall design is as good as ever, with hidden antenna lines for a more streamlined look. If Alcantara — the fabric finish that we saw on the palmrest of the Laptop 2 — isn't your thing, the Laptop 3 can be had with a standard aluminium finish throughout. An IR camera sits above the display for extra security through Windows Hello.
The 13.5-inch touch display is a knockout. It has a boxy 3:2 aspect ratio with 2256x1504 resolution, and it's compatible with the Surface Pen for a stellar inking experience. It would be nice to see Dolby Vision or some anti-glare properties, but at least it hits nearly 400 nits brightness to help combat bright lights. Expect battery life to hit somewhere between seven and eight hours on a charge.
- Gorgeous design and craftsmanship
- Now with USB-C
- Superb keyboard and touchpad
- Intel 10th Gen hardware
- Some parts can be upgraded
- No Thunderbolt 3
- No Dolby Vision or anti-glare display
Best 13-inch: Dell XPS 13 (7390)
The Dell XPS 13 is well-loved here at Windows Central, and its latest 7390 refresh is better than ever. It's now equipped with 10th Gen Intel Core hardware for excellent performance, and it can be configured with up to 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM and a 2TB M.2 PCIe SSD. This is all contained in a slim, premium chassis with a starting weight of just 2.56 pounds (1.16kg). Ports include two Thunderbolt 3, a microSD card reader, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
The webcam has been moved back above the display where it belongs, and the bezel is still as thin as ever. The 13.3-inch display seems to stretch from edge to edge, made even more brilliant if you opt for 4K touch instead of FHD touch and non-touch options. Colour is outstanding in any of the displays, and you get up to 400 nits brightness to help combat glare.
Grab it in gold and white colours, and you can still opt for the classic dark look with the carbon fibre and silver combination. The keyboard has the same key travel and backlight as before, but it's using a new maglev mechanism to help fit the slim body. The Precision touchpad is still one of the best around, and it's sized to fit the rest of the laptop.
- Alpine-white and gold chassis is gorgeous
- Strong performance and good battery life
- IGZO 4K anti-glare display is best-in-class
- Windows Hello support
- Full Thunderbolt 3 USB C ports
- Might want a convertible
Best 15-inch: Dell XPS 15 (7590)
The refreshed 7590 model of the XPS 15 is an awesome Ultrabook, available with a few display options. If you want the best, go with 4K OLED non-touch with 100% DCI-P3 colour reproduction, or choose 4K LCD with 500 nits brightness to save a bit of money. There's likewise an FHD display with 100% sRGB and 500 nits brightness.
For performance hardware, get up to a 9th Gen Intel Core i9-9980HK CPU, though the i7-9750H CPU is also stellar. Combined with an NVIDIA GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of VRAM, this is a laptop that can handle some specialized design and editing work.
The aluminium and carbon fibre chassis offers decent port selection, including Thunderbolt 3, two USB-A 3.1, HDMI 2.0, an SD card reader, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The power button includes a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello, and the webcam sits back above the display for a better angle. A massive 97Wh battery inside gives you a workday of life without needing to find a plug.
- 4K OLED or 4K LCD touch display
- Powerful Intel 9th Gen CPU options
- Dedicated NVIDIA GTX 1650 GPU
- Premium aluminium chassis
- Huge 97Wh battery
- Not as versatile as a convertible
- Less expensive options available
- No Wi-Fi 6
Best Gaming: Razer Blade 15 Advanced
If you need a powerful gaming laptop, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced should be your first choice (though it is expensive). Based on the hardware you want — up to an NVIDIA RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU, 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H six-core CPU, and 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM — you'll get access to different display options, including up to 4K OLED with 100% DCI-P3 colour reproduction, 60Hz refresh rate, and HDR400 certification. Razer is also offering an NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 GPU for specialized design work.
This is all wrapped up in a squared, symmetrical metal chassis that comes in either black of Mercury White colour options. Keyboard travel is a bit short, but it has customizable RGB, and the Precision touchpad is huge for times when you're not using an external gaming mouse plugged into one of three USB-A 3.2 ports. Other connectivity includes Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0, and DisplayPort 1.4.
- 4K OLED display is stunning
- Outstanding audio
- Excellent gaming performance
- Keeps cool
- Premium build quality
- Keyboard has short travel
- Very expensive
There's a Windows laptop for every kind of user, including the one that wants to save money, spend a lot, or look forward to experimental form factors. Want to have a laptop to use just for work? There's a model for you. Does your work involve intensive tasks like photo or video editing? There's one for you, too. With all this in mind, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (7390) still offers the best combination of display, quality, and performance for the average Windows user.
You get stellar performance from 10th Gen Intel hardware, and the battery should last through a full workday, so you don't have to worry about plugging in. The touch display has a boxier 16:10 aspect ratio that's better for tablet mode, and it comes in either 1920x1200 or 3840x2400 resolutions. Either choice makes for a stunning display, complete with a slim bezel. This is through and through a premium laptop, and the added versatility from the convertible design means it will appeal to a large audience.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Kennedy Maring is a freelancer who loves playing games, her little animal family along with her husband, and the great outdoors. Although she is a nerd through and through, she is looking to complete her cosmetology certificate in the next year.
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 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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