Best laptops 2021: Acer, Apple, HP and more

We've rounded up the best notebooks, ultrabooks, and ultraportables around

Abstract image of a laptop on a blue background

The importance of a good laptop has been fully realised over the last 12 months as more and more of us have been forced to work from home. There's no alternative to a physical keyboard and trackpad for the remote worker - tablets and smartphones simply don't offer the same experience.

While a laptop may not match the number-crunching might of a desktop PC, today's models can handle any office task you throw at it, and some can even tackle specialist jobs like video editing and database management.

With that in mind, it's no surprise that the laptop market continues to flourish, with a huge variety of models on offer at various price points. There's something to fit every role and every budget, and here we've rounded up the best laptops for business to help you find the one that's perfect for your needs.

Honor MagicBook Pro

The Honor MagicBook Pro on a wooden desk

Despite being a few hundred pounds more expensive than the MagicBook 14, the Huawei MagicBook Pro remains a fast yet affordable ultraportable. The laptop features a 16.1in Full HD display and a hexa-core AMD Ryzen 4000 processor, which means you can expect incredibly colour-accuracy and high-end performance, all packaged within a premium design.

CPUHexa-core 3GHz AMD Ryzen 5 4600H
RAM16GB
Screen16.1in, 1920 x 1080
Dimensions369 x 234 x 16.9mm
Weight1.7kg

Price when reviewed: £708 (exc VAT)

Read our full Honor MagicBook Pro review for more information.

Asus ExpertBook B9450F

The Asus ExpertBook B9450F on a wooden desk with brick wall in background

The Asus ExpertBook B9450 is one of the slimmest and lightest business laptops on the market and it's extremely strong in several vital departments. Its battery life is simply sensational, and this machine’s extreme longevity is joined by a great screen, a superb keyboard and a slim, lightweight design that’s going to be able to withstand busy commutes and frequent travel. It’s even got a solid selection of ports and decent speakers.

CPU1.8GHz Intel Core i7-10510U
RAM8GB
Screen14in, 1920 x 1080
Dimensions320 x 203 x 14.9mm
Weight995g

Price when reviewed: £1,300 (exc VAT)

Read our full Asus ExpertBook B9450F review for more information.

Apple MacBook Pro 13in (Apple M1, 2020)

Apple M1 MacBook Pro 13in side view

The 13in MacBook Pro is one of the first to come with Apple's new M1 chip and it is, as you would expect, lightning-fast. Add to that an astonishing battery life and superb screen and the MacBook Pro 13in (2020) is a no brainer - and also the recipient of IT Pro's Editor's choice award.

There's little change in design, year-over-year, but Macs are iconic for a reason. The 13in Pro looks as good as ever and costs £1,083 - exc VAT.

CPUI8-core 3.2GHz/2.1GHz Apple M1 chip
RAM8GB 
Screen13.3in, 1,2560 x 1,600
Dimensions304 x 212 x 15.6mm
Weight1.4kg

Price when reviewed: £1,083 (inc VAT)

Read our full Apple MacBook 13in (2020) review for more information.

Google Pixelbook Go

Google's own-brand lightweight Chromebook is tastefully designed, and at barely more than a kilogram it's supremely portable. Performance doesn't compare to rival Windows systems, but the cloud-based apps that Chrome OS is designed to feel perfectly slick and responsive. Best of all, the Pixelbook Go's amazing 14hr battery life means you can keep on trucking long after other laptops have given up the ghost. Chrome OS won't suit everyone's needs, but if you're in the market for a Chromebook then this is a very likeable option at a terrifically competitive price.

CPUIntel Core i5-8200Y
RAM8GB
Screen13.3in, 1,920 x 1,080
Dimensions311 x 206 x 14.5mm
Weight1.06kg

Price when reviewed: £691 (exc VAT)

Read our full Google Pixelbook Go review for more information.

Lenovo ThinkBook 13s

Lenovo's no-frills ThinkBook 13s covers the essentials at a shockingly affordable price. The Core i5 processor provides solid performance, while the bright, anti-glare 1080p screen and serviceable keyboard let you get your work done comfortably, and a good selection of ports ensure you can hook up whatever peripherals you need. Battery life isn't bad either, and Wi-Fi 6 is a welcome bonus. It may not have the cachet of a bona fide ThinkPad, but for less than half the price the ThinkBook 13s could be a very smart buy.

CPUIntel Core i5-8265U
RAM8GB
Screen13.3in, 1,920 x 1,080
Dimensions308 x 216 x 16mm
Weight1.32kg

Price when reviewed: £500 (exc VAT)

Read our full Lenovo ThinkBook 13s review for more information.

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

The Apple MacBook Air (2020)

"Even if you've never bought a Mac before, the Air deserves your attention," so said our review. It was one of the first Apple devices to feature its new M1 chip and it delivered on every single bold claim the company made about it. It comes with superior performance, stunning design and it is jam-packed with features.

CPUI8-core 3.2GHz/2.1GHz
RAM16GB
Screen13.3in, 2,560 x 1,600 
Dimensions304 x 212 x 16.1mm
Weight1.29kg

Price when reviewed: £1,374 (exc VAT)

Read our full Apple MacBook Air (M1,2020) review for more information.

Acer TravelMate X5

The TravelMate justifies its name by weighing a mere 980g; that would be unusually light for a 13in laptop, and here it's even more impressively combined with a 14in panel, which makes everything just a little easier to read. The X5's portable credentials are also boosted by better than average battery life, and that lightweight design doesn't ruin performance: it's not a speed machine, but there's more than enough power here for office apps and internet tasks. If weight and battery life are your priorities then the TravelMate X5 is a great choice at a very fair price.

CPUIntel Core i7-8565U
RAM8GB
Screen14in, 1,920 x 1,080
Dimensions329 x 228 x 15mm
Weight980g

Price when reviewed: £916 (exc VAT)

Read our full Acer TravelMate X5 review for more information.

HP EliteBook 840 G7 

The HP Elitebook on a kitchen counter

HP's EliteBook 840 G7 comes with a very 'Elite' price tag but also the performance to justify it. It features a 14in 1080p display, an Intel Core i7-10810U processor with 16GB of RAM and all the features to make it your next favourite business companion. On top of all that, it looks darn cool. And, it could all be yours, if you're willing to stump up £1,061 (exc VAT). 

CPUIntel Core i7-10810U 
RAM16GB
Screen14in, 1,920 x 1,080
Dimensions32.36 x 21.46 x 1.78mm
Weight1.34kg

Price when reviewed: 1,061 (exc VAT)

Read our full HP EliteBook review for more information

Honor MagicBook 14

The MagicBook 14 is remarkably cheap, yet it doesn't feel it: the slim and smart aluminium chassis opens up to reveal a 14in IPS screen with strong contrast and great viewing angles. The AMD processor delivers a fair turn of speed too, outpacing many pricier laptops, and it's good to see a selection of both full-sized USB and compact USB Type-C connectors. There's a fingerprint sensor for biometric authentication too, making this a great low-cost option for workers on the move.

CPUAMD Ryzen 5 5300U
RAM8GB
Screen14in, 1,920 x 1,080
Dimensions323 x 215 x 15.9mm
Weight1.39kg

Price when reviewed: £458 (exc VAT)

Read our full Honor MagicBook 14 review for more information.

Acer Swift 3 (2020) 

Acer Swift 3

Admittedly there are a few issues with Acers Swift 3, with underwhelming scores from our review for the screen, build quality and design - not to mention a middling keyboard and poor battery life. But you might be able to overlook all of these for its blistering CPU performance. If you need lashings of compact processing power without spending loads, few laptops are Better.

CPUAMD Ryzen 7 4700U
RAM16GB
Screen14in, 1,920 x 1,080
Dimensions323 x 219 x 18mm
Weight1.2kg

Price when reviewed: £666 (exc VAT)

Read our full Acer Swift 3 review for more information.

Dynabook Tecra X50-F 

Dynabook Tecra X50-F

Even though Dynabook has stuck with an eighth-generation Core processor for the Tecra X50-F, when it may have been better to go with one of Intel's latest 11-generation CPU, this is a laptop we were impressed by, and it's a device we would happily recommend to a small business. It's a lightweight 15in laptop that looks good, has great battery life, and prioritises security. 

CPUQuad-core 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8665U
RAM16GB
Screen15.6in, 1,920 x 1,080
Dimensions359 x 250 x 17.6mm
Weight1.36kg

Price when reviewed: £1,433 (exc VAT)

Read our full Dynabook Tecra X50-F review for more information.

Huawei MateBook X Pro

Huawei MateBook X Pro

The Huawei MateBook X Pro is a faster machine than its 2018 or 2019 counterparts, although it's seen a bit of a downgrade in the battery life department so you may be disappointed if you're upgrading from an older MateBook model. However, if you're looking at changing laptops or brands, this could be your ideal choice. It looks beautiful, runs like a dream and is fairly affordable (by premium standards). This is a business machine but also a fashion statement.

CPUIntel Core i7-10510U
RAM16GB
Screen13.9in, 3,000 x 2,000
Dimensions304x 217 x 14.6mm
Weight1.33kg

Price when reviewed: £1,694 (exc VAT)

Read our full Huawei MateBook X Pro review for more information.

Best 2-in-1 laptops

2-in-1 laptops are for those users looking for the flexibility that can only be achieved by combining two devices in one piece of hardware. These are machines that appear to be notebooks but can transform themselves into a tablet at any time. Generally, this means users don't have to buy both a laptop and a tablet, but can instead buy one device that can perform many roles.

The downside is that most 2-in-1s tend to be significantly less powerful than a traditional laptop. They normally prioritise a slim design to make them easier to carry while in tablet form, meaning many manufacturers have to compromise on their performance as there's less space for hefty, all-powerful, components.

To help you decide whether a 2-in-1 is for you, we've pulled together some of our best performing reviews. The ones we've selected are an impressive bunch and are bound to give a laptop a run for its money.

HP Elite Dragonfly G1

HP Elite Dragonfly G1

The Dragonfly proves that a serious laptop doesn't have to be boring. It boasts a gorgeous midnight blue casing, a fabulous glossy touchscreen and a 360° hinge, so you can easily fold it around into tablet or tent mode. At the same time, it comes with a formidable Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a spacious 512GB SSD, yet somehow weighs less than a kilogram. The Dragonfly G1 isn't quite a budget option, but the price is reasonable for what you get - that being a supremely practical and desirable laptop.

CPUIntel Core i7-8565U
RAM16GB
Screen13.3in, 3,840 x 1,080
Dimensions304 x 197.5 x 16.1mm
Weight0.99kg

Price when reviewed: £1,459 (exc VAT)

Read our full HP Elite Dragonfly G1 review for more information.

Microsoft Surface Go 2

Microsoft Surface Go 2

It may not be a powerhouse, but the Surface Go 2 set a new standard for cheap Windows 2-in-1s. Microsoft has tweaked and improved the already accomplished and impressive Surface Go, without raising the price too high, to produce an even more successful device. It has the qualities of recent Surface Pro devices too, even outdoing the current-gen Surface Pro 7 on battery life.

CPUCore m3-8100Y
RAM8GB
Screen10.5in, 1,920 x 1,280
Dimensions245x 175x 8.3mm
Weight745g

Price when reviewed: £516 (exc VAT)

Read our full Microsoft Surface Go 2 review for more information.

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus

The Lenovo ThinkBook Plus on wooden desk

The Lenovo ThinkBook Plus is well made, extremely comfortable to type on, and offers decent horsepower without knackering battery life for it. Throw in the added functionality of a secondary touchscreen, and for well under £1,000 the ThinkBook Plus starts looking like a very good deal indeed. In fact, it's Lenovo’s most successful E-Ink experiment so far, and a fine alternative to 2-in-1 convertibles.

CPUQuad-core 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-10210U
RAM8GB
Screen13.3in (primary), 10.8in (secondary), 1920 x 1080
Dimensions308 x 217 x 17.4mm
Weight1.4kg

Price when reviewed: £800 (exc VAT)

Read our full Lenovo ThinkBook Plus review for more information.

Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371

The Asus Flip S UX371 on a wooden desk with brick wall in background

The Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371 is the first laptop we’ve seen with one of Intel’s new Tiger Lake processors – but the 11th-gen silicon isn’t the only thing worth talking about. With its superb 4K screen, modern design, and several future-proofed features, this Windows 10 laptop is an effective and versatile hybrid.

CPU1.2-2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7
RAM16GB
Screen13.3in, 3,840 x 2,160 OLED
Dimensions305 x 211 x 14mm
Weight1.2kg

Price when reviewed: £1,499 (exc VAT)

Read our full Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371 review for more information.

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