The 9 Best Laptops of 2022 for Work, Gaming, and Design

These are the best laptops for work, gaming, graphic design, and more

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Many people have replaced desktop PCs with laptops, but there are numerous choices and specs to consider if you're making the transition. For most users, the choice comes down to whether you want a machine running Windows or Apple's macOS. Many find Apple machines easier to use, but Windows laptops offer more flexibility.

Your needs will largely determine what you need out of a laptop. If you want to replace your desktop computer, you'll want more power in your device. If you travel often, you might prefer something lightweight and easy to carry. However, you can always enhance your laptop with accessories such as secondary monitors, keyboards, and external hard drives.

Our experts have looked at dozens of laptops, and we've rounded up our favorites for productivity, gaming, and other essential tasks.

Best Windows: Dell XPS 13 9310

Dell XPS 13 9310

Dell

What We Like
  • Extremely portable

  • Amazing 4K display

  • Keyboard and trackpad are both awesome

  • Battery life is great

What We Don't Like
  • Fingerprint sensor is touchy

  • Not a lot of ports

Dell's XPS laptops consistently beat out the competition with slim, impeccable designs and components. The Dell XPS 9310 is no exception. It's available with up to 32GB of RAM (memory), 2TB of solid state storage, and has a 4K display that's color accurate enough for photography. It's also made from aluminum and carbon fiber like its predecessor, the Dell XPS 7390, and features the latest Intel processors. 

Like other models in the XPS lineup, the 9310's minimal design means there aren't many ports, but it's still got enough for most users. The only minor downside is that the fingerprint sensor can be somewhat unreliable. Also, keep in mind that this laptop doesn't include a dedicated graphics card, so it's not ideal for gaming or graphics-intensive tasks. However, it is fast and powerful enough for most day-to-day use and is a well-rounded laptop.

Screen Size: 13.4 inches | Resolution: 1900x1200 | CPU: Intel Core i7-1185G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | Touchscreen: Yes

"Navigation is a breeze, thanks to the excellent keyboard that is quite large for such a small laptop, and the keys have a satisfying clicky response."Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best Ultraportable, Apple: Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (M1, 2020)

4.9
2020 Apple MacBook Air

Apple

What We Like
  • Super fast

  • Keyboard is awesome

  • Gorgeous display

  • Great battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Limited ports

  • Bad webcam

If you prefer Mac to PC, Apple's latest Macbook Air from 2020 is still a compelling device. Beyond its snappy performance, you'll find a remarkably great keyboard for a thin and light laptop. Our reviewer saw up to 12 hours of performance before needing a charge and says, "Apple made bold claims about an all-day battery in the run-up to the release of the M1 MacBook Air, and they really delivered."

On the downside, its limited port selection and sub-par webcam bring it down slightly. While it could have used some upgrades beyond the brand new Apple M1 chip that debuted with this Macbook Air, overall, it's still a fantastic option for fans of Apple products.

Screen Size: 13.3 inches | Resolution: 2560x1600 | CPU: Apple M1 | GPU: Apple 8-core GPU | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | Touchscreen: No

"Apple made some massive changes between the last MacBook Air and this one, but you can’t actually see any of them. The physical design of the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is exactly the same as the 2019 model, so if you’ve seen one of those, you know exactly what you’re getting here." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best for College Students: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

4.5
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

What We Like
  • 3:2 aspect ratio is useful

  • Fast performance

  • Great trackpad

What We Don't Like
  • No LTE support

  • Lackluster display

Microsoft's Surface laptops are as innovative as they are powerful, and the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is a particularly excellent choice for college students. It's versatile and productivity-focused with its 3:2 aspect ratio. This taller screen gives you more space to read and write than the more common widescreen 16:9 displays.

The Surface Laptop 4 features a responsive keyboard and trackpad, which is another factor for productivity. It falls short a bit when it comes to connectivity (4G LTE cellular data is unavailable), and the display is unexceptional but makes up for that with the excellent battery life that should get you through an entire day in class. Our reviewer saw up to nine hours of battery life while completing tasks including web browsing and photo editing.

The Surface Laptop 4 also comes with a powerful processor and plenty of RAM (computer memory) but no dedicated graphics processing unit (GPU), which is fine for a laptop intended for school and business work.

Screen Size: 13.5 inches | Resolution: 2256x1504 | CPU: AMD Ryzen 4680U or Intel Core i5/i7 | GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics or Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB RAM | Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD | Touchscreen: Yes

"A tall 3:2 display aspect ratio defines the laptop’s boxy shape. This was the Surface Laptop’s most distinctive feature on its debut and had the benefit of providing more usable screen space." Matthew Smith, Product Tester

Best for Power: Acer Predator Triton 300 SE

4
Acer Predator Triton 300 SE

Courtesy of Gaming Lyfe

What We Like
  • Very portable for such a powerful laptop

  • Display is gorgeous

  • Monster performance

  • Solid wireless connectivity

What We Don't Like
  • Unimpressive battery life

  • Excessive bloatware

The Acer Predator Triton 300 SE has an understated look but is very powerful. While it looks more like a business laptop, it's made for gaming—powered by an eleventh-generation Core-i7 processor, 32GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, as well as an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 dedicated graphics card (or video card). The tradeoff is that the Triton 300 SE suffers from fairly poor battery life compared to less powerful devices.

Our reviewer points out a few other minor issues, including poorly located ports that complicate cable management and more than the average amount of pre-installed applications (known as bloatware). However, the 14-inch display and built-in speakers are both top-notch. Overall you couldn't ask for more power inside such a portable laptop. It's the perfect choice for gaming, video editing, and other graphics-intensive tasks.

Screen Size: 14 inches | Resolution: 1920x1080 | CPU: Intel Core i7-11375H | GPU: Nvidia RTX 3060 | RAM: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB RAM | Storage: 512GB SSD | Touchscreen: No

"The display delivers impressive contrast and vibrant color for a mid-range gaming laptop. I noticed this in every game I played."Matthew Smith, Product Tester

Best for Gaming: Razer Blade 15 (2021)

4.2
Razer Blade 15

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

What We Like
  • Powerful graphics card

  • Super high refresh rate

  • Solid speakers

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

  • Bad battery life

Razer makes some of the top gaming laptops, and the Razer Blade 15 represents the best of what their products have to offer. It's powered by Nvidia's latest graphics card, as well as tenth-generation Intel processors, and features a 144Hz (hertz) display. This high refresh rate display and impressive hardware make the Blade 15 very powerful and capable for gaming and creative tasks.

The Razer Blade is also equipped with an RGB (red, green, and blue) backlit keyboard and better speakers than you'd expect. However, as with other high-powered laptops, the Blade doesn't have the best battery life, and it's also fairly heavy, so it's not the most portable laptop around. However, those are minor gripes, as the Razer Blade is certainly one of the best laptops out there for gaming.

Screen Size: 15.6 inches | Resolution: 1920x1080 | CPU: Intel Core i7-10750H | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | Touchscreen: No

 "Assuming you don’t mind being tethered to a wall outlet most of the time, the Razer Blade 15 provides impressive gaming experiences in an appealing, portable form factor." Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Ultraportable, Windows: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

4.3
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

Amazon

What we Like
  • Very portable

  • 3:2 aspect ratio is useful

  • Full touch screen

  • Keyboard and trackpad are outstanding

What We Don't Like
  • Not much power

  • Limited ports

  • Poor camera

Microsoft's Surface Go laptop offers snappy performance for essential productivity tasks in an ultra-portable package. It features a 3:2 aspect ratio screen, which is ideal for writing. In our testing, we found the keyboard and trackpad to be excellent, and the trackpad is almost unrivaled in devices this size.

The downside is that this isn't a very powerful laptop, and it tends to get hot if you try to push its capabilities. Also, the camera isn't great, and your selection of ports is relatively limited. With that said, you're getting a super thin and light machine with a whopping 13 hours of battery life.

Screen Size: 12.4 inches | Resolution: 1536x1024 | CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G1 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB SSD | Touchscreen: Yes

"The Surface Laptop Go is certainly not the most powerful laptop around, but with 8GB of RAM, an Intel Core i5-1035G1 CPU, and a fast solid-state drive for storage it feels zippy and responsive." Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best Design: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 (2021 model)

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 (2021 model)

Amazon

What We Like
  • Slick trackpad and keyboard

  • Great design

  • Fast refresh rate

  • Great price

What We Don't Like
  • Missing a webcam

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 is a marvel in appearance and performance. Not only does it look impressive, but it has the hardware inside it to back up those looks with the power you need for high-end gaming or graphically intense productivity.

Its 2560x1440 screen has a high 120Hz refresh rate so that it can take full advantage of its Nvidia graphics card and powerful AMD Ryzen processor. Additionally, you get a full terabyte of solid state storage, which is plenty of room for games and other software.

Unlike many other gaming-capable laptops, the G14 actually has decent battery life and is small, lightweight, and thus more portable than you might expect. The only major downside we found during testing the G14 is that it doesn't have a built-in webcam, which is a serious disadvantage in a world where nearly everyone communicates via Zoom.

Screen Size: 14 inches | Resolution: 2560x1440 | CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Touchscreen: No

"A great feature of the Zephyrus G14 is the inclusion of a fingerprint reader that’s built into the power button." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best Budget: Lenovo IdeaPad 1

IdeaPad 1 (11”, Intel) laptop
What we like
  • Extremely cheap

  • 14-inch display is a portable yet functional form factor

  • Thin and light

What we don't like
  • Display resolution is only 1366x768

  • Low power

The Lenovo IdeaPad 1 is one of the cheapest fully functional laptops you can buy, and though you've got to make more than a few sacrifices due to that low price, that hasn't held it back from being one of the top laptops.

The IdeaPad 1 has only 4GB of RAM, 64GB of solid state drive storage, and an Intel Celeron N4020 processor. However, if you need a laptop to get work done and don't need it to do much other than word processing and web-based tasks, then it's perfectly adequate.

It does come with Windows 11 in S mode, which limits the device's capabilities. However, considering the low power of the IdeaPad 1's hardware, that may be desirable, and you can always turn off S mode if it bothers you.

Screen Size: 14 inches | Resolution: 1366x768 | CPU: Intel Celeron N4020 | GPU: Integrated | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB SSD | Touchscreen: No

Best for Professionals: HP Zbook Firefly 15 G8

4.8
HP Zbook Firefly 15 G8

Courtesy of B&H

What we like
  • Thin and light design

  • 5G connectivity

  • Superb speakers

  • Professional features

What we don't like
  • No SD card reader

  • Pricey

Professionals require tools they can rely on to get the job done, and the HP Zbook Firefly 15 G8 is one of the most reliable laptops you can buy. It's also loaded with powerful components to handle everything but the most graphically intensive tasks. These features include 32GB of RAM, an eleventh-generation Intel Core i7 processor, and a Nvidia T500 graphics card.

The laptop has a bright and color-accurate 4K monitor and the latest and greatest in terms of connectivity capabilities. Highlights include a SIM card slot so that you can hook the Firefly up to a 5G cellular network instead of relying on Wi-Fi networks. It's kind of pricey, and an SD card reader would have been a welcome addition, but overall the Zbook Firefly 15 G8 is a pro-grade laptop.

Screen Size: 15.6 inches | Resolution: 1920x1080 | CPU: Intel Core i7 | GPU: Nvidia T500 or Integrated | RAM: 16GB or 32GB | Storage: 512GB or 1TB SSD | Touchscreen: Available with some configurations

"For such a thin and light laptop, the Firefly 15 G8 is no slouch when it comes to processing and graphics power." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Final Verdict

Overall, the Dell XPS 13 (view at Amazon) wins out as the best laptop yet again. The balance of power, design, and affordability all come together in a great product. If you prefer Apple, then the MacBook Air (view at Amazon) is the macOS equivalent to the XPS 13. The two are very evenly matched.

What to Look for in a Laptop

Display

Which size of display you choose will largely determine the size of the computer. At the small end, an 11-inch screen means a super portable computer, but not a lot of space on which to work, while a 17-inch screen gives you desktop PC screen real estate, but at the cost of portability.

Most people can go with something in the middle (14 or 15 inches offer an excellent compromise) and don't need to worry too much about resolution in a laptop, so long as the screen is at least 1080p. 4K is nice but really only noticeable in larger 15- or 17-inch laptop displays. If you're a gamer, look for a display with at least a 144hz refresh rate.

Components

Look for at least a 514GB SSD, unless you're going for a really cheap device and don't need much onboard storage. Also, traditional hard disk drives (HDD) are pretty much extinct in modern laptops, so avoid them if possible.

Find 8GB of RAM at a minimum, though 16GB is preferable, and 32GB is almost a necessity for high-end gaming and graphically intensive productivity (such as photo editing or graphic design). You'll also want the latest generation of processors from AMD, Intel, or Apple, and if you're doing any gaming, you'll want a dedicated graphics card.

Operating System

Most laptops run Windows 10 or 11. Windows 11 may be the latest, but it isn't fundamentally much different from its predecessor Windows 10, so don't hesitate to buy a laptop with this older operating system that still receives updates and support from the manufacturer. If you buy an Apple device, you'll be using macOS, and Chromebooks run ChromeOS, which is very similar to a web browser.

FAQ
  • What size laptop should I buy?

    For frequent travel, it's a good idea to go for a laptop with a screen 14-inches or smaller. However, this often means sacrificing processing and graphics power, though if you can afford to pay more, you can find highly compact and very powerful computers. For productivity, a larger screen is nice, and the larger the laptop, the better the price to power ratio.

  • Should I buy a 2-in-1 laptop?

    Most 2-in-1 laptops are highly flexible machines that work either as laptops or tablets. If you need both tablet and laptop functionality, this is a great way to reduce the number of devices you own.

    However, you tend to pay more for a 2-in-1 laptop than a traditional laptop, with traditional laptops tending to give you more bang for your buck in terms of computing power. Also, traditional laptops are usually more robust.

  • Do I need a graphics card?

    If you're planning to use your laptop for school or business, doing light productivity tasks, then you can save a lot of money by not buying a laptop with a graphics card. However, if you plan to do gaming, photo editing, or any other graphically intensive task, then you want to buy a laptop with a reasonably powerful graphics card.

About Our Trusted Experts

Andy Zahn tested and reviewed most of our picks for top laptops from Dell, Microsoft, Asus, and HP. He has been writing for Lifewire since 2019, covering the last tech and consumer gadgets, and specializes in laptops, desktops, gaming, drones, and photography.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer with over 14 years of experience covering tech and gaming. He has tested and reviewed several laptops for Lifewire, including the Razer Blade 15, Dell XPS 13 9370, and the Apple MacBook Air (2018).

Jeremy Laukkonen is an automotive and tech writer for numerous major trade publications. When not researching and testing computers, game consoles, or smartphones, he stays up-to-date on the myriad complex systems that power battery electric vehicles. Jeremy has contributed numerous laptop reviews for Lifewire, including the MacBook Air with the M1 chip.

Matthew Smith is a veteran consumer tech journalist who's been reviewing products since 2007. His expertise includes PC hardware, gaming, laptops, smartphones, and more. He was formerly the Lead Editor of the product reviews team at Digital Trends.

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