The Pixelbook Go is Google’s latest vision of what a Chromebook should be. Unlike previous efforts, the Go doesn’t shoot for the stars. Its price reflects that, and it starts at a full $350 less than its predecessor. If, however, you like the original Pixelbook’s high-end specs, you can order a high-end Go with a Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, 256 GB storage, and a 4K display.
The Go’s design is very much function over form, and an interesting ridged underside is the only thing that sets it apart from standard laptops. The base model uses the Intel Core M3 chip, but we recommend going for the Core i5. You’ll get 8 GB of RAM either way, which is plenty for average Chromebook use.
Chrome OS has progressed significantly in recent years and feels very mature. Support for Linux makes the Chromebook decent for light development work too. Using Android apps can still be an exercise in frustration, but things have improved in recent releases.
Specs to look for: Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD
Another great Chromebook: Want something newer? Consider Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 (7/10, WIRED Recommends) for $700. It has a premium, all-aluminum build that’s lightweight, with a beautifully minimalist design. It also has a sharp, bright screen. The model I recommend has an Intel Core i3 and 8 gigabytes of RAM inside.
MacBook Pro (16-inch M1 Max, 2021)
Need all the power the Mac world has to offer? The 16-inch Macbook with the M1 Max chip delivers. This is a video-editing, game-playing powerhouse of a laptop.
The screen is actually larger than 16 inches, clocking in at 16.2 inches, thanks to the notch (the 1080p webcam sits at the top center of the display). And what a screen it is. The Mini LED technology gives much better contrast, deeper blacks, and punchier colors. It also has a 120-Hz refresh rate. This Mac has a ton of ports—hard to believe, I know, but it’s true—an HDMI port, three USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4, an SD card slot, and a headphone jack. What you won’t get is a touchbar—thank goodness that mess is gone.
If you’re on the fence about which size to get or which chip to choose, have a look at our guide to choosing the best MacBook to help you pick the right one.
More Than a Laptop
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio (7/10, WIRED Recommends) is a laptop, tablet, and media center all rolled into one. It’s aimed at creative professionals who want a traditional laptop, but also a powerful tablet running Windows 11. It mostly delivers on this hybrid idea.
It’s too heavy to use as you would an iPad or Surface Go, but that’s a small trade-off considering that you have significantly more processing power at your disposal. Fully flattened in Studio Mode and complete with Surface Pen, the Surface Laptop Studio is one of the nicest pen-based image-editing devices I’ve tested. If you want power, and the possibility of a tablet form factor, this is the device for you.
Specs to look for: Intel Core i7, Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD
Alternative: If you just want raw power and don’t need the convertible aspect, consider the Dell XPS 17, which is ridiculously powerful.
Not Quite a Laptop
Microsoft Surface Go 3
Microsoft’s Surface Go 3 (6/10, WIRED Review) has a design that stands out on this list for its diminutive size and unique form factor. It’s a Surface tablet with a detachable keyboard and stylus pen (both sold separately)—not your standard laptop. It has the same premium build as its more expensive Surface brethren, a colorful, sharp display, and even Windows Hello facial recognition.
The third iteration brings 10th-generation Intel chips and Windows 11, which offers a vastly improved touchscreen experience. Unfortunately, battery life took a step backward. If you’re planning to be out of the house working all day, you’ll need to throw the charger into your bag. The use case here is less intense computing; if you just need to browse the web, edit documents, and the like, the Surface Go might be the only “laptop” you’ll need. The excellent keyboard and trackpad cover are unfortunately sold separately, but I consider them essential, so be sure to grab ’em.
Laptop Buying Tips
How to Choose the Right Laptop for You
If none of these laptops quite rings your bell, that’s OK! There are far more laptops out there than we have time to test.
To help you make smart choices, we put together a complete laptop buying guide. To make sure you buy something that will serve you well for years to come, we recommend sticking to these guidelines:
- RAM: Make sure you get at least 8 GB of RAM—16 GB would be even better.
- Ninth-generation or higher: There are dozens of chips on the market, but we prefer eighth-generation or higher Intel chips (Eleventh is the latest generation).
- Core i5 or higher: We suggest going with at least an Intel Core i5, though an i7 will give you more power, which you’ll be glad you have if you’re doing anything taxing, like editing video or even processing large batches of photos. AMD has wisely elected to follow a similar naming convention, and we suggest a Ryzen 5 chip—though again, for more processor-intensive tasks the Ryzen 7 is the better choice.
- Screen resolution: The display depends on the size of the laptop. A 1080p (HD) screen on a 13-inch laptop looks good enough. A 1080p screen on a 15-inch laptop does not. If you spend all day staring at your screen, a higher-resolution screen (like a 4K screen) can ease eyestrain.
- 10 hours of battery: Finally, make sure it gets at least 10 hours of battery life.