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We've updated this guide with new picks for the best Windows laptops, budget Ultrabooks, salvage laptops, and MacBooks for photo and video editing.
Best Laptop For Older Adults
Smartphones and tablets may have taken up the majority of people's viewing time, but sometimes a real computer is still needed - and for most people, that means a laptop. For business, school, and office work like creating spreadsheets and editing videos, there's no good substitute for a good keyboard and a big screen. But deciding which laptop you should get depends on how often you use it, what you'll use it for, and (of course) how much money you can spend on it.
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We regularly test promising laptops, from sleek ultrabooks to cheap Chromebooks to huge gaming laptops and more. Here are the best models to buy in each category, along with tips on how to choose the right type of laptop for you.
Most people already know whether they want a MacBook or a Windows laptop: if you're already familiar with macOS or Windows, the easiest option is to buy a computer with that operating system. Or, if you already have an iPhone, your MacBook will let you text with iMessage, make FaceTime video calls, and access your iCloud photos. However, macOS and Windows have never been more similar, and the most popular apps also work on either platform (or at least have alternatives that work similarly). If you're interested in switching, it's not as big a deal as it used to be.
If you're not tied to a platform, the biggest factor is how easy it is to get support. Do most of your family and friends use Macs? Do you have an Apple Store near you? Are your smarter friends using Windows technology? If you are a student, is there a help desk at your school? Will your company's IT department provide support for your home computer? If you're not a self-sufficient tech whiz and want the best service for your computer, buy a Mac because you can take it to any Apple store for repairs. No other computer manufacturer offers this level of support. (If you're self-sufficient, start with what you like.)
Alternatively, since more can be done in the browser without downloading and installing any apps, you may not even need a traditional operating system – a Chromebook could be all you need.
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The Specter x360 offers exceptional battery life, a long touchscreen, and a reliable keyboard and trackpad, and our pick is thin and light enough to fit in a bag and take anywhere.
Who they are: Ultrabooks are the best laptops for most people, including students, writers, office workers and commuters. They have great keyboards and screens, great battery life, offer enough power to do everything most people need, and are thin, light and portable. You should expect to pay between $900 and $1,300 for a great Windows Ultrabook that will last at least four years.
In case they're short: Great Ultrabooks can cost more than many people are willing to spend on a laptop, even though these models offer a better experience and last longer than cheaper alternatives. Ultrabooks also lack the processing power to play high-end games or handle demanding tasks like professional video editing or 3D modeling. If you need a cheaper or more powerful laptop, check out our other picks below.
Why we love it: The HP Specter x360 13.5 has the best combination of what makes an ultrabook great: it offers fast performance, all-day battery life, a long and wide screen, a high-quality keyboard and trackpad, and an excellent webcam. The Specter x360 also has a 360-degree hinge that lets you flip the full touchscreen to use as a tablet (or any position in between) and comes with an active stylus. We recommend upgrading to a 16GB memory configuration at checkout. Our pick isn't as light or compact as other Windows ultrabooks - though at £3 it's certainly not heavy either - and it comes with a lot of bloatware, which you'll need to uninstall when the laptop arrives.
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Read more about the HP Specter x360 13.5 and our other picks in our Windows ultrabook guide.
The MacBook Air has a comfortable keyboard, good performance, and a decent amount of storage—things that weren't always offered in previous MacBook Airs.
Who they are: If you prefer macOS or need great tech support, the MacBook is a safe bet; Typically, 13-inch models offer the best combination of size, weight, and speed. They are great for writers, office workers, travelers and students. Apple's latest MacBooks also have new Apple-designed processors that help them run cooler and quieter than most laptops and give them exceptionally good battery life. Expect to pay at least $1,000 for one that has good enough specs and storage to last at least four years.
In case it's short: MacBooks are more expensive than Ultrabooks running Windows, especially if you're looking to upgrade memory or storage; Apple's SSD upgrade prices are so high that we usually recommend looking into cloud storage or an external SSD. As with Windows ultrabooks, the MacBook configuration recommended for most people doesn't have the processing power to play demanding games.
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Why we love this device: MacBook Air 2020 uses the Apple M1 chip, which offers good performance and battery life at an affordable price. The Air keyboard is very good because Apple replaced the shallow, failure-prone butterfly keys under the 2018 and 2019 MacBook Air keys for thinner, more satisfying scissor keys. Like other Apple laptops, the Air has quite a few ports to match (in this case, two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, which might require you to use a new hub or cables). But the Air's light weight, sturdy build, and top-notch support make it a great laptop, especially if you also own an iPhone or other Apple devices.
With a wide range of ports, great battery life and a beautiful trackpad, the Latitude 5420 is a well-built versatile device. Upgrading is also easier than regular ultrabooks.
Who they are: Most people don't need a business laptop, and those who do will probably get one from their IT department. But there are some great reasons to go for a business laptop, even if you're paying for it yourself, including better long-term durability, easier servicing, RAM and storage upgrades, and loads of ports and more variety than what what does an Ultrabook get. Our top picks typically cost between $1,200 and $1,400.
In case it's short: Ultrabooks are a better choice than business laptops for most people because Ultrabooks are thinner, lighter, and offer similar performance for less money. Most people don't upgrade or repair their laptops, and if you really need work-centric features like smartcard support and vPro, your employer has probably already issued you a laptop that supports them. Dongles and docks, while inconvenient, can make up for the limited port selection of some ultrabooks.
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Why we like it: The Dell Latitude 5420 has almost all the ports you could need, a great keyboard and trackpad, 12 hours of battery life, and is easy to open for upgrades and repairs. We didn't find it too heavy or bulky to carry around during our tests, though it still offers solid build quality. It's an excellent laptop that would be equally effective crunching numbers in an office setting or operating a CNC machine in a shop. Although the Latitude 5420 is home repairable and you can easily find replacements and upgrades for memory, storage, and wireless card, Dell does not sell the rest of the parts for this laptop - battery, keyboard, trackpad, display, hinges, frame, speakers, and so on - directly to individuals, You cannot replace the motherboard or processor. If you are looking for this level of repair, consider the following choice.
Laptop Framework is the best - and so far only - option if you want a laptop that you can easily upgrade and repair any part of you. It's also a great Ultrabook.
Who they are: Most modern laptops aren't designed to be repaired or upgraded by anyone with a screwdriver. Even if you can get past the screws and the hard-to-open chassis, you may be able to access the SSD, but the memory will probably be glued and you definitely can't upgrade the processor. When something runs out of warranty, or when the battery dies, or when you're ready to upgrade after five or six years, you either have to recycle or throw your entire laptop back — even if some of its parts are still perfect. . If you want to be able to upgrade and repair your laptop yourself and make it last longer without replacing everything - which in theory can save you money and reduce e-waste over the years - our salvageable choice is
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