The best laptops in Australia 2021

We've spent more than 500 hours testing laptops to bring you the 11 best options for every budget and use.

We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!

How did we pick this list?

Finder's in-house experts spend hundreds of hours each year testing the latest laptops. This list combines the results of this testing, as well as a methodical analysis of online reviews to pick the very best premium laptops for business and pleasure. Everyone's specific needs are different, of course, so this is presented as a list of options, with explanations for each choice below.

All choices are independently made based on our combined 60+ years of reviewing experience and are not based on commercial relationships. Get more detail on our methodology below.

The best laptops in Australia for every category

  1. Best overall laptop: Apple MacBook Air M1
  2. Best budget laptop: Dell Inspiron 15 3000
  3. Best Windows laptop: Dell XPS 13
  4. Best Apple laptop: Apple MacBook Air M1
  5. Best ultraportable: Acer Swift 3x
  6. Best 2-in-1 laptop: Lenovo Yoga C940
  7. Best gaming laptop: Razer Blade 14 2021
  8. Best business laptop: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
  9. Best student laptop: Apple MacBook Air
  10. Best Chromebook: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
  11. Best 17" laptop: LG Gram 17

Apple

2020 Finder Retail Award: Best Laptop brand

Beats by Dr. Dre best headphones Finder awards 2020 Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

There's a reason Apple is one of the most pervasive technology brands in the world. Apple received the highest score for laptop design, performance and battery life.

The 2020 Finder Retail Awards measured the customer satisfaction of thousands of Australians across more than 150 categories of retail products from 400+ brands. See the full breakdown.

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Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020)

Best overall laptop

Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020)
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • M1 Silicon lives up to the hype (mostly)
  • Battery life is good
  • Function keys are better than the Touch Bar

Cons

  • x86 app translation eats extra battery power
  • Not every app works seamlessly
  • No external design changes at all
Why we chose it

Apple's market share is still dwarfed by the Windows world, but the MacBook Air M1 makes a serious statement about both computing power and, critically, battery life. You can get the M1 in everything from the iPad Pro 12.9 to the 24 inch iMac with the same basic performance throughout. The MacBook Air M1 has the same power, lower price and exceptional battery life for a laptop system, making it an easy winner.

Read our full Apple MacBook Air M1 review here.


Dell Inspiron 15 3000

Best budget laptop

Dell Inspiron 15 3000
Image: Supplied/Finder

Not yet rated

Pros

  • Choice of Intel or AMD processors
  • Good RAM and storage options

Cons

  • Cheaper build
  • Lower resolution display
Why we chose it

When you're looking for bang for your buck, you're playing in a territory that constantly shifts because the bargain models of 6 months ago can often outpace newer models in the same mid-range price point. That's where Dell's Inspiron 15 3000 series typically shines, thanks to the use of a variety of processors from either Intel or AMD, so you can balance performance against price.

They're also constantly on sale somewhere, further increasing their value proposition. Many online reviews do point out their slightly cheaper build as a drawback, however, alongside displays that don't even hit Full HD.


Dell XPS 13 (2020)

Best Windows laptop

Dell XPS 13 (2020)
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Superb performance
  • Light and easy to transport
  • 2-in-1 design gives you a powerful Windows tablet
  • Great display screen

Cons

  • Very limited ports
  • Integrated GPU is mediocre
Why we chose it

The Dell XPS 13 is a build-to-order model, which means its power can vary a lot depending on whether you order a top-spec model or something more affordable. That flexibility doesn't end there, however, with a great design that incorporates minimal screen bezels and lightweight design.

As with any build-to-order system, be careful to check that you're getting what you expect, as sometimes older processor models stick around at retail. Nothing wrong with buying them if you can score a bargain – but don't pay top dollar for older technology either!

Read Finder's full Dell XPS 13 review.


Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020)

Best Apple laptop

Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020)
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • M1 Silicon lives up to the hype (mostly)
  • Battery life is good
  • Function keys are better than the Touch Bar

Cons

  • x86 app translation eats extra battery power
  • Not every app works seamlessly
  • No external design changes at all
Why we chose it

The M1 MacBook Pro is the most expensive M1 MacBook you can buy, excluding the smaller range of Intel-based models still on Apple's books. However, because all M1 chips are the same right now, the performance of the cheaper Apple MacBook Air M1 is exactly the same if you opt for the 8-core CPU/8-core GPU model. That, combined with its excellent battery life and portability, make the MacBook Air a top choice.

Read our full Apple MacBook Air M1 review here.


Acer Swift 3X (2021)

Best ultraportable

Acer Swift 3X (2021)
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • 11th Gen processor is great for productivity tasks
  • Very light and portable

Cons

  • Plastic build feels cheap
  • Annoying fingerprint reader placement
Why we chose it

In the ultrabook world, the Acer Swift 3X doesn't look like much. Indeed, it rather looks like it's been built off a reference design for any ultrabook. Where the Swift 3X stands out is with what it bundles under the surface, with 11th Generation Intel Core processors and a surprisingly capable battery for such a lightweight laptop system. The use of Intel's own Iris Xe Max graphics means it's not great if you need heavy duty graphics processing, but beyond that it's a superb ultraportable option.

Read our full Acer Swift 3X review.


Lenovo Yoga C940

Best 2-in-1 laptop

Lenovo Yoga C940
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Good audio thanks to revolving speaker
  • Good processor performance
  • Solid battery life

Cons

  • Mediocre GPU performance
  • Screen aspect ratio is odd in tablet mode
  • Stylus can be hard to remove from tablet body
Why we chose it

Lenovo's Yoga line comprises a lot of 2-in-1 models – it's rather inherent in the Yoga name – with the C940 being a great premium option. The 2020 model packs the latest 10th-gen Core i7 processor with either 8GB or 16GB of soldered RAM, although its use of Intel's Iris Plus graphics means that it's far from a gaming powerhouse.

Where the Yoga C940 scores over its competition is via its included stylus, which sits within the body of the laptop, so you shouldn't easily forget it. It can be a little tricky to remove in a hurry, but this is still a great option if you need a 2-in-1 device with a strong productivity focus.

Read Finder's full Lenovo Yoga C940 review.


Razer Blade 14-inch (2021)

Best gaming laptop

Razer Blade 14-inch (2021)
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • 165Hz display is beautiful
  • NVIDIA Geforce RTX 3080 is a beast
  • Stays cool even under heavy load

Cons

  • Pricey, especially for the top configuration
  • Doesn't quite live up to its battery claims
  • No Thunderbolt support
Why we chose it

The 2021 Razer Blade 14 manages the tricky balance of providing portability and gaming power that you need into a single package. The caveat here is that the tastiest models, like most gaming laptops, aren't cheap. But with performance that sits at the very best in market right now, high refresh rate displays and excellent in-body cooling – so you never cook your lap while you're roasting your foes – the Razer Blade 14 2021 is a top-notch gaming system.

Read our full Razer Blade 14 2021 review here.


Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Best work laptop

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Fast performance
  • Good battery life
  • Choice of AMD or Intel processors

Cons

  • Design really hasn’t changed beyond colours
  • Not all colours in all configurations
  • Two ports isn’t enough
Why we chose it

Microsoft's Surface line is intended by the software company to act as references for the rest of the laptop industry, but along the way Microsoft has made some very good laptops in their own right. The Surface Laptop 4 is a great example, whether you opt for the lower-cost AMD variants or the higher-power Intel versions. Microsoft's sat on the design of the Surface Laptop for a while now, and it could do with more ports and maybe a better mix of colour choices, but for business users in the Windows world, the Surface Laptop 4 is hard to beat.

It seems likely that Microsoft will switch it up for the next-generation Surface Pro in design terms to something closer than the Surface Pro X and, hopefully, that will bring a few more ports along for the ride too.

Read Finder's full Surface Laptop 4 review.


Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020)

Best student laptop

Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020)
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • M1 Silicon lives up to the hype (mostly)
  • Battery life is good
  • Function keys are better than the Touch Bar

Cons

  • x86 app translation eats extra battery power
  • Not every app works seamlessly
  • No external design changes at all
Why we chose it

Students typically need long battery life – because classrooms and lecture theatres often don't have easy access to power sockets – and a robust build, because knocking around in a backpack or satchel bag isn't easy on a plastic-framed laptop. That's where Apple's MacBook Air M1 excels, with a robust design, plenty of processing power and truly great battery life for a laptop in its class. Yes, it's a somewhat more expensive option, but it's also an option that should be able to last through multiple school or tertiary study years.

Read Finder's full MacBook Air M1 review.


Lenovo Chromebook Duet

Best Chromebook

Lenovo Chromebook Duet
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Easy access to Chrome and Android apps
  • Very light and portable

Cons

  • Separate kickstand cover
  • Keyboard is very small
  • Only one input for power, audio and peripherals
Why we chose it

The Chromebook category hasn't taken off in Australia to the extent that it has in other countries. Most options have been very low-cost and pretty ordinary, with very few "premium" Chromebooks ever finding their way Down Under. Lenovo's IdeaPad Duet Chromebook straddles the "affordable" and "good quality" markets nicely, presenting rather like a low-cost Microsoft Surface, but running on Google's Chrome OS.

Overseas reviews note its exceptional battery life and, being a Chromebook, its fast operation for primarily cloud-based productivity work. As a proper 2-in-1, it's also effectively an Android tablet in its own right.


LG Gram

Best 17-inch laptop

LG Gram
Image: Chris Stead/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★
Why we chose it

The LG Gram's superpower is that it makes a large 17" laptop ultra-portable. Unbelievably, at 1.35kg it's lighter than most 13" notebooks. So, you get this big, beautiful 16:10 QHD screen without the penalty of weight. It makes the LG Gram fantastic for students and multitasking professionals that need to do a lot of travel or commuting, but want that big screen to maximise efficiency.

Despite the weight, the LG Gram is still packed with more than enough power for day-to-day activities. This includes an i7 1.8HGz quad-core processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB NVMe m.2 SSD and over 19 hours of battery life. However, the integrated graphics card and basic speakers don't make it useful for high-end gaming.

While simple in design, the laptop looks sharp and shows off its screen well with a subtle bezel. However, it does feel a bit brittle and the screen can flex a little if you're not careful. It may take you some time to get used to typing too, as the main keyboard isn't centred to the screen or the touchpad.

For a more detailed analysis, please read our LG Gram 17 review.


Methodology

20+
Laptops reviewed
500+
Hours spent testing
11
Best laptops chosen
  • We've spent hundreds of hours testing and evaluating laptops as well as cross-checking with reputable review sources.
  • Our editorial team has a combined 60+ years of experience writing about tech and reviewing the latest devices.
  • The laptops on this list are chosen by our editorial team and are not based on commercial relationships.

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How to compare laptops

When choosing a laptop, consider the following factors:

Price

You can pick up an entry-level laptop for between $300 and $500. Adding more features and higher specs, such as a bigger screen, faster processor, more RAM and greater storage capacity, will see prices rise pretty quickly. Top-spec general-use laptops max out at around $4,000, while gaming laptops can be priced up to $5,000 and beyond.

2-in-1 laptop prices start at around $400, while you could pay $4,000 or more for a top-spec model.

Screen size and resolution

Laptop screen sizes generally range from 11-18 inches, with the 14-15 inch range being the most popular choice. Look for the right balance between portability and the optimum display size for your needs. 2-in-1 screen sizes tend to be smaller for more portability.

In terms of resolution, a 4K screen might be a handy addition if you're a gamer or you stream a lot of video content. However, high-resolution screens are expensive and can drain the battery quickly. Also, think about whether you want a laptop with a touchscreen.

CPU

The CPU plays an important role in ensuring your laptop's efficient performance. Intel and AMD are the main processor manufacturers, and you can compare CPUs by considering their processing speed, number of cores and price.

If you're a gamer or you run powerful video editing software, look for a high-end processor. However, if you'll only be using your laptop for basic tasks like checking emails, web research and word processing, a cheaper CPU will suffice.

RAM (memory)

Measured in gigabytes, RAM helps your computer multitask and run programs quickly. The more RAM you have, the better performance you can expect. 8GB is a good starting point for most users, while gamers might want as much as 64GB for optimum performance.

Graphics cards

If you intend to run graphically demanding applications such as high-end video games, 4K video editors or graphic design software, it's imperative to check the laptop's GPU (short for 'graphics processing unit'.) Unlike desktop PCs, these are usually sealed to the laptop's motherboard, which makes it very difficult to upgrade. In other words, you're basically stuck with your onboard graphics card, so choose wisely! If you want a high level of performance in this area, choose a laptop with a discrete graphics card instead of an integrated GPU. This means the laptop has a dedicated processor just for graphics. Brands to look for in the specs include Nvidia's GeForce GTX range and AMD's Radeon RX series. You can learn more about this technology in our graphics card guide.

Storage space

Next, consider how much space (measured in gigabytes or terabytes) the laptop offers for storing your files, photos, music and documents. Traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) are most commonly used and more affordable with the greatest amount of storage space. Solid-state drives (SSDs) more expensive but they also run a lot faster and help minimise the weight and bulk of a laptop. You can also store important files in the cloud, use an external hard drive or even a NAS drive.

Ease of use

If possible, head in-store to try before you buy and find out just how user-friendly a laptop is. For example, is the screen easily visible? If you're shopping for a 2-in-1, what do you need to do to convert from laptop to tablet mode? Is the keyboard well laid out or does it feel too cramped when you try to type? Is the touchpad smooth and responsive, but at the same time not overly jumpy?

Ports and connectivity

Make sure the laptop comes with all the ports you need to connect to other devices. For example, how many USB ports do you need? USB-C ports are a common inclusion on modern laptops, while USB 3.0 and up (or Thunderbolt 3) offer the fastest performance.

Consider whether you need an HDMI out port for video, and which wireless standard does the laptop support?

Warranty

Find out what level of confidence a manufacturer has in its products by checking the warranty that comes with a laptop. How long does it offer protection and what exactly is included in the cover?

Battery life

If you need to use your laptop away from power points for long periods, check the manufacturer's claimed battery life. And remember that these claims don't always stack up in the real world – the programs you run, the screen brightness and even your operating system can all have an effect on battery life, so they should be taken with a grain of salt.

Types of laptops

You have two main options to consider when choosing a laptop:

  • Laptop computers. Also known as a notebook computer, a laptop offers all the functionality of a desktop computer in a portable, lightweight device. It features a screen that's usually somewhere between 11 and 18 inches, a touchpad mouse and a keyboard. Options in this category include laptops from brands like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo, as well as Apple's range of MacBooks and Google Chromebooks.
  • 2-in-1 laptops. Also known as convertible or hybrid laptops, 2-in-1 models can be used just like an ordinary laptop, but can also be converted to a tablet whenever the need arises. They feature touchscreens, detachable or flip-around keyboards and slimline designs to make them as portable as possible. The Microsoft Surface Pro is one of the biggest names in the 2-in-1 space, while other manufacturers like Dell, HP and Lenovo all offer their own convertible devices.

If you'd prefer the portability and convenience of a tablet, check out our tablet buying guide. Alternatively, if you're in the market for a more traditional desktop device, our desktop computer buying guide has plenty of useful info.

Operating systems

Most laptops come with one of the following operating systems:

  • Windows 10. Windows is available on a wide range of laptops, from cheap entry-level models right through to top-spec machines of $4,000 or more. Known for its flexibility and ability to run an extensive range of programs, Windows is a popular and familiar choice for many buyers.
  • macOS. Formerly known as OS X, the macOS operating system runs on Apple MacBooks. It's known for its user-friendliness and will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used previous Mac operating systems.
  • Chrome OS. This web-based option from Google comes on Chromebook laptops and is designed to offer a simple, streamlined operating system. If you've got an Android phone, you shouldn't have any trouble using Chrome OS.

Consider the other computers, smartphones and tablets you have around the home to ensure compatibility. For example, if you run a Windows desktop PC and Android phones and tablets, choosing a MacBook Pro as your laptop could make it tricky to move files and programs between devices.

Three things to consider

Make sure you consider the following factors before deciding on the best laptop for you:

  1. Consider your needs. How you will use it will determine which features are essential and which ones are unimportant. For example, if you're looking for a lightweight model you can use for work while travelling, ease of use and portability will be key. If you're a gamer, you'll be looking for features like a high-powered graphics processor, high-resolution screen and lots of RAM.
  2. Don't pay too much. When you're shopping for a new laptop, it's easy to get sucked into the temptation of getting the latest tech. But before you upgrade to something much more expensive than your original budget, make sure you actually need all the features you'll be paying for. If you're not going to need the extra RAM, storage space or processing power, don't pay for it.
  3. Weight and dimensions. If you travel a lot with your laptop, check the weight and physical dimensions. Make sure you also consider the size and weight of the power supply unit attached to the power cord.

Best rated laptop brand award breakdown

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