Welcome to our regularly update series on the best all-purpose laptops based on reviews, hardware, design and value for money.
Welcome to our regularly updated buying guide on the best all-purpose laptops based on reviews, hardware, design and value for money.
These all-purpose laptops are focused on general purpose usage as opposed to the laptops featured on our gaming laptop guides and are geared at users with a reasonable budget as opposed to our cheap laptop guides. Our guides are broken down by budget in order to help you navigate your options more clearly and feature everything from all-round desktop replacement home multimedia machines to ultraportable notebooks and netbooks for school or the office that you can take with you everywhere you go.
How We Decide
We work with hundreds of laptops from leading manufacturers which are all curated by our dedicated research and editorial team who work overtime to ensure that our guides are never out of date and are always jam packed with the top options on the market from start to finish. Our top picks below change month to month and feature our top recommendation for the month in each price category along with links to our full in-depth guides where you can find dozens more top options to peruse at your leisure.
Best All-Purpose Laptop Under $500
The Chromebook Flip C302CA-DHM4 touchscreen 2-in-1 chromebook has remained at the top of our $500 top picks list for a while, and it is not hard to see why. It is an extremely versatile chromebook that is lightweight and ultraportable, and the design is robust and sturdy. It easily switches between a laptop and a tablet, and it comes packed with a decent amount of power to drive a commendable overall experience thanks to its solid state memory and Intel Core M3 processor. The included 4GB of RAM should be more than enough for most, although I wouldn’t go crazy with how many apps you have open when multitasking, as there will be a noticeable slow down. With the fast and reasonably plentiful 64GB of solid state memory, you will have room for a lot of files, but if you find that you are running out space, inserting a 256GB microSD card will afford you plenty of extra space. Chrome OS does take heavy advantage of cloud based storage solutions,, so file storage should not be that much of an issue. The included screen has a resolution of 1920×1080, and it is said to be responsive to the touch. The battery drains around the 10 hour mark, but this may vary on your usage. The Chromebook Flip C302CA-DHM4 is lightweight, highly portable, and coupled with its robust design, you get a laptop suited to students or businessman who constantly travel.
- Fast Intel Core M 2.2Ghz processor
- Solid Build Quality
- Battery Life
- Backlit keyboard
- Limited Functionality in Tablet Mode
- Limited Ports
- Low amount of RAM
- 12.5 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels (IPS)
- Chrome OS
- 10 hours battery life
- 2.6 lbs
The ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA-DHM4 12.5-inch is solidly built, and includes high end specs for a Chromebook, but its price and port limitations may be a turn off for some.
Best All-Purpose Laptop Under $1000
The Microsoft Surface Book SX3-00001 13.5-inch has a modern stylish design, high performance specs, crystal clear and incredibly responsive multi-touchscreen display, and it is well suited to the working professional. With an Intel Core i5-6300U processor and 8GB of DDR3 RAM, the Surface Book SX3-00001 has the power to tackle any office task that can be thrown at it. The Surface Book SX3-00001 also features an NVIDIA Maxwell graphics card that has been specifically designed for the Surface Book, and it will allow for some casual gaming, but more importantly it will allow for far better raw rendering power when it comes to design and architecture apps. The display offers a maximum resolution of 3000 x 2000, which gives it a ratio of 3:2. While this is an odd aspect ratio, it does mean that an A4 document will look more realistic than on most other laptops. The crystal clear display offers great viewing angles and rich colors for Full-HD videos and full frame photos. The superfast SSD allows you to boot into Windows in seconds and will allow your apps to launch with lightning fast speeds. You get 256GB of storage space, which will allow you to store a healthy amount of work documents. However it will fill up very quickly if you have a large multimedia library. Microsoft has successfully combined the raw power of a laptop-grade CPU and an NVIDIA GPU with the portability of a tablet into a hybrid that incorporates the best of both worlds. Able to handle anything from spreadsheets to 3D architectural design the Surface Book is the perfect business partner for the user who needs the power of a laptop with the versatility of a tablet.
- Exceptional battery life
- Powerful hardware
- Thin and light
- Pin point accurate touchscreen
- Windows 10 Pro
- NVIDIA graphics
- No Ethernet
- No USB Type-C
- 3:2 aspect ratio
- No HDMI
- Windows 10 Pro
- 12 hours battery life
- 3.34 lbs
The Surface Book SX3-00001 is a purpose built business laptop that offers great performance, an NVIDIA GPU and excellent battery life that will get you through the day.
Best All-Purpose High-End Laptop
Last year saw the release of the Apple Macbook Pro MPTT2LL/A 15.4-inch laptop, which was stunning to the say the least. It is 40% thinner than its predecessor, and it shares the same (but sleeker) beautiful aluminum unibody design. The omission of some key ports has received criticism, along with the removal of the MagSafe charging port that was so well received. Apple has decided to use only USB Type-C ports (Thunderbolt 3) that will require additional adapters. Now something as simple as connecting a mouse has become a bit of headache. The Macbook Pro MPTT2LL/A, while super slim and portable, packs some impressive specs. The 2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM makes this computer production orientated, and running demanding audio or design applications will be a breeze, especially since Apple have also included a Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB memory. The RAM is, however, not upgradable, which may be a drawback for some. The new Touch Bar will display shortcuts depending on what applications you are working in and promises to speed up your workflow. The integrated Touch ID allows you to quickly and safely approve Apple Pay transactions and switch user accounts and login quickly and securely. The 512GB solid state drive is fast and the 2880×1800 Retina display remains one of the most beautiful displays available on the market. The Macbook Pro MPTT2LL/A does come at quite a price however, and there are equally powerful windows machines that retail far lower. But most Apple fans quickly point out the convenience and productivity oriented approach Apple take with their machines, and the Macbook Pro MPTT2LL/A is no different.
- Touch Bar with Touch ID
- Powerful CPU
- Dedicated AMD graphics
- Large SSD
- Brilliant Retina display
- Great battery life
- No standard ports
- No MagSafe port
- Non-upgradable RAM
- No SD card slot
- Intel Core i7 2.9GHz
- Radeon Pro 560 4GB GDDR5 [View Framerates]
- 16GB DDR3 RAM
- 512GB SSD
- 15.4 inch, 2880 x 1800 pixels
- Mac OS X 10.12 Sierra
- 10 hours battery life
- 2.9 lbs
The Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar MPTT2LL/A is a powerful MacBook Pro for the power user, however the price is steep and the lack of legacy ports will inconvenience even some of the most diehard Apple fans.
Pro Tips For Making Your Decision
As a general purpose user you may be looking for an all-round home laptop for work, watching movies and browsing the web. On the other side of the coin, you may be a business professional looking for a reliable and ultraportable laptop that you can take with to meetings that will give off a professional image without weighing you down on the move. Every user will have their own special considerations that need to be addressed, including areas such as connectivity and design.
Students usually only require a laptop with basic hardware and don’t require the bells and whistles found on most high-end laptops. Depending on whether you plan on taking your laptop to class with you every day portability is another prime concern. Chromebooks are a viable option for students who do almost all of their work online and don’t mind leaving Windows behind. Windows netbooks and 13-inch tablet/laptop hybrids are also popular options. Lookout for a minimum of 4GB or more of RAM if you are using Windows to prevent sluggish performance when multitasking. Students using their laptops every day at school will also want to pay careful attention to weight and battery life which can severely affect your laptops overall portability and will probably want to avoid a full-size 15-Inch laptops in favor of something smaller.
For those of us lucky to have a work laptop to use in the office or the ability to work remotely from home design and portability may not factor as much into your buying decision. Home users will generally be more focused on hardware power and display quality than portability, although your laptops design will still play a major role regardless. You might want to move around the house and use your laptop off charge so battery life can be equally important. That said, you won’t need to sacrifice in screen real estate and can safely go for a 15 or even 17 Inch laptop as opposed to their 11 or 13 inch counterparts. If you don’t have an external monitor or TV and plan on using your laptop for watching movies and other media then a larger display and good quality speakers are paramount.
Every business owner knows how important the bottom line is. Why spend $1000 plus on an office laptop when a $400 will get the job done just fine? Business users generally have similar needs as students with word processing and other office applications at the top if the priority list, although laptops designed for office use may not require quite as much portability unless you plan on taking your laptop to meetings often. As per our student recommendations look for a laptop with at least 4GB of RAM for standard office applications and web browsing. If your business requires photo or image processing or more advanced appliations 8GB is recommended. Build quality is also an important factor for many business owners – there’s no point investing in a budget laptop if it’s going to need to be replaced in three years. Lenovo and Dell are two manufacturers who are well know for there business oriented budget laptops which may not have the sleek designs found on many competitors but are built to withstand the test of time with sturdier build quality.
If you’re planning on using your laptop mostly at home for handling all of your movies, music and other media then portability won’t be your biggest concern which means you are free to focus on areas such as screen quality and laptop audio. Unless you have an external monitor or TV lying around you may also want to explore some 17-inch options where possible. Look for a laptop with a 1 TB hard drive if possible, or at a minimum 500GB, and as noted above 4GB of RAM or more as requirement for smooth performance with HD video playback and other tasks.
Hardware + Benchmarks
Your laptops hardware provides the engine for your daily computing and understanding the key components to look out for can help you make the right decision and get the best performance possible. No one likes a computer that freezes and lags under heavy load seriously hindering your ability to work and by checking benchmarks we can easily get an idea of which hardware will perform the best and which laptops therefore offer the best value for money.
Your CPU (central processing unit) is the brains of your PC and does most of the number crunching to bring your computer to life. AMD and Intel are the only two mainstream CPU manufactures and compete kneck kneck expecially in the budget market. AMD configurations are generally cheaper than Intel’s and provide excellent value for money although Intel is often still the crowd favorite.
CPU’s – Fastest to Slowest
- Intel Core i7-7700HQ [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i7-6700HQ [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i7-7500U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i7-6560U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i5-7200U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i7-6500U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i5-6260U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i5-6200U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i3-6100U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i3-7100U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD A12-9700P [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD A10-8700P [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core m3-6Y30 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
Your GPU (graphic processing unit) differs from your CPU in that in is created specifically for graphic processing in applications such as games and multimedia editing apps. Generally speaking unless you plan on playing any video games or doing any serious photo or video editing a decent graphics card is not paramount to your laptop experience. Most CPU’s these days come with integrated graphics which are built in as opposed to dedicated graphics cards which are generally found on more powerful machines. As with CPU’s, the main contenders are AMD and Intel who compete neck and neck for the market.
GPU’s – Fastest to Slowest
- NVIDIA GeForce 940M [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel Iris Graphics 550 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- NVIDIA GeForce 920M [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel HD Graphics 630 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel HD Graphics 620 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD Radeon R6 Graphics (Kaveri) [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD Radeon R5 Graphics M230 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel HD Graphics 520 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD Radeon R4 (Beema)[ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
Your laptops RAM (or random access memory) is also an important piece of the your PC’s arsenal. RAM is like short term memory for your PC, and the more RAM you have the less change there is of your PC bottlenecking due to limited memory which can seriously hinder performance. For most users, 4GB of RAM is more than sufficient for daily use, although if using advanced applications or running multiple applications at once performance can suffer. If you find yourself running out of RAM you can always just take your laptop in for an upgrade or do it yourself. Most RAM today is standardized DDR3 RAM and on budget laptops you generally won’t find anything faster.
Display & Screen Quality
Your laptops display is another core piece of your computing experience. If your laptop suffers from poor color production or poor viewing angles this can put on a dampener on using a PC for many users. In general on budget laptops you will find only TN (thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal) displays which can offer variable quality and are almost always inferior to the IPS ( in-plane switching) technology found on more pricey laptops. That said, many budget Chromebooks have started offering IPS displays which puts these budget Chromeboons on the level of more expensive laptops in terms of raw display quality.
Screen resolution is also an important part of your display. In general budget laptops use a 1366 x 786 resolution which is currently the most used screen resolution worldwide. This is compared to the 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution found on more expensive laptops. The extra resolution provides extra screen real estate and makes entertainment and gaming more immersive. Here again Chromebooks stand out from the crowd with many budget Chromebooks offering Full HD IPS displays that are far superior to their budget laptop counterparts.
Most budget laptops come with screen sizes ranges from 11 to 15 inches, with the odd 17-inch also available for users looking for a larger display.
Design & Features
Last but not least, your laptops design, though sometimes a matter of personal preference, is also a huge influencing factor and brings up a number of practical considerations. Some users prefer more basic designs while others simply won’t be satisfied with a run of the mill design that’s too chunky or boring. The obvious consideration here is portability. If your laptop is too big and too heavy, it’s going to turn lugging your laptop around with you and having your PC on you more of a chore than its worth for some people. On the other side of the coin, many smaller laptops make sacrifices in terms of performance to achieve their incredibly lightweight form. Generally Chromebooks and Netbooks of the 11-13 inch variety are popular choices for mobile users, including hybrid tablet / laptops, with some 15-inch options also coming in under the 4.5 pound mark which is comparable to some 13-inch laptops, and again many 15-inch and 17-inch laptops coming in with much heavier weights which are clearly designed more for home or office use with minimal commuting.
In terms of features laptops come with a standard set of connectivity options including USB 3.0, USB 2.0 Ethernet, Bluetooth and Wifi but be sure to check each model to be sure it has all the options you need. Some budget laptops still offer DVD drives, although the general trend is more towards external portable DVD drives with many manufacturers opting to leave them out in favor of a more lightweight and slimmer design.
Our All-Purpose Laptop Guides
Now that you are well equipped, feel free to browse the guides below for our top picks. You can use this page as a reference when comparing specs and other features or drop us a line if you have any specific questions.
The LaptopNinja editorial team
About the author
LaptopNinja Editorial Team
Our dedicated editorial team spend countless hours every week scouring the best deals across the web to help save you time and money.