Best All-Purpose Laptops 2016 / 2017

Last Updated: 29 January, 2017

Welcome to our regularly update series on the best all-purpose laptops based on reviews, hardware, design and value for money.

cheap-laptops

Our regularly update all-purpose laptop guides feature capable machines for home or the office in a number of price brackets and styles to suit your needs. Laptops in the higher price brackets tend to favor more portable and lightweight designs, unlike many high-end gaming laptops which are more bulky, perfect for users on the move. Alternatively if you are on a budget you can still find more than capable options for $500 or even lower in our cheap laptop guides. Budget laptops tend to sacrifice on hardware and build quality but still offer more than adequate performance for most users daily computing needs.

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are all curated by our dedicated research and editorial team who work overtime to ensure that our guides are never out of date and are always jam packed with the top options on the market from start to finish.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.

Top High-End Laptop of the Month

Microsoft Surface Book SX3-00001 13.5-inchMicrosoft Surface Book SX3-00001 13.5-inch

In today’s day and age, professionals often find themselves having to lug around a laptop as well as a tablet which can be cumbersome. Microsoft’s solution to this problem is the Surface Book SX3-00001. With its modern stylish design, high performance specs, crystal clear and incredibly responsive multi-touchscreen display, the Surface Book is perfect for the working professional. Powered by 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. This 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.

  • Windows 10 Pro
  • 12 hours battery life
  • 3.34 lbs

Pros

  • Exceptional battery life
  • Powerful hardware
  • Thin and light
  • Pin point accurate touchscreen
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • NVIDIA graphics

Cons

  • No Ethernet
  • No USB Type-C
  • 3:2 aspect ratio
  • No HDMI
  • Price

Summary

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.

Microsoft Surface Book SX3-00001 13.5-inch
from $1499.00$1299.00
Order Now
from Microsoft.com
(as of 06-06-2017 01:54 UTC) Details

More High-End Laptops

Top Laptop Under $1000 of the Month

Apple MMGF2LLA MacBook Air 13.3-InchApple MMGF2LL/A MacBook Air 13.3-Inch

The latest MacBook Air retains the slim and light unibody form featured on the original 2010 model. It still looks genuinely attractive thanks to a solid aluminum shell. Opening the lid, you’ll find a sleek keyboard with black island-style keys which has also remained unchanged since last year. The trackpad is also unchanged so it doesn’t support the Force Touch technology found in the new MacBook Pro. Apple has been criticized for not bumping its 1440 x 900 screen to Full-HD. However, the screen is sufficiently bright and clear for productivity users who are the primary users of the Air. Photoshop experts and videophiles can benefit more from the MacBook Pro which includes a higher-resolution Retina display, a more powerful processor, a bigger memory and a better graphics card. The Intel Core i5-5250U not only carries out modest tasks with ease but preserves the battery life so that it runs for more than 12 hours. While the 2015 model only featured 4GB of RAM, the 2016 model comes standard with 8GB of RAM for more hardware intensive apps. The Air also features a faster flash storage and the new Thunderbolt 2 interface. However, despite these upgrades, the performance boost is not very significant over previous models. That said, if you still have the old 2015 MacBook Air, then we recommend hanging onto it until Apple release an updated version with significant changes. However, if you’re in need of an affordable and durable ultrabook, the latest MacBook Air is definitely one of the top options in its category despite lacking a Full-HD display thanks to its paper thin design and exceptional battery life.

  • 13.3 inch, 1440 x 900 pixels (TN)
  • Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan
  • 12 hours battery life
  • 2.96 lbs

Pros

  • Ultra thin and light
  • Great performance
  • Very long battery life

Cons

  • Low resolution screen
  • None upgradeable

Summary

A super thin and light MacBook with incredibly fast boot and load times. The resolution could have been higher but more modern versions of the Air have better resolutions.

Apple MacBook Air MMGF2LL/A 13.3-Inch
from $899.00$879.00
Order Now
from Amazon.com
(as of 23-06-2017 11:52 UTC) Details

More Laptops Under $1000

Top Laptop Under $500 of the Month

HP Pavilion 15-ayo91 Signature Edition 15.6-inchHP Pavilion 15-ayo91 Signature Edition 15.6-inch

When it comes to affordable laptops, HP have been on the forefront for a number of years. The HP Pavilion 15-ayo91 Signature Edition is another great budget friendly laptop for college, work and for home use. The plastic construction is similar to most of their affordable laptops and while there is a bit of display and keyboard flex, the laptop is sturdy enough to withstand everyday abuse. What sets the Signature Edition laptops apart is the fact that they are free from any third party bloatware or junkware that will slow down its overall performance. Powered by Skylake based Intel Core i3-6100U processor and 8GB of DDR4 2133MHz RAM, the HP Pavilion 15-ayo91 Signature Edition will easily cope with basic tasks such as Skype, word processing and web browsing. The newer Intel processor will even allow for more intensive apps such as Photoshop to run. More strenuous apps will test the processor and will make the overall experience a bit sluggish. The 1TB 5400rpm mechanical hard drive offers ample storage space, but it will mean that Windows 10 will take a bit longer to boot compared to an SSD. The display offers good colors for streaming media and the 10-finger multi-touch support makes navigating around Windows 10 a breeze. The only downside to the display is that the entry level panel only offers a maximum resolution of 1366 x 768 and the viewing angles are very average.

  • 15.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixels (TN)
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 6.25 hours battery life
  • 4.68 lbs

Pros

  • Intel Skylake processor
  • Price
  • No third part bloatware
  • Touch screen display
  • Ample storage space
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • No AC WiFi
  • Entry-level display panel
  • Only one USB 3.0 port
  • No VGA port

Summary

The HP Pavilion 15-ayo91 Signature Edition offers good specs and ample storage space for its affordable price. The lack of bloatware or junkware will suit those users who want a fast laptop without having to optimize their system first.

HP Pavilion 15-ayo91 Signature Edition 15.6-inch
See Price at Retailer
Order Now
from Amazon.com
(as of 05-06-2017 05:00 UTC) Details

More Laptops Under $500

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

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.

Home Users

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.

Business

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.

Media Junkies

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.

Processors

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.

Budget CPU’s – Fastest to Slowest

Graphics

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.

Budget GPU’s – Fastest to Slowest

RAM

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.

Happy hunting!

The LaptopNinja editorial team

Finding the Best Chromebooks of 2016 / 2017

Welcome to our monthly updated guide to the best Chromebooks on the market based one expert reviews, consumer and user feedback. Google Chrome OS is a relatively new operating system. On July 7, 2009 Google first announced ChromeOS but only finally shipped it with hardware on June 15th 2011. Starting out as an almost entirely web… Read more »


Finding the Best Laptops Under $1000

Welcome to our weekly updated guide to the best laptops under $1000 based on sales, reviews, and real world performance. This list has been carefully curated after careful research to save you time finding the right laptop for your needs and your budget. A step up from our guide to the best laptops under $500, the sub-$1000… Read more »


Finding the Best High End Laptops

Welcome to our monthly updated guide to the best high end laptops on the market based one expert reviews, consumer feedback and user feedback. While our guides on laptops under $1000 and below have some excellent products, they aren’t exactly powerhouses and they generally skimp on hardware and other features in order to offer more… Read more »


Finding the Best Laptops Under $500

Welcome to our pro guide to the best all-purpose laptops under $500 for nailing your daily computing needs based on sales volume, reviews, and real world performance. So you’ve made it this far and you have half a clip ( a decent $500) to get you a quality laptop that will hopefully last for the next few years… Read more »