Best Laptops of 2020

Whether you're looking for portability, performance, or a low price, one of these computers should fit the bill

CR tester Artur Pietruch measures the glare on laptop screens
Artur Pietruch, a Consumer Reports tester, measures the glare on laptop screens in our lab.
Photo: Brian Finke

It used to be relatively easy to choose a laptop. You picked the screen size and looked for the thinnest, lightest model around. But these days, there are more factors to consider.

Do you buy a 2-in-1 convertible, which lets you fold the screen back and use the device like a tablet? Do you spring for a dedicated graphics card, which helps you play games such as Fortnite and edit video? And what exactly is the difference between Intel Core i5 and i7 processors?

We can help you with those decisions. Thanks to our test labs, we know a thing or two about the impact all those factors have on the performance of laptops in myriad configurations.

We also keep our eyes on advances in technology that may influence your purchasing decisions.

More on Laptops

For example, Apple recently updated its 13-inch MacBook Air, adding a redesigned keyboard that the company claims is more comfortable to type on than the older MacBook Air keyboard, which drew lots of criticism from users.

The new keyboard is similar to the one on last year’s 16-inch MacBook Pro, which our testers said was more comfortable to use in part because the keys “travel,” or depress, more than those on previous models.

Apple also added the latest (10th) generation Intel Core processors, which debuted in mid-2019 on select Windows laptops. These are quad-core processors, an upgrade from the dual-core processors in the previous-generation MacBook Air. That should greatly improve performance.

We’re currently testing the new MacBook Air and should have it in our ratings within the next few weeks.

Every year we test dozens of new laptops, evaluating them for ergonomics, battery life, display quality, and portability so that you don’t waste your money on a clunker. We buy all the products we test—from headphones to SUVs—at retail, because samples sent directly from a manufacturer may be tweaked to perform better in a reviewer’s tests.

We also incorporate brand reliability and owner satisfaction data collected from surveys of our members into each model’s Overall Score.

Below are some of the best laptops in our ratings in five screen-size categories.

10- to 11-Inch: Microsoft Surface Go

Very small laptops such as the 11-inch Microsoft Surface Go generally aren’t powerful, but this one makes up for it with portability and convenience. It weighs just 1.7 pounds and has a battery that lasts a generous 11 hours in Consumer Reports’ testing. The display is bright, produces accurate colors, and is easy to read even when you’re working outside or under harsh lighting conditions.

That said, the model’s brain is a relatively low-end Intel Pentium processor, and some applications may run slowly as a result.

The other major compromise? You get just 64 gigabytes of storage, which is less than many smartphones have. That’s enough room for text files and spreadsheets, but if you want to archive a bunch of high-definition videos or a large digital photo library, you'll have to resort to cloud storage.

One last thing to keep in mind if you’re the type of person who prefers to have the latest and greatest tech: The Surface Go debuted in mid-2018. While still the best choice if you want a small, highly portable laptop, there are signs that Microsoft may be preparing to release an updated model later this year.

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