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

If you're thinking about buying a laptop during the holiday season, you'll probably have some strong new options in the weeks ahead.

On Oct. 1, Microsoft unveiled a 12.5-inch notebook called the Surface Laptop Go. Priced to start at $549, it straddles the gap between the tiny Surface Go 2 and the slightly larger, more powerful Surface Laptop 3.

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Dell and HP have also refreshed their lineups, introducing new high-end XPS models, mid-range Pavilion models, and high-end Spectre models.

And before year's end, Apple is expected to release a MacBook with a new processor similar to the one found in the iPhone and iPad. That could mean better performance and much better battery life.

We won't know for sure how all those new options perform until we purchase them at a retail store—just like you—and put them through the paces in our labs. In the meantime, you're likely to find lower prices on older models with plenty of great options and form factors to choose from.

Do you want a 2-in-1 convertible that lets you fold the screen back and use the device like a tablet? How about a model with a dedicated graphics card, which unlocks the ability to play games and more easily edit photos and videos? Or maybe you need something with a huge screen for multitasking and screening Netflix videos?

Those are decisions we can help you make. We test dozens of new laptops every single year, 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 laptop's Overall Score.

Below are some of the best laptops in our ratings in five screen-size categories, ranging from highly portable 10-to-11-inch models to hulking desktop replacements that are between 17 and 18 inches.

10- to 11-Inch: Microsoft Surface Go 2

If you want a full-fledged Windows laptop small enough to slip easily into a bag, it's hard to beat the Surface Go 2 (at least until the new Surface Laptop Go arrives).

The Surface Go 2 is tiny, weighs only 1.7 pounds, and has a battery that should last as many as 12 hours on a single charge. 

There are a couple ways you can configure the Surface Go 2, but the base configuration we tested has an Intel Pentium processor, 4GB of memory, and 64GB of solid-state storage.

Those are modest numbers compared with other laptops on this list. Our testers note that performance is good enough to handle basic tasks like email, word processing, browsing the web, and conducting video calls but perhaps not quite there for more demanding tasks like editing photos or video.

It's not a performance powerhouse, but the Surface Go 2 stands out for a few features, including a high-quality display, a detachable keyboard (which means this laptop effectively doubles as a tablet), and a built-in 4.9 megapixel webcam, which is great for videoconferencing apps like Zoom.

The webcam even supports facial recognition, so you don’t have to input your password every time you open the laptop.

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