Every laptop manufacturer has different lines aimed at audiences with different needs. How many lines varies by manufacturer, but most have at least a budget line, a premium line, and a business line. Some also have laptops aimed at gamers and laptop enthusiasts, and lately, machines meant for creative professionals have become more popular.
Here, we’ll break down these lines and let you know where to start in choosing your next laptop. You’ll find that there might be some overlap between lines, but for the most part, your purchasing decision will be made easier by slotting your needs into a manufacturer’s specific lineup.
We’ll break each manufacturer’s lines into the following categories. These are loose definitions because some manufacturers have quite a bit of crossover between categories. For example, today’s budget laptops are often equivalent to premium machines of just a few years ago. Even so, the categories are a good place to start.
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Budget laptops are, as the name implies, a manufacturer’s most affordable laptop PC. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily inexpensive – laptops in a manufacturer’s budget line can exceed $1,500 – but rather that when you compare specifications like CPUs and GPUs across lines you’ll get more bang for your buck from the budget lineup.
The difference tends to be in things like build quality. With budget laptops, you’ll find a mix of build qualities, with some laptops constructed entirely of plastic, some of stamped metal alloy rather than unibody machined metal, and some with a mix of materials. You might find more flexing and bending in budget laptops.
Components such as CPUs and GPUs tend to be up to date; for example, many budget laptops are available with the latest 11th-gen Intel Core processors and Nvidia RTX GPUs. However, you might not see the same attention to detail in things like thermal design that determines how well heat can be controlled and therefore how well a laptop will perform in demanding tasks.
Battery life might also be lower in budget laptops, thanks to smaller batteries and less efficient designs. While some budget laptops have very nice displays, you’ll typically find narrower and less accurate colors, less brightness, and lower contrast from budget panels.
Recommended Budget Laptops
- Dell Inspirion ($799 msrp – AMD Ryzen 5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD)
- HP Pavilion ($660 msrp – Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD)
- Lenovo IdeaPad ($836 msrp – Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 512 SSD)
- Acer Aspire ($579 – AMD Ryzen 5, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
- ASUS VivoBook ($699 – Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
Budget laptop aesthetics can be all over the board. Some are simple in design, while some add bling by way of chrome (or painted plastic) accents. But generally speaking, budgets laptops don’t often offer the same kind of elegant appearance that you’ll find in more expensive lines.
Finally, you’ll often see more “bloatware” installed on budget laptops, or apps that the manufacturer is paid to install by the developer. These apps are often distracting and can take away from system performance, and include trials for a variety of different kinds of apps. Stripping these off a system can be a hassle.
Premium consumer laptops are where manufacturers invest the most in making laptops that meet the needs of PC enthusiasts. Prices are higher from the low end to the high end, with many premium laptops exceeding $3,000.
You’ll typically find the best build qualities in premium laptops, with CNC machined metal alloys and more exotic materials like carbon fiber used in premium laptop construction. A premium laptop shouldn’t flex or bend when pressure is applied.
Aesthetics tend to be more carefully crafted, resulting in more attractive and striking laptops. That doesn’t mean premium laptops are ostentatious – quite the opposite, in fact. They tend to present a more elegant look with cohesive design cues that make for very good-looking machines.
Components are typically the most recent, and things like thermal designs are optimized for the best possible performance. Battery life tends to be longer thanks to larger battery capacities and more attention paid to system tuning. And importantly, you’ll find the best displays in premium laptops, with wider and more accurate colors, higher brightness, and better contrast.
You’ll also find advanced features more often with premium laptops, like infrared cameras and fingerprint readers for password-less login. Manufacturers will sometimes include utilities with premium laptops like those that let users change the performance settings to opt for quieter, cooler operation or hotter, louder, and faster performance.
Recommended Premium Laptops
- Dell XPS ($3,517 msrp – Intel Core i9, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
- HP Envy ($2,200 msrp – Intel Core i7, 32 GB RAM, 2 TB SSD)
- HP Spectre ($2,232 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
- Lenovo Yoga ($2,665 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
- MSI Creator ($3,619 msrp – Intel Core i7, 32 GB RAM, 8 TB SSD)
- Acer Swift ($1,299 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
- ASUS ZenBook ($1,954 – Intel Core i7, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
Security and privacy features are often more extensive, with capabilities like user-presence sensing to lock and unlock a laptop as a user comes and goes, and privacy screens for webcams.
You won’t find much bloatware installed on most premium laptops. Buyers expect a clean install with just the standard Windows 10 apps, and manufacturers most often comply.
Business laptops tend to share the same build quality, features, and component optimizations as premium consumer laptops. However, they add in enhanced security and manageability features that appeal to larger organizations with fleets of laptops that need to be centrally managed. For example, business laptops tend to support Intel’s vPro CPU feature that greatly expands the ability to connect a laptop to an information technology management solution.
Their aesthetic tends to be more conservative, to better fit in conference rooms. That doesn’t mean they’re unattractive laptops, but just that they don’t tend to draw attention to themselves.
Another important distinction of business-class laptops is support. Manufacturers tend to offer longer warranties with business machines, more extensive warranty options including on-site service, and technical support resources aimed specifically at businesses.
Recommended Business Laptops
- Dell Latitude ($1,951 msrp – Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD)
- HP EliteBook ($1,729 msrp – Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
- Lenovo ThinkPad ($1,875 msrp – Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD)
- MSI Summit ($1,699 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
- MSI Prestige ($1,399 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
- MSI Modern ($1,099 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
- ASUS ExpertBook ($2,185 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
Lately, business laptops have also incorporated optimizations for video conferencing – which some premium laptops also enjoy – including enhanced video resolutions and quality and more powerful noise cancellation. Business laptops are also more likely to plug into advanced video conferencing solutions.
Portable workstations are high-powered laptops intended for the most demanding creative professionals and for various highly computing intense fields like architectural design, science, mathematics, and others that require the fastest CPUs, the most memory, and highly optimized GPUs.
Recommended Workstation Laptops
- Dell Precision ($3,096 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
- HP ZBook ($1,799 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
- Lenovo ThinkPad P ($2,899 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
- MSI WS ($2,879 msrp – Intel Core i7, 32 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
You’ll find Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia Quadro GPUs in workstation laptops, which are not just fast but include optimizations for the kinds of applications demanded by this level of user. In addition, you can typically configure workstations with up to 128GB of RAM, and in some cases more.
Workstations tend to be larger, thicker, and heavier laptops to ensure adequate ventilation and the best thermal designs. They also tend to support the most connectivity. They’re usually extremely well-built laptops, and their aesthetic is industrial and all about getting work done.
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Gaming laptops are a lot like workstations in that they, too, tend to equip the highest-level components. You don’t find Intel Xeon CPUs and Nvidia Quadro GPUs because those aren’t optimized for gaming, but you will find the fastest Intel Core i9 CPUs and Nvidia GeForce RTX GPUs.
There are thin and light gaming laptops, but typically this class of machine is again larger, heavier, and thicker. That’s for the same reason as with workstations – the best ventilation and thermal designs ensure consistent performance over long gaming sessions.
Recommended Gaming Laptops
- Dell Alienware ($2,549 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 2 TB SSD)
- HP Omen ($2,157 msrp – AMD Ryzen 9, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
- Lenovo Legion ($1,469 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
- MSI GS Stealth ($2,899 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
- MSI GE Raider ($1,299 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
- MSI GP Leopard ($2,299 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
- Acer Nitro ($1,149 msrp – AMD Ryzen 5, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)
- ASUS ROG ($2,099 msrp – Intel Core i9, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
- ASUS TUF Gaming ($1,773 msrp – Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)
Build quality and materials vary across gaming laptops, with some made of plastic and some made of metal. Aesthetically, gaming laptops tend to be extreme in their designs, with RGB lighting and aggressive styling that fits the gaming ethos.
We have lots of Gaming Laptops to choose from
The following table lists the major laptop manufacturers and their lineups for each of the categories.
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