By now everyone is probably equipped for or , but it’s also likely that some folks are pining for an upgrade from whatever system they’ve been slogging on to get by. Make someone’s everyday life — and gaming evenings — a little better with an upgrade from their slow or clunky old faithful. We’ve got holiday gift recommendations of laptops and desktops from brands like Dell, Apple, Acer, HP, Lenovo and more that are bound to brighten someone’s 2021.
Here are our initial picks, starting at the less onerous end of the price scale. We’ll be back regularly with updated recommendations, so check back. If you can’t wait, you can check out all of CNET’s laptop reviews and pick your own.
Josh Goldman / CNET
A remarkable deal for simple tasks like email, word processing and much more, thanks to the new AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors. This budget laptop has a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader and a USB Type-C port, too. It’s also incredibly light — less than 3 pounds — for a laptop that can be found for less than $700.
We’re also fans of the Acer Aspire 5, which has a larger 15.6-inch display. It’s available in a variety of configurations starting as low as $400, but can go up to $830 if you want entry-level discrete graphics for basic gaming and content creation.
Read our Acer Swift 3 (14-inch, 2020) review.
This is essentially a Chrome version of the first Microsoft Surface Go. Like the Go, the Duet is a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard and touchpad. Unlike Microsoft, though, Lenovo includes the keyboard. It also costs much less than the Go (including the new Go 2), starting at $279 for a 64GB version or $299 for one with 128GB of storage. It’s essentially a smaller, albeit less powerful, Pixel Slate that makes more sense for more people with a price that’s more in line with what people expect a Chromebook to cost.
It is a small screen, however, so if you’re regularly using it at a desk, we recommend attaching an external monitor to its USB-C port. You’ll probably want to connect a wireless keyboard and mouse, too. Or, if you want a more traditional laptop experience, the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is worth searching out.
Dell’s G-series gaming laptops are cheaper than those from its Alienware division, but still capable of playing the latest AAA titles. There are three separate models — the G3, G5 and G7 — available in 15- and 17-inch sizes. The midrange G5 15 hits the mark with an excellent price-to-performance ratio, build quality and design. The newest versions start at $910, including a special-edition model with AMD’s impressive Ryzen 5 4600H processor.
HP outdid itself on its latest ultraportable premium two-in-one. At first glance it might seem like little more than a processor update — it’s running on a great 10th-gen Intel CPU — the latest x360 is significantly smaller than its predecessor without sacrificing usability. New features like an instant mic mute button join other privacy and security features like an IR camera and fingerprint reader and switch to disable its webcam. Plus, it’s available with 4G LTE wireless so you can get your work done wherever and whenever you want.
Read our HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2019) review.
This is our go-to recommendation for those in search of a MacOS laptop for everyday basic use. The MacBook Air was updated for 2020 with new processors and, most importantly, a new keyboard. Apple also dropped the entry price back down to $1,000 making its most affordable laptop more affordable. Still, it’s not exactly a bargain and you can get a lot more computer for your money if you go with Windows. Regardless, the Air remains one of the best laptops available for battery life, performance and design.
Read our Apple MacBook Air 2020 review.
Regularly available for less than $750, this thin, 3-pound convertible is a solid choice for anyone who needs a laptop for office or schoolwork. The all-metal chassis gives it a premium look and feel, and it has a comfortable keyboard and responsive, smooth precision touchpad. Though it’s light on extra features compared to its premium linemate, the C940, it does have one of Lenovo’s sliding shutters for its webcam that gives you privacy when you want it. And it has a long battery life to boot.
Read our Lenovo Yoga C740 (14-inch) review.