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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

35 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best laptops to replace your desktop

It's time to replace your old desktop computer and you're considering opting for a laptop instead, but the switch can seem daunting. Luckily, laptops are getting more powerful by the year, so it's completely possible to find a laptop to replace your desktop. Although you might not get as much power for your dollar, the convenience of a laptop outweighs this for many users.

You shouldn't go out and buy a laptop to replace your desktop without doing some research first. The exact specs you need depend on how you use your current computer, but you'll want to have a quality processor, adequate RAM, and a speedy drive with ample storage space. If you're a serious gamer or video editor, you also need a dedicated graphics processing unit.

All this can seem complicated, but we've put in the hard work for you. Keep reading and you'll find all the information you need to choose your perfect desktop replacement laptop. You can also check out our top five recommended laptops above.

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The most powerful laptops tend to be a little chunkier than more basic models because more technology has to fit inside the case.

Key considerations

HDD vs. SSD

Laptops can have either a hard disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD) for storing your data. HDDs are the older and slower technology, so if you want the speediest computer possible, choose one with a solid-state drive.

Size: You also want to consider the size of the drive because this dictates how much data you can store on it. If you intend to download expansive games, you have lots of high-end software, or you store large video files on your laptop, we recommend a 1-terabyte drive. A 512-gigabyte drive should suffice for most other users, or a smaller 256-gigabyte drive if you store many of your files in the cloud.

RAM

Random-access memory (RAM) is effectively the short-term memory of your computer, used to store machine code and working data. There's no need to learn exactly how RAM does what it does, just know that the more RAM you have, the faster your computer will work. When replacing a desktop, we wouldn't recommend anything under 8 gigabytes of RAM. This is speedy enough for most users, but 12 or 16 gigabytes is better if you want to avoid lag on games and high-end software. The majority of users won't need to upgrade to 32 gigabytes of RAM unless you engage in professional-level gaming, video editing, or 3D modeling.

Processor

The central processing unit (CPU) in your laptop makes a huge difference in how it runs. The majority of mid-range and high-end laptops have Intel processors. For basic use, such as streaming video, using Microsoft Office applications, and browsing online, an Intel Core i5 processor is sufficient, but for gaming and complex software, a Core i7 processor is better. If you're really serious about gaming or you’re running professional-level 3D modeling or video editing software, you might find that the more powerful Core i9 processor better suits your needs.

Laptops are generally trickier to upgrade than desktops, and some don't allow for upgrades at all. Bear this in mind if you think you’ll want to add more RAM or replace the GPU.

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Features

Screen

Size: When choosing a laptop to replace your desktop, we wouldn't recommend a screen size smaller than 15 inches, but you may find a larger 16- or 17-inch screen more comfortable to work on for certain tasks or if you use your laptop all day.

Image quality: A 1920x1080 full high-definition (HD) display is ideal because it gives you better image quality for gaming and watching videos, and it's also sufficient to allow you to keep several windows open on the screen for smoother workflow when necessary. If you want the best-looking screen with excellent viewing angles, and color reproduction and accuracy, opt for an OLED screen rather than an older IPS or TN screen.

GPU

A graphics processing unit (GPU) is what renders images on the screen, so all laptops must have one or the screen would be blank. If you're an avid gamer, choose a laptop with a dedicated GPU rather than an integrated GPU. Integrated GPUs are built into the motherboard, which uses power efficiently but lacks image processing power. They’re fine for regular use but fall short for more intense use. Dedicated GPUs are separate pieces of hardware, making them significantly more powerful. For serious gamers and video editors, a dedicated GPU is essential.

Ports

It's nice to have a decent number of USB ports in your laptop so you can attach various devices at once, such as a printer, scanner, and external optical drive. You'll probably also want an HDMI port so you can play a video on your computer and display it on your TV, a standard 3.5-millimeter headphone port, and an SD memory card port so you can easily transfer photos and videos from your phone or digital camera.

laptops to replace desktops2
DID YOU KNOW?
The refresh rate of a standard laptop screen is 60 hertz, which is fine for most uses — even video editing — but a 120- to 240-hertz refresh rate is better for high-end gaming.
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Laptops to replace your desktop prices

Inexpensive: You can find some basic replacement laptops for as little as $600 to $1,000. These are perfect for light users who want to type documents, use spreadsheets, reply to emails, and stream video, but not much more.

Mid-range: For $1,000 to $1,800, you can find a wide range of laptops to replace your desktop that are suitable for more power-hungry pursuits, such as gaming, video editing, photo editing, and a range of other creative processes.

Expensive: The costliest laptops are mostly priced between $1,800 and $2,500, but you can find a few that cost even more. These are powerful enough for professional use, editing professional-quality video, recording studio-quality music, and using CAD programs and similar, plus they can run the most advanced video games quickly and smoothly.

Although Chromebooks have their place, their lack of internal data storage makes them unsuitable for most individuals as a desktop replacement laptop.

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Tips

  • Consider how you currently use your desktop computer. You need a far more powerful laptop if you use your desktop for gaming or video editing than you do if you only use it for word processing, browsing online, and watching videos.
  • Decide between Windows and Mac. Macs are often used by creatives because they're known for their impressive software, such as Pro Tools and Final Cut Pro. However, now, some previously Mac-exclusive software is available on laptops that run Windows, and you can buy high-end Windows laptops that rival the quality of a MacBook Pro.
  • Examine the keyboard layout. Some laptop keyboards do without the number pad, especially those with a smaller screen, which can be an issue for some users. The key spacing can also be smaller than on standard keyboards, and users with larger hands or people who do a lot of typing might not like this.
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Consider the laptop speaker quality. Not only is it important for listening to music, but it’s also critical for gaming and watching TV and movies.

FAQ

Q. Why choose a laptop over a desktop?

A. Many people are choosing to forgo a desktop computer altogether and instead use a laptop as their main computer, but why? The primary reason is portability. Instead of being chained to your desk, you can take a laptop to work in a coffee shop, to the library for research, or to watch movies in bed. If you're splitting work between home and an office, a powerful laptop allows you to more easily transition between both environments. It's also easier to set up a temporary workspace at home with a laptop if you don't have an office area you can use full time. It's easy enough to use your laptop at the kitchen table during working hours, for instance, then pack it away before dinnertime. Although desktops can be more powerful than laptops, the vast majority of individuals can find a laptop powerful enough to meet their needs.

Q. What kind of battery life can I expect from my laptop?

A. The average mid-range to high-end laptop has a maximum battery life of somewhere between 6 and 12 hours, though anything over 10 is rare. The trouble with some powerful gaming laptops is that they use so much power that their battery only lasts for a couple of hours, on average, which can be severely limiting. It's fine if you know you'll almost always be using your laptop somewhere with access to an outlet. Still, it's annoying to have to bring your charger with you every time you want to watch a movie in bed or use your laptop on the couch instead of at your desk.

Q. How long will my laptop last?

A. The average laptop lasts around five years, but that average is for laptops of all degrees of quality. If you choose a higher-end laptop, it's likely to last longer, especially if it's possible to upgrade it as technology progresses, should the specs no longer meet your needs. If your laptop does break down, it's often possible to have it fixed at a computer repair shop.

 

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
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