You probably have an idea of your budget here, but just so you know, most laptops with top-of-the-line specs can cost you around $1,800 to $2,000 these days. That doesn’t mean you won’t find a good system for under $1,000 — a grand is the base price for a lot of premium ultraportables in the 13-inch category, with chips like Intel’s Core i3 or i5 series. And if that’s too expensive, you’ll still have respectable options in the $600 to $800 range, but they might come with older, slower processors and dimmer screens. We’ve included our favorite budget-friendly model in this roundup but we have a list of more-affordable laptops that you can check out as well.
After working out how much money you want to spend, the laptop’s operating system is usually the first thing you have to narrow down. As always, the decision is slightly easier for people who prefer MacBooks. Now that Apple has brought its own M-series chips to its whole lineup — your only real considerations are budget, screen size and how much power you need.
Over on Team Windows, however, the shift to ARM-based chips hasn’t been as smooth. Though Apple has been able to bring huge increases in battery life while maintaining (and in some cases improving) performance with its own silicon, PC makers have been limited by Windows’ shortcomings. Microsoft released Windows 11 last year, and it’s supposed to run better on ARM-powered machines. Since the first of these laptops, like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X13s or 10w tablet, aren’t available for review yet, we can’t tell how well the system runs. Of course, you can upgrade to Windows 11 on existing ARM-based PCs, but for now, it’s still safer to stick with an Intel or AMD processor.
Let’s not forget there’s a third and fairly popular laptop operating system: Chrome. If you do most of your work in a browser (lots of online research, emails and Google Drive), then a Chromebook might be a suitable, and often more affordable option.
As for other things to look out for, it’s worth pointing out that a couple of laptops coming out this year are doing away with headphone jacks. Though this doesn’t seem to be a prevalent trend yet, it’s a good reminder to check that a machine has all the connectors you need. Most laptops in 2022 offer WiFi 6 or 6E and Bluetooth 5.0 or later, which should mean faster and more stable connections if you have compatible routers and devices. While 5G coverage is more widespread this year, whether you need support for that depends on how much you travel.