What’s happening in the world of computers? Paste asked tech journalist Jason D’Aprile for his thoughts on the best new laptops and PCs of 2020. Whether you’re looking for gaming beasts, laptops for school and work, or a combination of the two, this list has you covered.
10. Alienware Area-51m
Starting at $2020
If you want the best gaming on the go, be prepared to drop a bundle. Alienware has long been one of the premier gaming PC makers, even after being picked up by Dell, but their Area-51m line is definitely among the kings of laptop hardware. These portables are noteworthy not just for their high-end specs—10th-gen Intel CPUs and NVIDIA RTX GPUs—but those core parts are actually upgradable. As a result, you can count on using that pricey machine for a long time to come. The model you buy is fully customizable on the website as well, so you can get just as much power as you want.
9. Acer Swift 3
One of the best balancing acts between style and price, the Acer Swift series offers surprising power in an incredibly lightweight package. At under three pounds, the Swift features fast processing speed, an AMD GPU, up to 16 GB RAM, and SSD storage, making it a superb machine for work, school, and play. The battery lasts up to 13 hours and can fast charge for another four hours of use in under half an hour. It also supports Wi-Fi 6 for faster connectivity. All-in-all, the Swift 3 ranks as one of the absolute best do-everything laptops in its price range.
8. Apple Macbook Air (M1, 2020)
Apple’s latest Macbook Air is easily one of the best laptops the company has ever made—and possibly the best. Utilizing their new custom chip (the M1), the Air is a superfast performer with amazing battery life. The new Big Sur macOS redefines Apple’s OS in a myriad of ways, making it more user friendly and powerful. The Air can even run iOS apps like your iPad. This is one Apple that could make even devoted Windows users take note.
7. Raspberry Pi 400
Raspberry Pi has long been synonymous with the maker community as the go-to, do-it-all micro computer to create an endless array of other devices. This overshadows the fact that Pis are amazing little computers all on their own. The Raspberry Pi 400 is an attempt to focus attention on the Pi itself, not as a means to create something else. Basically an entire computer in a keyboard, the 400 isn’t likely to replace your main work machine but it has a lot to offer. As a solid web machine, it’s excellent. As an educational tool (especially techie students who want to learn coding and engineering), the Pi is an amazingly versatile bargain.
6. Acer Spin 713
Chromebooks are rapidly proving their worth for nearly any application and new ones like the Acer Spin 713 offer high-end PC specs to create a laptop that isn’t quite like anything else out there. Contained in this diminutive workhorse is a 10th-gen Intel CPU, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB drive space, plenty of ports for USB, micro-SD cards, headphones, HDMI, and USB-C. It’s also compatible with Wi-Fi 6 for faster internet speeds. The gorgeous 13 inch 3:2 aspect ratio 2K screen is a gorgeously detailed, super tough Corning Gorilla Glass display. The screen can also be rotated around to be used like a tablet. The aluminium body is built to last and withstand the rigors of travel. At just three pounds, the Spin 713 is easy to carry around, letting you work or play anywhere.
5. Dell G5 Gaming Desktop
Dell calls it a gaming machine, but really this is a great student machine at an excellent price that offers enough horsepower to game, but could easily do as an upscale all-around work machine. The 10th-gen Intel CPU, 1 TB harddrive, and low-end but still solid Radeon or nVidia graphics cards will enable your student to stream, game, work, and browse with ease. There’s also space inside to update the graphics card and other parts down the road. If you need something portable, Dell also offers laptop versions of the G5 line that are excellent and reasonably priced.
4. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
There’s a lot to like in Microsoft’s latest Surface laptop, particularly the superb 15-inch screen and excellent specs all around like the zippy Intel i5 processor, plenty of RAM, superfast SSD storage, and tough and good-looking aluminum body. It’s a versatile piece of equipment for getting work and school done at home and abroad thanks to excellent battery life, a lighted comfortable keyboard, and excellent stability. The Surface Laptop 3 is the best laptop we’ve yet seen from Microsoft.
3. Apple Mac Mini
Improving over the 2018 model, the new Mini is the adorable tiny computer of choice for those Mac people in your life. A lower starting price point makes it easier to get into, although upgrades can jack the price up fast (and it can’t be upgraded at all after you buy it). Either way, the M1 CPU is speedy and it comes with 8GB RAM in a tiny 8 inch square. It’s not going to compete with the iMac for power, but for anyone still working on an old Mac and just wants to upgrade, the Mini is an excellent choice.
2. Apple iMac 5K
Short of going all-out on an iMac Pro, the new iMac is the quintessential Apple experience. An all-in-one computer with plenty of power and style cleverly hidden inside the award-winning 27-inch Retina display. AMD Radeon graphics supply extra oomph, but the Intel i9 CPU, 32 GB, and ultrafast 1 TB SSD all help make this the best iMac to date and something that will look good on anyone’s computer desk.
1. Acer Predator Orion 3000
Starts at $1000
There are a lot of things to look for in a gaming machine, and the Predator Orion line manages to click those boxes handily. Even at the low-end of the line, this desktop offers excellent specs. A new Intel CPU, nVidia graphics card, 12 or 16 GB RAM, and 1TB superfast SSD makes the PC boot up and load games in a snap. More than that, the Orion’s large case design has sensible cooling and plenty of space inside to make upgrades easy. The case also offers a bevy of USB ports right on top and even small built-in swing arms to hold your headphones.