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The best computers: Laptops, desktops, PCs and more compared

There's a huge selection of computers to choose from, so we compared Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and more to pick the best computers you can buy.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer and  Sean Jackson, Contributor
Reviewed by Amy Lieu
Apple MacBook Air M2 | Best laptop computer
MacBook Air M2 with ZDNET homepage on a table
Apple MacBook Air M2
Best laptop computer
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Dell XPS 15 (2022) | Best Windows laptop computer
An open Dell XPS laptop with a colorful graphic on its screen
Dell XPS 15 (2022)
Best Windows laptop computer
View now View at Dell
M1 iMac 24-inch | Best Mac computer
A mint green 24-inch iMac computer with a keyboard and mouse in front of it
M1 iMac 24-inch
Best Mac computer
View now View at Amazon
Acer Chromebook Spin 714 | Best Chromebook laptop computer
An Acer Chromebook Spin 714 laptop hinged in the center
Acer Chromebook Spin 714
Best Chromebook laptop computer
View now View at Walmart
Alienware Aurora Ryzen R14 | Best gaming computer
A black and red Alienware desktop PC
Alienware Aurora Ryzen R14
Best gaming computer
View now View at Amazon
MSI Stealth GS76 | Best gaming laptop computer
An open MSI laptop with colorful lit-up keys
MSI Stealth GS76
Best gaming laptop computer
View now View at Amazon
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 | Best large tablet computer
Microsoft surface pro 8 with grey keyboard attached on a wooden table
Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Best large tablet computer
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Show more (2 items)

Figuring out what computer you want and need can be overwhelming. Mac or gaming PC? Laptop or desktop? Will you be using your computer for work or for school?

Also: The best all-in-one computer

There are many factors and configurations to consider when it comes to computers, but we've broken down the best options in virtually every category there is to help you find the best fit for you. Our top pick depends on what kind of computer you're looking for, but we highly recommend the Apple MackBook Air M2 as the best laptop option. We also included other laptops and desktops from Dell, Acer, Microsoft, and more. 

The best computers of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Remarkably slim and light
  • Larger, brighter Retina display
  • 1080p webcam
  • Expensive
  • Battery life takes a modest hit
More Details

Apple MacBook Air M2 tech specs: OS: macOS 13.0 Ventura | CPU: Apple M2 chip with 8-core CPU | GPU: 8-core or 10-core GPU | RAM: 8GB, 16GB or 24GB | Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB | Screen: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display with 500 nits brightness and True Tone technology | Ports and slots: MagSafe 3 charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack, 2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports | Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD camera | Battery: 15-18 hours | Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.46 x .44 inches | Weight: 2.7lbs | Price: Starting at

As far as laptops go, there's arguably nothing more powerful on the market right now than Apple's M2 chip, which you'll see in the 2022 MacBook Air. The 2022 MacBook Pro also has this processor, but the MacBook Air is less expensive, lighter, and slimmer than the Pro.

While the MacBook Air was once known as Apple's most basic laptop, this 2022 model sets it on the same playing field as the Pro, making it a powerhouse laptop that can do everything from streaming your favorite show to video editing.

Review: Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Sleeker, faster -- and more expensive

ZDNET writer Cliff Joseph went hands-on with the M2 MacBook Air, and said it "throws down the gauntlet to its Windows-based rivals."

"The 10-core GPU of our review unit proved much faster than the 7-core GPU of the M1 MacBook Air, breezing ahead from 18,620 to 30,200 -- an improvement of just over 60%," he said. 

In addition, the magnetic MagSafe connector's return and a new quad-driver stereo speaker system that makes video calls, presentations, and streaming sound impressive are standout features. Other notable specs: 500 nits of brightness on the display, the option for more RAM, and all-day battery life.

Pros & Cons
  • Great keyboard and trackpad
  • OLED display
  • Windows 11 built in
  • Loud operation when the computer runs hot
  • Battery life could be better
More Details

Dell XPS 15 (2022) tech specs: OS: Windows 11 (Home, Pro) | CPU: 12th Gen Intel Core i5-12500H, Core i7-1135G7, Core i9-12700H, Core i7-12900HK | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050, 4GB GDDR6, 40W or NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 4GB GDDR6, 40 W| RAM: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB | Storage: 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB | Screen: 15.6-inch 60Hz, 400-500 nit InfinityEdge | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6 | Ports and slots: 1 USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 2 Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C), 1 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack | Camera: 720p at 30 fps, HD camera | Audio: stereo woofer 2.5 W x 2 and stereo tweeter | Battery: 6-Cell Battery, 86WHr | Dimensions: 13.56 x 9.06 x 0.73 inches| Weight: 4.22-4.62lbs | Price: Starting at $1,899

For Windows users, the Dell XPS 15 is a great choice if you're looking for a new laptop. The Integrated EyeFade display technology helps to reduce harmful blue light while maintaining vivid color, while the InfinityEdge display provides larger displays in smaller form factors, so you are immersed in the content on your screen. 

The Dell XPS 15 has also been hailed by both retailers and consumers for the keyboard and trackpad, especially its accuracy and responsiveness. This laptop will provide everything you need, whether you are a casual user, a professional, or any workload, this laptop will provide everything you need with its quality CPU, SSD, hard drive, and GPU.

Also: The best Windows laptops

Pros & Cons
  • Ample color options
  • Fast and efficient M1 processor
  • Great webcam
  • 24-inch screen on the small side for displays
  • Limited ports
More Details

M1 iMac 24-inch tech specs: OS: MacOS (Monterey)| CPU: M1 or 10th Gen. Intel Core i5 | GPU: 7-core GPU or AMD Radeon Pro 5300 | RAM: 8GB or up to 128GB | Storage: 256GB or 512GB | Screen: 24-inch 4.5K Retina display, 4480-by-2520 resolution, 500 nits | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.0, 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) | Ports and slots: 2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, 2 USB 3 Ports | Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD camera | Audio: Six-speaker system with wide stereo sound and spatial audio support, 3.5mm headphone jack | Dimensions: 54.7 x 14.7 x 46.1cm (21.5 x 5.8 x 18.1in.) | Weight: 4.46kg/9.83lbs | Price: $1,299 (8-Core CPU, 7-Core GPU), $1,499 (8-Core CPU, 8-Core GPU), $1,699 (8-Core CPU, 8-Core GPU, and 512GB SSD)

Apple users looking for something bigger than a MacBook should consider the high-end 24-inch iMac. This computer comes with the latest version of the Magic Keyboard and the Magic Mouse 2. If your work means lots of Zoom meetings, you'll be thankful for the FaceTime HD camera, the 4.5K Retina display, and the six-speaker sound system that supports spatial audio. 

Of course, the M1 chip CPU makes it extremely fast and efficient -- you won't notice any slowing down if you have 30 browser tabs open. And, to relive the nostalgia of early 2000s Apple computers, the iMac comes in blue, green, pink, silver, yellow, orange, and purple.

Review: Apple iMac 24-inch (M1, 2021): Slim, power-efficient, and colorful

Joseph also got his hands on the 24-inch iMac and was impressed by its striking, slimline design. 

"The overall effect is that the screen does feel more spacious and easy on the eye when browsing through web pages or opening documents in software such as Word or Excel," he wrote. "But the most remarkable aspect of this new design only becomes evident if you look at it from the sides. The highly integrated design of the M1 SoC has allowed Apple to reduce the size of the iMac's main motherboard and cooling system, so that the screen panel now measures just 11.5mm thick."

Pros & Cons
  • Good battery
  • Windows compatible
  • Affordable configurations
  • Limited USB-C ports
More Details

Acer Chromebook Spin 714 tech specs: OS: Chrome OS | CPU: Intel Core i5-1235U processor Deca-core 1.30 GHz or Intel Core i7-1260P processor Dodeca-core 2.10 GHz | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 8GB or 16 GB | Storage: 256GB with SSD | Screen: 14-inch WUXGA (1920 x 1200) 16:10 Touchscreen | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6 | Ports and slots: 1 HDMI, 1 USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type A, 1 USB Type C with Thunderbolt 4 | Camera: 1080p camera | Audio: 2 stereo speakers | Battery: Up to 10 hours | Dimensions: 12.3 x 8.8 x .71 inches | Weight: 3.09lbs | Price: Starting at $729

If you're looking to strictly use Android apps and Linux tools, a Chromebook is best, and the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 is the best Chromebook option. The Acer Chromebook Spin 714 is a beautiful hardware package, from the gorgeous 14-inch HDTV 1920 x 1080 touchscreen and accurate keyboard to lightning-fast performance. 

While it's more on the dim side, this is a Chromebook for work, not watching Avengers: Endgame. With a 720p webcam, you won't be making any movies yourself, but it works just fine for video conferencing and makes a great laptop for professionals looking to get work done fast. 

 Also: The best Chromebooks

Pros & Cons
  • Dual drives
  • User upgradeable
  • Wi-Fi 6/Bluetooth 5.2
  • Liquid cooling
  • Expensive
  • No peripherals or software included
More Details

Alienware Aurora Ryzen R14 tech specs: OS: Windows 11 Home or Windows 11 Pro | CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 | RAM: Up to 128GB | Storage: Up to 4TB | Wireless: Wi-Fi 6/Bluetooth 5.2 | Ports and slots: 3 USB 3.2 Gen 1, 3 USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 4 USB 2.0 Type-A, 2 USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, Ethernet | Audio: Headphone/Line Out | Power supply: 750W Platinum | Dimensions: 529 x 225 x 510mm (20.8 x 8.86 x 20.1in.) | Weight: 15.5kg/34.2lbs max | Price: $1,350-$2,500

If you're a serious gamer looking for the best desktop computer, you should consider the Alienware Aurora Ryzen R14. It's high-end, but you'll get everything you need to game and the speed to do so. This all-in-one desktop PC will always run at optimal temperatures thanks to the 750-watt power supply. The Bluetooth 5.2 connection allows for more reliable connectivity to mice, keyboards, headsets, and game controllers. 

The high AMD Ryzen CPU in this Alienware Aurora gaming PC means you can alternate between gaming, livestreaming, and creating content without missing a beat. Not to mention that the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 is an incredible graphics card. 

Also: The best gaming PCs

Pros & Cons
  • Latest Intel Core i9 processor
  • 32GB of RAM
  • Relatively lightweight for a 17-inch laptop
  • Expensive
More Details

MSI Stealth GS76 tech specs: OS: Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro | CPU: Intel Core i9-11900H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX | RAM: Max 64GB | Storage: 1TB | Screen: 17.3 inches (1920 x 1080 pixel resolution) | Wireless: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth v5.2 | Ports and slots: USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C, USB Thunderbolt 4 Type-C, HDMI, 2 USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, SD card reader | Camera: IR HD type (30fps@720p) | Audio: Two 2W speakers | Battery: 11 hours | Dimensions: 396.1 x 259.4 x 20.25mm | Weight: 2.45kg/5.4lbs | Price: $1,999

If you'd rather have one of the best all-in-one PC laptops over a larger and more complex gaming desktop setup, the MSI Stealth GS76 is an excellent gaming laptop. This laptop has switchable graphics technology with a high refresh rate and smooth visuals optimized for gamers. 

In addition, its CPU, the Core i9-11900H octa-core processor, makes it stand out from other gaming laptops with extra performance. The keyboard is also great: you can customize each key to your liking and a wide range of RGB keyboard lighting. Lastly, its Windows 10 Operating System is better for gaming than an Apple iMac.

Also: The best gaming laptops

Pros & Cons
  • Great display and performance
  • Runs Windows 11
  • Long battery life
  • Have to pay extra for keyboard and stylus
More Details

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 tech specs: OS: Windows 11 Home | CPU: Intel Core i5 or i7 | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics (i5, i7) | RAM: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB | Screen: 13-inch PixelSense Flow display | Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.1 | Ports and slots:2 x USB-C with USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4, Surface Connect port | Camera: 5MP front-facing with 1080p full HD video, 10MP rear-facing | Audio: 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, 3.5mm headphone jack | Battery: 16 hours | Dimensions: 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches | Weight: 1.96lbs | Price: $999-$2,399

Of course, if you're torn between a tablet and a laptop, you can opt for the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 to get the best of both worlds. While sold as a stand-alone tablet, you can buy a keyboard to turn it into a completely functional laptop as well as Microsoft's Slim Pen 2 stylus to utilize its touchscreen to the fullest. 

It runs Windows 11 right out of the box, so you know performance will be top-notch and fast with the best optimizations available for Windows today. In addition, its battery life boasts 16 hours, which is impressive for such a small device.

Also: The best large tablets

ZDNET writer, Jason Cipriani, got his hands on the Surface Pro 8 and said he was (almost) converted to a Windows user. 

"What particularly impressed me was the addition of Thunderbolt 4 support," he said. "The ability to connect a tablet to an external display and have it actually work how it's supposed to is a huge boost for my productivity."

What is the best computer?

The best computer will depend on what you're looking for. I rounded up the best computers from each specific category so you can narrow down your search to the best of the best. 





Apple MacBook Air M2

Starts at $1,199

Apple M2 chip

13.6-inch Liquid Retina display with 500 nits brightness and True Tone technology

Dell XPS 15

Starts at $1,500

2th Gen Intel Core i5-12500H, Core i7-1135G7, Core i9-12700H, Core i7-12900HK

15.6-inch 60Hz, 400-500 nit InfinityEdge

M1 iMac 24-inch

Starts at $1,300

M1 or 10th Gen. Intel Core i5

24-inch 4.5K Retina display, 4480-by-2520 resolution, 500 nits

Acer Chromebook Spin 714

Starts at $500

Intel Core i5-1235U processor Deca-core 1.30 GHz or Intel Core i7-1260P processor Dodeca-core 2.10 GHz

14-inch WUXGA (1920 x 1200) 16:10 Touchscreen

Alienware Aurora Ryzen R14

Starts at $1,000

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X


MSI Stealth GS76

Starts at $1,999

Intel Core i9-11900H

17.3 inches (1920 x 1080 pixel resolution)

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

Starts at $800

Intel Core i5 or i7

13-inch PixelSense Flow display

Which computer is right for you?

As you can see from the variety of computers on this list, there are many features to consider before purchasing a computer. If you're looking for something portable to take with you, a laptop is going to work better than a desktop. Everyone has an operating system preference, so if you're a diehard Apple user, stick with Apple, and the same for Windows users, so you're already more familiar from the get-go.

Look at standout features based on how you will be using your computer. For example, if you'll mainly be using it for gaming, make sure it has good CPU and GPU. If you'll be using your computer for more basic things, great battery life is important to pay attention to, especially when opting for a laptop. Less important specs are cameras and audio since you can always add additional devices to improve upon what your computer already comes with. 

Choose this computer...

If you want...

Apple MacBook Air M2

An excellent laptop for power users and creators. You can expect all-day battery life in a lightweight design. 

Dell XPS 15

A Windows laptop with a great keyboard and trackpad. The Integrated EyeFade display technology also helps to reduce harmful blue light.

M1 iMac 24-inch

The best Mac computer available today. It's available in stunning colors like blue, green, pink, and orange.

Acer Chromebook Spin 714

A Chromebook laptop that doubles as a touchscreen tablet. Its accurate keyboard also allows for lightning-fast performance. 

Alienware Aurora Ryzen R14

A high-end gaming PC built for gamers. Its Bluetooth 5.2 connection allows for more reliable connectivity to mice, keyboards, headsets, and game controllers. 

MSI Stealth GS76

A gaming laptop with a high refresh rate. You can even customize each key on the keyboard to your liking and a wide range of RGB keyboard lighting.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

A large tablet with impressive battery life. Microsoft's Slim Pen 2 stylus also allows you to utilize its touchscreen to the fullest. 

How did I choose these computers?

Since picking and choosing the right computer is a tall task, I looked at our best lists for separate computer categories like laptops, large tablets, gaming PCs, etc., and picked the top product from those lists. I also paid attention to ZDNET staff recommendations and their experiences using these devices. 

To choose the best product from each category, I looked at factors like price, power and speed, display, and more. To see more products in the categories listed above, check out the accompanying best list page at the bottom of every product. 

What is the difference between Windows and Mac operating systems?

The age-old debate between Windows and Mac is a tricky one. When it comes down to operating systems (OS), it's all about preference. Mac OS is great if you already have an iPhone since it integrates all your iCloud data right into your new computer. Macs are also historically known for better privacy and fewer Malware threats than Windows devices. Mac OS is straightforward for the average tech user, making it super popular for people of all ages to become familiar with.

On the other hand, Windows is much better for gamers and lets you choose different hardware options such as touchscreens and independently produced components. Corporate users almost always use Windows over Mac. You'll also find more of the best budget computers with Windows over Apple's pricier products. 

Also: The 5 best cheap laptops under $350

However, since so many different brands and makers widely use Windows, there are sometimes inconsistencies with the OS depending on the device you purchase.  

Do you need to have a touchscreen?

Although most of the world is touchscreen-based these days, your computer definitely does not have to have a touchscreen. 

Also: The 5 best touchscreen laptops 

Of course, a touchscreen is helpful if you're an artist or work a lot with graphics and must draw on a screen, but the average person can forgo the touchscreen feature on a computer.

Are there alternative computers for worth considering?

This extensive list took into account brand loyalty, pricing, and functionality. If you want a few more options, here are worthy alternatives to consider: 

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