Why you can trust ZDNet
Our recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We may earn a commission when you purchase a product through our links. This helps support our work but does not influence what we write about or the price you pay. Our editors thoroughly review and fact check every article. Our process

‘ZDNet Recommends’: What exactly does that mean?

ZDNet’s recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


The best computers: Is a Windows PC, Chromebook, or Mac right for you?

Find the best computer no matter if you're looking for a laptop, a gaming PC, a Mac, or a large tablet.

Figuring out what computer you want and need can be overwhelming. Mac or PC? Laptop or desktop? Will you be using your computer for work or play? There are many factors 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.

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1 Pro/Max, 2021)

Best laptop

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1 Pro/Max, 2021)

OS: MacOS (Monterey) | CPU: Apple M1 Pro, M1 Max (10 cores) | GPU: Apple M1 Pro (16 cores), M1 Max (24, 32 cores) | RAM: 16GB (M1 Pro), 32GB, 64GB (M1 Max) | Storage: 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB | Screen: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display, 3456 x 2234 (254ppi), 1000 nits (1600 nits max) | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) | Ports and slots: 3x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, SDXC slot, MagSafe 3 | Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD | Audio: 6 speakers, 3 mics, 3.5mm headphone jack | Battery: 100Wh (21h movie playback, 14h web browsing) | Dimensions: 355.7mm x 248.1mm x 16.8mm (14.01in. x 9.77in. x 0.66in.) | Weight: 2.1kg/4.7lbs (M1 Pro), 2.2kg/4.8lbs (M1 Max) | Price: from $2,499 (M1 Pro, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD), $3,499 (M1 Max, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD)

 Apple's latest MacBook Pro is designed for power users and creators, meaning it has a super-fast processor, more than enough memory and storage, and a large screen with powerful graphics. This laptop has been hailed for its M1 chip, enabling it to last for up to 16 hours of continuous use. The display is also something to behold: the Liquid Retina XDR display is crisp and colorful, along with Apple's ProMotion feature that allows a 47.95Hz to 120Hz refresh rate. And, unlike MacBook predecessors, this MacBook Pro has much more port compatibilities than the company's traditional reliance on USB-C.


  • Impressive battery life
  • More port options than your average Apple product
  • Powerful and fast


  • Expensive
  • On the heavy side

AlsoThe best laptops

Dell XPS 15 (2021)

The best Windows laptops

Dell XPS 15 (2021)
Images: Dell

OS: Windows 11 (Home, Pro), Windows 10 (Home) | CPU: Intel Core i3-1115G4, Core i5-1135G7, Core i7-1185G7, Core i7-1195G7 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics (Core i3), Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB | Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB | Screen: 13.4in. InfinityEdge, 1920 x 1200 (169ppi, non-touch/touch), 3840 x 2400 (338ppi, touch), 500 nits | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.1, 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) | Ports and slots: 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, MicroSD | Camera: HD (720p) RGB and IR | Audio: 2 mics, stereo speakers, 3.5mm headphone/mic jack | Battery: 52Wh (14h 11m FHD+, 8h 12m 4K+/UHD+) | Dimensions: 295.7 x 198.7 x 14.8mm | Weight: 1.2kg/2.6lbs (non-touch), 1.27kg/2.7lbs (touch) | Price: From $970 (Core i3), $1,070 (Core i5), $1,970 (Core i7)

For Windows users, the Dell XPS 15 is a great choice if you're looking for a new laptop. The new OLED display allows for vivid colors, while the InfinityEdge display provides larger displays in smaller form factors, so you are immersed in the content on your screen. The XPS 15 has also been hailed 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.


  • Great keyboard and trackpad
  • OLED display
  • Windows 11 built right in


  • Loud fan when computer gets hot
  • Battery life could be better 

Also: The best Windows laptops

M1 iMac 24-inch

Best Mac

M1 iMac 24-inch

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 new 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 and the six-speaker sound system that supports spatial audio. Of course, the M1 chip 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.


  • Plenty of color options to choose from
  • Fast and efficient M1 processor
  • Great webcam


  • 24-inch screen is on the small side for desktop displays
  • Limited amount of ports

Also: The best Macs

ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 2-in-1

Best Chromebook laptop

ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 2-in-1

OS: Chrome OS | CPU: Intel Core i3-10110U processor or Intel Core i5-10210U processor| GPU: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 8GB or 16 GB | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB | Screen: 14-inch LED-backlit FHD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 display | Wireless: Bluetooth V5.0, Intel Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) | Ports and slots: 2 USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C, MicroSD card slot | Camera: HD camera | Audio: Omnidirectional quad-speakers system, 3.5mm headphone jack | Battery: Up to 12 hours | Dimensions: 31.95 x 20.53 x 1.37cm (12.57 x 8.08 x .53in.) | Weight: 2.58lbs | Price: $799 (Core i3) or $999 (Core i5)

If you're looking to strictly use Android apps and Linux tools, a Chromebook is best, and the Asus Flip C436 is the best Chromebook option. What's great about this Chromebook is that you can use it as a touchscreen tablet with support for USI active pens or as a regular laptop. In addition, it has a fingerprint reader, which is a great touch to bypass passwords and is usually only seen in Apple products. Its local storage (up to 512GB) is a lot more than your average Chromebook as well.


  • Attractive design
  • Doubles as a touchscreen tablet
  • Fingerprint reader


  • Battery life is not as substantial as other Chromebooks
  • Pricey when it comes to Chromebooks 

Also: The best Chromebooks

Alienware Aurora Ryzen R14

Best gaming PC

Alienware Aurora Ryzen R14

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: $1,249-$2,499

 Serious gamers 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. Your computer 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 CPU means you can alternate between gaming, livestreaming, and creating content without missing a beat.


  • Dual drives
  • User upgradeable
  • Wi-Fi 6/Bluetooth 5.2
  • Liquid cooling


  • Expensive
  • No peripherals or software included

Also: The best gaming PCs

MSI Stealth GS76

Best gaming laptop

MSI Stealth GS76

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: $2,199

If you'd rather have a laptop over a larger and more complex 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 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.


  • Latest Intel Core i9 processor
  • 32GB of RAM
  • Relatively lightweight for a 17-inch laptop


  • Expensive

Also: The best gaming laptops

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

Best large tablet

Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Image: Microsoft

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 | $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.


  • Great display and performance
  • Runs Windows 11
  • Long battery life


  • Have to pay extra if you want a keyboard and stylus

Also: The best large tablets

How did we choose these computers?

Since picking and choosing the right computer is a tall task, we looked at our best lists for separate computer categories like laptops, large tablets, gaming PCs, etc., and picked the top product from those lists. To choose the best product from each category, we 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. 

Which type of computer is right for me?

As you can see from the variety of computers on our 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 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, a great battery life is important to pay attention to, especially when opting for a laptop. Less important features are cameras and audio since you can always add additional devices to improve upon what your computer already comes with. 

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 it, 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 affordable computers with Windows over Apple's pricier products. 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. 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.

Show Comments