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Laptops we love: Most ZDNet writers prefer this notebook above all others

The daily productivity drivers of ZDNet's editors and writers come in every platform -- Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome. If you spend hours daily banging away at a keyboard, you'll want to consider these favorite models.
Written by David Grober, Contributor
Dell Latitude 7400 | Ed Bott
Dell Latitude 7400
Ed Bott
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Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 | Mary Jo Foley
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Mary Jo Foley
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Apple MacBook Pro
Jason Cipriani, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Greg Nichols, Charlie Osborne, and Jason Perlow
Google Pixelbook Go
Matthew Miller
Apple MacBook Air (M1) | Robin Harris
Apple MacBook Air (M1)
Robin Harris
View now View at Apple

Write much? Need a supremely reliable laptop with a stellar keyboard? This is for you.

ZDNet's editors and technical contributors are an eclectic gang. From programmers to journalists, financial analysts to system integrators, our editorial team brings a diverse set of prior technology and business experience to their ZDNet work. 

But they all have one thing in common: Long hours every day spent at their laptop keyboard. We first explored our writers' preferred productivity machines during our tours of their home offices. Now, we've gathered their laptops of choice here. Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome machines are all represented, which comes as no surprise. And one model rules the roost.

I bought this notebook from the Dell Outlet early in 2020, because the price was irresistible for a laptop with 32GB of RAM, an 8th Generation Intel Core i7 CPU, and a 512GB SSD. It's turned out to be one of my all-time favorite PCs.

This laptop, like its owner, was originally anticipating a heavy travel schedule this year, racking up tens of thousands of air miles. That didn't happen, obviously, but it's earned its place on my desktop.

Note that this model is not the same as the Latitude 7400 2-in-1, which has a display that can fold back to turn into a tablet. But, as a pure laptop, it's well built and has performed flawlessly.

Also: Inside Ed Bott's home office: 'Two of everything'

It took them three tries, but Microsoft finally made a laptop I really like with Surface Laptop 3. Battery life is not so great, but otherwise, it's my dream machine and my only PC at the moment. It's my desktop and my laptop.

Also: What's inside MJF's tiny home office? Too much podcast equipment

Apple MacBook Pro

Jason Cipriani, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Greg Nichols, Charlie Osborne, and Jason Perlow

Image: Apple

Jason Cipriani

I haven't had a laptop of my own for the last five years, using an iPad/iPad Pro with a keyboard instead. But with the release of the first Apple Silicon Macs, I decided to spend the money on a MacBook Pro. It's incredibly fast, the battery lasts for -- what feels like -- multiple days on end, and I haven't run into any major issues with apps. I still use my iPad Pro and leave my MacBook Pro docked to an external monitor most of the time. But I wanted to move to something that provided flexibility. 

Also: What's inside Cipriani's home office? A dedicated space and 8 years of continuous tweaks

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
My laptop is the 15-inch MacBook Pro. I used to love it. Now, because it isn't the 16-inch version and doesn't have M1, I'm coming up with reasons to hate it. But I can't. It's a superb workhorse, plowing through 4K video or heavy Photoshop workloads with ease. The only thing that brings it to its knees is Google Chrome.

Also: Inside Adrian Kingsley-Hughes' office: The secret lives of gadgets

Greg Nichols

The irony of having an untraditional workspace (a sailboat) is that our setup is marvelously commonplace. I use a lean, grab-and-go work kit composed of gear that would make most American high schoolers probably roll their eyes. My aging MacBook Pro does most of the heavy lifting, which for my journalism work means lots of calls and emails and some light photo and audio editing. 

Also: My home office is a sailboat: Living and working on the high seas (with kids!)

Charlie Osborne

While my overclocked PC is used frequently, the system I rely on the most is my MacBook Pro, which has proven to be a decent workhorse for everyday tasks. The particular model I use is a 13-inch MacBook Pro, sporting a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, Intel Iris Plus graphics, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD storage, and a Retina display. 

Also: Inside Charlie's work-from-home setup: A millennial's small office space in progress

Jason Perlow

I've used many different desktop systems over the years, but in my last two corporate positions, I've moved from PCs over to MacBooks. The MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019 edition)  is my current system, which I have permanently docked to my twin monitors.

Also: What's inside Perlow's office? 15 years of working from home

Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition Ubuntu-powered XPS 13

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols


For a Linux laptop, it's hard to beat Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition Ubuntu-powered XPS 13. Make sure you're getting the Developer Edition. Its specs are a bit better than those of the ordinary XPS 13. Pricing starts at $1,199.99 for an i5-based Developer Edition with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, an FHD display, and Ubuntu 20.04.04 LTS preloaded. Mine, with an Ice Lake Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, 16GB of memory, Hynix 512GB NVMe SSD, and 4K video will cost you $2,049.99.

Also: What's inside SJVN's home office after 30 years of working from home?

Google Pixelbook Go

Matthew Miller


Ever since the original Pixelbook, my primary platform for writing has been a Google Chromebook. For almost the last year, my primary writing computer has been the Google Pixelbook Go. Prior to that, it was the Google Pixel Slate, but I like the keyboard and ability to have two pages open side-by-side on the Pixelbook Go.

While I have access to a Surface Pro 6, I find the Chromebook experience provides me with a platform that helps me focus on writing content without ever thinking of the hardware.

Also: Palmsolo's Star Wars office: Product boxes, drawers of phones, and multiple screens

I've been a happy iPad Pro user for the last three-plus years. The performance -- 4K video editing with ease -- weight, battery life, ease of use and management, price, and the low cost and variety of iOS apps made me a believer.

But I just moved to a new M1 MacBook Air, the entry-level $999 model, and I'm finding it is an excellent replacement for the iPad Pro. Why? Because the M1 chip gives it most of the advantages of iPad Pro at a lower price and weight.

Also: What's inside Harris's home office? A no-compromise duality

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