Laptop innovation continues pushing boundaries with transformational new Apple silicon, Intel’s latest 13th Gen Core chips, and Nvidia’s powerful RTX 4000 mobile GPUs debuting on stunning OLED panels.
I extensively test and compare the top contending notebook computers across varying budgets and platforms to determine the finest options worth buying in 2024 for school, work, creators, and everyday usage.
The Best Laptop Overall
The completely redesigned 2022 MacBook Air M2 stands triumphant as my current top overall laptop recommendation thanks to its phenomenal blend of performance, design, display quality, and battery efficiency.
Apple’s custom silicon effortlessly handles demanding workflows aided by excellent thermal management within the impossibly thin and light unibody aluminum chassis. The 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display dazzles while the 1080p webcam qualifies for Zoom. macOS continues leading software refinement with free future OS upgrades.
While I remain disappointed by the price increase over the preceding generation, the MacBook Air M2 still substantiates its elevated cost through irrefutable excellence as a balanced ultraportable. Savvy shoppers should also consider leftover M1-based models still selling at discount.
- Breakthrough M2 efficiency and speed
- Sturdy, slim, and ultra-portable build
- Vibrant 500-nit Retina display
- Luxurious keyboard and industry-leading trackpad
- Lower 1440p webcam resolution than rivals
- Limited to two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports
For those seeking the world’s best combination of power, portability, and software refinement, the MacBook Air M2 soars highest while justifying its lofty value.
Best Windows Laptop
The Swift X 14 succeeds where Dell’s dormant XPS 13 failed by refreshing the formula with latest internal components headlined by Intel’s 13th Gen Core i7 CPUs and Nvidia’s RTX 4000 mobile graphics.
The tasteful silver magnesium-aluminum chassis houses a gorgeous 14-inch 2.8K OLED touchscreen serving 100% DCI-P3 colors without crushing battery life. Performance stands evenly matched against far pricier models when leveraging the intelligently-balanced hardware intricate across four Swift X 14 configurations.
- Potent 13th Gen Intel Core i7 and RTX 4050 combo
- Brilliant cinematic 14-inch OLED display
- Respectable battery life given power
- Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6E, HDMI 2.1
- Runs warm when gaming
- No SD card reader onboard
- Costs extra for 32GB RAM option
If you seek an uncompromising prosumer Windows laptop blending productivity and creative chops, the Swift X 14 brings exceptional execution at reasonable value.
Best Budget MacBook
Cost-focused Apple devotees should still consider the MacBook Air M1. It remains sold alongside the newer M2 variant, and largely identical besides enjoying one more year of future macOS support through 2026.
The M1 chip still delivers excellent speed whether browsing workflows or editing 4K video cuts in Adobe Premiere Pro. The 13.3-inch Retina display pleases without straining eyesight, while the ultra-portable unibody aluminum chassis feels almost impossibly lightweight at 2.8 pounds. What you gain sacrificing the latest silicon gets offset by hundreds in savings.
- Significant cost savings over M2 upgrade
- Still blazing fast M1 performance
- Fanless silent operation
- Outstanding 18+ hour battery endurance
- Inferior 720p webcam
- Won’t be supported beyond macOS Ventura
- Dated thicker-bezel design
Savvy Apple loyalists can cash in outstanding performance and polish by opting for the enduring MacBook Air M1 – Apple’s unsung budget hero.
Best Affordable Windows Laptop
The aptly-named Pavilion Aero 13 carries exceptional value as a sub-3 pound Windows notebook equipped with a vibrant 2.5K OLED touchscreen powered by AMD’s Ryzen 7 6800U processor.
Despite costing hundreds below premium alternatives, the Pavilion Aero 13 punches well above its weight furnishing flagship-grade speed, a stylish and environmentally-conscious chassis, booming speakers, and reliable battery longevity. Value hunters seeking more display real estate should check its identically-equipped 16-inch sibling.
- Gorgeous 400-nit 16:10 OLED touchscreen
- Powerful 8-core Ryzen 7 6800U CPU
- Weighs only 2.2 pounds with sturdy build quality
- Environmentally-conscious packaging and materials
- Fans get loud when gaming
- Limited RAM/SSD upgradability
- No Thunderbolt or SD card slot
Those focused purely on maximizing specs and components for the money will love the aptly named HP Pavilion Aero 13 complete with lush OLED touchscreen.
Best Budget Big-Screen Laptop
Students and families needing expansive displays for consuming multimedia content should prioritize value and screen real estate by selecting the budget-friendly Acer Aspire 5 15.
The Aspire 5 may lack exciting bells and whistles, but 15-inch Full HD clarity powered entirely by Intel’s 12th Gen Core i5 processor signals substantial improvements over past iterations. Consumers appreciate conveniences like Wi-Fi 6, USB-C charging, Thunderbolt 4 support, and HDMI-out.
With multiple configurations spanning from 14- to 17-inches, the Aspire 5 series from Acer continues delivering reliable Windows 11 productivity to the masses at just a few Benjamins.
- Several display sizes available
- Comfortably large precision touchpad
- Solid port variety including Thunderbolt 4
- Costs hundreds less than competitors
- Thick plastic chassis feels cheap
- Dim 250 nit IPS display
- Mediocre battery life under 5 hours
The enduring Acer Aspire 5 lineup extends exceptional value for frugal consumers chasing bigger screens above all.
The Bottom Line
From transformational Apple silicon driving the sublime MacBook Air M2 to immense OLED panels gracing lightweight Windows builds, my 2024 laptop guide highlights ideal options slotting any budget.
I hope simplifying research between innovators like Apple, Acer, HP, and Nvidia assists selecting your perfect portable companion equipped precisely for needs spanning work, school, entertainment, or creativity strictly within your dollars.