With a massive wave of people now being able to work remotely at home (26.7% of Americans), we’re going to look at the best laptops for working from home in this buyer’s guide.
We’ll look at what you should look out for, what is not important, what are the absolute requirements you should have for your work-from-home laptop, as well as my top picks for the best laptop.
Having spent a good couple of years working from home, either for a company or for myself, I’ve gone through a good deal of laptops to really find out what is important and what’s just marketing fluff. In this guide, I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I’ve made.
If you don’t have much time, check out the table below for a breakdown of the best laptops for working from home and my top recommendation below that.
|Laptop||Processor||RAM||Storage (SSD)||Resolution||Weight||Battery Life||Price|
|MacBook Pro M1||Apple M1||16GB||256GB||2560 x 1600||3 lbs||10+ hours||See on Amazon|
|Dell XPS 13||Intel i7 11th Gen||16GB||512GB||1920 x 1200||2.8 lbs||8+ hours||See on Amazon|
|MacBook Air M1||Apple M1||8GB||256GB||2560 x 1600||2.8 lbs||Up to 18 hours||See on Amazon|
|ASUS Zenbook 13||Intel i7 11th Gen||16GB||512GB||1920 x 1080||2.45 lbs||10+ hours||See on Amazon|
|Lenovo ThinkBook 13s||Intel i5 11th Gen||16GB||512GB||2560 x 1600||2.78 lbs||Up to 12 hours||See on Amazon|
The best laptop for working from home is the MacBook Pro M1 (2020) with 16GB of RAM and 256GB SSD storage. This laptop has everything you should expect to find in a high-end device designed to be powerful and portable, from an excellent display, long battery life, to lightning-fast performance. The only drawback for me is the need to get a USB hub like this one, to make the most of it. Even with that drawback, this is the laptop that I’m using and highly recommend. You can check out the latest price on Amazon here.
The best affordable laptop for working from home is the MacBook Air M1 (2020) base model. This is the little sibling of the M1 Pro, and even has a few benefits over the Pro version! If you’re looking for a fast laptop for under $1000 this could be the device for you. Check out the latest price on Amazon here.
Now that you’ve seen my top picks, let’s take a look at what criteria I used to make that judgment. Skip to the bottom for some more details on the individual devices and some other great alternatives.
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What To Consider When Buying a Laptop For Working From Home
Laptops come in many sizes, some have keyboards that are removable with touch screens, others are massive devices that make you question why you didn’t just buy a regular computer, and others you can lose down the back of the couch. As you can see, not all laptops are made equally and some are better suited to certain jobs than others.
Now let’s break down the 9 different criteria I look at, and what makes a good laptop for working from home.
1. Size And Weight
I’ve tried every laptop size you can imagine. From large high-spec gaming laptops with over 17-inch screens and a very chunky body (with fans that sound like a jet is about to take off) to netbooks of yester-year (you remember those tiny laptops that were only really good for word processing?) to convertible laptops to ultrabooks, etc., etc., etc.
You get the picture, I’ve tried all of the various sizes and what I’ve found to be the sweet spot is a light, yet a rigid device that has a screen size of around 13-14 inches.
Size and weight may not seem that relevant when working from home, but being able to just grab the laptop and take it with you to another room, or toss it quickly into a bag to head out to a cafe or the office (if you’re only working partly from home) is a real convenience.
2. Battery Life
Battery life is another convenience that you come to appreciate when you’re not plugged into a desk in the office. Having a device that can last a good couple of hours, and preferably most of the working day, without needing to be connected to the mains, means you can take your work around the house, into the garden, balcony, the coffee shop up the street, and so on.
8 hours is about the minimum threshold I would recommend, and having that type of freedom means you can work in all sorts of places, only needing to find a power source to top up.
3. Screen Quality
At the risk of sounding like my mother, staring at a screen all day can be bad for your eyes. This is why you want to have a good quality screen on your laptop. Just like you should have in the office if your employer does more than just empty words on their corporate site about how they care for their employee’s health.
If you’re doing any type of design work, then a screen with a higher resolution than just full HD is also a big plus. It doesn’t have to be 4k, especially on a 13-14 inch screen, but the retina displays on the latest MacBooks are superb.
4. A Good Webcam
A good webcam on a laptop is important when working from home because, without your presence in the office, or in person, communication with colleagues or customers is done mostly with video calls.
These are far more useful than phone calls as you can see and show things in an easier fashion and with a high-quality image, your message can be more easily understood. When you’re contacting potential clients, this also portrays a more professional appearance, which can increase their confidence in your abilities.
Now webcams have for many years had quite poor quality, especially in comparison with the cameras that you can find on modern-day smartphones. With the increased focus on video meetings, this is changing, making it a necessity, and has become a useful feature on laptops for remote use.
5. Speed And Functionality
We don’t need to be that technical here, because of the different types of chipsets involved in computers currently out there. But we do need to look at the speed and functionality that a laptop has to see if it will be suitable to work from home. Your laptop doesn’t have to be the fastest device on the market, but depending on what your job requires, it probably needs to have some power behind it.
For a Windows device, I would recommend at least an i5 processor (latest or second latest generation), with 16GBs of RAM. If you have a MacBook, then I recommend the M1 chip available in the latest devices, with at least 8GBs of RAM. Up that to 16GB if you do a lot of resource-intensive work like video editing on your laptop.
If you’re wondering why I recommend a 16GB RAM minimum for Windows and an 8GB minimum for Mac, the difference is that Apple devices do a better job managing the resources so you generally don’t feel any sluggishness even with only 8GBs of RAM.
I also recommend paying attention to the ports you have available on the device in terms of functionality and speed. If you’re like me, then you’ll probably want to connect a mouse via USB, have an external monitor that you can connect to in your home office, as well as possibly a microSD card reader if you’re working with photos or videos (not to mention extra USB ports for hard drives, etc.).
This can often still be resolved with a dongle or a hub, but that is something you should still consider as a quality hub can also cost a good couple of dollars.
Usability is something I’ve overlooked for many years. Things like more responsive trackpads, better-spaced keys on a keyboard, fingerprint readers to unlock your device, and so on. None of this would’ve had an impact on my buying decision, how much of a difference could it really make?!
This is how I used to think before I got a MacBook with a good keyboard layout that improved my typing speed, and a trackpad that made it just as usable as a mouse, even while editing video or images in Photoshop. You don’t necessarily need a MacBook for that, there are several great options available that also offer great usability, but don’t overlook a well-spaced keyboard, intuitive trackpad, and other features that can make your laptop more usable.
P.s. I’m not a big fan of 2-in-1 convertible laptops, I prefer having a dedicated tablet for scrolling, reading, etc. and a separate laptop to do the heavy lifting, but if you’re looking for a combo, then the Microsoft Surface Pro is an excellent option, you can find out more about it here on Amazon.
Storage is not as big of a deciding factor these days as it once was. I find that a 256GB SSD is more than enough space to store documents and fast enough to run programs like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, etc. without any lagging. You can also get affordable external SSDs for additional storage or purchase cloud storage from Google Drive, for example, at a low cost.
I use an external SSD (1TB SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD) for storing my raw photo and video files that can take up a lot of space, and then edit them directly from the external SSD without any lagging or speed issues.
In fact, I would actually recommend NOT getting the pro version of the SanDisk SSD, as I only realized after, that the transfer speed was actually faster than most USB drives are capable of handling. Meaning that although I have a 2000MB/s SSD, I am only able to get about 800MB/s with my MacBook Pro. This is more than enough to edit 4K video with Premiere Pro and run other programs, but the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is about half the price (view the price on Amazon here) and has read/write speeds of 1050MB/s… Oh well.
These days you need to be able to connect to the internet, and this should be something that goes without saying, but your laptop should come with pretty good WiFi. There’s no point in having a great battery life and small form factor when you can’t actually take your laptop to cafes, around the house, or to the office.
I once bought a laptop that (probably) had a power issue, it was a Huawei matebook 14 (2020), and whenever I took it off of the mains, the WiFi Adapter wouldn’t work. This was an issue unique to my device, but it has put me off of Huawei laptops for the foreseeable future… Anyway, I digress, let’s get back to WiFi…
Many high-end devices come with WiFi 6, offering 3x the data transfer speeds of the previous standard. This is more of a bonus, but if you’re going to invest in a new laptop, I believe you should future-proof it as much as possible.
One of the main factors in deciding what laptop is best for your remote work is your budget. Some may spend more, some may spend less. But most of us want to get the best of what we can for the least amount of money.
Laptop prices range anywhere from a couple of hundred to thousands of dollars. Try not to let the final price be the main deciding factor, as you could pay slightly more to get some features that can make a big difference. I’m not saying you should spend over your budget, but you should be able to know what you want and what you can afford before you purchase.
Work from home laptop requirements
Regardless of what sort of work you are doing from home, when shopping for a new laptop, there are a few minimum requirements you should consider so that you’re not stuck with a slow device that will be more of a hindrance than a help.
Depending on what type of work you do, you may need to bump the specs up a bit, but these minimum requirements for a work-from-home laptop should get the job done for most of us:
- Screen size: 13-14 Inch
- Weight: Less than 1.5kg (3.3 lbs)
- Processor: i5 (latest gen) / Ryzen 5 for Windows, M1 for Mac, or better
- RAM: 16GB for Windows, 8GB for Mac
- Storage: 256GB SSD
- Battery Life: 8+ Hours
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (HD) or better
- Webcam: 720p or better
Best Laptops For Working From Home: My 5 Top Picks
1. MacBook Pro M1(16GB)
|What I like||What I don’t like|
|Lightning fast||Lack of ports, meaning you basically need a USB hub to use it.|
|Excellent build quality||The keyboard is not backlit on this model.|
|Brilliant screen and resolution||Expensive to up the storage or RAM.|
|Over 10 hours of battery life|
|Speakers are surprisingly good|
|Large functional trackpad and an excellent keyboard|
I’ve been using the MacBook Pro M1 (2020) since the beginning of 2021. It’s my top pick because it fulfills every criterion I’ve laid out above and more.
It’s lightning-fast, even if the stats may seem modest on paper. The optimized Apple silicon really does do wonders, and with more and more programs being made specifically for Apple silicon, it’s actually gotten better with age. Programs like Photoshop open basically instantly and I can’t think of a task that I have to really wait for.
The 2560 x 1600 resolution screen is superb, I get well over 8 hours of battery life with it, normally around 10 hours with moderate usage. The keyboard is the best I’ve used on any device, and while many people aren’t a fan of the touch bar, I quite like it, once you get the hang of it.
The main drawback is the lack of ports, but with an Anker USB C hub, this is easily overcome and all of your cables are easily managed on one side of the device. You can check out the Anker MacBook Pro hub on Amazon here.
All in all, definitely the best laptop for working from home if you ask me!
2. Dell XPS 13
|What I like||What I don’t like|
|Very good performance||Webcam isn’t the best|
|Touch screen||Lack of ports|
|8+ hours of battery life|
The Dell XPS 13 is a great option if you’re looking for a top-of-the-range laptop in a small form factor that’s running windows. This model has a touch display, making it easy to use if you switch between tablet and laptop often. The build quality is top-notch, but it tends to suffer from the same issue the MacBook Pro M1 does, namely a large lack of ports.
The XPS 13 is a fast device, handling high-workload tasks easily, but another thing that lets it down is a webcam that doesn’t quite live up to its price tag. You can make do with it, but it’s not quite as premium as the rest of the device. The battery life is up there with some of the best though, getting upwards of 8 hours under moderate usage.
If you are looking for a windows device, this one definitely ticks many boxes.
3. MacBook Air M1 (8GB)
|What I like||What I don’t like|
|Lightning fast||Lack of ports|
|Very light, yet robust build||Lack of touch bar or touch screen|
|Affordable price for the performance||The keyboard is not backlit|
|Up to 18 hours of battery life||Increasing the RAM or internal storage can be expensive|
|Excellent keyboard and trackpad|
|Function keys instead of the touch bar|
The MacBook Air M1 (2020) is my best value pick for anyone looking for an affordable laptop for working from home, but still want a device that can handle a moderate to a high workload with ease.
The major difference between the MacBook Air M1 and the MacBook Pro M1 is the 7 graphic cores in the Air, opposed to the 8 graphic cores in the Pro. There are many other differences, but that would be the main one to take note of.
If you’re going to be doing very graphic intensive work, then I would recommend the Pro, but if not, the MacBook Air is an excellent choice that offers some benefits over the Pro. Such as the lack of a touch bar. I consider it a con for the MacBook Air, but I know that there are a ton of people who love the function keys instead, so let’s call this a pro. Two more benefits you’ll be sure to notice are the up to 18 hours of battery life, as well as being priced well under the MacBook Pro.
P.s. You’ll still probably need to get a USB hub for the MacBook Air M1, I recommend this one from Anker.
4. ASUS Zenbook 13
|What I like||What I don’t like|
|High-end performance||Lack of ports|
|Bright OLED display||Keypad touchpad can slow workflow|
|Innovative Keypad Touchpad||No SD card slot or headphone jack|
|512GB SSD Storage||Keyboard ergonomics aren’t as good as the MacBooks or Dell|
|10+ hour battery life|
|It has ports!|
The Asus Zenbook 13 checks off most of the boxes, the keypad touchpad is something that will be a big benefit for many, especially when used in conjunction with a mouse, allowing you to use a keypad on such a small device. The position of the keypad may get some taking used to, but if you work a lot with numbers or spreadsheets, then this should be something you come to grips with quite quickly.
The OLED display shows great color contrasts, making it also excellent for after-hours Netflix sessions, and the battery life is also excellent with around 10 hours of moderate usage.
Probably the thing that is best about this device is that it actually has ports! HDMI, Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, USB Type-A, and even a microSD card reader… unfortunately there is no headphone jack or SD card reader (which is the more important card type in case any people are involved with the next-gen are reading this).
5. Lenovo Thinkbook 13s
|What I like||What I don’t like|
|High-End Performance||No SD card reader|
|Built-in Ports||Not enough ports|
|2560 x 1600 resolution display||Keyboard ergonomics aren’t the best|
The Lenovo Thinkbook13s is a business laptop that does basically what you’d expect of a business laptop. It doesn’t have any fancy bells and whistles, but it has very good performance specs to make sure you can get the job done.
It has almost all of the ports you would need, with USB Type-A and C (with thunderbolt 4 compatibility), an HDMI port for an external monitor, and even a headphone jack. What it doesn’t have is an SD card reader, which basically sums this laptop up.
It’s good, but just a tad bit boring.