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Best Dell Laptop 2021

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Dell is one of the most trusted laptop brands in the world. Some of the best Dell laptops spread across a wide selection of traditional, convertible, and gaming devices that all meet a certain level of quality. The new Dell laptops recently reduced the bezel size, added Intel 11th Gen cores, and made other audio and design updates — but the best changes were made to the New XPS 13 2-in-1, our top pick to consider among a crowd of excellent devices.

Best Overall: New XPS 13 2-in-1

XPS 13 2-in-1

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

New XPS 13 2-in-1

Versatile design

16:10 FHD+ touchscreen with anti-reflective coating
Fingerprint reader and IR facial login
Built-in microSD and Thunderbolt 4 ports
Speedy PCIe NVMe x4 SSDs
Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 compliant
Good battery life
Dell Premium Active Pen sold separately
MagLev keyboard

Most experts consider the standard XPS 13 the best laptop for your money, but the 2-in-1 variant adds in touchscreen and pen support, a thinner frame and other perks for just a slightly higher price. These features would speak to users such as students who like taking digital, handwritten notes in class, couples who enjoy watching shows in bed, and anyone who wants a laptop that actually feels light and comfortable. This versatility shouldn't be overlooked when choosing the best Dell laptop.

Weighing under 3 pounds, the XPS 13 2-in-1 has a 13.4" screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio for a better-than-HD 1920 x 1200 resolution (or an expensive 4K display option), and uses the 11th-generation Intel Cores from i3 to i7. You can select up to 32GB of LPDDR4x RAM and 1TB of PCIe NVMe x4 storage, which will inflate the price past what you should pay, but could make it a powerful device in a compact frame. Unlike the XPS 13, the memory and storage can't be upgraded, but we think few enough laptop owners take advantage of this to make it a deal breaker.

The newest XPS 13 2-in-1 made its 2 USB-C ports Thunderbolt 4-compliant, and added an IR camera for facial log in, two missing features that many saw as its greatest drawbacks. Plus, it upgraded its fans so it no longer runs as hot, and made the bezels around the edge of the display thinner. Truly, the only persistent negative is that many users find the MagLev keyboard uncomfortable for prolonged typing.

Best 13-inch Laptop: New XPS 13

Dell Xps 13 9300 Ports

Source: Daniel Rubino/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Android Central)

New XPS 13

Beautiful, high-end machine

500-nit, anti-glare display
Tiny bezels and 16:10 ratio
Upgraded Intel Core and Iris graphics
Windows Hello facial recognition
0.58" frame at less than 3 lb.
Comfortable keyboard
Expensive high-end configurations
Only two USB-C ports

For a traditional laptop that may not bend in all directions but will fulfill all your computing needs with ease, the XPS 13 is simply the best choice. Built with the new 11th gen Intel Core processors with Intel Iris graphics, a 91.5% screen-to-body ratio with a 16:10 aspect ratio, and a 0.58" sliver of a frame. It comes in two new stylish color schemes: platinum silver with a black carbon fiber interior or frost with an arctic white woven glass interior.

In essence, the newest XPS 13 squeezes out as much display space as possible without making it completely borderless, while upping the brightness from 400 to 500 nits. Plus, Dell made incremental improvements to the processing speed, memory and connectivity, while also maintaining its 14-hour battery life. Memory now hits 4267MHz LPDDR4x at the base level, compared to 2133MHz LPDDR3 in the old model. It now supports Thunderbolt 4 and USB-C, as well as Wi-Fi 6. And while its new graphics card won't hit anywhere near the level of an Alienware laptop, the upgrade will let you play modern games at low graphics on the go.

Best Cheap Laptop under $500: New Inspiron 15 5000 Laptop

Dell Inspiron 15

Source: Dell (Image credit: Source: Dell)

New Inspiron 15 5000 Laptop

Save money, get more screen space

Great value for entry-level specs
Reliable battery life and quick charge
11th Gen Intel Core
Varied ports
15.6-inch screen
Affordably priced
Pretty heavy and bulky
Slow performance with i3
Dimmer, non-touch screen

Most Dell laptops favor quality and fast performance at the expense of your bank account, pushing students and thrifty shoppers toward reliable Chromebooks instead. But Dell does sell reasonably priced laptops and 2-in-1s that will fit your budget if you don't need high-end applications or gaming-level specs.

At its cheapest, the Inspiron 15 5000 gives you a 15.6-inch HD anti-glare screen, Intel i3 processor, 8GB of DDR4 3200MHz memory, a 128GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, built-in Amazon Alexa and Wi-Fi 6 support, and a useful combination of USB, USB-C and HDMI ports. You can also get the most expensive configuration — Intel i7 11th Gen, 12GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and Iris Xe Graphics — for just $879, while similar specs on the smaller XPS 13 would cost you hundreds of dollars more.

What are the main differences between the Dell Inspiron and XPS 13? It's heavier at nearly 4 pounds and less compact to slide into a backpack. It has a thicker bezel, but also a lift hinge that some buyers will like for the elevated typing angle. The XPS and Inspiron models have comparable battery lives, but the Inspiron's weaker specs and dimmer screen will make it last longer on a full charge. You don't get the option for a touchscreen, 16:10 HD+ or 4K resolution, infrared cam for facial login, or upgradable memory and storage.

Best Laptop for Gaming: Alienware m15 R3

Alienware m15 R3

Lightweight frame, heavyweight machine

High-level gaming specs
Compact and light (for a gaming laptop)
Good battery life (for a gaming laptop)
Stylish design
Great display refresh rate and color gamut
Heavy to carry around
Pricey for upgraded RTX 2080 GPU

The "best Dell laptop for gaming" label could easily go to the Alienware Area-51m or m17 R3, but we decided to prioritize price and portability. The m17 costs more for the same specs in exchange for two more inches of display space, and the Area-51m is more a desktop-replacement slab than a laptop. Yet with the m15 R3, you'll still pay a premium price but get a laptop that actually feels like it can be taken and played anywhere.

The low-level m15 R3s don't have enough storage for modern PC games, so we recommend starting with the mid-level Alienware with the Intel i10 6-core CPU, the overclockable NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6 GPU, 16GB of memory and 512GB RAID0 storage. That will get you over 130 FPS and a 144Hz refresh rate for HD gaming on its 15.6-inch screen. And it sports a ridiculous number of ports — 3 USB-A, 1 Thunderbolt, 1 graphics amplifier port, 1 HDMI port and 1 mini-display port — for all your connectivity needs.

At 4.65 lbs, it's heavy compared to most laptops but actually quite light compared to its gaming laptop peers such as the 9 lb Area-51m. Also unlike other gaming laptops, its battery will last you a few hours while gaming on the go if you're away from an outlet. With its cool RGB light ring in the back and sleek design, it's meant to be taken out and shown off to your gaming buds.

Best Premium Laptop for Video Editing: New XPS 15 Laptop

Hero shot of Dell XPS 15 on a wooden deck

Source: Daniel Rubino / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Android Central)

New XPS 15 Laptop

The best Dell money can buy

Up to i9 Intel 10th-gen CPU
Full SD card slot
Only 0.71" thick
Quad 3D speakers
16:10 HDR™ 400 display
Ultra-thin bezels
New webcam isn't great
Low-end graphics card for price
Can be expensive

As an alternative to the Macbook Pro for creative professionals and students with well-off parents, the new XPS 15 should be your first choice as it features impressive specs if you can afford them. It comes in Touch and non-Touch configurations, including a Creator Edition model with up to 10th-gen i9 CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB GDDR6 GPU, 32GB DDR4-2933MHz RAM and 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD.

Like the XPS 13, it has the new InfinitiEdge display with 500 nits and ultra-thin bezels, plus display specs that are important for color fidelity during creative projects: 100% Adobe RGB and 94% DCI-P3 color gamut with a 1650:1 contrast ratio, plus an optional 4K upgrade for a couple hundred more.

Make sure to purchase the new 2020 model, which made great improvements to the speakers and keyboard. With two front-firing speakers and two side-firing tweeters, the laptop can actually generate 3D audio effects, with loud but clear performance. Plus, the keyboard keycaps have been enlarged for a more satisfying mechanical feel.

Best Dell Chromebook: Chromebook 3100 2-in-1 Education

Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Chromebook 3100 2-in-1 Education

Practically invulnerable

Can survive falls
Spill-proof keyboard
2 USB-C and USB-A ports
Fast-charging, 12-hour battery
Chrome updates until June 2025
Not currently available
High price for Chromebook
Somewhat heavy

This bulky and durable chromebook made our best Chromebooks for students list, as the purchase you can rely on to survive any spills or drops you throw at it. In fact, it can reportedly fall 30 feet onto steel and still work afterward, though we advise against it.

The Chromebook 3100 2-in-1 Education has up to 8GB of RAM and up to 32GB of storage, but the highest specs will bring the price higher than what you'd typically pay for any Chromebook. At the base level, you'll receive two USB-A and two USB-C ports, a 10-12 hour battery life, and a sturdy design that won't be as light or thin as other Chromebooks.

As of this moment, Dell is selling the 2-in-1 device on its website, but won't ship them until mid-February. If you need something for next semester, you may need to look into an alternative. If you can wait, however, this Chromebook should last you years, charges and boots fast, and is versatile enough to be useful in any given situation.

Bottom line

When choosing which of the best Dell laptops to buy, your choice truly comes down to three categories: budget, gaming, and all-purpose. Its bargain priced and Chromebook laptops have some spec upgrades but won't give you fast computing speeds. The gaming laptops are optimized for gaming more than for complex applications like video editing, and they'll cost you. The all-purpose XPS laptops have a wide range of specs depending on your budget, but all share the latest in Dell's design innovations.

Assuming you have the cash for it, and that you didn't come here specifically for an Alienware recommendation, we'd suggest you pick the XPS 13 2-in-1. All three of our XPS recommendations can be upgraded to have a touchscreen, but only the 2-in-1 lets you put the screen in a tent or tablet position so you can easily write or draw upon it. And considering the highest quality Dell laptops can be expensive across the board, you'll want a device that doubles as a tablet so you won't have to spend another grand on a separate one on top of a laptop. Just make sure to buy the optional Dell pen with it, as it's essential to getting the most out of this convertible laptop.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author: Michael Hicks Headshot

Michael Hicks got his tech start in 2016, covering emerging tech like VR and self-driving cars before expanding to all things tech. When he's not gaming or reading SFF novels, he writes freelance for Android Central and Windows Central.

Michael L Hicks
Michael L Hicks

Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.