Image: iStock / monkeybusinessimages

It’s tough to buy a laptop. Just take a look at a list of top products or the laptop page on an e-commerce website, and you’re sure to find model after model of seemingly identical machines with little to tell them apart other than specs and customer reviews.

Hopefully this guide to some of the best Windows laptops of 2021 will give you a few clues as to what you’re looking for, especially if you work remotely, are a creative professional, have a limited budget for a laptop or are a frequent traveler.

A Windows laptop for remote professionals

The Dell Inspiron 16 Plus
Image: Dell

If you’re working remotely you may still want a laptop: After all, the couch starts looking really comfy after sitting at your desk all day. If your laptop’s primary travel is from home office to couch to (occasionally) the office, then you don’t want ultra portable: You want bigger and easier to work on for extended periods of time.

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The Dell Inspiron 16 Plus may be the perfect machine to fit the remote worker niche, especially for those that don’t need particularly high-end hardware. There’s also a lot of different configuration options for this 16″ Dell laptop, meaning those who need higher end hardware can still get a good machine without breaking the bank.

Starting at just $899, the Dell Inspiron 16 Plus is an ideal option for remote workers, be they the kind that work on documents all day, or the sort that need a bit more oomph from their hardware.

A Windows laptop for creative professionals

The Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Image: Microsoft

Creative pros that want a portable device need something more than just a laptop: They need a machine capable of delivering impressive performance and features in a compact size. If that sounds like you, then check out the Microsoft Surface Pro 8.

Design wise, the SP8 is more like an iPad Pro than a laptop. It has a detachable keyboard, kickstand and can be used like a tablet for all sorts of creative endeavours, including those that need a Surface Pen or Dial.

The Surface Pro 8 may feel like using a Pro tablet, but it has a leg up on Apple’s model: The SP8 boasts an actual desktop operating system, making it far more valuable due to its larger library of applications.

Microsoft knows it has hit on a valuable configuration, which is why the Surface Pro 8 isn’t cheap. It starts at $1,099.99 and has a wide variety of configuration options. At the same price as an iPad Pro plus the addition of a full-fledge desktop OS, there’s not much reason to pass on trying to get your employer to buy one for you.

A Windows laptop for budget-conscious professionals

The Acer Aspire 5
Image: Acer

Maybe you’re self-employed and don’t have the budget for an expensive laptop (been there), or simply want a cheap device to use for work that will be kept separate from your personal laptop. Regardless of the reason, there’s a place in the world for cheap laptops, like the Acer Aspire 5 series.

The Aspire 5 starts at less than $500 and can be outfitted with up to 24GB of memory, a 2TB HDD, has a lot of ports for peripherals and comes in 14″ and 15.6″ models. It’s a solid laptop for its price, has a lot of great options that make it a good deal, and won’t break the bank: What more can you ask for in an entry-level machine from a reliable manufacturer?

The Acer Aspire 5 starts at $449 and is available now.

A Windows laptop for traveling professionals

The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro
Image: Samsung

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped all travel in 2021, as many professionals are sure to have noticed after long, masked flights. If you travel a lot for business, you need a laptop that can handle travel as well, for which I recommend the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro.

Samsung calls this new device “PC power that’s smartphone thin,” and that’s an accurate statement. I’ve been testing one for an upcoming review, and it’s a pretty powerful machine for being barely thicker than my iPhone 13 Mini at the laptop’s widest point. It’s light, portable, has a nice design, a good keyboard, excellent display, and surprisingly good sound.

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Like many ultra-portable laptops, the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro feels a bit flimsy, but it shouldn’t hold someone back from purchasing it as the ideal travel laptop. Its specs (Intel 11th Gen Core processor, up to Core i7, 8GB RAM, 21-hour battery life) are impressive enough, but it’s the $809 introductory price (with trade in, $999 without) that can really seal the deal.