Which notebook would you like? In this laptop buying guide, we present models from 11.6 to 17.3 inches and explain what buyers should look out for.
Windows laptops come in a variety of sizes and configurations. Even though tablets have become an alternative in many areas, for example for streaming (guide), surfing or for games, notebooks remain indispensable in many areas. Thanks to the integrated keyboard and sufficiently large screen, they are the first choice for working with Office applications or for writing texts. Laptops are now a full-fledged desktop replacement, especially in conjunction with an external monitor (guide), a keyboard (guide) and a mouse (guide).
In this purchase guide from the world of laptops, we show what types there are and for whom the variants are best suited. The notebook purchase advice focuses on Windows devices as classic clamshell or convertible PCs from compact and handy to large and expansive.
The words notebook and laptop are both synonyms for a mobile PC. The former derives from the English term for "notebook". The latter is made up of "lap" and "top" – i.e. a computer that you can hold on your lap. The classic is still the so-called clamshell notebook. That means "conch shell" in English. IBM introduced this design with its ThinkPad series in the early 1990s. The cover closes with the lower part of the computer so that no foreign objects can penetrate between the display and the keyboard.
A special variant is the convertible PC with a touchscreen. This works like a normal notebook. The display can be folded down using a folding, rotating or sliding mechanism in order to use the device like a tablet PC. Variants in which the display can be removed from the rest of the case in order to use it as a tablet are called detachables.
Common screen sizes range from 11.6 to over 17.3 inches. A 16:9 form factor is still common, and smaller notebooks are increasingly being found in 3:2 screen formats. The resolutions range from 1280 x 720 pixels on inexpensive models to 1920 x 1080 pixels (Full HD) and up to 3840 x 2400 pixels (4K) on high-end notebooks. A refresh rate of 60 Hertz is still standard, but there are already displays with 90 Hertz and more in the price range beyond 1000 euros. However, OLEDs are still rare. Touchscreens are mainly found in convertibles or the Surface Laptop 4 from Microsoft.
As a technology in an LCD, the IPS panel (In-Plane Switching) enjoys widespread use. There are also TN (Twisted Nematic) and VA (Vertical Alignment). TN panels use a layer of liquid crystals that are twisted together at 90 degrees. The advantages include a short response time, the highest refresh rates and a lower manufacturing price. The biggest weakness is the lack of viewing angle stability. The image is only displayed cleanly up to a viewing angle of 150 degrees. TN panels are weaker than IPS or VA in terms of contrast and color reproduction.
In terms of viewing angle stability and color reproduction, IPS are the best. On the other hand, they are more expensive to produce and offer a slower response time than TN, which has disadvantages for gaming. VA panels offer the highest contrasts and black values, but they also weaken in terms of response time. We explain more about the technology of monitors in the buying guide for gaming monitors: displays for gaming.
There is a wide range of processors. Windows devices come standard with x86 processors. These come from either Intel or AMD. Intel chips from the Celeron and Pentium series are the entry-level models for inexpensive models. These only offer manageable computing power. It continues with Intel Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 and hardly any Core i9.
AMD chips in the cheaper range come from the Athlon and 3020e series, the counterparts to the core models from Intel are the Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 9. The current Ryzen 5 CPUs show up in the benchmarks Slightly superior to Core i5. We explain more about AMD chips in the guide Inexpensive laptops from 500 euros: Which AMD Ryzen is the best choice? CPUs with ARM architecture are rare and only work in reduced S mode on Windows 10 and Windows 11.
Notebooks usually use integrated graphics chips. These come from Intel or AMD, there are also mobile versions of the Nvidia Geforce. However, these cannot always keep up with a dedicated graphics card from a PC. If you only want to work or surf with the computer, you don't need an AMD Radeon or Nvidia Geforce. If you also want to play, you need at least an Nvidia Geforce RTX 1650 or RTX 3060.
The main memory ranges from 4 GB for particularly inexpensive models to a maximum of 64 GB for high-end devices. If possible, we recommend at least 8 GB of RAM. The main memory is usually soldered, so that retrofitting is not always possible. SSD storage has become the standard for data carriers. The M.2 type variants are now the most widespread. The significantly faster NVMe SSDs according to PCIe 4.0 are available in more expensive devices. A classic HDD is only rarely found and is mainly found in inexpensive computers. Some affordable devices still use slow flash memory.
By default, computers have receivers for WLAN and Bluetooth. Not all devices already support the fastest Wi-Fi 6 standard. Many products still rely on Wi-Fi 5 or even only Wi-Fi 4. Modules for mobile Internet for LTE and rarely 5G using a SIM card are also possible with high-priced devices.
The connection options are diverse. USB-A is common, but is increasingly being replaced by USB-C. The situation is similar with the HDMI connection for a monitor, which is no longer a matter of course. An alternative here is DisplayPort over USB-C. When buying, you should make sure that the connection already supports USB 3.0 for fast data transfer. Fingerprint sensors are also practical for unlocking the screen, which are occasionally found on cheaper models. A webcam is standard, most manufacturers limit themselves to resolutions of 0.9 megapixels. Cheap models sometimes only use 0.3 megapixels. Webcams with more than 1 megapixel are currently rather rare.
Cheap laptops from 200 euros
If you mainly want to write e-mails and surf the Internet, you don't necessarily need an expensive model. The cheapest notebooks with a size of 11.6 inches are available from as little as 200 euros, an example of this is the Lenovo IdeaPad 1. Buyers can get a computer with a display of 13.3 inches, 14 inches or 15.6 inches for up to 350 euros . The displays mostly support HD resolutions in cheap models. What is still fine with a small device of around 11.6 inches could appear too pixelated with a larger model of over 14 inches. More and more models up to 350 euros support a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
Buyers shouldn't expect a lot of computing power here, the processors are mainly simple chips like Intel Celeron, Pentium Silver, Pentium Gold or AMD 3020e as well as Athlon Silver and Athlon Gold. In some cases, however, Ryzen 3 or Core i3 are already used, for example in the HP 240 G7. There are also a few ARM processors here, but these are not compatible with all software and mostly use the S mode of Windows 10 or 11.
We recommend at least a duo-core processor such as the Intel Celeron N4020 or AMD 3020e as a processor; a quad-core processor such as the Intel Celeron N4120 or N5100 would be better. With a display of 11 inches, an HD resolution (1280 x 720 pixels) is still okay, but from 14 inches it should be a Full HD resolution if possible. 4 GB RAM is usual here, but 8 GB RAM would be recommended. We advise against flash memory, here an SSD memory with at least 128 GB, preferably 256 GB, is advisable.
All-rounder with 15.6 inches
If you want more than a digital typewriter, you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket. In the price range of up to 500 euros, there are 15.6-inch all-rounders for work and entertainment that run significantly faster and are more stable than bargain PCs. Full HD is standard. There is hardly anything less than Wi-Fi 5, even Wi-Fi 6 is widespread here. Most M.2 SSDs already support PCIe 3.0
Ryzen 3 and Core i3 can be found up to 400 euros. Core i5 or Ryzen 5 processors for less than 500 euros provide more performance. AMD chips are our tip, as they can outperform Intel chips in terms of performance, but are usually cheaper. The Lenovo V15-IML, HP 250 G8 and Acer Aspire 3 offer a particularly good price-performance ratio.
Beyond 500 euros, the performance, but also the variety of equipment increases significantly. Ryzen 5 and Core i5 of the current generation are already common here. There are also the first devices with an integrated graphics chip from Nvidia for games. From 600 euros, buyers can count on 16 GB of RAM. A good choice as a home PC is the Acer Aspire 5, HP 15s-eq2475ng or Lenovo V15 G2. At just under 1000 euros, the first Ryzen 7 processors are already being used. The robust models of the ThinkPad series from Lenovo are also in demand as business laptops. The ASUS VivoBook Pro 15 for 1000 euros even uses an OLED display with a resolution of 2800 x 1800 pixels and an Nvidia Geforce RTX 3050.
Lightweight up to 14 inches
Just a few years ago, 15.6 inches was the standard for powerful devices. Notebooks with 13.3 and 14 inches are now on the rise and offer just as much performance as their larger counterparts. A compact model makes transport much easier, which can be a great advantage in times of frequent switching between office and home office. Most models rarely weigh more than 1.3 kilograms. However, there are also computers that weigh less than 1 kilogram, such as the Acer Swift 5 (test report) with a touchscreen or the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon (test report).
The cheapest 14-inchers with Full HD resolution are under 500 euros. A clear example of this is the MSI Modern 14 with Core i5-10210U (10th generation) and the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 with AMD Ryzen 5. Except for the device from MSI, Wi-Fi 6 is standard here. First-class, compact and light notebooks with a Core i5-1135G7 (11th generation) and 8 GB RAM are available from 650 euros, such as the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 (test report), the Honor Magicbook 14 (test report) or Acer Swift 3 (test report) .
Convertible PCs and detachables
Convertibles with a touchscreen are very versatile. If you fold the display, they are transformed into oversized tablets. You can then comfortably watch series or surf the web on the couch. You can get a convertible for beginners for less than 300 euros, such as the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 with 11.6 inches or the Acer Spin 1 with 14 inches and 4 GB RAM each. But don't expect a lot of performance. As with the entry-level computers, mostly Intel Celeron, Pentium or AMD Athlon Silver are used here. The ASUS VivoBook Flip 14 offers a Core i3 and 8 GB RAM for 485 euros. Models from 13.3 inches create Full HD.
Above 500 euros, convertibles are full-fledged notebooks. The Acer Spin 3 or Asus Vivobook Flip 14 from 700 euros with 16 GB RAM, Core i5 of the eleventh generation and 512 GB SSD have a strong price-performance ratio. From 1000 euros you can get high-end models with powerful Ryzen 7, Ryzen 9 and Core i7 processors, such as the HP Envy x360 Convertible, Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 13 or the high-end model Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Titanium Yoga ( Review).
The datachable, also known as a 2-in-1 PC, is a special class of device. In principle, this is a tablet PC for Windows 10 or 11. Plugged into a keyboard, it serves as a conventional notebook. The cheapest models include the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3 for 320 euros with Intel Pentium Silver. The keyboard is included. The Surface Go 3 is Microsoft's cheapest entry, but only with Windows 10 and 11 in S mode. A plug-in keyboard is available as an accessory.
From 500 euros, the 2-in-1 solutions correspond to an all-rounder model with a Core i3 and Core i5, such as the Huawei MateBook E. Above 1000 euros, there are high-end variants of the detachables, in particular the Microsoft Surface Book 3 ( Test report), Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ (test report) or Microsoft Surface Pro 8. There are even gaming detachables like the ASUS ROG Flow Z13 with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 and Core i7 for 2000 euros.
Desktop replacement from 16 to over 17 inches
A compact notebook is not always useful. If you need a particularly large display area to work, but want to do without a desktop PC, you can use a larger computer. This is also called a desktop replacement. This is primarily useful if the PC is mostly only used at home.
The largest laptops go up to 17.3 inches. The cheapest models start under 400 euros, but then only offer weaker Intel Celeron CPUs. The HP 17-cp0447ng has a strong price-performance ratio for 560 euros with AMD Ryzen 5 and 16 GB RAM.
A compromise between size and weight are variants around 16 inches. Larger variants of 14-inch models can also be found here. However, this category already weighs 2 to 2.5 kilograms. An exception is the LG Gram 16, which weighs only 1.2 kilograms. The Medion Akoya E16401 is by far one of the cheapest 16-inch devices. The other models start at just under 700 euros, but offer a lot of equipment. An example of this is the Huawei Matebook D16 (test report) and Huawei Matebook 16 (test report).
Notebooks for gamers
If you want to use the computer for gaming, you have to pay attention to the appropriate hardware. With the right equipment, a gaming notebook of the latest generation is already close to the performance of a desktop computer. The minimum processor requirement for gaming is a Core i5 or Ryzen 5. Core i7 or Ryzen 7 would be better. Models with Core i9 or Ryzen 9 are absolutely top, but expensive.
A strong processor alone is not enough here, the be-all and end-all is the graphics unit (GPU). The integrated graphics chips from Intel or AMD are not sufficient for games. Models from Nvidia offer the best performance among mobile GPUs. Nvidia chips from the MX series are less suitable for serious gamers. Beginners or occasional gamers should get by with the Nvidia Geforce GTX 1650 Ti with 4 GB of VRAM. Corresponding computers are available from 700 euros.
More demanding gamers are more likely to use the RTX 3060 with 6 to 8 GB of VRAM. Such mid-range gaming laptops cost around 1500 euros. Real gamers need high-end systems with RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 as well as 12 GB VRAM. The best notebooks for gaming then cost over 3000 euros. We explain more about this in the guide to gaming laptops: gaming fun at home and on the go from 666 euros.
You can get compact 11.6-inch Windows laptops for as little as 200 euros. There are also larger notebooks up to 350 euros. However, these offer only weak hardware equipment. If you want to write e-mails or surf the Internet more than just occasionally, you should get a computer for just under 500 euros, with at least an Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3. From 700 euros, notebooks with a Core i5 or Ryzen 5 offer almost everything what you need to work in the home office.
If you also want to play games with the notebook, you need a real graphics unit from Nvidia. For beginners, the Geforce RTX 1650 is an option, for higher demands it should be at least a Geforce RTX 3060. For corresponding models, however, far more than 1000 euros are due. Lightweight laptops up to 14 inches are ideal for anyone who often wants to take the computer with them. Convertible PCs are also very mobile and versatile. If the laptop mainly stays at home, larger variants from 16 to 17 inches are an adequate replacement for the desktop PC.