Embarking on a quest to find the best laptop in NZ? It can be a long, perilous journey, dear traveller, but a capable notebook’s riches are worth the effort. Commence this adventure with us, and we’ll guide you to the one laptop that reigns supreme.
Well, that’s what I’d like to say. Finding the best laptop is never as straightforward as our favourite fantasy adventures. In reality, it comes down to your needs: looking for a slick ultraportable laptop that can blast through work while on the move? Prefer a powerful gaming laptop to crank up those graphics settings to “Ultra”? In need of an affordable 2-in-1 notebook to get through school?
From premium Windows machines and reliable Chromebooks to do-it-all MacBooks, you’ll find a laptop with your name on it. But with so many brands to wade through – including Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, Gigabyte, Samsung, Microsoft and more – it can be tricky to track down what suits you. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you make the right choice.
Stick around to find out the best laptops available in NZ, along with a buyer’s guide to help you see what key factors you should be looking for. (Oh, and if you are hungry for a fantasy quest anyway, we’ll happily be your makeshift guide for this journey.)
Apple announced its new 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 and it’s ready to order. It’s everything we loved about the usual 13-inch M2 MacBook Air, but bigger. What’s not to like?
We recently reviewed the HP Victus 15 (AMD Radeon RX 6500M), an entry-level gaming laptop that offers a great 144Hz display but is a tad too pricey for what it offers.
Best Laptop NZ 2023
1. MacBook Air (M2)
Best laptop overall
Price: From $2,149
CPU: Apple M2
GPU: Apple M2
RAM: 8GB / 16GB / 24GB
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Display: 13.6in, 2560 x 1664 resolution
After the launch of the industry-breaking M1 MacBook Air, the M2 MacBook Air had a lot to live up to – and it’s safe to say it exceeded expectations.
Apple’s latest iteration of its ultraportable laptop brought everything we adored about the ever-popular M1 MacBook Air – including its stylishly thin chassis, comfortable keyboard and ridiculously long battery life (18 hours) – and bumped things up a notch.
The 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display with minimal bezels is captivating to work and watch things on, the 1080p webcam delivers clear visuals for video calls and its incredibly light 1.24kg design makes it easy to carry around.
Oh, and that M2 chip is powerful and efficient. It handles 4K video editing comfortably, the battery lasts an impressive 18 hours and, amazingly, it performs just as well as the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro – all without a fan.
Sure, it’s more expensive than its older M1 sibling, and its improvements aren’t worth the upgrade for those who own an M1 MacBook Air. For anyone else that desires a sleek, fully capable ultraportable, and is already in the Apple ecosystem, M2 MacBook Air is the best laptop to get.
2. Lenovo IdeaPad 3i Chromebook
Best budget laptop
Price: From $389
CPU: Intel Celeron N4020
GPU: Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: 4GB DDR4
Display: 14in, FHD (1920×1080) resolution
Laptops don’t need to come with all the bells and whistles to let your browse the web, work on online documents or stream you favourite shows. Case in point: the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i Chromebook.
A fantastic choice for kids jumping online, people who need a reliable notebook jot down notes while researching on the web or anyone who just needs a screen and a keyboard without draining their bank account.
What makes the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i a valuable purchase isn’t just its affordable price tag (seriously, $389 is a steal), it’s also because its a Chromebook. Google’s own line of laptops mainly rely on the internet to be put to good use – not internal specs. For example, 64Gb of storage is tiny, but it doesn’t matter when you’re saving all your documents or photos on Google Drive.
The 14-inch, 1080p offers a good size to watch YouTube videos or Netflix shows, but don’t expect a grand visual experience; 220 nits of brightness isn’t exactly vibrant. Regardless, a 10-hour battery life and decent keyboard make up for this.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 3i Chromebook may not be powerful, but its still the best budget laptop you can grab.
3. Dell XPS 13
Best Windows laptop
Price: From $1,998
CPU: Intel Core i7-1250U
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 16GB / 32GB DDR5
Storage: 512GB / 1TB
Display: 13.4in, FHD+ (1920 x 1200) resolution
The Dell XPS 13 has been the go-to ultraportable for a majority of Windows users for years – and for good reason. Now boasting a slight design revamp and upgraded specs, the latest XPS 13 is now even more worthy of its “best laptops” title.
With a speedy Intel processor to breeze through basic activities, an admirable, lightweight design that sees it weigh just 1.17kg and a decent 13.4-inch display that’s bright and near bezel-less, the Dell XPS 13 2022 ticks all the right boxes for anyone after a laptop for work, streaming and portability.
Well, almost everything. The laptop’s 720p webcam just doesn’t cut it these days, and the dual stereo speakers deliver crappy audio. Plus, the redesigned aluminium chassis means no carbon fibre palm rests – and that’s a trait that made the XPS 13 models stand out. Although, that doesn’t mean this isn’t a swish-looking machine.
A reliable laptop that isn’t overly expensive but still feels premium and offers superb performance for a majority of people. That’s the Dell XPS 13 for you.
Here’s our Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review
4. Asus ROG Strix Scar 16
Best gaming laptop
Price: From $5,200
CPU: Intel Core i9-13980HX
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080
Display: 16in, QHD+ (2560 x 1600), 240Hz
I’m a big fan of the Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 (2023). It has everything you could want in a gaming laptop: a high-end 13th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU, the latest RTX 4080 GPU, a 16-inch QHD+ display with a 240hz refresh rate and a boatload of RGB lighting.
These are dream-like specs, and Asus has done a phenomenal job fitting this kind of power into a 16-inch gaming laptop (with style). If you’re the type who enjoys pushing graphics and performance to their limit, the ROG Strix Scar 16 lets you do that without breaking a metaphorical sweat. Be prepared; this laptop will put a literal dent in your wallet.
Its specs make it pricey, bulky and short on battery life. However, as with all of Asus’ ROG Strix lineup, this is a heavy-duty rig made for demanding triple-A gaming and multimedia tasks, and the Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 doesn’t try to deny being anything else.
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 prefers to call its home on your desk rather than your backpack, and if that’s what you’re looking for (and have a lot of extra cash lying around), then you’ll be more than satisfied with what this 16-inch beast has to offer.
If we’re talking about one of the best gaming laptops to get in New Zealand, not including the price, the Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 fits the bill.
Here’s our Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 (2023) review
5. MacBook Pro 16 (M2 Pro / M2 Max)
Best laptop for creative professionals
Price: From $4,599
CPU: Apple M2 Pro / Apple M2 Max
GPU: Apple M2 Pro / Apple M2 Max
RAM: 16GB / 32GB / 64GB / 96GB
Storage: 1TB/ 2TB / 4TB / 8TB
Display: 16.2in, 3456 x 2234 resolution
It doesn’t get much more powerful than the MacBook Pro 16 with M2 Max. It’s ridiculous we’re seeing a laptop with a 12-core CPU, up to 38-core GPU, up to 96GB of RAM and 8TB of storage. With this juggernaut of a machine, the question you need to ask yourself is, “what do you need?”
If you’re browsing the internet, working on documents and streaming, you definitely do not need to shell out $6,349 for an M2 Max MacBook Pro, nor $4,599 for an M2 Pro. This neat and compact laptop is made for creative professionals, and if you are one (and have the cash to splash), you’ll have more than enough power for productivity.
Keeping the same, favourable design as the previous MacBook Pro models, you can expect a mesmerising 16-inch XDR display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 1,000 nits of brightness, along with the usual comfortable keyboard, large trackpad and minimalist design. The smaller MacBook Pro 14 is also an excellent option, but it can’t beat the 16-inch display.
Throw in its 22 hours of battery life (18 hours for the 14-inch model), slim chassis for the power is packs and wonderful 1080p webcam, and you have yourself a exceptional laptop that’s hard to beat. However, it’s should be strictly for those that need it.
Here’s our MacBook Pro 16 (M2 Max) review
6. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 10)
Best business laptop
Price: From $3,879
CPU: Intel Core i5-1235U / Intel Core i7-1280P
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 16GB / 32GB DDR5
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Display: 14in, WUXGA (1920 x 1200) / WQUXGA (3840 x 2400)
If you’ve seen this laptop before, it would have likely been in an office. Why? Because the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon a flagship business laptop that continues to stay at the top of its class.
The Gen 10 model delivers up-to-date specs and minor improvements to the tried-and-true formula. With 12th Gen Intel Core vPro processors, efficient RAM speeds even at 16GB, a compact-yet-fantastic 14-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio and stand-out 1080p webcam for better video calls, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is made for work.
Yes, it will crunch through spreadsheets and data-based apps, but its the other staples that make the ThinkPad shine as a reliable business laptop: the professional black and red design, the durable chassis with MIL-STD 810H certification, fingerprint reader and that world-class keyboard. Oh, and it’s one of the only laptops you’ll find that still has a TrackPoint (the red rubber cap in the middle of the keyboard, literally called a nipple).
It can get pricey ($3,800 is nothing to sneeze at), but a business laptop is made to last, and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the epitome of that.
7. HP Spectre x360 13.5
Best 2-in-1 laptop
Price: From $3,099
CPU: Intel Core i5-1335U / Intel Core i7-1355U
GPU: Intel UHD Graphics / Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 8GB / 16GB DDR4
Storage: 512GB / 1TB
Display: 13.5in, WUXGA+ (1920 x 1280) resolution
A laptop that’s as sleek as a MacBook Air, comes with competent specs and doubles as a tablet? Yeah, the HP Spectre x360 13.5 has a lot going for it.
It’s sturdy, 360-degree design allows users to effortlessly switch between laptop, tent and tablet modes, and it’s gorgeous 13.5-inch touch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio matches all modes perfectly. The Spectre x360 13.5 is portability at its finest, too, weighing a light 1.36kg
Speaking of bringing this 2-in-1 laptop around, it’s battery life last up to a claimed 20 hours. That’s more than enough to write emails (on its compact, but comfortable keyboard), work on an excel sheet, binge-watch a series and scroll through social media. Thanks to it being based on the Intel Evo platform, which is reserved for the finest laptops, it can breeze through multitasking, too.
From its capable specs, including its 13th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, to its versatile design, the HP Spectre x360 13.6 is a 2-in-1 laptop done right.
See our HP Spectre x360 13.5 review
9. Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
Best laptop for creativity
Price: From $2,564
CPU: Intel Core i5-11300H (quad-core) / Intel Core i7-11370H (quad-core)
GPU: Intel Iris Xe / Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
RAM: 16GB / 32GB DDR4
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Display: 14.4in, 2400 x 1600
Innovation in the laptop industry is few and far between. Laptops have already achieved a universally accepted form factor, but that’s why we love to see a bold new design that works. Hence, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio.
This canvas-style 2-in-1 laptop has a special hinge that folds out the display over the keyboard. Simple? Yes, but that’s just what designers and casual users have been looking for to get up close and personal with a display – perfectly angled for drawing and viewing.
Good thing the display is exemplary, too. It’s equipped with a 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow touch display with a 120Hz refresh rate that showcases fine details and bright colours.
Its quad-core 11th Gen Intel i5 and i7 CPUs can handle multitasking, video editing and graphic design, while the upgraded RTX 3050 Ti can even handle some gaming. But here’s thing. These processors are already aging, and even when it launched, the Surface Laptop Studio wasn’t leading the pack in these areas either. That said, it’s still powerful enough to be a solid all-rounder.
It may not be the best for creative pros, nor for gamers, but now that its price has reduced over the years (there are good deals around), the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio remains to be one of the best jack-of-all-trades laptop with a creative twist.
10. MacBook Air (M1)
Still one of the best laptops to get for most
Price: From $1,749
CPU: Apple M1
GPU: Apple M1
RAM: 8GB / 16GB
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Display: 13.3in, 2560 x 1600
Even with the M2 MacBook Air out, it was on the shoulders of the still-incredible M1 MacBook Air. Kicking off the era of all-Apple laptops, the custom ARM-based M1 chip made waves in the industry – and it still kicks ass today.
Despite it coming out in 2020, the M1 MacBook Air doesn’t fall far behind the processing power seen in laptops today. In fact, it can still match some of them. That’s thanks to macOS updates bringing new features into the fold. Couple that along with its price tag (a good bit cheaper than the M2 model), and M1 MacBook still shines for a majority of customers.
The 13.3-inch LED-backlit display is wonderful to work, edit and stream on, the Magic Keyboard lets you type like the wind and its incredible 15-hour battery life can get you through most of the day without plugging it in. Not bad for a laptop that’s under $2,000 (even under $1,500 with a deal)
It’s unfortunate about the 720p webcam (with Apple’s Continuity Camera, you can use your iPhone’s camera instead), but its outstanding performance and incredible lightweight design more than make up for that. The M1 MacBook Air is still all the rage, and makes for one of the best laptops to get for most.
See our M1 MacBook Air review
How to find the best laptop for you
There’s much to consider when shopping around for a laptop that fits your needs. To find the right one, it’s a good idea to keep these points in mind before heading to checkout.
Know your budget
It goes without saying, but you should refrain from overspending on a laptop if you don’t make full use of it. If you’re not a creative professional, programmer, PC gamer or someone who requires demanding processing power, chances are you don’t need to pay an outrageous amount.
Laptop prices range from below $500 to well over $5,000. Some thrive as budget machines that offer more bang for your buck, while others are pricey powerhouses packed with the latest CPUs and GPUs that will last for years to come.
If all you need is a decent display to binge-watch shows, a comfortable keyboard to type on and a strong internet connection to scroll endlessly online, then a low-price Windows laptop or first-rate Chromebook will do the trick. These aren’t made for video editing or gaming, but they are perfect for online activities. You can grab these for under $1,000.
Then there’s the more established category of laptops, which includes premium ultraportable notebooks like a Dell XPS or MacBook Air, mid-range gaming laptops and laptops for business. These systems pack plenty of heat under the hood and are great for multitasking, general photo and video editing, churning out spreadsheets for work and more. These will range anywhere from below $1,500 to over $3,000.
Finally, the heavy hitters. These laptops, such as the M2 Max MacBook Pro or Razer Blade 18 with RTX 4090 power, are made for professionals. You can expect impressive specs like 64GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD storage and amazing displays boasting QHD+ (3200 × 1800) resolution with 240Hz refresh rates. But these can go up to over $10,000, which will put a dent in anyone’s wallet.
All in all, know what you need in a laptop and set the right budget for it.
Know your CPU
Intel or AMD? An Intel Core i5 or i7? M1 or M2 Max? CPUs and their names can be a bottomless pit of confusion, but they can also be easily summed up.
First off, 13th Gen Intel and AMD Ryzen 7000 series CPUs are the latest generation of mobile processors, so watch out for these if you’re after more recently released laptops. That’s not to say that 12th Gen Intel and Ryzen 6000 chips are obsolete, as they can still dish out impressive processing power.
For basic tasks, an Intel i3, Celeron, Pentium or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU will do the job but lack enough power for heavy multitasking. Intel i5 and Ryzen 7 are your mid-range chips, while Intel i7 or i9 and Ryzen 9 are more for power users.
As for Apple’s custom ARM-based M-series chips, you can expect more than enough processing power no matter which chip you choose. The M1 is still seen as a versatile CPU that can handle a majority of tasks, but the M2 range bumps up this performance. Now, with the M2 Pro and M2 Max, multimedia professionals can expect to glide through power-hungry tasks. For casual and intermediate users, however, the M1 and M2 chip should be more than enough.
Know your GPU
If you’re a gamer or multimedia professional, you’ll likely already know what you’re looking for. Nvidia GeForce RTX 40 Series mobile GPUs and AMD Radeon RX 7000 series GPUs are the latest and greatest, but RTX 30 Series and Radeon RX 6000 series are still extremely powerful graphics cards.
As for everyone else, there is a wave of GPUs available that laptop manufacturers can put in. If you’re not using your notebook for gaming or graphics work, graphics cards like Intel iris Xe or Intel UHD graphics are fine.
Know your displays
Over the years, laptops have seen different screen sizes soar in popularity. Because of this, however, we now have several display size options to pick from, along with the various resolutions and refresh rates they boast.
If you’re looking for a portable machine to carry around effortlessly, a 13-inch or 14-inch display will suit you perfectly. What’s more, modern laptops are seeing very thin bezels, making the most of the display’s real estate. You may find 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution displays in these sizes, but a 13 or 14-inch size is still too small to see any real difference in quality when compared to a bright and vivid 1920 x 1080 resolution display. Furthermore, 1080p screens generally offer higher refresh rates, going up to 360Hz – and that’s great for competitive multiplayer games.
For something between mobility and stationary, a 15-inch display is just the ticket. Not too big to stuff into a bag, but not too small to fully enjoy a wider, better-defined binge-watch session. 15-inch laptops are getting thinner and lighter, but they are more suited for sitting on desks the majority of the time rather than taking them out in a café or on transport. Laptops with a 16-inch display are also a good shout, as some will come with a 15-inch chassis.
With 17-inch and 18-inch laptops, you’re getting into desktop replacement territory. Hardly ever seen without a desk to sit on, these sizeable laptops are all about giving people more screen space to fully engage in editing, gaming or split-screening. Display resolution can play a bigger role here, with UHD (2560 x 1440) and 4K offering gorgeous visuals. We’re now seeing higher resolutions boasting high refresh rates, too, with 4K offering 144Hz and QHD bringing 240Hz to the table. Although, expect to pay a pretty penny.
One final point. A 16:9 aspect ratio is perfectly fine for laptops, but those with a 16:10 ratio offer a little more wiggle room for a more comfortable visual experience.
Know your RAM
A laptop’s RAM (Random Access Memory) is its lifeblood. The more you do – from simply browsing the web to creating 3D graphic designs while editing a video – the more RAM a system needs.
Generally, 8GB of RAM is the standard to perform casual tasks such as browsing the internet, writing documents, watching videos and even for some light gaming. If you do anything more at the same time, your laptop may struggle to keep up, resulting in slower performance.
With 16GB of RAM, you can expect to do moderate multitasking. It’s usually more than enough for many, as it lets them watch videos in the background with a bunch of tabs open, play many of the latest games, work away on documents and spreadsheets, and more. You can also expect to do some editing, albeit not as efficiently as laptops with higher RAM.
32GB of RAM and beyond are for those who perform high-demanding tasks. For intensive gaming, editing, graphic designing and multitasking, this amount of RAM will handle it with ease. Of course, the more RAM a laptop has, the more expensive it will be, so keep in mind what you’ll need your laptop for.
As a side note, you should keep an eye out for DDR5 RAM, as this is the latest generation of memory.
Know your storage
Well, how much do you plan to store? Unless you’re a gamer, photographer or videographer, 256GB of SSD (Solid State Drive) storage will be more than enough to save your files.
Adding more storage, going up to 512GB, 1TB or even up to a whopping 8TB, are available to those who need the space to quickly access a selection of large files. Games, videos and multimedia projects can sometimes be over 100GBs, so if you don’t want to reach the storage ceiling anytime soon, you’ll need as much as you can get. Plus, full internal storage makes for a slower laptop.
Looking for more space? The good news is you can easily grab an external SSD to expand your laptop’s storage.
Know your battery life
Several factors can affect a laptop’s battery life: power-hungry CPUs and GPUs, large displays or simply older specs. Laptops were made for portability, so their battery is a key feature. However, if you plan to plant your laptop on a desk and have it plugged in more often than not, you may not need as much juice.
Still, you don’t want a system that will die when not tethered to an outlet. A good laptop should have a least 8 hours of battery life, as this should get you through an average working day. The best will go beyond 12 hours, and these are generally the ultraportables with high-performing specs. For example, Apple’s MacBooks claim to last up to 22 hours.
For gamers, it’s trickier to find a machine that you’ll be able to play for 5 hours or more when not plugged in – especially if you’re playing the latest titles. Gaming zaps a laptop’s battery, so it’s understood that gaming laptops are plugged in more often than not. That said, thanks to next-gen processors, gaming rigs are becoming more efficient, meaning they can go beyond 5 hours (depending on the game you play). For optimal performance, it’s best to leave it plugged in while gaming.