This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.
Giving someone a computer gift can be challenging unless you know how they’re most likely to use it. For example, a student who is using their device for word processing or streaming has way different needs and expectations than a PC gamer. Our recommendations take many different computer uses into account, and are designed to help make your decision easier.
Regardless of whom you’re shopping for, though, now is the best time of year to find a lower price on a new laptop or tablet. If you need more options than those listed below, check out our full best laptops of 2021 list where you’ll also find links to our top picks across all categories of laptops.
Most, if not all, of these laptops and tablets will be discounted through the holiday shopping season. The prices listed below are the available deals we’ve found. But, deals come and go, so we will continue to update this list with current sale prices as we spot them.
This is our go-to recommendation for those in search of a MacOS laptop for everyday basic use. The MacBook Air was updated in the first half of 2020 with new Intel processors and, most importantly, a new keyboard. However, Apple recently announced its new homegrown M1 processors would be replacing Intel’s CPUs in the Air. Using Apple’s M1, the company promises an operating system with better performance and longer battery life — up to 18 hours. The Intel-based models will still be around, though, and regardless of which chip is running the Air, you’re getting a great little Mac laptop starting at $900. Read more about the new M1-based MacBook Air.
Read our Apple MacBook Air 11 review.
HP packed a lot of value into the Aero 13: Eye-pleasing magnesium-aluminum chassis, strong processing performance, long battery life, a bright, colorful display and a weight of around 2 pounds (0.91 kilograms). Amazingly, with all that it offers though, it has a starting price of $670.
Read our HP Pavilion Aero 13 review.
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Regularly available for less than $800, this thin, 3-pound convertible is a solid choice for anyone who needs a laptop for office or schoolwork. The all-metal chassis gives it a premium look and feel, and it has a comfortable keyboard and a responsive, smooth precision touchpad. Though it’s light on extra features compared to its premium linemate, the Yoga 9i, it does have one of Lenovo’s sliding shutters for its webcam that gives you privacy when you want it. And it has a long battery life — nearly 15 hours during our tests.
The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 uses one of Acer’s bright VertiView displays, a 13.5-inch 2,256×1,504-pixel touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. As the name implies, it gives you more vertical room to work, but it still has the width of a typical 13.3-inch laptop with a 16:9 ratio. Between that and its battery life, which lasted almost 13 hours in our tests, you’ll be able to get more work done in a day — and it’s still thin and light enough for an everyday carry.
The latest version of this Chromebook is the first to receive Intel’s Evo verification, which means you’ll be getting the best possible mobile experience with this model. It’s also the first with Thunderbolt 4 support, which lets you connect to multiple external displays as well as providing fast data speeds and networking.
Read our Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review.
Dell streamlined its G-series gaming laptops, going from three models down to just one — and it’s all for the best. Instead of having to decode the various feature and quality differences between them, there’s just one chassis available with a variety of configurations with an 11th-gen Intel processor or AMD Ryzen 5000 H-series processor. All of the processors can be paired with up to a 6GB Nvidia RTX 3060, 8GB or 16GB of memory and up to 1TB of storage. They’re basically more budget-friendly versions of those from its Alienware division, but still capable of playing the latest AAA titles. Due to availability issues, the prices fluctuate but normally start below $1,000.
The ninth-gen entry-level iPad gains a couple of useful extras over last year’s solid but unexciting model: more storage for $330 (64GB, rather than the ridiculously low 32GB of the last model), a faster A13 chip and better cameras (most importantly, a wider-angle higher-res front-facing Center Stage camera that tracks your face via digital pan and zoom). It still uses the first-gen Apple Pencil, which is fine for the money, and it’s still compatible with a range of keyboard cases. Its predecessors were often on sale for $299 or less and that should be true this holiday season as well.
If you’re planning to do any sort of art on it or download a lot of videos to go, it’s definitely worth opting for the 256GB model. It really needs a 128GB option — it’s annoying that you’re forced to buy more than you need since 128GB would probably be the sweet spot for price and storage.
The 2020 model has the slower A12 Bionic chip, but it’s also the last remaining full-size iPad with a headphone jack. Going back yet another generation to its seventh incarnation, it’s still a decent pick if you can find the 128GB model for a pittance; you’re best off avoiding the insufficient 32GB model. It can handle the latest iPadOS just fine and should perform all the standard iPad tasks for years to come.
Read our Apple iPad 2021 review.
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a 10.1-inch Chrome OS tablet with a detachable keyboard and touchpad. This Lenovo Chromebook’s small size might be a little limiting as a primary device, though you can connect to an external display via its USB-C port. The Lenovo Duet is, however, a good pick if you’re looking for an affordable Chromebook for pure mobility or as a secondary device that can be used in tablet mode. Lenovo also has a higher-end 13-inch OLED version, too, the Chromebook Duet 5.
Read our Lenovo Chromebook Duet review.