The Best 4K Laptops for 2021 | Digital Trends

There was a time when 4K UHD resolution only applied to 4K televisions. Now, you can enjoy super-sharp, vivid displays on your laptop. But even though they offer jaw-dropping displays, 4K laptops aren’t perfect. Battery life isn’t the best, and webcam placement is awkward due to trimmer bezels.

To help you get the best bang for your buck, we created a list of our top picks. Our favorite 4K laptops, like the Dell XPS 13, come with breathtaking displays without sacrificing battery life and performance.

Best 4K laptops

Dell XPS 13 (2021)

Why you should buy this: The XPS 13 is a killer laptop in every way and looks fantastic with a 4K panel.

Who’s it for: Anyone but gamers.

What we thought of the Dell XPS 13:

The XPS 13 is at the top of our list of the best laptops, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the 4K version tops the list of our favorite 4K laptops, too. The latest versions go beyond anything we’ve seen before, moving the webcam back up top where it belongs, trimming the bezels and chassis even more, and offering some of the best internal hardware you can get in a 13-inch size (although there are some great 13-inch laptops).

In our review, we took a look at the 4K model with an Intel 11th-generation six-core Core i7-1185G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a terabyte of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. Whichever option you pick, the 4K touchscreen looks fantastic, even in bright offices and outside, thanks to 500 nits of brightness. It has great contrast, support for a wide gamut of colors (although not as wide as some others on our list), and better color accuracy than most laptops in its bracket.

The only caveat to all this is that the 4K screen does demand more from the battery, so you do need to sacrifice a little of the XPS 13 (2021)’s longevity to upgrade it to 4K. Also, the integrated Iris X graphics aren’t the greatest for gamers, one of the few downsides of this model.

Read our full Dell XPS 13 review

Dell XPS 15

Why you should buy this: It’s the XPS 13 but bigger, with more room to enjoy that beautiful 4K screen.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants more than a 13-inch laptop can deliver.

What we thought of the Dell XPS 15:

Larger and more capable, but a little less portable than its smaller sibling, the XPS 15 steals the top spot of our best 15-inch laptops list — and the 4K configuration is one of our favorites. You get a cheaper price and better battery life with the 1080p option, but if you’re after that 4K experience, the XPS 15 is one of the best.

The latest version no longer suffers from poor webcam placement in the base of the display bezels, which is a welcome change. It has solid performance, thanks to powerful Intel 10th-gen Core i7 and i9 CPUs, up to 32GB of memory, and an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti graphics chip for decent entry-level gaming capabilities and strong creative application performance. The optional OLED 4K screen means you’re getting one of the best displays on the market in terms of inky-black contrast, wide and accurate colors, and incredible brightness.

It is one of the better XPS laptop refreshes, and this Dell XPS 15 model is fantastic to look at and use. It’s simply one of our favorite 4K laptops.

Read our full Dell XPS 15 review

Dell XPS 17

Why you should buy this: You need a big, beautiful, and powerful laptop as your daily driver.

Who’s it for: Content creators and prosumers

What we thought of the Dell XPS 17:

A 17-inch laptop might seem crazy in 2020, but the Dell XPS 17 proves that large laptops can be comfortable to use and incredibly valuable to own. Dell has made some stunning displays in their XPS series over the past few years, and the XPS 17 is no different. With such a large, vivid, and bright display, this is the perfect setup for any professional video editor. Combine that with its impressive performance, and you have a device that handily defeats its closest competitor — the MacBook Pro 16 — by leaps and bounds.

The battery life is a little rough, but that’s to be expected since it has to power such a large display. One of the other great things about the XPS 17 is how impossibly thin and light it is. The thin bezels mean Dell can pack more screen in less space, and it continues the minimal design language of the XPS 13 and 15 before it.

Read our full Dell XPS 17 review

HP Spectre x360 15 (2020)

HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2018)
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s an awesomely-powerful 2-in-1 with great visuals in both laptop and tablet mode.

Who’s it for: Those who want the best 4K screen clarity in a convertible laptop.

What we thought of the HP Spectre x360 15 (2020):

Laptops that can convert into tablets (2-in-1s, as they’re often called) typically miss out on being great laptops by virtue of trying to be a jack of all trades. Not so with the HP Spectre x360 15, which packs seriously powerful hardware into a relatively lightweight chassis for an awesome notebook with some tablet capabilities, too.

The laptop offers a base model with a 10th-gen Intel i7-10750H process with GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe NVMe storage. Connections include Thunderbolt 3, SuperSpeed USB-C, DisplayPort 1.2, and HDM 2.0b. Wi-Fi 6 compatibility is also included.

The display itself looks gorgeous, and though it falls behind some of the competition in terms of contrast, its wide color gamut support is top-tier, and its color accuracy is beaten only by the XPS 15. Like the XPS 15, the latest versions include an option for a 4K OLED screen for excellent display performance to go with its speed.

The HP Spectre x360 15 (2020) is a little heavier than we’d like for tablet use, but that minor gripe aside, it’s a fantastic 4K laptop that’s well-suited to just about anyone.

Read our full HP Spectre x360 15 review

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: ThinkPads are amazing work machines, and the X1 Extreme is no different — now with a great 4K screen and an OLED option.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants to maximize screen real estate for work and play.

What we thought of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme (Gen 3):

If style is the least of your concerns or you want 4K laptop power in a system that doesn’t scream “look at me,” the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 is what you need. It packs capable hardware into a durable, sturdy chassis that eschews modern design meta in favor of function, with a fantastic keyboard to boot.

While the X1 Extreme retains the rigidity and sturdy feel of its predecessors, the latest version has still gone on a diet, featuring a sleeker body and lines than the ThinkPads that came before. Those trimmer bezels help contain high-contrast 4K panels (IPS and OLED options) that offer excellent colors and great brightness. Base specs for the UHD model include a 10th-gen, six-core Intel i7-10850H processor, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB PCIe SSD. The GeForce GRX 1650 Ti Max-Q is a highly capable GPU as well, creating an ideal setup for more rigorous video editing.

Past models of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme (Gen 3)have fallen behind a bit on battery life, managing less than six hours in our video loop test, so expect to plug it in for any length video sessions.

Read our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme review

Asus ZenBook Pro 15

Asus ZenBook Pro 15 with ScreenPad review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s a worthy competitor for the XPS 15 and has a fancy Screenpad to boot.

Who’s it for: Those who want power and enjoy innovative features.

What we thought of the Asus ZenBook Pro 15:

The only laptop on this list to technically come with two displays, the ZenBook Pro 15 is a unique offering that has some quirks and drawbacks all its own.

While mostly built like most other ZenBooks we’ve ever tested, this one turns things on its head with the introduction of the ScreenPad, an LCD touch panel instead of a typical touchpad. The buttons aren’t great, but we enjoyed the touchpad function with its support for Windows 10 gestures and the ability to use it for dedicated apps like calculators and music players. It’s certainly more useful than Apple’s Touch Bar.

The 4K screen in this laptop isn’t the best, with a so-so contrast ratio and somewhat disappointing color accuracy, but at 335 nits, it’s reasonably bright, and we found it good enough for productivity work and looking at photos. There’s always the new OLED option, though, if you want a better-looking panel for a bumped cost.

Where it falls down in visuals, though, the ZenBook Pro 15 makes up for in raw performance. Our review system with the powerful Intel Core i9-8950HK dominated the competition in all productivity benchmarks, and its gaming power wasn’t bad either, delivering playable frame rates at 1080p in Rocket League, Battlefield 1, and Civilization VI.

Read our full Asus ZenBook Pro 15 review

Razer Blade 15 (2021)

Why you should buy this: The Blade is an amazing gaming laptop, and 4K really makes the visuals pop.

Who’s it for: Gamers and anyone who likes a flashier laptop.

What we thought of the Razer Blade 15 (2021):

Razer makes a few different gaming laptops, some larger and more capable than others, but our favorite is still the standard Blade for its mix of features, affordability, and great gaming power. While this particular version offers a powerful GeForce RTX 2070 to get the most from QHD resolution (a bit lower than UHD to enable a higher refresh rate), other customization options allow you to upgrade as you see fit. However, this version’s 165Hz refresh rate and 100% DCI-P3 color coverage is hard to beat!

Whether you opt for LED or OLED, though, the Razer Blade 15 is an awesome gaming machine with all the hardware you could need, a great aesthetic, solid build quality, and even decent battery life if you don’t push it too hard. Inside, you’ll find a 10th-gen, six-core 97-10750H, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. Ports include HDMI 2.1, Thunderbolt 3, USB-A, and USB-C, plus Wi-Fi 6 compatibility.

The Razer Blade 15 (2021) isn’t cheap, but it’s the only 4K laptop on this list that can game like a real gaming laptop and still offer all the functionality of a work machine (if you need it for something more productive in between gaming sessions).

Read our full Razer Blade 15 review

HP Envy 15

Why you should buy this: It offers almost everything premium laptops offer at a lower price.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a large 4K laptop under $2,000.

What we thought of the HP Envy 15:

For busy business people who prioritize portability with their products, consider buying the LG Gram 17 for a powerful yet easily carried laptop. This device measures less than three pounds, and the screen rates at about 17 inches. While the computer is lightweight, it still has a mighty kick. The device features durable nanocarbon and a “military-grade” magnesium metal frame.

It won’t take long for users to spot the power behind this laptop. The LG Gram 17 comes with an i7-1065G7, a 10th-gen Intel Core processor. In addition to its reliable processing system, the device also supports 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for storage. It comes with several port options, including USB-A 3.1, USB-C, and HDMI. Finally, privacy is of utmost importance to the manufacturer of this laptop. They’ve included a biometric safety measure for an extra security level; Users will need to use the built-in fingerprint reader to access the computer. LG also claims the laptop’s battery life extends to about 17 hours on average, but that would vary depending on your work and environment.

In case the “military-grade” rating didn’t make it clear, this laptop is highly durable and a standout in terms of safety features. The LG Gram 17-inch won’t slow you down in any way; Its weight, portability, and heavy-duty design will allow you to stay on the move without concern that you’ll ruin your laptop.

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