2023 was a weird year for laptops. For the most part, companies seemed content with releasing refreshed models of last year’s notebooks. I’m aware that world events of the past three years were a contributing factor (leading to worldwide PC shipments declining by 7.6% in Q3 of 2023), but as a hardware reviewer, it made covering the best laptops somewhat boring. Hardware refreshes are necessary, but they’re also hard to get excited about.
Despite a relatively lackluster year for laptops, there were some highlights. The biggest one is arguably Apple’s launch of MacBook Pros featuring M3 processors — which are among the fastest notebooks we’ve ever tested. We also saw foldable laptops, such as the super expensive HP Spectre Fold, make a case for similar devices. There was also the return of big-ass laptops like the 18-inch Alienware m18 and Razer Blade 18.
I’ve tested a lot of laptops in 2023. Of all the machines I’ve reviewed, three stood out: the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max), Dell XPS 15 OLED (2023) and the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i. There were other laptops I liked but these three machines saved 2023 from being a complete washout in the computing space. Here’s what made my favorite laptops of 2023 so great.
MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max): The most powerful MacBook Pro ever
The new 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 Max chip (starting at $3,499) is the most powerful laptop I’ve ever tested. I said the same thing about the MacBook Pro 16-inch with the M2 Max processor released earlier this year, but Apple has outdone itself once more with this monstrous notebook. It’s easily one of the best MacBooks yet.
Other than the new Space Black color that diminishes fingerprints, the latest MacBook Pro 16-inch is virtually identical design wise to previous models. That means you still get a gorgeous 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR display, plenty of ports and a sleek, sturdy design. But thanks to the M3 Max processor, there’s a whole lot of power underneath the familiar chassis.
However, the 16-inch MacBook Pro with an M3 Max chip isn’t for everyone — and not just because of the steep $3,499 starting price. If you’re a creative professional who works with 8K videos, then this beastly laptop should facilitate your workflow. Similarly, the M3 Max chip also makes this MacBook Pro a powerful gaming rig. But if you only dabble in video editing or primarily use laptops for writing, then the new 14-inch MacBook Pro M3 might be a better choice.
While I can’t recommend the MacBook Pro 16-inch with M3 Max to everyone, it’s an absolute beast that proves Apple silicon’s might. As before, Apple has set a new standard that its competitors must now live up to.
Dell XPS 15 OLED: Best in class gets better
The Dell XPS 15 OLED ($2,099 to start for the OLED model) is on this list for one simple reason: it’s my main work computer and has been for the majority of 2023. Of the laptops I’ve tested and reviewed in 2023, Dell’s machine has everything I’m looking for in a notebook. Like its predecessors, the XPS 15 features a near-perfect balance of style, performance and portability.
The XPS 15 OLED packs the latest 13th Gen Intel Core CPUs and Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series laptop GPUs. You can also get one configured with an Intel Arc graphics card. Besides that, you get the same bells and whistles as before, including a gorgeous 3.5K OLED display (if you splurge for the upgrade), a decent amount of ports and plenty of power for everyday computing and gaming.
I review a lot of laptops but rarely spend much time with them after my reviews go live. The fact that I chose to use the Dell XPS 15 OLED as my primary work laptop for most of 2023 is the best endorsement I can give Dell’s notebook. If you’re looking for a solid laptop for work and gaming, you can’t go wrong with the Dell XPS 15 OLED.
Lenovo Yoga Book 9i: Dual-screen done right
The Lenovo Yoga Book 9i is one of the most interesting devices I’ve ever reviewed, and undoubtedly one of the best 2-in-1 laptops out there. This dual-screen notebook offers different modes for specific uses. It can function as a regular Windows 11 laptop or tablet. With the included kickstand, you can use the Yoga Book 9i with two displays stacked on each other or with the two panels spread side by side. I don’t generally have “fun” reviewing products, but I had a blast testing the Yoga Book 9i.
The Yoga Book 9i is a Swiss Army knife of a laptop given all its modes. Though it’s expensive at $1,999, it offers enough singular value. In addition to its unique design, it packs plenty of power for work and everyday computing. Its 13.3-inch 2.8K OLED displays also deliver sharp picture quality. It’s a pure joy working on this thing. Plus, it’ll turn heads if you’re using it in public.
There are a handful of foldable laptops, but I’ll take the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i instead. Foldables like the ThinkPad X1 Fold sometimes make me feel like I’ll accidentally snap them in half when folding — which makes me question their durability and longevity. That’s not a concern I had with the Yoga Book 9i, thanks to its overall sturdy build and rigid hinge. And while pricey at $1,999, the Yoga Book 9i is far cheaper than the $4,999 HP Spectre Fold.
Foldable laptops will no doubt improve over time. However, I think the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i is a better alternative for those who want dual-screen functionality in one device. Yes, it’s expensive, but I’d argue that this laptop’s various modes offer great value. I’ll take it over a foldable laptop any day.
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Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.