What are the best laptops under $1200 you can buy right now? Shopping for a laptop can be a daunting job. Some laptops are better suited for certain tasks than others. After all, you wouldn’t purchase a gaming laptop just for its battery life. No matter the use case, today’s guide will give a good overview of the cream of the crop when it comes to the best laptops at this price point.
We’ll be covering a wide range of functionality, so if you’ve got a specific need in mind, you should be covered. Prices are always highly variable with laptops, so remember that these prices reflect the current MSRP at the time of writing. There are a slew of considerations I’ve kept in mind, and at this price point, you’re getting the best price-to-performance ratio for selected models. Here are our top picks for the best laptops under $1200:
- Best Overall: Apple MacBook Air M2
- Best for Gaming: ASUS TUF Dash F15
- Best Portable: ASUS ZenBook 14X
- Best Touchscreen Option: HP Envy 17t
- Best for Professionals: ASUS ZenBook 15 Pro
Best Overall: Apple MacBook Air M2
- M2 chip, 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and up to 24 GB of unified memory
- 15.3" Liquid Retina display
- 500 nits of brightness, P3 wide color, and support for one billion colors
- 256 GB SSD storage
- 1080p FaceTime HD camera and three-mic array
- Features a fanless design that runs completely silent
I’m a big fan of the Apple MacBook line, as you’ll likely hear if you speak to me at length. I use one daily for work and recreational purposes. The MacBook Air M2 is a jack-of-all-trades and accomplishes most of those goals with some degree of success. The M2 processor is speedy and capable of handling a lot of contemporary workloads.
Gaming isn’t so much a feature of this laptop, but there are some options when you go searching around. The model chosen comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. However, with the way the latest Apple Silicon chipsets provision memory and storage, the performance will exceed your overall expectations. This is the best if you’re looking for a laptop with stunning battery life and performance. Check out the Apple 2023 MacBook Air M2 Chip on Amazon.
|It has great overall performance.
|This laptop only supports a single external screen.
|It is thin and light, and readily portable.
|There are not many ports.
Best for Gaming: ASUS TUF Dash F15
- 15.6-inch display with 144Hz refresh rate
- Intel 12th Gen i7-12650H CPU
- 16GB DDR5 RAM
- 512GB PCle SSD
- NVIDIA Geforce RTX 3070 8GB GPU
- Thunderbolt 4, backlit keyboard, and Wi-Fi 6
- Windows 11 Home
The ASUS TUF Dash F15 is built with top performance in mind. You’ll struggle to find a gaming laptop at this price point with the same feature set. You’ve got an Intel Core i7-12650H processor, 16GB of DDR5 RAM, and an RTX 3070 GPU to handle your gaming needs.
The laptop also comes with Thunderbolt 4 ports, a backlit keyboard, and a stunning 144Hz display. The ASUS TUF Dash F15 is a stunning value when it comes to gaming excellence. Where it struggles is in expected areas like heat management and battery life. This is a powerful laptop, so you’ll need to keep the cooling pad and charger on hand. Check out the ASUS TUF Dash F15 Gaming Laptop on Amazon.
|It has solid gaming performance.
|This laptop can underperform compared to higher-end laptops with the RTX 3070.
|The laptop has an impressive screen.
|It doesn’t have a webcam.
Best Portable Option: ASUS ZenBook 14X
- 14.5-inch 2.8K touchscreen display
- Intel Core i7-13700H CPU with
- Intel Iris Xe graphics
- 16GB DDR5 RAM
- 512GB SSD storage
- Backlit keyboard, Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth
- Windows 11
Users looking for a portable option running Windows should take a closer look at the ASUS ZenBook 14X. This is one of the best laptops under $1200 from a portability perspective, but it is no slouch in terms of overall performance. You might not find much success with gaming when running this laptop, but it should handle most other tasks with ease.
You’ve got an Intel Core i7-13700H processor, 16GB of DDR5 RAM, and 512GB of storage to contend with. The Intel Iris Xe graphics processor can handle some light gaming, but can also drive an external display at more than 4K resolution. The 14-inch display on this laptop is stunning with an OLED panel running at 2880 x 1800 resolution. It is quite responsive too, thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate. Check out the ASUS Zenbook X14 Laptop on Amazon.
|There’s a great display.
|Speaker quality is lackluster.
|It’s silent even under heavy load.
|The webcam resolution could be better.
Best Touchscreen Option: HP Envy 17t
- 17.3-inch touchscreen FHD IPS
- 14-Core Intel i7-13700H CPU with Intel Iris Xe graphics
- 32GB RAM with 2TB PCIe SSD
- Backlit keyboard,
- Two Thunderbolt 4 ports, Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3
- Windows 11 Home
Are you looking for a touchscreen laptop for ease of use? The HP Envy 17t might be the answer to your prayers, then. This is a powerful desktop replacement laptop built for business use primarily. To this end, you’ve got 2TB of storage on a PCI-E SSD, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and a speedy Intel Core i7-13700H processor.
The RAM standard might be a bit older on this laptop, but it is future-proofed in other ways. You’ve got the latest Bluetooth 5.3 and Wi-Fi 6E protocols to use for your wireless needs. It does lack an optical drive but has an integrated SD card reader built-in to the laptop itself. If you’re looking for something with a larger touch display, the Envy 17t is one of the best laptops under $1200 you’ll find. Check out the HP Envy 17t Laptop on Amazon.
|There are plenty of ports along the side.
|It’s quite heavy for a laptop.
|It has a vibrant and useful display.
|The battery life isn’t the greatest.
Best for Professionals: ASUS ZenBook 15 Pro
- 15.6-inch OLED FHD display
- Intel 13th Gen Core i7-13620H CPU
- 40GB DDR5 RAM with 1TB SSD
- NVIDIA RTX 3050 6GB GPU
- 10-hour battery life
- Backlit keyboard, Webcam, and IST Cable
- Windows 11
Professionals in need of some extra power should consider the ASUS ZenBook 15 Pro. This high-speed laptop is built with the professional in mind and comes with some truly impressive specs. The most notable thing to point out is the 10-hour battery life, which means you can run most workloads all day without reaching for the charger.
Beyond that, you’ve got an Intel Core i7-13620H processor, 40GB of DDR5 RAM, 1TB of NVMe storage, and an NVIDIA RTX 3050 at your disposal. The ZenBook 15 Pro might not be your first choice for gaming, but it can more than handle most tasks you’ll throw at it. For the price point, you won’t find a better laptop with this level of power. Check out the Asus ZenBook 15 Pro on Amazon.
|It has a fantastic display.
|Webcam resolution could be better.
|The laptop has a well-built chassis
|It can run a bit hot.
How to Pick the Best Laptops Under $1200
So what should you keep in mind when shopping for the best laptops under $1200? As with any computer purchase, there are a few factors you need to think about. Thankfully, $1200 is a bit of a sweet spot when it comes to overall performance. You aren’t getting a maxed-out laptop, but it is going to have far more power than a budget choice.
Here are some considerations to focus on when shopping:
- Graphics Card
- Storage and RAM capacity
- Battery Life
Your processor is a highly important component of any computer. This is what dictates how fast the computer can think and handle other tasks. All of the best laptops under $1200 are going to have fairly decent processors as a matter of course. At this price point, I would suggest an Intel i5 or Ryzen 5 series processor at the bare minimum.
If your budget allows, a Ryzen 7 or Intel i7 is going to get much better performance over the long haul. These processors typically have plentiful cores, speedy clock frequencies, and the ability to multi-thread for heavier applications and games.
The graphics card or GPU of any laptop is how the display gets powered. Now, for gaming, you’ll want something with a fair amount of power behind it. This is also true of individuals looking to get into video editing or 3D modeling work. As such, there can be a bit of a balance between finding something with acceptable performance while still fitting into the price point.
The Intel Xe processor is fine for most lighter video tasks. When push comes to shove it can handle the likes of some video editing work. However, I’d look for something like an NVIDIA RTX 3050 at the bare minimum. They may not have the speed and power of the more expensive GPU options, but it is going to have better overall performance when compared to an integrated GPU on your laptop’s processor.
The display is going to be highly subjective for any user. I prefer laptops to have a smaller display, as they are portable devices by design. That said, you might be employing a laptop in a desktop replacement role. As such, you’ll want to have a good quality and large display to improve visibility. As with any laptop, I would suggest 1080p as the minimum display resolution.
4K is a bit too much on smaller screens if you aren’t using scaling. I am highly biased, but I think the Apple MacBook Air’s display is the best balance of size, color balance, and visibility you’ll currently find on a laptop. There are certainly other strong options from the likes of ASUS and HP, however.
Storage and RAM Capacity
Storage and RAM are less of a total consideration when it comes to purchasing a laptop. In the case of the Apple MacBook line, you’re stuck with what you choose at the time of purchase. For any Windows laptop, however, you can freely upgrade those elements on the vast majority of Windows computers. At a bare minimum, you’ll want 8GB of RAM, which should have you set up decently for most computing tasks.
I would heavily recommend upgrading to 16GB or 32GB if your laptop allows for it, however. Storage I would say 256GB is the absolute minimum. 1TB or more of SSD storage is preferred if you can afford to do so, but that’s less important when just purchasing the laptop by itself.
Battery life is another one of those areas where you’re going to be compromising on certain factors. When looking at the best laptops under $1200, I would aim for at least six hours as your bare minimum. That should be achievable by most laptops, even those serving as desktop replacements. Any less and you’re negating the notion of portability.
You’ll find fringe cases like the Apple MacBook Air can go above and beyond in terms of battery life. That isn’t a hard and fast rule. So take a little time to read real user impressions on battery life before making your final purchase.