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The 5 Best Laptops Under $1200 in 2023

Shopping for a new laptop is exciting, but with so many options out there it can also be overwhelming. In the $1,000 to $1,200 price range, you can get a very capable machine that balances performance, features and quality.

In this guide, I‘ve compiled my top recommendations for the best all-around laptops under $1,200 available this year. From versatile ultrabooks to gaming powerhouses, there’s something for every need and budget.

Key Factors To Consider

Before jumping into the laptop recommendations, let’s go over some of the key factors you’ll want to consider while shopping in this price tier:

CPU (Processor): For most users, an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU will provide plenty of performance for everyday tasks and moderate workloads like photo editing. Gamers and creative pros may want to step up to a Core i7 or Ryzen 7 chip.

GPU (Graphics): Integrated GPUs are fine for basic tasks, but you’ll want a dedicated NVIDIA or AMD GPU if you plan to do any gaming or video editing. An RTX 3050 Ti provides solid 1080p gaming.

Display: Look for a 1080p display with an IPS panel for the best image quality. Refresh rates of 120Hz+ are ideal for gaming. Brightness of at least 300 nits ensures good outdoor visibility.

RAM: 16GB of RAM is recommended for optimal multitasking and future-proofing. Some gaming rigs may need 32GB.

Storage: Aim for at least a 512GB SSD for fast boot and load times. 1TB gives you more room for games and media files.

Battery Life: Expect between 6-12 hours of mixed usage for today‘s power-efficient ultrabooks under normal workloads. Gaming drains battery faster.

Ports: Look for modern USB-C/Thunderbolt ports. An HDMI port is useful for connecting an external display.

Best Laptops Under $1,200

Best Overall: Apple MacBook Air M2

  • Class-leading performance
  • Excellent battery life
  • Sleek, lightweight design

Apple‘s latest MacBook Air M2 packs tremendous performance into a thin, lightweight chassis with Apple‘s trademark premium build quality.

The new second-generation M2 chip delivers up to 18% faster CPU performance versus the M1 chip. The updated 10-core GPU pumps graphics performance by up to 35% for buttery-smooth video editing in Final Cut Pro and gameplay in titles like Fortnite.

The Liquid Retina display hits 500 nits of brightness for excellent visibility, reproduces colors with high accuracy, and supports one billion colors. At just 2.7 pounds, it’s incredibly portable.

With up to 20 hours of battery life with light usage, the new MacBook Air can easily last through a full work or school day on a charge. Topping up is fast too with the included 67W USB-C power adapter getting you to 50% in just 30 minutes.

Overall, the latest MacBook Air stands out as the most well-rounded ultrabook that nails the fundamentals. Unless you need Windows or discrete graphics, it’s hard to beat.

Key Specs:

  • Apple M2 chip (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU)
  • 8GB or 16GB unified memory
  • 256GB or 512GB SSD storage
  • 13.6-inch 2560 x 1664 Liquid Retina display (500 nits brightness)
  • 1080p FaceTime HD webcam
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
  • Up to 18 hours battery life

Ideal For: Students, general productivity, web browsing, light creative work, everyday carry

See Price on Amazon: Apple 2023 MacBook Air M2 Chip

Best for Gaming: ASUS TUF Dash F15

  • Great 144Hz gaming performance
  • Premium build quality
  • Loud speakers with Dolby Atmos

Gamers shopping under $1,200 will love the ASUS TUF Dash F15 gaming laptop. It packs an Intel 12th Gen Core i7 CPU and NVIDIA RTX 3060 GPU into a durable, military-grade chassis.

Between the 12-thread i7-12650H processor, 16GB of fast DDR5 RAM, and Ampere-based RTX 3060 graphics, the Dash F15 delivers fantastic 1080p gaming frame rates well beyond 100 fps in popular titles like Apex Legends, Fortnite, and Call of Duty.

The 15.6-inch display hits a super-smooth 144Hz refresh rate for flawless high-fps gameplay with no tearing or artifacts. At 300 nits brightness and 100% sRGB coverage, colors and details stand out beautifully. Dolby Vision HDR boosts contrast too for more immersive experiences in supported games and videos.

Weighing just 4.41 pounds, the Dash 15 is remarkably portable for a gaming laptop. Battery life reaches nearly 8 hours for excellent uptime when away from an outlet. With RGB backlighting, punchy speakers with Dolby Atmos 3D spatial audio, and two-way AI noise cancellation for clear voice chat, it truly excels as a feature-packed gaming rig.

Key Specs:

  • 12th Gen Intel Core i7-12650H
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 6GB GDDR6
  • 15.6-inch 144Hz IPS Display with Dolby Vision
  • 16GB DDR5 RAM / 1TB PCIe SSD
  • Per-key RGB keyboard with Overstroke technology
  • Dolby Atmos speakers
  • 76 Wh battery

Ideal For: AAA gaming, esports titles, streaming, schoolwork

See Price on Amazon: ASUS TUF Dash F15

Best Portable: ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED

  • Gorgeous 14-inch 2880 x 1800 OLED touchscreen
  • Premium aluminum chassis under 3 lbs
  • Blazing performance, Wi-Fi 6E

If you want a highly portable Windows ultrabook with fast performance, ASUS’s expertly engineered Zenbook 14X OLED should be at the top of your list.

At just 2.9 pounds, the sleek Zenbook 14X is easy to carry around all day. You’re getting tremendous power too including a 14-core, 20-thread Core i7-12700H processor and speedy Iris Xe integrated graphics. Multitasking and productivity workloads scream even when unplugged.

The 2880 x 1800 resolution OLED touch display is simply stunning with true blacks and Spatial Audio by Harman Kardon certified Dolby Atmos. Enjoy movies or your favorite series on Netflix with incredible color vibrance and contrast for a display that punches well above its weight.

With Wi-Fi 6E, all-day battery life up to 10 hours, plenty of ports including HDMI 2.0b, Thunderbolt 4 and more, the well-equipped Zenbook 14X OLED leaves little to be desired in an ultra-premium 14-inch form.

Key Specs:

  • 12th Gen Intel Core i7-12700H
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • 14" 2880 x 1800 OLED Display with touch
  • 16GB LPDDR5 RAM / 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
  • Full I/O: 2x Thunderbolt 4, HDMI 2.0b, microSD reader

Ideal For: Business users, school, general productivity, content creation, media consumption

See Price on Amazon: ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED

Best 2-in-1: HP Spectre x360 14

  • Elegant convertible design
  • Vibrant OLED display with touch
  • Includes HP Tilt Pen and carry sleeve

The HP Spectre x360 14 brings premium 2-in-1 versatility in a compact, beautifully-designed package.

Starting at just 2.95 lbs, the thin and light Spectre feels wonderful to carry. It converts between laptop, tent, tablet, and stand modes with smooth, sturdy hinges built to last.

Performance stands out too with 12th Gen Intel or AMD Ryzen processors, up to 32GB of RAM, and speedy PCIe storage. Expect exceptional Windows 11 responsiveness for your daily workflow.

The bright, 3840 x 2400 resolution OLED touch display is simply stunning with true blacks and lively colors. Enjoy movies or streaming shows with gorgeous contrast and clarity. The AMOLED option further enhances vibrance. HP‘s included Tilt Pen attaches magnetically for easy access.

With 9+ hours of typical usage per charge, the Spectre x360 14 is ready to accompany you anywhere while looking sleek. Overall, it‘s a versatile PC with fast hardware in a portable, premium chassis.

Key Specs:

  • 12th Gen Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processors
  • Intel Iris Xe or AMD Radeon graphics
  • 13.5” 3K2K / 3:2 (3000 x 2000) OLED or AMOLED touch display
  • Up to 32GB LPDDR4 RAM / 2TB SSD
  • Full I/O with Thunderbolt 4
  • 60Wh battery
  • Included HP Tilt Pen and carry sleeve

Ideal For: Business, school, creative work, tablet uses

See Price on Amazon: HP Spectre x360 14

Best Battery Life: Dell XPS 13 Plus

  • Up to 14+ hour battery life
  • Stunning near borderless display
  • Excellent performance and quality

The Dell XPS 13 Plus stands out with exceptional battery stamina combined with Dell’s signature premium design and performance.

Between the 12th Gen 28W Intel U15 processor, ample 55Wh battery capacity, and intelligent adaptive performance management, the XPS 13 Plus keeps running impressively long on a charge. Expect up to 14.5 hours of light web browsing or office work. The fast 45W USB-C charger fully recharges in just over 2 hours.

The bright, 13.4-inch Full HD+ display surrounded by tiny bezels looks fantastic indoors and out with 500 nits typical brightness, 16:10 aspect ratio, 100% sRGB color gamut coverage, and Dolby Vision.

For excellent productivity, creators get Dell‘s pro-grade Precision touchpad, a comfortable backlit keyboard, powerful quad speakers, a 1080p webcam with temporal noise reduction, and speedy storage and memory. The machined aluminum chassis looks and feels fantastic too.

Overall, if you need a premium ultrabook that keeps running all day, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is a top choice worth considering.

Key Specs:

  • 13th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7 U15 processors
  • Integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics
  • 13.4-inch 1920 x 1200 Infinity Edge touch display
  • Up to 32GB LPDDR5 / 2TB SSD
  • 55Wh battery for up to 14.5 hours usage
  • Premium build with machined aluminum and Gorilla Glass

Ideal for: Business, school, frequent travelers

See Price on Amazon: Dell XPS 13 Plus

How To Choose The Right $1200 Laptop

With so many great laptop options today, it can get overwhelming finding the right one. Here is a quick checklist of things to think about as you evaluate your needs and narrow your selection:

  • Everyday tasks like web browsing, office work, streaming? Any mainstream laptop will work great. Prioritize portability, display, and battery life.
  • Gaming? You‘ll want a dedicated GPU like an RTX 3050 or better, fast display with high refresh rate, and solid cooling.
  • Content creation? CPU and GPU power are key for video editing, 3D modeling, etc. Aim for an H-Series processor and lots of RAM.
  • Frequent travel? Keep weight under 4 lbs and make sure battery life is 8+ hours. Durability is also important.
  • Tablet functionality? 2-in-1 convertible designs allow tablet modes. Touchscreens and pens improve the experience.
  • OS preference? If you already use and prefer Mac or Windows, get a laptop with your favored OS.

Once you‘ve factored in performance needs, portability, features, and other top priorities for how you plan use your new laptop, matching those up with the options in this guide will lead you to the perfect model under $1,200!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are laptops under $1,200 any good for gaming?

A: Yes, many excellent gaming laptops are available under $1,200 like the ASUS TUF Dash F15 recommended above. You can expect great 1080p gaming performance in popular titles from a laptop with RTX 3060 graphics and a fast gen-12 Intel processor.

Q: Can I upgrade components like RAM and storage later on a $1,200 laptop?

A: Some models allow you to upgrade RAM, storage, or even Wi-Fi cards later on. But not all do – for example, MacBook RAM and storage cannot be changed after purchase. When shopping, research whether the laptop supports upgrades.

Q: Is a 17-inch laptop under $1,200 a good desktop replacement?

A: 17-inch laptops can make for great affordable home desktop replacements like the HP Envy 17t. You get a large screen and full keyboard in a package that can still be moved around the house. Just expect shorter battery life compared to smaller ultrabooks.

Q: Should I buy an extended warranty for a $1,000+ laptop?

A: Extended warranties (1-3 years typically) can provide peace of mind and protect against defects or accidental damage. But they add to the cost. Review what’s covered by the standard 1 year manufacturer warranty first before deciding.

Q: What stores have the best laptop deals under $1,200?

A: Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart routinely offer solid laptop deals under $1,200 and have frequent sales worth checking out. The manufacturers themselves like Dell also run promotions on their latest models. Sign up for alerts and check deal sites for price drop notifications.

Final Thoughts

Finding a new laptop is like choosing a trusty companion you‘ll rely on daily. I hope this guide has helped highlight what excellent options are out there under $1,200 that balance premium build quality, power, and features.

Think about which one best fits your individual needs and typical workloads. From versatile mainstream picks like the exceptional MacBook Air M2 to gaming rigs like ASUS‘s TUF Dash F15 to prosumer 2-in-1s like the HP Spectre x360 14 and more, there is an awesome laptop here to match nearly any buyer.

Did I miss covering any important sub-$1200 laptop contenders? What features are highest on your must-have list? Let me know in the comments!