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What's the best work-from-home laptop? Here's what to look for

The best laptops for working from home don’t have to be expensive. Models costing as little as $500 offer the features you need to work efficiently and stay connected with coworkers. That said, if you have the budget, some higher-end laptops could provide better experiences and be smarter long-term purchases. We’ll make some specific product recommendations for great work-at-home laptops, and also walk you through the features you need so you can shop anywhere and find the best deal for you. 

Note: Because of the mass shift to working from home to combat coronavirus, laptops are flying off online shopping sites and local store shelves. We’ll do our best to recommend products that are in stock, but pay close attention to ship dates (which are becoming a moving target), and be prepared to keep looking if your first choice is no longer available. 

What you need on any laptop to work from home

You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot on a laptop to work effectively from home, but you do need to make sure your machine has certain features to keep you productive and connected.

We’re even including a Chromebook among our top picks (above), because Google’s Pixelbook Go (starting at $649 from Google) is the best balance of features and affordability that we’ve seen so far. Unless you have a stubbornly Windows-only application you have to use, you can do everything else on this capable, midpriced Chromebook. 

Here are the specs to look for while shopping: 

CPU: An 8th-gen or younger Intel Core i5 ‘U’ 

AMD and Intel are both coming out with new mobile CPUs this year, but mainstream users won’t need the latest Ryzen 4000 or Comet Lake H chips. For everyday work, an Intel 8th-generation or 10th-generation Core i5 ‘U’-class CPU offers the best balance of performance and power efficiency. Lower-end Core i3 ‘U’ siblings might be too slow, and higher-end Core i7 ‘U’ chips would be nice to have, but aren’t necessary.

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