It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for the computing industry thanks to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to shake up global supply chains and complicate shopping for chips, graphics cards and other components.
But that hasn’t stopped PC makers from delivering some excellent laptops, desktops and tablets to market this year packing the latest and greatest components. Apple improved upon its incredible M1 chip with the more efficient M2; Intel pushed the limits of how much power you can pack into an ultraportable with its 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs; and Intel finally re-entered the GPU market swinging with its new Arc graphics cards.
All of these advances have pushed the limits of what we can expect from our PCs. Now, after reviewing a smorgasbord of laptops, tablets and desktops over the past year, we’re celebrating the best of the best in this year’s Tom’s Guide Awards.
And check out all the winners of the Tom’s Guide Awards 2022.
Best laptop overall
Best laptop overall: MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1 Pro)
Apple’s MacBook Pro 2021 is an across-the-board improvement over its predecessor that single-handedly revived Senior Editor Alex Wawro’s interest in Apple laptops. After years of handicapping MacBook Pros with poor webcams, underwhelming keyboards and not enough ports, Apple went back to the drawing board and returned with killer 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros.
Now the Touch Bar is gone, MagSafe is back, and the new 1080p webcam helps you look great on video calls. Plus, the beautiful new Liquid Retina XDR display makes just about everything you do on it look good (ignore the notch, you get used to it) and there’s a smorgasbord of ports to help pros get more done on the go. Factor in the great battery life and the absolutely beastly performance of the M1 Pro/M1 Max chips, and Apple’s MacBook Pro 2021 is the best laptop we reviewed all year.
Sure, it’s a little on the heavy side (especially if you splurge for the 16-inch model) and it can’t play as many games as the best gaming laptops, but if you like macOS and need a new laptop you’d be hard-pressed to do better than the MacBook Pro 2021.
Here at Tom’s Guide we chose to single out the 16-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro because in our testing we found the M1 Pro delivers nearly as much power as the M1 Max for less money (check out our MacBook Pro 2021 benchmarks to see what I mean), and the 16-inch Pro gives you a bit more screen real estate than the 14-inch model. Of course, one of the nice things about the 2021 MacBook Pros is that all configurations are available in both sizes, so if you’d prefer a 14-inch model you’re not giving up access to any extra power.
Best 2-in-1 laptop
Best 2-in-1 laptop: Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360
The Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 is an ultra-thin 2-in-1 laptop that’s light, powerful and long-lasting, making it a great laptop for folks who need to get things done on the go. It sports a gorgeous AMOLED touchscreen that makes everything you do on it look great, and the 360-degree hinge makes it easy to flip into different configurations. Plus, it comes with a stylus included, a nice touch that makes this an excellent laptop for anyone who likes to handwrite notes or doodle in meetings. Bonus: the Samsung software that comes pre-installed can share data with other Samsung devices in ways that enhance its value even more.
Best laptop for students
Best laptop for students: MacBook Air (M2, 2022)
Apple’s MacBook Air M2 is the best student laptop released this year because of its unbeatable combo of price, performance and portability. The new M2 chip gives it plenty of power to tackle tough coursework, and the 1080p webcam will help you look your best during remote learning. Plus its 13.6-inch Retina display looks beautiful, and the 14+ hours of battery life we measured in our lab tests is more than enough to get you through a full day of classes.
Ultimately, the best laptop to take to school is the best one you can afford. If you can swing it, the MacBook Air 2022 is our top recommendation for students. If the new MacBook Air 2022’s $1,199 starting price is a bit hard to swallow, the older, cheaper ($999 to start) MacBook Air M1 is still available and still a great ultraportable.
Best value laptop
Best value laptop: Asus Zenbook 13 OLED
For the last year the Asus Zenbook 13 OLED has been our top recommendation for folks seeking great value in a laptop. This speedy little 13-inch ultraportable offers an eye-catching 1080p OLED display and exceptional battery life in a slim, lightweight package for less than a thousand bucks.
Sure the speakers aren’t amazing and there’s no headphone jack, but you’ll get an easy-to-carry laptop with a great screen and all-day battery life. With its starting price of $799, the Asus Zenbook 13 OLED is the best value I’ve seen in a laptop all year.
Best tablet: iPad Air (2022)
There were a lot of great tablets released in the past year, but for our money you can’t do better than Apple’s iPad Air (2022). The Air line has long felt like a more premium version of Apple’s base iPad and the 2022 Air feels the most premium yet, with an ultra-thin chassis encasing a gorgeous 10.3-inch Liquid Retina display. Inside it packs a powerful M1 chip, a first for the iPad Air line, and the 10+ hours of tested battery life ensures you won’t need to plug in during your next cross-country flight.
It faced some tough competition this year, as Apple also released the larger, more powerful and more attractive (but also far more expensive) 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021, while Samsung brought some tough competition with its Galaxy Tab S8 and Tab S8 Ultra Android tablets. But ultimately, the new iPad Air is the best tablet of the year.
Best Android tablet
Best Android tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S8
Samsung makes some of the best Android tablets on the market, so it’s not surprising that it released the best one we reviewed all year. However, you might be a little surprised that we’re talking about the Galaxy Tab S8 and not its bigger, beefier sibling the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra.
The simple Galaxy Tab S8 is smaller and cheaper, with better battery life and the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip under the hood. The packed-in stylus is a nice touch, and if you shell out for the optional Book Cover keyboard it’s a pretty decent laptop replacement thanks to Samsung’s DeX software. For all these reasons and more, it’s the best Android tablet we’ve seen this year.
Best Chromebook: Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3
The best Chromebooks deliver a winning combination of performance and portability that make them perfect for students and families. And the best one we reviewed this year is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3, a follow-up to the popular Lenovo Chromebook Duet that took off in 2020.
The Duet 3 is technically a ChromeOS tablet, but it comes with a detachable keyboard cover that’s pretty good. That makes it a great device for folks who want something for browsing the web and watching videos that can also knock out a few emails or a term paper in a pinch. Factor in the remarkably bright display, decent speakers and 10+ hour (tested) battery life, and you’ve got yourself a pretty capable little Chromebook.
Longest lasting laptop
Longest lasting laptop: 13-inch MacBook Pro (2022)
We put every laptop we review through our proprietary battery test, which tasks the notebook with continuously surfing the web via Wi-Fi with its screen set to a specific brightness (150 nits) until it runs out of juice.
We use the results to give you a sense of how long a laptop will actually last in everyday use, which is rarely as long as advertised. But in some cases, a laptop lasts longer than advertised in our tests. The MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 lasted a whopping 18 hours and 22 minutes compared to 17 hours of rated runtime. And that makes it the longest-lasting laptop we’ve ever reviewed.
Best mini PC
Best mini PC: Beelink GTR5
The Beelink GTR5 really makes the case for why mini PCs are just as capable as full-sized desktops. This little PC packs a ton of horsepower into a small chassis that weighs under 1.5 pounds, with room for more storage and support for a lot of RAM.
The small chassis means this pint-sized PC is easy to use in small spaces or unique PC builds, but don’t let its size fool you: Thanks to its Ryzen 9 5900HX processor, the GTR5 flies through essentially every task you could want. And the onboard Vega 8 GPU lets you dabble in some emulation or light 720p/1080p gaming. All in all, it’s the best mini PC we tested all year.
Best all-in-one PC
Best all-in-one PC: HP Envy 34 AIO
If you want a desktop PC that’s capable, quiet and doesn’t take up a lot of space on your desk, consider the HP Envy 34 All-in-One. Its ultrawide 34-inch 5K display, powerful Core i7 CPU and Nvidia RTX 3600 GPU make it suitable for work, play and creative pursuits.
You can’t beat the convenience of having your whole PC built into a beautiful 34-inch display that sits on a height-adjustable stand. Plus, the quality of sound kicked out by the built-in Bang & Olufsen speakers is surprisingly high for an AIO. If you can swing it, splurge for the optional charging base upgrade to get a 15-watt Qi wireless charger built into the HP Envy’s monitor stand.
Best gaming laptop
Best gaming laptop: Maingear Vector Pro
The Maingear Vector Pro is one of the most impressive and powerful gaming laptops we reviewed all year. Though pricey, it has everything a player could want from a gaming laptop. With up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 this laptop can pack enough graphical power to run most titles well above 60fps and its crisp 1440p 165Hz display brings out even the tiniest details.
And while it’s not exactly lightweight at 5 pounds even, the Maingear Vector Pro is surprisingly thin for a gaming laptop, measuring just under 0.80 inches thick. There have been a lot of fantastic gaming laptops released over the past year, but for our money you can’t beat the performance, port selection and portability of the Maingear Vector Pro.
Best gaming desktop
Best gaming desktop: Alienware Aurora R13
Alienware went back to the drawing board when designing the chassis of its Aurora R13, and the result is the best gaming desktop we reviewed all year. Released in October 2021 to mark Alienware’s 25th birthday, the Aurora R13 features a redesigned chassis (the Legend 2.0) that’s a little more angular than usual.
The more laid-back design isn’t just for looks. Alienware claims that it gives the case a bit more internal space and better airflow, which helps cut down on fan noise. And sure enough, our eye-catching Aurora R13 review unit stayed relatively quiet during hours and hours of 1080p gaming.
When it’s time to upgrade the redesigned chassis is easy to open, with plenty of ports and has enough ventilation that even after gaming in 4K for hours, I noticed only a mild hum and a pleasant warmth emanating from the PC. If your desk can accommodate it, the space-age design and customizable RGB lighting are sure to turn heads. And if you can afford it, Alienware will fill the Aurora R13 with top-of-the-line components that make it one of the best gaming desktops you can buy.