Best laptops for astronomers 2024: Link up telescopes and edit astrophotographs

Best laptops 2024: Jump Menu

When you're looking for the best laptop for astronomy there are a few things that must stand out. The device will need to have a dedicated graphics card to run intensive visual-heavy workloads and it could also do with an expansive display that has a high degree of color accuracy. 

These qualities are especially key if you're looking to run some of the best photo editing apps like Adobe Photoshop — and it needs a fair degree if firepower under the hood if you want to run cutting-edge astronomy software smoothly. 

Of course, your budget matters too — and your specific requirements will influence which machine you end up with. You could, for example, decide to opt for the 16-inch MacBook Pro powered by the M3 Max processor, but it maybe overkill and knock you way over budget if you don't need to run the most powerful programs. On the other hand, less expensive alternatives may not give you the quality of display you need. 

You should also consider gaming laptops, given they are fundamentally designed to provide high performance and strong graphics output. They'll also come fitted with high-end cooling technology to keep performance higher for longer. Read on to discover the models we'd recommend in various categories.

The quick list

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Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars is the technology editor at sister site Live Science. He has written for a variety of publications including ITPro, The Week Digital, ComputerActive and TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a technology journalist for more than five years, having previously held the role of features editor with ITPro.

The best laptops we recommend in 2024

Why you can trust Space.com Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test and review products.

The best laptop overall

Apple MacBook Pro (M3 Pro, 2023)

The best performance for the price in a great-looking package.

Specifications

CPU: 11-core Apple M3 Pro
RAM: 36GB unified memory
GPU: 14-core integrated graphics
Display: 14.2-inch ‎2,048x1,536-pixel liquid retina XDR
Battery size: 70 Whr
Weight: 3.4 pounds
Dimensions: 12.31 x 8.71 x 0.61 inches

Reasons to buy

+
Great performance 
+
Crisp and bright display
+
Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as powerful as the 16-inch MacBook Pro
-
Expensive
Buy it if

✅ You want a powerful MacBook you can take with you: If you need to run heavy-duty software while on the move.


✅ You want to run intensive workloads:
The M3 series processors are among the best out there for most intensive workloads.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want the most powerful machine money can buy: The 16-inch MacBook Pro offers much more power.


❌ You're running a tight budget:
 This is not the right machine for you if you're looking to get as much value for money as possible. 

The bottom line

🔎 The MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro, 2023) offers a great balance between performance, portability and a premium user experience. ★★★★½

The components fitted into the 14-inch MacBook Pro, namely the 11-core M3 Pro CPU and integrated 14-core graphics unit, means it's the perfect middle-ground. 

It represents a best-of-both-worlds option between the top-of-the-line 16-inch alternative, fitted with the M3 Max processor, and a more affordable, portable machine. It's, therefore, ideal for graphically intensive workloads on the go, whether you're a gamer, creative, or graphic design professional. 

Testing by Laptop showed, for instance, that it achieved 51 frames per second at 1200p on the Civilization VI benchmark — just 2fps shy of the premium laptop average. Its display is just as good-looking as you'd come to expect, meanwhile, with the liquid retina XDR technology making the screen pop.

This laptop has the same high build quality and design you'd expect from a premium Apple machine, meanwhile, and its battery life is exceptionally long compared with many other non-MacBook contenders.

It's also considerably cheaper than the larger and far more specced-up MacBook variations, including the 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 Max chip. We'd keep that mind too, meaning it isn't suitable for those either on a tight budget or those willing to spend as much as it takes for the most powerful machine.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignGreat build and compact design
FunctionalityA stunning 14-inch display and long-lasting battery
PerformanceHigh-end performance thanks to the M3 Pro chip

The best laptop for performance

Apple MacBook M3 Max

There's no beating Apple's M3 Max processor.

Specifications

CPU: 16-core Apple MacBook M3 Max
RAM: 48GB unifieid memory
GPU: 40-core integrated graphics
Display: 16.2-inch, 3,456x2,234-pixel liquid retina XDR
Battery size: 100 Whr
Weight: 4.8 pounds
Dimensions: 14.01 x 9.77 x 0.67 inches

Reasons to buy

+
Unrivalled performance
+
Alluring display
+
Very long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Incredibly expensive
-
Might be overkill for some users
Buy it if

✅ You want the most powerful MacBook: If you aren't willing to compromise on power and performance, there's no looking anywhere else.

✅ You need maximum power on the go: The MacBook Pro's excellent battery life makes it an ideal travel companion.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You need to stick to a budget: The best-performing MacBook Pro is also its most expensive.


❌ You don't need this much power: There are better options out there if you aren't planning on running the heaviest workloads.

The bottom line

🔎 The Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) is an absolute powerhouse of a machine that might well blow you away. ★★★★★

In our review of the previous version of the 16-inch MacBook Pro in 2021, we found its M1 processor offered users desktop-class performance alongside a fantastic and large display. Now, three years on, the best MacBook Pro you can get, fitted with the M3 Max CPU, can't be beaten for performance. 

Sadly, it'll set you back a huge amount of cash, but it's worth every penny if you have money to spend and you're a creative looking for the absolutely pinnacle of performance from a machine on the market right now. 

The latest model features a far more advanced version of Apple's custom-built chip, with a 16-core processor and 40-core integrated graphics. 

The 3,456 by 2,234-pixel liquid retina XDR display is also as sharp as ever, giving you an expansive and crisp panel with accurate colors for any media-centric tasks. The machine also allows for a refresh rate of up to 120Hz for a smoother experience.

Far from being a cherry on top, a major reason why you'd choose the MacBook Pro 16-inch is that battery life isn't compromised, which is a major risk with high-powered desktop-class laptops. 

You can enjoy up to 22 hours of movie playback, according to the manufacturer, although this might be a little less with real-world usage.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignLittle change on a tried-and-tested form factor, unless you count its intriguing new Space Black coat.
FunctionalityPacked with plenty of ports and a stunning display to boot.
PerformanceThe M3 Max is one of the best processors out there, and very little can compete with it.

The best Windows laptop

Dell XPS 15

Still the best Windows laptop in 2024.

Specifications

CPU: Intel 13th-Gen Core i7 Evo
RAM: 16GB
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050
Display: 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,200-pixel
Battery size: 86 Whr
Weight: 4.2 pounds
Dimensions: 13.57 x 9.06 x 0.71 inches

Reasons to buy

+
Sleek design 
+
Lightweight for its size
+
Great performance
+
Stunning display

Reasons to avoid

-
Underwhelming battery life
-
Higher-end configurations very pricy
Buy it if

✅ You want the best Windows laptop: There's a great array of Windows laptops to choose from, but the latest XPS 15 is a highlight.


✅ You need a gorgeous display
: OLED brings out the best of the XPS 15's display — with stunning blacks and great colors.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You need to work on the move: We'd recommend staying away from the XPS 15 if you're often using a laptop where power isn't accessible.

❌ You need lots of ports: The XPS 15 only has two USB-C ports, which is one significant downside of a thin and portable machine.

The bottom line

🔎 The Dell XPS 15 is the best Windows laptop out there right now. It offers great performance a stunning display, and it's relatively light for its size. ★★★★

You can't have a conversation about the best Windows laptops without mentioning Dell's XPS family, which has been a fixture in high-end portable computing for the best part of a decade. With last year's XPS 15, you should expect the same level of performance and portability that you've come to expect from previous editions.

You'll find, under the hood, the latest Nvidia graphics card and Intel processor, fitted into a well-engineered chassis that feels as premium as the price tag. You can also choose from several other configurations or customize your model based on your needs and budget, thankfully. 

In the higher-end version of the XPS 15, its large 15.6-inch OLED display is a particular highlight, with a crisper image, more vibrant colors and deeper blacks than the standard HD display — but it very much is a luxury upgrade, as this does come at a cost. 

Similarly, think about whether you need the latest processing and graphics components, as you may end up getting a much more powerful version of the XPS 15 than you really needed to. 

The only major downside of note with this otherwise fantastic Windows laptop is its disappointing battery, according to sister site Tom's Guide, which lasted a suboptimal nine hours in testing. When you compare it to how long the MacBook Pro can last, for example, it's a real dampener.

Channel Editor, Jase Parnell-Brookes has owned a Dell XPS 15 since 2020 (not the latest model) and notes that they've experienced several common issues with this laptop, including needing to replace the DC port twice, trackpad and poor performance after only the first year of ownership.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignImpressive look and feel — and built to last
FunctionalityLacks ports, but expansion units are available
PerformanceFitted with some of the best components you can find today

The best portable laptop

One of the thinnest and lightest 15-inch laptops around.

Specifications

CPU: 8-core Apple M2
RAM: 16GB unified memory
GPU: 10-core integrated graphics
Display: 15-inch, 2,880 x 1,864-pixel liquid retina XDR
Battery Size: 66.5 Whr
Weight: 3.3 pounds
Dimensions: 13.4 x 9.35 x 0.45 inches

Reasons to buy

+
Astonishingly thin for a 15-inch laptop
+
Relatively lightweight
+
Powerful specs
+
Great battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks the ports of a MacBook Pro
-
No cooling fan
Buy it if

✅ You're looking for maximum performance on the move: It's one of the sleekest 15-inch machines we've seen and has a great battery life.

✅ You want MacOS without breaking the bank: MacBook Airs tend to be much cheaper than their Pro cousins. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You need to run the most intensive applications for longer: The lack of a dedicated cooling fan might lead to throttling in the long run.

❌ You want the brightest and best display: The liquid retina display is excellent, but not as bright or crisp as that in the MacBook Pro. 

The bottom line

🔎 The MacBook Air 15-inch (M2, 2023) represents a fantastic piece of engineering and offers everything most people will need in a portable laptop. ★★★★★

Apple has shaken off some historic concerns with its MacBook Air line and we're left with a fantastic machine that can perform just as well as the MacBook Pro while looking just as slick. 

The 15-inch version is a portable powerhouse, and offers users the scope to use a high-end machine that's also much more affordable and can be carried around for work on the move. 

Although it misses out on the M3 chip, Apple's M2 CPU is more than good enough for highly intensive workloads, with the machine also offering users a lengthy battery life that means you only need to charge it up sparingly.

While it might not be as powerful as the MacBook Pro, which is fitted with the M3 series of CPUs, the machine has more compact dimensions. 

This, however, comes at the cost of an absent cooling fan — meaning it may run hot when you're running the most intense applications for too long. This may slightly hamper performance, but even still the M2 chip can hit some of the highest performance levels under these conditions. 

Elsewhere, the display is as crisp as we've come to expect from the latest MacBooks, and while not as sharp as the 16-inch MacBook Pro, it can compete with some of the best Windows laptops. 

We are, however, disappointed with the lack of ports — but we're nitpicking, as the laptop probably wouldn't be as thin, light and portable if, say, it had extra slots like HDMI and USB-A.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignSupreme build quality and dimensions
FunctionalityLacks ports but more than makes up thanks to its portability
PerformanceGreat performance thanks to the M2 chip, but won't beat the MacBook Pro

The best OLED laptop

ASUS ProArt Studiobook

A high-performing portable workstation with a 3.2L OLED display

Specifications

CPU: 13th-Gen Intel Core i9-13980HX
RAM: 16GB
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060
Display: 16-inch, 3.2K OLED
Battery Size: 90 Whr
Weight: 5.3 pounds
Dimensions: 14.25 x 10.39 x 0.78 inches

Reasons to buy

+
Great display
+
Glasses-free 3D
+
Desktop-class power

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulky and unsightly
-
Heavier than others
-
Not cheap
Buy it if

✅ You're primarily working with graphics: The fantastic technology built into the OLED display coupled with great RAM, the graphics card and processing power make it ideal.

✅ You want an expansive screen: OLED displays tend to be far more immersive thanks to the deep blacks and rich colors.  

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're working on a budget: High-end components and a stunning display come at a hefty premium.

❌ You need a light machine: This laptop is anything but lightweight, so don't pick it up if you're planning on carrying it around.

The bottom line

 🔎 The ASUS ProArt Studiobook is fitted with a stunning OLED display that justifies its curious build, and it also includes some of the most powerful components out there. ★★★★½

Where do we start with the ProArt Studiobook 16 OLED? It's an odd-looking machine that stands out from the crowd in more ways than one. 

This is especially thanks to its touchpad, that is reinforced with haptic feedback, and a fantastic display with a 180-degree lay-flat hinge. A dial can also be configured for any app, while you can flick a special switch to boost graphics performance. In short, we think it's a masterstroke and a design risk that's paid off. 

It's a portable workstation that packs a huge amount of power under the hood. It's geared primarily at creative professionals — meaning it's perfect for comparable workloads if you're into running astronomy software or need to work with images or videos regularly.

Beyond its high-end Intel and Nvidia chips is an OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate and touchscreen capabilities. The manufacturer claims the 3,200 x 2,000-pixel display also has an impressive 0.2ms response time and scores 100% on a color accuracy test. The higher-end model can also render 3D images without the need for cumbersome 3D glasses.

This isn't to mention the laptop's in-built software tools for creatives, and its cooling system to make sure you aren't running too hot while trying to maximize performance. The laptop also features a full collection of ports, including Thunderbolt 4, HDMI and an SD card slot among the options. 

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignUnconventional design — love it or hate it
FunctionalityGreat hardware and software tools to enjoy
PerformanceGreat performance thanks to top-of-the-line components