The 8 Best Quiet Laptops for a Silent Setup
Feb 22, 2021
Hear a noise?
Me neither, because today’s feature is about finding peace and quiet!
Many laptop options look beautiful and run well, but unfortunately come at the cost of obnoxious decibel levels when performing tasks.
This guide will take you through the quietest laptops available today for a variety of needs and budgets.
- Quietest Laptop for General Use: Microsoft Surface Pro 7 i5
- Best Quiet Gaming Laptop: MSI GL65 Leopard
- Quietest Macbook: Apple MacBook Air 2020 Edition
- Best Quiet Budget Laptop: ASUS Chromebook Flip C434
Best of the Rest: Quick-Fire Picks
Quietest Laptop for General Use: Microsoft Surface Pro 7 i5
For those serious about a quiet laptop that still offers great performance for the average user, nothing comes close to the Surface Pro 7.
The i5 & i3 editions are, what we consider, the best fanless laptops on the market. This means instead of using traditional loud fan cooling, the Surface Pro 7 is intelligently designed to operate on passive cooling alone even at high loads (it’s able to maintain great temperatures during most activity, which is impressive in itself).
The Pro 7 is sharply designed to be incredibly light and portable while still offering a decent amount of screen real-estate with a fantastic 2736 x 1824 resolution; great for anything from general/business use to media viewing.
We specifically cite the 16GB i5 version as the best value for someone after a silent laptop with a bit of longevity. The mid-range 10th gen Intel CPU and 16GB RAM hit the sweet spot between price and performance. 256GB is also plenty of space in today’s cloud storage/streaming world providing you’re not playing many big games (if you’re after the best gaming laptop, see our next pick).
On a budget? We have cheaper quiet laptop choices further below, but if you still want the unparalleled design of the Pro 7, you can go for the 8GB RAM and/or the i3 processor and still expect a decent machine for general use. We just encourage users to pick the i5/16GB to get a smoother experience and a laptop that will last longer.
It’s worth noting that the i7 version of the Pro 7 is not a fanless laptop and will produce more noise. The i5 still has all the specs you’d want for a general-use laptop and there is no significant need for this extra power unless you’re after gaming or production work like video editing (with picks further below designed for that).
Ports are one of the only areas we wish were a little stronger, with the Pro 7 having 1 x USB-C and 1 x USB-A outputs. It would’ve been good to see an extra port of either one, but most users will still have enough for key accessories (or failing that, a USB hub).
We’ve specifically included the version without a keyboard or pen because these accessories tend to be cheaper individually, some users may be fine with budget versions of the keyboard and pen, and we appreciate others may actually be perfectly fine without one/both and could act perfectly as a quiet tablet, or a tablet/laptop hybrid.
We will say that one of the other great USPs for the Pro 7 is that the official keypad (and probably many of its budget versions) is incredibly quiet, much more so than a traditional keyboard, yet still remains comfortable to type on.
We love that this Microsoft offering doesn’t compromise in any major way for the general user looking for one of the quietest laptops on the market.
And not just general users, with its decent specs to boot, the Pro 7 is a great studio option for someone after a quiet laptop for audio recording or voice-over work.
With great performance capability, portability, a fantastic screen, and (of course) very low decibel production all for a very decent price, this is easily our choice for the overall best quiet laptop available today.
Best Quiet Gaming Laptop: MSI GL65 Leopard
Shopping for the best quiet gaming laptop? The market is a completely different ballgame.
We’ll start by saying there is nothing close to a silent gaming laptop; PCs designed for games come with powerful GPUs and other specs designed to run titles at acceptable setting/framerates which you simply cannot achieve without active cooling (there is no fanless gaming laptop on the market today).
The good news is, some gaming laptops are way better than others at providing low decibel outputs with the right settings.
This is where the MSI GS65 Leopard comes in.
With an excellent design that is thick/large enough to provide both a decent screen size (with thin bezels) and, most importantly for noise reduction, a great internal layout for heat dissipation.
The laptop is portable, but not ultralight, and we say this to its credit; it allows the GL65 to have enough inner airflow that it only needs 2 larger fans. Big fans are actually an advantage for a quiet setup, as they can spin at lower RPMs to achieve the same as a very fast-spinning set of small fans (it’s the RPM that usually dictates the noise-level).
This setup means that the MSI GL65 is deceptively quiet compared to its competitors when performing general use/average tasks.
For gaming, you will, of course, hear the fans kick in, and there is no decent gaming laptop where this isn’t the case.
But not only does the GL65 run on better internal heat dissipation than many other fan-dependent gaming laptops, but MSI also offers one of the best control suites of all the PC gaming brands with its Dragon Center software.
This will allow you to customize and control your fan speeds, set limits to what you want them to go even when playing games, which is the cherry on top of an already quiet gaming PC when compared to its counterparts.
But we love the GL65 for so much more than just low-noise output.
It’s worth noting that this MSI pick is one of our favorite gaming laptops in any category and has been previously featured in our Amazon and 144hz spotlights, as well as our breakdown of the best laptops for longevity.
The GL65 Leopard offers incredible value across the board:
- One of the cheapest laptops with an RTX 2070
- Perfect secondary specs to complement the GPU; with a Core i7-10750H, 16GB RAM & 512GB NVMe SSD (the quietest storage solution available)
- A fantastic screen for the price-range with 144hz, 3ms response time, and an IPS panel with decent color accuracy (great for esports or more immersive titles)
- Gorgeous individually-customizable RGB keyboard (that is also rather quiet while still providing the tactile feedback needed for gaming)
With these specs, you won’t just get fantastic performance in any game available today (and likely well into the future), you’ll also have a PC perfect for general use and even production tasks; this doubles up as the best quiet video editing laptop on the list.
As we said before, you won’t get a fanless/silent gaming offering.
But how about a low noise laptop with a quiet keyboard that also doubles as the best value in terms of specs and builds quality in its price range?
If quiet gaming is your goal, we don’t think you’ll find better than this.
Quietest Macbook: Apple MacBook Air 2020 Edition
If you are of the Mac persuasion and are looking for a silent Macbook, the closest you’ll come is the new 2020 edition of the Macbook Air.
Lead by the powerful new Apple M1 chip, this is a fanless Macbook and a self-proclaimed “no-noise laptop” which runs entirely off of passive cooling due to the great internal architecture of the device.
This is a really impressive feat, given the ultra-portable lightweight nature of the 2020 Air, we can’t overstate how hard it is to get a product this small that also keeps a level temperature without noise.
Tied with its 256GB SSD, you can expect quietness even under heavy loads.
This laptop also comes with an impressively quiet keyboard. With its focus on thinness, the keys are very light and therefore have short press-travel/produce very low decibels compared to most market competitors.
The 2020 Macbook Air also comes with some nice specs for general use and light to mid-range work, with:
- Apple’s gorgeous retina display technology on a 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 screen, one of the most stunning displays at its price-range
- 8-core Apple-designed CPU with both great processor power and an impressive integrated GPU (for light gaming/editing, serious production users and gamers will want to look at our MSI pick or the Macbook Pro).
- 8GB RAM and a very fast SSD in either 256GB or 512GB
- 2 USB-C ports
Bearing in mind this isn’t a MacBook Pro and the Air has serious limitations on what specs it can run with its tight space, this is an impressive offering; tied with macOS and their various well-optimized in-house software, this is easily one of the best laptops for general use & media (especially with its fantastic screen).
What’s more to say? This is, without doubt, the best quiet MacBook on the market, and perfect for anyone who doesn’t need the more advanced capabilities of the Pro (we cover the best Pro option below if you’re a power user).
Best Quiet Budget Laptop: ASUS Chromebook Flip C434
The last of our top picks is for those who are looking for the best cheap quiet laptop on the market, while still meeting the needs of most general use consumers
The Flip C434 meets that feat very well, with the specific model we are recommending being another fanless laptop.
This ASUS offering is a Chromebook, meaning it runs off of Google’s Chrome OS as opposed to the usual Windows 10 choice.
If you are just a lightweight general user, ChromeOS can be a perfect solution, as it is a less demanding operating system than Windows that can run on cheaper PC hardware and still provide you with all the mainstream applications you’d expect (anything from internet browsing to media/Netflix to Office applications). The main exceptions (i.e. where you’d want Windows) are PC gaming and production work like video editing/animation – we recommend our other picks for such tasks.
With an M3-8100Y processor, 8GB RAM & 64GB eMMC storage, these secs are on the lower end.
But again, with ChromeOS, you can still expect a relatively smooth experience for general and standard business use.
The C434 has great secondary hardware/build quality for its price also; with a bright, full-HD touchscreen and a 2-in-1 laptop design, we love that you can put this laptop into a tablet orientation for media watching, presenting, or simple touch activities.
With an all-metal exterior, backlit keyboard, and beautifully thin bezels around its screen, you may not be getting the most powerful pick, but as far as silent budget laptops go, this is the closest you’ll get with some great value.
Note: we have provided cheaper options further below which are perfectly capable, but we’d recommend this as a minimum if your budget can stretch as far.
If you don’t have the budget for the Surface Pro 7 but noise is still important to you, know that the C434 is somewhat close to the Pro 7 in noise output (minus a less-quiet keyboard); you lose some specs/longevity, but it’s easily the best quiet budget laptop choice today.
Alternative Picks – Best of the Rest
While the top 4 are our top picks for the best quiet laptops available today, we’ve included a few more worth your consideration if your requirements are a little more unique/your preferred laptop above is out of stock.
Quietest 17-inch Gaming Laptop : HP Omen 17-cb1080nr
We choose the MSI GL65 Leopard as the quietest gaming laptop overall. But if you’re after a larger screen, this HP omen pick is a great option.
With its larger space for heat dissipation and similarly great mid-range specs, it’s a powerful gaming PC with HP software to control fan speeds for noise reduction as required.
Cheapest Quiet Laptop: ASUS VivoBook Flip 14
If you want to go even cheaper than our top budget pick and would value the full utility of a WIndows OS, the VivoBook Flip 14 is another impressively valuable fanless laptop.
It’s worth noting that the specs on this device are very basic, but if your needs are too (say, a budget quiet student laptop), this may be all you need.
Cheapest Quiet Chromebook: Acer Chromebook 514
Very close to ranking as our best quiet budget pick, the Acer 514 is an impressively cheap quiet laptop. The reason we don’t give it the top budget accolade is its disappointing 4GB RAM, but if you only have very basic requirements, this is an excellent choice (you can expect it to run faster than the VivoBook Flip 14 if you don’t need Windows).
Quietest Macbook Pro: Apple MacBook Pro M1 Edition
To wrap up our list is what we’d recommend for those users after the best quiet Macbook with performance in mind. Yes the Pro M1 edition isn’t fanless like the Air, but still runs impressively quiet in most processes and is a powerhouse in comparison (this is what you’ll need if you’re looking at production work or video editing on top of day-to-day laptop use).
Tips for Buying a Silent Laptop
Although we’d recommend the picks above, we wanted to share some tips as part of this buying guide and also offer some of the methodologies behind how we picked our top quiet portable PCs.
First: no laptop is truly silent, this is a figure of speech.
But many of the above picks come quite close, and the decibel levels (of the non-gaming choices) aren’t anything anyone would complain about in a library.
What tends to create the more note-worthy dB output is using a keyboard, which is why our top picks (especially the Surface Pro 7) are tailored towards keyboards known for lower travel than similar counterparts.
Usually, the main perpetrator of noise in a PC is loud fan cooling. If you are serious about creating a very quiet laptop setup, you should focus on our fanless PCs above which use clever internal layout/heat dissipation to not rely on fans.
If you want a higher-end machine for a lot of longevity, then you can still keep an eye out for machines that have decent thermal performance. More power does not automatically mean louder; even if a machine has fans, it may only need them for the kind of activity you couldn’t do on fanless PCs anyway, so don’t fret too much if you like our top gaming/MacBook Pro picks.
3.5″ hard drives are notorious for being one of the nosiest parts of a PC; when data is collected from them, the discs spin loudly and often create a decibel level even higher than loud fans.
So a simple tip from us if you’re looking for a low noise laptop: ensure the storage is either a 2.5″ or NVMe solid-state drive.
None of our picks above use 3.5″ HDDs, and the good news is many laptops today don’t, but it’s still worth checking.
If you are not a big gamer, the next big way to cut down on noise is by buying a laptop with an integrated GPU (like all of our non-gaming picks above).
This means that your CPU is effectively designed to also provide graphical capability. For most needs, including 4k video, software use (even light gaming at times) this is all you need. The only exception being GPU-intensive work like video editing and, of course, gaming.
All the above rules are worth bearing in mind if you’re after a quiet gaming laptop (except you do want a separate GPU in a gaming PC), but there are a couple more points to consider too.
While not a universal truth, a good rule of thumb is that larger/thicker gaming laptops tend to run quieter. This is because the internal layout has more space for airflow and heat dissipation, meaning their fans don’t have to engage for lower workloads. Additionally, large gaming laptop shells can hold big fans which can spin at lower RPMs during low-mid activity.
Additionally, look for what kind of design is in place for the laptop you’re looking at: how many fans/heat pipes does it have, what are existing users calling out (including if the keyboard is quiet, etc).
As we’ve said in this guide though, don’t expect a silent gaming laptop, a PC with a decent set of specs (particularly a GPU) capable of playing titles well is always going to make some noise, but you can mitigate it with the points above, and also if you’re purchasing our recommended picks, you’ll be in a good place to use fan control software to maximize what noise you’re willing to accept.
Alternative: Noise Cancelling Headphones
This may sound like a dramatic solution, but on the off-chance you want a laptop that makes a lot of noise and is mainly bothered about its sound for your own ears, then getting a nice pair of noise-canceling headphones like the fantastic Sony WH-1000XM3s can be an amazing option.
This may sound like an expensive solution, but they are simply fantastic headphones for anybody remotely worried about noise (not just in a laptop setting, as someone easily distracted by noise, I can personally attest to how life-changing the XM3s have been for me, amongst the many, many others who have them).
If you don’t want to fork out that much, some nice audiophile headphones for media/gaming usually provide enough isolation to cut out most noise, if you’re interested, check out our feature on them here (we also talk about the 1000XM3s here).
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