Your standard desktop machine is designed to have parts swapped out over its lifespan as new components are released. Laptops are a different breed of machine entirely, with modularity sacrificed for greater portability. With that in mind, we are on a quest to find the best upgradeable laptops in 2020.
With so many parts stuffed into such a small space, it’s often difficult to upgrade any one single component. Some notebook computers make this process much easier, and we’ve rounded up the best options from around the web.
Want to start with a computer on the less expensive side that’s more budget friendly? With a smaller investment at the start, there’s more wiggle room to spend on upgrades later for better specs!
Ready to get started looking for a great laptop that’s easy to upgrade? Let’s dive into the options available!
Top Picks For Upgradeable Laptops in 2020
Reviews Of The Best Upgradeable Laptops In 2020
Acer Nitro 5 – Quality Graphics Card
When it comes to picking a modular laptop with upgrades in mind, Acer’s Nitro 5 series perfectly fits the bill.
You can save a whole lot of money by choosing the least powerful configuration available on this model. While these are low-end specs to start with, swapping out parts here is an absolute snap.
There’s only one single screw to remove for accessing the RAM ports on the bottom. Likewise, the SSD is accessed in its own bottom compartment with only a single screw standing in the way.
With a strong mid-range graphics card, this is an excellent compromise machine. It will keep you playing games or performing work tasks for years to come with a few upgrades.
Buyers love the price and graphics card but often criticize the “Industrial” design with its sharp angles. While that looks cool, it also means the keyboard and touchpad are less comfortable to use for extended periods of time.
Hardware specifications for Acer Nitro 5
CPU: 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H Processor (Up to 4. 1GHz) | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Graphics with 4 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM | RAM:8 GB DDR4 | Screen: 15.6-Inch Full HD IPS Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution| Storage: 256GB SSD |Operating System: Windows 10 Home| Battery Life: 5 hours | Weight: 5.95 pounds
Lenovo Flex 6 – Best 2-In-1
The base model of the Lenovo Flex 6 comes with 8GB of RAM and 128 GB of SSD storage space. This makes it the perfect candidate for future upgrades, and thus it is the best 2-in-1 on the market if you wish to buy cheap and fix it later.
The 1080p screen on the Flex 6 is really good with bright and vibrant colors. The touchscreen works really well with extremely responsive gestures and touch controls. The 360-degree hinge feels robust and performs well. It doesn’t feel loose or too tight when switching between laptop and tablet mode.
The SSD, while small, is extremely fast. You can expect boot times under 6 seconds which is astonishing on a budget device. While you are getting a decent computer right from the start, the price is great. You are getting a lot of computers for a price that won’t break your budget.
This is a great computer, perfect for a student who is on a budget. If you are looking for a 2-in-1 with great upgrade capabilities, this is the one for you.
Hardware specifications for Lenovo Flex 6
CPU: Intel Core i5-8250U 1.6GHz (up to 3.4GHz) | Graphics:Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Screen: 14-inch IPS LCD, 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution | Storage: 128GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 | Battery Life: 7.5 hours | Weight: 3.52 pounds
ASUS TUF Gaming Laptop – Best Gaming Laptop
ASUS makes fantastic gaming laptops, and the TUF series is no exception. This TUF Gaming Laptop has a fast processor and GPU, meaning you have the bare bones to make an epic gaming rig.
With a Quad-core AMD Ryzen 7 3750H Processor, this laptop is ready for any games you want to run. With 4 cores and a boost speed of 4 GHz, your laptop won’t even break a sweat even with the most demanding titles.
It also features an amazing graphics card with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB GDDR6. This powerful graphics card and 6 GB of VRAM makes it a great option to play the latest AAA games. At the 1080p resolution of the screen this GPU is a perfect match.
Most gaming laptops on the market are big and bulky to accommodate their powerful specs. That isn’t the case here, with the TUF Gaming Laptop being less than an inch thick.
It also has a decent amount of storage since it has a 512GB PCIe SSD. However this is not enough if you plan on installing games on the internal drive, so an upgrade is definitely needed if you want to play the latest high-end games.
Overall, this is a fantastic gaming laptop. If you are looking for a laptop that can play your games right out of the box but can also be upgraded in the future, this is a great choice.
Hardware specifications for ASUS TUF Gaming Laptop
CPU:Quad-core AMD Ryzen 7 3750H Processor | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB GDDR6 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Screen: 15.6” Full HD (1920×1080) 120Hz IPS-Type display| Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 5 hours | Weight: 4.85 pounds
Dell Inspiron 15 – Best Dell Laptop
The Dell Inspiron 15 is ideal for home or officer users. It has the ability to use a touch screen which can come in incredibly handy if you want to lay down and work on the couch. A lot of buyers still prefer the old clamshell style over newer 360 degree hinges though, especially if you need a sturdy notebook that’s built to last.
If you want a touch screen in a traditional style and have plenty of ability to upgrade, look no further than the Inspiron. This little workhorse of a machine can take up to 32GB of RAM if you decide to upgrade later, as well as up to a full 1TB SSD for fast, quiet operation.
Best of all?
This unit actually has slots for two drives inside. That means you can use both an SSD and an HDD if you want maximum speed and storage capacity for the least money.
Hardware specifications for Premium Flagship Dell Inspiron 15 5000
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Quad Core i7-10510U 1.80GHz | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 4GB graphics memory, Intel HD Graphics 530 | RAM: 8GB RAM | Screen: 5.6 in 4K Ultra HD LED touchscreen (3840 x 2160) Display | Storage: 1TB SSHD| Operating System: Windows 10 | Battery Life: 10 hour battery life| Weight: 6.07 pounds
Lenovo IdeaPad – Ultra Budget Option
In terms of starting specs, this Lenovo model is easily at the bottom of the barrel. When you are looking to save money now and upgrade later however, that might be a perfect fit.
You can’t upgrade the graphics card, so this will never be a high-end gaming rig. That being said, you can still get a solid machine here by replacing the RAM and throwing it in an SSD.
The procedure here is slightly more involved than the other contenders but still fairly simple. There’s one screw to slide out the optical drive, then eight screws to pop off the bottom cover.
A small silver covering must be removed to reach the RAM, but the hard drive is immediately accessible.
For buyers, the big draw here is the low price that offers 2GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. Its not much but it’s decent and it is upgradable as well.They do often mention that the power cord is quite short however, so you may want to buy a longer aftermarket cord.
Hardware specifications for Lenovo IdeaPad
CPU:Intel Celeron N3350 Processor (1.10GHz, up to 2.40 with Burst Technology, 2MB Cache) | Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 500 | RAM: 2 GB RAM | Screen: 11.6″ HD (1366 x 768) anti-glare | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 8 hours | Weight: 2.65 pounds
Microsoft Surface Pro X
The Microsoft Surface Pro X is a good choice for a 2-in-1 laptop if you are into graphic design, sketching, or even writing. A lot of digital artists complained that previous versions of the surface pro lacked sensitivity, preventing them from truly expressing themselves. Thankfully the Microsoft Surface Pro X solves this problem.
This 2-in-1 laptop fully takes advantage of its surface pen since it is now upgraded to be more pressure sensitive allowing it to detect even the slightest movement and the faintest touch of the surface pen. Now artists can truly put their skills to the test since they can now apply proper shading and use light pen strokes to create vibrant and beautiful art for the world to see.
Additionally the Surface Pro X maintained the design of its predecessor the Surface Pro 4 since a lot of customers expressed joy in the Surface Pro 4’s design. However the Surface Pro X improved upon the design by making it thinner and lighter while retaining its unique design.
This thinner and lighter laptop makes it easier to move around as well as making it easier for artists to handle allowing them to draw and write with ease without exerting a lot of effort in their hands.
As for the Display, this 2-in-1 laptop features a 13-inch display that features a gorgeous 2880 x 1920 resolution. You can tell this laptop was made for graphic designers because it features a PixelSense screen that shows the contrast of colors and the details of the images. This allows the artist to appreciate their art as well as identify some flaws that need improving.
Needless to say, this makes the Surface Pro X ideal for watching movies and reading comics as well since you’ll be able to experience them in high resolution as well as experience the vibrant colors that the laptop has managed to accentuate.
Lastly, the surface Pro X has amazing starting specs to begin with. It’s powered by a decently powerful Microsoft SQ1 processor, a Microsoft SQ1 Adreno 685 graphics card, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD.
With specs like this you don’t really need to upgrade them because they’re high enough for a 2-in-laptop however you still can upgrade it if you really want. Upgrading them will allow you to create a decently powered gaming tablet that can run most high-end games.
Hardware specifications for the Microsoft Surface Pro X
CPU: Microsoft SQ1 | Graphics:Microsoft SQ1 Adreno 685 | RAM: 8GB RAM| Screen: 13 inches (2880 x 1920) | Storage: 256GB Solid State Drive | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life:13 hours | Weight: 1.7 pounds
What To Look For In A Modular Laptop In 2020
When looking for the best laptop for future upgrades, always plan on starting at a lower hardware threshold. You should be willing to have something less high-end now that can become better later.
None of the laptops listed above have extremely high end specs, as that would defeat the purpose. Instead, they stick with middle-of-the-road hardware to save on price.
With only a single exception, every laptop in our group of contenders is well below the $1,000 threshold.
Your goal here is to get something acceptable now. It can then be made into a true powerhouse down the line, or at least future-proofed against rising minimum specs.
Besides just the ability to add more memory, stay on alert for devices with M.2 slots for installing or replacing the SSD. Getting more hard drive space can be a critical upgrade if you have plenty of music or images to store.
While choosing a new laptop, keep in mind that ultra thin and super rugged models tend to be the least modular. Due to space constraints, many of those styles of machine have parts that can’t be removed at all.
Touch screen models also tend to be restricted on this front. Many of them allow drive upgrades but not RAM upgrades, or vice versa.
Are gaming laptops upgradeable?
If there’s one laptop type that supports upgradability, it’s gaming laptops. Most, if not all, gaming laptops are upgradeable. Its RAM and storage are fully upgraded just like with all laptops however their GPU and CPU are most likely permanent. Although there might be some exceptions.
Is It Possible To Upgrade A Laptop GPU Or Change The Processor?
In most cases, the answer to this question is a simple and resounding “nope.” Laptops with upgradeable GPUs are quite rare.
In order to give you so much power in such a tight space, major concessions have to be made in a notebook’s design. They simply aren’t intended to have easily swappable primary components.
Laptop motherboards use a different form factor on their processors and graphics cards than a desktop. In many cases, these components may even be soldered directly to the motherboard and can’t even be removed.
There are only a handful of exceptions with a few brands (noted below). In the vast majority of brands and models, however, you just simply can’t replace or upgrade these parts.
For most users, the RAM, hard drive, optical drive, and CPU cooling paste are going to be the primary components to upgrade over time.
What Potential Problems When Upgrade My Laptop?
There are some major pitfalls to be aware of when trying to find a laptop with hardware upgrades in mind.
Pay very careful attention to the system specs, and even try to verify those specs direct with the manufacturer if necessary. Descriptions on reseller sites like Amazon, Newegg, etc. aren’t always 100% accurate.
First and foremost, verify the maximum amount of RAM that the motherboard can handle. Be sure to also find out how many sticks of RAM the current device features out of the box.
For instance, a laptop might have one 16GB stick, or it could have two 8GB sticks. The latter will be twice as expensive to upgrade to 32GB, since you will need to buy two 16GB sticks instead of just one.
Keep in mind you can also upgrade laptops in other ways beyond just internal components. For more functionality, you could also add a USB hub for extra ports, or an external card reader.
Are There Any Laptops Specifically Made To Be Modular?
Most laptops from big name companies are designed to save space by cramming in as many components as possible in a tiny area. Upgradeability is always an afterthought in the design.
There are a handful of manufacturers who specifically build notebooks with upgrades in mind, such as Eurocom. These manufacturers utilize standard desktop socketed processors rather than mobile equivalents.
That means nearly every part can be swapped out, unlike with the typical notebook. Their laptops don’t tend to look as flashy on the outside as brands like HP, Dell, etc. but they have greater upgradeability.
The only downside is these manufacturers don’t often offer products through the usual electronics websites. Amazon, Newegg, TigerDirect and so on will usually only have a handful of models available, and they won’t typically be the newest offerings.
No matter what brand you go with or buying outlet you choose, always head over to the manufacturer’s website before making a decision.
Most manufacturers have manuals online that show the specific method for accessing the RAM or hard drive. You want to make sure the process will be simple and you have the right tools ahead of time.
With some devices this is incredibly easy, only requiring you remove a single screw. Other designs require taking off the entire keyboard and removing several other components first.
Saving Money By Choosing A Modular Laptop
These five upgrade-focused laptops will meet any price range for any type of computer user. Whether you are a die hard gamer or just need a portable computer for work or school, one of these options will fit your needs.
What did you think of our picks for the top upgradeable laptop this year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if your laptop can be upgraded?
Generally you will need to consult the user manual for the laptop, and it will let you know how to disassemble and upgrade your computer. If not there, a quick online search will garner you instructions and upgradeability.
How much RAM is needed in a computer?
8GB is the minimum we would suggest for a Windows computer, and 4GB for a chromebook. 16GB is what everyone should strive for, if possible.