Best Upgradeable Modular Laptops 2021 (Expert Guide)

At some point in time, your gaming or performance requirements may increase and you’ll need additional space or components to accommodate all your games and projects. If this sounds like you, then these 6 best upgradeable modular laptops for 2021 are the perfect fit for you!

Since laptops come with so many small parts, upgrading any single component can be a daunting task! And unlike desktop computers whose parts and components can be swapped quickly and easily, this is not the case for laptops.

Because laptops are built with portability in mind, manufacturers often renounce the laptop’s upgrade-ability in order to achieve the portability and compacted dimensions required in a laptop.

However, some few manufacturers have started to build modular laptops which can be upgraded later on in case you want to boost the performance. With this in mind, here are our top picks for the best upgradeable modular laptops you can buy right now!

Best Upgradeable Modular Laptops 2021

1. Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop

Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop

Acer has been consistently releasing new laptops over the past several decades, and the company has carved out a niche for itself in the gaming market. The Acer Nitro 5 is a respected budget laptop that offers decent mid-range performance for the price (sub $800).

If you are looking for a gaming machine that can play your favorite games at mid-tier settings, this is definitely one of the best choices out there. Let’s talk about the Acer Nitro 5.

Design Aesthetics

The Nitro 5 is a thick, bulky laptop, with vents on one side and on the back as well for effective heat dispersion. Not only that, but the laptop also looks pretty good.

It’s heavy, but it feels really well-built. There is a backlit keyboard and a full HD display incorporated within the machine. The company has also added a dedicated NitroSense key, and the arrow and the WASD keys are highlighted with a different color.

The travel distance is around 1.6 mm, which allows you to input commands quickly. On top of that, the laptop comes with a Waves MaxxAudio along with Acer TrueHarmony. With that, you get intelligent bass, volume enhancement, and dialogs.

Internals

The laptop is powered by a 9th gen 9300H Intel Core i5 9300H processor, and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650. This is a decent mid-range graphics card that is going to allow you to play games such as the Witcher 3, Battlefield 4, and even Shadow of the Tomb Raider at fairly decent settings.

However, if you are expecting the graphics card to offer consistently high performance on the bigger AAA titles, you might want to look elsewhere.

Cooling technology has been employed within the laptop thanks to the Acer CoolBoost, and the twin fans installed inside that allow heat dissipation from the underside.

Software

The laptop comes with Windows 10 Home pre-installed on it and also comes with a bit of bloatware, though it’s nothing you can’t remove. The built-in NitroSense application also allows you to check the speeds of the fan.

The laptop isn’t as big or bulky as compared to other gaming laptops, so you can probably put it in your backpack and then take it around to class if you want.

It weighs just around 5 lbs, which is fairly decent when you look at the size of the machine. All in all, it’s a pretty good gaming machine.

2. Dell XPS 15 7590 Laptop

Dell XPS 15 7590 Laptop

The Dell XPS line of laptops has received consistent critical acclaim in the past, and the XPS 15 7590 delivers yet again. If you are looking for a high-end machine with decent specs and gorgeous aesthetic appeal, you simply can’t go wrong with the Dell XPS 15.

The company has created a carbon fibre machine that not only looks beautiful, but also performs unbelievably well on almost all fronts.

Display

The Dell XPS 15 7590 comes with a stunning 4K UHD OLED InfinityEdge display. It has an anti-reflective display (doesn’t support touch), and peaks out at 400 nits of brightness.

It is simply amazing just how much definition and detail that has been packed into this laptop. The display is easily one of its best features, and you will find yourself looking at it for hours on end. It’s just that beautiful.

The laptop is also incredibly thin, and weighs just around 1.8 kg, making it one of the slimmest and lightest laptops available in the market.

Internal Components

The laptop is powered by a 9th gen Core i7 9750h processor, which is faster than the power saving models introduced by Intel. It has a 12 MB cache and also comes with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 4 GB GDDR5 graphics card.

Needless to say, it can handle virtually anything that you throw at it with ease, though don’t expect to play your favorite games on higher settings on this laptop.

It can handle simple games, but if you are thinking of rendering video or using it as a gaming machine, it might not be the best idea. The laptop has Thunderbolt 3 as well as a USB 3.0 port, and also comes with a SD card reader.

Battery

One of the reasons why so many people prefer using the XPS line of laptops is because of their battery life. This one comes with a 97 Whr integrated six-cell battery, which is capable of lasting you an entire day without having to recharge.

For the average professional, this is more than enough. The laptop comes with advanced Wi-Fi 6 technology, which offers the latest in terms of connectivity.

If you need a daily driver that is going to work consistently and can keep things going, this is one of the best laptops out there. Granted, it’s not the least expensive, but it’s a worthwhile investment if you need something that will last you a while.

3. Alienware m15 Gaming Laptop

Alienware m15

Alienware is Dell’s gaming division, and the company is widely regarded as one of the best manufacturers of gaming PCs, laptops, and other equipment.

If you are in the market for a decent gaming laptop, there is a pretty high chance that the Alienware name will come up now and then.

The company has been renowned for its robust design aesthetics and its premium build quality, making it one of the biggest names in the industry. Alienware laptops are expensive, and the m15 upholds that tradition, costing a cool $1,850.

But, for the amount you pay, it does offer considerable value: the laptop comes with the Core i7-8750H CPU and a Nvidia RTX 2060 6 GB GDDR5 graphics card, allowing you to start playing some of the most taxing games on the highest settings with ease.

On top of that, the laptop also has a 15.6 inches full HD display with incredibly thin bezels on either side. But, the top and lower bezels are quite thick, though that’s something most people expect from a gaming laptop.

The 144Hz anti-glare IPS display offers vivid performance and deep contrasts, so your games are going to look as beautiful as ever.

Lighter and Faster

According to the company, the Alienware m15 is 5% thinner and almost 20% lighter than its predecessor, the Alienware m13, and it really feels lighter.

The 20% weight difference will be a major factor for people who are going to take this laptop around to their office or class or just have to carry it around.

The build quality of this laptop is also incredibly good; it features a magnesium alloy chassis, which is an incredibly light metal. Magnesium alloy is already being used in various laptops, and to see it in a gaming laptop is just a good thing.

On top of that, the company’s proprietary cooling technology has been integrated in the Alienware m15, offering effective heat dissipation without the excessive noise.

Built for Gamers

This laptop was built for gamers in mind, and everything about it says so. The laptop has load-balancing heat pipes and comes with a dedicated Ethernet controller.

On top of that, you also get the Alienware Command Center, allowing you to calibrate your hardware and software controls to the maximum limit. It’s one of the best laptops available in the market if you want to do some gaming on the fly!

4. Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop

Lenovo Thinkpad T490

The Lenovo ThinkPad line of laptops has long been regarded as one of the best performers when it comes to office work. If you need a powerful daily driver that is rugged and designed for all-day use with quality components, the Lenovo ThinkPad should be your number one choice.

The ThinkPad isn’t a new laptop; it’s been around for years and has easily managed to beat out the competition when it comes to performance and portability.

The Ideal Office Laptop

The Lenovo ThinkPad comes with an i7 Quad Core 8565U CPU, which is Intel’s power saving model. This improves battery life ever so slightly and also offers better performance.

It’s not designed for gaming, and it’s really the last thing that you would want to do on a ThinkPad, but you should know that with the specs, running some fairly light games on it wouldn’t be a problem.

When you want to relieve some stress, simple games can easily get you through. There’s 16 GB of RAM on the laptop, along with a 512 GB NVMe SSD. You can upgrade the RAM and the SSD if you want later on as well.

Lenovo has found the perfect screen size for its ThinkPad line at 14”, which is not as bulky as the 15.6” laptops, and it also offers considerably more real estate than the 13” or the 11” variants. The full HD display provides crisp and clear video

For working in your office, this is the laptop that should adorn your desk. It’s powered by the Intel UHD 620 graphics processor, which is fairly decent.

Don’t expect it to hold a candle to even the lower range graphics cards, however. But, for all your office tasks or even some movie playback, this laptop is just great.

The Definitive Business Experience

If you need a laptop with a powerful battery, this is the one. It also comes with the Power Bridge technology from Lenovo, allowing you to replace the battery on the fly without having to turn the machine off.

This is by far one of the most innovative features that you will see in a business laptop, and it ensures that you are always working on the go.

The laptop passes 12 military-grade requirements, so it’s built for rugged use. You don’t need to worry about performance issues at all with this machine, no matter where you are.

5. Lenovo Legion Y740 Laptop

Lenovo Legion Y740

The Lenovo Legion line of laptops has become quite popular amongst gamers. If you need a machine that not only looks good, but also delivers consistently high performance, the Lenovo Legion is one of the best options available out there.

The Y740 is a big laptop, with a 17.3 inch display. However, this just means more real estate for gamers, something that they really want. The G-Sync IPS display offers stunning colors and crisp pictures, with very deep contrasts to match.

The Lenovo Legion Y740 has by far one of the best displays in the market. However, you should know that the screen is 1080p, which some might say is a stretch for a 17.3 inch display, but you won’t be able to spot a single pixel out.

The thin aluminum chassis also helps keep the weight low, allowing you to move around this 17.3 inch machine with ease.

Ideal for Work or Pleasure

The laptop is relatively narrow with thin bezels all around. Compared to other 17-inch laptops, this one looks a bit smaller. It’s ideal for work or for pleasure, especially when you consider the full RGB keyboard that’s added in.

The laptop weighs 2.8 kg, which is a bit heavier than most other machines, but when you consider just what’s housed inside, you will be more than satisfied.

A Gaming Beast

The Legion Y740 comes with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card, allowing you to run some of the biggest games in the market right now at full settings.

With the Turing GPU architecture to match, Nvidia has been able to get one of their biggest GPUs into one of the world’s lightest and slimmest gaming laptops (it’s just 23 mm).

ColdFront

The company has also added its own cooling tech into the laptop, known as ColdFront. It’s a dual channel thermal system that offers individual cooling for both the CPU and GPU, allowing you to game on for long periods of time without having to worry about any fan noise or heat from under your laptop.

There’s a mini DisplayPort on the rear, along with a HDMI and Ethernet controller. There’s a port for the AC adapter, and two USB Gen 3.1 ports as well.

There’s plenty of connections, though the lack of Thunderbolt 3 or the USB-C might irk a few people. But, for gaming aficionados, the Lenovo Legion stands tall.

6. The Microsoft Surface Pro X

Microsoft Surface Pro X

Microsoft entered the hardware industry quite late, but has already established itself as one of the premium producers of laptops and other office equipment.

The Microsoft Surface Pro X is one of several Surface devices on the market, combining unique design aesthetics and functionality.

The Surface Pro X is an expensive laptop, starting above the $1,000 mark, and when you consider the components underneath, you will realize there are better options in the market.

But, the Surface Pro X is not just a laptop; it’s also a tablet. The laptop comes with a detachable keyword, and you can even start with just the tablet, and then buy a pen and the detachable keyboard later on. Let’s get into the review.

Portable Excellence

The slim and sleek Surface Pro X comes with a 13” touchscreen display featuring virtually no bezels on either side. The edge to edge display offers beautiful colors and very deep blacks.

The contrast is considerably high, and you are really going to enjoy working on this display. Whether you want to watch videos or get through some spreadsheets, the 13” touchscreen is just what you need.

You can also complement the machine with other Surface accessories, such as the Katana or the Melbourne. With the pen, the laptop can easily turn into your daily notebook or performance machine. Underneath the machine is the Adreno 685 graphics coprocessor and CPU, which offers 13 hours of battery life.

Qualcomm CPUs and GPUs are ideal for mobile performance, and this one really shines, offering extensive battery performance without compromising on speeds. Of course, it’s not Intel, but when you are buying a large-sized tablet, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Windows Experience

The machine runs the Windows 10 Home interface, and when you add the keyboard along, it completely turns into your daily driver. People who need a laptop everywhere they go will be quite happy with this one.

The laptop is incredibly lightweight and will last you a long while without any issues. There’s a 256 GB SSD installed underneath as well. Many ports have been removed, though the laptop does come with the USB-C port.

The build quality on this laptop is absolutely fantastic, and you will get the premium experience (which is what you’d expect considering the price anyway). It’s an excellent performance machine that will last you a long while without any hassle, making it an excellent investment.

Features to Look for in a Modular or Upgradeable Laptop

Desktop computers are modular, making it easy for you to swap out parts as they age and upgrade your computer. At the very least, a high-end desktop computer will last you three years without a problem.

However, laptops are a whole different ball game; they completely forego modularity in favor of portable features. However, that’s not always the case. There are quite a few companies that have introduced laptops that are modular and can be upgraded to a certain extent.

For instance, you will only be able to upgrade the hard drive and the RAM on most laptops. In some cases, even that is not possible, as the RAM is usually soldered on the board.

The reason why most people look for modular laptops is because they choose the lower specced version, and continue to upgrade it whenever they can.

Instead of going for one that has the highest specifications and spending a great deal of time, why not choose one with lower RAM or hard drive storage, and then upgrade for a fraction of the cost later on?

When buying a modular laptop, the aim isn’t to buy something that is top of the line from the get-go. Instead, you start with something that is affordable, usually a laptop that is under or around the $1,000 mark, and then continue to upgrade it with the passage of time.

Apart from the RAM, devices that come with the M.2 slot allow you to upgrade the SSD as well. You can even add another SSD to your laptop if you like.

When looking for laptops that have the maximum modular flexibility, you need to understand that laptops that are razor-thin are really not a wise choice. On the other hand, the rugged models are also not a wise move.

They are all designed to be built units, and don’t provide much in the way of upgrades. Similarly, touch screen laptops are also difficult to upgrade in most cases.

You might be able to upgrade the SSD on your touch screen laptop, but there’s a pretty high chance that the RAM will be soldered on the laptop.

Can You Upgrade a Gaming Laptop?

Gaming laptops perhaps offer the greatest flexibility when it comes to upgrading. You can easily upgrade most of the gaming laptops that are available on the market. The RAM and storage can be upgraded according to your liking, but you should know that the GPU and CPU cannot be changed.

However, many gaming laptops now have the Thunderbolt 3 port, which allows you to connect an external GPU to the laptop as well. If that’s what you want, just make sure you choose one with the Thunderbolt 3 input.

Can You Upgrade the GPU or the Processor on a Laptop?

To put it simply, the answer to this question is no. There is no way to upgrade the GPU or the processor on a laptop, mainly because they are designed in such a way. To provide flexibility and portability, laptop manufacturers usually have to concede on several fronts.

The form factor of a laptop motherboard is completely different to that of a desktop’s, and in some situations, the components are soldered on to the motherboard directly.

You simply can’t remove them, much less think about replacing them. Only the optical drive, the RAM, the hard disc, and the cooling paste on your CPU can be upgraded.

What Are the Potential Problems You Might Face When Upgrading Your Laptop?

There are actually quite a few potential problems that you are likely to face when upgrading your laptop. For instance, if a particular component is not compatible, your laptop will stop working.

Keep in mind that the descriptions posted on reseller websites such as Newegg or Amazon are usually copied and pasted, and there is a strong chance that they are not entirely accurate.

For starters, the first thing that you need to do is determine the maximum amount of RAM that the motherboard is capable of supporting.

Then, you need to check the number of sticks that are added to the device out of the box before you think about upgrading. For instance, most laptops have two slots for the RAM.

There might be two sticks of 4 GB RAM installed in your laptop from the start, so you will have to remove those and add new ones altogether, rendering your current 8 GB moot. What this means is that you will be spending double the amount on upgrading the RAM.

Another thing you need to know is that laptop upgrades don’t just have to be internal; external components such as a card reader or a USB hub could really improve connectivity and allow you to add more devices to your computer.

Are There Any Laptops Designed with Modularity in Mind?

Most of the laptops that you are going to find in the market are designed for portability in mind, and you won’t be able to upgrade much. However, there are a few variants that you can upgrade and the manufacturers make sure that they give you such options.

For instance, Eurocom is a company that builds its laptops with future upgrades in mind, utilizing desktop socketed processors instead of ones designed for laptops, thus allowing you to swap them out.

This gives you unparalleled flexibility, allowing you to remove virtually every part of the laptop (except the GPU), and upgrade it. However, you will have to settle for a big compromise on the aesthetic side of things.

These laptops are bulky, and you won’t see such flashy designs as you would on major laptop manufacturers such as Apple, HP, Dell, or even MSI. Another problem is that you are not going to find such laptops on local reseller websites such as Newegg or Amazon.

You will find a few, but those are likely to be the older models. Now, if you are interested in upgrading your existing laptop, the first thing that you need to do is check for its manual.

Go through the manual or visit the manufacturer’s website to find specific instructions on how to remove particular components of the laptop and add new upgrades.

Not only that, but there are also plenty of guides and videos available on YouTube, with reviewers and content creators showing you how to remove specific panels of your laptop and swap out the RAM or the SSD.

In some devices, the process requires you to just remove a single screw. In others, you might have to get rid of the entire bottom panel before you will be able to access the components underneath.

If you are new to this thing and have an expensive laptop, it might not be such a wise idea to tamper with it on your own. There is a strong risk that you will end up causing damage to one of the components, and you may damage the motherboard too.

The reason why most people prefer modular laptops is because they allow them to save money, and also make it easy for them to upgrade the RAM and SSD depending on their needs. These are just a few things that you should know about upgrading a modular laptop.

Conclusion

We hope our detailed guide on the best upgradeable modular laptops 2021 will help you choose a suitable laptop that will allow you to upgrade the components in order to meet your gaming or performance requirements!

If you have any questions about modular laptops or which components can be upgraded in your laptop, feel free to post them in the comments section below and we’ll answer them as soon as possible.

About David

Hey there, I'm David. I recently joined the SH team and love writing about all things TECH! When I'm not writing, you can find me enjoying the great outdoors with my golden retriever Lucy or enjoying a pint at my local Irish pub.

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