Buying a laptop has become something of a maze. Products with almost identical names are put out at different prices and with wildly different performance, and fighting your way through the nomenclature to the raw specifications is tough.
And then you have to work out what the specifications mean. What’s the difference between an i5 and and i7? Between HD 5500 and Iris 6100? Well, worry no more.
For us, these are 10 of the best laptops on the market at the moment. We’ve deliberately chosen a selection of different types — from Chromebooks to ultrabooks, hybrids to desktop replacements. Now it’s your turn to choose how to spend your money.
- Also check out: T3 Opinion - The Laptop is dead, they said. They were wrong.
1. 13-inch MacBook Air (2015)
Sterling battery life and fast storage
CPU: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch LED-backlit glossy display (1440 x 900) | Storage: 256GB SSD
The Asus ZenBook UX305 may have stolen the MacBook Air’s thunder, but this is still a delightfully slim machine with good performance from a powerful CPU – if you must buy Mac, then this isn’t a bad choice.
The display isn’t brilliant and the design is a bit dated, but its touted 13 hours of battery life and fast storage are killer features for some. While we love the Air, it’s in severe need of a redesign.
Read the full review: MacBook Air 13-inch
2. Dell XPS 13
Probably the best sub-£1,000 laptop ever made
CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch 3,200 x 1,800 UltraSharp QHD+ touch display | Storage: 256GB SSD
There are plenty of thin and light laptops around, but few as well designed as Dell’s XPS range. The XPS 13 has a nearly borderless touch display that runs at QHD resolution and somehow crams 13.3-inches into an 11-inch laptop frame.
Despite the grunt required to drive that screen, it runs smoothly and stably, for as long as you need it to – and this notebook doesn’t break the bank either. We think it’s the best Windows laptop, the best Ultrabook and probably the best overall laptop for the money.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
3. Asus ZenBook UX305
A superb value for money slim-line Ultrabook
CPU: 800MHz Intel Core M 5Y10 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5300 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 (matte) | Storage: 256GB SSD
The ZenBook comes in way under our budget, but has the specifications of a machine much nearer to £1,000. It’s obviously modelled after the MacBook Air, but is thinner, lighter and arguably more attractive, despite its purplish aluminium shell.
The sharp 1080p HD display, generous storage space and truly-silent design make it a real contender – and the price makes it the obvious choice if you want a slim-line Ultrabook.
4. New MacBook 2015
A beautifully designed and razor-thin laptop
CPU: 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5300 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 12-inch 2,304 x 1,440 LED-backlit IPS display | Storage: 256GB SSD
What differentiates Apple’s laptops from each other? Well, the once cutting-edge Air is now the low-end model, with the MacBook at the mid-range and the Pro is the high-end offering.
The new 2015 MacBook is a delightful piece of kit, as one of the world’s thinnest and lightest laptops, which also manages to hold a Retina Display inside that razor-thin aluminium body.
Compromises have been made though – the keyboard takes some getting used to and the ports are hard to access – but they’re minor compared to the design positives.
It’s worth noting that while Apple sells this at full price (which sneaks it over the £1,000 mark) it’s normally over £100 cheaper on Amazon.
5. Dell Inspiron 13 7000
A smart and nicely priced well-built hybrid
CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 IPS touchscreen | Storage: 256GB SSD
For an all-round more traditional laptop, you can always trust Dell, even when you’re looking at a laptop-tablet hybrid. Away from the sometimes scarily thin Ultrabook market, this Inspiron 13 has a metal chassis coated in soft-touch rubber for a non-bank-breaking price.
And it also turns into a perfectly serviceable 1080p tablet when you flip the screen back, without any worries about anything breaking – it feels very solid. This machine’s only flaws are its weight – 1.67kg – and its rather poor battery life.
6. HP Spectre x360
A nifty 2-in-1 offering great performance and battery life
CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 Radiance LED-backlit touchscreen | Storage: 256GB SSD
The Spectre is a pleasant 2-in-1 laptop with an excellent 1080p screen, solid performance, good battery life and sturdy build quality. Oh, and it also turns into a tablet, should that feature be on your wish-list.
Its specifications are almost identical to those of the Dell above, though it’s 200g lighter and has much better battery life – and that’s the difference in cost in a nutshell. This HP offering also has its own flaws, though – that weirdly wide trackpad – but that’s pretty much it. If that’s about all we can find to complain about, then it must be pretty good...
7. MacBook Pro with Retina 13-inch
A speedy machine with a superb screen
CPU: 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch IPS 2,560 x 1,600 pixels | Storage: 128GB SSD
The MacBook’s big brother is no slouch, and is reliable, powerful and practical. The screen is superb – not quite Retina-level, but still impressive at 2,560 x 1600 – and the 12 hour plus battery life is exactly what you buy Apple products for.
It’s not exactly heavy either, at just 1.58kg, and this machine has even got one of those Force Touch trackpads, though not much reason to use it as yet. The lowest price model just sneaks in at £999 – but you may want to break the bank on this one.
8. Microsoft Surface Pro 3
An excellent hybrid offering plenty of power
CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 12.3-inch 2,736 x 1,824 pixels | Storage: 256GB SSD
Microsoft’s poster child for the hybrid laptop, this device is cheaper than an iPad Air and MacBook Air combined, though more expensive than many other mid-range laptop-tablet combos.
That said, it’s also more powerful than most other mid-range laptop-tablets, not to mention being delightfully light at just 800g, and the best device that Microsoft has ever made.
It honestly does work well as both a laptop and tablet, except for the four hour battery life which is no good for either. Finally, we still think it’s mad that they sell the Type Cover separately.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 3
9. Google Chromebook Pixel 2015
A flagship machine which has battery life in spades
CPU: Intel Core i7-5500U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 12.85-inch 2,560 x 1,700 pixels | Storage: 64GB SSD
A flagship machine which has battery life in spades
The Chromebook market covers a huge territory, from £150 work machines like the Acer C720 to hybrids and beyond. This Google own-brand Chromebook is a flagship machine, and the specs reflect that. It’s got USB Type-C ports, a good high-res IPS touchscreen and a big lump of RAM.
Though the storage is limited, Chromebooks are designed to store almost everything in the cloud, so it’s not a huge problem.
10. Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro
A smartly designed convertible with a gorgeous screen
CPU: 1.6GHz Core i5 4200U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 3,200 x 1,800 IPS multi-touch display | Storage: 128GB SSD
This older convertible Ultrabook features a delicious screen – you can have two applications running full-size, side-by-side on this thing. And it even runs games well, though you’ll want to step the resolution down if it has to do anything 3D.
The form-factor is nicely flexible and well-designed, appealing to nerds and norms alike. And it gets everything else right too – the performance, the backlit keyboard, the SSD…
The only problem is that this machine is getting a little long-in-the-tooth now and the updated model – the Yoga 3 Pro – is actually a step backwards in terms of performance.