Best laptop 2018: our pick of the top notebooks available today

Whether you prefer Windows or Mac, here's our favourite laptops for you to choose from

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Buying a laptop isn't anywhere near as expensive as it used to be, but if anything it's a lot more confusing. But let's confuse you no longer - the best laptop of the moment is the HP Spectre 13.

So thin, so light. The epic HP Spectre 13 is just an awesome experience that boasts both muscle and feather-like lightness. Its powerful specs are mightily impressive, too (there's a rapid Core i7 under the hood) and 256GB SSD, too. As we've said below, it really does feel like a laptop from the future. We love it and so will you.

Want something a little less thin or bigger? Check out the also excellent Dell XPS 13.

Or, if you have serious money to spend, then you should check out the Microsoft Surface Book 2.

Of course these are all Windows 10 laptops, but we've got macOS models below too, as well as plenty more of the best laptops around.

How to choose the best laptop for you

In the dim and distant past you could probably get a laptop for a minimum of £500 and spend up to £2000 or even more on a top-end one. Some can certainly come in on the high end of that range, even now.

But what has happened recently is that Chromebooks have appeared, offering dirt-cheap portable computing with sufficient features for a lot of users like students and people who just need to type while out and about. And, not only that, but what you can do with a £500 laptop has now changed drastically.

The appearance of £200 – and sometimes lower – Chromebooks though, has forced other laptops down in price too. So now you can get laptops for some absurd prices, especially if you pick up a sale bargain.

At the other end of the scale are new thin and light laptops that aren't so interested in offering value. But they often sport all-metal construction, wafer-thin designs and internal guts that can chew through demanding tasks. So what's best?

Well as well as the HP Spectre 13 and also excellent Dell XPS 13, there's a bunch of other great laptops below. We're not going to look at Chromebooks or 2-in-1 convertibles – those have their own buying guides – but let's have a look at everything else out there on the market.

The 10 best laptops you can buy today

Best laptop

1. HP Spectre 13

A Windows laptop with the sleekness of a MacBook

Specifications
CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 3.1GHz with Turbo Boost
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
RAM: 8GB LPDDR3 SDRAM (1,866MHz)
Screen: 13.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 FHD IPS UWVA BrightView Corning Gorilla Glass WLED-backlit display
Storage: 256GB SSD (PCIe; NVMe; M.2)
Reasons to buy
+Sleek and lightweight+Tactile keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Standard 1080p display-Mushy trackpad

HP's most luxurious laptop borrows the Lenovo Yoga 900S's style and the MacBook's bag-friendly dimensions. The Spectre 13 is so thin that tapping away on its tactile keyboard almost feels like your fingers are tap-dancing on the table. Its biggest advantage over the MacBook is its Intel Core-series processor inside, which lends it the winning combination of dazzling looks and computing muscle. Packing three USB-C ports for hooking up peripherals (note that you'll need a converter to use your old USB-A ones), the Spectre 13 doesn't just look like a laptop from the future - it has one eye trained on it too.

Read the full review: HP Spectre 13

2. Dell XPS 13

Simply one of the best Windows laptops in the world

Specifications
CPU: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.0GHz)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM: 16GB DDR3 (2,133MHz)
Screen: 13.3-inch, Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) UltraSharp InfinityEdge touch display
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+It's beautiful+It's really quick+It's got a 4K screen
Reasons to avoid
-White version costs more

The mighty Dell XPS 13 is a frequent member of our best laptop buying guides and here, in 2018, it is business as usual. The machine is simply a thinner and more powerful version of last year's entry and, screen aficionados rejoice, comes rocking a luxe 4K screen, too. The almost bezel-less new design is also absolutely lovely, which squeezes a 13.3-inch screen into an 11-inch frame, and the wide selection of ports on the money. It's expensive, and the stunning Alpine White model is even more so, but it is simply one of the best laptops in the world and an easy recommend for the vast majority of users. 

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13

Microsoft Surface Book 2

3. Microsoft Surface Book 2

The ultimate Windows 10 hybrid laptop

Specifications
CPU: 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-8650U (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.2GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620; Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB GDDR5 VRAM)
RAM: 16GB LPDDR3 (1866Mhz)
Screen: 15-inch, 3,240 x 2,160 (260 ppi) PixelSense display (3:2 aspect ratio; 1600:1 contrast ratio)
Storage: 512 GB PCIe 3.0 SSD
Reasons to buy
+Massively powerful for a 2-in-1+Battery life is excellent+Screen is superb
Reasons to avoid
-Surface Pen is not included-Drab grey finish

Microsoft's Surface Book 2 is a 2-in-1 laptop, with a screen that can be detached and used as a tablet, but don't let that fool you - this is a beast of a laptop. Not only is its power unmatched in the 2-in-1 sector, but with a powerful Intel Core i7-8650U processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, and stunning 15-inch 3,240 x 2,160 display, it is more than a match for any laptop in this buying guide. It's expensive though, very expensive, and you can get a similar spec for less elsewhere if you sacrifice the ability to detach the screen.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 2

Best laptop

4. Dell XPS 15

A portable 15-inch powerhouse

Specifications
CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 6700HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M (with 2GB GDDR5)
RAM: 16GB Dual Channel DDR4 (2,133MHz; 8GB x 2)
Screen: 15.6-inch, 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) InfinityEdge touch
Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Dazzling 4K display+Portable for a 15-incher
Reasons to avoid
-Average battery life-A bit heavy

Like its smaller sibling, the XPS 13, Dell's XPS 15 sports an almost bezel-less InfinityEdge display. It brings the dual benefit of making whatever you're doing on its gorgeous 15-inch '4K' screen come to life while also lending it the dimensions of a 14-inch laptop. It's bag-friendly to boot and comes packing the goods, including an Nvidia GTX 960M mobile graphics card that's beefy enough to handle just about any game so long as you stick to 1080p. The XPS 15's battery life is its main weakness, so don't expect its runtimes to stretch into the double figures without taking a booster pack along for the ride.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 15

Best laptop

5. Apple 12-inch MacBook

The most fashionable laptop around

Specifications
CPU: 1.1GHz or 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5300
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 12-inch 2,304 x 1,440 pixel-resolution Retina display
Storage: 256GB or 512GB PCIe-based flash storage
Connectivity: USB-C (USB 3.1)
Camera: 480p FaceTime camera
Weight: 0.92 kg
Dimensions: 28.05cm x 19.65cm x 1.31cm (W x D x H)
Reasons to buy
+Thin and light+Retina display
Reasons to avoid
-One USB-C port-Shallow keyboard

Apple's 12-inch MacBook isn't just the most portable MacBook of them all, you won't find a more compact laptop with a high-resolution display full stop. Every inch of Apple's impossibly-thin machine is gorgeous, but it comes at the expense of usability. With just one USB Type-C port, the MacBook requires an adapter if you want to use multiple USB devices - or a combination of peripherals and a display - at the same time. If you don't mind carrying one around in a case, the MacBook's surprisingly punchy speakers, good battery life and catwalk looks make it a unique (and fun to use) laptop.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook

Best laptop

6. Lenovo Yoga 900S

Lightweight and beautiful, with a twist

Specifications
CPU: 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54 (dual core, 4MB cache, up to 2.7GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515
RAM: 4GB LPDDR3 (1600 MHz)
Screen: 12.5-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 FHD IPS LED glossy multi-touch display
Storage: 128GB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Elegant design+Twists and bends
Reasons to avoid
-Shallow keyboard-Small trackpad

Convertible laptops undoubtedly make better tablets when they're lightweight. The Yoga 900S is one such machine, weighing in at a svelte 2.2 pounds. What you get then, is a 12.5-inch laptop with a bright and colourful screen that can rotate into several different positions, making it easier to interact with touchscreen apps, do a bit of lightweight gaming or even a spot of reading laid back on the couch. In terms of design, the Yoga 900S borrows the Yoga 3 Pro's stylish watchband hinge design without charging the jewellery shop price tag. It's thinner too, while bringing the same pixel-packed 2,560 x 1,440 pixel-resolution display along for the ride.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 900S

Best laptop

7. Gigabyte Aorus X3 Plus v5

A small gaming laptop that packs a huge punch

Specifications
CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M (6GB)
RAM: 16GB 2,133 MHz DD4
Screen: 13.9-inch (3,200 x 1,800)
Storage: 512GB Samsung SM951 M.2 SSD
Reasons to buy
+Huge power+Slim design
Reasons to avoid
-Quite noisy-Short on battery life

If you've got the money, you'll be hard pressed to find a laptop that's both as portable and powerful as the Aorus X3 Plus v5. Packing Intel's top-end Skylake processor, paired with a mighty 6GB version of Nvidia's GTX 970M, here is a gaming machine that can play any game at 1080p with the settings cranked up. Featuring an innovative cooling system that blows air out of the back, plenty of ports and a great keyboard, this Stealth Bomber-like machine can slip into your backpack with room to spare. Loading times are barely there thanks to its nippy M.2 SSD, and a decent range of connectivity ports that includes HDMI and DisplayPort Inputs means you can hook it up to an external display when not on the move.

8. HP Spectre x360

Another Spectre that's oddly brilliant

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5 2.2 GHz
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 13.3 inches 1920x1080
Storage: 128GB SSD
Connectivity: 3x USB3
Camera: HD
Weight: 1.48kg
Dimensions: 12.79 x 8.6 x 0.63 inches
Reasons to buy
+Superbly thin+Vibrant, bright display
Reasons to avoid
-Too heavy to use as a tablet-Weird, wide trackpad

There's something oddly brilliant about HP's Spectre range. Clearly intended to compete with Apple in terms of build quality, but priced just a tiny bit lower to gain some traction with potential buyers. The X360 is another convertible that allows you to fold the screen backwards to create a tablet-style device. This is ideal for Windows 10, although you'll probably not use it much as a tablet because it's still a laptop-weight device.

Read the full review: HP Spectre x360

Best laptop

9. MacBook Pro 13-inch with retina display

A class act

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5 2.7GHz
Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 13.3- inches 2,560 x 1,600
Storage: 128GB
Connectivity: 2x Thunderbolt 2x USB3
Camera: FacetimeHD
Weight: 1.58kg
Dimensions: 12.35 x 8.62 x 0.71-inches
Reasons to buy
+Retina Display+Superb battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Force Touch underdeveloped-Base storage feels small

If we consider that the Air is essentially an Ultrabook then we can safely ignore it in this roundup and head directly to the Pro. It's a larger, heavier machine but it's also the powerhouse of the range. Starting at £999 it's not bad value when you consider it has 8GB of RAM and an i5 2.7GHz and 128GB SSD.

You'll get 10 hours out of the battery, in the ideal conditions, and the real keyboard makes for a pretty delightful user experience. Oh, and the trackpad - there's simply nothing like it on any PC we've ever used, it's a class act.

If you need Windows 10, that's no problem either, just install with Apple's Boot Camp.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro 13-inch with retina display

10. Asus Zenbook UX310UA

A great all round system for a very affordable price

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i3-i5
Graphics: Intel HD graphics 620
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 13.3-inch, 3,200 x 1,800
Storage: 256GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Aluminium body is lovely+Top value for money
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life is just so-so

If you like the look of the Dell XPS 13 but don't quite have the budget to stretch to it then the Asus Zenbook UX310UA is definitely worth a look. That's because you get a thin and light system with all-aluminium body, fast Intel CPU and, if you so wish, a stunning 3,200 x 1,800 QHD+ screen. RAM is competitive too at 8GB, as well as storage, with a modest 256GB SSD packed inside. Yes, battery life isn't stunning, but for less than £700 this system is simply fabulous value for money.