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 and XPS 13 2 in 1.

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 and 15, 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

These are the best laptops to buy in 2018, in order of preference.

Best laptop

1. HP Spectre 13

A Windows laptop with the sleekness of a MacBook

CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 3.1GHz with Turbo Boost
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
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
Today's best HP Spectre 13 deals

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

Best laptop

2. Dell XPS 15

A portable 15-inch powerhouse

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
Today's best Dell XPS 15 deals

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

3. Dell XPS 13 and XPS 2 in 1

Some of our favourite Windows laptops

CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-7200U
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
Screen: 13.3-inch QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) or Full HD (1,920 x 1080)
Storage: 256GB drive
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous bezel-less display+Lightweight, compact frame+The 2 in 1 is the best Windows 2 in 1
Reasons to avoid
-Off-centre webcam
Today's best Dell XPS 13 deals

If you're looking for a Windows laptop, it's hard to go wrong with the Dell XPS 13. While it's expensive — particularly if you go for the QHD+ version — the XPS 13's Infinity Edge display makes it worth the money. It's surrounded by a bezel that's just millimetres thick, lending the 13.3-inch laptop a body that's closer to 11-inch laptops in size. It gives the XPS 13 excellent portability, and unlike the 12-inch MacBook Dell has done it without sacrificing ports or power. The XPS 13 packs Intel's latest processors under the hood, and features both Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.0 and Type-C ports. The XPS 2 in 1 is a superb new model that packs a convertible tablet into essentially the same frame. 

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13

But we also love these fantastic laptops, too!

Best laptop

4. Apple 12-inch MacBook

The most fashionable laptop around

CPU: 1.1GHz or 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5300
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
Today's best Apple MacBook 12 2016 deals

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

5. Lenovo Yoga 900S

Lightweight and beautiful, with a twist

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
Today's best Lenovo Yoga 900S deals

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

6. Gigabyte Aorus X3 Plus v5

A small gaming laptop that packs a huge punch

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
Today's best Gigabyte Aorus X3 Plus v5 deals

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.

7. HP Spectre x360

Another Spectre that's oddly brilliant

CPU: Intel Core i5 2.2 GHz
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500
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
Today's best spectre x360 2016 deals

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

8. MacBook Pro 13-inch with retina display

A class act

CPU: Intel Core i5 2.7GHz
Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100
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
Today's best MacBook Pro with Touch Bar 13-inch 2016 deals

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

Best laptop

9. Microsoft Surface Book

The ultimate Windows 10 hybrid laptop

CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U
Graphics: Intel HD graphics 520; Nvidia GeForce graphics
Screen: 13.5-inch, 3,000 x 2,000 PixelSense Display
Storage: 256GB PCIe3.0 SSD
Reasons to buy
+Futuristic design+Seamless tablet separation
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life falls well below promises-Major updates are still in tow
Today's best Surface Book deals

Microsoft's Surface Book is a 2-in-1 with a detachable display that can be used as a tablet, and it's an excellent laptop in its own right for several reasons. First, it's the only one out there with a high-resolution 3:2 aspect ratio display which is great for reading long web pages, typing up documents and doing anything that requires a bit more vertical space on the display. Second, its keyboard is simply superb offering a deep amount of travel that reduces fatigue during long typing sessions. Third, Intel's latest Skylake processors and Nvidia's GTX 940M GPU give the Surface Book enough grunt for light gaming and multimedia editing. If money isn't an issue for you, then Microsoft's laptop should be considered even if you're not planning on detaching its display. Which you will, of course — even if it's just for showing off.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book

10. Asus Zenbook UX310UA

A great all round system for a very affordable price

CPU: Intel Core i3-i5
Graphics: Intel HD graphics 620
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
Today's best Asus Zenbook UX310UA deals

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.