Home / Product Round-ups / Laptops / Best Laptop 2016: 12 of the best laptops right now

Best Laptop 2016: 12 of the best laptops right now

by

Variety may be the spice of life, but it sure does make choosing a laptop tricky. Here’s what you need to consider to ensure you buy the best laptop for you.

Choosing a laptop is a bewildering process. Even once you’ve decided whether you want a convertible, a hybrid, a general-purpose laptop or an ultraportable, each manufacturer offers several product lines, with each model available in a number of specifications.

You could just decide upon a budget and grab whatever a big manufacturer such as Dell or HP is selling for that price, but what if the machine doesn’t do what you want? What if the keyboard or screen isn’t right, or it doesn’t have all the ports you need? You can’t just swap out your keyboard or plug in an expansion card as you can on a desktop PC.

For this reason you need to think carefully about what you need your laptop for before you hand over your cash. In this buying guide, we’ll cut through some of the confusion by taking you through the different kinds of laptop available, providing an overview of the different specifications you’ll come across.

Video: Laptops vs tablets, what's the difference?

What size should you buy?

There's no best laptop overall; it really depends on your own requirements and budgets, and size will play a big part in that.

Laptops tend to be divided into categories based on the diagonal size of their screens, in inches. This is because a laptop’s screen size also determines the overall size of its chassis. A laptop with a huge 17-inch screen will be fantastic for work and gaming, and is likely to feature a decent-sized keyboard to make typing easier, but will be far bigger and heavier than a 13-inch model. Asus ROG GL552VW

Gaming notebooks are technically laptops, but they aren't particularly portable

You need to think carefully about whether you’ll be travelling with your laptop or using it only at home; there isn’t much point buying an ultra-light 13-inch model (£700 approx) if you’re going to use it on a desk at home most of the time. Likewise, a 17-inch powerhouse (around £650) makes a good replacement for a desktop PC, but is unlikely to fit in a rucksack.

A 15-inch model (around £300 to £500) offers a decent compromise between ease of use and portability: as long as it weighs around 2kg or less, you probably won’t mind taking it on the train. If you want something super-lightweight, opt for a laptop with a 11-inch to 13-inch display.

Screen resolution – what is it and why is it important?

The size of the screen isn’t everything; resolution should also be taken into account. The minimum resolution you’ll generally find is 1,366 x 768 pixels. This is fine for the majority of tasks. It’s even possible to work on two applications side by side with this many pixels, especially since so many modern web pages reformat themselves to suit the available screen space. DEll XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 has a high-resolution 13.3-inch screen, which means you'll have to scale it up to see it clearly

On laptops with smaller screens, a larger resolution doesn’t always mean more space. When a laptop has a greater number of pixels in a small area, the operating system has to scale everything up, or else text and icons would be too small to see properly.

There isn’t a huge amount more space for applications on a 15-inch laptop with a 1,920 x 1,080 screen than on a 15-inch model with a 1,366 x 768 screen. However, the higher resolution does mean that text and icons will be far smoother, and therefore easier to see.

To get an idea of exactly what it is you’re looking for in a screen, it pays to go into a store and try a few out. Your eyesight and working preferences will decide what sort of screen you go for.

Hybrids and Two-in-Ones

Most laptops still offer a traditional clam-type design, with a screen that folds down onto the keyboard and touchpad. There are a few that buck the trend, however. Some laptops keep the traditional shape but add a touchscreen, which can be fun for creative tasks such as drawing or making music. Others have a touchscreen that can fold back behind the keyboard, turning the laptop into a tablet. Models such as Microsoft’s Surface range and the various Asus Transformers have a screen that detaches entirely, to make a proper tablet free from the weight and bulk of a keyboard.

Surface Book

The Microsoft Surface Book is the most expensive 2-in-1 you can buy

These specialist tablets are fine if you want to use the specific applications that take advantage of a touchscreen, such as design or music programs, but they’re far more expensive than standard laptops. If you're not 100% sure you what or need this flexibility, you're probably better off sticking with a normal laptop.

Keyboard

Due to the constraints placed on them by the laptop’s physical size, laptop keyboards tend to be more varied than desktop models. For a start, there’s room for a numeric keypad on only larger laptops, and then only on certain models.

Also, many laptops have small arrow keys, or backslash keys that are on the right rather than the left of the keypad. Only some laptops have Home, End and Page Up and Page Down keys, too; if there isn’t a physical key for such functions, you’ll need to use a Function (Fn) key combination instead. If you rely on these keys to navigate around a text document look for a laptop where all these functions are replicated by separate physical keys. New MacBook 29

The 12-inch MacBook has 'Butterfly' keys, but their shallow travel won't suit everybody

Laptop keyboards can vary wildly in quality, too. Some are unpleasant to type on thanks to horrid flex in the middle of the keyboard tray when you type. If you’re unable to try out the keyboard for yourself in a shop, we’d recommend that you at least read some reviews to see if there are any major problems. After all, you’ll have to live with a sub-standard keyboard as long as you have the laptop.

Touchpad

The same is true of a laptop’s touchpad. This is one of the foremost ways in which you interact with your laptop, so it needs to work well. Unfortunately, many laptop touchpads are awful. There’s a trend for making the buttons part of the main touchpad, which, when implemented poorly, can mean your cursor jumps all over the place when you perform a click. Surface Pro 4

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has an excellent Precision Touchpad

Plenty of touchpads don’t respond accurately to finger movement, or have squishy buttons that make it difficult to determine whether you’ve registered a click. Most modern touchpads support gestures, where you can use two fingers to scroll or to pinch-to-zoom – but, again, how easy these gestures are to use varies widely between laptops.

Nowadays, many laptops come with Microsoft-approved Precision Touchpads, putting an end to years of mediocre Windows laptop touchpads that were massively outclassed by those found on Apple’s MacBooks. If you do pick up a laptop with a poor touchpad, there’s always the option of carrying a USB travel mouse in your bag, which brings us to…

USB Ports

A laptop has limited room around its base, so has far fewer ports than a desktop PC. For this reason, think carefully about what you need to plug in. For a start, some laptops have as few as two USB ports. If you have a printer and a mouse plugged in and want to grab some photos off your camera, you’ll need to unplug something – unless your laptop has a built-in SD card reader, as many do. Many current laptops have at least one USB 3 port for faster data transfers, too.

Larger laptops tend to have at least three USB ports, which will be fine for most people. Also bear in mind that many modern laptops don’t have built-in DVD drives, so if you want to read and burn discs then you’ll need to budget around £20 for a USB model – and make sure you have enough spare ports. Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW ports

The Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW has a decent selection of ports

USB 3.1 ports are starting to appear on the latest high-end laptops. These ports are usually of the smaller Type-C variety, but they open up a world of possibilities when it comes to transfer speeds and peripherals. A single USB 3.1 port can host a load of high-power and high-performance peripherals such as displays and external hard disks via an external dock, which can be expensive but extremely practical.

Networking

Although all laptops have built-in wireless networking (if you have a fancy 802.11ac router, check your laptop’s wireless chip supports AC, so you get the best transfer speeds), not all have an Ethernet plug. We find this is an issue mainly when travelling, since some hotels offer poor wireless connections but fast Ethernet networking in each room. USB-to-Ethernet adapters are available for as little as £10, but bear in mind that this will use up one of your precious USB ports.

Video outputs

HDMI is the most common video output on laptops, which will serve to connect to most TVs and monitors (if not 4K models – very few laptops have the necessary HDMI 2.0 connector). Only some business models now have VGA outputs, which you may need to connect to an office projector in the boardroom. HDMI-to-VGA connectors cost less than £10, so this isn’t a big deal.

Performance

Hopefully by now you have an idea of what the outside of your laptop should look like, so now it’s time to worry about the innards. First up is RAM. Unless you’re buying a seriously cheap laptop, opt for at least 4GB, so you don’t have to worry about how many browser tabs you have open at once. If you’re going to be editing video, you’ll ideally need at least 8GB, although this amount of RAM is now common even in inexpensive laptops. MSI Dragon

You don't need a beefy gaming laptop to get things done, but it helps

Processor choice is trickier. You should aim for at least an Intel Core i3 processor, which will comfortably cope with web browsing and office work, and consider a Core i5 chip for more intensive tasks such as dealing with large images and editing and encoding video. Laptops with Core i7 chips are expensive but super-quick, so are worth considering if you want the best possible performance.

Be aware that not all Core chips are created equal – special low-voltage versions can muddy the waters. See our Core i3, i5 and i7 Explained article for more detail.

There are, of course, AMD-powered laptops on the market, but these are still much less common. Look for an AMD A8 or A10 processor to make sure you’re not getting an underpowered laptop.

Graphics

Most laptops rely on their processor’s integrated graphics chipset, usually called something like “Intel HD Graphics”. This can play simple 3D games at low resolution at low to medium detail settings, but if you’re serious about games then you’ll need a laptop with a dedicated Nvidia or AMD graphics chipset. It’s hard to determine how quick a graphics chipset will be from the model number, so we recommend searching for graphics benchmarks online to see how a chipset performs in the latest

titles.

Only very expensive laptops can play the latest games at very high detail levels, so if you have the space it may be worth buying a normal laptop and a gaming desktop PC (or a games console) instead.

Related: Best graphics cards 2016

Battery life

Along with size and weight, this should be a priority if you’re planning to travel with your laptop. It isn’t always possible to get a seat on a train or in a café near a power socket, after all. Small, light laptops generally offer superior battery life to larger models, chiefly due to being equipped with less powerful low-voltage processors and a smaller screen.

Again, read reviews to see how long a laptop’s battery will last; expect five to seven hours for a general-purpose 15-inch laptop, and eight to 10 hours or more from a small, highly portable one.

Storage

Finally, we come to storage. As is the case on a desktop PC, an SSD will make your laptop boot faster and feel far quicker and more responsive, so is worth looking out for if you can afford it. Unlike on a desktop PC, you can’t just buy a small SSD for your operating system and stick in a cheap hard disk for your personal files. Upgrade laptop to SSD 16

It's not hard to upgrade your laptop's hard disk to an SSD. Read our guide to find out more

The vast majority of laptops have room for only one disk, so you need to make sure it’s big enough. Some very cheap netbook-style laptops such as the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 14 have 32GB of storage, which is barely enough for Windows 10 and some downloaded updates. We’d recommend a minimum of a 120GB SSD, and that’s only if you store most of your files in the cloud.

If your laptop is destined for home use and storing gigabytes of photos and music, you should opt for a model with at least 500GB storage. Some have hybrid “SSHD” drives, which combine a slow mechanical hard disk with a small SSD cache. These drives store frequently used data, so can speed up boot times and make the programs you use most often load faster. They’re a good compromise if you can’t stretch to a large SSD.

Over the next few pages, we've listed the best laptops you can buy in a variety of form factors and prices. Read on to find out more.

danielfrisbee

January 27, 2015, 12:33 am

what is the model in the image on the first page of this article?

sonisoe

January 27, 2015, 1:49 pm

what about samsung ativ (pro?) 12-inch ? a killer ultrabook am waiting for...

Javed

January 27, 2015, 11:22 pm

I think it's the LG Tab-Book Z160

Paul

February 9, 2015, 5:07 pm

no macbook air lol

Falcomomo

February 9, 2015, 5:19 pm

"Best Laptop for Video Editing" -- was this category just an excuse to get an Apple laptop in the winners?

fast_call

February 10, 2015, 9:58 am

They did say they did not recommend the Macbook Air because it's due to be replaced soon. And I agree it's probably worth waiting for the new one.

fast_call

February 10, 2015, 10:07 am

I think the newly updated Dell Precision M3800 is also worth a spot here, either in the best 15-inch laptop or the best laptop for video editing category (or both). It can be configured with a 4K screen, an mSATA SSD + 2.5" magnetic drive (so you have a fast ssd + lots of space), comes with Nvidia Quadro graphics and some benchmarks show it to be even faster than the Macbook Pro in video editing tasks. The downside of course is that it's quite expensive. Still well worth a look if you're in the market for such a machine.

fast_call

February 10, 2015, 10:09 am

The retina Macbook Pro is widely used by video editing professionals (perhaps more than any other laptop). And video editing is a clear laptop category (though maybe a bit niche, not mainstream). So no, I don't think it's "just an excuse"

andyvan

February 10, 2015, 2:26 pm

Fair point as we liked the previous version. Will make a note to add it on the next update. :)

Our current review for reference: http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

foxesse

February 13, 2015, 9:32 am

Thank you, fast_call, I shall investigate the Precision (but I bet it's a far from ideal LAP-top, it's probably a tank ;-) ). The omission of "Best Windows Laptop" from the Video Editing category makes me distrust TR - unless they can show me how to integrate a Mac into a Windows network so's to edit recordings made on Windows hard drives?

fast_call

February 13, 2015, 10:01 am

You're welcome :)

It's not the tank you might think it to be. Here's a recent overview:

http://www.pcworld.com/article...

and here's the official dell announcement:

http://www.dell.com/learn/us/e...

from the press release: "the world’s thinnest and lightest true 15-inch mobile workstation"... not sure about thinnest and lightest, but it's definitely not a tank. :)

Personally, I'm waiting for one with the yet-unreleased quad-core Intel Broadwell 5th gen Core i7, and I'll buy one

Joakim Larsen

March 13, 2015, 8:57 pm

I loved my MBP 15" 2013 Retina laptop for 10 months. I loved the performance, the software, the looks.

THEN... to my horror the screen started loosing its anti glare coating. And it continued. Today it has a big blank patch, around 20% of the screen size without coating right in the middle of the screen. It looks terrible and it is not covered by Apples one year warranty.

Many other users are having the same problem. Apple refuses to acknowledge the problem and calls it "cosmetic", explains that it is caused by finger grease and oils being transferred from the keyboard to the screen due to wrong handling and caused by wrong cleaning (even for people using Apples own microfiber cloth) and finally caused by carrying it in a bag - Apples top notch portable $3000 laptop.

Today members of the Apple Support Forums discussion thread and the Facebook group are gathering to prepare a lawsuit against Apple. Should you have the same problem, do not hesitate to join the discussions. You can contribute to the discussion thread on: https://discussions.apple.com/... and join the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/group...

Kullman_

April 1, 2015, 5:46 pm

You are wrong, the M3800 is 2 Kg.

Kullman_

April 1, 2015, 5:47 pm

There are a lot of better options for video editing than the MBP...

sonisoe

May 12, 2015, 11:52 am

any thought of the new hp spectra x360...is that out already ? stunning design, prime quality build, 360-degree foldable and touch screen, and great battery life too...forget apple laptops be it pro, macbook or air... this year is a battle between dell xps13 and spectra x360

AMCD

September 22, 2015, 10:25 pm

I would stay away from hp. Bought an expensive top of the range hp laptop some years back. The screen kept going black in middle of using it. Spoke with customer service re this during the warranty period and, unlike my experience with previous computer company Dell, hp did not help me with the issue. I was just told to try this and that. When I contacted them with same and unresolved problem after the warranty period, I was told they would no longer help me unless I paid for service. I subsequently found out that hp were having issues with graphics chip - hp never once mentioned possible issue. I will never buy hp again!

TCS

September 25, 2015, 9:07 pm

I'd stay away from any of the Dell XPS's - way overpriced, and lack polish. I purchased the 2014 version. Camera is the worst - high def, but too bright and very washed out. Not way to fix it other to run special software in background. A real pain. Also disk drive is really slow, and though it has a 32GB SSD cache, it's only configured to use 16GB. The hardrive and SSD combination is super slow, seriously slow. (do a search to the issues surrounding this)

And Dell support - IS THE WORST!. I was on the phone for 45 minutes - just to get a windows disk (that, for this price, should be included). Another time, I was one over 45 minutes - and then simply hung up. Both times, the support rep. said "they were dealing with issues with their system". (and when I say 45 minutes, I'm talking a true - and timed - 45+ minutes)

Dom Reidman

October 12, 2015, 7:11 am

If I am reading the comments correctly...stay away from Apple, stay away from Dell and stay away from HP. Basically give up on using computers.

Dom Reidman

October 12, 2015, 7:15 am

that is a frightening story although it appears Apple is now replacing some of these screens under warranty. I was just starting to do my research on buying new MBP '15" but this is definitely giving me pause.

Update: Joakim it appears you need to email tcook@apple.com and send pictures of your screen. Most are getting their screens replaced now.

Kseniak

December 28, 2015, 12:37 pm

I love my thin and lightweight ultrabook Dell xps 13. It has a great classical design that will love every person, good battery (15 hours of autonomous operation) and 13.3-inch WLED-backlit display. Now my sister wants to buy it. Recently, I saw also good reviews about this model at the amazon and http://www.topreviews.best/mai... I agree with their opinion that it's one of the best.

Dead Words

January 14, 2016, 12:44 pm

There's a mistake on page 6. The Surface Pro 4 runs a Core M3 not a Core i3.

WHO AM I

February 5, 2016, 6:17 pm

Why did you say for the MacBook Pro with Retina display 15-inch:

"Powerful 15-inch laptop that's great for video editing".
It only has a R9 M370X, which is similar to 950m. 950m is not video editing.
950m is just for mainstream and basic gaming on low resolutions.

Pradip J. Patil

February 17, 2016, 3:56 am

I found the laptop with the latest specification here, thank you

Pradip J. Patil

February 17, 2016, 3:57 am

I agree with you, I found the laptop with the latest specification here, thank you

Travis Matthews

February 28, 2016, 9:23 pm

Now grab an amazing discount on laptops only on BestTopRatedLaptops .com

comments powered by Disqus