What’s the best laptop for most people?
best overall laptop
Still as stylish as the day it came out, Dell's swish XPS 13 laptop is now cheaper than it's ever been.
If you’re looking for the best laptop to suit your needs, whether you’re a creative, gamer or a Netflix addict, we’ve assembled a list of the greatest portables currently on offer.
Before we get started, we should mention even more powerful laptops than these are going to ship later in the year following Intel’s recent reveal of the 10th Generation Intel Core processors, which offer a slew of great features such as improved clock speeds, support for WiFi 6 and improved integrated graphics with the Ice Lake CPU flavour.
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is the first confirmed laptop to come with Intel’s next-gen chips, with more expected to hit stores before Christmas. There are also some very interesting laptops on the horizon, including the monstrous double-screened Asus ZenBook Pro Duo and the the creator-focused Acer ConceptD range.
Can’t wait until then? Not a problem, as the Intel 9th Gen mobile processors that can currently be found in laptops still provides outstanding performance, and the older 8th Gen Whiskey Lake series of laptop processors also offer great PC performance and battery power management in ultrabooks and notebooks.
Here to help you get the perfect laptop for your specific needs and budget we’ve created a definitive list detailing the best laptops we’ve currently tested. We’ve listed our pick of best laptops here, but find our full assessments of the best 12 below.
- Our overall winner: Dell XPS 13
- Best value laptop: HP Envy 13
- Best budget laptop: Acer Chromebook 514
- Best MacBook: MacBook Air 2018
- Best Chromebook: Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000 2-in-1
- Excellent high performer: Asus ZenBook 15
- Best ultrabook: LG Gram 14
- Best 2-in-1: LG Gram 2-in-1
- Best for style: Microsoft Surface Laptop 2
- Best Windows convertible: Microsoft Surface Pro 6
- Best value Windows convertible: Microsoft Surface Go
- Best MacBook for power users: Apple MacBook Pro
Best value laptop
For all that you get with the Envy 13, it's difficult to recommend anything else for those who want a solid laptop on a budget.
How we test laptops
We put every laptop listed below through a set of benchmark tests to gauge processor (CPU), graphics card (GPU) and SSD performance. We then test its screen using a colorimeter, an X-Rite i1 DisplayPro which measures the intensity of colours, and DisplayCal, which tells us how accurate those colours are.
Finally, we run a battery test by looping 10 minutes of web browsing and five minutes of video playback, until it runs out of juice. Afterwards the reviewer uses the device as their primary work and personal laptop for at least a week, before giving it a final score. You’ll find a link to each full review below each of the following summaries.
With all that out of the way, here’s our rankings of the laptops we’ve tested recently.
1. Dell XPS 13 (2019)
The best all-round Windows 10 laptop you can buy
- Quality design and display
- Improved performance and battery life
- Webcam moved back to top
- Huge range of configurations
- Still no full-sized SD card reader or USB ports
- SSD slow at saving data
- Screen not ideal for artists
The Dell XPS 13 is the best 13-inch laptop money can buy right now, especially after its 2019 refresh. Since last year’s model it features an improved Whiskey Lake processor and has moved the webcam back to its rightful place above the screen.
There are a lot of customisation options here too. Plump for the 4K resolution (which includes a touchscreen), and coupled with Dell’s Cinema optimisations and the laptop’s new quad speaker setup, you’ve got the perfect setup for Netflix binging.
Under the hood you’ll also get your pick of i5 and i7 Intel 8th gen CPUs and be able to load it with up to 16GB of RAM. The top-specced Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM version we tested blitzed through our synthetic tests and earned the XPS 13 a place as one of the fastest laptops currently available, in most situations.
The only slight issue is that you’re limited to Intel HD graphics. The lack of Iris, or dGPU options mean it won’t be able to enjoy even moderate gaming, or edit video in 4K. But considering the fact its cheaper than other laptops with these options, this omission is more than forgivable.
- Read our full Dell XPS 13 review
2. HP Envy 13
Excellent 13-inch laptop offering high performance for a (relatively) low price.
- High-quality touchscreen display
- Excellent colour space coverage
- Nicely priced
- Average battery life
- No Thunderbolt 3
The HP Envy 13 is a fantastic laptop ideally suited for anyone after a solid Windows 10 laptop that both looks great and performs well, but won’t cost the earth.
As well as boasting an excellent, near-perfect display offering decent levels of brightness, contrast and colour fidelity, the keyboard is one of the most comfortable we’ve seen on a 13-inch machine. Equally capable at tearing through essays, reports, and light photo work, it’s an ideal choice for office workers and students alike.
Privacy-conscious users will also appreciate the webcam killswitch – which beats sticking a piece of masking tape over the lens any day – and the fingerprint scanner, which means you don’t have to use a PIN or password to lock the HP Envy 13.
Drawbacks include the on average six hours of battery life, which is just about good enough to get you through a working day, but on laptops with similar processors we’ve tested, we’ve been able to get between eight-ten hours.
The USB-C port also doesn’t feature Thunderbolt 3 technology – this admittedly is not a dealbreaker, especially if you don’t intend to hook your laptop up to a monitor, but when you consider that the XPS 13 and MacBook Air 2018 includes this technology, its absence here is a slight negative.
- Read our full HP Envy 13 review
3. Acer Chromebook 514
Low price, durable build, ideal for word processing and general web use.
- Good value for money
- Slim and light
- Metal chassis
- Display quality is not great
- Performance can grind to a halt if overloaded
- Some apps like Spotify won’t work
If you’re simply after a laptop for basic PC work – in other words, writing documents, checking email, browsing the web – then we recommend picking up an Acer Chromebook 514.
At £370, the price is already reasonable, but when you consider that for your money, you’re getting a laptop with a durable metal chassis, instead of the usual flimsy plastic. Weighing just 1.5kg, it’s also very lightweight, so you can easily carry it around all day, and its thin 17mm profile means it won’t take up too much bag space.
The keyboard is typical of what you see on most Chromebooks, and offers a light, low-travel typing experience, but gentle underlighting means that you’ll be able to work more easily in dark rooms.
While you don’t get a lot of on-board storage here, tight integration of Google Docs means that most of your work will be saved in the cloud, and, there’s a microSD card reader, should you need to expand local storage. Not all the apps available for download from Google Play will work either, so don’t expect to play many games on this.
- Read our full Acer Chromebook 514 review
4. Apple MacBook Air (2018)
This is the upgrade MacBook Air fans have been waiting for
- A classic design, refreshed for 2018
- Lightweight, premium-feel body
- Retina Display screen
- Pro features for a lower price
- Two USB-C ports
The MacBook Air 2018 is a long-awaited refresh of Apple’s line of lightweight laptops, which, since 2015, had only seen tiny, iterative updates instead of big leaps forward.
The 2018 line-up brings a 2560 x 1600 Retina Display screen, which boasts fantastic levels of colour accuracy and decent levels of brightness and contrast. There’s Touch ID, which lets you unlock the MacBook Air with a tap of your finger, and the T2 security chip, which encrypts your files on the go. The stereo speakers also offer sound quality that’s among the best of any laptop we’ve seen recently. For everyday use, the battery gave us 9-10 hours of power, too.
Downsides include the fact that you get just two USB-C ports. They support the Thunderbolt 3 standard, so you’ll be able to charge and transfer files quickly and hook your Air up to all manner of monitors, drives, eGPUs and other accessories, but, when you’re working on the go, this will be very limiting.
Pricing for the range starts at £1199, which is a good for a premium laptop of this pedigree, but the higher up in the MacBook Air range you go, you’ll start to see prices equivalent to what you’d pay for a (much more powerful and versatile) MacBook Pro – so if you’ve got the cash to splash, you may want to consider picking one of these up instead.
- Read our full MacBook Air 2018 review
5. Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000 2-in-1
The best premium Chromebook you can currently buy. Great price, greater performance.
- Great build quality
- Good display
- Excellent battery
- Nice, eye-catching design
- Chrome OS app support is still limited
- Speakers are not optimally positioned
The Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000 2-in-1 currently gets our recommendation for the best Chromebook you can buy, if money’s no object.
Chromebooks can be largely divided into two camps – the cheap laptops just about good enough for essay writing, or Google’s own PixelBook and Pixel Slate laptops and tablets, which are very good, but expensive for what they are.
Enter the Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000 2-in-1, which comfortably sits between these two worlds, offering excellent performance, a tablet experience thanks to EMR stylus support and a foldable 2-in-1 design, a solid screen, and good battery performance.
The all-metal body gives the Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000 2-in-1 a degree of style and lustre you don’t always get with Chromebooks, and while at £650, it’s more expensive than most Chrome OS laptops, it’s also cheaper than the £1000 and £750 you’d have to pony up for a PixelBook or Pixel Slate.
While app support for Chrome OS is still lacking we were able to easily run Spotify and Photoshop Express on the Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000 2-in-1, apps which lesser-specced Chromebooks struggle to run well, or at all.
If you want an inexpensive but premium laptop to do basic PC work, and you’re already using Gmail and Google Docs for your communications and word processing, you should pick up a Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000 2-in-1 instead of opting for a more expensive Windows equivalent.
- Read our full Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000 2-in-1 review
6. Asus ZenBook 15 (UX533F)
An excellent, high performance laptop
- Solid performance
- Fantastic battery life
- ErgoLift shape makes for easier typing
- Dedicated graphics card
- Trackpad issues
- Low Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 coverage on anti-glare version
The Asus ZenBook 15‘s colourful and lightweight style is complemented by exceptional battery life and excellent performance, thanks in part to it being powered by an Intel Core i7-8565U, an Intel processor that’s designed specifically of high-end laptops. It features a nifty ‘ErgoLift’ design, which makes for a more comfortable typing position, and also lets warm air escape from the main vent more easily. As well as that, the ZenBook 15 gives you plenty of ports – two Type-A USBs, Type-C USB, HDMI, and SD card slot. The only real downside here is the lack of an Ethernet port, but that’s mitigated by the fact that you get a USB-A-to-Ethernet adapter in the box.
This means if you need a laptop primarily for writing reports, essays and articles on, you won’t have to shell out for multiple dongles in order for you to your work done, and the long lasting battery means you can work for over ten hours without having to reach for your charger. The Asus ZenBook 15 isn’t cheap, but it’s a solid investment.
There’s a dedicated graphics card too, an Nvidia GTX 1060, and up to 16GB of RAM, which means you can get some video editing and gaming done on the side. The ZenBook 15 isn’t a star performer here, and if you’re after a laptop primarily for wasting fools on Apex Legends on, then you’re better off looking at our Best Gaming Laptop round up, or waiting for machines featuring Nvidia 20 Series cards like the RTX 2080 to hit shelves. If gaming’s of secondary import though, and you want a performance Windows 10 laptop, the Asus ZenBook 15 is worth a look.
- Read our full Asus ZenBook 15 review
6. LG Gram (14Z980)
The 14-inch LG Gram is an excellent – if expensive – laptop
- An ultra-portable machine weighing just 1kg
- Speedy processing power
- Superb battery life
- 256GB storage isn’t plentiful
- Some might expect a dedicated GPU at this price
The LG Gram 14Z980 is the best ultrabook out there right now. It manages to cram three USB 3.0 ports (including USB-C), a microSD card reader, and an HDMI port into a tiny, lightweight frame. Despite the name, the LG Gram 14Z980 weighs a fraction less than 1kg.
Despite the slender build and lightweight frame, battery life, processing power and overall performance is exceptional.
The LG Gram 14Z980’s display is also impressive, offering decent maximum brightness, and respectable colour space reproduction. Netflix and YouTube looks fantastic. With the LG Gram covering 94.9% of the sRGB gamut, designers ought to be able to work easily on this too, though the low Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 colour gamut scores of 67.5% and 70.6% mean this isn’t one for photographers.
The only area where we feel the LG Gram is a letdown is internal storage. There’s only one option and that’s to pick a 256GB SSD. If you’re primarily after a laptop for work and streaming media, this will likely not be an issue, but others might find themselves running out of space sooner than they’d like.
- Read our full LG Gram review
7. Lenovo IdeaPad 720S
2017’s laptop of the year, now for a lower price
- Slim, stylish, all-metal exterior
- Great screen
- Excellent overall performance
- Good connectivity
- Nvidia graphics not necessary for all
- 14-inch form factor adds weight
The Lenovo IdeaPad 720S is a model from last year – it won Laptop of the Year at the Trusted Reviews Awards 2017 – meaning you can now pick this up for less if you shop around. For your money you get a laptop with a 14-inch Full HD screen. Battery life is solid, giving us around nine hours in testing and the all-metal jacket gives it a premium feel.
Processor options include an Intel Core i5-7200U or Core i7-7500U, along with an Nvidia GT 940MX dedicated graphics from Nvidia, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. This isn’t anywhere near enough to play latest games at the highest settings, but it’ll handle older titles easily, and those specs will give you plenty of power if you just want something for regular work. In terms of ports, you get two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, Thunderbolt, and an SD card reader, which is pretty generous – not every laptop will pack in as many connections.
While it’s a 2017 laptop, the IdeaPad 720S still has plenty going for it.
- Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad 720S review
8. LG Gram 2 in 1
The best value 2-in-1 laptop around
- Fantastic versatility with touchscreen
- Super-fast CPU performance
- Plenty of ports
- Long-lasting battery
- Design awkward in tablet mode
- Low GPU performance will scare away artists and creatives
- Lid is easily scuffed
Most convertible laptops are either incredibly expensive or restricted to a Chromebook performance. The LG Gram 2 in 1 hits the sweet spot, offering a quality ultrabook and a decent tablet bundled into one product.
With a high-speed CPU performance, long-lasting battery and a plethora of ports, the Gram 2 in 1 is a fantastic option for office workers. By day its a powerhouse portable ready for your spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentation, and by night it can be flipped into a tablet for Netflix in bed and Microsoft Paint doodling thanks to the boxed stylus.
Mind, with a low-performing integrated graphics card and low-latency touchscreen, this isn’t a 2-in-1 laptop aimed at creatives. Plus, the design does feel awkward once in tablet mode, with the keyboard sitting at the back and the absence of a volume button. If you can forgive these flaws though, then you’re getting incredible 2-in-1 value with the Gram.
- Read our full LG Gram 2 in 1 review
9. Microsoft Surface Laptop 2
The Surface Laptop 2 is a stylish and powerful daily driver
- Excellent display
- Battery that’ll easily last you a day
- Lightweight and attractive design
- Nicely spaced keyboard
- No USB-C ports
The Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 is a svelte, alcantara-covered aluminium that boasts an impressive 2256×1504 resolution display and a very durable battery life. Most days, we’ve been able to get ten hours of power out of the Surface Laptop 2.
While it’s not a high-performing gaming laptop – and therefore is unsuited to high-end gaming and video work – it’s got more than enough processing and graphical power to get you through the day and have enough left over in the tank to binge through your favourite Netflix show or play some Fortnite.
As with a lot of slimline laptops, you don’t get many ports. You get a mini DisplayPort, USB-A, and a proprietary Surface Connect port, and that’s it. No HDMI, no USB-C, no SD card reader. There are adapters available if you need more connectivity, but having to embrace the dongle life after stumping up, in most cases, over £1000, is a bit of an ask. If this is a stumbling block for you, then maybe the LG Gram would be a better choice.
But, if you’ve ever wanted a Windows 10 laptop that can match the Apple MacBook Air in terms of looks and style without compromising on performance, the Surface Laptop 2 is for you.
- Read our full Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 review
10. Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Lightweight, flexible and powerful, the Surface Pro 6 is one of the best Windows 10 convertibles we’ve tested
- Great screen
- Good battery life
- Solid performance
- Lightweight and portable hybrid design
- Pricey accessories
- Keyboard dock may be too small for some
The Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is lightweight, flexible and pretty powerful. As a convertible 2-in-1 Windows 10 device, it’s got a foot in both the tablet and laptop camps.
Our review model ran full fat Windows 10 out of the box, not the safety scissors Windows 10 S version Microsoft sometimes installs on its Surface devices, like the Surface Go.
An excellent 12.3-inch screen, solid performance and a battery which gives you around 7-8 hours of use on a single charge mean that the Surface Pro 6 is ideally suited to office work, giving you enough power to get through the working day. The high quality screen means that it’s also perfect for streaming media on at the end of the day (or during the day, if your job really is that bad).
A downside is the small number of ports and the absence of USB-C. While it’s normal for tablets and convertibles not to have much in the way of physical ports, there are few dongles available from Microsoft’s store. On that note, TypeCover keyboard dock, which is sold separately, costs £150. While it allows for excellent, fast typing (especially considering its size), it’s on the pricey side.
However you skin it, you’re going to have to drop some extra cash in order to turn the Surface Pro into a fully-fledged work laptop. If you don’t mind splashing out, then the Surface Pro 6 will no doubt delight.
- Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review
11. Microsoft Surface Go
A lighter, smaller alternative to the Surface Pro 6
- Windows 10 gives users plenty of freedom
- Extremely portable
- Kick-stand offers versatility
- Pricey considering Type Cover isn’t bundled in
- Low-powered performance
- Dated design
The Microsoft Surface Go is actually more of a tablet than a true convertible laptop – especially when you consider that the Type Cover keyboard dock is sold separately – but, if you’re shopping around for something designed more for entertainment than work, then the Surface Go isn’t a bad choice.
With the keyboard attached, the Surface Go transforms into a versatile and sturdy worker that is well-suited to light PC work.
Performance however is middling, and while the Surface Go is glossy and stylish, it is not cheap. It doesn’t compare quite as well to the 9.7-inch iPad, for example, but its small size and light weight mean that as tabl23et that is primarily for fun and games, but can also capably handle office work, it’s more versatile.
- Read our full Microsoft Surface Go review
12. Apple MacBook Pro (2018, 13-inch)
The MacBook choice for people who need power on the move
- Outstanding design and build
- High res display with excellent colour, contrast and brightness
- Thunderbolt 3 ports
- Cramped and uncomfortable keyboard
- Touchpad depresses awkwardly
- Your port options are Thunderbolt, buy an adapter, or go home
Apple’s recently refreshed range of MacBook Pro’s covers a lot of bases, from the 13-inch entry level versions, aimed at photographers and anyone who wants a powerful laptop for general work, to the 15-inch versions that are more geared towards editing and exporting video on the the go.
We’ve reviewed the highest-end 13-inch MacBook Pro 2018, which features an Intel 8th Gen Core i7 CPU (i7-8559U), 16GB of LPDDR3 (2133 MHz) RAM and a 2TB SSD.
The 2560 x 1600 Retina display is incredibly impressive in terms of detail (227 ppi), colour temperature (6514K) and colour gamut, covering 100% of the sRGB gamut, 84% of Adobe RGB and 98.9% of DCI P3.
Overall performance is excellent, something that’s reflected in the high Geekbench scores of 5378 (single-core) and 18885 (multi-core) and Blackmagic read and write speeds of 2631.2MB/sec and 2281.1MB/sec, but not Cinebench (594cb). Real-world testing showed that the 13-inch MacBook Pro could render 4K video quickly in Final Cut Pro, but it took a sizeable chunk out of the battery.
Downsides include a lack of any ports besides Thunderbolt 3 and the overall price of the series. While you do get a level of basic support from Apple’s high street stores, and the option of buying these direct from Apple on 0% finance, they’re still priced very highly.
- Read our full Apple MacBook Pro 2018 review
How much should I spend on a laptop?
What you decide to spend on a laptop will be determined by what you’re likely to want to use the laptop for. If you simply want to do a bit of web browsing and send and receive a few emails then a cheap 11-inch netbook or Chromebook for under £200 will do the job.
- Most Chromebooks run on low-powered CPUs, and, while they will handle most common PC tasks with ease, don’t expect to be able to do anything too intensive, like photo editing, on a Chromebook.
- Want something a little bigger? You can pay between £300 and £500 for a 15.6-inch laptop powered by an Intel Core i3 processor that’s powerful enough to carry out the basics without slowing to a crawl. It will even handle a little Minecraft and photo editing.
- If you want something thin and light, expect to spend upwards of £500 for a sub-1.5kg laptop. Powered by more efficient dual-core and quad-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, these machines are far more suitable for light photo and video work and should last all day on a single charge if they’re not pushed too hard. If you want premium build and a great screen, expect to pay at least £1,000.
- You’ll need to spend at least £700 on a gaming laptop, and considerably more if you want to future-proof it. Look for “discrete” or “dedicated” graphics from AMD or Nvidia, and check online benchmarking figures to see how well your favourite games will play. A laptop with a dGPU, as opposed to a laptop running on the integrated graphics of a CPU, will be far more capable of handling games and photo editing.
There are alternative form factors, too. Two-in-ones have reversible screens that can be versatile in small spaces, while tablet hybrids are great for drawing and taking notes. The latter often come with attachable keyboards for when you want to get typing work done.
What’s the best operating system?
- Windows: Windows 10 remains the most versatile operating system around, and you’ll find it on the vast majority of laptops sold in the UK.
- Mac OS: Mac OS (styled as ‘macOS’) is tied into MacBook laptops, so you’ll always pay a premium to get Apple’s operating system. It’s undeniably slick, smooth and reliable, so if you have the money, then it offers a better experience than Windows for many people.
- Chrome OS: However, if you’re buying a cheap laptop and don’t need to run Windows software, then Google’s ChromeOS is likely to be a better bet. It’s lightweight – it’s essentially a glorified web browser – but with so many excellent web-based applications now available, most people on a budget will be able to get by with just that.
Don’t want to pay the ‘Windows tax’? Some laptops now sell with Ubuntu Linux installed. This free OS is powerful if you know what you’re doing, and it has the advantage of costing next to nothing.