Best laptop: we test and compare the best laptops from Apple, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Razer, Acer, LG and more.
Best Laptop 2018: After a new laptop but not sure which to get? Well you’re not alone.
best overall laptop
The new Dell XPS 13 is our pick for the best overall laptop right now. It features the trademark Infinity Edge screen, which means razor-thin bezels, and includes top-notch performance from Intel 8th gen processors.
Knowing which laptop to get is tricky business. First you have to think what type you want. If you’re an Apple fan you’ll definitely want to go for a Macbook. If you’re a creative you may want to consider a decent convertible with a stylus.
If you’re a power user an Ultrabook is the way to go. Chromebooks are a more affordable option that’ll meet casual web browser and Netflix streamers needs. After that you need to find a machine that fits your budget.
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.
If you’re after a Windows convertible the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is the current top dog. Finally, If you’re after something more affordable you’ll want to check out Asus’ Vivobooks, the refreshed Acer Swift range or the Microsoft Surface Go convertible.
Best value laptop
This gets our pick for best value. The IdeaPad 720S won our laptop of the year award for 2017 and for good reason. Considering everything you get for the money, it's outstanding value with great build quality and performance.
How we test laptops
We put every laptop we test through a set of synthetic benchmark tests to gauge its GPU, CPU and SSD performance. We then test its screen using a colourometer and DispCalGUI. Finally, we run a battery test by synthetically 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.
Dell XPS 13
- Beautiful design
- Great audio
- Comfortable keyboard
- Solid performance
- No full-sized SD card reader or USB ports
- Screen not ideal for artists
The XPS 13 is the best 13-inch laptop money can buy right now. It features an improved version of the iconic, near bezel-less design seen on last year’s model, a more spacious keyboard and updated new gold and white option that looks outright gorgeous.
It also doesn’t compromise on hardware. Kicking off, you now get a 4K resolution, touchscreen option. Coupled with Dell’s Cinema optimisations and the laptop’s new quad speaker setup the screen makes the laptop an ideal choice 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.
Buy now: Dell XPS 13 for £1,279 from Dell
- 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 2560×1600 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.
LG Gram 14Z980
- 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. Depsite 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.
Microsoft Surface Pro 6
- Great screen
- Good battery life
- Solid performance
- Lightweight and portable hybrid design
- Pricey accessories
- Keyboard dock may be too small for some
The 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.
Lenovo Yoga 730
- Decent power for applications and games
- Excellent exterior design
- Comfortable ergonomics
- Solid screen and speakers
- Cheaper than its key rival
- Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 has more speed
- Screen could be a little better
- Battery life inconsistent
It’s a powerful and literally quite flexible machine, that’s a compelling (not to mention cheaper) alternative to our current favourite, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 – connections-wise, you get two full-size USB 3.0 ports, a Type-C Thunderbolt port and a full-sized HDMI port, which for some, will beat the XPS 15 2-in-1’s twin pairs of Type-C USBs.
A 4096-point active stylus comes includes, and there’s a slot for that too, and the aforementioned Nvidia GPU (plus 4GB of vRAM) suggests that this is a shoe-in for creatives, too. Unfortunately, the display covers just 84.1% of the sRGB colour gamut, 61.5% of the Adobe RGB gamut, and 68% of the DCI-P3 gamut, which compares poorly to rivals.
Battery life also varies wildly depending on what you’re doing. In our looped video test, the Lenovo Yoga 730 gave us an impressive 15 hours of power, which would see you right through most Netflix and iPlayer binges no sweat. When doing something intensive, like gaming, we saw between 1-2 hours.
Buy Now: Lenovo Yoga 730 at Amazon from £949
MacBook Pro 2018 13-inch
- 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.
Razer Blade 15
- 144Hz display is perfect for competitive gamers
- Beautiful design
- Solid 1080p gaming performance
- Light enough to double as a regular laptop
- 1080p version not great for creatives
- Trackpad isn’t the best around
The Razer Blade 15 range packs serious high performance gaming prowess into pared-down, near bezel-free streamlined case.
Games and programs load almost instantly. The 144Hz 1080p version is particularly excellent for gaming, though anyone wanting to do some serious photo editing or artwork as well will want to reach for the 4K option. While the 144Hz 1080p Razer Blade 15 does make for a breathtakingly gorgeous gaming experience, it doesn’t support the full Adobe RBG gamut.
With Razer wanting £1699 for the entry-level 1080p 60Hz model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 and £2549 for the top-tier 4K 60Hz with GTX 1070, these prices aren’t cheap, but they’re also no worse than most competing gaming notebooks.
Regardless of which Blade 15 you opt for, each one has an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H and 16GB of SO-DIMM (DDR4, 2667MHz) RAM – which can be bumped up to 32GB – sitting under the hood.
The noise made by the dual fans is sometimes painfully noticeable, especially after prolonged bouts of gaming, but thankfully, the built in speakers are (normally) loud enough to drown this out – and if fan noise bothers you that much, there are some headsets that’ll help with that.
Related: Best gaming headsets
LG gram 15Z980
- Lightweight build
- Impressive display
- Long battery life
- Integrated graphics
- Bottom-mounted speakers
The new LG gram 15Z980 notebook is a solid choice for mobile professionals always on the move.
It boasts a seriously lightweight chassis, despite its 15.6-inch size. It doesn’t compromise on the specs or build quality, either.
The 15.6-inch IPS panel is as strong as expected from LG, who obviously know a thing or two about eye-pleasing visuals. For a start, the Full HD resolution keeps everything pin-sharp. High-definition movies look great, photos are packed with intricate detail.
Performance is certainly reliable enough for everyday tasks, even at that base clock level. A generous 16GB of DDR4 RAM helps to keep everything running smoothly, even when you have a half-dozen or more apps all active at once.
The slender edges also sport a respectable number of ports. You get three full-sized USB 3.0 connections, plus a Type-C USB for fast data transfer. There’s an HDMI port and a microSD card reader, providing plenty of options for hooking up to peripherals and managing your data.
This device is tougher than a tank, while packing some premium components to boot. It’s impressive in terms of performance, battery life and build quality. And if you’re happy to sacrifice a little bit of power in favour of improved portability, then the LG 14Z980 is a solid choice too.
Asus Zenbook 13 UX331U
- Very slim and light
- Strong usability
- Well-designed screen
- Weak audio
The Asus ZenBook 13 UX331U is being marketed as ‘the thinnest laptop on the planet’. Measuring in at a meagre 13.9mm thick it’s certainly one of the smallest we’ve tested, only losing out to the even dinkier 9mm Acer Swift 7.
Despite being super thin it packs some solid hardware. You’ll have a choice of Eighth Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 CPUs, both of which’ll come with 8GB of RAM. Whichever CPU you opt for the combo will power through most everyday offices tasks.
It’s 13-inch, FHD screen is above average at this price and coupled with the Zenbook’s stellar keyboard and trackpad make the laptop a great choice for any buyer looking for a device that neatly balances portability and performance.
The only downside is that its super thin dimensions mean you only get integrated graphics, which will be an issue for gamers and people that want to edit video or photos on it.
Acer Swift 5
- Solid performance, quiet running
- Pleasingly slim and light
- A couple of keyboard issues
- Integrated graphics
Affordable ultrabooks are normally, at best, a mixed bag. That’s why the Acer Swift 5 is such a pleasant surprise. It’s one of a select few ultrabooks that delivers in nearly every area, despite costing less than £1000.
Featuring a lightweight design, the Swift 5 comes with a wealth of solid hardware that’s sure to meet most users’ needs. Highlights include a choice of Intel 8th Gen CPUs, plus an above-average 1080p display.
If you’re on the market for a swish, portable, reasonably powerful laptop that won’t break the bank, then you should definitely check out the Acer Swift 5.
The only minor issues stopping it from earning our top score are its complete lack of graphics upgrade options, and the keyboard, which doesn’t have the best key travel.
Take note, though, the 2018 edition of the Acer Swift 5 – which is rocking Intel’s Whiskey Lake CPU – will be launching in Europe this September with a starting price of €999. While there’s no UK price or release date just yet, it may still be wise to wait that little bit longer for its inevitable arrival.
Asus VivoBook E200HA
- Attractive design
- Slim and light
- Good keyboard
- Screen is fairly basic
- A little slow
- Small amount of storage
The Asus Vivobook E200HA is a brilliant little netbook that weighs less than a kilogram but still manages to pack all the features you could want from a budget laptop. With 12 hours of battery life in normal usage and a dinky footprint, this is the most baggable laptop we’ve ever tested.
With that crazy low price and weight come performance compromises – but if you only use a few browser tabs at a time, you’ll be right at home.
Since we reviewed this lovely little netbook, the price has dropped to below £200 at most retailers, although it varies week by week.
HP EliteBook x360 G2
- Attractive design
- Lots of security features
- Good performance
- Decent battery life
- Slower SSD on this model
- Stylus costs extra in UK
The EliteBook x360 G2 is one of HP’s finest laptops to date and was shortlisted for Best Laptop of 2017 at the Trusted Reviews Awards.
It’s very much a business machine, but its price isn’t totally out of reach of someone who just wants a premium Ultrabook. Weighing in at just 1.29kg, it’s super light. And with its 13.3-inch form factor, you’ll have no problem chucking it in a bag to take home from work. It’s loaded with security features, too.
Performance is good – although, for the money, the Dell XPS 13 offers more power – and the screen is ready for Windows Ink if you buy it with the optional stylus. The whole package is expensive for a plain laptop, but given its premium design, sturdy hinge and draw-ability, it doesn’t seem quite so crazy.
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1
- Excellent performance, even when gaming
- Solid build quality
- Fantastic keyboard
- Amazing screen
- Very loud when running intensive processes
- Battery life could be better
If you’re after a power-house 15-inch laptop that can do everything from video editing to lightweight gaming, then you’ll want to check out Dell’s XPS 15 2-in-1.
The convertible is one of the first laptops to run one of Intel’s G-series chips. The chips are the result of an unprecedented between Intel and its arch-rival AMD. Specifically, the chip combines Intel’s CPU architecture with AMD’s Vega graphics.
The combination works a treat and means the XPS 15 2-in-1 is a powerhouse machine that can match laptops with discrete GeForce 1050 graphics on performance.
Add to this its top notch 4K screen and foldable, Yoga-like, hinge mechanism and the XPS 15 2-in-1 justifiably earns its place as one of 2018’s best laptops.
Those are our top picks of the best laptops. If you want to know more about what to look out for when buying a laptop then read on.
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. Though be warned most Chromebooks are compromised devices with below average hardware, so you won’t get the best user experience out of them.
Saving up for a more expensive laptop that can undertake a greater number of tasks at once will generally be worth it if you don’t need the ultimate in thin and light budget machinery.
Want something a little bigger? You can pay between £300 and £400 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 efficient dual-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, these machines are 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.
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 10 remains the most versatile operating system around, and you’ll find it on the vast majority of laptops sold in the UK. However, if you’re buying a cheap laptop, 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.
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.
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.