What is the best laptop or notebook?
If you’re searching for a new laptop and aren’t sure which model represents the best deal, read on to discover our list of top picks.
We’ve assembled a list of laptops to suit every budget and need, whether you’re a student or a videographer who wants an absolute powerhouse machine.
We’ve summarised our pick of best laptops below and you can also scroll down to find our in-depth reviews of the best 10.
- Best overall laptop: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
- Best value laptop: Acer Swift 5
- Best creative laptop: MacBook Pro 16-inch
- Best stylish laptop: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13
- Best 17in laptop: LG Gram 17
- Best laptop for Netflix: HP Spectre x360 13
- Best laptop/tablet hybrid: Surface Pro 7
- Best laptop for battery life: Lenovo Yoga C940
- Best budget laptop: HP Envy 13
- Best Apple ultrabook: Apple MacBook Air 2018
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How do we test laptops?
We put every laptop we review 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 10mins of web browsing and 5mins of video playback until it runs out of juice, which simulates a typical range of usage. Afterwards the reviewer uses it as their primary device at work and home for at least a week, before giving it a final score. You’ll find a link to each full review at the end of each of the following summaries.
1. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019)
The best all-round Windows 10 laptop you can buy
- Gorgeous display and design
- Small, lightweight form
- Integrated graphics allow for casual gaming
- Lack of USB-A ports
- Gaming performance rarely exceeds 30fps
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is extremely close to being the perfect all-round laptop. It has an accessible price, an absolutely stunning design and display, and the versatility of both a laptop and a tablet with its 2-in-1 form.
It also boasts a cracking performance thanks to Intel’s 10th-generation Ice Lake processor. This isn’t the highest performing laptop you’ll find at this price, but it’s easily fast enough to blast through productivity tasks such as web browsing, spreadsheets and video streaming. It also features an integrated graphics engine, so you’ll be able to play casual games and use entry-level media editing applications. Don’t expect to be playing AAA games here, but high-end configurations can run the likes of Fortnite and Overwatch with dialled-back graphics settings.
One of the only issues holding this laptop back from a perfect score is the lack of USB-A ports, but a USB hub can immediately solve this issue. Plus, the USB-C replacements are future-proofed for years to come.
- Read our full Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review
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.
2. Acer Swift 5
An incredibly good value laptop
- Solid performance, quiet running
- Pleasingly slim and light
- Incredibly good value
- Great port offering
- Couple of keyboard issues
The Acer Swift 5 has no right to challenge the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 considering its price, yet it offers similar high-end specs including Intel’s 10th Generation processor, up to 16GB RAM and SSD storage maxing out at 1TB.
Acer’s ultrabook even offers some added benefits over the XPS 13 2-in-1, such as a lighter frame, the inclusion of an USB-A port and the option of an Nvidia MX250 GPU. So why does the Swift 5 miss out? Its keyboard isn’t quite good enough to challenge the XPS and its design isn’t as jaw dropping.
These are small margins though, as the Swift 5 is more than good enough to serve as a cheaper alternative. Unfortunately the laptop’s so popular that the £799 models appears to be sold out everywhere, but the more pricey configurations still represent fantastic value.
- Read our full Acer Swift 5 review
3. MacBook Pro 16-inch
Best laptop for creative tasks
- Incredibly powerful
- Bigger display still looks stunning
- Scissor keyboard a huge improvement
- More stylish with smaller bezel
- Very expensive
- Stingy port offering
- Lack of Wi-Fi 6
You could make a very good case that the MacBook Pro 16-inch is Apple’s best laptop in ages. Many flaws of previous Apple laptops have been addressed, including a much improved keyboard and a new wafer-thin bezel that finally makes MacBooks look modern compared to the competition.
The performance of this MacBook Pro is just as excellent as you’d expect, with the processing speeds and GPU grunt that far exceeds the other laptops on this list. To be fair, Apple’s laptop is also a lot more expensive than the other portable PCs here, but that’s the price you have to pay to be able to blast through media tasks.
Whether you’re a creative professional or student, or just fancy the most powerful Apple laptop possible, the MacBook Pro 16-inch is a superb laptop easily worth the high price.
- Read our full MacBook Pro 16-inch review
4. Surface Laptop 3 13-inch
One of the most stylish, top-performing laptops you can buy
- Classy, ultra-portable design
- Excellent performance
- Stunning 3:2 display
- Available in four colours
- Average battery life
- Lack of Thunderbolt 3
The Surface Laptop 3 13-inch comes the closest to challenging the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 for sheer quality. It packs the latest and greatest components including Intel’s 10th-generation Ice Lake processor, which also features integrated graphics for casual gaming and Photoshop work.
One area where Microsoft is arguably better than Dell is in the looks department, as the Surface Laptop 3 is available in four different colours and looks drop-dead gorgeous, while the iconic Alcantara design is optional this time round.
Why isn’t the Surface Laptop 3 at the top of rankings? An underwhelming battery life and the frankly absurd exclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port are big enough flaws to make this ultrabook miss out on the top spot, but these are arguably minor problems for an otherwise superb laptop.
- Read our full Surface Laptop 3 13-inch review
5. LG Gram 17
An incredibly lightweight 17-inch laptop
- Gorgeous 17in Quad HD display
- Outstandingly lightweight design
- Plenty of ports
- Processor now outdated
- Slow read and write SSD speeds
- Battery life is average
Laptops with a 17in display are almost unheard of these days outside the gaming and pro-level creative markets – they’re just too large and heavy to fit in a bag for daily commutes. The LG Gram 17 is one of the only portable systems to offer best of both worlds, with a blockbuster Quad HD display and a super-thin design that only weighs 1.34kg.
Given how lightweight it is, the Gram 17 may seem like a miracle laptop, but LG has had to make sacrifices. The 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8565U processor isn’t one of the fastest around, and the battery doesn’t offer a huge amount of stamina compared to major competitors.
But if you simply want a laptop to stream the web and watch Netflix, there are few better for the price that the LG Gram 17. That said, the 2020 version of the LG Gram 17 is just around the corner, so it might be worth waiting for that instead.
- Read our full LG Gram 17 review
6. HP Spectre x360 13
Brilliant ultrabook with a beautiful 4K screen
- Gorgeous 4K display
- Perfect mix of productivity and portability
- Improved keyboard and trackpad
- Premium build quality
- Below average battery life
- Slightly dated design
The HP Spectre x360 13 has one major selling point: its 4K display. Netflix content looks absolutely gorgeous on this screen, and if you use your laptop primarily for video streaming, then this portable should be right at the top of your shortlist.
This is no one trick pony either, featuring Intel’s 10th Generation processor, up to 16GB RAM and up to 1TB SSD storage. Plus it has a 2-in-1 form factor, and so can fulfil tablet duties.
That 4K panel does limit battery life though, and the design looks a bit dated compared to other laptops on this list. But both of those flaws are easy to forgive when 4K movies look so fantastic on the HP Spectre x360 13.
- Read our full HP Spectre x360 13 review
7. Surface Pro 7
The best Windows laptop/tablet hybrid
- Full-fat Windows 10 application library
- Excellent connectivity
- Solid build quality
- Type Cover costs extra
- Not a big step up on the Surface Pro 6
The Surface Pro 7 isn’t strictly a laptop, especially if you don’t bother to buy the Type Cover, which is sold separately. If you do splash out on this Microsoft accessory, though, you’ll have one of the most versatile devices available. This is the best device on this list for tablet duty, while the Type Cover offers such a great typing experience it can easily compete with laptop competitors.
The latest model sees Intel’s 10th-gen Intel Core processor, while also sporting the new USB-C port for speedy data transfers. If you’re after a lower-priced alternative, the Surface Pro 6 is a great option and is available for £100 less.
Still, if you’re after a high-performance, future-proofed Windows convertible, then the Surface Pro 7 is our top recommended device.
- Read our full Surface Pro 7 review
8. Lenovo Yoga C940
A battery behemoth ultrabook
- Remarkable battery life
- Strong productivity performer
- Robust design
- Good value
- Lags behind on looks
- Screen isn’t the brightest
- Average keyboard
- Super-reflective screen
There isn’t a lot wrong with the Lenovo Yoga C940, but it can’t quite compete with the likes of the XPS and Surface Laptop 3 in terms of overall quality.
There is one big reason you might consider the Yoga C940 ahead of more polished rivals though, as its battery offers a belter of a performance. Our benchmark tests showed the Yoga C940 to be capable of lasting over 12 hours before requiring a charge. That’s despite this laptop rocking the same high-end specs as competitors, with a 10th Gen Intel Core processor, up to 16GB RAM and up to 1TB SSD storage.
Lenovo has had to make the Yoga C940 a tad heavier and bigger than other ultrabooks to fit the larger capacity battery, but the extended battery life more than makes up for that.
- Read our full Lenovo Yoga C940 review
9. HP Envy 13
Excellent 13in laptop offering high performance for budget 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 that’s the ideal choice for anyone looking for a solid Windows 10 laptop that won’t cost the earth.
As well as boasting an excellent, near-perfect display, the keyboard is one of the most comfortable we’ve seen on a 13in machine. Capable at tearing through essays, reports, and light photo work, it’s an ideal choice for office workers and students alike.
With an 8th Generation Intel Core processor, it feels outdated in 2020. Plus it only has an average battery life of 6 hours, which is a shame. But considering the HP Envy 13 costs a few hundred pounds less than most of the laptops on this list, those with a tight budget will still be very happy with what this laptop has to offer.
- Read our full HP Envy 13 review
10. Apple MacBook Air (2018)
The best MacBook for day-to-day use
- A classic design, refreshed for 2018
- Lightweight, premium-feel body
- Retina Display screen
- Two USB-C ports
- Outdated processor
The MacBook Air 2018 has slid down our rankings in recent months, falling behind competitors due to its outdated processor and design.
Despite being in dire need of a refresh, this is still a solid laptop. The 2018 line-up brings a 2560 x 1600 Retina Display screen, Touch ID 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 9-10hrs of power.
Pricing for the range starts at £1199, which means you can get similarly priced Windows machines that boast a far better performance. But if you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple MacBook Air (2018) is still a brilliant ultrabook.
- Read our full MacBook Air 2018 review
How much should you spend on a laptop?
How much you decide to spend on a laptop will be determined by what you’re likely to want to use it for. If you simply want to do a bit of web browsing and send and receive a few emails then a cheap 11in netbook or Chromebook for under £200 will do the job. (check out our guide to the Best student laptop).
- Most Chromebooks run on low-powered CPUs and, while they will handle most common PC tasks with ease, they probably won’t be able to do anything too intensive, such as photo editing.
- Want something a little bigger? You can pay between £300 and £500 for a 15.6in 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 £1000.
- You’ll need to spend at least £700 for 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 one 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 typing work.
Which is 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.
- macOS: macOS is tied into MacBook laptops and you’ll always pay a premium for Apple’s operating system. It’s undeniably slick, smooth and reliable, however, and it offers a better experience than Windows for many people.
- Chrome OS: if you’re buying a cheap laptop and don’t need to run Windows software, then Google’s ChromeOS is likely to be your best bet. It’s lightweight –essentially a glorified web browser – but with so many excellent web-based applications now available, most people on a budget and with a Google account will be able to get by with just this.
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.