What’s the best laptop? We round up the best laptops you can buy in the UK in 2016, including best Windows laptops and best MacBooks.
The best laptop is the Dell XPS 13, followed by the Lenovo Yoga 710 and the Asus ZenBook UX305, but there are plenty of other options in our list below.
Despite the rise of tablets, there are still plenty of reasons to choose a laptop. Sometimes you just can’t beat a bigger screen, a keyboard and Windows for getting stuff done. But, if you want a laptop that’s also a tablet, there are plenty of convertible or ‘hybrid’ laptops which have a touchscreen which folds right back behind the keyboard and can be used as a tablet. The Yoga 710 is one of the best we’ve seen in this respect, although if its 11in screen is too small, Lenovo does offer larger versions.
Best laptops 2016: Buying guide
As with any product we review, the best laptops are rated on various factors – performance, build quality, features and value for money – along with an overall score, potentially with an award, too. Note that star ratings don’t always dictate where a product ranks in the list below, as the score applies to the date it was reviewed.
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If you’re looking for a laptop that can handle the latest games, see our up-to-date list of the best gaming laptops.
As much as we can, we make sure all the laptops in the chart are available to but in the UK. However, it’s not something we can check every day so there’s a chance you might not find the model listed. There are also often many different SKUs (versions/models) of a laptop so the specs might vary to those on the model we’ve reviewed (we can’t always choose the exact model to review).
Most laptops will come pre-installed with Windows 10 now. Of course, our best laptops group test also includes the best MacBooks, which run OS X (now macOS) out of the box. Macs are often more expensive than Windows laptops, but Apple’s laptops are better value than ever before. You might feel that the premium build quality and features warrant spending extra, although many Windows laptop manufacturers have stepped up their game recently.
Best laptops 2016: How much should I spend on a laptop?
In this chart, there’s no cap on how much the device can cost – sometimes the best does come at a steep price. Equally you can get a lot of laptop for under £300 – provided you only need to do basic tasks like browse the web, email and create the odd document. If so see the best budget laptops.
Spending a bit more, around £500 and above, will potentially get you a nice laptop but it’s likely to have an entry-level set of specs. We’re talking a relatively basic processor, minimal SSD storage and a low resolution screen. It might also be a bit heavy and bulky.
Ramp up the amount you’re happy to splash out – £800 and up – and you’ll be looking at the best of the best with a blazing fast processor, plenty of RAM, hordes of storage and a gorgeous display. You should also expect excellent build quality and premium materials.
That’s why it’s crucial to read laptop reviews before you buy.
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Best laptops 2016: What screen size do I need?
The size of your screen is an important decision when buying a laptop. After all they typically range from 11- all the way up to 17in.
A smaller screen might be harder to work on but it means that the laptop will be far more portable, handy if you need to take it around with you wherever you go. Bear in mind that a smaller device means less space for features like ports.
At 17in, you’re buying a desktop replacement laptop which isn’t deigned to be moved around often. You’ll likely get a full-size keyboard, lots of connectivity and possibly even an optical drive, too.
Generally, unless you’re looking at either end of the spectrum, a 13in laptop is the sweet spot for us combining portability with usability.
While many laptops have a resolution of 1366×768, you should look for something more if you want the best. Full HD (1920×1080) and higher should be a tick box and you can even get 4K laptops now, although arguably it’s not necessary.
If you want a touchscreen, this normally adds to the cost. Most laptops come with a glossy screen but most people prefer a less reflective matt finish so that’s something to look out for, too.
Best laptops 2016: How much storage do I need?
As usual, storage depends on what you want to use a laptop for. As a general rule of thumb get as much as possible without wasting money on the upgrade (manufactures can charge a premium on this area).
An SSD will mean your laptop runs faster but doesn’t provide as much space as a traditional hard drive. Remember that there are also plenty of cloud storage options but this isn’t so helpful when you don’t have an internet connection.
If you’re going to need to storing a large amount of data (perhaps you make home videos or you simply want all your TV box sets ready to go) then look for 1- or 2TB of space. Don’t forget you can buy a portable USB drive to supplement a laptop which has only a small-capacity SSD.
Memory (RAM) is where programs and files are stored only while you’re using them, and more is always better. Consider 4GB an absolute minimum, unless it’s a Chromebook, with 8- to 16GB the ideal figure if you can afford the upgrade. You can’t have too much.
Best laptops 2016: Which laptop processor is best?
Unless you’re going to run complex and demanding software or gaming, you don’t need the latest top-spec processor. It doesn’t hurt, of course, but it’s best to find a nice balance as there’s nothing worse than waiting for a app to load etc.
If you’re happy to splash out then you’re probably looking at the latest generation (6th) Intel Core i7 chip. Entry-level spec models are likely to offer a Core i3 or even a Core M processor instead. A Core i5 sits nicely in-between so check how much extra it is to upgrade before making a final decision.
If you’re not sure which generation the Intel processor is, look at the model number as the first digit represents this. For example, a Core i5-6500 is a sixth-generation CPU.
While most come with Intel processors, you can still find AMD powered devices around. See AMD vs Intel for more information.
Best laptops 2016: Ultrabooks and ultraportable laptops
Buying an ultraportable laptop is really no different than any laptop, except that your priorities are likely to be different. You might want an ultraportable laptop that’s light and will last a long time away from the mains.
However, other people want an ultrabook that’s powerful and can handle demanding applications without breaking your back when you carry it around. Both types are available.
Some compromises are inevitable if you want a thin and light laptop, though. There’s less space for a battery, so it’s typical to find shorter runtimes. But some companies have overcome this with clever packaging, such as the MacBook Air.
Another factor is efficient hardware, so a newer processor is likely to sip rather than guzzle power. The same goes for other components. But you should always read our reviews to find out how long a particular laptop lasted in our tests as you can’t rely on specifications and it’s unwise to go only by manufacturers’ claims.
Thin laptops tend to have shallow key travel, so if you need a laptop to do a lot of typing then, again, read our reviews as they’re the only way (short of hunting down the machine in a shop) to find out whether a keyboard is a joy or a pain to use.
Many ultrabooks use low-power processors which are better for battery life, but may not have much power for running Windows apps. Our benchmarks sort the speed demons from the sluggards.
The best laptops of 2016: Warranty and other considerations
We recommend all the laptops here: there isn’t a duff one among them. However, we urge you again to read through the full review before spending your hard-earned cash. None of them are perfect and what will suit your needs might not simply be the device ranked at number one.
Battery life and warranty are two things which vary between laptops. The latter may well differ depending on where you buy the laptop from, too. John Lewis, for example, tends to offer longer warranty than rivals.
After-sales service is something you should consider, not only laptops but pretty much everything you buy. Check whether the company has a UK-based support line, and forums (including our own) are an ideal place to get an idea of whether a manufacturer is generally good or bad at carrying out work under warranty.
You might not even have to deal with the manufacturer directly if you have a fault in the first six months as it’s the retailer’s responsibility to deal with issues. This is when it pays to have purchased from Amazon, John Lewis and others which will often replace or refund without quibble.
After al that, it’s also worth considering whether a laptop is what you really want. You can get some great bargains on desktop PCs these days, and if you don’t want a large tower system taking up space there are plenty of all-in-one PCs to choose between. These integrate the computer behind the monitor, so they’re much neater. Also, some tablets offer similar functionality to basic laptops. See our piece about choosing between laptop vs iPad, for instance.
Read on for our pick of the UK’s best laptops and links to our best laptop reviews. If you’re looking for more laptop buying advice head here.
Best laptop 2016 UK – best laptop reviews
1. Dell XPS 13 9350
Dell XPS 13 9350
Reviewed on: 15 December 15
RRP: From £849 inc VAT
The Dell XPS 13 9343 stands as a shining beacon of hope in the world of Windows laptops, a compact laptop that outdoes the obvious competition in some key respects like screen quality and near-borderless display. Here is a 13.3-inch laptop that takes up little more space than an 11.6-inch model. Poor thermal management needs to be improved, while a non-touchscreen version could answer other outstanding issues.
Read our Dell XPS 13 9350 review.
2. Lenovo Yoga 710 11″
Lenovo Yoga 710 11
Reviewed on: 9 August 16
RRP: £549 inc VAT
The Lenovo Yoga 11 710 is a great little device for those who travel a lot or who have no need for a big laptop. This is one of the best alternatives to the 12-inch MacBook, a truly tiddly machine that offers better value than Apple, not to mention a touchscreen and an ultra-flexible hinge. It’s not powerful, but that’s not the point. The trackpad, like several of Lenovo’s recent models, is not perfect. But given the great value on offer here it’s worth persevering with.
Read our Lenovo Yoga 710 11″ review.
3. Asus Zenbook UX305CA
Asus Zenbook UX305CA
Reviewed on: 11 March 16
RRP: £649 inc VAT
The Asus ZenBook UX305CA is a sensible, perhaps predictable upgrade to the UX305 we looked at last year. It has newer CPU, and a much higher-resolution screen. However, it remains a seriously portable, expensive-feeling laptop that really isn’t that expensive. That you can get this grade of machine for £600 (at the time of writing) shows that while Apple’s pricing has improved, companies like Asus still have the edge. A big, sharp, shiny edge. The Core M CPU limits the crowd of people this laptop will suit perfectly. But that it still feels fast for everyday tasks and the fact it will last all day with that kind of use makes it ideal for those who find themselves hopping between meetings or cafes as part of their daily grind. If you’re looking for something to use mostly at home, you might want look for something with a little more power and a screen with slightly higher contrast, though.
Read our Asus Zenbook UX305CA review.
4. Dell Latitude 13 7370
Dell Latitude 13 7370
Reviewed on: 22 July 16
RRP: From £1,079
Buy from Dell
It’s a business laptop, there’s no escaping that. But our time with the Dell Latitude 13 7370 was great – it’s probably the most accessible business laptop out there, with a form factor that everyone can get along with. If you are a small business owner and you need a laptop to hook up to a monitor in your home office but also take on a business trip and not need a plug all day, then this is one of the computers you should be considering. You might not even need or want another laptop for personal use either, which goes a long way to justifying the high price.
Read our Dell Latitude 13 7370 review.
5. HP Envy 13
HP Envy 13
Reviewed on: 25 February 16
RRP: From £649 inc VAT (model reviewed £799)
The HP Envy 13 gets a lot of things right. The design, the trackpad, the performance and the screen are all very good. Using this laptop is a real delight in most respects, its physical portability is fantastic and it has clearly been designed with a sensible budget in mind. It’s a good buy. There are a few issues, though. Unless use is very light, battery life is disappointing and the build quality is slightly less impressive than it at first appears – there’s some flex to the body, making it a bit less luxurious than you might expect looking at photos. Given the excellent combination of features, performance and value though, it’s only the battery life you need to really stop and think about before buying. The Asus UX305 lasts longer, and while that laptop lacks a backlit keyboard and some of the HP’s raw power, that might be enough to justify switching teams.
Read our HP Envy 13 review.
6. Microsoft Surface Book
Microsoft Surface Book
Reviewed on: 30 June 16
RRP: From £1,299 inc VAT
It’s expensive but the Surface Book is an amazing piece of technology combining excellent (and unique) design, top-notch build quality and high-end specifications. Battery life is amazing and there’s a lot you can do with the Surface Book model with the Nvidia GPU. The big question is can you afford one?
Read our Microsoft Surface Book review.
7. Toshiba Chromebook 2
Toshiba Chromebook 2
Reviewed on: 13 February 15
RRP: £269 inc. VAT
If you’re happy to live in the cloud for the majority of your tasks, then Toshiba’s Chromebook 2 is currently the best way to do it. The device is light, fast, and that screen is worth the money alone. Chromebooks are quickly coming of age, and this Toshiba model is something that could easily convert a legion of fans to the ever improving ChromeOS universe.
Read our Toshiba Chromebook 2 review.
8. 13-inch MacBook Air (early 2015)
13-inch MacBook Air (early 2015)
Reviewed on: 6 September 16
RRP: £849 (with 128GB storage), £999 (with 256GB)
Buy from Apple
After some extensive testing, we found the MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2015) to be little different overall to the 2014 model. The Thunderbolt 2 update will prove useful for connecting to high-resolution UHD displays, and a few percent of added processor power is never unwelcome. But hoped-for improvements in graphics performance and battery longevity did not arise in our testing, in spite of a new Intel processor which was expected to shepherd benefits in both areas. Launched at the same price as last year’s model it still deserves attention as one of the finest ultraportable laptops available – doubly so now that its flash-drive speed has shot up another 100 percent – and it will remain the more affordable option in lightweight notebooks when the new MacBook launches this month.
Read our 13-inch MacBook Air (early 2015) review.
9. Apple MacBook (early 2016)
Apple MacBook (early 2016)
Reviewed on: 6 September 16
There’s no escaping the fact that this is a very similar laptop to its 2015 predecessor, which so divided the tech community. But we think the problems have been overblown. The engineering on show is superb, and the performance is completely acceptable for a modern-day computer of this size. The arguments that there should be more ports on the MacBook only exist because people want one, and are frustrated that their current set-up needs will not allow for it. Apple has undoubtedly improved the MacBook for 2016. It is a truly outstanding laptop that will be wrongly categorised as a luxury technological item. There’s a difference between something costing a little too much and it being luxurious – just like the MacBook Air, this laptop deserves to fall in price and rise in specs to continue to be what we consider an excellent flagship computer. The world and its ports just need to catch up.
Read our Apple MacBook (early 2016) review.
10. Lenovo Yoga 900
Lenovo Yoga 900
Reviewed on: 26 February 16
RRP: From £1199 inc VAT (model reviewed £1499)
The Lenovo Yoga 900 is a laptop that really asks you to believe in its design style. After all, it doesn’t come cheap and for the price you can get a laptop with much more power if you’re not out for something immensely portable. That’s where this laptop excels: portability. As well as being slim, light and all-round lovely, the smart hinge lets it sit where most other laptops just can’t. The battery should last through a full day’s work as well. The trackpad can feel fiddly and the display isn’t perfect, but if you’re feeling flush this is one of the top ultraportables around.
Read our Lenovo Yoga 900 review.
11. Dell Chromebook 11 (3120)
Dell Chromebook 11 (3120)
Reviewed on: 9 March 16
RRP: £202 inc VAT
Dell knows what it’s doing when it comes to Chromebooks. This new, rugged model has plenty to offer in terms of speed and durability, but you don’t feel like you’re sacrificing much in return. With the long battery life and unique waterproofing feature it does seem like a device that’s built to last, which is good as you’ll want to keep using it for a long time to come.
Read our Dell Chromebook 11 (3120) review.
12. HP Spectre 13
HP Spectre 13
Reviewed on: 5 August 16
RRP: £1299 inc VAT
The HP Spectre 13 is desperate to appear a laptop of the future, and that comes with substantial pros and cons. Its supreme portability is quite wonderful, and while its design may polarise, it certainly is fancy. There’s substance too, with a surprisingly powerful CPU for a laptop this thin and solid build in the keyboard and trackpad. Its message is a little confused, though. The processor courts enthusiasts, but that’s exactly who’s likely to be most annoyed by the lack of memory card slot and a traditional USB port. There’s an audience for the Spectre 13, but if you’ve not signed-up to a wireless way of working yet you may want to think twice.
Read our HP Spectre 13 review.
13. Retina MacBook Pro review (15in, 2015)
Retina MacBook Pro review (15in, 2015)
Reviewed on: 8 June 15
RRP: From £1,599
We must admit to feeling a tinsy bit short-changed by the no-show of quad-core Intel Broadwell processor in this year’s 15-inch MacBook Pro model. However this refresh sees two aspects expanded that are always in demand – faster graphics and longer battery life – while also introducing to the machine the highly versatile Force Touch trackpad interface. Meanwhile the uplift in flash storage speed may look like a nerdy numberfest but will reward any user with some real-life leaps in daily productivity. The 15-inch maintains its place as the premium mobile workstation laptop, and puts that much more clear distance between it and the Windows tributes.
Read our Retina MacBook Pro review (15in, 2015) review.
14. Dell Inspiron 13 5000
Dell Inspiron 13 5000
Reviewed on: 14 September 16
RRP: £799 inc. VAT
The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 tells you larger convertible laptops have truly entered the mainstream. It’s reasonably affordable, still looks good and has the roughly the same power as some laptops costing way over £1000. Down sides include that the screen isn’t as colourful as the best and that the casing is made of plastic rather than something fancy like aluminium or a magnesium alloy. Oddly enough, though, it actually fits in well among its more stylish peers.
Read our Dell Inspiron 13 5000 review.
15. HP Envy 15-as001na
HP Envy 15-as001na
Reviewed on: 13 September 16
RRP: £799 inc. VAT
The HP Envy 15 doesn’t seem like a desperately interesting laptop at first glance. It’s too big to be cool, not quite cheap enough to be a stone-cold bargain. However, the longer you use it, the more you realise quite what a sound fit it is for people who want a larger laptop, but one not ugly, chunky or liable to last 90 minutes between charges. Sound performance, a smart trackpad, a respectable display and sensible price make the HP Envy 15 one of the best laptops for those who don’t really need a super-performance PC but still want the desktop-replacer feel you get with a 15.6-inch laptop.
Read our HP Envy 15-as001na review.
16. 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (early 2015)
13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (early 2015)
Reviewed on: 30 March 15
RRP: From £999
While it looks just like every Retina-screened 13-inch MacBook before it, the Early 2015 revision is streets ahead of earlier models. Its storage speed is up to double the already ground-breaking speed of the 2013 model. The new Force Trackpad brings tangible benefits in touch control, with an intelligent coprocessor that helps interpret our digital movements. And the Broadwell processor, with other running changes too, has spearheaded just about the greatest upgrade any mobile computing user could ask for, namely insanely long battery life. Improvements in graphics performance were less emphatic in our tests, but at least always positive changes. The world’s finest 13-inch notebook is now unassailable, especially given it’s kept the same sub-£1000 price point as its predecessor.
Read our 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (early 2015) review.
17. Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Reviewed on: 30 June 16
RRP: From £749 inc VAT (model tested £1079)
There is a great deal to like and rave about the Surface Pro 4. The design is thinner and lighter for starters. The screen is awesome, there’s plenty of power available, the new Surface Pen is better and the Type Cover is a vast improvement on the last one. However, the design is inherently awkward at times, it’s more expensive that a lot of laptops and the Type Cover, which you’ll pretty much need, isn’t included lowering the value.
Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review.
18. Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Reviewed on: 22 January 16
RRP: From £639 inc VAT
A very decent laptop replacement, and an okay tablet, the Surface Pro 3 is undeniably impressive. If you need a single device to do everything we can’t think of any better device. And when you consider the cost of buying a discrete laptop, tablet and desktop PC the Surface Pro 3 is priced to shift. The question remains as to whether people want a single device rather than multiple gadgets that are better at their individual tasks. Microsoft’s latest results suggest that Surface Pro 3 is winning hearts and minds. Has it won yours?