Choose The Best Laptops in 2017
We round up the best laptops you can buy in the UK in 2017, including Windows laptops and MacBooks. The best laptop is the Dell XPS 13, followed by the Asus ZenBook UX310 and the Dell XPS 15 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.
Your Buying Guide for the Best Laptops of 2017
Choosing a laptop isn’t the easiest thing to do, but we’re here to help. First, 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 here are available to buy in the UK. However, it’s not something we can check every day so there’s a chance you might not find the precise model listed. There are also often many different versions of the ‘same’ laptop so we always quote the part number of the model we tested. You can use this to search online and make sure you get the right model. But there is no harm in buying one of the other variants since – typically – it is just the amount of RAM, storage, processor or graphics card which differs: the chassis, screen, keyboard and touchpad generally remain identical across all.
Most laptops will come pre-installed with Windows 10 now. Of course, we also include here 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.
How much should I spend on a laptop?
Sometimes the best does come at a steep price, but 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 relatively low-quality screen. It might also be a bit heavy and bulky.
Ramp up the amount you’re happy to splash out – £700 and up – and you should get 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.
What screen size laptop do I need?
The size of your screen is an important decision when buying a laptop. They 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 have a glossy, reflective screen (certainly this is the case with touchscreens) but most people prefer a less reflective matt finish so that’s something to look out for, too.
How much laptop 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.
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 (7th) Intel Core i7 chip. Entry-level spec models are likely to offer a Core i3 or even a Celeron, Pentium or AMD processor instead. A Core i5 is a good mid-range choice 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. The letters after the model name are important, too. Y and U means these are ultra-low-power chips which won’t be great for demanding tasks but should mean longer battery life. H means high-performance graphics (built into the CPU) and Q means it’s quad-core.
While most come with Intel processors, you can still find AMD-powered devices around. See AMD vs Intel for more information.
Buying an Ultrabook and ultraportable laptop
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.
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 laptops 2017 UK – best laptop reviews
1. Dell XPS 13 9360
- Reviewed on: 30 December 16
- RRP: From £999 (model reviewed £1499), From US$799
The Dell XPS 13 is an excellent ultraportable laptop, the best 13-inch Windows model going for many. Dell hasn’t aimed for a single superlative feature, a potential gimmick. Its footprint is smaller than the competition, but it’s thicker. Its screen resolution is excellent, but display colour is normal rather than super-saturated. There’s also a mix of old and new connections, and a combo of a large battery and smart power management means the Dell XPS 13 lasts significantly longer than most a lot of the time. The balance is just right – we’d spend our own money on it.
2. Asus ZenBook UX310UA
- Reviewed on: 6 October 16
- RRP: £699
The Asus ZenBook UX310A is an ideal mid-range ultraportable laptop. It is what happens when a practical everyday laptop and an expensive all-aluminium Ultrabook fall in love, bringing you the pricey look and feel of a portable, stylish machine with the features of a workhorse and a price way below that of a rival MacBook.
Core hardware includes a Core i5-6200U CPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM and both a 128GB SSD and a 500GB HDD. There’s a single USB 3.0 port and two USB 2.0, plus USB-C, HDMI and SDXC. The Asus sports (albeit so-so) Harman Kardon stereo speakers, and with its 48Wh battery weighs in at 1.45kg. A cheaper version has the Core i3, 4GB of RAM and a lower-res display.
The 13.3in screen is a highlight, with unbelievable sharpness (276ppi) and colour saturation at this price, and this matt screen excels in outdoor use. It’s paired with a scissor-mechanism keyboard with backlight and a large, comfortable trackpad.
The ZenBook is not perfect – we’d like the display to tilt back further, the shell displays some flexing, and it’s a tad chunky thanks to the HDD inside – but it scored well on performance, provided you avoid intensive gaming. Battery life is solid, at 8 hours 10 minutes.
You can’t have it all at this price, but the ZenBook gets close.
3. Dell XPS 15 9560
- Reviewed on: 1 March 17
- RRP: From £1349, From US$999
The Dell XPS 15 is an amazingly flexible laptop, despite looking like an ordinary high-end one on the surface. It’s very powerful but has unusually good battery life for its class. It has a 15in screen but is smaller than almost all other 15in laptops with one. And is its 4K version the XPS 15 has the colour performance for pro design work. It’s also good-looking, and while not ultra-portable is not that heavy given the components inside. It makes the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar seem a bit frivolous in comparison, not to mention extremely expensive.
4. Acer Swift 3
- Reviewed on: 22 February 17
- RRP: £649.99
The Acer Swift 3 is a near-perfect laptop for those who want an ultraportable, but don’t want to fork out £1000+. Build quality is great, battery life very good, and performance a match for much more expensive laptops. There are just two areas where the low price shows. First, it’s a little thicker and heavier than some ultrabooks. It looks good enough, but limited maximum brightness and fairly poor colour reproduction limits its usefulness in certain situations.
5. Lenovo Yoga 710 11″
- Reviewed on: 9 August 16
- RRP: £549, US$549
The Lenovo Yoga 710 wants to offer the best, most convenient ultraportable laptop experience you can get without spending a scary amount of money. It has a 360-degree hinge and a touchscreen, which makes is a fun machine for use while travelling around.
You wouldn’t want to go any smaller for all-day work tasks, but there is also a larger 14in version of this laptop if you think the 11.6in Yoga 710 will prove too small. For what it’s worth, Lenovo has nailed the display, glossy, sharp, bright enough for outdoor use, covered in toughened glass and jet black when switched off.
Core hardware includes an Intel Core M3-6Y30 processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a 128GB SSD. You get a single USB 3.0 port, plus micro HDMI, but no microSD slot for storage expansion. There are stereo speakers, a nice tiled keyboard with two-button trackpad that is mostly comfortable to type on, and this 1.06kg laptop runs on a 40Wh battery.
It’s not the fastest Windows laptop, but sufficient for everyday tasks that don’t include gaming. It’s silent in use, with respectable audio and long battery life – 9 hours 45 minutes in our tests. Lenovo’s Yoga 710 is one of the best Windows alternatives to the 12in MacBook.
6. Dell Latitude 13 7370
- Reviewed on: 22 July 16
- RRP: From £1,079
Okay so it’s a business laptop, but check out that 13in edge-to-edge display. You wouldn’t be ashamed to show off the Dell Latitude 13 inside- or outside the office, with design hints taken from the awesome Dell XPS 13 listed higher up this chart.
It’s customisable to suit your needs, but the model we reviewed came with an Intel Core m5-6Y57 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. There’s a USB 3.0 port, two USB-C, Micro-HDMI, a microSD card slot and two optional Micro-SIM slots. This 13.3in-screen laptop also sports a 34Wh battery and a fingerprint scanner, and weighs in at 1.12kg.
The Latitude 13 has a pleasant matt finish to its base half, but the outer side of the lid is a cool (in every sense) aluminium that is surprisingly sturdy. Or you can add a carbon-fibre lid for an extra tenner.
The keyboard is distinctly business-fare, somewhat cramped and with concave, clicky keys, but it’s workable. The trackpad is good, but small. And the screen offers great colours and viewing angles, even outdoors, but it lacks brightness.
What really impresses is the Professional version of Windows it ships with, the silent running of the still-powerful processor, and its outstanding battery life of 8 hours 23 minutes in our tests.
7. HP Envy 13
- Reviewed on: 25 February 16
- RRP: From £649 (model reviewed £799)
You won’t find a laptop with a decent-sized screen more portable than this HP Envy 13. It’s incredibly slim and light, powerful, and it doesn’t cost the earth. Magic.
Key specs for our review sample include the Intel Core i7-6500U processor with 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a 256GB SSD. There’s a 13.3in full-HD screen, three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 1.4, a fingerprint scanner, SDXC slot, Bang & Olufson stereo speakers and a tiled keyboard complete with numberpad. With a 45Wh battery the Envy 13 weighs just 1.3kg. Cheaper Core-i5 and more expensive higher-resolution-screen options are also available.
Sensationally petite, the Envy 13 has plenty of its own visual personality. This ultra-light system offers a mix of officiousness and cuteness: an unusal combo. There’s a pleasant matt screen, a shallow but crisp keyboard, and HP’s trademark ultra-big, ultra-rounded touchpad – one of the best you’ll find on a 13in Windows laptop.
Day-to-day performance is excellent, and more demanding tasks such as photo- and video-editing are well within the HP’s remit. With integrated graphics, though, you’ll want to keep games at low settings. In our tests battery life ran to 8 hours 5 minutes.
8. Acer S 13 S5-371
- Reviewed on: 13 October 16
- RRP: £549.99
Introducing the Windows ultrabook for normal people (the ones whose jaws drop when they see the price of a new MacBook Air), the Acer S 13 is an affordable and recommended alternative to such wallet-busters. There’s a quirky trackpad and some parts of the build are cheap, but this is a very decent Windows laptop.
The S 13 has an embossed ‘ridged’ plastic lid, offset by a silvery hinge that gives it a recognisable two-tone style. Its underside is plastic too, and the use of this material is one way Acer has managed to keep down the price. Elsewhere the build is more premium, for example the aluminium keyboard surround.
On the whole, though, the spec is good. You get an Intel Core i3-610U processor (a Core i5 option is available) paired with 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a 128GB SSD. There are two USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C, HDMI, SDXC and stereo speakers. The 13.3in Acer has a 4,030mAh battery and weighs 1.3kg.
Day-to-day performance is good and battery life is very good, but the Acer is not a great gaming machine. It’s mostly quiet, with the fans kicking in only when necessary, yet the stereo speakers are loud. Watch it, though, as they’ll distort at maximum volume.
9. Microsoft Surface Book
- Reviewed on: 30 June 16
- RRP: From £1,299
Microsoft thinks it has made the ultimate laptop, which is also a tablet. It’s difficult to argue.
There are five models, with the top offering the new £2,649 Surface Book i7. We reviewed the original Intel Core i7 Skylake model with 16GB of RAM and Nvidia GPU, and found excellent performance but have to point out the Core i5 model offers better value.
The Surface Book is very angular, a slightly unusual shape for a laptop with a 3:2 aspect ratio, though we got used to it quickly. The 13.5in PixelSense display is stunning, with a crisp 267ppi density. Colour reproduction, brightness and viewing angles all excel. The Book itself is made from magnesium alloy, lighter and more durable than aluminium.
The Book splits apart into the 724g screen with a 18Wh battery and the 860g keyboard with a 51Wh battery (battery life is fantastic at 16 hours, 25 minutes). The most striking part of its design its the ‘Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge’, which looks cool and improves balance. Meanwhile, an equally cool ‘Muscle Wire Lock’ uses an electrically charged nickel titanium alloy to hold it all together. The Surface Pen attaches magnetically to the side.
You’ll find ports for USB 3.0 (x2), Mini-DisplayPort and an SD Card reader. USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 are missing, but this is still an amazing example of Windows laptop tech.
10. 12″ MacBook
- Reviewed on: 6 September 16
- RRP: £1,249 (256GB model) and £1,549 (512GB model), US$1,299 (256GB model) and $1,599 (512GB model)
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.