Laptops are great for mobility and power, but they’re not as versatile as a desktop computers. You’ve made your decision once and for all.
You could just set a budget and buy whatever a major manufacturer like Dell, Lenovo, HP, or Acer has on offer for that price, but what if the machine doesn’t meet your needs? What if the keyboard or screen isn’t working correctly or lacks all of the connections you require? You can’t simply switch out your keyboard monitor, and although you can increase the RAM or upgrade to a larger or faster hard drive, it’s not as simple as it is on a desktop PC.
Buying Guide for Best laptop Reviews
As a result, before you see any laptop reviews guide and hand over your cash, consider carefully what you need your laptop for. We’ll clear up some of the uncertainty in our purchasing guide by walking you through the many types of laptops available and giving an overview of the various specs you’ll encounter.
1. Select a size
There is no one most excellent laptop; it depends on your specific needs and budget, with size playing a significant role.
Laptops are usually classified by the diagonal size of their displays, which is measured in inches. This is because the laptop’s screen size also affects the total size of the laptop’s chassis. A laptop with a 17-inch screen is great for work and gaming, and it’ll probably have a decent-sized keyboard to make typing simpler, but it’ll be much larger and heavier than a 13-inch one.
Although gaming notebooks are technically laptops, most of them aren’t portable.
You should consider if you’ll be traveling with your laptop or using it exclusively at home; an ultra-light 13-inch model (£500-£700 roughly) isn’t much use if you’ll be using it on a desk at home most of the time. A 17-inch powerhouse (about £600-£1000) is a decent substitute for a desktop PC, but it’s unlikely to fit in a backpack, and even if it could, you may not want to carry around something like Acer’s Helios 300, which weighs just under 3kg.
A 15-inch model (about £300-£500) is a good balance between use and portability: as long as it’s under 2kg, you shouldn’t have any problems bringing it on the train. Choose a laptop with an 11-13-inch display if you want something super-lightweight.
2. Select a display resolution
The screen size isn’t the only consideration; the resolution should also be considered. The most common minimum resolution is 1,366 x 768 pixels. For the most part, this is sufficient. With this many pixels, you can work on two apps simultaneously, mainly because many contemporary websites reformat themselves to fit the available screen area.
The Dell XPS 13 features a 13.3-inch high-resolution screen, so you’ll have to zoom it up to view it properly.
A higher resolution does not necessarily imply perfect space on laptops with smaller displays. When there are more pixels in a tiny area on a computer, the operating system must scale everything up. Otherwise, text and icons will be too small to view correctly.
A 15-inch laptop with a 1,920 x 1,080 screen has about the same amount of application space as a 15-inch laptop with a 1,366 x 768 screen. On the other hand, the more excellent resolution means that text and icons will be smoother and therefore easier to view.
It’s a good idea to walk into a shop and test out a few screens to get a better sense of what you’re looking for. Your vision and working habits will determine the kind of screen you choose.
3. Pick a form factor to work with.
The classic clam-type design, with a screen that folds down into the keyboard and touchpad, is still available on most laptops. However, there is a handful who defy the pattern. Some laptops retain their conventional form but have a touchscreen, which may be helpful for creative activities like sketching or music production. Others, known as 2-in-1s, feature a touchscreen that folds back behind the keyboard, transforming the laptop into a tablet.
Models like Microsoft’s Surface line and several Asus Transformers feature displays that detach entirely from the rest of the device, allowing them to function as genuine tablets without the weight and size of keyboards.
These specialty tablets are great if you want to utilize touchscreen-enabled apps, such as design or music software, but they’re a lot more costly than regular laptops. You’re generally better off staying with a standard notebook if you’re unsure what you want or require this flexibility.
4. Figure out what kind of keyboard you want to use.
Laptop keyboards are more diverse than desktop keyboards due to the physical limitations imposed by the laptop’s physical size. For starters, a numeric keypad can only be found on more giant computers and then only on specific models.
In addition, many computers feature tiny arrow keys or backslash keys on the right side of the keyboard rather than the left. Only a few laptops include physical keys for Home, End, and Page Up and Page Down; if there isn’t one, you’ll have to use a Function (Fn) key combination instead. If you use these keys to move around a text document, seek a laptop that has distinct physical keys for each of these tasks.
Laptop keyboards are also of varying quality. Some are difficult to type on because the keyboard tray flexes in the center as you type. If you can’t test out the keyboard in a store, we suggest reading some reviews to determine any significant issues. After all, as long as you have the laptop, you’ll have to put up with a subpar keyboard.
5. Are you interested in a Touchpad?
The touchpad on a laptop is the same way. This is one of the most fundamental ways you interact with your laptop. Therefore it must function correctly. Many laptop touchpads, however, are terrible. The tendency is to make the buttons part of the central touchpad, which, if done incorrectly, may cause your cursor to bounce all over the place when you click. Surface Pro 4 is the fourth generation of the Surface Pro.
Many touchpads don’t react to finger movement adequately or feature mushy buttons that make it difficult to tell if you’ve clicked. Most contemporary touchpads allow gestures, such as scrolling with two fingers or pinch-to-zooming – but the ease with which these gestures may be used differs significantly across laptops.
Many laptops now have Microsoft-approved Precision Touchpads, putting an end to years of poor Windows laptop touchpads that were far outperformed by Apple’s MacBook touchpads. If you end up with a laptop with a lousy touchpad, you can always take a USB travel mouse in your luggage, which leads us to…
6. Make a connection decision
A laptop has significantly fewer ports than a desktop PC due to the restricted space surrounding its base. As a result, consider what you’ll need to put in carefully. For starters, some computers only have two USB ports. You’ll need to disconnect something if you have a printer and a mouse connected in and want to get some pictures off your camera – unless your laptop has a built-in SD card reader, as many do. Many modern laptops now have at least one USB 3 connection for quicker data transfers.
Most larger laptops include at least three USB ports, which should allow enough for most users. Also, many modern laptops lack built-in DVD drives, so if you want to read and burn discs, you’ll need to spend about £20 on a USB drive – and make sure you have enough free ports. Ports on the Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VWThe newest high-end laptops are beginning to have USB 3.1 connections. Although these ports are typically Type-C, they offer up a world of possibilities regarding transfer rates and peripherals. A single USB 3.1 port may host a variety of high-power and high-performance peripherals such as monitors and external hard drives through an external dock, which can be costly but very useful.
Consider networking: While all laptops have built-in wireless networking (if you have a fancy 802.11ac router, make sure your laptop’s wireless chip supports AC for the fastest transfer rates), not all have an Ethernet connection. We often encounter this problem while traveling since some hotels have weak wifi connectivity yet fast Ethernet networking in each room. For as low as £10, you can get a USB-to-Ethernet converter, but keep in mind that it will take up one of your valuable USB ports.
Video outputs are also important: HDMI is the most popular video output on laptops. It will connect to most TVs and monitors (except for 4K versions, which need the HDMI 2.0 connection). Only a few business models have VGA outputs, which you may need to connect to a boardroom projector. HDMI-to-VGA adapters are inexpensive, so this isn’t a huge issue.
7. What level of performance do you require?
By now, you should have a good concept of how your laptop should appear on the exterior, so it’s time to focus on the insides. The first is RAM. Unless you’re purchasing a super-cheap laptop, get at least 4GB of RAM, so you don’t have to worry about having too many browser tabs open at once. If you’re going to be editing video, you’ll want at least 8GB of RAM, though this is increasingly standard even in low-cost laptops. MSI Dragon is a gaming laptop by MSI.
It’s more challenging to choose a processor. A minimum Intel Core i3 CPU should be enough for online surfing and office work, with a Core i5 chip being recommended for more demanding activities like dealing with large files.
It’s more challenging to choose a processor. A minimum of an Intel Core i3 CPU should suffice for online surfing and office work. A Core i5 chip is recommended for more demanding activities such as dealing with big pictures and editing and encoding video. Laptops with Core i7 processors are pricey but very fast, so they’re worth considering if you want the most incredible performance available.
Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs are discussed in this video.
Keep in mind that not all Core chips are created equal — low-voltage versions may cause confusion. For additional information, see our Core i3, i5, and i7 Explained page.
Of course, AMD-powered laptops are available, but they are still relatively uncommon. To avoid buying a computer with a weak CPU, go for an AMD A8 or A10 processor.
8. Figure out what kind of visuals you’ll need.
Most laptops depend on the integrated graphics chipset built into their CPU, typically referred to as “Intel HD Graphics.” If you’re serious about gaming, you’ll need a laptop with a specialized Nvidia or AMD graphics chipset. Because it’s difficult to predict how fast a graphics chipset will be just on its model number, we suggest looking up graphics benchmarks online to see how a chipset performs in the most recent games.
Only the most costly laptops can play the newest games in great detail, so if you have the room, it may be better to purchase a regular laptop plus a gaming desktop PC (or a games console).
9. The duration of the battery
If you’re going to travel with your laptop, this should be a significant concern, along with size and weight. After all, getting a seat on a train or at a café near a power outlet isn’t always feasible. Smaller, lighter laptops often have longer battery life than bigger ones due to lower-power low-voltage CPUs and smaller screens.
Again, check evaluations to discover how long a laptop’s battery will last; a general-purpose 15-inch laptop should last five to seven hours, while a compact, extremely portable laptop should last eight to ten hours or more. Some high-end laptops are thirsty monsters, and you may only get four to four and a half hours of unplugged usage from them.
Finally, we arrived at the storage area. An SSD will help your laptop boot faster and seem much faster and more responsive, just as it does on a desktop PC, so it’s worth shopping for if you can afford it. You can’t simply purchase a tiny SSD for your operating system and an inexpensive hard drive for your data like you can with a desktop PC. Upgrade your laptop to a 16GB SSD.
Because the overwhelming majority of laptops only have space for one drive, be sure it’s large enough. The Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 14 has 32GB of storage, which is enough for Windows 10 and any downloaded updates. A minimum of a 120GB SSD is recommended, but only if you keep most of your data in the cloud.
If you plan to use your laptop at home and store gigabytes of pictures and music, go for a machine with at least 500GB of storage. Some feature “SSHD” hybrid drives, which combine a sluggish mechanical hard disk (HDD) with a small SSD cache. These drives contain commonly used data and may reduce boot times and load times for the applications you use the most. If your budget doesn’t allow for a big SSD, they’re a decent compromise.
SSDs that utilize the PCI-Express (PCIe) standard are becoming common in high-end laptops. These are often many times quicker than a standard SSD and may significantly improve performance.
Now that you’ve read our top ten suggestions, check out our guides to the best laptops for business, gaming, and student laptops.