Most Popular Laptops
The Which? guide to buying the best laptop
What is a laptop?
A laptop is a portable personal computer that runs the same applications as traditional desktop computers. Laptops are great if you don’t have the space at home for a desktop computer, if you want to use the computer while on the move, or if you’re looking for a second computing device.
You can pick up a basic laptop from between £350 to £500 but it won’t have all the advanced features of the premium laptops, which are usually priced at £800 and above. Below we look at how laptops shape up against PCs and tablets and which one is right for you.
Read the full Which? laptop reviews to find out the laptops we rated as Best Buys
Why do I need a laptop?
Many people buy a laptop to use as their main computer at home. Many are as powerful as a full PC but they save on space and can be easily moved from room to room.
Laptops are far more powerful than tablets so, if you plan on serious productivity, a laptop is your best choice. Faster graphics and more memory, coupled with a larger screen and more storage space, means that projects such as editing home videos and photos, or running the latest games, are easier and faster on a laptop.
What can I do on a laptop?
Today’s premium laptops are extremely powerful and capable. Advanced graphics processors, and lots of storage space and memory, mean laptops are able to handle the most demanding of computing tasks.
What can’t I do on a laptop?
Laptops do have some disadvantages – they’re heavier than tablets, have a shorter battery life between charges, and take longer to start up. You’ll also need to keep their security up-to-date as they’re more prone to viruses and malware than tablets.
To find out what exactly makes a Which? Best Buy laptop, watch the video below...
What should I look for in a laptop?
Hundreds of different laptops are available, from the cheap and cheerful to the sleek and expensive, so how do you start narrowing down the options? Here are two questions you need to ask yourself before deciding what type of laptop you need:
- What do you want to use your laptop for? Are you looking for a laptop to complete day-to-day tasks, such as emailing and web browsing? Or are you on the lookout for a more powerful model that’s good for editing video and photos, and playing advanced games?
- Where do you want to use your laptop? Are you going to be on the move, where portability is a key factor in your buying decision, or are you planning to stay at home close to a power source?
How much does a good laptop cost?
The average price of a laptop is £590. While a top-end laptop can cost around £1,000 or more, there are also decent models for under £400.
We’ve split laptops into three categories and identified some key considerations that should help you choose the right laptop for you and avoid paying more than you need to.
Budget laptops – how much should I spend and what does it buy me?
There are many good laptops for under £450, although this won’t give you a complete workhorse. For this kind of price, you can expect:
- an Intel Core i3 processor
- 4GB of Ram
- at least 500GB of hard drive space
- a DVD-RW drive – essential if you’re looking to play your DVD library.
Family/All-rounder – how much should I spend and what does it buy me?
You can get a good laptop ideal for everyday use in the range of £500 to £700. Based on this price, you will see:
- a screen size of between 15 and 17 inches
- 4GB of Ram – this should be fine, but boost this to at least 6GB if you’ll be doing more intensive tasks.
- at least an Intel Core i5 processor
- around 500GB to 750GB of space.
Ultraportable – how much should I spend and what does it buy me?
A premium, thin and light laptop will cost upwards of £700. For this you can expect:
- a laptop that weighs less than 2kg, not including the charger
- battery life with a minimum of five hours
- a 128GB SSD, which is fine, but look for a 256GB SSD if possible.
Windows vs Mac: which laptop is best for me?
Before considering price or specifications, think first about the operating system. There are two main ones to choose from – Apple Mac OS and Microsoft Windows. Mac OS is used exclusively on Apple-branded products, whereas Windows is used by numerous manufacturers.
Mac OS laptops
Known for its great design and easy-to-use software, Apple set the benchmark for other manufacturers to follow – and it’s not hard to see why Apple laptops are so popular. Mac OS laptops are straightforward, intuitive and easy to use.
Two Windows versions are available on new laptops – Windows 7 and the very latest Windows 8. Windows 7 is being phased out, but you may still be able to find it on some laptops. Windows 8 is now installed on most new Windows-based laptops and is slightly different to previous generations of Windows.
The greatest advantage of Windows is that it is adaptable and the operating system will work with just about any program or game out there. For most people it will also be familiar and easy to use.
To find out which laptops perform well in our exhaustive tests to become Best Buys, read our latest reviews.