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Laptop Buying Advice

Investing in a new laptop is a big decision, here's some sound advice to guide you

Group Test: What's the best Laptop?

Home laptops have multiple uses. Not only must they handle everyday tasks such as downloading emails, browsing the web and writing documents, but they must entertain the entire family.

You’ll want something that’s easy to get up and running. Windows 7, which is preinstalled on all but one of the laptops we review here, is reasonably easy to set up, and its built-in Wi-Fi connectivity lets you get online in minutes. Mac OS X is arguably even easier to get started with, although there’ll be a learning curve if you’re more used to the Windows operating system (OS).

Every model on test uses a 64bit OS, which allows a PC to make use of more than 4GB of RAM. Two of the models we review come with 8GB of memory, making for a faster, smoother experience.

Intel’s second-generation Core processors offer very good performance and improved integrated graphics. If you can get one, do. Seven of our eight laptops are powered by such chips. Hardcore gamers will still want a dedicated graphics processor, however.

Aim to get at least 500GB of storage, and strongly consider investing in an external hard drive for backing up important data. Six of the laptops reviewed here support USB 3.0, which allows for significantly faster data transfers to a compatible hard drive.

True desktop-replacement laptops are often heavy machines, and it’s unlikely that you’ll want to move one about too often. If you need a home laptop that can double as a travel companion, look for good battery life and a sub-2.5kg weight.

Group Test: What's the best budget laptop?

Also consider the conditions in which you’ll be using the laptop. If it must be usable indoors and outdoors, in bright and low-light environments, a matt screen is essential. Glossy screens offer better colour depth and sharper images, but they struggle with light reflections. Look for an anti-glare coating to get the best of both screen types.

A good keyboard is important if you’ll be rattling off long emails or documents. You may also want to add a USB or wireless mouse, since long-term touchpad use can become uncomfortable. Bear in mind, however, that this decision may mean you lose out on the useful control gestures supported by some modern touchpads.

Conclusion

We felt Lenovo’s IdeaPad G570 deserved our Best Buy award due to its strong specification, good performance and competitive price. If you’re looking for a laptop that’ll cope with everyday tasks, as well as intensive processes such as video editing, the £600 Lenovo ticks many boxes.

Apple’s MacBook Pro impressed us with its incredible build quality. However, its £999 price tag and integrated graphics may prove compromises too far. The MacBook’s 2kg weight, great battery life and smaller 13.3in screen make it a good contender for portability.

For raw performance, MSI’s GE620 was beaten only by the Packard Bell TSX66 in our WorldBench 6 speed test. Its dedicated nVidia graphics also produced faster framerates in Fear.

Group Test: What's the best Laptop?

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