Not all laptops are created equal. And, just as surely, not all laptops are created for the same purpose. Think carefully about how you'll be using your new machine before you buy. We've got reviews of five leading Vista-equipped laptops, and a few hints on what you might (and might not) be looking for.
Acer Aspire 9813WKMi
Click here to read about an ideal and reasonably priced laptop for multimedia and gaming.
The Evesham offers the portability of a laptop while still being able to perform as a desktop replacement and multimedia centre.
£400 for a laptop with Vista? Gateway must be crazy.
Hi-Grade Notino D7000 7300
If you want a portable laptop for under £1,000 that enables you to tap into the world of Core 2 Duo computing, the Hi-Grade delivers.
Click here to read our review of the Zoostorm, which offers an impressive array of features and performance for a fairly modest price tag.
The stay-at-home laptop
The idea of a laptop is that it's a PC that you take on the move with you. Right? Well, not necessarily. Increasingly, home users are choosing to throw out an ungainly PC (with its large screen, speakers, mouse and so on) and replace it with a laptop. Even the heaviest notebook is light enough to be carried from one room to another, and a portable PC will almost certainly save space - it's easy to lock it away in a cupboard for security or tidiness. Of course, you invariably end up getting less for your money than if you spend a similar amount on a desktop PC, but as long as you're not hungry for every last bit of processing power, a laptop can easily replace your deskbound system.
If you're after a desktop-replacement, there will be certain features you don't need to worry about. It'll almost always be plugged into the mains, so there's no need to worry about battery life. (Tip: even if you're not generally using the battery, charge it up now and again, just to keep it in working order.)
Neither do you need to consider weight too carefully. Laptops rarely weigh more than 5kg (the Acer being an exception), and even twice this shouldn't be a problem for most people to carry for short distances. If a laptop weighs less than 3kg you're probably paying extra.
Look for a fast processor - the Core 2 Duo T7200/T7400 will do nicely for £801+ laptops. Make sure you have plenty of memory (1GB for sub-£800 and 2GB for £801+) and a large hard drive (100GB or more). You'll want a large screen (15.4in or bigger) and, if you're going to be playing games you'll need a fast graphics chip. We can't recommend anything slower than an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 or nVidia GeForce Go 7600, and for best performance, you’ll want a GeForce Go 7900 or 7950 GTX.
If you want to take your laptop on the move, your priorities will change. Size is going to be a major factor. Anything weighing 3kg or less counts as highly portable, with 2.5kg or even 2kg recommended if you need to be fleet of foot. Bear in mind that you will be charged extra for light designs. Battery life is important, and you'll want a minimum of two hours of real-world performance. Three hours is better still.
Expect to compromise elsewhere. You might have to make do with a Core Duo rather than a Core 2 Duo. The Core Duos still have plenty of power, though, and their battery life is very good. The Intel Celeron is less well suited to prolonging battery life.
Look for at least 1GB of RAM and a hard drive no smaller than 80GB. The screen is likely to be smallish - 14.1in is a good compromise. You aren't likely to need a great graphics card, and something like a GeForce Go 7300 or 7400 (or even an onboard controller like the Radeon Xpress 200M) should suffice.
Click here to read our review of Windows Vista.