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Best laptops of 2012

The 10 best portable PCs we've seen this year

We review PC Advisor's 10 best laptops of 2012.

Each year PC Advisor reviews literally hundreds of laptops of all shapes and sizes. Many are simply commodity boxes - basic and inexpensive portable PCs aimed at web browsing and office work. But in amongst the variety of ultraportables, power laptops and gaming rigs, 10 stand out. Sometimes because they represent the innovative start of a new trend, often simply because they are well built laptops offering great performance.

Here then, in no particular order, are our 10 best laptops of 2012.

Best laptops of 2012

Acer Aspire V3-571

We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Why it is great: The Acer Aspire V3-571 laptop is a great example of just how much can be achieved within the constraints of a severely limited budget. According to our reviewer it does a remarkable job, providing pace and a pleasing user experience enhanced by the appearance of some of the better input devices we've seen at this price level. Our advice? Snap one up while you still can.

Acer Aspire V3-571

Alienware M14x

We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Why it is great: This high-end gaming rig was the first Ivy Bridge lapop we saw. It brings true high-end performance into a compact and portable machine at a high but quite justifiable price tag. Although the M14x looks the same as its predecessor – and still looks cool – it's what's on the inside that counts here. For your hard-earned pounds, this Alienware offers high levels of gaming performance and plenty of connectivity inside a portable shell with a screen big enough for proper gaming sessions.

Apple MacBook Air

We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Why it is great: That's right. Apple. Deal with it. Apple makes great laptops, and 2012 was a stellar year for its ultraportable - the MacBook Air. We reviewed three award-winning MacBook Air laptops this year: the Apple MacBook Air 13in (Mid-2012), the Apple MacBook Air 13in (Mid-2011), and the Apple MacBook Air 11in (Mid-2012).

Each one offered a combination of stunning build, awesome performance and unique portability. Intel is only now pushing Windows PC makers into Ultrabooks, but Apple has been making the MacBook Air for years now, and it remains the outstanding portable PC of its generation. As our reviewer said: "This is the original ultrabook, and with extra details and quality touches it still beats all Ultrabooks we've seen so far."

MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Pro

We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Why it is great: Them again. Put simply, Apple makes great laptops, and the MacBook Pro is the cream of the crop. This year, too, Apple upped its game by introducing the Retina Display to its high-end laptop. We reviewed three award-winning MacBook Pro laptops this year: the Apple MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display, the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display, and the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display 2.6GHz.. Speaking about the first of that trio, our reviewer said: "The essential specifications of the 13in Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display closely follow the groundbreaking original 15in version. Reduced size here necessitates integrated-only graphics, as well as a more efficient dual-core rather than quad-core processor. But this choice of components really delivers, and crucially in a state-of-the-art 13in notebook that takes the second-finest laptop display money can buy – beaten only by the 15in Retina model of the Apple MacBook Pro."

MacBook Pro

Asus K55VD

We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Why it is great: One of the cheapest Ivy Bridge laptops we've seen so far, the K55VD also has a dedicated graphics card capable of playing 3D games. It isn't the prettiest, but Asus' K55VD delivers surprisingly good performance for not a lot of money. The touchpad takes some getting used to, but as with the smallish 500GB hard disk, these foibles aren't deal-breakers. It's a great deal.

Asus K55VD

Dell XPS 13

We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Why it is great: If the display was higher resolution and offered better off-axis viewing angles, the Dell XPS 13 would be our favourite Ultrabook. As it is, we're still pretty smitten. The XPS 13 is compact, well built, and performs well. It is exactly what an Ultrabook should be: a stylish, high performance, portable PC.

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 14z

We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Why it is great: The XPS 14z matches its little brother, and then some. The Dell XPS 14z takes an unusual screen size of 14in, and shoehorns it into a laptop comparable to a typical 13in model, thanks to a lovely thin bezel. Dell's XPS 14z could be accused of looking rather like a MacBook Pro. If this was a deliberate ploy, it’s also a risky one, as few laptops can stand comparison with the MacBook Pro's design, build and feature set and still walk away with their reputations intact. Fortunately, the Dell XPS 14z is one that almost can. In all, there's a lot of laptop on offer here for under £1000, despite our mixed feelings about the display. A fine looking, sturdy and fast laptop with an attractive price tag, we've no hesitation in recommending it.

 Dell XPS 14z

HP Folio 13-2000

We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Why it is great: The Folio 13 takes on the Ultrabook concept, and succeeds by not simply producing a copy of the MacBook Air. In fact, HP may have found the sweetspot, building a well-made 13in ultraportable for under £750. The HP Folio 13-2000 is the company's first attempt at making one of Intel's ultrabooks and, by golly, it’s got most of it right. The screen may let it down, but the laptop looks good, performs well, looks after its battery and comes in at a very reasonable price of £749. It's hard to argue against such a well-rounded package. So we won't.

HP Folio 13-2000

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga

We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Why it is great: The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga is one of the more intriguing products to be announced this year: a hybrid laptop and tablet. The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga is aptly named - it's flexible in more than one way. Not only can this Ultrabook be used as a laptop and a tablet, its screen can actually swivel around the hinge 360 degrees to maximize the tablet experience. It's not perfect, but it represents the best we've seen of the new wave of Windows 8 devices, designed to take advantage of that platform's dual nature.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga

Samsung Series 9

We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Why it is great: A superb 13.3in Ivy Bridge ultrabook with excellent build quality and a stunning display.

 Samsung's Series 9 is a stunning laptop that's superbly built, has an excellent screen and which feels good to use. It's the thinnest notebook on the market and among the lightest. Even so, it runs an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU that supplies more than decent performance for office applications and more.

Samsung Series 9

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