What's the best laptop? The best laptop is the Dell XPS 13, but the Asus ZenBook UX303U and Alienware 13 are great alternatives as top laptops. Learn more about the best laptops in our best laptops chart below.

We're always being asked what is the best laptop, but that all depends on what you want it to do. If your answer is 'everything', here are the 17 best laptops available to buy in the UK in 2016.  Read more laptops buying advice here - you may also want to read our piece about the most reliable laptop makers

If you're thinking of buying a laptop, be sure to check out our Black Friday deals round-up for bargain laptop deals.

Our ratings take into account value for money alongside performance, build quality and features, but if you simply want the best laptop money can buy you'll find it here. If you'd rather have something a bit cheaper check out our best budget laptops, or if you're happy to work online there's our best Chromebooks, too; for something more portable see our best ultraportable laptops, and ultimate framerates there's our best gaming laptops. Also see all laptop reviews. 

At the time of writing all of the laptops in this round-up were available to buy in the UK. However, laptops are rarely available for more than a few months. You may find the laptops listed here at a much cheaper price than their RRPs (bargain!), but if you can't find the exact one you want we recommend you read our full review, check out its specification and look for a similar model at a similar price - certainly don't settle for less. 

Most of the laptops in our best laptops group test will come with Windows 8.1 in the box, but as we know Windows 10 is now available as a free upgrade - so don't be put off buying a Windows 8.1 laptop. For more details see: Will my PC or laptop get Windows 10? 

Of course, our best laptops group test also includes the best MacBooks, which run OS X 10.11 El Capitan out of the box.

Mac laptops are typically more expensive than Windows laptops, but Apple's laptops now offer better value than ever before. Some would argue that their typically superior build quality and higher-quality displays make them worth the additional expense, although several of the latest Windows laptops give Apple a good run for its money in the design stakes.  

Best laptops 2016: How much should I spend on a laptop? 

Budget is a consideration, but less so when you're looking for the ultimate laptop. However, we're compelled to ask: do you really need the ultimate laptop?  

You can get an awful lot for your money from a budget laptop these days, and even a sub-£200 Chromebook or cheap Windows 8.1 with Bing laptop will suit most people's needs. (Windows 8.1 with Bing is the same as Windows 8.1, but Bing is the default search engine - you can change this. Manufacturers can install Windows 8.1 with Bing for free, then pass that saving on to you.)  

Unless you're a gamer or use intensive applications, you probably don't need to spend thousands on a laptop. But if you can afford to, and you want the best, then of course it's your money. 

Under £500, you'll be compromising on one area or another. Whether it's screen quality, performance, weight, battery life or looks, you can't have everything. So-called Ultrabooks or ultraportables cost more, but are generally lighter, faster and may also have a touchscreen. 

Then there are hybrids, which are supposed to offer the best of both tablet and laptop worlds. Their designs differ wildly, though, with some being more like traditional laptops, and others like tablets which come with a detachable keyboard. 

At the top end, above £1,000 you should expect plenty of performance, particularly for games. You should also get a high-resolution, top-quality screen. Many manufacturers use the same chassis - complete with screen - for all laptops in a range, meaning you're getting the same quality no matter whether you spend £400 or £1,400. That's why it's crucial to read laptop reviews before you buy. 

Best laptops 2016: What screen size do I need? 

Talking of screens, sizes range from around 11in up to 17in. If you're replacing an older PC with a laptop to use at home, you will benefit from the bigger screen, keyboard and trackpad of a 17in laptop. 

Don't overlook the screen's resolution, though. Most laptops have a screen with 1366x768 pixels, with only a few offering full-HD (1920x1080) or higher resolutions. More pixels is almost always better, but on smaller screens more pixels means everything looks smaller, including Windows text and icons. 

Lots of laptops now come with touchscreens, but this is of little benefit on a standard laptop as it's too uncomfortable to use for more than the occasional prod. So-called hybrid laptops convert or fold into a position where you can use the touchscreen more easily, but don't forget that even the lightest laptops are too heavy to hold for long to use like a tablet. They can be useful if you want to browse the web on your sofa, though. 

Best laptops 2016: How much storage do I need? 

It's easy to confuse memory with the hard drive. Documents, programs and other files are stored on the hard drive (or SSD), so look for at least 500GB if you want to carry around with you your photos, music and video libraries. Single drives will stretch to 2TB (2000GB) these days, but you can buy portable USB drives cheaply to add storage, or back up files from your laptop's hard drive. 

SSDs are solid-state drives. They're faster than hard drives and make any laptop feel a lot faster. The bad news is that they're much more expensive, so you'll typically find 128GB or 256GB instead of 500GB or 1TB (1,000GB). Most laptops don't have space for both an SSD and hard drive, so you'll have to choose between the two types. A compromise is a small amount of onboard solid-state storage and large hard drive, but we've found you need at least a 32GB SSD to make a difference in Windows. Also see: Best SSDs 2016. 

Memory (RAM) is where programs and files are stored only while you're using them, and more is better. Consider 3GB an absolute minimum, with 6- to 8GB the ideal figure (but you can never have too much). 

Best laptops 2016: Which laptop processor is best? 

Unless you're planning to run very demanding software, you won't need the latest and greatest processor. It is wise, however, to shop around and get good value. We recommend an Intel Core i5 as the best compromise between cost and performance. Some may find a Core i3 too slow, but a Core i7 is usually overkill. Read more about the differences between Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7. 

There are different generations of Intel Core processors, the latest being sixth-gen. You can easily spot which generation processor a laptop has by the first digit of the processor's model number. For example, a Core i5-6500 is a sixth-generation CPU.

AMD processors tend to be found on budget laptops and are fine as long as you're not expecting earth-shattering speed. Also see: AMD vs Intel. 

If you want to play 3D games, look for a laptop with an Nvidia or AMD graphics card. You will have to pay extra, and don't expect a budget laptop (anything under £500- to £600) to be able to run the latest 3D games. 

The best laptops of 2016: Warranty and other considerations 

We recommend every laptop in this round-up: there isn't a duff one among them. It's important to read through the full review before spending your hard-earned cash, though, because no laptop is perfect in every respect. Whether any flaws are acceptable compromises or not will depend on your priorities. Our reviews detail the quality of each laptop's screen, keyboard and touchpad as well as listing the specifications. 

Don't forget about battery life and warranty cover: they do vary from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer. Some retailers provide extra warranty cover, so it might be worth shopping at, say, John Lewis, rather than saving a few quid buy choosing the cheapest price you can find online. 

After-sales service is something you should consider on not only laptops but almost everything you buy. Check whether the company has a UK-based support line, and forums (including our own) are an ideal place to get an idea of whether a manufacturer is generally good or bad at carrying out work under warranty. You may not have to deal with the manufacturer directly if you have a fault in the first six months as it's the retailer's responsibility to deal with issues. This is when it pays to have purchased from Amazon, John Lewis and others which will often replace or refund without quibble. 

It's also worth considering whether a laptop is indeed what you want. You can get some great bargains on desktop PCs these days, and if you don't want a large tower system taking up space there are plenty of all-in-one PCs to choose between. These integrate the computer behind the monitor, so they're much neater. Also, some tablets offer similar functionality to basic laptops. See our piece about choosing between laptop vs iPad, for instance. 

Read on for our pick of the UK's 20 best laptops and links to our best laptop reviews. 

17 best laptops 2016 UK - best laptop reviews

20. Aorus X3 Plus

Aorus X3 Plus
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 7 November 14
  • RRP: £1550 inc. VAT

The Aorus X3 Plus works well as a portable games station, providing fast framerates with modern games at high details settings. Its high-resolution screen is less obviously useful for its gaming role as fewer games may benefit from its high 262 ppi pixel density, and the Windows platform does not support absurdly high resolution displays well. When it does work you're rewarded with a pin-sharp image but remember that for gaming there's arguably little need to exceed 2560 or even 1920 screen pixel widths. Overall there's definite room for improvement by its maker but the X3 Plus should prove popular with Windows gamers looking to combine performance and portability.

Read our Aorus X3 Plus review.

19. Dell Inspiron 15-5558

Dell Inspiron 15-5558
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 2 October 15
  • RRP: £586.80 inc VAT

The Inspiron 15-5558 straddles budget and midrange laptop camps, depending on configuration, asserting excellent build quality and decent performance as you’d expect of a £500+ design. The screen is one of the best you’ll find on a laptop around this price too.

Read our Dell Inspiron 15-5558 review.

18. Dell Precision M3800

Dell Precision M3800
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 9 June 15
  • RRP: £1978 inc VAT

The Precision M3800 is Dell’s take on the ‘Ultrabook’ portable workstation notebook. It’s made from a mixture of materials, and has an undersized battery in order to stay fashionably trim. In its favour, the quad-core processor and midrange pro-certified graphics chipset provide useful performance, and without too much histrionics from the cooling fans. This year’s model now has a UHD 4K display although this still serves to exaggerate problems in some Windows programs, while the overly reflective touchscreen facility results in a heavier panel with poorer viewing that drains the battery faster. For professional users even more so than with consumer laptops, we here question the real worth of a touchscreen on a laptop. Ultimately the Dell’s circa-3 hour battery life means the M3800 is seriously compromised as a mobile productivity tool. If you don't mind staying tethered to the mains, it is a good clothes horse.

Read our Dell Precision M3800 review.

17. HP ZBook 15u G2

HP ZBook 15u G2
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 20 May 15
  • RRP: From £1320 (this model price TBC)

Hewlett Packard has done well to build a lighter weight 15-inch mobile workstation laptop with much of the strength and integrity of its traditional models that are far less mobile in real terms. Sacrifices have been made to the main CPU by fitting dual-core rather than quad-core, and the AMD GPU is a middleweight part rather than fire-breathing FirePro. But importantly the 15u runs cool and quiet enough not make itself a nuisance, even under load. Assuming the version we tested will cost under £2000 it could provide decent value, majoring on resilience more than style and sheer performance, but well enough equipped to prove attractive to the target professional audience.

Read our HP ZBook 15u G2 review.

16. Gigabyte P37X

Gigabyte P37X
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 13 May 15
  • RRP: £1750 inc. VAT

The Gigabyte P37X is built for gaming speed, based on a large 17-inch display chassis but in a thinner than traditional case. With the help of the best single-chip mobile graphics processor currently on the market it can play any game you want, up to very high rendering quality. It may not stand out in style but it gets the job done, albeit at a high price.

Read our Gigabyte P37X review.

15. MSI GE62 2QD Apache Pro

MSI GE62 2QD Apache Pro
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 11 August 15
  • RRP: £999 inc VAT

Sensibly powered for great games action, while remaining portable and comfortable to use, the GE62 is only compromised by tricky upgrade potential and disappointing battery life. It has a great display and respectable keyboard for gaming, and crucially plays games at high detail without distress.

Read our MSI GE62 2QD Apache Pro review.

14. 13-inch MacBook Air (early 2015)

13-inch MacBook Air (early 2015)
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 22 April 15
  • RRP: £849 (with 128GB storage), £999 (with 256GB)

After some extensive testing, we found the MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2015) to be little different overall to the 2014 model. The Thunderbolt 2 update will prove useful for connecting to high-resolution UHD displays, and a few percent of added processor power is never unwelcome. But hoped-for improvements in graphics performance and battery longevity did not arise in our testing, in spite of a new Intel processor which was expected to shepherd benefits in both areas. Launched at the same price as last year’s model it still deserves attention as one of the finest ultraportable laptops available - doubly so now that its flash-drive speed has shot up another 100 percent - and it will remain the more affordable option in lightweight notebooks when the new MacBook launches this month.

Read our 13-inch MacBook Air (early 2015) review.

13. MacBook Air (11 inch, early 2015)

MacBook Air (11 inch, early 2015)
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 14 April 15
  • RRP: £749 (128GB model), £899 (256GB model). More expensive build-to-order options available

Available at the same price as last year, the new 11-inch MacBook Air has the same super-fast storage as before, and around 10 percent increase in processor performance. Gaming performance was always borderline, and now we find it no better and even fractionally slower. But overall battery runtime increased by almost a third in our tests, a very useful upgrade on the already very decent 10 hour-plus battery life of the previous generation.

Read our MacBook Air (11 inch, early 2015) review.

12. Asus ZenBook UX305F

Asus ZenBook UX305F
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 1 April 15
  • RRP: £650 inc. VAT

The new ZenBook is a great home for Intel’s new Core M processor, which proved up to basic daily tasks in Windows with no obvious lag in the interface. Good battery life and decent screen quality are further plus points to a well-made case with a familiar design to Apple fans. At a price of £650 this is an attractive package as a carry-anyway Windows laptop.

Read our Asus ZenBook UX305F review.

11. Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Microsoft Surface Pro 3
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 22 January 16
  • RRP: From £639 inc VAT

A very decent laptop replacement, and an okay tablet, the Surface Pro 3 is undeniably impressive. If you need a single device to do everything we can't think of any better device. And when you consider the cost of buying a discrete laptop, tablet and desktop PC the Surface Pro 3 is priced to shift. The question remains as to whether people want a single device rather than multiple gadgets that are better at their individual tasks. Microsoft's latest results suggest that Surface Pro 3 is winning hearts and minds. Has it won yours?

Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review.

10. Toshiba Satellite P50T-C-109

Toshiba Satellite P50T-C-109
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 2 November 15
  • RRP: £799.99 inc VAT

The Satellite P50t has high-end touches on a midrange model, such as UHD IGZO screen and nVidia gaming graphics, plus some metal machining to suggest premium build. It’s let down by a reflective screen and lousy battery life. Despite underwhelming benchmark results it should be speedy enough for general duties.

Read our Toshiba Satellite P50T-C-109 review.

9. Acer Aspire V3-574G

Acer Aspire V3-574G
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 24 August 15
  • RRP: £579.99 inc VAT

For under £600 the Aspire V3-574G is easy to recommend. It's a commendable balance of virtues from the IPS screen, to the precise trackpad and highly regarded CPU. Nvidia graphics allow fluid gameplay up to 720p. The five-hour battery life, while half that of the best, may even get you through half a day’s use away from the mains.

Read our Acer Aspire V3-574G review.

8. Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Microsoft Surface Pro 4
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 14 December 15
  • RRP: From £749 inc VAT (model tested £1079)

There is a great deal to like and rave about the Surface Pro 4. The design is thinner and lighter for starters. The screen is awesome, there's plenty of power available, the new Surface Pen is better and the Type Cover is a vast improvement on the last one. However, the design is inherently awkward at times, it's more expensive that a lot of laptops and the Type Cover, which you'll pretty much need, isn't included lowering the value.

Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review.

7. 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (early 2015)

13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (early 2015)
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 30 March 15
  • RRP: From £999

While it looks just like every Retina-screened 13-inch MacBook before it, the Early 2015 revision is streets ahead of earlier models. Its storage speed is up to double the already ground-breaking speed of the 2013 model. The new Force Trackpad brings tangible benefits in touch control, with an intelligent coprocessor that helps interpret our digital movements. And the Broadwell processor, with other running changes too, has spearheaded just about the greatest upgrade any mobile computing user could ask for, namely insanely long battery life. Improvements in graphics performance were less emphatic in our tests, but at least always positive changes. The world’s finest 13-inch notebook is now unassailable, especially given it’s kept the same sub-£1000 price point as its predecessor.

Read our 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (early 2015) review.

6. HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1

HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 13 January 15
  • RRP: £2116 inc. VAT

Most ultraportables we test are dumbed-down MacBook Air clones with cheap construction and low-grade components. That's why it makes a particularly refreshing change to find a Windows laptop that not just matches but surpasses Apple's popular ultraportable in a key area like screen quality. The price is much higher than even the Retina-display 13-inch MacBook but if you must have a laptop built for Windows that can make a statement in build quality and top-class components, check out EliteBook Folio 1040 G1.

Read our HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 review.

5. Dell Inspiron 15 7559

Dell Inspiron 15 7559
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 30 November 15
  • RRP: £999 inc VAT

Lumpy but suggesting longevity, the Inspiron 15 7000 Series ought to survive as desktop replacement at home or the office. Powerful discrete graphics will please gamers and professionals, although the reflective screen and a trying trackpad knock points off usability. If you can live with these foibles, it's good value.

Read our Dell Inspiron 15 7559 review.

4. Retina MacBook Pro review (15in, 2015)

Retina MacBook Pro review (15in, 2015)
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 8 June 15
  • RRP: From £1,599

We must admit to feeling a tinsy bit short-changed by the no-show of quad-core Intel Broadwell processor in this year’s 15-inch MacBook Pro model. However this refresh sees two aspects expanded that are always in demand – faster graphics and longer battery life – while also introducing to the machine the highly versatile Force Touch trackpad interface. Meanwhile the uplift in flash storage speed may look like a nerdy numberfest but will reward any user with some real-life leaps in daily productivity. The 15-inch maintains its place as the premium mobile workstation laptop, and puts that much more clear distance between it and the Windows tributes.

Read our Retina MacBook Pro review (15in, 2015) review.

3. Alienware 13

Alienware 13
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 13 May 15
  • RRP: £1100 inc. VAT

The Alienware 13 is a compact yet very powerful laptop, suited to playing all modern Windows games. It’s chunky thick but relatively light in weight, and has been well designed and equipped to be a premium yet still portable powerhouse.

Read our Alienware 13 review.

2. Asus ZenBook UX303U

Asus ZenBook UX303U
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 16 December 15
  • RRP: £899.99 inc VAT

At around £900 the ZenBook UX303U approaches the build finesse but lacks the unbeaten battery of the similarly priced MacBook Air, although it can claim faster processor performance and a superior full-HD matt display. This latest ZenBook is a well-balanced, smart and powerful Windows notebook.

Read our Asus ZenBook UX303U review.

1. Dell XPS 13 9350

Dell XPS 13 9350
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 15 December 15
  • RRP: From £849 inc VAT

The Dell XPS 13 9343 stands as a shining beacon of hope in the world of Windows laptops, a compact laptop that outdoes the obvious competition in some key respects like screen quality and near-borderless display. Here is a 13.3-inch laptop that takes up little more space than an 11.6-inch model. Poor thermal management needs to be improved, while a non-touchscreen version could answer other outstanding issues.

Read our Dell XPS 13 9350 review.