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38 best laptops for 2015: The best laptop you can buy in the UK - best power laptops, best budget laptops, best ultrabooks

The 38 best laptops reviewed: the best laptop you can buy in the UK

'What is the best laptop?' is a question we get asked all the time, so in an attempt to answer that question, here are the 38 best laptops available to buy in 2015. (Read more laptops buying advice here - you may also want to read our piece about the most reliable laptop makers). 

Although we've ranked our list of the best laptops available to buy in 2015 below, the best laptop for you will depend on your priorities: no single laptop will suit everyone. Make sure to also check out our more specific laptop category round ups below.

Best budget laptops 2015 - Best ultraportable laptops - Best gaming laptops - Best high-end laptops

You may want a large screen, or a small one for the ultimate portability. Performance might be the key ingredient. There's even the choice of operating system. Windows 8 is now the default OS on new laptops (you can use it just like Windows 7, so don't let the new interface put you off: see our guide on making Windows 8 work for you).

If money is no object, you'll also have the choice of Mac OS on an Apple MacBook. Some say MacBooks aren't laptops, but that's nonsense. You'll pay a lot less for the equivalent Windows laptop, but you won't get a stylish and sturdy aluminium body, nor the great-quality screen. Few Windows laptops use top-quality IPS displays, instead saving money by compromising on TN-based screens, which have narrower viewing angles and, in general, poorer colour accuracy. And once you have decided what to buy, you have to decide where to shop for your laptop. Find out more about buying laptops from Tesco, or click here to find out more about buying laptops from John Lewis.

The best laptops of 2015: how much to spend

Budget is obviously a huge consideration, but there's a lot to be had at the budget end of the market now. As well as the proliferation of Chromebooks, there's also a new version of Windows 8, called Windows 8.1 with Bing. From your perspective, this is exactly the same as Windows 8.1, but it's free for manufacturers to install on their laptops, and the saving is passed onto you. That's why you can buy a fully fledged Windows laptop for £200 or less, making it a more tempting choice than a Chromebook, which can't run Windows programs.

32 best laptops for 2015: The best laptop you can buy in the UK - best power laptops, best budget laptops, best ultrabooks

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 cost more, but are generally lighter, faster and 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 reviews to find out.

The best laptops of 2015: Screens, touchscreens and hybrids

Talking of screens, sizes range from around 11 inches up to 17 inches. 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.

Laptop buying advice: Best laptops of 2015

The best laptops of 2015: Storage

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 on-board solid-state storage and large hard drive, but we've found you need at least a 32GB SSD to make a difference in Windows.

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 6-8GB the ideal figure (but you can never have too much).

The best laptops of 2015: Processor

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.

There are different generations of Intel Core processors, the latest being fourth-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 i5-3337U is a third-generation CPU.

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

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 £500-600) to be able to run the latest 3D games.

The best laptops of 2015: Warranty and other considerations

The good news is that all the laptops here are models we recommend: there isn't a duff one among them. It's important to read through the full review before spending your hard-earned cash, too, 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.

Finally, 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.

In fact, 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 responsibiility 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-ones 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 a laptop and an iPad, for instance.

Also worth reading: Best laptop bags and backpacks

The 38 best laptops of 2015: Reviews

38. Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T

The Toshiba Qosmio X70 in its ‘B’ form with Haswell processor is a relatively powerful quad-core laptop with some gaming potential. But our games tests suggest the AMD solution here is not as fast as older nVidia graphics processors, let alone the rival firm’s latest 800 and 900 series GPUs made for mobile gaming. Our experience with a flakey trackpad may be isolated but serious enough that we would hastily return this laptop for a refund if we were a paying customer. Laptop build is improved over earlier Toshiba models, but at this price we would like to see better screen quality and a real solid-state drive for storage.

37. Schenker XMG A505

The XMG A505 is a versatile choice if you wish to define your gaming laptop experience. Finish quality and style are conspicuously behind the leaders here, although display image is good and the Intel/Nvidia combination means the most challenging games play with ease. The second-fastest storage we’ve ever tested means one quick everyday laptop, even if storage performance counts for near nought when you’re actually playing Windows games.

36. Toshiba KIRA

The Toshiba Kira cannot approach the outstanding battery life of its Apple rivals. It does manages to combine good overall speed and a high-resolution display with a truly ultraportable design. That's a difficult trick to pull off, and it makes the Kira one of the most attractive Windows Ultrabooks currently available.

35. Schenker XMG C703

A laptop of this size is still likely to spend most of its time indoors, but it's undeniably impressive to see a 17-inch laptop that is genuinely light enough to carry around in a backpack without spending six months training in the gym first. It's not cheap, but it does provide gaming performance that would previously have cost £1500 or more, and is a great option for any gamer who wants a powerful laptop that they can take round to a friend's house for an evening of hard-core gaming action.

34. Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus

The Samsung Ativ Book 9 is one of the nicer Windows Ultrabooks around at the moment with stylish design and impressive-looking specifications. But it comes at a high price and has disappointing battery life. Unless you specifically want Windows 8 and that super high-res display, you should bear in mind that the equivalent MacBook Air has better overall performance and is cheaper.

33. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2

In some respects the Yoga 2 is a real bargain, as it provides good screen quality, battery life and lightweight design at a very competitive price. Performance is below-par, although it will still handle routine web browsing, streaming video and wordprocessing perfectly well. And, with its lightweight, convertible design, it's a far more attractive device than the big, heavy 15-inch laptops that most manufacturers offer as their low-cost option.

32. Asus N550JV

The Asus N550JV is a high-performance midrange laptop, blighted by an abominable touchscreen display and tortoise hard disk. If you care about sound quality, the B&O-branded sound system is not a reason to seek out this laptop. But the N550JV plays Windows games at a good lick, albeit at a low resolution by modern standards.

31. HP EliteBook 840 G1

It's a shame that the EliteBook doesn't include a solid-state drive that can really make the most of its powerful processor and GPU, but this is still a well-designed and versatile laptop that will appeal to many business users. The high-quality display is particularly suitable for presentations, while its sturdy design, security features and battery life will appeal to anyone that spends a lot of time out on the road.

30. Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series

The sturdy Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series is generally excellent, with rapid components, extensive connectivity, a good screen and comfortable keyboard, but it can’t quite become the ultimate office Ultrabook: the battery life can’t match the MacBook Air’s longevity, and its £1522 price makes it pricier too.

29. Asus ZenBook Prime Touch

The ZenBook Prime Touch still looks great, and combines desktop-level performance with a slimline design that is extremely portable. However, the failure to provide a battery-efficient Haswell update is a missed opportunity, and means that the ZenBook isn’t quite the leader that it used to be.

28. Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Retina, Late 2013)

There’s something subjectively ‘right’ about the shape and size of the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina. It’s not as quick as the 15-inch but for many people in most scenarios, in really doesn’t need to be – yet it still challenges the speed of last year’s quad-core 15-inch Retina in some respects. It is marginally lighter than before, faster in every direction and still with the main attraction working well – the eye-wateringly gorgeous Retina-class IPS display.

27. Apple MacBook Air 11in and 13in (Early-2014)

The Apple MacBook Air (Early 2014) really does provide all-day battery life. For that alone, it fully deserves to be top of the list for anyone looking for a workaday laptop, one that can reduce one of modern life’s stresses: that of wondering whether your computer will still be functional just when you need it. It’s about as fast as the previous model, and seals the deal with future-proofed fast Wi-Fi and a lower price than last year’s model. It’s an outstanding ultraportable among a mass of me-too ultrabook mediocrity.

26. Acer Aspire S3-392G

The Acer Aspire S3 has a lot going for it, including an attractive, slimline design and high-quality IPS display. It also provides good performance for an Ultrabook in this price range, thanks to its hybrid storage drive and nVidia graphics. Battery life was respectable rather than outstanding, and some people might prefer to trade features such as the touch-screen and nVidia GPU for a longer-lasting battery.

25. Chillblast Messiah 17 GTX780M

It's a shame that Chillblast can't manage some more interesting designs for its gaming laptops. However, the Messiah's gaming performance does justify the price, while its healthy memory and storage, along with features such as the Blu-ray writer and FireWire port ensure that it can handle demanding productivity tasks too.

24. Alienware 18

It's big, heavy and outrageously expensive – and at this price the display could offer better-than-HD resolution. However, the dual GPUs of the Alienware 18 really do provide the strongest performance we've yet seen from a gaming laptop. The only question now is whether the forthcoming GeForce 800M series can outdo that performance, in either single or dual-GPU configurations.

23. Dell Precision M3800

We have mixed feelings about the Dell M3800. It squeezes incredible performance into a thin and light chassis, with superb build quality. But its poor battery life is unacceptable, and there's no easy fix for the DPI issues in some Windows desktop software. There are also a few niggling issues such as slow 802.11ac wireless performance. We'd recommend trying it out first with older desktop software before making your mind up whether this is the mobile workstation for you.

22. Toshiba Qosmio X70-A

The Toshiba Qosmio X70-A is expensive, but not over-priced when compared to many rival gaming laptops. And, in addition to its strong gaming performance the X70-A also provides an attractive screen and speakers that make it a great all-round entertainment machine.

21. HP ZBook 15u G2

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.

20. Schenker XMG P504

The P504 lacks, shall we say, finesse. It's bigger and heavier than it needs to be, and combined with the poor battery life it's essentially confined to indoor activities. But what it lacks in elegance it makes up for in sheer performance. Other gaming laptops that match its performance typically cost £1600–1800, so the P504 is good value if you don't mind putting up with its rough edges.

19. Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, Retina, Late 2013) 2.3GHz nVidia

Apple’s ‘best’ configuration MacBook Pro with Retina display of late 2013 sees the reintroduction of a discrete graphics processor, now removed from the entry-level model. This will be useful for some OpenCL-based professional applications as well as when connecting multiple monitors. For more modest requirements, including gameplay, there’s less pressure to go discrete though. To save some cost, and potentially benefit from longer battery life, you can always split the difference in price and configure the entry model with the memory or storage of the nVidia MacBook.

18. Alienware 17 (2014)

The Alienware 17 isn't perfect – a laptop costing this much really ought to include a proper solid-state drive, and maybe 16 GB memory too. And, of course, its sheer size and weight mean that it's rarely going to leave home. However it provides top-of-the-range performance that would previously have cost you £2000 or more. It's a great choice for gamers who can afford not to compromise so much.

17. Asus RoG G750JZ

It's expensive, but the Asus G750JZ delivers the goods for gaming performance. You can find similar performance at a lower price, but features such as its Blu-ray drive, 2.1 speakers, and Thunderbolt interface mean that the G750JZ is also well-equipped for other types of entertainment, as well as demanding tasks such as video-editing and audio-recording work.

16. MSI GS60 2PE Ghost Pro

The MSI GS60 2PE Ghost Pro has enough power to handle current games, and it’s got the screen quality to match – and all while costing less than the Gigabyte P35W v2, which has a poorer screen but a tad more gaming power. The storage, keyboard and speakers all impress, but this slimline gaming laptop struggles for longevity and has poor thermal performance. It’s thin and impressive, but be aware about the MSI’s limitations before spending any cash.

15. Asus ZenBook UX305F

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.

14. Aorus X7 Pro

With the help of nVidia's recent push to make powerful mobile graphics processors that consume less energy, the Aorus X7 Pro now turns in gaming performance once only available to desktop machines. Just make sure you pack some sound-deadening headphones to block out the white noise of high-speed fans required to keep this slim chassis cool. If you can deal with the noise you'll be able to enjoy incomparable mobile gaming.

13. Gigabyte P37X

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.

12. Gigabyte P35W v2

It's impressive to see a gaming laptop as slim and as light as this, especially one that provides such strong graphics performance. The poor screen has room for improvement, but the P35W v2 provides high-end gaming performance at a more accessible price – along with a slimline design that few gaming laptops can match.

11. Microsoft Surface Pro 3

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?

10. Chillblast Helix

The Helix isn't perfect, and its screen and battery life are adequate rather than impressive. However, it manages to provide high-end performance at a competitive mid-range price, and will appeal to gamers who want a laptop that won't break the bank – or their back.

9. Dell XPS 13 9343

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.

8. HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1

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.

7. Dell XPS 15

Battery life is disappointing, especially as the XPS 15 is intended as a lightweight Ultrabook, although as a desktop replacement system it ticks more of the right boxes. It provides outstanding display quality and high-end performance at a competitive price, while still being slim and light enough to slip into a bag for the occasional business trip or weekend away.

6. Schenker XMG P304

The new GeForce 860M doesn't break new ground for gaming performance, but the XMG P304 still provides strong performance for games and other applications at a competitive price. It's also a lot more portable than most gaming laptops, so it can earn its keep when you're away from home as well.

5. MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro

The GE70 2PE Apache Pro does have its flaws – it's bigger and heavier than it really needs to be, the battery life is poor, and we really dislike the trackpad. However, it delivers the goods when it comes to gaming action. That extravagant storage system allows the GE70 to squeeze maximum performance out of its processor and GPU, and ensures that it provides high-end gaming performance at a competitive mid-range price.

4. Aorus X3 Plus

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.

3. MSI GS60 2QD-470UK

While still not especially petite by the standards of some 15-inch laptops – its footprint is 14 percent larger than a MacBook Pro despite its smaller display – the MSI GS60 2QD-470UK does manage to keep within the magic size and weight figures of 2.0 kg and 20 mm, making it the most totable gaming laptop in its category. It has the graphics processor to take on modern games up to their highest detail settings, and is only let down by noisy fans and a relatively short battery life.

2. Alienware 13

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.

1. Aorus X7 V2

The Aorus X7 v2 is a sturdily made all-metal gaming laptop that keeps its waistline to around 1in, even if it still tips the scales beyond 3kg. With its dual-GPU setup it proved itself the fastest gaming laptop in the group, albeit with an unsurprising price premium.

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