'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.
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.
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.
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