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The 13 best laptops: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?

The best 13 laptops reviewed

What is the best laptop 2013/2014

'What is the best laptop?' is a question we get asked all the time, so in an attempt to answer that question, here is our list of the best laptops avaialble to buy in 2013/2014.(Read more laptops buying advice here - you may also want to read our piece about the most reliable laptop makers).

Buying a laptop is a personal decision. Although we've ranked our list of the best laptops available to buy in 2013/2014 below, the best laptop for you will depend on your priorities: there is no one-size-fits-all.

Some people want a large screen, other people want the ultimate portability, while performance is the key ingredient for yet others.

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.

The 13 best laptops 2014: Screen

Screen 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 might benefit from the bigger screen, keyboard and trackpad.

Don't overlook resolution. 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 screen sizes, more pixels means everything looks smaller, including Windows text and icons.

The 13 best laptops 2014: 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.

Memory is where programs and files are stored only while you're using them, and more is better. Consider 3GB an absolute minimum.
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.

The 13 best laptops 2014: 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.

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 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.

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 some tablets offer similar functionality to basic laptops. See our piece about choosing between a laptop and an iPad, for instance.

The 13 best laptops 2014

13. Toshiba Qosmio X70-A

Toshiba Qosmio X70-A
  • Reviewed on: 14 November 13
  • RRP: £1699 inc. VAT
  • Rating: Rated 9 out of 10

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.

12. Toshiba Kirabook

Toshiba Kirabook
  • Reviewed on: 17 May 13
  • RRP: Around £1,500 inc VAT
  • Rating: Rated 5 out of 10

The audience Toshiba is pursuing with the Kirabook is the well-to-do professional who is willing to pay extra for high-end hardware and services. The Kirabook is the most beautiful Ultrabook to pass through our Test Centre, but its inability to drive a large external monitor at native resolution, a lid that flexes like a contortionist, a Wi-Fi adapter restricted to 2.4GHz networks, and a display that doesn't deliver as much contrast as the Retina display Toshiba wants consumers to compare it to make this machine's sky-high price tag hard to swallow.

11. Schenker XMG C703

Schenker XMG C703
  • Reviewed on: 17 January 14
  • RRP: £1253.00 inc VAT
  • Rating: Rated 8 out of 10

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.

10. Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus
  • Reviewed on: 24 October 13
  • RRP: £1300 inc. VAT
  • Rating: Rated 8 out of 10

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.

9. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2
  • Reviewed on: 18 March 14
  • RRP: £500 inc VAT
  • Rating: Rated 7 out of 10

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.

8. HP EliteBook 840 G1

HP EliteBook 840 G1
  • Reviewed on: 11 December 13
  • RRP: £1344.00
  • Rating: Rated 8 out of 10

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.

7. Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series

Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series
  • Reviewed on: 4 February 14
  • RRP: £1522 inc VAT
  • Rating: Rated 8 out of 10

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.

6. Asus ZenBook Prime Touch

Asus ZenBook Prime Touch
  • Reviewed on: 31 October 13
  • RRP: £1499.97
  • Rating: Rated 8 out of 10

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.

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

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Retina, Late 2013)
  • Reviewed on: 1 December 13
  • RRP: £1,099 inc VAT
  • Rating: Rated 9 out of 10

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.

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

Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, Retina, Late 2013) 2.3GHz nVidia
  • Reviewed on: 1 December 13
  • RRP: £1699 inc VAT
  • Rating: Rated 9 out of 10

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.

3. Apple MacBook Air 13in (Mid-2013)

Apple MacBook Air 13in (Mid-2013)
  • Reviewed on: 25 June 13
  • RRP: £949 inc VAT
  • Rating: Rated 9 out of 10

The Apple MacBook Air (Mid-2013) 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 just as fast as the previous model, more so actually in real-world use, and seals the deal with future-proofed faster Wi-Fi, more storage and a lower price than last year’s model. It’s an outstanding ultraportable among a mass of me-too ultrabook mediocrity.

2. Alienware 18

Alienware 18
  • Reviewed on: 24 March 14
  • RRP: £3080 inc VAT
  • Rating: Rated 9 out of 10

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.

1. Acer Aspire S3-392G

Acer Aspire S3-392G
  • Reviewed on: 24 February 14
  • RRP: £900 inc. VAT
  • Rating: Rated 8 out of 10

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.

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