Best laptop 2017: Check out our in depth buying guide and list of recommendations to find which laptop to pick up this holiday season.
How much should I spend on a laptop?
What you decide to spend on a laptop will be determined by what you’re likely to want to use the laptop for. If you simply want to do a bit of web browsing and send and receive a few emails then a cheap 11-inch netbook or Chromebook for under £200 will do the job.
It’s best not to buy an ultra-cheap laptop and push it to its limits, though. Saving up for a more expensive laptop that can undertake a greater number of tasks at once will be worth it if you don’t need the ultimate in thin and light budget machinery.
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Want something a little bigger? You can pay between £300 and £400 for a 15.6-inch laptop powered by an Intel Core i3 processor that’s powerful enough to carry out the basics without slowing to a crawl. It will even handle a little Minecraft and photo editing.
If you want something thin and light, expect to spend upwards of £500 for a sub-1.5kg laptop. Powered by efficient dual-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, these machines are suitable for light photo and video work and should last all day on a single charge if they’re not pushed too hard. If you want premium build and a great screen, expect to pay at least £1,000.
You’ll need to spend at least £700 on a gaming laptop, and considerably more if you want to future-proof it. Look for “discrete” or “dedicated” graphics from AMD or Nvidia, and check online benchmarking figures to see how well your favourite games will play.
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There are alternative form factors, too. Two-in-ones have reversible screens that can be versatile in small spaces, while tablet hybrids are great for drawing and taking notes. The latter often come with attachable keyboards for when you want to get typing work done.
What’s the best operating system?
Windows 10 remains the most versatile operating system around, and you’ll find it on the vast majority of laptops sold in the UK. However, if you’re buying a cheap laptop, Google’s ChromeOS is likely to be a better bet. It’s lightweight – it’s essentially a glorified web browser – but with so many excellent web-based applications now available, most people on a budget will be able to get by with just that.
MacOS is tied into MacBook laptops, so you’ll always pay a premium to get Apple’s operating system. It’s undeniably slick, smooth and reliable, so if you have the money then it offers a better experience than Windows for many people.
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Don’t want to pay the Windows tax? Some laptops now sell with Ubuntu Linux installed. This free OS is powerful if you know what you’re doing, and it has the advantage of costing next to nothing.
Michael Passingham: As Trusted Reviews’ Computing Editor, there isn’t a laptop that passes through the office that doesn’t end up in Michael’s hands. He’s seen almost every Ultrabook that’s launched in the past three years, and is a harsh master when it comes to handing out Trusted Reviews’ coveted Recommended awards.
Edward Chester: A 10-year veteran of tech journalism, Ed has reviewed just about every type of technology you care to mention, and even had a stint as Trusted Reviews’ Mobile Phones Editor. Edward has seen dozens of budget and mid-range laptops, and has acquired a keen sense of what makes a cheap laptop excel. He’s also your man to solve Wi-Fi woes: surely nobody in the UK has seen more wireless extenders than Edward.
Alastair Stevenson: Alastair is Trusted Reviews’ Reviews Editor and has been reviewing laptops for more than five years. An avid gamer and artist, he has a particular interest in touchscreen hybrids and beefy gaming laptops.
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- 14-inch Full HD IPS display
- Intel Core i3, i5 (reviewed) and i7 available
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB SSD
- Backlit keyboard
- Weight: 1.5kg
- Windows 10
- Tested battery life: Around 8 hours
- Review price: £650
The best laptop for most people
This 14-inch laptop is a great buy if you want a light, all-metal laptop that can tackle basic tasks as well as a bit of light photo editing.
Be warned, however, that Acer has released a newer version of the Acer Swift 3, which we consider to be slightly inferior – it has a poorer screen – and is rather more expensive than the model originally reviewed. The launch of the new 2017 model likely means stocks of the 2016 model will soon diminish, so grab them while you can.
Its 1.5kg weight and small footprint make it bag-friendly, and the choice of specifications available mean you can spend from £500 to £750 on one. The model we reviewed cost £650, and offers the best value, but the £500 Core i3 model is great for those who will just be doing a bit of light web browsing and document work. At the time of writing, Ballicom is stocking the Core i5 model we reviewed for a competitive £580, which is well worth a look.
The only minus points are that the display lacks the most vibrant colours, so won’t be suitable for people who edit photos on a professional basis. Plus, it’s heavier than some slightly more expensive rivals, such as the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S.
New Surface Pro
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- 2736 x 1824-pixel display
- Intel Core m3, i5-U or i7-U
- 4-16GB RAM, 128GB-1TB SSD
- Weight: 784g
- Optional keyboard
- Tested Battery Life: Around 8 hours
- Starting price: £799
If the Surface Book 2 is above your price range then teh Surface Pro 4 and New Surface Pro‘, both remain good deals. The newer model is more powerful and its Core m3 and Core i5-powered editions are fanless, meaning they run completely silently.
Both machines are similar, requiring some fairly pricey upgrades to turn them into proper laptops – namely, a TypeCover keyboard and a Surface Pen for taking notes and doodling.
You pay a premium for the 2017 Surface Pro, but it offers better battery life than its predecessor and the rest of the 2-in-1 competition. It’s a superb choice, but not a no-brainer upgrade for someone who already has a Surface Pro 4.