If you need a compact, high performance Windows laptop, the 2018 Dell XPS 13 is the best laptop you can buy alongside the 8th-gen Lenovo Yoga 920. It is competitively priced, and even the high-end touchscreen Core i7 model at £1,649 is at least £300 cheaper than the same spec 13in MacBook Pro.
In fact, for value for money, it is a better purchase than the Microsoft Surface Laptop as you get Windows 10 Home rather than Windows 10S, as well as saving at least £500.
For all but the most hardcore gamers (for whom this laptop is not the target audience) and those who really do want USB-A connectivity, there is not a better Windows laptop on the market.
Read our Dell XPS 13 9370 (2018) review.
The HP Envy 13 has been one of our favourite laptops for a long time and the 2018 model is no exception.
It offers a great balance of everything we look for in a great laptop. It’s the best option if you can’t afford the Dell XPS 13 or a MacBook.
For a reasonable price, you get solid build quality, a well-rounded set of specs, and good performance to. The Envy 13 is a great choice for a daily driver laptop.
Read our HP Envy 13 (2018) review.
It might not be hugely different to its predecessor, but the Surface Laptop 2 comes in at the same price with upgrades including 8th-gen Intel and more memory. Then there’s the black model which looks great.
It competes well across design, build, specs and performance and most people won’t need to go beyond the second cheapest model.
Read our Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 review.
The Dell XPS 15 is an amazingly flexible laptop, despite looking like an ordinary high-end one on the surface. It’s very powerful but has unusually good battery life for its class. It has a 15in screen but is smaller than almost all other 15in laptops with one. And is its 4K version the XPS 15 has the colour performance for pro design work.
It’s also good-looking, and while not ultra-portable is not that heavy given the components inside. It makes the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar seem a bit frivolous in comparison, not to mention extremely expensive.
Read our Dell XPS 15 9560 review.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 720S is a laptop that proves you can sometimes get more if you pay less. Its more versatile than a lot of £1000-plus portable laptops because it has a separate graphics card, making it a passable gaming machine.
That it adds this without ruining battery life or portability is excellent. It is one of the most versatile portables around.
The one regret is that the laptop doesn’t have Nvidia’s latest GeForce MX150 graphics, using the older 940MX kind instead. However, maybe we shouldn’t complain too much if such a move would have added substantially to the price.
Read our Lenovo IdeaPad 720S review.
The Lenovo Yoga 920 is an excellent hybrid laptop. It has amazing battery life, great build, good looks, real power and a high-quality screen with a pressure sensitive stylus.
What’s not to like? It’s not great for gaming, and a few similarly slim laptops now have discrete graphics. Display brightness could be higher too and it would be good to see the 4K option come to the UK. However, as that will also come with a higher price we can’t honestly say we’d necessarily recommend it over this model.
Read our Lenovo Yoga 920 review.
The 13in MacBook Pro for 2018 sees Apple pushing its smaller model to compete with the larger 15in version and succeeding. With 8th-gen Core i7 an option, the base Touch Bar MacBook Pro is a powerful professional laptop once more.
But its base price of £1,749/$1,799 is still expensive and undercut by the Dell XPS 13 i7 by £100. And with only Thunderbolt 3 ports, you’re going to have to live the dongle life.
Yet we can still recommend this laptop as a great balance in the MacBook line up, and if you can afford it you won’t be disappointed.
Read our 13-inch MacBook Pro (2018) review.
The Asus ZenBook UX410UA is a great laptop if you want something that will let you work and check emails, wherever you are. It’s portable, the screen has a matt finish and the battery life is very good.
It also has a glass trackpad, matching the lovely Lenovo Ideapad 720S, which is also this laptop’s biggest rival. Which should you buy? Right now, the Asus. It has 8th Gen processors. At the time of writing the Lenovo does not.
Read our Asus ZenBook UX410UA review.
The Acer Swift 3 is not a killer laptop in any one area. But it gathers enough appeal in a wide variety of areas to make a lot of sense for people after a laptop that can do just about anything. It has better games performance than your average Intel machine, though, and the screen is fairly good even if its colour depth is limited.
Most of all, though, it looks and feels nicer than a lot of 15.6in laptops in this class. And costs less than other premium models that match it for build. That said, if we had £799 to spend we’d be very tempted by the 14in Swift 3 with an Intel Core i5 CPU and MX150 GPU. It will handle games that bit better.
Read our Acer Swift 3 SF315 review.
The ZenBook 13 is an interesting take on the ultrabook from Asus, prioritising being light over being thin. The result is one of the lightest 13in laptops around, but one that still manages to fit in a full array of ports, including USB-A and HDMI.
There’s no compromise on power to achieve that result either, thanks to a discrete Nvidia MX150 graphics card and your choice of an Intel i5 or i7 with 8GB RAM. Benchmark results are seriously impressive, and day-to-day usage is a breeze too – except for a couple of occasional hang-ups from our review unit.
The biggest compromise is the display, which isn’t as bright as we’d like, and is housed in a slightly flimsy plastic lid with a glossy finish that’s a breeding ground for fingerprints and smudges. That detracts slightly from the premium feel, but since it’s helped Asus keep the price below £1,000/$1,000, we really can’t complain too much.
Read our Asus ZenBook 13 UX331U review.
The HP Spectre x360 13 is a charming laptop that looks great and has enough power for most productivity jobs, thanks to the use of Intel’s impressive 8th Gen CPUs. Among its peers the main draw is the 4K-as-standard screen.
Not just sharp, it’s colourful and provides excellent contrast.
You need to decide whether you’d prefer to have a super-sharp screen or killer battery life. The Lenovo Yoga 920 lasts hours longer than the HP, and performs better in benchmarks and games with the same CPU (although if this is thanks to the Meltdown vulnerability, the playing field is effectively levelled).
For our use, which would boil down to at least 80% work, we’d likely pick the Yoga 920. However, those who will appreciate the HP’s rich 4K screen may well be swayed in this laptop’s direction.
Read our HP Spectre x360 13 (2018) review.
The Surface Book 2 is a stunning piece of work from Microsoft once again. It’s a great example of a premium laptop with top-level design, performance and features. We only have a few minor quibbles such as the lack of Thunderbolt.
It might be one of the best laptops you can buy but not everyone should rush out and get one. The price means that it’s only justifiable for those who will really make use of its modes, features and performance. For the average Joe, a cheaper rival will suffice such as the Surface Laptop.
If you want you can also opt for the 15in version – reviewed here.
Read our Microsoft Surface Book 2 13.5in review.
The Acer Swift 7 for 2018 is not a laptop for the masses and we don’t just mean the high price tag. If you’re simply looking for a high quality laptop that’s thin, light and offers decent battery life then Acer has provided just that.
However, if you need performance on the go then look elsewhere. The Core i7 here is made to be low power rather than pure grunt, so you’ll need to stick to relatively basic tasks to avoid frustration.
The Swift 5 makes for a better all-rounder.
Read our Acer Swift 7 (2018) review.
How to choose the best laptop for you
Sometimes you just can’t beat a bigger screen, a keyboard and Windows for getting stuff done, and then your only choice is a laptop. There are many different kinds, including hybrids that can be either laptop or tablet, high-end gaming laptops, cheap and cheerful budget models, and even those running macOS rather than Windows 10.
How much should you spend on a laptop?
Sometimes the best does come at a steep price, but equally you can get a lot of laptop for under £500 or even £300 – provided you need only complete basic tasks such as web browsing, writing emails and creating the odd document. If so, see the best budget laptops.
Around £500 or above can get you a nice laptop, but it’s likely to have an entry-level set of specs. We’re talking a relatively basic processor, minimal SSD storage and a relatively low-quality screen. It might also be on the heavy side.
Pay £700 or more and you should get a blazing fast processor, plenty of RAM, hordes of storage and a gorgeous display. You should also expect excellent build quality and premium materials. Many these days are above £1,000.
Your Buying Guide for the Best Laptops in 2018
We’ve shown you our favourite laptops available right now and offered some advice on how much to spend, but if you’re still undecided we might be able to help break down your options further. Here we talk about screen size, storage, processors and more to help you make your decision.
What screen size laptop do you need?
Laptop screens range from around 11in to 17in. A smaller screen might be harder to work on and offer fewer ports, but it will be more portable.
A 17in laptop, on the other hand, is a desktop replacement laptop and not deigned to be moved around often. You’ll likely get a full-size keyboard and potentially an optical drive.
Generally, 13in is the sweet spot for portability and usability.
While many laptops have a resolution of 1366×768, Full HD, Quad HD and even 4K laptops are available. A touchscreen will add to the cost and generally isn’t needed on a laptop. Also look out for a matte, non-reflective screen.
How much laptop storage do you need?
How much storage you need depends on what you want to use a laptop for. As a general rule of thumb get as much as possible without wasting money on the upgrade.
An SSD will help your laptop run faster, but offers less space for your files (consider supplementing it with a portable USB drive). You can also use cloud storage – but only when you have an internet connection.
Memory (RAM) is where programs and files are stored only while you’re using them, and more is always better – up to a point. Consider 4GB a minimum, unless it’s a Chromebook, with 8- to 16GB the ideal.
Which laptop processor is best?
Unless you’re going to run complex and demanding software or gaming, you don’t need a top-spec processor.
If you’re happy to splash out you’re probably looking at the latest generation (8th) Intel Core i7 chip. Entry-level spec models are likely to offer a Core i3 or even a Celeron, Pentium or AMD processor instead. A Core i5 is a good mid-range choice so check how much extra it is to upgrade before making a final decision.
The letters after the model name are important: Y and U mean they are ultra-low-power chips, which won’t be great for demanding tasks but should translate to longer battery life. H means high-performance graphics; Q means quad-core.
Read our comparison of Intel vs AMD.
Buying an Ultrabook or ultraportable laptop
Buying an ultraportable laptop is really no different than any laptop, except that your priorities are likely to be different. You might want an ultraportable laptop that’s light and will last a long time away from the mains.
However, other people want an ultrabook that’s powerful and can handle demanding applications without breaking your back when you carry it around. Both types are available.
Some compromises are inevitable if you want a thin and light laptop, though. There’s less space for a battery, so it’s typical to find shorter runtimes.
Thin laptops tend to have shallow key travel, so if you need to do a lot of typing read our reviews to find out whether a keyboard is a joy or a pain to use.
Warranty and other considerations
We recommend all the laptops here: there isn’t a duff one among them. However, we urge you again to read through the full review before spending your hard-earned cash. None is perfect and what will best suit your needs might not be the device ranked at number one.
Battery life and warranty vary between laptops. The latter may differ depending on where you buy the laptop from, too. John Lewis, for example, tends to offer longer warranty than rivals.
After-sales service is something you should consider for everything you buy. Check whether the company has a UK-based support line, and forums (including our own) are an ideal place to ascertain whether a manufacturer is generally good or bad at carrying out work under warranty.
When you’ve bought a new laptop, be sure to take a few minutes to configure it so you can track your laptop should it ever be stolen or lost.