Best laptop 2017: The 10 BEST laptops you can buy in the UK right now

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Find out the definitive list of the best laptops you can buy in 2017 and grab yourself a great laptop on the cheap 

It’s not easy to find the laptop that’s perfect for you. There are all sorts of things to take into account, from price to performance, and often you have to juggle between your needs in order to settle on the best. Here at Expert Reviews, however, we take the hassle out of your shop and help you find the best laptop for you in 2017.

We test hundreds of laptops each and every year, putting them through our rigorous in-house testing, and we pride ourselves on having the best and most comprehensive coverage of laptops in the UK. We’ve sorted through all of the laptops we know are worthy of your attention – and hard-earned cash – in 2017. From business-class laptops to ultraportable hybrids, or perhaps a mix of both, we’re here to help you find the perfect laptop for you. Below, you’ll find a laptop for every budget in our list of the best laptops you can buy in 2017.

Best laptops of 2017: The best laptops you can buy today

1. Dell XPS 13 (2017)

While Dell’s previous XPS 13 offering didn’t quite make the list (and its 15in brother still makes an appearance below), the latest XPS rightly earns the crown as the definitive Windows laptop. That QHD+ InfinityEdge display still dazzles, while a much-needed Kaby Lake upgrade sets the standard for laptops to come.

It’s not as slim as others on this list at 1.29kg, but Dell’s recent XPS 13 is a performance marvel. It’s seriously well made, and there’s even a touch-sensitive option should you want to get tap-happy. With a choice of Kaby Lake processors and plenty of RAM and storage options, there’s an XPS to cater for any budget. Its battery life isn’t quite as impressive as most on this list thanks to that QHD+display, but it will still last a full working day so long as you’re a little cautious. Dell’s 2016 XPS 13 is the Windows laptop to beat.

Key specs
Processor: Quad-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U Screen resolution: 3,200 x 1,800
RAM: 8GB Weight: 1.29kg
Total storage: 256GB
2. HP Spectre 13

HP has set the gold standard (literally) for design and overall looks with its most recent model in the Spectre range. Undeniably the thinnest and lightest Windows laptop to date, the HP Spectre 13 is top of its class. With a 10.4mm thickness, the well-made chassis and premium gold detailing add a touch of class that’s almost unrivalled.

It doesn’t only look good, either, with some pretty impressive performance once you delve a bit deeper. With a choice of proper Core i processors, you’re not sacrificing performance, but blasting away anything with a Core m processor. The high-quality display also rivals the likes of Microsoft’s Surface Pro, even if it has substantially less impressive battery life. It’s definitely on the pricey end of the spectrum, but compare that with the similarly priced 2016 MacBook or Dell XPS 15 and you’re in with a winner.

Key specs
Processor: Dual core 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
RAM: 8GB Weight: 1.11kg
Total storage: 512GB
3. HP Spectre X360

And on the other end of the Spectre spectrum is HP’s Spectre X360. It’s not as thin as its slim sibling, but don’t let that fool you – this is one of the best laptops we’ve ever had the pleasure of using. It looks absolutely stunning, with the luxurious gold trim screaming extravagance, and the 15.6in 4K display is well worth drooling over. Oh, and did I mention it’s a 2-in-1, too? The clue is in the name.

That’s its headline feature, and something you should consider when making your decision. While laptop/tablet hybrids are typically underwhelming, HP’s Spectre X360 is the best we’ve seen – well worth the price of admission. Pair that with stellar performance and a bundled stylus, and this makes for a no-brainer.

Key specs
Processor: Dual-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U Screen resolution: 3,840 x 2,160
RAM: 8GB Weight: 2.01kg
Total storage: 512GB
4. Microsoft Surface Pro

Microsoft’s latest Surface Pro is the firm’s best hybrid yet, but it’s more expensive than ever: prices start at £799/$1047, and the Type Cover adds £125/$164. What’s so good about it? Mainly, the improvements are inside and, thanks to upgraded Intel Kaby Lake chips, battery life is absolutely brilliant. Our tests showed the new Surface Pro achieving twice the stamina of the Surface Pro 4, which is a spectacular improvement.

Other improvements are small but worth having nonetheless. The hinge folds back a little more than in last year’s model; the new Surface Pen has support for angled drawing so you can shade like with the Apple Pencil; and there’s a new premium Signature Type keyboard, clad in high-end Alcantara fabric. This is £25/$33 more expensive than the regular keyboard, though, at £150/$197.

You might baulk at the at the price, but there’s no denying that the new Surface Pro is the best hybrid on the market right now.

Key specs
Processor: Dual Core Intel Core i7-7660U Screen resolution: 2,736 x 1,824
RAM: 16GB Weight: 1.3kg
Total storage: 512GB
5. Gigabyte Aero 15

Gigabyte might not be a name you’re familiar with. The firm is rising in popularity, but they’re nowhere near as well known as big names like Dell and HP. Don’t let that dissuade you, however. Gigabyte’s latest – the Aero 15 – is a performance marvel, perfect for the avid office worker. The best bit? This is the fastest laptop we’ve ever seen, thanks to its high-powered internals.

Speed usually comes at a sacrifice of portability when it comes to laptops, but that’s not the case with the Gigabyte Aero 15. It’s gorgeously slim at just 19.9mm from the ground, and it weighs just 2.1kg, too – not bad for a 15.6in laptop. And that’s another thing: its Full HD display is gorgeous, clearly taking design inspiration from Dell’s bezel-less XPS displays. It’s a joy to look at, and something that will definitely turn heads on the evening commute. Get the Aero 15 if you’re after the best performance money can buy.

Key specs
Processor: Quad-core 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
RAM: 16GB Weight: 2.1kg
Total storage: 512GB
6. Dell XPS 15

This may be one of the most expensive devices in our top laptops list, but the late-2016 Dell XPS 15 doesn’t disappoint. It’s one of the best Skylake-based Windows 10 laptops you can buy, which, when paired with Dell’s gorgeous high-resolution InfinityEdge touchscreen display, means it’s definitely one to show off to your friends. There’s plenty of processing power thanks to the i7-7700HQ Kaby Lake processor, so you’ll be all set for work, while the dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics chip is perfect for non-work-related activities too.

Dell really shows off Windows 10 to the fullest here, with the XPS 15 being the ultimate device running the newest operating system. Whether you get it for work or for more general-purpose use, you won’t be disappointed.

Key specs
Processor: Quad-core 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
RAM: 16GB Weight: 2kg
Total storage: 512GB
7. Razer Blade Stealth

It’s not cheap, but Razer’s Blade Stealth may be the best Windows 10 ultraportable to date. Weighing just 1.29kg, it’s the perfect choice for the work machine on the go and is everything you could want from your main device. This Kaby Lake-powered beast bests Apple’s latest MacBook Pro in almost every way, especially when it comes to price.

You’ll fall in love with the Blade Stealth’s Chroma keyboard, which for all its sparkly gimmicks is a sheer joy to use. If you’re happy to stray away from big names like Dell and Asus, you won’t regret it.

Key specs
Processor: Dual-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U Screen resolution: 2,560 x 1,440
RAM: 16GB Weight: 1.29kg
Total storage: 256GB
8. Lenovo Yoga Book

Unlike anything else on this list, the Lenovo Yoga Book doesn’t have a physical keyboard, more a flat touch-sensitive writing surface for typing and note-taking. It’s strange, but we loved it.

Its virtual keyboard is a fantastic sign of things to come. Plank any old proper notepad onto the writing surface and you can write notes as you would normally, or even draw a stick man or two. That way, you’ve got the physical paper copy, and a digital copy for cloud backup too. Make sure to pick up the Windows version in order to run your usual suite of work applications. This is definitely one for those office notetakers.

Key specs
Processor: Quad-core 2.4GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8550 Screen resolution: 1,200 x 1,920
RAM: 4GB Weight: 690g
Total storage: 64GB
9. HP Chromebook 13

Toss aside the negative preconceptions you may have about Chromebooks: HP’s Chromebook 13 is a real marvel and a worthy entry on this list. It’s a little pricier than most, but what you’re getting here is unrivalled Chrome OS performance and superior build quality when put side by side with its cheaper counterparts. This is the best Chromebook to buy in 2017.

That crisp Quad HD display is a real highlight, with that proper Core m3 processor backing enough performance to rival its Windows counterparts. Its all-day battery life will keep you going and its lightweight 1.2kg heft will see you lugging it about in your bag all day long. If you’re after an alternative to Windows and Apple, HP’s Chromebook 13 is the place to start.

Key specs
Processor: Dual-core 0.9GHz Intel Core m3-6Y30 Screen resolution: 2,560 x 1,440
RAM: 4GB Weight: 1.2kg
Total storage: 32GB
10. Acer Switch 5

The fact that Acer’s Switch 5 is on the same list as Microsoft’s excellent Surface Pro is a testament to how great a machine it is. Acer’s recent 2-in-1 hybrid offers speedy performance, a fantastic keyboard and a stylus bundled in the box as standard.

And – crucially – it’s incredibly cheap too, a good £200/$262 cheaper than Microsoft’s most budget offering. Its battery life may not be up there with the best (although the Surface Pro didn’t blow us away, either), but the Acer Switch 5 is a fantastic laptop/tablet hybrid for a fraction of the price of the Surface Pro.

Key specs
Processor: Quad-core 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U Screen resolution: 2,160 x 1,440
RAM: 8GB Weight: 1.27kg
Total storage: 256GB

Laptop buying guide

Design and build

If you want a device that can fulfil all your work and leisure needs, a laptop is really the only way to go because there’s still no virtual keyboard on the market that’s quite as effective as a proper, physical keyboard. Don’t neglect the importance of a quality keyboard and mouse, they can really make or break the user experience when using a laptop. They can vary wildly in quality, although it’s a fairly safe bet to assume that the cheaper the laptop, the less tactile and comfortable the keyboard will be. In our reviews, we describe each keyboard in detail to ensure you get the feel you’re looking for. We’ll also look at the laptops’ touchpads, which again differ greatly in how easy they are to use. Some of the best touchpads we’ve used have glass-coated touchpads that let your fingers glide gracefully over their surface. Microsoft also introduced “Precision”-certified touchpads, which requires manufacturers to fit touchpads that meet certain requirements around drivers and hardware. Precision touchpads noticeably perform better, with a more direct translation of your swipes and gestures to your mouse cursor.

Lightness is all well and good, but if your laptop doesn’t have good battery life, the portability benefits you gain from lightness are lost by you having to carry the charger around as you desperately search for a plug on the train or in the coffee shop. Our battery benchmark represents video playback with the screen set to 170cd/m2 brightness. Your results will vary from our testing, but they at least provide a useful guide as to how laptops compare to one another as watching video is a heavily battery draining task.

Performance

When choosing a laptop, check how many cores its processor has. Generally, the more cores, the better when it comes to processors with similar clock speeds (measured in GHz). The more cores you have, the better performance you’ll get with complex tasks, such as photo and video editing, and you’ll also see a small boost in games, too.

There’s a confusing array of laptop processors on the market, but what you should always keep in mind is that laptop processors require a lot of cooling and use less power than their desktop equivalents. For that reason, you’ll have to spend a lot more on a laptop than a desktop to get like-for-like processor performance.

Some of the processors in the laptops we test also have Hyper-Threading, which creates two threads for each processor core, meaning applications can more efficiently use the cores available to them, increasing performance further.

Dedicated (discrete) graphics cards

Cheaper and smaller laptops typically forgo a dedicated graphics card, instead opting to use the on-chip graphics hardware provided by the processor. This is fine for simple tasks, but as soon as gaming, media consumption and 3D work come into play, these integrated graphics chips become overwhelmed and performance slows to a crawl. Even cheap, low power dedicated graphics cards make a big difference to performance, although they won’t be able to handle the latest games. Our favourite, best-value gaming laptops typically use Nvidia’s GeForce 860M graphics card. It’s a mid-range chip but it can handle the latest games, although actual performance, of course, varies from game to game, so you’ll need to make careful graphics adjustments to each game you play to make sure you get the best performance possible. Many creative suites, such as Adobe Photoshop, can use GPU acceleration by taking advantage of the extra performance of a discrete graphics card, so that’s worth keeping in mind if you’re a creative type.

Storage

Another area where you may find yourself short-changed is storage. While most manufacturers include a high-capacity mechanical hard disk – normally 1TB – they will often only include high-performance SSDs in awkward sizes, such as 120GB. This means you will have to juggle your most used applications around on and off the SSD. If you have lots of programs or games and you want to store them all on faster solid-state storage, you’ll likely need to upgrade to a 240GB disk. Some laptops don’t come with an SSD at all, instead using hybrid hard disks that include a small amount of SSD storage. Which files are stored in this SSD cache is decided by the disk itself; the most often used files will be stored there.

If you have a lot of documents, music and movies that you want constant access to, you’ll need a hard disk to store them all on. Most Windows laptops come with at least 500GB of storage, with some also including a bonus 8GB of SSD cache storage for better file loading speeds and operating system boot times. Chromebooks have considerably less because all your files are stored offsite, in the cloud.

Tweaking your specs

If you’re buying a laptop from a system builder, don’t be afraid to tweak the specifications of your machine to suit your own needs. To keep the headline price low, most companies will have put what we consider to be the minimum amount of RAM in their machines. For example, most laptop makers will provide units with 8GB of RAM.

^ Don’t be afraid to tweak your laptop’s specifications if you want more power, memory or storage

While this is enough for most uses, if you’re going to be working with large photo or video files you’ll probably need at least 16GB of RAM to ensure you have enough memory to handle several of these files at a time. Buying more RAM can be costly, though, so if you don’t want to buy the RAM upfront you can always buy some more later on and install it yourself.

Screen resolution

Screen size is an important factor to consider when choosing a laptop. If you’re a multitasker who likes to run two windows side by side, you need a 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD screen at the very least. Anything less than that, such as the 1,368 x 768 panels we see on many cheaper models, limits you to using one window at a time if you don’t want to squash your programs. Ultra-high-resolution laptops will have screens up to 3,840 x 2,160, which is great if you want to work with multiple windows simultaneously. Windows 10’s scaling options also makes working with higher-resolution screens far less painful than previous versions of Windows, too.

^ Manufacturers of cheaper laptops call 1,366 x 768 screens “HD”, but they don’t give you enough space to work or play. Full HD is 1,920 x 1,080

We also look at colour coverage and accuracy: the higher both of these are, the more vibrant images and videos will appear on the screen. We’d expect a minimum of 60% coverage, but the best panels manage in excess of 90%. Also, look out for contrast ratios and black levels – higher contrast ratios mean you’ll be able to pick out more details and subtle shades in your images, while lower black levels give images and text an inkier, richer look.

Guarantees and warranties

Finally, make sure you take a look at the warranty of your device because they vary wildly. If you want peace of mind, opt for a laptop that comes with multiple years “collect and return” cover, where the company will cover the costs of shipping and repair of your laptop. Return-to-base (RTB) warranties are less generous: they make you pay for the shipping costs. Also, check how long the parts cover on your laptop is; some companies will cover the repair but not the cost of replacing components.

Free Windows 10 upgrade has now ended

The vast majority of laptops now ship with Windows 10, as the operating system has been out for just over a year now, and has now seen its next big update. However, there are still a fair few that don’t and often run Windows 8. While you used to be able to download a free Windows 10 upgrade, that period has sadly just come to an end, with 29 July 2016 being the last day you could upgrade free of charge. If you’re still wanting to upgrade, you’ll have to pay at least £100/$131 to upgrade to Windows 10. So, if you buy an older laptop today, it’s definitely something worth considering.

There was a second reason to upgrade, too, which you may have missed out on: if you’re selling your old laptop to buy a new one. You would have much more luck getting rid of your old model if you upgrade it to Windows 10 now, as it will mean that whoever buys it won’t have to pay to make the upgrade.

If you’re happy to pay to upgrade, there is one slight issue to watch out for with laptops: driver support. Not all Windows 7 and Windows 8 laptops have the right drivers for Windows 10, which can cause big issues. For example, if you can’t get Wi-Fi working, I recommend checking your laptop manufacturer’s site to see whether it advises upgrading or not and if Windows 10 drivers are available. If you can’t see any information and just want to give it a go, you should roll back your OS to the previous version of Windowswithin 31 days of upgrading. Finally, make sure that you’ve backed up your data first, just in case there’s a problem.

(expertreviews.co.uk, https://goo.gl/tDdDHb)

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