Tablets never took over as some predicted and we're glad the humble laptop is here to stay. Still, it isn't easy to choose one, with so many manufacturers, designs and specs to consider. Luckily, we're on hand to test them out so you can find the best one for your needs.
We've reviewed and ranked 15 top laptops you can get right now and we're adding more (and getting rid of old models) on a regular basis. You'll find a summary along with our expert rating and where you can buy each laptop, but make sure you click through to each review for more details.
If none of the laptops we've listed here is quite right for you, let us arm you with the knowledge you need to help you chose what laptop to buy. Following the chart, you'll find extensive buying advice that covers everything from what processor is suitable to how much storage you'll need and whether or not you should be looking for a more portable option.
Top laptop reviews
Huawei MateBook 14 (2020) - Best Overall
It's a shame to see the discrete graphics card get dropped - for UK models anyway - but the latest edition of the MateBook 14 still provides excellent value for money.
Huawei has stuck to its luxurious design and build - albeit not the lightest - and fitted AMD's powerful Ryzen 4000-H series chips giving you plenty of power to rip through work.
It's got more oomph than some laptops twice the price so it's impressive for Huawei to bring both models in at under £1,000.
Otherwise, it's another all-rounder with a nice screen, good port selection, reliable battery life, decent keyboard and more. Just be warned the webcam is still awkwardly positioned in the keyboard.
Read our full Huawei MateBook 14 (2020) review
HP Envy 13 (2020) - Best 13in
The 2020 iteration of HP's Envy 13 looks very similar to its predecessor when it comes to design, with a portable and refined finish. However, this year's version boasts some additional flourishes that make it even more competitive.
The keyboard features in-built privacy options for the microphone and webcam, whilst the display is brighter than ever with slimmer bezels.
A well-rounded set of spec includes up to 1TB of storage and the option of a dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX350 graphics card without breaking the bank. HP manages to undercut similar rivals when it comes to price.
The niggles are minor - a bit of a noisy fan, screen glare and a lack of a 4K display in the UK if you should want it. Nonetheless, the Envy 13 still remains one of the top dogs in the laptop market.
Read our full HP Envy 13 (2020) review
Apple MacBook Air (M1) - Best MacBook
The MacBook Air may not look any different to its predecessor, but it's what's on this inside that counts.
Offering a significant boost compared to the 10nm Intel chipset of the earlier MacBook Air range, the 5nm M1 chipset is blisteringly fast in operation, handling light video editing and gaming via Apple Arcade without breaking a sweat.
It's faster than many Intel-based Windows alternatives, offering great bang for your buck from Apple's entry-level ultralight laptop. There's also a big jump in battery life and the display is top-notch, as are the keyboard and trackpad.
It's fanless, which brings the benefit of silent running, but it also means that the laptop will throttle performance to keep things cool. Those that want to edit video for hours on end may be better off with the fan-equipped MacBook Pro M1, even though it doesn't add any more ports.
Read our full Apple MacBook Air (2020) M1 review
LG gram 17 (2021) – Best 17in
We didn't really think LG could make the gram 17 much better but the 2021 has really nailed it.
It's still an incredibly lightweight marvel of engineering and now improves on the niggles we had before, all inside a more attractive design. Our main complaints were the speakers and trackpad which are both better.
The laptop also has incredible battery life, gets an upgrade to Thunderbolt 4 and has an excellent screen. It's just not touch-sensitive and some users may prefer a crisper keyboard action.
Still, this remains the 17in laptop to beat and LG now has the gram 16 if you want something slightly smaller and cheaper.
Read our full LG gram 17 (2021) review
Dell XPS 15 – Best 15in
It might have a bog-standard webcam and a poor implementation of HDR, but those are minor niggles for what is a stunning piece of work from Dell.
Those looking for a 15in Windows laptop, perhaps as a MacBook Pro alternative, will be hard-pressed to find something better than the XPS 15 for 2020. This laptop is well made, compact and has plenty of performance to offer as well as impressive specs elsewhere.
It is expensive at the upper end, but you don't need to splash out almost £3k to get an amazing laptop. In fact, simply avoid the lowest spec option with integrated graphics and you'll have enough for most users.
Unless you know you need a 4K screen, the Full HD option will suffice and also increase battery life.
Read our full Dell XPS 15 9500 (2020) review
Huawei MateBook X Pro (2020) – Best Luxury
The MateBook X Pro 2020 looks an awful lot like the last two MateBook X Pros, but that's no bad thing. This was one of the best laptops you could buy last year, and the upgrade to 10th-gen Intel chips and a lush new green colour keep things that way.
With specs that go up to a Core i7, 16GB RAM, MX250 GPU, and 1TB storage this can be a bit of a beast if you want it to be (though many will do just fine with the cheapest i5 spec), but that power is backed by a lightweight design, beautiful display, best-in-class keyboard and impressive battery life.
Literally the only complaints are the dodgy webcam placement (under the keyboard, which looks cool but gives a deeply unflattering camera angle) and the fact that it's priced to match all that performance, meaning you can get almost as much bang for a lot less buck elsewhere.
Read our full Huawei MateBook X Pro (2020) review
Honor MagicBook 14 – Best Value
The Honor MagicBook 14's late 2020 refresh represents phenomenal value, with near-flagship performance thanks to the Ryzen 4500U processor and a design that expertly balances aesthetic and practical considerations.
A full suite of ports (USB-A, USB-C, and HDMI) complement a slim and relatively lightweight design, with fantastic keyboard and decent display. The only real downside is the webcam built into the keyboard, which is great for privacy but not so great for actual video calls.
Lighter users will be just as happy with the cheaper 3500U model of the MagicBook 14, but the extra processing power and storage here will more than justify the purchase for power users, or to anyone looking to guarantee strong performance for years to come.
Read our full Honor MagicBook 14 (late 2020) review
Huawei MateBook D 14 – Best Mid-Range
Despite the mid-range nature of the laptop, Huawei has done a great job at making the MateBook D 14 look like a premium option.
It sports AMD internals that can give similarly priced laptops a run for their money, and despite not being billed as a gaming laptop, the Radeon Vega 8 graphics are enough to power casual games like Fortnite and Rocket League with no issue. There's also all-day battery life on offer, at just over 10 hours in our benchmark, and 65W fast charging means it can replenish 43 percent of battery power in only half an hour.
It's lightweight, portable and powerful, making the MateBook D 14 a tough one to beat in the mid-range arena.
Read our full Huawei MateBook D 14 review
Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 - Best for Streaming
It might not have a fingerprint scanner or an Ethernet port but the Yoga Slim 7 is otherwise hard to fault and the latter is rare anyway.
Lenovo provides the vast majority of things that most people will be looking for in a laptop at an affordable price. It's lightweight and portable as the name suggests, although doesn't have a 360-degree hinge like many Yoga models.
There's a choice of Intel or AMD processors, decent screen, solid battery life, Dolby Atmos speakers, Wi-Fi 6 and more. Overall, a very good value for money package.
Read our full Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 review
Acer Swift 5 (late 2020) – Best Portability
Acer continues to impress with the Swift 5, an excellent laptop that's a great all-rounder.
It's not quite as affordable as the last version but it's incredibly compact and lightweight, yet remains premium and offers a good selection of ports including Thunderbolt 4.
It doesn't have the best keyboard or speakers but the display is improved and performance is solid and battery life is very impressive, too. Overall, there's very little to dislike here as Acer continues to refine its best laptop.
Read our full Acer Swift 5 (SF514-55T) review
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 2 - Best Convertible
The first-gen Galaxy Book Flex instantly became our favourite convertible last year, and its successor is no different.
While some areas like the screen and battery remain the same, the laptop now has 11th-gen Intel chips giving a nice battery boost, 5G support for data on-the-go and a secondary 13Mp camera.
Samsung has also improved the hinge making it more robust and the laptop now has useful USB-A and HDMI ports, too.
Downsides include the price and fiddly trackpad. It's also a Full HD resolution should you be looking for something higher.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 2 review
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 – Best Design
The Surface Laptop 3 is the most versatile entry in the product family to date. Not only does it come in more finishes than its predecessors, with the option of a metal deck alongside the existing Alcantara, as well as more colour options, like the new Sandstone, but Microsoft has also created two discreet sizes for this generation.
The 13.5in model can be had with either a 10th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7 chip and up to 1TB of storage, while the larger 15in SKU sports custom Ryzen 5 or 7 processors, along with up to 512GB of internal space.
For the first time, USB-C also joins the fray, however, power users might struggle with that fact that there's only a single Type-C port and it tops out at USB 3.1, not Thunderbolt 3.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 review
Dell XPS 13 – Best Keyboard
The XPS 13 was once the undisputed king of the ultrabook world, but the competition has stepped up its game and Dell isn’t quite doing enough to keep pace.
A beautiful 16:10 display and the best keyboard you’ll find anywhere are enough to mean the XPS 13 is well worth a look for anyone considering a Windows ultrabook, but the caveats feel more pointed than ever - namely poor port selection and a steep price.
This late 2020 edition with 11th-gen Intel is improved on thermal side with better performance but it's still not perfect with loud fans. It might mean you can find the older 9300 cheaper if you're ok with the downsides.
Read our full Dell XPS 13 9310 (late 2020) review
Samsung Galaxy Book S – Best Battery Life
The Galaxy Book S is a stylish laptop that's well-made and extremely compact, albeit with a lacklustre keyboard.
Combine this with the longest battery life we've seen to date and you may have just found your perfect travel companion if the price isn't too high.
However, despite the good work done by Qualcomm to improve Windows on Snapdragon, there are performance and compatibility issues that will put more demanding users off.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Book S review
Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371 – Best 4K Convertible
There are cheaper 2-in-1 laptops around but the ZenBook Flip S is a stunner if you can afford it.
It's one of the most striking laptops around with a beautifully thin profile and, as the name suggests, the ability to flip into various modes. You'll also benefit from the gorgeous 4K OLED screen, 1TB of storage and inclusion of Thunderbolt 4.
There are 11th-gen Intel processors here, although the thin design does limit performance and there's no headphone jack here despite there being full-size HDMI.
Read our full Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371 review
How to choose a laptop
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.
Around £500 or above can get you a solid 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, loads of storage and a gorgeous display. You should also expect excellent build quality and premium materials. Many laptops these days are above £1,000, which is when you start getting the likes of 4K touchscreens and ultra-lightweight builds.
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 designed to be moved around often. Generally, 13- or 14in is the sweet spot for portability and usability.
While some cheap laptops have a resolution of 1366x768, there are Full HD, Quad HD and even 4K laptops available. A touchscreen will add to the cost and generally isn't needed on a laptop, but it is an extra convenience. Also lookout for a matt, non-reflective screen.
What you won't find here is a laptop with a high refresh rate display, with that technology primarily used in gaming hardware. However, there are signs that more consumer laptops with screens of 90Hz and above could arrive soon.
Laptops with Mini-LED displays are on the way soon.
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.
These Google-powered laptops might struggle to make it into this chart, but we have rounded up the best Chromebooks if they are more suited to you. They're great for basic tasks and online work, but not much more.
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 are looking for something for games, we have a separate round-up of best gaming laptops.
If you're happy to splash out you're probably looking at the latest generation (10th or 11th) Intel Core i7 chip. Entry-level spec models are likely to offer a Core i3 or even a Celeron or Pentium 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.
Note that many laptop manufactures will refresh laptops with Intel 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors, but typically the device is no different. It's likely you'll be able to choose the latest model as well as the last one, which may well be cheaper. Our reviews still stand, but the new chip may improve performance.
AMD has come a long way in recent years and the Ryzen chips are excellent, often outperforming their Intel counterparts so they come highly recommended.
Read our comparison of Intel vs AMD.
You can also find laptops with Qualcomm processors, the firm normally known for smartphone and tablet chips. While these are getting better with each new generation it's still early days. They offer incredible battery life but performance is behind Intel and AMD, plus there are compatibility issues with some software.
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.
You'll also likely miss out on ports and connectivity - some ultrabooks include USB-C and nothing more, which makes it more difficult to connect to ethernet, HDMI, or even a standard USB-A accessory like a mouse. You might need a USB-C dock.
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.