You don’t have to spend thousands of pounds to get the ideal
laptop. The 10 we’ve looked at this month can do it all, and prices start from
Knowing how much you have to spend on a new laptop is
important, but there are plenty of other factors to bear in mind before you
buy. You should always think about the tasks for which it will be used, because
you may need to compromise on certain features. If you want a lightweight,
ultraportable model with a long-lasting battery, you'll probably have to skimp
on other features, such as an optical drive or large screen. Whatever you want
to spend, there are several important factors to consider before making your
Most of this month's laptops have dual-core processors.
Intel's Core i3 and i5 chips are fast and efficient, and Hyper-Threading
technology provides a speed boost by creating two extra virtual cores, which
also increases performance. AMD’s
current processor line-up is slightly slower than Intel’s offerings, but they
have superior integrated graphics and generally cost less.
Most of the laptops here have at least 4GB of RAM, which is
more than enough for most tasks. Very few users will require more than 4GB, but
more memory makes it easier to work on bigger files and have several
applications open at the same time.
Most of the
laptops here have at least 4GB of RAM, which is more than enough for most tasks
Most of the laptops on test this month have integrated
graphics that share memory with Windows, leaving less for your applications.
They aren't powerful enough to run most 3D games, but can still cope with older
titles and are easily capable of handling high-deflnltion video. They also use
a lot less power than a dedicated graphics card, which helps to prolong battery
Most of the
laptops on test this month have integrated graphics that share memory with
Windows, leaving less for your applications
Dedicated graphics cards have their own memory and tend to
be much faster, but they're still not as good as those found in a desktop PC.
Dedicated chips that are only a little bit faster than integrated graphics are
a waste of money if they aren't fast enough to handle the games you want to
Thankfully, battery life doesn’t have to take a big hit from
dedicated graphics. Many laptops now combine Integrated and dedicated cards,
switching between them to provide better performance when plugged in and longer
battery life when away from the mains.
There's no way of upgrading a laptop's screen once you've
bought it, so finding one with a decent display is essential. We mention in
each review whether a screen is easy on the eyes or makes them sore. Larger
screens typically have higher resolutions, making it easier to work on larger
documents, such as spreadsheets, or open multiple windows at once.
Most laptops with
15in or smaller screens have a resolution of 1366x768, which is fine for web
browsing and 720p video playback
Most laptops with 15in or smaller screens have a resolution
of 1366x768, which is fine for web browsing and 720p video playback. Larger
screens often have a resolution of around 1600x900, but may be upgradable at
the time of purchase to a 1920x1080 panel.
Most laptop screens have a glossy finish. This can increase
image contrast and brightness levels, but can also make them very reflective.
If you work in a room with bright overhead lighting or lots of direct sunlight,
the glare can be distracting and make the screen difficult to view.
Business-oriented laptops often have glare-reducing matt screens, but they
usually look dimmer than their glossy counterparts.
The size, weight and battery life of a laptop doesn’t
particularly matter if you plan on keeping it tethered to a desk, but if you
want to carry it around with you and compute on the move you should consider
how long it will work when away from the mains.
Judging the longevity of a laptop's battery is difficult,
particularly if you plan on using it for energy-intensive tasks. Relatively
undemanding programs such as web browsers, email clients and word processors are
far less battery draining than games or video playback. Most 15in laptop
batteries last at least four hours, but lighter laptops should last longer. You
can expect at least six hours from an average ultra-portable, and over seven
from an Ultrabook.
longevity of a laptop's battery is difficult, particularly if you plan on using
it for energy-intensive tasks
Screen size is usually a good indicator of how heavy a
laptop will be. Ultra-portables typically have screens of 13in or smaller and
weigh between 1kg and 1.6kg, but they sacrifice performance and features such
as an internal optical drive. Larger 15in models are more common and usually
weigh between 2kg and 3kg, while models of 17in or larger often weigh in excess
of 3kg. Intel insists that any laptop carrying the Ultrabook brand must weigh
less than 2kg, regardless of screen size.
Like the screen, a laptop's keyboard and touchpad can’t be
upgraded. No matter how powerful or long-lasting a laptop is, it won’t be
pleasant in everyday use if its keyboard or touchpad is badly designed. It's
important for a keyboard to be comfortable to use, giving plenty of tactile
feedback for accurate typing over long periods of time.
No matter how
powerful or long-lasting a laptop is, it won’t be pleasant in everyday use if
its keyboard or touchpad is badly designed
Smaller laptops often have non-standard keyboard layouts or
half-size keys, which can make it difficult for people with large hands to use
them accurately. Separate numeric keypads are sometimes found on 15in laptops
and often seen on 17in models. Our reviews describe how comfortable each
keyboard is to use and tell you if they don’t match the desktop standard.
Most of the laptops here come with Windows 7 Home Premium,
which includes the Media Center application for managing your media. Others
have Windows 7 Professional, which has all the features of Home Premium, plus a
backup tool that can save files to network storage, and some extra features for
business networks.All the laptops on test come with the 64-bit version of the
operating system, which can use more than 4GB of RAM. Laptops with 32-bit
Windows can use only around 3.5GB of RAM, making upgrades harder.
Warranties vary greatly from laptop to laptop. Most last for
only a year and are return to base, so you'll have to pay for any shipping
costs incurred when sending them back to the manufacturer for repair. Some
warranties are longer or have collect-and-return services, where the
manufacturer covers the shipping costs.
greatly from laptop to laptop
It's rare to see onsite warranties for consumer laptops,
although it is more common with business models. Onsite warranties mean your
machine is repaired at your premises or your faulty unit is swapped for a