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Right now, being able to work on a laptop is more important than ever, whether that’s because your home machine is your work laptop or you need something fast and powerful when commuting starts again.
What to look for in a laptop
Choosing a laptop usually comes down to three incompatible elements: processing power, weight and price.
Portability has long been important but working from home has changed the game, as our laptops have become the device we use both for work and play, wherever we are.
The ideal, then, is one with a display big enough for easy home use and speed enough to keep everything ticking along, but is still reasonably lightweight. While battery life is less important if the computer can be plugged in all the time, that won’t always be the case, especially as many of us are getting used to the work commute for at least some of our days each week.
Which OS is right for me?
There are three operating system choices: Microsoft Windows is on most laptops but Apple has its own brilliant macOS set-up and Google its Chrome OS (though this is almost exclusively found on less expensive laptops than these, so no Chromebooks appear here).
All the laptops here, apart from the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Dell XPS 15 and LG Gram 17, have touchscreen displays.
Shopping on the cheap? Here are the best laptops for under £1000
Here are the best laptops you can find, focusing on machines with price tickets above £1,000.
Apple MacBook Pro 16in
Apple’s MacBook Pro is its most advanced series of laptops with a gorgeous design, thin profile and light weight.
Choose from space grey or silver finishes to the aluminium chassis.
Instead of a top row of function keys, Apple has introduced an innovation called the Touch Bar, a touch-sensitive strip which changes its functions according to context: cut and paste for a word processing app, play and pause for when you’re watching a movie, for instance.
The power button has a fingerprint sensor built in for greater security. Apple’s devices work seamlessly together.
For instance, you can also unlock the display simply by wearing an Apple Watch: the screen lights up as you approach.
The range of programs is not as widespread as on a Windows machine, but is pretty hard to fault.
Key specs: 16in display, Dimensions 358 x 246 x 16.2 mm, Weight 2kg, Processor 2.GHz 6-core 9th-generation Intel Core i7, Storage 512GB, RAM 16GB, Fingerprint sensor, 720P camera, silver and space grey finishes
Huawei MateBook X Pro
Huawei’s latest is a highly attractive Windows laptop which is lightweight and super-slim. It’s also very strong value and a fast performer.
Huawei has plenty of exclusive extras, such as special compatibility with Huawei smartphones, so you can tap the phone against the laptop and the contents of the phone’s display appears on the computer screen.
You can then drag files between the two easily. It has a webcam, of course, but unlike most laptops it’s hidden under a key in the keyboard.
If you were in doubt about how private your connection is, you can be certain nobody can see you even if they were able to hack into the laptop, just by pressing the key down.
A fingerprint sensor in the power button adds to the security.
Key specs: 13.9in display, Dimensions 304 x 217 x 14.6mm, Weight 1.33kg, Processor 11th-generation Intel Core i7-1165G7, Storage 1TB, RAM 16GB, Fingerprint sensor, 720P camera, emerald green and space grey finishes
Lenovo Yoga 5G
Where the Lenovo Yoga stands out is its capability to connect to the internet in more places, thanks to a 5G sim card slot inside.
It means that you rarely need connect to an insecure wi-fi network as the 5G capability is almost always there, and often faster, too.
Battery life is up to 24 hours so lugging the charger around isn’t needed.
The Yoga folds back on itself to be more versatile: use it like a tablet, stand it up like a tent to watch video and so on.
It’s made of aluminium and magnesium, which mean it’s lightweight as well as strong.
Key specs: 14in display, Dimensions 320 x 215 x 15mm, Weight 1.3kg, Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon SC8180XP, Storage 512GB, RAM XGB, Fingerprint sensor, 720P camera, iron grey finish
Microsoft Surface Book 3
The Surface Book series is especially versatile thanks to a design which sees the display detach to become a fully-functioning, lightweight tablet.
This third model is especially fast and powerful. The design looks good, too, made of magnesium, with a cunningly designed hinge where the display attaches.
Because both display and keyboard contain batteries, you get extra charge when it’s connected.
In total, you can expect 15 hours and more on the smaller, 13.5in display model, but there’s also a pricier 15in Surface Book 3 which gets a couple more hours of usage.
You can configure this laptop with extra RAM and storage or a better processor.
The most expensive 13.5in model is £2,699 and the 15in range tops out at £2,899.
Key specs: 13.5in display, Dimensions 312 x 232 x 23mm, Weight 1.53kg, Processor Quad-core 10th Generation Intel Core i5-1035G7, Storage 256GB, RAM 8GB, 720P camera
Apple MacBook Air
This brilliant laptop only squeaks in here with this configuration with a more advanced processor – the entry-level MacBook Air is too affordable at £999.
The Air was refreshed last year with a new processor, the Apple-built M1 chip which is blazing-fast.
The new model, thanks to that chip, added 50 per cent extra battery life, equating to 18 hours of video playback, for instance against 12 hours on the previous model.
Though some models here have more, there’s enough here for peace of mind without the power brick.
For most users, the performance here is more than enough – though it’s true the MacBook Pro beats it. Like the Pro, it has a fingerprint sensor in the power button.
Key specs: 13.3in display, Dimensions 304 x 212 x 16.1 mm, Weight 1.29kg, Processor Apple M1 with 8-core GPU, Storage 512GB, RAM 8GB, Fingerprint sensor, 720P camera, gold, silver and space grey finishes
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
The Surface Laptop 4 is distinctive-looking, with a sueded material surrounding the trackpad and making for a soft wrist rest. The keyboard itself is effective, making the whole experience very comfortable.
It’s fast and efficient, with extensive battery life of 13 hours plus. There’s also a smaller-screen model with a 13.5in display, which starts at £99.
Surface products have a routinely excellent build quality and have an installation of Windows that’s free from unwanted extra programs.
Battery life is claimed at 19 hours.
Key specs 15in display, Dimensions 339.5 mm x 244 mm x 14.7mm, Weight 1.54kg, Processor Quad Core 11th-generation Intel Core i7, Storage 512GB, RAM 8GB, 720P camera, ice blue, sandstone, platinum and matte-black finishes
HP Spectre X360
The Spectre X360 is a highly elegant laptop thanks to its slim shape and portable weight.
It’s made with superb build quality that ensures there’s no unwanted flex or movement.
It also has strong sound (thanks to Bang & Olufsen speakers) and a great 13.3in display that has great colour fidelity and decent brightness.
Not to mention strong battery life of 13 hours or more, with a fast recharge speed, too.
It has a very responsive keyboard and the flexibility of a laptop that folds round to become a tablet, with other positions in between.
Key specs 13.3in display, Dimensions 306 x 194 x 17mm, Weight 1.27kg, Processor 11th generation Intel i7-1165G7, Storage 512GB, RAM 16GB, Fingerprint sensor, 720P camera, silver finish
LG Gram 17
To make a 17in display laptop weigh as little as 1.35kg is an achievement. But it doesn’t come at the expense of performance: this is a fast, powerful and effective machine.
The benefits of a display this big include the provision of a number pad alongside the regular QWERTY keys (which are very comfortable to use, by the way).
It also means there’s room for a large trackpad. The large display looks great, and is a real treat if you’re used to working on a 13in laptop.
A fingerprint sensor keeps your data secure.
Key specs: 17in display, Dimensions 380 x 260 x 18 mm, Weight 1.35kg, Processor 11th generation Intel i7-1165G7, Storage 1TB, RAM 16GB, Fingerprint sensor, black finish
Dell XPS 15
Dell’s speciality is building the exact computer you want. So you can spend an extra £100 to switch from 8GB to 16GB of RAM, for instance.
There’s no touchscreen at this price but, again, you can add one. The 15.6in display is big enough to act as a desktop replacement but still light enough to be carried: not least that’s because the bezels framing the display are narrow.
It can handle even the most complex programs and it’s fast and responsive. In fact, though it’s not sold as a games machine, it’s powerful enough to run many demanding apps such as games with success.
The design is also attractive and highly appealing.
Key specs: 15.6in display, Dimensions 345 x 230 x 18mm, Weight 1.81kg, 11th generation, Processor Intel Core i5-11400H, Storage 512GB, RAM 8GB, 720P camera, platinum silver finish