The 19 best laptops of 2015: Alphr’s ultimate UK guide – Alphr
Whether you’re after a budget laptop, business Ultrabook, professional workstation or a gaming goliath, Alphr’s definitive list has got something that will fit the bill. From low-cost laptops that are ideal for the back-to-school rush, to the finest Ultrabooks and cutting-edge hybrids, we’ve collected the very best laptop deals available in the UK.
We haven’t forgotten about business laptops and professional workstations, either. Skip on over to page 2 using the menu above and we’ve collected our favourite office machines, from lightweight Ultrabooks to powerhouse desktop replacements.
Not sure what to buy? Then the first job is to work out what type of laptop you need. Thanks to the explosion of different designs, such as hybrids and convertible tablets, there’s now a huge range of devices to choose from.
Buyer’s guide: Laptop, touchscreen or hybrid?
For a simple, everyday computer, there’s still nothing to beat the traditional laptop. You don’t need to spend a fortune, either. A standard sub-£500 laptop will do pretty much all things more expensive models can do, albeit at a slower pace and/or with a less stylish design. Generally speaking, the only obvious compromises are in screen quality and resolution, and the lack of really powerful gaming-class graphics (GPUs).
Dial back your budget to around £300, however, and there are still plenty of options. At this price, full-sized 15.6in laptops are weighty, plasticky affairs with modest specifications and low-quality screens, but these are still absolutely fine for basic use. You don’t have to put up with a chunky laptop just because you’re on a budget, however, as it’s now possible to buy lightweight Windows laptops for as little as £200 (see the HP Stream 11 below). These models generally pair smaller, low-resolution 11.6in screens with tiny 16 or 32GB solid-state disks, low-power processors and a minimum of frills, and they’re a great option for students and people that need a laptop they can carry about every day.
Up your spend, and you’ll be able to consider an Ultrabook – thin and light machines that look as good as they perform – or a more luxurious touchscreen laptop or hybrid. A touchscreen isn’t essential, but it’s nice to be able to pinch, flick and swipe your way through Windows 10 and scroll around web pages. Plus, it gives your fingers a bit of respite from tiresome touchpad prodding.
If you want to take it to the next level, a hybrid could be the way to go, and with prices tumbling all the time, these are no longer a premium-priced option – they start from around £400. These machines allow you to detach or fold away the keyboard so you can use your laptop just like an iPad or Android tablet. For surfing the web on a sofa or just watching videos, many hybrid designs have the edge on a traditional laptop.
Business laptops aren’t the boring things they used to be, though – we’re used to seeing business Ultrabooks which are every bit as good looking as their high-end consumer rivals. They do have some major advantages over standard home laptops, however. Business laptops routinely add office-friendly features such as fingerprints and smartcard readers, Ethernet sockets, and upgradeable components to give you more practical bang for your buck. Accessories such as docking stations are usually high up on the list of priorities, too, and longer warranties are par for the course.
If you have any more questions then drop us a line in the comments below, or hit the Twitter icon at the top of the page. It’s good to talk.
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The best laptops of 2015
Price when reviewed: from £999 inc VAT
Key specs: 13.3in 2,560 x 1,600 display | Intel Core i5/i7 | 128-512GB SSD | 1.58kg
2015 sees the MacBook Pro mature into something beautifully well-rounded. It’s light, and the arrival of Intel’s Broadwell processor technology provides a fine balance between power and stamina. The high-DPI display and all-round quality alone are enough to make us wonder why we’d spend £1,000 on any other laptop, and the innovative Force Touch trackpad simply adds to the attraction. Click here to read our Apple Macbook Pro with Retina Display review
Price when reviewed: from £639 (64GB)
Key specs: 12in 2,160 x 1,440 display | Intel Core i3/i5/i7 | 64-512GB SSD | 800g (tablet only)
The Surface Pro 3 represents a confident step towards the perfect hybrid device. The new 3:2 display makes it a far more agreeable tablet than its predecessors, while the new kickstand and Type Cover make it a more convincing alternative to a regular laptop. It still isn’t perfect, but it feels considerably less compromised than the previous generations. The only real stumbling point is pricing. Although the 64GB model looks like great value, we’d hesitate to recommend anything less than a 256GB SSD for serious use. It’s well worth keeping your eyes peeled for any discounts, though: the Broadwell-equipped Surface Pro 4 is waiting in the wings. Click here to read our Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review
Price when reviewed: £180 inc VAT
Key specs: 11.6in 1,366 x 768 display | Intel Celeron N2840 | 32GB eMMC | 1.29kg
Even were there nothing else to recommend the HP Stream 11, its eye-catching design would win it plenty of fans. HP’s Windows 8.1 with Bing budget laptop comes in a choice of vibrant blue or magenta finishes, with a slim, lightweight chassis. It’s a little more versatile than a Chromebook, working brilliantly with online apps, but it’s still able to run more conventional Windows software if you’re sensible about your requirements or pair it with an external USB 3 hard disk (the 32GB of storage is an ever-present limitation). Click here to read our HP Stream 11 review
Price when reviewed: £700 inc VAT
Key specs: 13.3in 1,920 x 1,080 display | Intel Core i7 | 128GB SSD | 1.4kg
The Asus Zenbook UX303LA was one of the first laptops to sport Intel’s Broadwell CPUs when it first landed – and it remains an excellent buy. Given that it delivers a taste of premium Ultrabook performance for around £700, it’s something of a bargain. It houses a dual-core, 2.4GHz Core i7 CPU, 6GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and while performance isn’t a huge leap forward over the previous generation, the efficiency of the new chip is supreme. It also has an excellent 13.3in Full HD screen and a decent keyboard, a lovely design and a very tempting price. Not many other laptops can match this machine’s all-round appeal and value for money. Click here to read the full review of the Asus Zenbook UX303LA
Price when reviewed: £280 inc VAT
Key specs: 13.3in 1,920 x 1,080 display | Intel Celeron N2840 | 32GB SSD | 1.35kg
The fact that this laptop doesn’t run Windows will leave some people running for the hills, but Toshiba has done a superb job with the Chromebook 2. We’ve long been hankering after a Chromebook with a top-quality screen, and the Toshiba’s Full HD display certainly delivers on that front – it’s better than many displays on laptops at three times the price. We could ask for a little more travel in the keyboard, longer battery life and perhaps a better set of speakers, but we’re just being spoilt. Right now, this is the Chromebook we’d buy – and it offers a fine alternative to the likes of HP’s bargain-priced Stream 11. Click here to read the Toshiba Chromebook 2 review
Price when reviewed: £419 inc VAT
Key specs: 10.8in 1,920 x 1,280 display | Intel Atom x7 | 64/128GB SSD | 622g (tablet only)
Looking for a more portable alternative to the Surface Pro 3? The Microsoft Surface 3 is it. It has a slightly lower screen resolution, but the smaller screen means that pixel density is identical, so image quality is every bit as sharp. At £419, it’s significantly cheaper than the £649 Surface Pro 3, although it’s worth bearing in mind that the Type keyboard inflates the price by £119, and the Surface Pen adds another £45. Of course, the Atom processor does mean that the Surface 3 is a tad underpowered, but if you don’t need to chomp through Photoshop edits on a regular basis, it’s a capable little hybrid – and as classy as Windows devices get. Click here to read our Microsoft Surface 3 review
Price when reviewed: £180 inc VAT
Key specs: 11.6in 1,366 x 768 display | Intel Celeron N2840 | 32GB eMMC | 1.1kg
When is a Chromebook not a Chromebook? When it runs Windows 8.1 with Bing. Toshiba’s £199 laptop is no powerhouse, and just like Google’s Chromebook fleet it’s equipped with a mere 32GB of eMMC (similar to an SSD, but slower) storage, but it also comes bundled with a two-year subscription to 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage. As a basic laptop for everyday use, it’s an attractive proposition. The all-plastic chassis feels sturdy, and while the display is hardly the last word in quality, it’s bright enough, and battery life is good, too. Click here to read our Toshiba Satellite CL10-B review
Price when reviewed: £1,099 inc VAT
Key specs: 13.3in 3,200 x 1,800 display | Intel Core i5/i7 | 128-512GB SSD | 1.27kg
Dell’s XPS 13 has all the hallmarks of a no-compromise, high-end Ultrabook. Intel’s Broadwell processors join forces with a speedy SSD and high-DPI display, and the XPS 13 looks and feels just like a flagship laptop should. There are a few aggravating niggles – the high-DPI display has an aggressive dynamic contrast feature that constantly adjusts the brightness, for starters – but it’s impossible not to retain a soft spot for the XPS 13. One of Alphr’s team has been working on one for the past few months, and has no complaints whatsoever – given the opportunity, he refused to swap it for a 13in MacBook Pro with Retina display. Yes, it’s that good. Click here to read the Dell XPS 13 review
Price when reviewed: £1,049 inc VAT
Key specs: 12in 2,304 x 1,440 display | Intel Core M | 256/512GB SSD | 923g
There’s no denying it, the MacBook is one seriously gorgeous machine. Yet this minimalist, ultra-light portable won’t be for everyone. It isn’t powerful enough to do the same jobs a MacBook Pro 13in with Retina Display can, it’s expensive and connectivity – limited to a single Type-C USB port – isn’t ideal for a work machine, either. Still, if light weight and desirability matter more to you than all-out practicality, there’s nothing else that comes close. Click here to read our Apple Macbook 12-inch review
Price when reviewed: £350 inc VAT
Key specs: 15.6in 1,366 x 768 display | Intel Core i3 | 500GB HDD | 2.2kg
Budget laptops rarely set the pulse racing, but the Acer Aspire E1 excites purely by virtue of its price. For a mere £350, this 15.6in laptop touts a Core i3 CPU, 750GB hard disk and all the essential trimmings. There are no exciting design flourishes to thrill the eye, nor even the slightest hint of high-end technology, but then this is an unshowy 15.6in laptop with good build quality and a great specification for the money. Click here to read our Acer Aspire E1 review
Price when reviewed: £799 inc VAT
Key specs: 12.5in 2,560 x 1,440 display | Intel Core M-5Y71 | 128GB SSD | 1.43kg (tablet 720g)
The Transformer Book Chi T300 is a great little hybrid. The high-DPI display is superb, the design attractive and, crucially, this is a hybrid that manages to perform well in both tablet and laptop roles. If you’ve been looking for a more affordable, more flexible alternative to the Surface Pro 3, the Asus Transformer Book Chi T300 is well worth considering. Click here to read our Asus Transformer Book Chi T300 review
BEST GAMING LAPTOPS
Price when reviewed: £899 inc VAT
Key specs: 13.3in 1,920 x 1,080 display | Intel Core i7 | 1TB hybrid HDD | 2.1kg
Portable, powerful and affordable are three words that rarely go together when one thinks of gaming laptops, but that’s exactly what Chillblast has served up with the Defiant 2 Mini. Like squeezing the engine of a supercar into a hatchback, the Defiant 2 Mini unites a quad-core Intel CPU, a cracking Full HD IPS display and has recently been upgraded with the latest Nvidia GTX 960M graphics chip. If you want to play the latest games but don’t want to shell out on a giant laptop, the Defiant 2 Mini is a pint-sized wonder. Click here to read our Chillblast Defiant 2 Mini review
Price when reviewed: £2,000 inc VAT
Key specs: 17.3in 1,920 x 1,080 display | Intel Core i7 | 2x 128GB SSD, 1TB HDD | 4kg
The MSI GT72 is every inch the gaming laptop we’d love to own. And we wouldn’t be disheartened by the hefty asking price, either: the price of our review unit was inflated due to the inclusion of a swathe of SteelSeries gaming accessories and an MSI rucksack. Spend a little time shopping around and, as long as you don’t mind dropping to 8GB of RAM and a single 128GB SSD, you can buy a GT72 equipped with a 4GB GTX 980M for less than £1,400. At that price, this easily upgradable powerhouse is a steal. Click here to read our MSI GT72 Dominator Pro review
Price when reviewed: £1,430 inc VAT
Key specs: 17.3in 1,920 x 1,080 display | Intel Core i7 | 128GB SSD, 1TB HDD | 2.66kg
There’s no two ways around it: 17in gaming laptops are chunky monsters. Not so the Chillblast Helix 2. It has the same plus-size footprint as its big-screened rivals, but it’s gone on a crash diet to achieve its 27mm thickness. It’s still no lightweight, but the payoff is very respectable performance across the board. A quad-core Core i7, 128GB SSD, 1TB HDD and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970M provide enough oomph to run most games smoothly at the 17in screen’s Full HD resolution. If you want big-screened gaming power with a little less bulk, the Helix 2 could be just the ticket. Click here to read out Chillblast Helix 2 review