Laptops: How to buy the best laptop Choosing your perfect laptop

There are hundreds of laptops available to buy, so how do you start narrowing down the options? From the cheap and cheerful to the sleek and expensive, we'll tell you how to go about finding the perfect model for you. A good starting point to thinking about what type of laptop you need is to consider the following:

  • What do you want to use your laptop for? Are you looking for a model that can cope with day-to-day tasks such as browsing the web, word processing and basic picture editing? Or do you want a more powerful laptop that can whiz through more demanding tasks such as editing film or playing advanced games?
  • Where do you want to use your laptop? Are you planning to get a model that will stay at home as a desktop computer replacement, or a more portable device to take out and about?

In the rest of this guide we take a closer look at the different types of laptops and what makes a good one, including which features to look out for, and which you can compromise on. 

We test laptops in every category so you can find the perfect one for you. Take a look at our latest laptop reviews to see the most recent models rated and reviewed by the Which? experts.

Read our expert reviews with a trial to Which? for just £1

What type of laptop do I need?

Budget laptop

Cheap laptop A budget or cheap laptop is perfect for those who want to complete everyday tasks but won't need the power you'd expect from a desktop replacement model. It could be a great starting point for those using a computer for the first time. Design is often one of the compromises so, while they are still portable, budget laptops can be a little bulky. 

Would suit: students, novices, those on a budget or with basic computing needs

Find out more about how to buy the best cheap laptop, where we'll explain what features you need and the ones you can save on.

Family laptop

Family laptop As the name suggests, these laptops can cater for the whole family and, though they aren't the most powerful models you can buy, they would be perfect for going online, doing homework, emailing, sharing photos and even playing the odd basic game. The medium-sized screen means you should be able to transport this laptop to different  rooms fairly easily, though they are not likely to be portable enough to take out of the house for extended periods. 

Would suit: families, those looking for a mid-priced all-rounder

Find out more about how to buy the best family laptop, where we'll explain what features you need and the ones you can save on.

Desktop replacement laptop

Desktop replacement laptop The least portable of all laptops, these computers should be comparable to desktop PCs in terms of power and features, but in a much more flexible format. They should be able to cope with basic and advanced computing work and will have a larger screen for those who want to edit photos, or watch the odd film, as well as perform office tasks. 

Would suit: those looking for a big, powerful laptop to use at home

Find out more about how to buy the best desktop replacement laptop, where we'll explain what features you need and the ones you can save on.

Ultraportable laptop

Ultraportable laptop Just like it says on the tin, portability is the priority with these models, so they are both thin and light. It also includes the more recent sub category of ultrabooks - a relatively new Intel-christened name for super slim and portable laptops that meet its specifications - which are powerful and responsive to boot. Ultraportable laptops may not be your main computer or laptop, but an additional laptop you use when out and about or for work on the go. 

Would suit: those who work on the go, those who need proper power in a portable size

Find out more about how to buy the best ultraportable laptop, where we'll explain what features you need and the ones you can save on.

Multimedia laptop

Multimedia laptop If you want to use your laptop as a one-stop shop for entertainment as well as straight out computing - playing games, watching films, listening to music or editing video - then a multimedia laptop could be right for you. These laptops are generally not so portable as you'll want a good size 15-inch plus screen. It's different to desktop replacement laptops, which may be powerful but still not handle graphically demanding tasks well. 

Would suit: gaming or film fans who are looking for a model to use mainly at home. 

Find out more about how to buy the best multimedia laptop, where we'll explain what features you need and the ones you can save on.

For all of our top recommended models, take a look at the Which? Best Buy laptops

More on this...