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Budget and mid-range laptops from HP, Acer and Lenovo: does size matter?

Another batch passes through our labs, plus we reveal some facts and figures from the past year of testing

The latest Which? laptop tests put some of the biggest brands on the market head to head. 

Cheaper models from HP and Geo face off to see if you really can snap up a good performer for a song, plus mid-range models from HP and Lenovo try to convince that it’s worth paying more.  

Read on for the low-down on this month’s test subjects, along with analysis from our labs on what you get when you pick a 15-inch laptop over a 14-incher.

Start your laptop search with Which?’s top-rated Best Buys.

HP Envy x360 15-cp series: A beefy convertible laptop for £850

HP’s Envy line of laptops are marketed at those looking for great performance and solid build quality for under £1,000. The 15-cp series is a follow-up to the bq- and bp-series tested in June. It boasts a quad-core AMD Ryzen 5 processor, 8GB of Ram and a 128GB SSD alongside a 1TB hard disk, plus a 360-degree rotating screen. This means you can flip the screen around and turn it into a large tablet, which should be ideal for using the supplied stylus for sketching and making notes.

Weighing in at more than 2kg, it’s heavier than a lot of laptops on the market today. This is something to consider if you’re going to be traveling a lot; the glass touchscreen and robust hinge make it weightier than a conventional 15-inch laptop without a rotating screen.

And don’t think you can use it as a conventional tablet; this weighs more than four times as much as an iPad, and its 15-inch form factor makes it unwieldy. But it could still be ideal for watching Netflix with the laptops on your knees in bed.

Read our full HP Envy x360 15-cp review to see how it fared in our tests

Lenovo IdeaPad 530S-14IKB: An appealing mid-range Ultrabook at £650

Lenovo’s IdeaPad range continues to grow, with this 14-inch IdeaPad 530S the latest mid-range machine to arrive in stores. This laptop has a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of Ram and a 256GB SSD. It weighs in at 1.5kg, making it heavier than some 14-inch laptops on the market, but lighter models are often more expensive.

And at £650 at the time of writing, it’s an attractive set of specifications for a price that undercuts the likes of Asus ZenBook laptops. See our full Lenovo IdeaPad 530S-14IKB review for more.

Also on test: Budget netbooks and laptops for keeping at home

Geo Book and Geo Flex: budget Currys-exclusives from £160

These two 11.6-inch laptops start from just £160, but is it possible to buy a good laptop for so little? Our Geo Book 1 and Geo Flex reviews reveal all.

Acer Aspire 3 A315-51: a budget 15-inch laptop from £350

This 15-inch laptop packs plenty of tech, including a latest-generation Intel Core i3 processor and a 128GB SSD, all for just £350. Can it achieve greatness or should you aspire to do better? Read our full Acer Aspire 3 review to find out.

HP 17-by series: brawn and brains at £600?

This large 17-inch laptop from HP packs a quad-core Intel Core i5, 4GB of Ram and a 1TB hard disk. This is the sort of laptop you’ll keep at home and will happily plug away at your daily computing tasks. Just don’t take it anywhere too far; its 2.5kg weight and bulky design won’t make it an ideal travel companion. Read our full HP 17-by review.

14-inch vs 15.6-inch laptops: which is better?

Our two featured laptops above are 14 and 15.6-inch models, but it isn’t always clear which is better for what. Indeed, the Lenovo 530S and HP x360 have very similar internal components and, thus, performance.

The most common form factors you’ll find on the market are 14 and 15.6-inch laptops, but which one should you choose? Like many things, it depends on your needs. Click through the data below to see where these laptops differ.

The extra 1.6 inches of diagonal screen space makes a big difference to weight, with 15.6-inch laptops weighing almost a half a kilo more than a 14-incher. But if you don’t carry your laptop around with you all the time, you probably won’t mind. And you get the benefits of a larger screen, which will make smaller text easier to read, at the cost of a little sharpness.

We’ve also found battery life can take a dive if you opt for a larger laptop. This is due to a mix of factors, with 15-inch laptops more likely to have powerful, power-hungry components and the larger screen consuming more battery.

If you’re after performance, 15.6-inch laptops are the way to go, although you should still take a careful look at the specification sheet as there are plenty of larger laptops with weaker internal components.

But if you want more portability, 14-inch laptops are often very light and those costing more than £500 have very respectable performance, too.

Want more tips on picking the perfect model? Read our guide on how to buy the best laptop.

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