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Don’t Buy laptop revealed in latest Which? tests

A big-brand laptop has been tarred with our Don't Buy brush. Find out what it did wrong in our tests

Don’t Buy laptops – those that perform so badly in our tests we advise you to avoid them – don’t come around too often. 

One model has emerged from our recent round of reviews that’s from a household name – and the unfortunate recipient of the first Don’t Buy we’ve issued since January this year. Read on for more.

Don’t worry, our round-up of the very best laptops from our tests can point you towards the good ones.

What makes a Don’t Buy laptop?

Which? review scores are calculated based purely on our lab tests, and don’t factor in price. The average score of all the laptops currently on Which.co.uk is 66%. That equates to a laptop that performs the basics well but doesn’t offer any surprises. A Best Buy has to net at least 70%, while our Don’t Buy cut-off is 45%. Laptops that score 45% or less have not met our expectations in one or more key areas.

The laptop that landed a Don’t Buy this month scored 44%. It proves that it isn’t just slow speed that can make a laptop unpleasant to use; there are a number of other drawbacks that make it a everyday pain in the neck. 

Which? members can see our Don’t Buys, Best Buys and other recommendations in our laptops review index.

What to expect from a low-scoring laptop

  • Screen: This unfortunate laptop is endowed with a screen that really can’t handle the basics. Move from any angle that isn’t straight-on and clarity immediately drops off, although even if you get the screen at its absolute best, it’s still drab, with low brightness levels and dingy colours that really don’t do justice to just about anything on the screen. Our calibrated quantitative screen tests confirmed what our lab testers could see: this is a sub-standard panel by any measure.
  • Poorly built: A plasticky build is to be expected from most laptops that cost under £700, but we thought this laptop in particular was too flexible in all the wrong places. 
  • Hard to use: While Windows 10 is identical across all laptops, actually getting things done is a pain when the touchpad doesn’t behave how you expect it to, resulting in missed clicks and inaccurate swiping around the screen in our usability tests. The keyboard, too, rattles in use, and the area underneath each key bends when you press down on them. This was not a fun typing test for our lab experts to perform. 
  • Poor speakers: Most laptops fail to impress in the audio department. Our laptop testers include audio experts who can tell the difference between bad, good and great, but there’s no surprise where this laptop ended up. Thin and weedy sound was the order of the day.
  • So-so battery life: It could have been worse, but in our web-browsing battery benchmark test, it managed just four hours and 30 minutes away from the mains.
  • Weak wi-fi: This laptop scored one star in our wi-fi test, meaning that it won’t make the best of your network at home and will amplify any signal and range issues you may have in your house, especially if you’re going to be using your laptop far away from your wi-fi router.

Latest laptops on test

We tested three laptops in our lab in the first half of October. They were:

Lenovo IdeaPad S540-14API: This £599 Ultrabook promises fast performance and portability from its diminutive chassis. If it delivers, it could be the ideal on-the-move work choice. Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad S540-14API review.

Lenovo IdeaPad S145-15IWL: At £399, you get a lot of laptop for not much money. Modest specifications still look decent for the price, so it could be an ideal choice as an at-home laptop for getting the basics done. Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad S145-15IWL review.

HP 14s-dq: This £430 thin and light laptop could be an absolute bargain, boasting an Intel Core i3 processor and a generous 8GB of Ram, along with a solid-state drive (SSD). If it performs as its spec sheet suggests, it could easily undercut its more premium 14-inch laptop rivals. Read our full HP 14s-dq review.

Why trust the Which? laptop test?

As well as only basing our scores on lab test results, removing any reviewer bias, we also buy all the products we test from high street shops and their respective websites, and don’t accept freebies from manufacturers. This differs from most other websites that need to maintain friendly relations with brands in order to obtain review samples. Our tests include scientific screen measurements along with repeatable battery tests and industry-standard speed benchmarks to see whether laptops live up to their claims. Read more about How we test laptops for the full picture.

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