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Technology.

9 September 2021

Top five laptops for 2021

We help you find the right laptop for you, picking five of the very best, as well as some you'll want to give a wide berth
Michael Passingham
Man using laptop

We all use our laptops in a variety of different ways, whether it's to compose complicated spreadsheets, catch up on the latest blockbuster via a streaming service, or simply follow friends on Facebook. 

The models below are the ones we think are some of the best laptops to pick up right now This is the first section of our four-page guide to the best laptops you can buy, including the the best Windows 10 laptops for all budgets, the best Chromebooks and the best MacBook to choose for your given task. See our cheap laptop guide for the top five budget laptops for under £500 and our picks for the best laptops for students. Use the navigation buttons at the top or bottom of this page to find the right guide for you. 

On this page we've also picked out some of the worst laptops we've tested so you can see what you should be avoiding. Nobody should have to put up with sluggish processors, tinny speakers and dull screens.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.

These are our experts' pick of the top five laptops right now. We have some high scorers but also a couple of examples of fantastic value that show you don't need to spend a huge amount of money to get something good.

Top five laptops

  • 92%
    £1167.00

    If you can face the price, this is a brilliant laptop for intensive tasks such as photo- and video-editing. You don't have to compromise on portability or battery life either; this laptop is light and the battery lasts for over 16 hours when watching videos.

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  • 86%
    £1469.00

    This is one of the very best large laptops we've tested. It isn't cheap, but it justifies its price with excellent build quality, fast performance, a great screen and excellent speakers. Even the battery life is good, which is rare on a large laptop.

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  • 85%
    £999.00

    This absolute cracker of a Windows laptop sets the standard for devices running on Microsoft's software. Its excellent screen, lovely speakers and fast performance mean it ticks practically every box you can imagine, and starts from under a grand.

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  • 81%
    £699.00

    For the money, there are very few laptops as good as this one. It’s fast, has a good screen and battery life is well above average. It’s a brilliant Best Buy.

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  • 71%
    £499.00

    This mid-range laptop delivers fast performance in a very compact and lightweight shell. That should make it ideal for anyone who needs a laptop for taking out and about.

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  • 71%
    £399.00

    This laptop comes in at well under £500 but has some really useful features not often found on laptops this cheap. It includes a fingerprint reader, a Full HD screen and a half decent processor, along with excellent battery life.

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Table updated September 2021.

Laptops to avoid

Cheap but not cheerful, and packed with slow processors, limited Ram, unpleasant keyboards and screens that are hard to make out, these are laptops to avoid.

  • 46%
    £329.00

    This laptop failed to impress our testers in any area, with sluggish performance, a dull screen, atrocious speakers and awful battery life combining to create something that is increasingly rare: a Don’t Buy laptop. Steer clear.

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  • 45%
    £199.00

    This brand is apparently popular on Amazon, but our tests reveal this budget laptop is a complete false economy. It’s slow, poorly made and the battery life is awful. Other than that, it’s great.

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  • 44%
    £278.00

    This sub-standard laptop isn't terribly slow, but it lacks skills in any other area, with poor battery life, fiddly keyboard and touchpad, dull screen and terrible speakers.

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  • 43%
    £299.00

    This giant laptop is also a giant pain in the neck, thanks to poor battery life, slow performance and a dire screen.

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Five tips for picking a laptop

Processor

Essentially the brains of the machine, the processor is instrumental in making sure your laptop runs smoothly and quickly. Pick a slow one, and you'll be left drumming your fingers as you wait for your program to load. The most common type is Intel's Core i3, i5, and i7 range, with AMD's equivalent being Ryzen 3, 5 and 7. The Core i3 / Ryzen 3 will fit the bill for basic tasks like word processing and web browsing, but if you're looking to do anything more intensive, such as graphics editing or playing games, you'll need a beefier processor. 

You'll also see the likes of Celeron and Pentium, too - these vary wildly in quality so check our reviews to see how they fare.

Ram

Ram is the memory of the laptop, and the more of it there is, the snappier it will be. 4GB is the minimum we'd recommend nowadays, but 8GB is a better bet. It's also worth checking how many Ram slots the laptop has, as it may be possible to add more Ram at a later date to give a flagging laptop a second wind. 

Battery Life

Battery life can make or break a laptop. If a machine is packed with the latest specs, but only lasts a couple of hours untethered from the plug socket, it's going to be something of a letdown. Some of the models we've tested can last up to a whopping fifteen hours between charges, but realistically, seven upwards is more than reasonable to look for. 

Screen

A laptop screen is a simple thing to overlook, but it's an important consideration. The very best are bright, crisp and clear. The worst are dulled and lacking in colour. Pick one of these, and you'll be peering into the virtual world through a dirty window. Our tests break down how good screens are in different conditions. We've also tested external displays; see our guide to the best computer monitors to see which you should pick.

Storage space

How much you can store on your laptop will depend on the size of its drive. Around 1TB should be more than enough for most, but if you start looking at solid state drives (SSD), you'll notice that these come in much smaller configurations than traditional hard drives. The upshot is that they are much faster to access information, meaning that your laptop will start faster and load quicker. If speed is key, go with an SSD. If sheer space is more important, opt for a hard drive.

See our guide on How to buy the best laptop  for more in-depth advice.