Best laptops of 2014: the 17 best laptops in the UK
Discover the best laptops of 2014 - find out what you need to know with our buying guide, in-depth reviews and definitive chart
From low-cost laptops to high-end hybrids, the explosion of diverse, different-shaped Windows devices means that there's a dizzying amount of choice out there. Fear not, though. We've reviewed thousands of laptops, tablets and hybrids over the last 20 years of PC Pro, so if you’re in the market for a new machine, we know what to look for. Read on for our definitive list of the best laptops (and ultrabooks, workstations, tablets and hybrids) that money can buy in 2014.
The best laptops of 2014: laptop, touchscreen or hybrid?
Not sure what to buy? The best way to set about making that tricky decision is to first work out what type of laptop you want or need, then consult our best laptop list below for the most appropriate machine in that category. Thanks to the explosion of different form factors, there's now a machine to fit almost any application.
For a simple, effective laptop, there’s still nothing to beat the traditional clamshell laptop design for value. A standard laptop will do most things more expensive models can, and prices can be very reasonable. Dial back your budget below £500, however, and you’ll have to sacrifice weight, looks and (usually) display quality. It's a case of which compromises bother you least.
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. A touchscreen isn’t essential, but it is nice to be able to pinch, flick and swipe your way through the Windows 8 user interface 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. 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.
Don’t expect any of these fancy features on a business-focused laptop, though. They generally do away with such luxuries, concentrating instead on providing office-friendly features such as Ethernet sockets, fingerprint or smart card readers, 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.
Whatever you decide, the list below will have you covered. It represents the cream of the laptop crop in every category, and every machine on it has been tested to within an inch of its life. (Wondering how we test all the laptops that pass through PC Pro? Our tests are some of the toughest out there - scroll to the bottom of the page for a comprehensive walkthrough of the PC Pro testing methodology.)
Got your credit card at the ready? For the very best laptops available to buy right now, read on.
The best laptops of 2014
Price when reviewed: £1,499 inc VAT
Apple's latest update to its Retina-equipped MacBook Pro 13in is perhaps the finest laptop that money can buy. It's not as slender as the best Ultrabooks - the newly slimmed-down model still weighs 1.55kg and measures 18mm thick – but, gram for gram, it crams in more power and all-round quality than any other laptop you care to mention. The arrival of Intel's Haswell CPUs gives graphics performance a much needed boost (a notable weakness of the previous generation), and battery life now soars over 11 hours.
Elsewhere, the Macbook Pro oozes class: the Retina display is stunning, and increased application support finally allows it to start delivering on its potential. Factor in a very welcome price cut, and it strides straight the top of our wish list.
Price when reviewed: £450 inc VAT
Asus knows how to build a brilliant cut-price laptop – take a look at its 11.6in VivoBook X200CA and 10.1in Transformer Book T100 if you don’t believe us. But its X552CL takes on the challenge of putting together a more powerful 15.6in system while still managing to keep down the cost.
With a Core i5 processor, Nvidia graphics and a sensible range of features for £400, it looks like Asus has got it right yet again.
Price when reviewed: £1,000 inc VAT
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga range was the first to nail the hybrid formula, and the IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro is the best of the lot. This Ultrabook shares the Yoga family's ability to contort from laptop to tablet and adopt a range of poses in between, but ups the ante with a high-DPI touchscreen and an Intel Haswell CPU.
Physically, the Yoga 2 Pro is prettier than ever, with a slender, more curvy design, and although it has lost weight, it feels stiffer and sturdier. Performance from the Core i5 CPU and 256GB SSD is spritely. Battery life is decent at a touch short of eight hours.
The 13.3in, 3,200 x 1,800 display is unbelievably crisp, too, as well as bright and bold, but the high resolution can cause issues with some software. Such quibbles are easy to overlook, however. At £999 inc VAT, the Yoga 2 Pro delivers cutting-edge hardware for less than any of its rivals – it's a formidable Ultrabook.
Price when reviewed: £349 inc VAT
Fusing a 10.1in tablet with a docking keyboard, the Transformer Book T100 swaps the Android OS of its stablemates for full Windows 8.1 and puts Intel's new Atom platform, Bay Trail, at the helm. Intel's quad-core Atom is twice as fast as the previous generation, and even has a little gaming power at its disposal. The T100 feels nothing like the netbooks of old.
The 1,366 x 768 IPS display isn't the brightest out there, but it's great for the money; the compact keyboard turns it into a usable netbook hybrid with nine hours of battery life; and there's even a copy of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 thrown in for free. If ever there was a bargain to be had, the Asus Transformer Book T100 is it.
Price when reviewed: £199 inc VAT
When is a Chromebook not a Chromebook? When it runs Windows 8.1 with Bing, that's when. 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 nice and sturdy, and while the 11.6in 1,366 x 768 display is hardly the last word in quality, it's plenty bright enough for use while out and about. Battery life is good, too, and the Bay Trail Celeron processor and 2GB of RAM give just enough oomph to keep Windows 8.1 feeling responsive. For kids, students or just anyone after a cheap ultraportable, the Toshiba is well worth considering.
Price when reviewed: £350 inc VAT
The big brother to the 10.1in Transformer Book T100, the T200TA sees Asus deliver yet another cracking budget Windows 8.1 hybrid. The free copy of Microsoft Office has fallen by the wayside, but the bigger 11.6in IPS screen, Windows 8.1 and Intel's capable quad-core Atom processor make a fantastic all-round partnership.
The larger keyboard and display make the T200TA far more usable as an everyday laptop than the dinky T100, and although both RAM and overall power are limited, the keyboard dock adds a generous 500GB hard disk for storing movies, music and oodles of everyday data and documents.
If there are flaws to be found, we'd point the finger at the spongy keyboard and overall weight - at 1.64kg, the T200TA is a little portly - but for £350, we're inclined to forgive the T200TA. At this price, it's a cracker.
Price when reviewed: £500 inc VAT
Lenovo was one of the first manufacturers to produce a convincing Windows 8 hybrid with its folding Yoga concept, and the IdeaPad Yoga 2 is its cheapest model yet.
With a 11.6in touchscreen, it reprises the design of the £1,099 IdeaPad Yoga 11S, but slashes the price with a quad-core Pentium processor.
It's a superbly crafted 11.6in hybrid with a gorgeous display and a well-judged specification – for a very reasonable price.
Price when reviewed: £899 inc VAT
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, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 860M and a cracking Full HD IPS display and shoehorns the trio into a compact 13.3in laptop that doesn't cost the earth. It's a cracking buy.
Price when reviewed: £1,799 inc VAT
Workstation laptops aren’t meant to be sexy or attractive, but the new Dell Precision M3800 turns convention on its head. It packs a quad-core CPU, Nvidia Quadro graphics and solid-state storage into a slim, stylish chassis that makes it look more like a super-sized Ultrabook.
Price when reviewed: £989 inc VAT
Look at the name and the photos and you'll see nothing remarkable, but the Gigabyte P34G v2 is a gaming laptop that flies in the face of convention.
It packs giant-slaying performance into a compact, portable 14in laptop with decent battery life. The price is reasonable as well.
Price when reviewed: £350 inc VAT
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.
It's an unshowy 15.6in laptop with good build quality and a great specification for the money – a bona fide bargain.
Price when reviewed: 64GB, £639; 512GB, £1,1649 inc VAT
The Surface Pro 3 represents a confident step towards the perfect hybrid device. The new 3:2 display, in combination with the lighter chassis, 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 in every scenario, but it feels considerably less compromised than the previous generations.
Where the Surface Pro 3 stumbles is pricing. Although the low-end models look like great value, we’d hesitate to recommend anything less than a 256GB SSD for serious use – and while it is strictly possible to add extra capacity via a microSD card, it’s excruciatingly slow compared to real SSD storage.
Price when reviewed: £1,279 inc VAT
The Gorilla Glass-clad Full HD touchscreen drips with vivid, saturated colour, and the range-topping model we tested delivered scorching performance thanks to a Core i7 CPU and nippy SSD. The arrival of Intel Haswell swells battery life to stunning levels: the XPS 12 lasted nearly 13 hours in our light use test.
If the asking price is too much, fear not - the cheaper Core i5 model with its smaller 128GB SSD delivers the XPS 12 experience for a touch under £1,000.
Price when reviewed: £3,598 inc VAT
The biggest model in our line-up is the ZBook 17, and it partners a huge 17.3in display with a burly, upgradeable chassis, a truckload of connectivity and a slew of high-end componentry.
HP’s mobile workstation is powerful, well-equipped and the optional DreamColor display is stupendous. Unfortunately, so is the price.
Price when reviewed: £1,298 inc VAT
We weren't sure what to make of the announcement of Toshiba's brand new Kirabook line of Ultrabooks, considering the last Ultrabook-like Toshiba product we reviewed was the underwhelming Portégé Z10t. However, one look at the specification, build and ergonomics of the Kira-101 put our fears to rest; compared to Toshiba's previous effort, the Kirabook is a very different animal.
Toshiba's consumer Ultrabook packs in a powerful Core i7 Haswell processor, a glorious display and beautiful design, rivalling the very best the Ultrabook world has to offer.
Price when reviewed: £1,300 inc VAT
MSI's bombastically titled GE70 2PE Apache Pro serves up serious gaming power in a hefty 17.3in chassis. With a quad-core Core i7 processor taking the reins alongside one of Nvidia's latest GTX 800 Series GPUs and twin SSDs in RAID, the Apache Pro promises, and delivers, blindingly quick performance.
This power-packed 17.3in gaming laptop and capable desktop replacement, provides plenty of bang for your buck.
Price when reviewed: £2,210 inc VAT
High-DPI displays are the flavour of the moment, but the Dell Precision M4800 marks the first time we’ve seen such a screen on a business-class machine. That isn’t this monster of a workstation laptop’s only talent though.
The Dell Precision M4800's chunky chassis crams in a stupendous amount of tech, providing just the right blend of comfort, power, and portability for those seeking the ultimate in laptop oomph.
The best laptop of 2014: How we test?
For those of you who are wondering how we come up with the individual ranking for each laptop in this best laptop chart, here’s a quick guide for how we test each laptop.
Every device here is put through our rigorous suite of benchmarks and battery tests. First, we use our own Real World Benchmarks, which run applications including Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Sony Vegas Pro and Apple iTunes to give an indication of all-round computing performance. Click on the any laptop in this list to be taken to the device's full review, where you can see all these scores.
We test the quality of each laptop’s display with a colorimeter, measuring the brightness, contrast ratio and colour accuracy, and use a selection of test images and videos to look for issues such as poor viewing angles or slow response times.
Features & Design
Each device is also evaluated for the quality of its features, build and design. The range of connectivity is taken into account, including network capabilities and hard disk capacity, as well as features such as styluses, docking keyboards, and physical switches to disable wireless networking or temporarily disable touchpads while typing.
For all that can’t be measured objectively, such as the build quality, touchscreen sensitivity, speakers and keyboard, we use our experience to assess these factors objectively, and use this, in combination with a totting up of features, to produce each review’s Features & Design score.
Value for Money and Overall
Our Value for Money score doesn't simply indicate how much each laptop costs, but reflects how much you get for the price paid. The Overall rating is an average of the Performance, Features & Design and Value for Money score, but it may be higher or lower than you'd expect due to rounding.