Best laptops of 2015: The 21 best laptops money can buy
The very best laptops of 2015: Get the low-down with our buyer's guide, detailed reviews and definitive chart
From low-cost Chromebooks to high-end hybrids, and the explosion of diverse, different-shaped Windows devices, there's a dizzying amount of choice out there for anyone looking to replace their laptop with something new. Fear not, though. We've reviewed thousands of laptops, tablets and hybrids over the past 20 years, so if you’re in the market for a new machine, we know what to look for.
Whatever you decide to buy, the list below has you covered. It represents the cream of the laptop crop in every category, and every machine listed has been tested to within an inch of its life. (Wondering how we test all the laptops that pass through our labs? Our tests are some of the toughest out there - use the dropdown menu above to go straight there.)
Got your credit card at the ready? For the very best laptops available to buy right now, read on.
The best laptops of 2015
Price when reviewed: £1,499 inc VAT
2015 sees the 13in MacBook Pro become a more attractive proposition than ever before. It’s light, and the arrival of Intel's Broadwell chip provides a fine balance between power and stamina. The high-DPI display and all-round quality alone are enough to make us wonder why we’d spend £1,000 on any other laptop, and the innovative Force Touch trackpad simply adds to the attraction.
Gamers should definitely look elsewhere – they’re increasingly well served by laptops such as the Gigabyte P34G anyway – and there's little reason for owners of last year's model to upgrade, but for everyone else the 13in MacBook Pro with Retina display is as good as it gets. Now, where did we leave that credit card?
Price when reviewed: £180 inc VAT
Even were there nothing else to recommend the HP Stream 11, its eye-catching design would win it plenty of fans. HP’s 11.6in, Windows 8.1 with Bing budget laptop comes in a choice of vibrant blue or magenta finishes, with a slimline chassis that measures just under 20mm thick and weighs only 1.29kg.
It's a little more versatile than a Chromebook, working brilliantly with online apps, but it's still able to run more conventional Windows software if you’re sensible about your requirements or pair it with an external USB 3 hard disk (the 32GB of storage is an ever-present limitation). In all fairness, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 offers better hardware and a nicer screen, but the Stream 11 outmatches it for sheer value for money. It’s a sub-£200 bargain.
Price when reviewed: £700 inc VAT
The Asus Zenbook UX303LA marked a successful debut for Intel's full-powered Broadwell CPUs when it appeared early on in 2015 and it remains an excellent buy. It houses a dual-core, 2.4GHz Core i7-5500U CPU, 6GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and while performance isn't a leap forward, the efficiency of the new chip is supreme. The UX303LA lasted a hugely impressive 13hrs 6mins in our light-use battery tests.
It also has an excellent 13.3in Full HD screen and a decent keyboard, a lovely design and a very tempting price of just £700 inc VAT. Not many other laptops can match this machine's all-round appeal and value for money.
Price when reviewed: £280 inc VAT
The fact that this laptop doesn't run Windows will leave some people running for the hills, but Toshiba has done a superb job with the Chromebook 2. We’ve long been hankering after a Chromebook with a top-quality screen, and the Toshiba’s Full HD display certainly delivers on that front – it's better than many displays on laptops at three times the price. We could ask for a little more travel in the keyboard, longer battery life and perhaps a better set of speakers, but we’re just being spoilt. Right now, this is the Chromebook we’d buy, and it offers a fine alternative to the likes of HP's bargain-priced Stream 11.
Price when reviewed: 64GB, £639; 512GB, £1,649 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 possible to add extra capacity via a microSD card, it’s excruciatingly slow compared to real SSD storage. It's well worth keeping your eyes peeled for any discounts, though: the Broadwell-equipped Surface Pro 4 is waiting in the wings.
Price when reviewed: £419 inc VAT
The little brother to the Surface Pro 3 - the Atom-powered Surface 3, is also well worth a look if you like the idea of the Surface range, but not the price or the size.
The Microsoft Surface 3 has a 10.8in display, so it's a touch more portable than the Pro, but it retains the 3:2 screen aspect ratio that makes the larger tablet such a pleasure to use. It has a slightly lower screen resolution, but stretched across a smaller area, its 1,920 x 1,280 pixels deliver an image that's every bit as sharp.
It's also significantly cheaper at £419 compared with the £649 Pro 3, although do remember that, as with the Pro, the Type keyboard inflates the price by £119, and the Surface Pen adds to it by a further £45.
The Atom processor means the Surface 3 isn't quite as powerful as the i3-based Surface Pro 3, but if you don't need to chomp through Photoshop edits on a regular basis, it's a viable, capable alternative - and about as classy as Windows tablets get.
Price when reviewed: £799 inc VAT
The Transformer Book Chi T300 is a competent hybrid. The display is great, the design attractive and, crucially, this is a hybrid that manages to perform well in both tablet and laptop roles.
If you’ve been looking for a more affordable, more flexible alternative to the Surface Pro 3, the Asus Transformer Book Chi T300 is well worth considering.
Price when reviewed: £1,049 inc VAT
There's no denying it, the MacBook is one seriously gorgeous machine. A combination of ultra-slim lines and clever design deliver a usable 12in laptop in an impossibly compact chassis.
Yet this minimalist, sub-1kg portable won't be for everyone. It isn't powerful enough to do the same jobs a MacBook Pro 13in with Retina Display can, it's expensive and connectivity - limited to a single Type-C USB port - isn't ideal for a work machine, either.
Still, if desirability matters more to you than practicality, there's nothing else that comes close.
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.
With the new Asus Transformer Book Chi T300 on the way, you may find prices for the T100 dropping lower than ever.