Buying the best laptop doesn't need to be as difficult as you might think. Most people have an idea of their budget and what the computer will mainly be used for. And yet many people are overwhelmed by the wide range of models, sizes and price classes. The fact that there are so many different models is quite simply because there is now so much choice in terms of hardware and chassis.
There are also a variety of components that affect the computer's functionality, performance and lifetime. Two apparently identical computers can perform differently as a result of just a few factors. For example, if the cooling is ineffective because the chassis is cramped and the components aren't of sufficient quality, the computer will become very hot when it's working hard, which negatively affects both hardware and performance. The computer will also have a shorter lifetime. So how do you know which computer to choose?
The journey to choosing a suitable computer starts with your needs. What type of computer are you looking for? Will you use it for work? Will you play games on it? Is only intended for going online and sending emails? Do you often travel and take your computer with you? Write your requirements down, as this makes it easier to choose between computers. A computer that's only intended for going online, social media and email needn't be particularly powerful, and you should be able to find a good model for a couple of hundred pounds. If you'll also be using it for work and you need to process a lot of data or graphics, the processor and graphics card should be of better quality. If you need to take it with you when you travel or go to school, it's useful if it's light and not too big. If you also want to play the latest games on a laptop, you need a very high quality graphics card, processor, cooling and other hardware.
You can often tell from the computer's name or category what it's intended for. For example, a Chromebook is a very simple form of computer intended for students and other people who primarily need a computer so that they can write and use the internet. It is compact and easy to carry with you. It doesn't run Windows; instead it uses Chrome OS, which is Google's operating system. There are also other forms of simple computers.
The next category of computers is probably the most common. These are generally 15-inch models, and are a good alternative if you want a "good enough" computer that will allow you to do a bit of everything. For example, you can play games but not usually on the very highest graphics settings. You can also go online, check your email, work on a spreadsheet or edit images. This type of computer is available in many different price classes and is often affordable.
Another category of computer is the ultrabook. These are very compact and light computers of around 14 inches, with more powerful processors. They are often also called business laptops and are easy to carry when you're working away from the office. The materials used are usually more exclusive. They can also come with top end functions such as fingerprint readers or flippable screens. These computers cost more than the two categories named above as the combination of hardware and chassis is of higher quality. However, the graphics card is often not a priority – and is sometimes integrated rather than a separate component. This means that these computers are often not suitable for anyone working with 3D images or video, or who wants to be able to play games.
If you're looking for a gaming computer, computer manufacturers produce special gaming series. Some examples are HP Omen, Dell Alienware and Lenovo Legion. These have the latest hardware of the more expensive category and often have a very distinctive design. These computers usually come with programmable buttons, a backlit keyboard and other features that gamers enjoy. They're usually rather bulky from a mobile point of view, but still compact given what's under the bonnet. Laptop gaming computers are normally relatively expensive. It's not unusual to have to pay £1500-2000 if you want to be able to play the latest games with maximum quality graphics.
Top tip. Laptops can be several hundred pounds cheaper if bought online compared to shop prices. When buying online, you're always getting a newly manufactured computer with the latest processor and graphics card. A laptop from a shop can be several months old, which is a long time in the computer world. Make sure that the computer you're buying is new and that it fits your specifications.
Our buying guide gives you updated tips and advice on the most interesting, best and best value for money laptop computers just now. We also list the most interesting laptop series from manufacturers such as Acer, HP, Asus and more. And don't forget to check out our guide to components and hardware.
The Asus ZenBook UX430UQ is a very interesting computer for business users because it combines a sober design in a very small chassis, despite having a 14-inch screen. It both looks and feels like a premium computer. There's hardly any dead space around the screen. The computer is also extremely thin and weighs only just over a kilo, which makes it easy to carry with you. And it's amazingly fast. Opening windows and shifting between programs is incredibly quick even if you have lots of programs running. The only thing we'd have liked to see is a better graphics card. There is actually a dedicated card, which is very unusual in the ultrabook segment, so to that extent it stands out. But the results for graphics performance are still unfortunately rather disappointing. This isn't a computer to use for games. Nor is it good for anyone working with 3D visualisation or similar tasks, but then if that's you, you're probably not looking for an ultrabook either.
Overall, the ZenBook UX430UQ is a really good computer. The screen is top quality, with excellent sharpness, great colour reproduction and a really good viewing angle. The brightness can be adjusted automatically based on the room you're using it in. It also keeps itself cool under heavy loads and the fan noise isn't obvious. For normal use, the battery life is just on 6 hours, which is 2 hours shorter than stated, but still pretty good. Given that the computer is so mobile, we'd have liked a longer battery life, for example for long flights. Otherwise, the UX430UQ is lacking a few little extras. Things like being able to flip the screen or a really good battery life – something to make it stand out and give it that bit more added value. But if these aren't things you need, this is a very good value for money computer. It's ideal for anyone working with figures and documents, or if you want a fast computer that oozes quality but without costing too much. It would also suit the well-heeled student looking for a computer with good build quality.