Best laptop 2015 - Windows 10 laptop buying guide

Discover the best laptops to buy in 2015 from under £200 to £1,548, and learn how to choose a laptop with our buying guide

Laptop group test

There are loads of great laptops on the market, but finding one that's right for you is becoming increasingly difficult due to the vast gulf in quality between laptops that are the same price. On this page we'll take you through what to look for when buying a laptop, and then we'll give you our rundown of what we reckon are the best laptops you can get for your cash in 2015.

Jump to the best laptop list

Laptop buying guide

Design and build

If you want a device that can fulfil all your work and leisure needs, a laptop is really the only way to go because there's still no virtual keyboard on the market that's quite as effective as a proper, physical keyboard. They vary wildly in quality, although it's a fairly safe bet to assume that the cheaper the laptop, the less tactile and comfortable the keyboard will be. In our reviews, we describe each keyboard in detail to ensure you get the feel you're looking for. We'll also look at the laptops' touchpads, which again differ greatly in how easy they are to use.

Lightness is all well and good, but if your laptop doesn't have good battery life, the portability benefits you gain from lightness are lost by you having to carry the charger around as you desperately search for a plug on the train or in the coffee shop. Our battery benchmark represents light to moderate usage, scrolling through web pages and watching a few videos with the screen on 50 per cent brightness. Your results will vary from our testing, but they at least provide a useful guide as to how laptops compare to one another.


When choosing a laptop, check how many cores its processor has. Generally, the more cores, the better when it comes to processors with similar clock speeds (measured in GHz). The more cores you have, the better performance you'll get with complex tasks, such as photo and video editing, and you'll also see a small boost in games, too.

There's a confusing array of laptop processors on the market, but what you should always keep in mind is that laptop processors require a lot of cooling and use less power than their desktop equivalents. For that reason, you'll have to spend a lot more on a laptop than a desktop to get like-for-like processor performance.

Further reading: What's the difference between Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors?

Some of the processors in the laptops we test also have Hyper-Threading, which creates two threads for each processor core, meaning applications can more efficiently use the cores available to them, increasing performance further.

Dedicated (discrete) graphics cards

Cheaper and smaller laptops typically forgo a dedicated graphics card, instead opting to use the on-chip graphics hardware provided by the processor. This is fine for simple tasks, but as soon as gaming, media consumption and 3D work come into play, these integrated graphics chips become overwhelmed and performance slows to a crawl. Even cheap, low power dedicated graphics cards make a big difference to performance, although they won't be able to handle the latest games.Our favourite, best-value gaming laptops typically use Nvidia's GeForce 860M graphics card. It's a mid-range chip but it can handle the latest games, although actual performance, of course, varies from game to game, so you'll need to make careful graphics adjustments to each game you play to make sure you get the best performance possible.


Another area where you may find yourself short-changed is storage. While most manufacturers include a high-capacity mechanical hard disk - normally 1TB - they will often only include high-performance SSDs in awkward sizes, such as 120GB. This means you will have to juggle your most used applications around on and off the SSD. If you have lots of programs or games and you want to store them all on faster solid-state storage, you'll likely need to upgrade to a 240GB disk. Some laptops don't come with an SSD at all, instead using hybrid hard disks that include a small amount of SSD storage. Which files are stored in this SSD cache is decided by the disk itself; the most often used files will be stored there.

If you have a lot of documents, music and movies that you want constant access to, you'll need a hard disk to store them all on. Most Windows laptops come with at least 500GB of storage, with some also including a bonus 8GB of SSD cache storage for better file loading speeds and operating system boot times. Chromebooks have considerably less because all your files are stored offsite, in the Cloud.

Tweaking your specs

If you're buying a laptop from a system builder, don't be afraid to tweak the specifications of your machine to suit your own needs. To keep the headline price low, most companies will have put what we consider to be the minimum amount of RAM in their machines. For example, most laptop makers will provide units with 8GB of RAM.

^ Don't be afraid to tweak your laptop's specifications if you want more power, memory or storage

While this is enough for most uses, if you're going to be working with large photo or video files you will probably need at least 16GB of RAM to ensure you have enough memory to handle several of these files at a time. Buying more RAM can be costly, though, so if you don't want to buy the RAM up front you can always buy some more later on and install it yourself. See our guide in Shopper issue 325 on how to do this.

Screen resolution

Screen size is an important factor to consider when choosing a laptop. If you're a multitasker who likes to run two windows side-by-side, you need a 1,920x1,080 Full HD screen at the very least. Anything less than that, such as the 1,368x768 panels we see on many cheaper limits you to using one window at a time if you don't want to squash your programs.

^ Manufacturers of cheaper laptops call 1,366x768 pixel screens “HD”, but they don’t give you enough space to work or play. 1,920x1,080 is "Full HD"

We also look at colour coverage and accuracy: the higher both of these are, the more vibrant images and videos will appear on the screen. We'd expect a minimum of 60% coverage, but the best panels manage in excess of 90%. Also look out for contrast ratios and black levels - higher contrast ratios mean you'll be able to pick out more details and subtle shades in your images, while lower black levels give images and text an inkier, richer look.

Guarantees and warranties

Finally, make sure you take a look at the warranty of your device because they vary wildly. If you want peace of mind, opt for a laptop that comes with multiple years "collect and return" cover, where the company will cover the costs of shipping and repair of your laptop. Return to base (RTB) warranties are less generous: they make you pay for the shipping costs. Also check how long the parts cover on your laptop is; some companies will cover the repair but not the cost of replacing components.

Windows 10

Expect to see more laptops coming with the new Windows 10 operating system pre-installed over the coming months. All of the laptops below were tested while running Windows 8.1 but the great news is that you're entitled to a Windows 10 upgrade for absolutely nothing. Until the end of July 2016, any PC running a legitimate copy of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 is eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft's latest operating system. It'll be worth upgrading to Windows 10 as soon as you get your new laptop so you can benefit from all of the new features of the operating system. The upgrade process isn't difficult but have a ready of our handy guide to upgrading to Windows 10 make it an even simpler affair. 

See, Windows 10 battery life - how to use battery saver

Best laptops of 2015

General-purpose and multimedia laptops

You don't have to break the bank to get a laptop that does the basics well. These are the laptops we think present great value for money for students and families who want to be able to browse the web, send emails, write documents, watch movies and perhaps play a few games.

1. Toshiba Chromebook 2

Toshiba Chromebook 2

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is one of the best value Chromebooks available. It has a Full HD screen that sets it apart from other cheap Chromebook rivals with decent battery life. If you're not needing a laptop for any taxing tasks, a Chromebook is an enticing proposition.

Price when reviewed: £270. For the latest prices, see our full Toshiba Chromebook 2 review

Processor: Dual-core 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840, RAM: 4GB,Size: 320x214x19mm, Weight: 1.35kg, Screen size: 13.3in,Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080,Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics, Total storage: 16GB SSD

BUY NOW: Toshiba Chromebook 2

2. Asus EeeBook X205TA

The X205TA is Asus' super cheap answer to the Chromebook. Costing just £180 and coming pre-loaded with a year of Microsoft Office 365 personal and 1TB of OneDrive storage (worth £60) it looks to be amazing value. Performance is perfectly reasonable, too, as long as you don't push it too hard. It's happy to browse the web, edit documents and play videos, which is about as much as you should expect from it.

Price when reviewed: £180. For the latest prices see our full Asus EeeBook X205TA review.

Processor: Quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735F, RAM: 2GB, Size: 286x193.3x17.5mm, Weight: 980g, Screen size: 11.6in, Screen resolution: 1,366x768, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics , Total storage: 32GB eMMC

BUY NOW: Asus EeeBook X205TA

3. Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (early 2015)

The changes made to the 2015 MacBook Pro are relatively minor when compared to last year's model but, frankly, Apple didn't have to do a lot to keep the thing ticking over. You get faster storage, a better processor, better battery life and the innovative Force Touch touchpad, which all add up to a better product for pretty much the same price. It's absolutely worth the upgrade.

Price when reviewed: £1,199. For the latest prices, read our full Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display review.

Processor: Dual-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i5 5257U, RAM: 8GB, Size: 314x333x18mm, Weight: 1.6kg, Screen size: 13.3in, Screen resolution: 2,560x1,600, Graphics adaptor: Intel Iris Graphics 6100, Total storage: 256GB SSD

BUY NOW: Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (early 2015)

Gaming laptops

You pay a premium for the portability of gaming laptops, but they offer freedom to gamers that a 15kg desktop PC simply can't match. You can play Splinter Cell on your sofa, Fallout at your friend's house and LoL at a LAN party without being constrained by the size of your rig. If you're looking to play games on decent settings, you'll probably want to spend at least £800, although you can spend well in excess of £3,000 if you want desktop levels of performance.

1. MSI GE62 2QE Apache

MSI GE62 2QE Apache front

The MSI GE62 2QE Apache originally launched at more than £1,100, which frankly made us scoff a little. Nowadays, it's available for nearly £200 less, suddenly making it tremenedous value. It's a well-specified gaming laptop with a fantastic screen for the money. Both gaming and processor performance were great and the SteelSeries keyboard has plenty of customisation.

Price when reviewed: £910. For the latest prices, read our full MSI GE62 2QE Apache review.

Processor: Quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ, RAM: 8GB,Size: 383x260x27mm, Weight: 2.4kg, Screen size: 15.6in,Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080,Graphics adaptor: Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M, Total storage: 128GB SSD, 1TB Hard disk

BUY NOW: MSI GE62 2QE Apache

2. Acer Aspire V15 Nitro (VN7-591G)

Acer hasn't released a proper gaming laptop in years, so we were curious as to how it would turn out. It was a pleasant surprise, with a wonderfully-built 15.6in chassis with a textured lid and matt black wrist rest. The Full HD screen is one of the better panels we've seen on a laptop and its Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M graphics card make it a capable multimedia and gaming machine.

Price when reviewed: £849. For the latest prices, see our full Acer V15 Nitro review.

Processor: Quad-core 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ, RAM: 8GB,Size: 23.9x389x257mm, Weight: 2.4kg, Screen size: 15.6in,Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080,Graphics adaptor: Nvdia GeForce GTX 860M, Total storage: 1TB hard disk (with 8GB SSD cache)

BUY NOW: Acer Aspire V15 Nitro (VN7-591G)

3. Chillblast Defiant 2 Mini

Chillblast Defiant Mini 2

We actually reviewed the Chillblast Defiant Mini 2, which has since been upgraded from an Nvidia GeForce 860M graphics to newer, faster GeForce 960M with the Chillblast Defiant Mini 3. The great thing is that the price hasn't changed and it still has an excellent screen and top-notch performance.

Price when reviewed: £899. For the latest prices, see our full Chillblast Defiant 2 Mini review.

Processor: Quad-core 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710MQ, RAM: 8GB,Dimensions(HxWxD): 31.9x330x227mm, Weight: 2.1kg, Screen size: 13in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Total storage: 1TB hard disk,Operating system: Windows 8.1

BUY NOW: Chillblast Defiant 2 Mini

4. Aorus X3 Plus

Aorus X3 Plus

Aorus gaming laptops are the definition of premium performance, but we were so blown away with the performance of this super-light and ultra-thin gaming laptop, we can't help but recommend it. With a top-end Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M GPU and high performance SSD storage, you'll be able to play any current game in Full HD at high settings. It's expensive, but hugely desirable.

Price when reviewed: £1548. For the latest prices, read our full Aorus X3 Plus review.

Processor: Quad core 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4860HQ, RAM: 16GB, Size: 330x263.5x22.9mm,Weight: 1.8kg, Screen size: 14in, Screen resolution: 3,200x1,800, Graphics adaptor: Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M, Total storage: 512GB (2x 256GB SSD)

BUY NOW: Aorus X3 Plus

Ultra-portables and hybrid devices

Super slim laptops are great for chucking into a bag without much thought, and many of them offer reasonable performance and great battery life, too. Meanwhile, laptops that split or fold into tablets at a moment's notice are a versatile and cost effective way of getting the best of both worlds. Here are our favourites.

1. Asus Zenbook UX305

Asus ZenBook UX305 main image

The UX305 is currently our favourite Intel Core M-powered laptop. Intel's low-powered chip means that Asus was able to adopt a ridiculously thin and light design that blows most other similarly priced laptops out of the water. Yes, it's far from the most powerful laptops out there, but if your needs are modest and you travel regularly and don't have a huge amount to spend, the UX305 is a great choice.

Price when reviewed: £650. For the latest prices, read our full Asus Zenbook UX305 review

Processor: Dual-Core Intel Core M-5Y10c, RAM: 8GB, Size: 324x226x12mm, Weight: 1.2kg, Screen size: 13.3in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD 5300, Total storage: 128GB SSD

BUY NOW: Asus Zenbook UX305

2. Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover

Microsoft has had two bites of the tablet/laptop hybrid cherry and has seen moderate success with both its devices. However, with 2014's Surface Pro 3 we finally saw the firm master the art, with its devices division putting into action the lessons it learned from the first two Surface iterations. What we have here is a refined, sleek tablet combined with a great keyboard (at extra cost) and stylus. This, combined with a wide range of specifications means it has real mass-market appeal. It's expensive, but it's the benchmark-setter for Windows-8 based devices and we highly recommend it.

Price when reviewed: £849. For the latest prices, see our full Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

Processor: Dual-core 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U, Screen size: 12in, Screen resolution: 2,160x1,440, Rear camera: 5-megapixel, Storage: 128GB,Wireless data: N/A, Size: 292x201x9.1mm, Weight: 800g,Operating system: Windows 8.1 Pro

BUY NOW: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

3. HP Pavilion X2 10-n054sa (2015)

With Windows 10 installed, the HP Pavilion x2 is a force to be reckoned with, and while its specifications may make its £250 price seem slightly over the odds, its impressive design and build quality, usable keyboard and great battery life more than make up for it. If you only want one device in your life and your needs are modest, the HP Pavilion is a great choice.

Price when reviewed: £250. For the latest prices, see our full HP Pavilion X2 10-n054sa (2015) review

Processor: Quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3736F, RAM: 2GB,Size: 20x173x264mm, Weight: 1.6kg, Screen size: 10.1in,Screen resolution: 1,366x768,Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics, Total storage: 32GB eMMC

BUY NOW: HP Pavilion X2 10-n054sa (2015)

4. Toshiba Satellite Radius 15

Toshiba Satellite Radius 15

The Satellite Radius 15 is more expensive than many of its convertible rivals but its price is justified by its high quality screen, great battery life and stylish chassis. The brushed aluminium chassis in particular is lovely that gives it a classy, yet rugged, feel. It's a great way to take advantage of Windows 10's touchscreen elements, too.

Price when reviewed: £700. For the latest prices, see our full Toshiba Satellite Radius 15 review

Processor: Dual-core 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U, RAM: 8GB,Size: 380x245x20mm, Weight: 2.3kg, Screen size: 15.6in,Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080,Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics 5500, Total storage: 1TB hard disk

BUY NOW: Toshiba Satellite Radius 15