Best laptops 2015: which notebook should you buy?

The best laptops for your every need

Best laptops

Update: We've added the Toshiba Satellite Radius 15 and HP Pavilion x2 to our short list of laptops on our radar.

With Windows 8.1 being bumped off to the wayside for Windows 10's arrival, Ultrabooks taking off in popularity and laptop-tablet hybrids seeing more releases, figuring out what is the best laptop is more difficult than ever.

Cheap laptops, like Chromebooks, are more powerful and capable than ever, while high-end devices are often perfectly good replacements for your desktop computer, able to cope with more intensive programs. To pick the best laptop for your needs, it's important to start off by deciding what it is you're going to be doing with it.

Those after a fast boot up time and a lightweight machine to carry might drool over an Ultrabook.

Serious gamers will want a machine tailored to their graphical and processing needs, while those after flexibility might fancy a convertible laptop-tablet hybrid.

It might seem overwhelming at first – and it can be what with all of the choices – but we're here to help you find the best laptop for you. Believe us when we say that there is a perfect laptop out there for you. With this guide, you'll find not only that, but which is the absolute best.

What does TechRadar recommend?

We're so glad you asked! Below you'll find what we think are the absolute best laptops in a number of categories, always up-to-date.

Best Laptops

Best Ultrabook: Dell XPS 13 (2015)

Possibly the best laptop on the planet, Dell's latest is a masterpiece

CPU: Intel Core i5-5200 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch 3,200 x 1,800 UltraSharp QHD+ touchdisplay | Storage: 256GB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11 AC and Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: 720p | Weight: 2.8 pounds | Dimensions: 11.98 x 7.88 x 0.6 inches

Gorgeous display
Super lightweight
No Ethernet port
Off-center webcam

The Dell XPS 13 (2015) isn't just an astonishingly thin and light laptop, it's a revolution in design. Fitting a 13.3-inch screen into a 11-inch laptop frame is no small feat, but Dell has pulled off a miracle creating a nearly borderless infinity display. This is also one powerful and long lasting machine, all while coming in at a very affordable starting price. It easily takes the top slot as the best Ultrabook.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 (2015)

Best Laptops

Best Chromebook: Google Chromebook Pixel 2015

The end all, be all of Chromebooks

CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 12.85-inch 2,560 x 1,700 IPS touchscreen display | Storage: 32GB SSD | Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260; Bluetooth 4.0 LE | Camera: 720p | Weight: 3.3 pounds | Dimensions: 11.7 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches

Long, long battery life
Legacy ports with USB-C
Prohibitively expensive
3:2 screen hurts multitasking

As far as performance and screen resolution, nothing comes even close to rivaling Google's latest Chromebook Pixel. Packing a 2,560 x 1,700 IPS touchscreen, Intel Core i5-5200U CPU and even a USB type-C connector, the Pixel is on the bleeding edge. It's no surprise how Google labels it as a developer device for programmers building the future of Chrome OS. It has more than a few quirks including a square body and 3:2 screen but if you're looking for the very best Chromebook this is it.

Read the full review: Google Chromebook Pixel 2015

Best Laptops

Best gaming laptop: Origin EON15-X

A desktop-grade CPU in an unbeatable gaming laptop

CPU: 4GHz Intel Core i7-4790K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M (8GB GDDR5 RAM), Intel HD Graphics 4600 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 LED Backlit Matte Display | Storage: 240GB SSD; 1TB HDD | Connectivity: Intel PRO Wireless AC 7265 + Bluetooth Wireless LAN Combo | Camera: 2MP | Weight: 7.5 pounds | Dimensions: 15.2 x 10.31 x 1.40 inches

Great value
Desktop-grade performance
Razor thin viewing angles

In the last few years, gaming laptops have amazing headway in catching up with their desktop gaming counterparts. And so it seems the most logical conclusion of this evolution was to start bolting on desktop parts to a gaming laptop. Enter the Origin EON15-X, an unbelievably powerful 15.6-inch laptop rocking out a full-size desktop processor and the highest-end mobile GPU available. You might think this combo would produce a boat of a laptop but the EON15-X manages to fit everything into a small shell.

Read the full review: Origin EON15-X

Best Laptops

Best 2-in-1 laptop: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

The best laptop-killing tablet

CPU: 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4400 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 12-inch, 2160 x 1440 multi-touch | Storage: 256GB | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: Two 5MP webcams | Weight: 1.76 pounds | Dimensions: 7.93 x 11.5 x 0.36 inches

Sharp display
Perfect as laptop and tablet
Mediocre battery life
Runs hot at times

The Surface Pro 3 is not only Microsoft's most striking and versatile device to date, but the most convincing poster child for the 2-in-1 hybrid category yet. Through years of refinement, Microsoft's newest tablet-hybrid has seen some significant upgrades including a bigger, higher-res display. Even the smallest little things like the hinge and type cover have been reengineered to make the Surface Pro 3 a much more stable and usable device.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Best Laptops

Best student laptop: Asus Zenbook UX305

A most affordable and excellent Ultrabook

CPU: 800MHz Intel Core M 5Y10 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5300 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD 1,920 x 1,080 (matte) | Storage: 256GB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: 1.2MP | Weight: 2.6 pounds | Dimensions: 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.5 inches

Solid performance
Incredibly thin and light
Wonky video driver
Tinny speakers

The Asus ZenBook UX305 might look like a MacBook Air from every angle but it's a better machine in almost every way. It's thinner, lighter and even more attractive in some ways with its purple tinged aluminum body. Plus this machine also has a higher-res full HD display with a fanless Intel Core M CPU and 256GB of SSD storage by default. The most amazing thing is you can get all of this for just $699 or £649 (about AU$902), which makes this one of the best deals for a laptop for students around.

Read the full review: Asus Zenbook UX305

Best Laptops

Best mobile workstation: Lenovo ThinkPad W550s

This workstation impresses with its long battery life and hi-res screen

CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-5600U | Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K2100M, Intel HD Graphics 4600 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 15.5-inch, 2,880 x 1,620 (3K), multi-touch display | Storage: 512GB SSD | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0; 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi | Camera: value | Weight: 4.92 lbs | Dimensions: 15 x 10.2 x 0.88 inches

Long battery life
Strong performance
Thick, boxy body
Bulky extended battery

The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s is pretty much everything you want a mobile workstation to be with understated aesthetics and a durable design on the outside. At the same time, it offers business users plenty of screen resolution, long battery life and strong, reliable performance. Starting at $1,196 (£1,229. AU$1546), the W550s is on the expensive side but it's well worth the premium as the best mobile workstations.

Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad W550s

Best Laptops

Best business laptop: 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina (2015)

The fastest small MacBook Pro yet is a force of nature

CPU: 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch IPS, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels | Storage: 128GB SSD | Connectivity: 801.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: FaceTime HD | Weight: 3.48 pounds | Dimensions: 12.35 x 8.62 x 0.71-inches

Faster processor
Superb battery life
Force Touch underdeveloped
Unchanged design

The 2014 13-inch MacBook Pro was arguably Apple's best laptop ever, and the 2015 model somehow even faster and delivers longer battery life. Aside from an internal refresh, the 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro has also inherited the newly introduced MacBook's Force Touch trackpad. Apple might not spring up as the leading name for most business applications, but getting Mac is pretty enticing when you stack up the number for freebies including office programs and software upgrades. Check out the rest of our picks for the best business laptops.

Read the full review: 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina (2015)

Best Laptops

Best Windows tablet: Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000

A powerful, small tablet that wants to play in the big leagues

Weight: 1.6 pounds | Dimensions: 11.01 x 6.95 x .42 inches | OS: Windows 8.1 | Screen size: 10.8-inch | Resolution: 1,920 X 1,080 | CPU: Intel Core M-5Y71 vPro | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB SSD | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 2MP

Performance
Compact design
Cramped screen
Ergonomics

Starting at $700 (£437 and AU$800), the Venue Pro 7000 offers a nice balance of performance and portability in the perfect balance you'd look for in the best Windows tablet. The Venue 11 Pro is a versatile Windows slate with enterprise features and it can be readily convert to a laptop or desktop with the right accessory add-ons. As a standalone tablet it's also a joy to use with its 10-inch, 1080p display plus the onboard Intel Core M processor to keep things light, thin and above all, fanless.

Read the full review: Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000

Laptops on our radar for 2015

You've checked out the best laptops out there and now you're hungry for more. Don't worry: so are we, which is why we want to give you a glimpse of some of the hottest devices set to launch soon. Whether you're thinking about picking up a new 2-in-1 to test Windows 10's Continuum feature or intend to replace your ageing gaming laptop in a few months' time, we're keeping an eye on tomorrow's technology so that you can start saving those pennies today.

Acer Predator

Best LaptopsIt's been a long time since we've seen Acer in the gaming space but the Taiwanese dropped a big surprise with its first gaming laptop called the Predator. At an event earlier this April we got a chance to go hands on with a mock up unit and from the looks of it Acer sit next to the big boys including MSI, Alienware and Asus.

On of the most distinctive thing about the Acer Predator aside from its splash red high-lights is the massive rear vent on the back. This should provide the GPU and other internals plenty of ventilation and prevent the laptop from becoming an absolute tornado. We're looking forward to checking out the Predator, which will come in 15- and 17-inch models later this year.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 15

Best laptopsFollowing up on introducing the first convertible Windows 8.1 laptop, Toshiba wants to be first in line with a 4K hybrid ready for Windows 10. Aside from some aspirations to meet a long-winded accolade, the Toshiba Radius 15 is shaping up to be a solid laptop already. The new aluminum-body and new streamlined body also helps make this laptop a solid sell in our book. But we'll have to give it the full review treatment before we can completely recommend it.

HP Pavilion x360

Best laptopsAlthough we've only had a brief hands on time with the HP Pavilion x360, we're blown away by what 400 bucks gets you these days. The new 11.6-inch 2-in-1 convertible laptops comes well packaged with a 1080p screen paired with a capable Intel Pentium processor and it even inherits the innovative geared hinge design from the high-end HP Spectre x360.

The HP Pavilion x360 is looking like a sweet deal for users who want an affordable machine that can be more than just a laptop. It's not the prettiest or lightest convertible around, but HP has worked hard to make an appealing budget system. The HP Pavilion x360 is a solid system both in person and on paper, but I'll have to really put it through its paces before I can give the final verdict on this affordable 2-in-1 laptop.

HP Pavilion x2

Best laptopsHP has introduced a new plastic and fantastic 10.1-inch laptop-tablet hybrid just in time for Windows 10. How quaint! Although the HP Pavilion x2 comes rocking only a 1,280 x 800 resolution display it has plenty to offer on the audio front with Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers. Perhaps the most amazing bit is this small 2-in-1 comes priced at $300 or £250 (about AU$383), given HP's reputation to break new ground in the affordable Windows laptop space this convertible follow up could be a resounding success.

Asus Chromebook Flip

Best laptopsAsus has unveiled one enticing new convertible Chromebook called the Flip. Featuring a flexible 10.1-inch IPS display, users will be able to...well, flip the screen back a full 360-degrees to turn this device into a Chrome OS tablet. Adding to the untraditional nature of this Chrome OS-powered machine, it also comes equipped with an 1,280 x 800 resolution panel.

The Asus Chromebook Flip also has one extra little quirk in that it comes rocking a fanless Rockchip 3288 CPU. While Rockchip isn't a very common name in the processor world, this 2GHz ARM chip has proven to be more powerful than Intel's Baytrail Atom processor in more than a few benchmark tests.