The 50 Best Computers and tablets

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Personal computing is advancing fast, so finding the right gadget to suit your needs can be a minefield. David Phelan tracks down the best kit on offer

Editor’s choice:

Apple MacBook Air 11in

apple.com, £849

When it comes to lightweight portability in a gorgeous, super-thin aluminium design, the Air, with its 11in display, is hard to beat. This year’s models have exceptional battery life, too.

Samsung Series 7 Ultra

pcworld.co.uk, £999.99

The 13.3in display is both high resolution and touchsensitive, to make the most of the new Windows 8 software. This Ultrabook – a lightweight laptop – has decent battery life and looks great.

Knomo Henderson Slim Briefcase

knomobags.com, £195

Great for keeping your laptop safe, as every Knomo bag has a unique tracker ID so, if you lose it, the finder can contact the company which will help return it to you.

Livescribe wi-fi pen

amazon.co.uk, £159.99

If you are taking notes from a conversation, the Livescribe pen records what you hear. Then, if you can’t read your writing, touch the words with the pen and it plays the audio.

Microsoft Surface Pro

johnlewis.com, £719

Microsoft’s first tablet is solid and powerful with a high-resolution 10.6in display and stereo speakers. So it’s a good multimedia player as well as a full Windows 8 computer.

 

Laptops:

Acer Aspire S7 391 Ultrabook

johnlewis.com, £849.95

Brilliantly light and 11.9mm slim, the 13in S7 has recently had an upgrade so it’s faster (and quieter). It lasts longer between charges, too.

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display

apple.com/uk, £1,799

Apple’s flagship 15in laptop with 256GB flash storage, though you can opt for more when you buy. The screen is astonishingly good.

Dell XPS 13

dell.co.uk, from £979

Light and slim (6mm at its thinnest point) thanks to a carbon-fibre chassis. While the case is more like an 11in model, the 13in display screen goes right to the edge.

Sony VAIO Pro 13

sony.co.uk, £859

Claimed to be the world’s lightest Ultrabook. It’s also thin (though this does mean it flexes a little in the hand). Still, it’s powerful, with decent performance and killer looks.

Toshiba Qosmio X70-A-10W

toshiba.co.uk, £1,699

Gaming PCs need big screens and powerful processors. This has a 17.3in display and i7 processor, plus plenty of RAM to keep refresh rates high.

Samsung ATIV Book 7

debenhamsplus.com, £1,015

The Book 7 is Samsung’s latest ultrabook, looks snazzy in its brushed aluminium finish and has a high-resolution, touchsensitive 13.3in display. It’s a nippy performer with reasonable battery life.

Acer S3-391 13.3 Ultrabook

pcworld.co.uk, £429.99

Light, fast and superb for speedy recovery from standby (a second or two). This model is keenly priced. There’s no touchscreen but otherwise it is competent and effective.

HP Pavilion Chromebook

pcworld.co.uk, £199.99

Chromebooks are lightweight, affordable notebooks that run Google’s system. They work best when connected to the internet. This is superbly priced and has a highly usable keyboard and 14in screen.

Sony VAIO Fit 15

sony.co.uk, £599

The 15in screen Fit has a sleek design that belies the price. It’s highly customisable (add a backlit keyboard for £10 or a higher-resolution display for £80). It has strong battery life and is a decent performer.

Samsung Series 7 Chronos

bhsdirect.co.uk, £1,029

This resembles the MacBook Pro, though it’s cheaper, thicker and heavier. It has a pin-sharp 15.6in display and a powerful, long-lasting battery meaning that it definitely punches above its weight.

 

Laptop hybrids:

Sony Vaio Duo 13

pcworld.co.uk, £1,199

This model starts out as a tablet but flip up the 13in display and you reveal a fullsize, backlit keyboard. The Duo 13 has great battery life and elegant design.

HP Envy x2

argos.co.uk, £699.99

The tablet boasts a larger-than-most display and connects by magnet to the keypad. The latter’s second battery extends life to around 14 hours. Light and effective.

Acer Aspire P3

pcworld.co.uk, £629.99

It looks like a classy aluminium tablet but open it up to find a highly usable keyboard nestled inside. Competitively priced and works well as an alternative to a laptop.

HP Slatebook x2

pcworld.co.uk, £379.99

A tablet with an attachable keyboard that uses Android, as opposed to Windows, operating system. It has a great 10.1in display. This is a cool and affordable option.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S

shop.lenovo.com, £949.99

A laptop hybrid that contorts itself to different shapes. Flip the keyboard all the way round and it’s a tablet that runs Windows 8. Feels well-crafted and is elegant and impressive.

 

Desktops:

Samsung Ativ One 5

johnlewis.com, £749.95

An elegant all-in-one that looks good enough to have in the living room. Stereo speakers mean it sounds good, too, and the 21.5in screen is also touch-sensitive.

Dell XPS 18

johnlewis.com, £899.95

This all-in-one also works as a tablet big enough for watching video, with its hi-res 18.4in touchscreen – all in a unit that is less than 2cm thick. Nippy, powerful and portable.

Apple iMac

apple.com/uk, from £1,099

Astonishingly thin, just 5mm, at the edges, though it bulges in the middle. Choose from a 21.5in or 27in display and a range of processors. Needs an Apple SuperDrive for DVDs.

Sony L Series

sony.co.uk, £1,099

A perennially popular all-in-one with slick 24in touchscreen and Full HD resolution. It looks great and performs at speed. It has strong sound, too: a great multimedia machine.

Acer XC1

johnlewis.com, £289.95

Not the prettiest desktop PC but if you have a monitor, this is a great-value option. It has a huge (1 terabyte) hard drive, lots of RAM (6GB) and a reasonable AMD E1 processor.

 

Tablets and phablets:

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

simplyelectronics.net, £429

Phablet is an ugly word for a phone like this which, thanks to its 6.4in screen, is big enough to serve as a tablet. This is super-slim (6.5mm) and feels great in the hand. It’s fast, powerful and waterproof.

Apple iPad mini

apple.com/uk, from £269

The best small tablet bar none, even though the 7.9in screen is a touch larger than the Nexus 7. It is superbly lightweight, its narrow bezel means you get more screen for your money and it scores highly for styling.

Google Nexus 7

play.google.com, £199

The newly released Nexus 7 tablet has a sharp 7in display, is faster than last year’s model but is still great value. Google’s Android software is funky and powerful, with neat features such as Google Now.

Samsung Galaxy Mega

carphonewarehouse.com, £439.95

A 6.3in display phone. Big when holding it to your ear but spectacular for watching video or checking out photos. Still, the size does mean there’s room for a big battery.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD

nook.co.uk, £99

An exceptional-value tablet that goes big on ebooks. The colour display is bright, clear and very high resolution. The ebook store is well-stocked and Kindle users can access the Android Kindle app.

Kobo Aura HD

whsmith.co.uk, £139.99

If you want a tablet mainly to read books, this is the way to go. It’s not backlit so is easier on the eyes and the exceptional high-resolution screen is almost like reading paper.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z

johnlewis.com, £399

Feels great in the hand, has a 10.1in display and is seriously slim. It’s also waterproof (so you can use it in the bath) plus boasts extras such as its function as a TV remote.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

amazon.co.uk, from £159

If you want an Android tablet but find the operating system a bit geeky, Amazon’s version is a joy. It’s simple to use and has bonuses such as a daily free app and ebook bargains.

Apple iPad

apple.com/uk, from £399

The original tablet and still the most stylish (though the iPad mini comes close). It offers a great display, an unmatched operating system and the best app store. Highly desirable.

Huawei Ascend Mate

vodafone.co.uk, free on contract

Good value and with a 6.1in display, more manageable as a phone than some. Its high specifications include an 8MP camera on the back.

 

Accessories:

Sonos Play: 5

currys.co.uk, £349

Nobody makes music from a computer sound better than Sonos. This connects wirelessly via a bridge unit (£39) that links to a broadband router. Audio is rich and solid

AM Mist screen cleaner

getclean.am, $12.95 (£8.20)

A new, colourful way to keep your laptop screen smudge free. These microfibre cloths that contain a cleaning spray come in larger sizes for TVs and smaller ones for keyboards.

BT Home Hub 4

bt.com, from free

A more powerful router for BT subscribers. Current customers can upgrade for £35 and it is free for new ones. Dual band means compatible gadgets can use the faster 5GHz frequency.

Toshiba Stor.E Slim portable hard drive

johnlewis.com, £59.95

You need to back up your data to protect it from thieves or failing hard drives. This model  is slim and highly portable but at 500GB, holds a great deal.

Sony MDR-1RBT Bluetooth headphones

sony.co.uk, £399

Comfortable and great sounding. NFC (near field communication) technology means you can use them with compatible smartphones.

Sanyo Eneloop XX HR-3UWXB rechargeable batteries

batterystation.co.uk, £12.99

Sure, they’re just batteries, but they arrive charged, last a long time between charges and hold as much as 75 per cent power after a year of idleness.

DataTraveler HyperX Predator 1TB

shop.bt.com, £999

This USB flash-drive keyring has more storage space than many computer hard drives. If you want to keep all your critical data with you, it is an expensive but useful gadget.

Beats By Dre Pill speaker

apple.com/uk, £169.95

Unmissable for looks and sound. The battery lasts seven hours between charges and it is light enough to be easily portable. An internal microphone means it also works with your phone.

Ruark MR1 Bluetooth Speaker System

johnlewis.com, £299.95

Small yet powerful, these speakers connect to your laptop via Bluetooth. They’re simple to set up and make even the compressed files of MP3 sound strong and rich.

Apple AirPort Time Capsule

apple.com, £249

Apple’s stylish back-up machine is wireless so you can stow your 2TB Time Capsule away from your computer for extra security. Back-ups are automatic, handy if you have a tendency to be forgetful.

 

Printers:

HP Envy 120

johnlewis.com, £114.95

Extremely easy to set up and use. The Envy 120 delivers great results both for photos and documents. It’s wireless and it also scans as well as prints. Impressive.

Canon Pixma iP7250

pixmania.co.uk, £65.86

This budget model has affordable ink cartridges and produces excellent photo prints. There’s no scanning feature but nonetheless, it’s wireless and a real bargain.

Samsung SL-C410W colour laser printer

argos.co.uk, £159.99

NFC functionality means you need simply tap a compatible smartphone up against the machine and it will print from it as if by magic.

Epson Stylus Photo R2000

pixmania.co.uk, £418.99

This is a terrific machine for printing big images or large format documents. It will handle A3 paper and uses pigment-based inks, which tend to be longer-lasting.

Canon Pixma Pro-100

pcworld.co.uk, £369.99

Another printer suitable for A3 and larger format: print quality is great, especially for photos. Good value and easy to use and AirPrint means you can print from iPhone or iPad.

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