5 of the best laptops

Our tech expert reveals the machines with crystal-clear screens, “Magic Keyboards” and killer battery life

Image: Courtesy of Mark Carter

Apple 16in MacBook Pro

Despite people – sometimes me – proclaiming the slow death of the laptopApple has put its faith firmly in the form with the latest MacBook Pro. It has an insanely high spec, even in its basic configuration, but you can opt for 64GB of memory, an 8-core, 2.4GHz processor, an enhanced graphics card and 8TB of solid-state storage, and walk out of the Apple Store £6,099 lighter – albeit with a machine that I reckon will still be acceptable in 2030. The 16in display is huge, with all the resolution and colour depth anyone could need. The battery life is amazing, and while the “Magic Keyboard” is mostly an older-generation MacBook keyboard retooled, it’s a welcome reappearance – more precise and less prone to clogging with dirt. From £2,799; apple.com

16in MacBook Pro, from £2,799
16in MacBook Pro, from £2,799
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Dell 7400

Putting Dell’s claims that the 14in Latitude 7400 could keep going for 24 hours on one charge to the test, my experimental methodology wasn’t simply to play Stanley Kubrick’s three-hour Barry Lyndon again and again. I turned the screen brightness down to just under half and connected wired headphones, so the sound card was consuming power as well as the screen. The 7400 finally ran out of puff after just over 18 hours, or six Barrys. When I set the screen to near idle, as it wants to be, say, reading documents, it lasted an Olympian 34 hours.

What’s sacrificed? Well, the 7400’s display isn’t the brightest at full throttle and the processor isn’t the fastest. But it’s a serious business machine, especially in its hybrid, detachable-screen form. From £1,952; dell.com

Dell Latitude 7400, from £1,952
Dell Latitude 7400, from £1,952
Vaio A12, from £1,999
Vaio A12, from £1,999

Vaio A12

A hybrid model with a beefy Intel i7 processor, the A12 has a 12in UHD screen that pops out to become a tablet. First impressions were not great: the carbon-fibre and aluminium body seemed a bit shiny and hollow, the trackpad so-so, the aesthetics only OK. But then it grew on me. First thing – it’s pretty light at 1.1kg. My 12in MacBook is lighter, but a 13in MacBook Air weighs 190g more – and, like the basic MacBook, is without the benefit of a detachable screen. Another distinct benefit of the Vaio is the mechanism that raises the keyboard as you open the device to a comfortable, slightly inclined angle for typing. The Vaio’s advantages may not be immediately obvious, but, with a top‑rank performance, it ably keeps the Vaio flame burning – perhaps just more pragmatically than stylishly. From £1,999; uk.vaio.com

Huawei MateBook X Pro

A brand better known for its phones and servers, Huawei’s MateBook X Pro is, as the name suggests, a direct competitor to Apple’s MacBook Pro. It’s close to but not quite as beautiful as an Apple laptop – a bit shiny. But the 13.9in (touch) screen is a delight and the keyboard is the best I’ve come across on any laptop. The X Pro’s performance is also scorching, using a super-fast Intel processor, with sharp and seamless graphics. Huawei has a novel idea for the webcam too – a pop-up camera on one of the function keys. This affords an odd view, rather up your nose, but it’s a neat gimmick. The audio system is Dolby Atmos – Dolby’s best cinema sound system – and I was expecting to be blown away. I was – but no more so than by the sound on Apple’s smaller 12in MacBook, which remains a wonder of the tech world. About £1,500; huawei.com

Huawei MateBook X Pro, about £1,500
Huawei MateBook X Pro, about £1,500 | Image: Hugh Threlfall
Microsoft Surface Book 2, from £1,049
Microsoft Surface Book 2, from £1,049 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

Microsoft Surface Book 2

There’s a view among some in tech that Microsoft is a bit of a dinosaur, still dependent on 30-year-old business software for its income. Although I’ve had my problems with Microsoft Office and migrated to Macs years ago, my view is that Microsoft’s hardware has quietly been raising its game. I constantly see people in business lounges and cool coffee shops using its Surface tablet/keyboard combos. Its Surface Book 2 is an update on the hyper-adaptable Surface Book, which morphs from heavy-use office machine to tablet and back again. It’s five times more powerful than the original, lighter and has – killer feature – a battery life of 17 hours. There’s a 13.5in as well as a 15in version, and the screen is impressively crystal clear. From £1,049; microsoft.com

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