So you're looking to buy a new laptop but are confused by all the options out there. If you're looking for the best Windows 8 laptops of 2013, you've come to the right place. Here we will guide you through the hottest laptops of the year, to help you reach a decision on buying the right device for you.
Our list of seven great laptops covers all ultrabooks, tablet-come-pc devices, and all sizes and prices, so you'll be armed with everything you need when choosing to buy. We'll be regularly updating this feature with the latest and greatest laptops we review, so you can see where the smart money is heading.
Windows 8 caused something of a storm when it arrived. The radically different user interface meant that it won a lot of detractors, and not much love. When we reviewed it though, we actually found the OS to be leaps and bounds ahead of Windows 7. Of course, the Start screen isn't for everyone, and there are some navigational and UI problems that have come with the switch, but sometimes you need to change things a lot to get to the next step of evolution.
Initially, one of the things we hated doing was running Windows 8 on a laptop. It was a thankless task, as we'd found that the OS was better on desktops, especially multi-monitor systems. As time has gone on though, laptops have adopted various methods of interaction that make using the touch-based operating system more pleasant, and make Windows 8 come alive.
But the problem we noticed, was that we got asked a lot, "Which Windows 8 laptop should I buy" because there was some confusion about what machines did and didn't do justice to the OS. So here we are, with our list of the best Windows 8 hardware. Stick with the machines on this list, and you shouldn't go too far wrong.
7. Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabook
What the Acer brings is some solid build quality in a really compact little package. You also get a gorgeous 1080p screen which is also a winner when it comes to responsiveness. Everything here looks and feels fantastic.
It is a bit expensive though, especially considering the prices of the machines at the top of this list, and the features they have. The trackpad is a bit too small to be enormously practical and the battery life could be better. It remains a machine that's well worth considering though.
Quick verdict: Acer's got the S7's exterior design locked down, the slender design, low weight and 1080p screen are each huge plus points. But under the hood the Intel Core i5 processor isn't much to shout about for the near-£1,200 price tag. The S7 doesn't have any *major* slip ups to speak of, but that price is far from right and it's this that holds it back from that Brucey bonus and a higher score on the board. Otherwise it wins at Windows 8.
Full review: Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabook review
6. HP Envy X2
The HP is an interesting proposition, it reduces its asking price by offering an Atom processor, which also uses much less power than most Intel Core processors. This is a good thing for people on the move, but perhaps not so for those who want a full-power computing experience. But the fact that this tiny tablet can be detached, and used as a lightweight device that's a proper tablet, puts it over many of the other "convertible" laptops in the portability stakes.
At £800 it's the cheapest laptop on this list, but it's still quite expensive for an Atom-powered device. Don't forget, the Atom was the processor designed for cheap netbook computers, rather than high-end laptops.
It has a 720p screen, but it's responsive and on a machine this size, higher resolutions would make the touchscreen a pain to use without a stylus. It's a different product, but it remains worth considering if you need maximum battery life in a tiny package.
Quick verdict: There are plenty of positives to take from the HP Envy x2, but its the price which more or less rules out this Windows 8 laptop-meets-tablet hybrid. It's well built, includes future-thinking tech like NFC, has a long-lasting battery life but the limited performance from the Atom processor and near-£800 price point is more likely to incite fury than your friends' envy. Not a bad product, just one that's poorly positioned on the price ladder.
Full review: HP Envy X2 review
5. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
The Yoga is a cunning machine, with a screen that's designed to bend into a shape that's useful for you. This, of course, means that the touchscreen is pushed to the forefront of what you do, and that's why it works for Windows 8. It's got the usual Lenovo plus points too, including solid design and a pleasant keyboard.
It's arguably a little bit expensive, but no more so than most Ultrabooks we see, and at £1,000 it's cheaper than many. The 1600x900 display is sub-Full HD, but that's not really a problem as it's easily high enough for most uses.
Quick verdict: The Yoga 13 is as much a visual treat as it is an excellently designed laptop. We love the way the screen can be positioned through 360 degrees, but the overall expense and exposed keyboard in the tablet-like position are two standout issues. Still, if you're after a Windows 8 laptop-meets-tablet then we think this design solution is up there with the best.
Full review: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
4. Apple MacBook Pro
When Windows 8 first came out, we joked that it was the idea computer on which to run Windows 8. The fact is though, Macs have, since the introduction of Intel processors, been ideal for running Windows. For a start, like Apple or not, you can't argue that it builds some of the most beautiful and solid hardware. The Pro is nothing short of amazing, and anyone who has used Windows on Apple hardware will no doubt agree.
The problems are simple too, the MacBook Pro is still fiendishly expensive, but is far higher spec than most Ultrabooks. This means you get a solid machine that's got desktop performance - with a proper graphics card - which you won't seen in most Ultrabooks. And, of course, when you don't want to use Windows for a bit, you've got the option of OS X waiting.
Quick verdict: If you absolutely can't wait to buy a laptop then the mid-2012 MacBook Pro will do you proud, otherwise we'd suggest waiting for a 2013 design refresh. Despite its power, great OS and speedy connectivity, it's hard for the mid-2012 model not to be overshadowed by the Retina display version. Both are "Apple expensive" though, but we reckon worth every penny.
Full review: Apple MacBook Pro review
3. Microsoft Surface Pro
The Surface Pro got a bit of a bashing when it launched in America, and an overly long and tedious wait in the UK had us a bit riled too. But the simply fact is, it's a leader in the Windows 8 tablet stakes. And with it coming from Microsoft, you've be a bit annoyed if it wasn't. It's powerful enough for most use, while retaining the portability that most Windows 8 laptops don't really have.
The optional, but essential, keyboard covers are too expensive though, and we find it odd that you don't get one included because without it this machine doesn't add up as well. With one attached though, the devices is protected in your bag, and better still you have a really credible typing surface on which to work. The screen is good, with a 1080p resolution, which makes it a great media playback device, as well as being handy for general commuter work.
Quick verdict: Surface Pro is all about its build quality and quality 1080p screen. Otherwise there are lots of qualms that amount to a less impressive hybrid product oveall, but one with stacks of potential. Iron out the price point and it's a winner despite the shortcomings.
Full review: Microsoft Surface Pro review
2. Dell XPS 12
The Dell XPS 12's strength is that it thinks about what users might want from a laptop in the touchscreen age, and gives them something that works brilliantly as a laptop, but also as a media player and even a tablet. It might not be the lightest tablet you can buy, but it's certainly nice to have the option to simply flip the screen around and chose how you want to use it.
The touchscreen makes it a natural Windows 8 laptop, and we liked using it flipped around so we could get a nice media playback system for the aeroplane. We loved the quality of the screen too, which at 1080p has loads of detail. The only real problems are the high price and the fact that it's really too heavy to use as a "proper" tablet. That's not to say it's not useful in that mode though, it is, and we liked using it.
It's worth noting that the review model we saw was the pre-Haswell machine, Dell has announced an update which will use the new Intel processor to massively increase the battery life of this laptop, so it's well worth considering, but hold off until the new model becomes available.
Quick verdict: The 1080p screen makes this the ideal multimedia laptop, and the screen flexibility means that it's ideal for use in a load of different situations. There's more than enough power here, even for the demanding user, and the screen resolution and quality is honestly staggering. This is a fantastic laptop that has a party trick. It will suit those who want to use that screen in all manner of positions, and those who want to use it as a straight laptop.
Full review: Dell XPS 12 review
1. Sony Vaio Pro 13-inch
And here we are, our favourite laptop for Windows 8, and to be honest, one of our favourite laptops of all time. From the first minute you see this machine it's on a mission to impress you. It's light, well-built and looks amazing.
Of course, it's not free of problems. But we honestly think most of them won't bother us day to day. It has a loud fan, which you'll notice in high-performance mode, and there's some rubbish software forced on you from the factory, like McAfee. But when it comes to doing what laptops do, the Vaio Pro does everything beautifully.
And we have no idea how they made it that light; it must involve magic or something.
Quick verdict: This is it, this is the laptop you should spend your money on. Windows 8 looks great and works brilliantly, the machine is powerful and light, while still looking amazing. If you don't fall in love with it from the minute you turn it first hold it, then you're dead inside.
Full review: Sony Vaio Pro review