REVIEWS / Laptop Reviews (Windows/PC, MacBooks...)

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It's hard to define the perfect laptop. In fact, there's no one 'right model' as it all depends on what you plan on using your notebook for. Some users look for portability while others prioritise performance. There are also things like battery life, gaming performance and screen quality to consider.

We take a range of factors into account when rating and reviewing laptop computers. Naturally, there's computing power, which we evaluate using a number of practical tests (HD video encoding, 3D modelling, exporting photos, etc.), and gaming capabilities, but that's not all. There's also heat levels, which we use a thermal imaging camera to measure; the screen quality, which we determine in part by using a colour sensor; and sound, which we measure in a soundproof room. We also look closely at the hardware and finishing. All these factors and many more are what go into our final rating for any laptop.

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It's happened—laptops have gained the upper hand over desktops, and on store shelves we're now seeing a horde of different types of notebooks to feast on, from portable laptops with 15-inch screens, weighing over 2 kilos, to ultra-portable laptops with 11- to 14-inch screens that are impressively thin and light. And there's even still a spattering of netbooks lingering (under 10 inches and inexpensive but not very powerful) as the breed of product makes its slow march towards extinction.

They may not dominate the market (the price tags can indeed be daunting), but ultrabooks are the latest evolution of the ultra-portable computer. Intel invented the concept in response to Apple's MacBook Air, bringing to market laptops with 11- to 15-inch screens that are less than 2 cm thick and weigh under 2 kg. The most recent models have IPS displays for a better image and solid-state drives to boost performance and power. The ultrabook has allowed Intel to almost entirely outsell AMD in the 11.6- to 14-inch laptop product range.

Laptops with 15-inch screens and above are fairly large and not as easy to carry around in a backpack. The biggest evolution on these computers has come in the form of processing power (CPUs and 3D graphics cards), which has continued to increase as the prices remain steady.
Unlike desktop computers, when you buy a laptop you're stuck with the screen attached to it. That's why the screen quality is a deciding factor in how we rate laptops. Models with bad screens (i.e. with contrast ratios under 300:1) automatically get no more than three stars in our overall rating. To get five stars a laptop has to have over 600:1 contrast.

But before you can choose which altar to pray to, first you need to choose your religion: Apple or Microsoft. Roughly 12% of our readers prefer Mac OS for its simplicity and ease-of-use, and around 75% prefer Windows for its range of applications. Then there's Linux for the adventurous, the lovers of free software, customisation and DIY.

We feel that operating systems are really a matter of personal taste, so when we rate a computer we do it independently of our own preference in OS (we just take into account how well the machine runs the given system).
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