Wednesday 28 September 2016

Best buys: Five leading laptops that fit the bill

Published 24/09/2015 | 02:30

Asus X553MA, €440 from Power City.
Asus X553MA, €440 from Power City.
Apple MacBook Air 11, €1,030 from Apple.ie.
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13, €1,500 from CompuB.
Microsoft Surface 3, €775 including keyboard from Harvey Norman.
HP Streambook 11, €250 from Harvey Norman.

So which laptop should you buy? Here are five different models to suit five different budgets.

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Under €300

HP Streambook 11

(€250 from Harvey Norman)

If you really just want something to browse the web or social media and don't need storage for things like music or photos, HP's 11-inch Streambook might work out fine. It's a bare-bones laptop that cuts out a lot of the features that bump the price up. So it only has around the same storage memory (32GB, with an extra memory card slot) as a phone and the screen is fairly basic. The lack of storage means you can't really use it for things like iTunes. It skimps on engine-power too, but you'll only notice it if you're running a couple of different things at the same time. It's a cheap, cheerful little laptop.

€300-€500

Asus X553MA

(€440 from Power City)

If your laptop is most likely going to be plonked in one place most of the time (plugged in), you'll save a lot of money by not looking for the slimmest, lightest, most energy-efficient model. You'll also get way more storage and some other features. Asus's X55 gives you a whopping 1,000GB of storage, meaning you won't have to worry about photos, videos or other stuff. There are also lots of useful USB and memory card ports too. The compromise is weight and battery: it's twice as heavy as a MacBook Air and you'll only get three hours from the battery.

€500-€800

Microsoft Surface 3

(€775 including keyboard from Harvey Norman)

If you like the sound of a laptop that doubles as an effective tablet, Microsoft's Surface is still the best choice out there. It's basically a powerful 12-inch tablet with full Windows running on it that connects to a custom-made keyboard whenever you want it to act like a traditional laptop. I've been using Surfaces for a couple of years and they excel at some things. Because the screens are so good on them, they make brilliant movie companions: the Surface 3 is my device of choice whenever I want to watch Netflix. They skimp a little on power compared to traditional rivals but you won't notice it.

€800-€1,100

Apple MacBook Air 11

(€1,030 from Apple.ie)

This is probably the best-designed laptop ever made. It's fantastically slim, lighter than most others and yet still fits in more power than the majority of its rivals. The 11-inch size also makes it genuinely portable. For example, you can use it in an economy seat on a plane. Its battery life is decent (consistently over six hours), too. Advanced features such as the backlit keyboard (brilliant when you're in dim light) and multi-touch trackpads (that let you scroll up and down or pinch and zoom) are a real bonus. I bought one of these four years ago and have never looked back.

Over €1,100

Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13

(€1,500 from CompuB)

If you want the ultimate laptop, it's hard to see past Apple's MacBook Pro. This has it all: superb design, an amazingly high resolution screen and loads of power under the hood to make it future-proof for years to come. The battery life on the MacBook Pro is an underappreciated feature, too: a solid seven to eight hours, in my experience. Although it's heavier than the MacBook Air, the 13-inch model (which I have used for some time) is nothing like as clunky as a normal 15-inch laptop. If you need to connect things to it (like hard drives), you're totally covered: this has oodles of ports, including a handy memory card slot for photos and home videos.

Irish Independent

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