Wednesday 6 May 2015

The 20 best computers

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Apple MacBook Air: The most desirable, most portable, best-designed laptop on the market. It's exceptionally thin, 19mm at its thickest point. It's pleasingly light (1.3kg) and has a large, bright screen. It's not cheap and the processor could be faster, but it's tremendous, thanks to a comfortable keyboard and large trackpad to guide the cursor. Plus, like all Apple Macs now, it includes Boot Camp software so you can Instal Windows on this machine, too, if you must. The Mac operating system, though, is more intuitive and accessible. Comes with a regular 120GB hard drive, though a pricier option with a 128GB flash drive is also available.

Where: Apple (0800 783 4846; www.apple.com/uk)

How much: from £1,271 (around €1,374)
Apple MacBook Air: The most desirable, most portable, best-designed laptop on the market. It's exceptionally thin, 19mm at its thickest point. It's pleasingly light (1.3kg) and has a large, bright screen. It's not cheap and the processor could be faster, but it's tremendous, thanks to a comfortable keyboard and large trackpad to guide the cursor. Plus, like all Apple Macs now, it includes Boot Camp software so you can Instal Windows on this machine, too, if you must. The Mac operating system, though, is more intuitive and accessible. Comes with a regular 120GB hard drive, though a pricier option with a 128GB flash drive is also available. Where: Apple (0800 783 4846; www.apple.com/uk) How much: from £1,271 (around €1,374)
Sony VAIO VGCLV1S Desktop PC: Sony bills this as the ultimate all-in- one PC, and its 24in screen is big enough to double as a decent television, too. And since it has a TV tuner you can use it to record TV as well as watch it. The huge 500GB hard drive means that you can save quite a few episodes of Mad Men, too. Similarly, the Blu-ray drive means you can play high-definition movie discs. Like the iMac, this is a desktop PC that will turn heads with its design. Where Comet (www.comet.co.uk) How much £1,272 (around €1,376)
Dell Mini 9: The 8.9in screen on the Dell Inspiron is not the largest you'll find, but it's a speedy, easy-to-use machine that weighs under 1kg, not least because the storage is on flash memory, though there's only 8GB of this. It's smart looking, too. Where: Dell (www1.euro.dell.com) How much: From £199 (around €215)
Sony VAIO P-Series: Laptops don't come any smarter or any more pocketable than this. By dispensing with the usual trackpad, Sony was able to create a much narrower machine. Its high-resolution display is a super-widescreen 8in model but it can fit into a pocket or bag - navigation is by means of a button in the middle of the keys. The specs are much higher than on a regular netbook and there's compatibility with a 3G data card for the best connectivity. Expensive but gorgeous. Where: Sony (www.sony.co.uk) How much: from £849 (around €919)
Toshiba Portege M750 Tablet PC: A Tablet PC has a touch-responsive screen as well as a regular keyboard. So you can use a stylus to scribble notes onscreen to annotate a document and tap the screen to activate menus and so on. This proficient Tablet from Toshiba has a compact 12in screen and usable keyboard. Some Tablets have screens that are entirely removable, making them more versatile still, but that's not the case here. None the less, this is a neat and impressive laptop. Hard-drive capacities start at 120GB and the processor is speedy, too. Where: Toshiba (www.computers.toshiba.co.uk) How much: £977 (around €1,058)
Dell Studio Hybrid: The move to make computer components smaller so they'll keep bulk and weight down on laptops has benefits for desktop users, too. You don't need to crack your shin against a large tower of computing power sitting under your desk. In fact, the Studio Hybrid line is good looking enough to keep on your desk - it even comes in a bamboo finish. Note that the price includes keyboard and mouse but no monitor, though of course you can opt for one if you like. Where: PC World (www.pcworld.co.uk) How much: from £399 (around €432)
Acer Aspire One A150: Like nearly all netbooks, the trackpad on the Acer that responds to your touch to move the cursor around is not great. It's small and although it's responsive, you're much better off investing money in a notebook mouse such as the Logitech V450 Nano. That's the Acer's only Achilles heel though. It features Windows XP and has a reasonable-capacity 120GB hard drive and 1GB of memory. The screen, at 8.9in, helps keep the size of the machine down and you can choose from several bright colours for the case, to make your own statement. Where Comet (www.comet.co.uk) How much £239.99 (around €260)
Vodafone USB Modem Stick: This modem allows you to go online wherever you can get a mobile-phone signal, so you're not limited to being in a wireless hotspot or connecting by cable. It's a small and simple-to-use USB device that installs its own software as it's inserted. It also has a microSD card slot so you can attach a memory card to transfer data, too. The Modem Stick Pro has download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps, though it's more usual to find speeds of around 2Mbps. Where Vodafone (www.vodafone.ie) How much: from €29.99 on monthly contract of €5 per day
Sony FP95 Photo Printer: The small Sony printer delivers vivid, colourful prints sized 6x4in. It has a useful carry handle and a relatively huge adjustable LCD screen (3.6in). Instead of inkjet it uses a technology called dye-sublimation that transfers dye to glossy paper in three separate coloured layers. This kind of printer is ideal for super-sharp photo prints. Cute extras include the facility to add speech bubbles, for instance, to photos. Where: Sony (www.sony.co.uk) How much: £139 (around €150)
Sony VAIO FW35V: This is a great entertainment laptop that along with a large widescreen display (16.4- in) has dedicated multimedia buttons and an integrated webcam. The high-resolution screen means you can watch DVDs or, with the pricier 35X version, Blu-ray discs. There's plenty of memory, 4GB, and you can choose a 128GB flash storage drive instead of the standard 400GB hard drive, although there's a £240 surcharge for this. As with all Sony laptops, it's stylishly designed and has strong battery life and great usability. Where: Sony (www.sony.co.uk) How much: from £799 (around €866)
Apple iMac: Just announced last month, the new iMac comes in two screen sizes, 20in and 24in, both glossy and gorgeous. The design hasn't changed from last year's models but the specifications have been improved and the processing speeds increased. The iMac comes with iLife 09, the latest version of the leisure software suite including iPhoto, which now uses face detection and even face recognition to label who's in your photos for you. Garage- Band, from the same suite, can even help teach you how to play musical instruments. Where: (www.comet.co.uk) How much: from £949 (around €1,029)
Toshiba NB100: Toshiba's NB100 has a 9in screen, so not as large as some, but the keyboard is still highly usable. It comes in cute silver and gold options and is light and portable as netbooks should be. As with other machines, the trackpad is the least effective part of the package but Toshiba's is no worse than its rivals. Where: Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk) How much: around €270
John Lewis Buffalo Mouse Mat: It's worth investing in a decent mouse mat. Cheaper mats deteriorate quickly and novelty models are hilarious for a time and then irritating. This leather mat from John Lewis iswell-made and has a padded wrist rest at the side. This is part of a range of buffalo-leather stationery products exclusive to the store so you can match it with a paper knife and pen pot for your analogue desk needs. Where: John Lewis (www.johnlewis.com) How much: around €19
HP Elitebook 6930p: This business laptop is ideal for corporate road warriors. The magnesium alloy chassis makes it ideal to take on tour, as it's strong and light and even has a finish designed to look newer longer. An embedded 3G data card means you can connect to the internet wherever there's a mobile phone signal and other features include a fingerprint recognition sensor and webcam, which will scan business cards. Best of all is the battery life, which will last up to 24 hours. Where: PCWorld Business (www.pcwb.com) How much £920 (around €992)
Asus Eee Top 1602: An affordable desktop PC from the people who created the netbook, the Eee Top 1602 has a 15.5in touchscreen display with handwriting recognition capability. It also has a keyboard, of course, which tucks away behind the screen when not in use. The specifications (1GB of memory, 160GB hard drive and the lack of an optical drive) reveal that this is a netbook in a new format to fit on a desk better. Neat and available in black and white. Where Comet (www.comet.co.uk) How much £399.99 (around €431)
Advent 4213: Thanks to its built-in 3G data card, the Advent has great connectivity. Simply insert a sim card and you can connect to the internet anywhere you can get a mobile phone signal. Unlike the Toshiba NB100 (no13), which comes with a particular network's card, the Advent is unlocked and will work with any sim. The hard drive is large (160GB) and there's the standard 1GB of memory built in. The screen is a decent 10.1in but even so, the keyboard is small and hard to use. Battery life is around four hours. Where PC World (www.pcworld.co.uk) How much £279.99 (around €300)
Apple Time Capsule: If your laptop is swiped or your hard drive crashes, all those invaluable photos will be lost, along with documents, music and more. Help is at hand in the beautiful shape of the Time Capsule, which will save copies of everything. It comes in two capacities, 500GB and 1TB (1,000GB). If you have a Mac running the latest version of its operating system, it will automatically make back-ups every hour and you don't have to do a thing. It's wireless so you can even store it a safe distance from the computer. Where: Comet (www.comet.co.uk) How much: 500GB £195.73 (around €200)
Kodak ESP9 Printer and Scanner: Kodak's printers all have a central thread - they were designed with the aim of producing high quality at low price. But this machine also offers great versatility. Like the LexmarkX765 (no 30), this machine works as a printer, scanner and copier as many all-in-one machines do, but also as a fax. Wireless connectivity is built in as well to add further usefulness. The 3in LCD screen is big enough for viewing photographs easily when you insert a memory card into the reader. Where: Comet (www.comet.co.uk) How much: £299.99 (around €323)
Panasonic Toughbook CF-52: The Toughbook series of laptops are semi-ruggedised - the case is toughened so if you drop it you shouldn't lose all your data. The 13.3in screen has a magnesium alloy chassis, which also protects the hard drive. The keyboard is protected so if you tip a cup of coffee over it the electronics will survive. The laptop's specifications are decent - 2GB of memory, a 160GB hard drive and a battery that lasts up to eight hours. Where: Panasonic (www.panasonic.co.uk) How much: from £1,851 (around €1,998)
Acer Aspire Predator G7200 (Ranger) Gaming PC: Funny, isn't it? Dress up a computer case with a cool hinged door and suddenly you've got a sexy system that is begging to be snapped up. Gaming PCs are the most advanced, costing more because of their high-quality graphics and video cards, not to mention fast central processing units. So this complicated-looking machine has lots of memory, a fast hard drive and liquid CPU cooling so that however hot things get for your onscreen character, your computer stays temperate. Display extra. Where: PC World (www.pcworld.co.uk) How much: £1,299.99 (around €1,400)

From the daddy of desktops to a netbook that’ll nestle in your handbag, David Phelan selects the season’s hottest hardware

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