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The best laptops of 2013

Over the course of a year, we test a lot of tech products, from laptops through tablets to mobiles, along with a range of other hardware from routers to external hard disks, and of course an abundance of software from office suites to security utilities.

And every year, products make improvements on the previous year’s offerings, both in terms of quality and value. Indeed, many product categories have a number of excellent offerings among their ranks – but sometimes you want things really narrowed down. Sometimes, you want to know the winner among the winners – and that’s what this series of articles is all about.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to run an article on each major product category, and highlight the top product for 2013 across all the main sub-categories within.

For example, when it comes to the laptop product category (which we’re covering here), we’ll pick out our best budget laptop, business laptop, desktop replacement notebook, and so on. Each product mentioned is the top of its class for 2013, and as such comes with an unreserved recommendation.

So, without further ado, let's get on with looking at the best laptops around today. Unsurprisingly, Apple has managed to secure several berths in the top flight here – but with which MacBooks, you might ask?

Well, read on and find out… and stay tuned for many more top products of 2013 in the coming days as we run up to Christmas.

Best budget laptop: HP Chromebook 11 (£229)

Google's Chromebooks have long promised affordability and simplicity, and HP's Chromebook 11 certainly delivers on those fronts. This affordable laptop brings some great new features to the budget Chromebook category, and it boasts a bright IPS display, a unique microUSB charger, and a smart magnesium-reinforced design.

Best business laptop: Dell Latitude 6430u (£1,130)

Road warriors who prefer travelling with a light footprint will dig the Dell Latitude 6430u, a Windows 8-equipped business Ultrabook that deftly blends style and performance. With its slick design, excellent keyboard, and great battery life, it's an easy choice for those who want productivity for work without having to settle for a drab, utilitarian business Ultrabook.

Best desktop replacement laptop: Apple MacBook Pro 15in 2013 (£1,699)

The Apple MacBook Pro 15in (2013) is the Retina Display-equipped system that power users have been waiting for. It takes last year's excellent Retina Display upgrade and thinner chassis, and adds a powerful Intel Core i7 processor with integrated graphics that performs like discrete graphics. Also, the nine hour battery life is more than adequate for a day's work. This is quite simply the pinnacle of laptops designed for uber-picky power users who need to take their time-sensitive projects with them.

Best Ultrabook: Acer Aspire S7-392 (£1,250)

If you're looking for a svelte laptop to show off, yet you still want to be able to do real work in Windows 8, the Acer Aspire S7-392 is the Ultrabook you want. This laptop is the current top of the Ultrabook tree, and it shows the brilliance PC makers can return under Intel's increasingly stringent standards for Ultrabooks.

Best Ultraportable laptop: Apple MacBook Air 13in 2013 (£949)

Equipped with a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, the latest MacBook Air 13in shows decent performance gains. However, it's this ultraportable's 15-plus hours of battery life that really blows away the competition.