There’s a decent chance that a fair few of you will be stumping up for a new laptop in the next month or two, as uni students head back to halls to discover the wonders of the internet, school kids indulge in Facebook, and regular people, y’know, buy laptops. But before you do, take a moment to work out which machines have been updated with the new generation of Intel goodness.
Even if you’re just going to be buying a budget laptop, you should try and get a Haswell chip inside. Haswell isn’t just the top-end Core i7 XXXOVERCLOCK GAMING MADNESS rage — the more common (and cheaper) i3 and i5 chips are also Haswell in flavour.
And that’s a good thing. Haswell is a little bit more powerful, but a whole lot better in terms of battery life. The very best Haswell-powered ultraportables manage around 10 hours of real-world usage — that’s getting on for double what you’d expect from a 2012 laptop, and definitely worth paying for.
The other difference is the built-in graphics. Most laptops nowadays shun a discrete graphics card, and just use the inbuilt Intel stuff. With Haswell, Intel also introduced the 5000-series graphics, and in particular the 5100 chipset, better known as Iris. Again, it’s a big step up from what came before, and a total must if you’re thinking about playing games.
So, with no further ado, what laptop have got the goodness, and which ones should you buy?
Apple’s cheapest laptop has kinda been the best regular laptop for regular people in the few years that it’s been around, and things haven’t changed in 2013. One of the first on-sale laptops to pack a Haswell processor, the insane battery life is only let down by slightly iffy Wi-Fi connectivity, and no Ethernet or HDMI port.
The Acer S7 is possibly the best machine around for Mac-haters or those who want Windows installed from the get-go. A well-made-if-not-fantastic body is matched with a screen, trackpad and keyboard that all deliver fantastically — historically the sticking point for Windows laptops. Add in the famed Haswell battery life, and more or less got the complete package. The only reservation is Acer’s legacy of poor customer service and slightly iffy build quality, which puts a slight cloud over an otherwise-excellent bit of kit.
Sony had had a pretty duff few years with their difficult-to-pronounce VAIO laptop range, up until 2013. Not only was the Vaio Pro the first lappy out of the gates with the Haswell chipset, but the screen, interface and performance are all actually good, which is a first for a Sony laptop. However, while the build is carbon fibre — and you’re thinking, as most people do, that carbon fibre is basically what everything ever should be made of — the Vaio doesn’t quite feel as well thought-out or put-together as the Aspire S7 or the MacBook Air.
Last year, the Lenovo Yoga was pretty much the only convertible Windows 8 machine anyone wanted to buy, basically because it was a damn good laptop at the same time as being a half-decent sorta-tablet-mashup-thing. This year, the only changes are welcome ones: an upgrade to a Haswell processor, a brighter and more beautiful display, and a few minor housekeeping bits. If you’re after something you can Ninja some Fruit on as well as bash out those term papers, the Yoga’s a pretty safe bet.
Available October 2013
Samsung’s Series 9 (now renamed the ATIV 9) has long been one of the better ultrabooks, albeit with a slightly dodgy keyboard. The 2013 model has been spec-bumped as you’d expect, with a Haswell processor, 3200×1800 screen and fairly insanely low weight all combining to make it a good, if expensive choice.
The XPS 12 has one of the best form factors of any convertible Ultrabook, allowing you to use it as a no-compromise laptop most of the time, and sorta-as-a-tablet when the mood takes you. The updated 2013 model adds a Haswell processor and bigger battery, although the screen is remaining unchanged, as is the slightly-flimsy build.
Base model from £999 (availability tbc).
There are a few laptops that haven’t made this list, either because they’re not out in the UK, or haven’t been formally announced yet. The Razer Blade is the former: an amazing gaming laptop in the body of a normal notebook, with almost half-decent battery life but enough discrete graphics to crush pretty much any first-person shooter.
There’s also the upcoming revamped Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon. One of 2012′s best laptops (and Gizmodo’s Best Ultrabook up until a few weeks ago), the X1 Carbon is expected to be refreshed with a better screen, thinner body and that crucial Haswell processor sometime around October.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning the upcoming Microsoft Surface 2 Pro. Although it hasn’t officially been announced yet, a slew of leaks points to a slightly-redesigned Surface tablet, with adjustible kickstand, Haswell processor and a battery-containing smart cover being announced at a Microsoft event on 23rd September. Might be worth holding your horses ’till then.
Image credit: Processor from Shutterstock