Our second year-in-review series is a look at the best gadgets and gear and software-type services of the year. It’s been a busy one, and there’s been more phones, tablets, games and other ehat-not flowing through our offices than we can possibly remember or had time to review. Starting off our picks, though are these notebooks – keep an eye out for them in post-Christmas sales.

A lot of new notebooks hit the shelves in 2013, and we’ve been able to sort through them all to come up with a list of five we feel are all worth your hard-earned cash. Some of them are pretty pricy, but you definitely get what you pay for.

MacBook Pro 15-inch Quad-Core

R26 999.95

MacBook Pro With Retina_new

There’s just no beating the MacBook Pro’s incredible build quality and Retina screen, both of which are at the top of their respective classes. With so many pixels packed into its 15.6-inch screen, it’s impossible to make out individual dots, making everything from text to graphics razor-sharp and breathtakingly gorgeous.

Inside that amazing body you’ll find a Core i7 Haswell processor, Intel’s HD Graphics 4000 chip and a 500GB hard drive, all of which work together to make Mac OS X Mavericks fly.

For the best build in the business, the MacBook Pro 15 should be your first and last choice.

 

Alienware M14x Gaming Notebook

R25 999.95
Alienware M14x

Being built for gaming means the M14x is super-fast in everything else it does too, from booting to browsing to Office, making it a fantastic all-round Windows machine that’s about as fast as a mobile PC can be without reaching beyond the R30k mark.

You can customise the backlighting of its keys and tweak every piece of hardware to your heart’s content and more with Alienware’s software for a truly unique look.

Best of all, it games like a pro with a dedicated graphics card that will put even desktop systems to shame.

 

HP Envy Touchsmart 15

R16 999.95
HP Envy Touchsmart 15

This is the notebook to go for if you need speed, style and durability in your daily office life.

The beautiful Envy Touchsmart 15 is a powerhouse of a notebook with its gorgeous 15.6-inch touchscreen, terabyte hard drive, 8GB of system memory and 4th-gen Haswell Core i7 processor delivering amazing performance at this price.

While its looks will impress in meetings, the way the Envy chews through tasks will impress on a daily basis, and its touchscreen will have you singing Windows 8’s praises at the ease and convenience it puts at your fingertips.

 

Samsung ATIV Book 9

R18 999.95

Samsung ATIV Book 9

If you’re already using a Samsung smartphone and tablet, the ATIV Book 9 will complete the trifecta, giving you the best-possible combination of versatility, power and looks no matter which device you’re using.

The 13.3-inch ATIV Book 9 is for serious Windows users who can appreciate the extra speed a solid-state hard drive affords them, but who aren’t looking for a big, bulky chassis to carry around with them from meeting to meeting.

Whether it’s emails, general browsing and productivity or media consumption during down-time, Samsung’s ATIV Book 9 is an affordable and powerful computing solution for your needs.

 

Asus VivoBook S550 Notebook

R14 999.95
Asus VivoBook S550 Notebook

The S550 offers everything a Windows 8 user could possible need from their hardware. It’s got plenty of system memory (8GB) for handling even the biggest workloads, a touchscreen to take advantage of Windows 8’s finger-friendly design, a fast Core i7 processor to power through complex calculations and a full HD screen for enjoying high-resolution images and videos.

It’s packaged up in a gorgeous yet lightweight aluminium chassis, with a full keyboard that makes typing and number-crunching as simple and comfortable as possible, even when you’re on the go.

The S550 offers exceptional value for money, and is one of the very best Windows 8 systems around.

 

And the notebook of the year goes to…

At the risk of being called Mac fanboys, it’s the MacBook Pro Retina. There really is no beating that screen, the MacBook Pro’s incredible build quality or the power its Haswell processor puts in your hands. And best of all, if you hate Mac OS X, you can always just format the hard drive and put Windows/Linux/SteamOS on it instead, so everyone wins.

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.