Intel introduced the category in 2011 to compete with the MacBook Air, the lightweight laptop which was dominating the market at the time. Intel has its own list of specifications for the kinds of laptops that can use the trademarked “ultrabook” branding (including that it must have an Intel Core processor), but in truth the definition of an ultrabook is still fairly fluid in the minds of most consumers. To clear things up for you, GadgetReview went out and researched the top ultrabooks on the market today so you know what to buy for your needs.
After purchasing the top 10 ultrabooks, we pitted them against one another to find out which one would come out on top. After extensive testing and plenty of hours playing with these ultra-thin laptops, we’re happy to report that the ASUS Zenbook 14 is the cream of the crop due to its nano-edge bezel and dual-function track pad. Keep reading to learn more about the Zenbook 14 and the other ultrabooks on our list.
Award: Editor’s Choice/Best 14″ Ultrabook
Price: $1,099.00 | Features: Nano-edge bezel, 1920 x 1080 FHD resolution, Exclusive dual-function touchpad | Read Full Review: ASUS Zenbook 14 Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The ASUS Zenbook 14 combines sexy style with serious performance to top the list of our best ultrabooks for 2021.
The ASUS Zenbook 14 is one of the best ultrabooks out there for its price. It’s super lightweight and offers both a beautiful display and unique dual-function touchpad.
Dell claims that the battery can last up to 14 hours, an impressive length of time. The performance of the machines is stellar, with its 4.6GHz Intel Core i7 CPU and 16 gigabytes of RAM. Especially nice is that the cost of the machine is on the lower end, especially for ultrabooks of its caliber.
View on Amazon – $1,099.00
Award: Best Business Ultrabook
Price: $919.99 | Features: 2256 x 1504 resolution, 13.5″ PixelSense display, 8GB RAM | Read Full Review: Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Surface Laptop 2 is a workhorse of an ultrabook that transforms into any kind of machine you want it to, right when you need it the most.
The monster in the ultrabook category, the recently released Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 is one of the more affordable options on our list, but still offers an impressive set of features and specs. It’s one of the best performers out there with a 3.1GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM, all working behind a gorgeous 2256 x 1504 touchscreen display.
Downsides include the shorter battery life and the heavier weight – but if you have cash to spend, this the Microsoft Surface Laptop definitely needs to be one of the first ultrabooks you look at before making your final purchase.
Update: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is the latest version of this model with Intel’s 10th gen Ice Lake processor, Intel Iris Plus Graphics, up to 1TB SSD, up to 16GB RAM, and it’s very stylish with a brilliant and comfortable keyboard, although it lacks Thunderbolt 3.
Read: Best Chromebooks of 2021
View on Amazon – $919.99
Award: Best Budget Ultrabook
Price: $785.00 | Features: 15.6-inch IPS touchscreen, quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 2-in-1 functionality | Read Full Review: Lenovo Yoga 720 Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Lenovo Yoga 720 combines a feather-light weight profile with long-lasting battery power.
This Lenovo ultrabook (along with the Lenovo Thinkpad X1) needs to be consider with one thing in particular in mind: its low price. The starting model of a Yoga is a pithy $785. That obviously means, though, that you’ll have to sacrifice in performance and many other features.
Its resolution isn’t as high as others on our list and its battery life is only up to 8-10 hours… all that shouldn’t necessarily discount it, though, given that its a solid machine for its price. If you’re on a budget, this might be the best ultrabook you can find. We’re giving this our award for best ultrabook for the money.
View on Amazon – $785.00
Award: Best Ultrabook for Gaming
Price: $1099.99 | Features: NVIDIA GeForce graphics, 16GB dual-channel RAM, 256GB SSD storage | Read Full Review: Razer Blade Stealth 13 Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is uber-powerful with an intense graphics card.
If you’re looking for an ultrabook that you can also use for gaming, the Razer Blade Stealth 13 is the pick for you. Offering a powerful NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card and a similarly powerful Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, this ultrabook can handle even the most intense of video games.
While we wish the display were a little larger (13 inches isn’t a lot for gaming), it still offers a full HD resolution with almost invisible bezels. It also offers 100% sRGB color saturation for the best picture possible.
View on Amazon – $1099.99
Award: Best 2-in-1 Ultrabook
Price: $1,281.95 | Features: 2-in-1 convertible tablet, 13.3″ 1920 x 1080 screen, 512GB onboard SSD | Read Full Review: HP Spectre X360 Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The HP Spectre x360 is an ultra-light ultrabook that still manages to pack some serious punch underneath its feather-heavy hood.
If there’s anything you should know about the HP Spectre x360 13.3-inch FHD Touchscreen Laptop, first and foremost it should be its distinction as one of the lightest ultrabooks in the world…but it’s also a very, very good computer. The screen rocks a beautiful 1920 x 1080 resolution, and it’s also a strong performer with a 4GHz CPU Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SSD. It’s got an Intel Iris Plus graphics card, which is a step up from the Intel UHD Graphics that you’ll find with most modern ultrabooks
The Spectre features a super useful touchscreen, which you can operate with the stylish HP Pen. HP has impressed us again with the Spectre x360, which is why it has easily made it onto our list.
Note: Other notable Ultrabooks worth mentioning here that we had not reviewed are the Huawei MateBook X Pro with 10th gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, two USB-C ports that include Thunderbolt 3 ports support, and a 1TB storage. There’s also the Lenovo Yoga C940 portable laptop that converts into a tablet with a 360-degree hinge and a strong build quality, but a not so long battery life. Lastly, the HP Envy 13 has Intel UHD graphics 620, 256 GB-1 TB storage, weighs 2.8 pounds, with a fingerprint reader, and is good for anyone on a budget, similar to the Apple MacBook Air that is also sleek and weighs 2.8 pounds..
View on Amazon – $1,281.95
Weight: Consumers are consistently surprised by how light most ultrabooks are. Ultrabooks are made to be convenient and comfortable in the hand, and if lifting or carrying an ultrabook feels like a burden, that ultrabook is at least a little bit of a letdown in the weight category.
Durable Build: Ultrabooks are meant to last. Their portability should not sacrifice their durability – and if you take care of it properly – a solidly constructed ultrabook should last you a minimum of three years.
Speedy Startup: Ultrabooks are renowned for taking a lot less time to start up than your average laptop. Cold boot times for ultrabooks are around <10 seconds, though that figure can vary depending on the device.
There are some common errors people make when purchasing technology that are especially pertinent when buying an ultrabook.
For example, the assumption that the most expensive item is going to be your best-option is a wrong one. Even if you have extra money, the answer isn’t always to spend it right away. The cost leader in the ultrabook category is overwhelmingly the Microsoft Surface Book, but it’s also heavier than most other ultrabooks and doesn’t drastically improve on many other features over the more affordable laptops.
Another misstep is honoring branding above all else. In this case, that can mean two things: One, it can go for caring too much about the official ultrabook label. That shouldn’t be a primary concern, since some of the best options in the laptop space aren’t necessarily “ultrabooks”, but still manage to run light and speedy without Intel’s blessing. Second, it can also be obsessing over the prestige of the company that makes the device. While that can definitely be an early indicator of quality, it should not be considered an absolute guarantee (read: Apple).
You also shouldn’t let yourself believe that a single factor (except perhaps the price) is an immediate deal breaker. You have to look at all the pros and cons of each spec before making your final choice. Essentially, you should be open-minded and do your due diligence before choosing the ultrabook that will best serve your needs.
And now that you’ve read a summary of what an ultrabook is, seen the tips for picking out the right one, and gotten a look at the ultrabook reviews themselves: now is the time to make a decision on the best ultrabook for you. Understand what factors matter most in your choice, weigh the pros and cons, and figure out what you’ll ultimately (pun not intended) be most comfortable with in 2021.
If you want the latest ultrabook reviews and recommendations on the web for the best ultrabook, look no further than our guides and reviews on all things ultrabooks and laptop. If you need something that’s fast, light, and portable enough to fit in any bag, then an ultrabook could be the perfect choice for you!
What Is An Ultrabook?
As we've explained in many of articles, the difference between a notebook and an "ultra" notebook all comes down to Intel. Several years ago, the company put out a challenge to all laptop manufacturers, asking if they could make a laptop that was light, fast, and lasted more than 9 1/2 hours on a single charge of the battery. If so, they could earn the right to call their device an "ultrabook" under Intel's guidelines, which are designed to provide a standard in the industry for business and creative professionals alike.
To be called an ultrabook, a laptop must be no thicker than 23mm top to bottom, boot from sleep in less than three seconds, last 9 hours or more on one charge, and run on an ultra-efficient processor family like the latest sixth-gen Intel Core-U Skylake processors.
Because of the strict requirements and the premium hardware necessary to make the grade, ultrabooks are almost always pricier than their standard laptop competition. On the low end of the spectrum you should expect to spend no less than $850 for a 2016 model, while other speedier and lighter ultrabooks can go for as much as $2,500. There are dozens of models in the ultrabook family designed to suit everyone's needs, so be sure to shop around before you make any final decisions on what style is best for you!
Which Are The Leading Ultrabook Brands?
The best ultrabooks on the market today just so happen to be produced by many of the same leading manufacturers in the world of regular old laptops, including Dell, Acer, Asus, and Toshiba. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses in different departments (Dell's XPS line has the best screens, for example), and ultimately which is right for you will depend on the feature you plan on using your ultrabook for the most.
Features to Look For When Buying a New Ultrabook
Portability: Ultrabooks are made for portability from the get-go, so if you don't care about how slim, heavy, or portable your laptop is, a regular laptop would probably be a little easier on your wallet. The design ethos of ultrabooks mean they're perfect for anyone who's on the road a lot and needs something they can pull out of their bag and get typing within seconds.
Keyboard/Trackpad: If you have the chance, you should go down to your local electronics store and actually get your hands on the ultrabook you want before making the final purchase. Most ultrabook keyboards and trackpads are high enough quality to take a daily beating, but some can still feel a little "cheap" to the touch.
Power: Right now, the only guideline in place for the actual hardware specs on an ultrabook is that the CPU must be a certain speed and run at a particular rate of efficiency. Other than that, the size of the RAM and onboard storage can be anything, which means you're never quite sure what you're going to get unless you pay close enough attention to the spec list at checkout.
Weight: Technically Intel hasn't set any guidelines in the weight category for ultrabooks, but it still matters if you plan on taking your laptop in a sidebag or backpack. Many of the best models in their class won't shove above the 4lb mark, and any added heft beyond that should probably send you shopping somewhere else.
Screen Quality: Unfortunately, because Intel hasn't put any strict guidelines on how good an ultrabook's screen should be, many manufacturers will skimp on it to save money on other parts. Be sure when you're shopping for an ultrabook that you check not only the resolution of the screen (1920 x 1080 minimum), but also the display technology that powers it. IPS LED is the preferred choice.
Ports: If there's one area that a lot of ultrabooks still come up short on, it's the number of available ports to plug external devices into. Ports add two things: thickness and weight, which means that when an ultrabook manufacturer is looking for ways to cut either, ports are usually first on the board. If you have a lot of external hard drives or want to use a USB wireless adapter, you might be better off looking somewhere else.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
The most frequent slip up that people make when buying an ultrabook, is automatically assuming that a higher price automatically means better quality. Some of the best ultrabooks we've tested are under the $1,000 mark (like the Dell XPS 13), and a lot of manufacturers have taken advantage of the "ultrabook" certification to sell laptops that technically meet the minimum requirements set by Intel, but wouldn't be considered a "good" laptop by anyone else's standards.
If you want the latest ultrabook reviews on the best ultrabook, gaming laptop, surface laptop and laptops like Lenovo Laptops, MSI Laptops and Maingear Laptops that are thin and light and portable, we have the top picks here.
Intel was the reason for ultrabooks. They had put a challenge to laptop manufacturers several years ago to make a fast and light laptop that lasted more than 9 hours on a single battery charge, which based on Intel’s guidelines, would be called an ultrabook, and be a standard for business and creative professionals.
Ultrabooks are business laptop like lenovo thinkpad x1 carbon, hp spectre x360, lenovo yoga 920 and hp spectre 13 that are no thicker than 23mm, boots from sleep in less than 3 seconds, last 9 or more hours of battery life on a charge and run on an ultra-efficient processor like the latest sixth-gen Intel Core-U Skylake processors, quad core, core i5, core i3 and i7 processor.
Ultrabooks are pricier than standard laptops costing no less than $850 for a 2016 model and as much as $2500 for a lighter ultrabook. The leading ultrabook manufacturers are the same leading laptop manufacturers like Dell, Asus, Toshiba, and Acer, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, like Dell’s XPS lines having the best screens.
Portability is the main reason to buy an ultrabook like dell xps 13 and razer blade stealth, especially for someone on the road a lot. If possible, try the ultrabook’s keyboard/trackpad before buying because while some can easily take a daily beating, others feel a little cheap to the touch.
For power, the ultrabook’s CPU should be a certain speed and run at a particular rate of efficiency while it’s better to check the spec list to find out more about its RAM and onboard storage size.
While Intel has no guidelines about the weight, it’s important if you plan to carry the laptop in a side bag or backpack. Most units weigh no more than 4 lb, so avoid anything heavier.
Though Intel has no strict guidelines about screen quality some people skimp on it to save money. It’s better to buy one with a touch screen resolution of minimally 1920 x 1080 with IPS LED display technology.
Ports like usb c port add weight and thickness, so if you need to connect to a lot of external hard devices or use a usb wireless adapter, then it’s better to look elsewhere. Don’t assume that a more expensive ultrabook is better quality because some of the best like the Dell XPS 13, asus zenbook and acer swift are less than $1,000.
We are always updated with the latest reviews on best ultrabooks. Keep an eye on Gadget Review for in-depth information.
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