Best Ultrabook: 17 top thin and light laptops to choose from
10th May 2013 | 14:21
All the top ultraportable PCs in one place
Best Ultrabook: 17 top thin and light laptops
Though computers are a part of our everyday lives, most of us don't actually need the amount of processing power available to us in large, hefty desktops or laptops.
The idea of the Ultrabook is to make laptops a bit more convenient, but powerful enough for most tasks.
The term Ultrabook is actually pure marketing, dreamt up by Intel for a new generation of portable PCs featuring its technology.
The best way to think of an Ultrabook is a MacBook Air that isn't made by Apple, a netbook that isn't underpowered or a laptop that's been on a crash diet.
The term Ultrabook was coined by Intel, and it specifies laptops with particular specifications, separating them from other ultraportable laptops. They'll all have Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processors, fast SSD storage to some degree, and now USB 3.0 connectivity, for speedy file transfers.
The idea is to offer something with the long battery life and and instant-on convenience of a tablet, without having to sacrifice a real, good-sized keyboard or the desktop software you rely on. That said, with Windows 8 touchscreen capabilities, we're starting to see the lines blur between Ultrabook and tablet.
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Ultrabooks tend to be made with design in mind, so come in more expensive than most mid-range home laptops.
They tend to start from around £699 in the lower end, going to nearly £2,000 at the very high end. For the most part, you're likely to spend between £800 and £1,000 for a newer model, though you can get some older models for good prices.
So which of the many Ultrabooks should you consider? These are the best ones we've reviewed, along with some other great ones we've gone hands-on with.
1. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga isn't just a great device in itself, but also a superb flagship for Windows 8. This convertible touchscreen laptop has a 13-inch screen, making for rather a large tablet, but a great-sized Ultrabook. It's a brilliantly flexible machine all around, and offers good battery life in general use. It's not particularly powerful, but it's certainly fast enough for most people, and it looks great, too.
Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga review
2. Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
When you look at the Asus Zenbook Prime's specs, it's no surprise that it comes at a premium price. You get the latest Intel processor and graphics, a good amount of solid-state storage, great build quality and, most impressively of all, a 1080p screen that blow nearly all other Ultrabooks out of the water. Adding those up equals a price of around £1500, so the Zenbook Prime UX31A is firmly for those looking for something in the high end…
Read our Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A review
3. Gigabyte U2442F
A gaming Ultrabook might seem like too much to ask - it's a lot of power to fit into a small chassis - but Gigabyte has done it with the U2442F. A strong Intel processor is combined with an Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics chip to give really impressive gaming results, getting superb framerates even in new games such as BioShock Infinite. The games look great on the 14-inch 1600 x 900 screen, and the U2442F even manages to deliver good battery life - and all still within a thin and light frame.
Read our Gigabyte U2442F review
4. Asus Taichi
It's fair to say that the Asus Taichi is one of the more unusual Windows 8 devices so far. This 11.6-inch laptop has two screens – one on the front, to use like normal computer, and one on the back of the display, so you can use it as a tablet when it's closed. Both are crisp 1080p screens, with Core i7 processor to power them. Yet there's no major hit on the design – the Taichi weighs just 1.1kg.
Read our hands-on Asus Taichi review
5. Gigabyte U2442
Gigabyte's first dip in the Ultrabook waters hits an excellent balance between power and affordability. The inclusion of discrete graphics and a load of RAM means performance is exceptional, while clever additions to the OS make day-to-day performance easy – even if you're new to computing. The screen is a strong point too, but all this mean you'll end up paying over £1000 for the Gigabyte U2442. It's not an unreasonable price, but it may be too high for many.
Read our Gigabyte U2442 review
6. Acer Aspire S7
Coming in both 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch versions, the Aspire S7 is one of the hottest Ultrabooks yet to be released. Designed with Windows 8 in mind, the S7's screen can fold all the way back so it's flat in line with the keyboard, and offers a 10-point touch display with Corning Gorilla Glass 2 to protect it. It's even a 1080p screen, as if it wasn't impressive enough already, and is one of the lightest Ultraportables we've seen yet.
Read our Acer Aspire S7 review
7. Lenovo IdeaPad U510
Though it pushes the idea of the Ultrabook to its limit, the Lenovo IdeaPad U510 is all about retaining some of the traditional features of the laptop, but still getting the advantages of Ultrabooks. So, it's thicker and heavier that most of the Ultrabooks here, and can even pack in a DVD or Blu-ray drive, but still resumes in around a second.
Read our: Hands on: Lenovo IdeaPad U510 review
8. Dell XPS 13
The Dell XPS 13 might be a little late to the Ultrabook party, but it's one of the prettiest portables we've seen.
Amazingly, Dell has squeezed an Intel Core i5 or i7 inside the trim chassis, along with 4GB of memory and a 128/256GB SSD. How thin is it? 6mm at its slimmest point.
Read our Dell XPS 13 review
9. HP Spectre XT TouchSmart
As befits the Spectre line, the Spectre XT TouchSmart is packing some notable technology. As its name suggests, it offers a multi-touch display, which means you can make full use of Windows 8, but it's very much an Ultrabook, boasting the latest Intel processors inside. In fact, it's HP's first lapop to offer Intel's ludicrously fast Thunderbolt connection. The 1080p screen is the real draw, though - it makes it an excellent work machine, and is great for HD movies.
Read our HP Spectre XT TouchSmart review
Ultrabooks from Toshiba, Acer and more
10. Gigabyte X11
Thanks to a carbon fibre shell and 11.6-inch screen, the Gigabyte X11 manages to take the sought-after crown of being the lightest Ultrabook ever – just 975g! It's pretty thin as well, measuring 17mm at its thickest point. But things haven't been skimped on much to get it this light: you'll find an Ivy Bridge Intel Core processor, two USB 3.0 ports and a 128GB SSD. It won't among the cheaper Ultrabooks, but it's definitely one of the most notable.
Read our Hands on: Gigabyte X11 review
11. Toshiba Satellite Z930
The Toshiba Satellite Z930-10X manages to offer an excellent balance between power and affordability. It's a very accomplished Ultrabook – thin, light and powerful enough to handle a wide range of tasks simultaneously. The star of the show is undoubtedly the Ivy Bridge processor, which helps to keep the performance in line with other Ultrabooks available on the market, but the wide range of ports it offers are boon as well.
Read our Toshiba Satellite Z930 review
12. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is an attempt to match the lightness and portability of Ultrabooks (which are obviously desirable to road warriors) with the business features expected of corporate laptops. It's doesn't entirely succeed (there's a lack of connectivity, for example), but it comes close enough to be hard to resist. There's a brilliant keyboard, huge battery life (and rapid charging), a large and fast SSD drive and excellent performance. It's not cheap, but you get what you pay for.
Read our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review
13. Toshiba Z930
Toshiba's flagship Ultrabook range is one of the latest recipients of the new Intel Ivy Bridge processors. The result is the Toshiba Satellite Z930-10X. Although the computer keeps the same chassis as the original Toshiba Z830, the internal components have been given a serious shot in the arm. But is the boost enough to keep Toshiba competitive in the evolving and expanding Ultrabook market?
Read our Toshiba Z930 review
14. Asus Zenbook UX32A
The original Asus Zenbook is an Ultrabook that still takes some beating, so we always knew its successor would be a great offering. The design and usability are great, from the slickness of Windows 7 with the Ivy Bridge processor to the great keyboard with the subtle backlight. Like its predecessor, the Asus Zenbook UX32A is also slim and light enough to carry around all day and the range of connections, especially the three USB 3.0 ports, is excellent.
Read our Asus Zenbook UX32A review
15. Lenovo IdeaPad U410
The Lenovo IdeaPad U410's trick is really bring out a value proposition, offering offering a high-end hardware configuration in a mid-level assembly – it's an Ultrabook for the masses. The fact that the Lenovo IdeaPad U410 offers both a third-generation Intel core CPU and a dedicated GPU from Nvidia, along with a healthy amount of storage, makes this one of the most-efficient Ultrabooks that we've come across yet. The build quality may be pretty average, but this is all about bang for your buck, and it delivers.
Read our Lenovo IdeaPad U410 review
16. Dell XPS Duo 12
We're going to count the XPS Duo 12 as an Ultrabook, even it is a slightly odd one. Sure, it opens like a laptop, then the touch-enabled screen flips round and you can use it as a tablet. The design isn't new – Dell's used something similar before – but getting it with light and powerful Ultrabook innards is, as is the touch-friendly Windows 8. The screen is protect by Gorilla Glass, and it's a 1080p display, so it'll look brilliantly crisp. All this will come at a price, predicatably, but it'll be a great way to make full use of Windows 8.
Read our Hands on: Dell XPS Duo 12 review
17. Sony Vaio S Series 13P
The Vaio S Series 13P is one of the most expensive Ultrabooks we've seen yet, but if you've got the money, it could well prove to be worth it. Both the portability and usability are excellent – so much so, that the excellent specification could almost be forgotten, but you'd be letting yourself down. A Blu-ray drive, a Thunderbolt connection, a backlit keyboard, an SSD and good battery life… the only thing lacking is a 1080p screen.
Read our Sony Vaio S Series 13P review