The word laptop has been used rather loosely for the last decade. There are several types of portable PCs available today, but an Ultrabook puts other styles to shame. It’s the preferred machine of professionals and students around the globe, and we’re here to help you find the best Ultrabook to suit your needs.
How to Choose the Best Ultrabook
What type of user are you?
When you sit down at your PC or laptop, is it for business or leisure? That alone can dictate which direction you should go when looking for the best Ultrabook. Gamers and students are two more types of users that require different kinds of machines, but thankfully there is an Ultrabook style for everyone.
Before you think about areas like memory or ports, consider how you plan to use your new PC. In the Ultrabook class, the price point isn’t nearly as important considering it’s difficult to find an Ultrabook under 500 dollars unless it’s used. You can find some solid contenders for under a grand, but most are north of that number.
For some, a speedy processor or solid-state drive may be the first area they turn towards when making a buying decision. That would be a mistake as you need to start with the operating system. While there are several exotic options available, we’re only going to focus on the top two with Windows and the Mac OS.
Windows – There are currently billions of machines running some form of Windows; it’s safe to say it’s the most popular option around. There was a time when it was considered unstable compared to PCs running the Mac OS, but that gap has narrowed considerably.
One perk of the platform is compatibility as almost every program will run on Windows. There are a few exceptions, but those are mainly exclusives built for Macs. Another would be power as a decked out Windows-based machine will run circles around a Mac.
Mac OS – With Macs, reliability is the most significant selling point along with the overall design and “Mac” mystique. They are very unlikely to crash compared to their Windows-based brethren although Windows 10 is rock solid for the most part. The overall user experience is arguably better and generally a hot topic of debate between fanbases.
On the flipside, you may encounter a few compatibility issues if you’re switching from a PC to the Macbook. Some of your favorites may not work although it’s not hard to find a substitute in the App Store unless it’s a PC classic geared towards one machine.
Memory and Processing Power
Every machine in the Ultrabook class will have at least 8GB of RAM, and that is the bare minimum we recommend. If you plan to play any high-end games or work with programs that can tax a system’s resources, you’ll want to double that number. RAM is not an expensive component in the overall price of a laptop although it’s tough to find portable machines with more than 16GB under the hood.
Processors are a bit trickier, but Intel’s are what you’ll find in most Ultrabooks and all the best 2-in-1 laptops. The generation and core are what you’ll want to hone in on – the higher the number, the better. The company’s Core-i5 chips are the most common while the i7 series is found in top-tier Ultrabooks and PCs.
The display is just as important as the components running the show considering you’re going to stare at it for hours on end. It’s a lot easier to wrap your head around as well with only three options in this class.
FHD – Full HD displays have slowly pushed HD panels out, so you won’t find any 720p displays this time around. Despite competition from the QHD and UHD club, they remain the best option for consumers that want a solid display that won’t break the bank. 1,920 x 1,080 is nothing to scoff at, and likely the same resolution as your current smartphone or big screen TV.
QHD – QHD stands for Quad High-Definition and is double the pixels of FHD. You will notice a major uptick in clarity if you’re making the jump from 720p, but may not from notice the change between FHD and QHD. It depends on the type of panel used and the tech pushing those pixels around.
UHD – UHD, otherwise known as 4K, takes things to an all new level. It’s overkill for casual users unless you’re looking to the future, but ideal for gamers and AV enthusiasts alike. The resolution is four times what you’ll find on an FHD display while options like HDR really kick things up a notch.
This is the one area you can upgrade on a laptop, so while you do need to consider the size, you should focus on the decision between HDD and SDD. Hard disk drives are becoming rarer in the Ultrabook class, but are the best way to go if you need a lot of space. They are cheaper, but not as quick as a solid-state drive.
While SSDs are more expensive, there is no substitute for speed. Transfer times are considerably quicker when your rig has a solid-state drive, but they do bump up the price. They usually top out at around 500GB in Ultrabooks as well, so you may need to expand sooner than later. In a nutshell, there is no magic number when it comes to storage space. Simply keep your needs in mind as you can always expand through an external drive or USB sticks.
The cool thing about Ultrabooks is they provide users with top-tier performance in a smaller package. Unfortunately, there are also a few drawbacks as you won’t find optical drives or many Ethernet ports on machines in this class. The battery life can take a big hit as well. That’s not always the case, but something to consider when you’re looking at a laptop with a UHD display. The size and type of panel can draw more juice, even when the innards are optimized.
Every laptop manufacturer will give you a “rough” idea of how long their Ultrabook will go, but it’s a number you need to take with a hefty dose of salt. If you like to crank your brightness up, you can decrease that number, and the same goes for games and applications that need a lot of power. The charging times are usually very close, however, and some models are equipped with fast charging tech.
Connectivity and Other Flagship Features
Now that we’ve covered all the key areas, it’s time to take a look at the extras which can separate the best from the rest. How your computer connects to the net and other peripherals is a critical area, and every Ultrabook will have a couple of ports at the ready. USB-C ports are trending and the best option along with USB 3.0 ports if you need speed.
While it’s not hard to find a laptop with those, the number of ports is important along with their charging capabilities. Dual-band Wi-Fi is another standard option, but fingerprint scanners are still sparse. The quality of the built-in speakers should be at the top of your list if you’re a media lover while gamers will want a good keyboard and the best-integrated graphics available.
The last feature worth note would be something tied to Windows-based PCs in the form of Windows Hello. It’s a super speedy login feature which works with the aforementioned fingerprint scanner or a webcam. Unfortunately, it only works with webcams capable of near-infrared imaging; something that is missing from several cheaper webcams.
11 Best Ultrabooks You Can Buy in 2018
The Ultrabook category has grown considerably since Apple started the trend, so finding the best Ultrabook is easier said than done these days. While you won’t find Chromebooks or any Linux-based laptops on our list, we have included a wide array of options for everyone including power users, casual gamers, and students.
The Best Windows Ultrabook Overall
Huawei is not a brand associated with laptops until recently, and their MateBook X Pro certainly caught our attention. It’s widely regarded as one of the best Ultrabooks on the market and an ideal choice if you want a top-tier machine.
This Ultrabook has a 13.9-inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 3,000 x 2,000. It sports a 1500:1 contrast ratio and Dolby ATMOS as well. The MateBook X Pro also lives up to the Ultrabook name considering it weighs less than 3 pounds and is only 0.57-inches thick. That’s impressive once you factor in 8GB of RAM and a 1TB solid-state drive.
You can expect all the usual bells & whistles from the MateBook X Pro in the connectivity department including a USB-C port and dual-band Wi-Fi. The base configuration comes with an 8th generation i5-8250U under the hood, but you can opt for the i7 which comes with 16GB of RAM and GeForce MX150 discreet graphics.
- 91% screen-to-body ratio
- 3K display
- Great battery life
- Pop-up camera
- Short warranty
- Overkill for casual users
A Classy Hybrid from HP
Convertible laptops help consumer’s bridge the tablet gap, and there are hundreds of options to choose from at any given time. That said, the HP Spectre x360 stands head and shoulders above the rest due to its sleek design and outstanding horsepower.
Several features make the HP Spectre x360 a standout, but we’re going start with the design. The 13.3-inch FHD screen swivels into tent or tablet modes in seconds and works with the included HP Active Stylus. When it comes to power, no other convertible compares, as it has the i7-8500OU processor and a whopping 16GB of RAM. You should have plenty of storage space with the x360 as well thanks to a 512GB solid-state drive and an array of connectivity options including two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Other features of note for this Windows-based Ultrabook include a Bang & Olufsen sound system, a dual-array mic, and integrated UHD Graphics 620. We also like the fact the display is covered in tough Gorilla Glass, something crucial when you’re dealing with touchscreen convertibles built for the road.
- Killer design
- Top-tier performance
- Great sound system
- IR webcam
- No fingerprint scanner
- FHD display
The Reliable Choice
The MacBook needs no introduction considering they are among the most popular Ultrabooks on the planet. The MacBook Air MQD32LL/A is one of the more recent models and one to consider regardless of your preference in operating systems.
The MacBook Air lineup gets an incremental upgrade each year, and their newest model is one of their best yet. Podcaster and professionals will love the speed of this slim system which has a 1.8GHz dual-core i5 processor and 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM. The display is sharp at 13.3-inches although limited with a resolution of only 1,440 x 900. Features like gesture control and the FaceTime camera make up for that, and it’s in line with the rest of the pack in regards to its size.
MacBook Airs are an acquired taste for some as the Pro models offer up more power, but are far from affordable. The Air lineup is cheaper and is one of the best laptops for college or consumers that want something reliable, but don’t necessarily need a beastly machine. This version of the MacBook Air comes with several accessories and with your choice of a 128GB or 256GB SSD.
- Amazing battery life
- Great keyboard
- Cheapest Mac available
- May not be powerful enough for some
A QHD Powerhouse
Looking for an Ultrabook that can smoke the competition and looks good doing it? If so, you may have found your answer in the Yoga 920 from Lenovo. It’s a cool convertible with plenty of class and specifications that put other machines to shame.
This is another convertible with plenty of pop courtesy of the popular Core-i7-8550U processor and 16GB of RAM. It has the same 13.3” panel as you’ll find on many touchscreens in this class except this one’s 4K with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160. The screen doesn’t detach, but the 360-degree panel allows you to slide into tablet mode in a matter of seconds. Needless to say, it won’t break your back at 3.02 pounds and is around 0.5-inches thick. It’s a little large for the Ultrabook class but is far from what anyone would consider heavy.
Apple fans will be pleased to know there are a couple of Thunderbolt ports on this model as well along with a USB 3.0 port. It also has next-gen wireless and a fingerprint reader for additional security. This Ultrabook runs Windows 10 out of the box and sports a nimble 512MB solid-state drive.
- 3,840 x 2,160 touchscreen display
- Fingerprint reader
- Cool convertible design
- Great battery life
- Lots of power
- USB 3.0 port/Pen placement
- Heavier than other Ultrabooks
The Best 15-inch Ultrabook
Most of the machines in the Ultrabook arena clock in at 13.5-inches. While that’s great for portable people, some folks need a larger display. The Microsoft Surface Book 2 is among the top 15-inch Ultrabooks and has one flagship feature you won’t find on many other laptops in this range.
The Surface Book 2 is a convertible laptop with one major caveat. The screen has 360-action, but also completely detaches to give you a true tablet mode. That’s something we typically don’t see on 15-inch machines, especially when they have a Core-i7, 15GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD under the hood. That panel doesn’t disappoint either as the PixelSense display will blister your eyeballs – seriously.
Microsoft spared no expense with the Surface Book 2, so it’s not what we would consider budget-friendly. It’s well worth it however if you’re a power user, creator or even a gamer looking for an interesting alternative. You can scoop this one up in several different configurations and in a smaller 13.5” form factor as well.
- Detachable touchscreen display
- 3,260 x 2,160 resolution
- Outstanding battery life
- A bit heavier than other Ultrabooks
Another Hit from Dell
Dell cranks out millions of PCs each year including thin Ultrabooks like the Dell XPS 9360. This decked out laptop won’t take up much space in your bag and carries a reasonable price tag and a beautiful display. It’s a considerable upgrade over previous models even if it lags behind today’s top machines in a few areas.
This laptop is in the Kaby Lake range with a Core i5-7200U dual-core chip in the lower configuration. The processor is backed by 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM which is sufficient although not quite as powerful as you’ll find on current Ultrabooks. The solid-state drive is only 128GB, but there are numerous ports including USB-C and USB 3.0 when you need to expand. All the usual features are present including Windows 10, an SD card reader, dual-band Wi-Fi and a webcam/microphone combo.
As you’d expect, the Dell XPS 13 is in the FHD class with a 13.3-inch anti-glare touchscreen display. If you like the design, but need more power the company also carries an i7-7500U variant with 16GB of RAM and a larger 512GB solid-state drive.
- Battery life
- Sleek design
- Vibrant display
- Webcam placement
The Best Ultrabook under 1000
The Miix series from Lenovo has gained plenty of ground in recent years. Their funky designs and affordable systems put the series on the map, and the Miix 520 is one to watch if you need an Ultrabook but aren’t ready to break your piggy bank just yet.
You can pick your poison with the Miix as it’s by far the most configurable 2-in-1 at this level. The 520 is our favorite as it strikes the right balance between price and performance with 8GB of RAM and a Core-i5 chip. The display is smaller than others at only 12-inches although it’s still 1,920 x 1,200 with excellent color and depth. On the downside, it has large bezels, and the “watchband” hinges are not going to be for everyone.
The detachable display and Dolby speakers make this one a great multimedia device, and there is truly a Miix for everyone. If you prefer less power, a 4GB model is available in the Miix 320 while the Miix 720 has a 2K display, Thunderbolt connectivity and supports Windows Hello.
- Interesting design
- 1,920 x 1,200 touchscreen display
- Stylus is included
- Solid performance for the price
- Battery life
- Weak front-facing camera
- No charging from the USB-C port
The Best Gaming Ultrabook
When it comes to gaming, laptops are not the first option as they are difficult to upgrade and missing features that make those desktop rigs special. Well nobody told Razer that as the Razer Stealth comes complete with their popular Chroma keyboard system.
It took a while for Razer to get into the laptop game, but they certainly made a splash. An aircraft-grade aluminum shell gives this Ultrabook a unique look when combined with the company’s colorful keyboard system. There is a considerable amount of power under the hood as well with the 8th gen Core-i7 8550U processor and 16GB of dual-channel RAM. While not UHD, the QHD+ touchscreen display will certainly impress when coupled with UHD Graphics 620.
The Razer Blade Stealth is a great looking Ultrabook built for gamers although not a machine that can handle hardcore titles. It has the power, just not the graphics card needed for some of the top-tier games – it is a laptop after all. This particular model comes with a 256GB SSD, but there are other options available if you want a different chip, color or more storage.
- QHD+ touchscreen display
- x2 USB 3.0 and USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports
- Dolby digital plus
- Razer Chroma
- Only 2.98 pounds
- Battery life
An Excellent Mid-Ranger from ASUS
ASUS has found a way to keep consumers happy over the years with great price points and solid tech. Their ZenBook lineup has always been a fan favorite, and the UX300UA is an excellent choice for the best budget Ultrabook.
At 13.3-inches and only 2.6 pounds, the ZenBook UX300UA is easy to tote around. The highlight of this PC would be the fingerprint scanner along with Window Hello. The 256GB solid-state drive is quick and noteworthy even if the rest of the specs are somewhat underwhelming. The UX300UA has a new core i5 clocked at 1.6GHz which is backed by 8GB of RAM. It’s not bad, but basic when you factor in the FHD panel.
This particular PC finds itself in an odd spot as its solid, but you can get a lot more bang for your buck with other models. The fingerprint scanner is a nice touch, however, and something that’s hard to find in the budget-friendly range.
- Fingerprint scanner
- 8th gen i5-8250U
- 2.6 pounds
- Metal housing
- Better alternatives for the price
- Touchpad coulb be better
Lightweight and Powerful
While some companies specialize in one area, Samsung makes all types of tech. That includes laptops like the Notebook 9, a machine in the “ultra-slim” class. It’s also one of a handful of Ultrabooks that give you an option of going with a 15” display.
Whether you opt for the 13.3 or 15-inch Notebook 9, the design is easy on the eyes. It has an aluminum shell, and the smaller model is among the lightest Ultrabooks around at 1.8 pounds. That’s considerably lighter than other machines in this range and even more impressive when you consider the guts. The Notebook 9 has an Intel Core-i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive.
The specifications are top-notch on this one, but the features are outstanding as well with a fingerprint scanner and video HDR. Quick charging may be the best however as it allows you to get a full 2 hours of runtime from a 20-minute charge. It’s not all rosy though as the design could use some improvement along with the speakers and the battery life isn’t the best.
- In the Featherweight class
- HDR video
- Fingerprint scanner
- Fast charging capabilities
- Poor audio
- Battery life
Silent and Skinny
Looking for a laptop that has enough juice to get you through the day without hitting the wall socket? The Acer Swift 7 can do just that with 9 hours of battery life depending on your usage. While there are options with larger power packs, none are as slim as the Swift 7.
Acer managed to pack a lot of tech into this skinny machine which is only 0.39” thick. It’s under 2.5 pounds as well although a little underwhelming under the hood. The 7th generation Core-i7 7Y75 will get the job done, but every configuration of the Swift 7 tops out with 8GB of RAM. You can choose between a 256GB or 512GB SSDs along with the colors if you prefer Luxury Gold over Black and Gold. As for the display, it’s an IPS panel measuring 13.3-inches with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080.
The key feature for the Swift 7 is its thinness, but things like the fingerprint scanner and MU-MIMO wireless help it stand out in the crowded Ultrabook field. It’s a great choice for consumers that want a powerful solution running Windows 10 although not the lightest laptop despite its svelte nature.
- Only 0.39” thick
- Fingerprint scanner
- Very quiet
- Webcam HDR
- Lacking in the power department
- Only has USB-C ports