Updated: Fan of the 2016 MacBook design, but skeptical of the performance? The Asus ZenBook 3 brings the heat with a full-on Intel Core i7 processor and an even more lightweight design.
Ultrabooks have come a long way since they were first introduced to compete with the MacBook Air world. They’re thin and light while featuring powerful Intel Core processors, fast SSD storage and superb battery life. But more than anything else they represent the bleeding edge of laptops; case in point the size shrinking Dell XPS 13, the unbelievably light HP Spectre 13 and Microsoft’s own addition with the Surface Book.
Of course, this means Ultrabooks also come at a premium. Don’t be surprised with prices that start at $999 (around £584, AU$1,064) just for the low-end and nearly $2,000 (around £1,169, AU$2,131) at the very high end.
It’s an arms race in the Ultrabook world, and there’s no room for losers. As such, it’s hard not to find a great machine. But, if you’re looking for the very best cream of the crop, you’ve come to the right place.
1. Dell XPS 13
The best laptop on the planet, Dell’s latest Ultrabook is a masterpiece
CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 256GB SSD | Connectivity: DW1820A 2×2 802.11ac 2.4/5GHz; Bluetooth 4.1 | Camera: 720p HD webcam | Weight: 2.93 pounds | Dimensions: 11.97 x 7.87 x 0.35 – 0.59 inches
Gorgeous bezel-less display
Lightweight, compact frame
Small frame limits battery life
The new Dell XPS 13 is a revolution in laptop design. It comes touting a 13.3-inch screen, but it has the footprint of an small 11-inch notebook making it incredibly compact and lightweight. The stunning bezel-less screen offers plenty to gawk especially if you go with the high-res QHD+ display.
This machine Also features enough horsepower to make work and play enjoyable, and more than enough battery life to leave you in a lurch. All in all it’s a great, compact computing device that will delight you for years to come.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
2. Asus ZenBook UX305
A truly excellent ultrabook at a very agreeable price point
CPU: 900MHz Intel Core M3-6Y30 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display | Storage: 256GB SSD | Connectivity: Integrated 802.11ac with Bluetooth | Camera: 2MP HD webcam | Weight: 2.6 pounds | Dimensions: 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.48 inches (W x D x H)
Incredibly thin and light
Vibrant, glare-free screen
Weak sauce graphics
The ZenBook UX305 is an exquisitely-built, fully metal machine that’s thin, light and very attractive. This lightweight system can easily take on any task whether it’s browsing the web, watching video or editing images. What’s more, its seven hour battery life is exceptional, and a sub-$700 price tag only sweetens the deal.
While it isn’t exactly a shining symbol of innovation in the Ultrabook space, not to mention the processor which pales in comparison to more capable devices on the market, the UX305 is one of the most affordable Windows 10 laptops available today, and it won’t disappoint you. Plus, if you’re willing to shell out an extra hundred bucks, the updated UX305LA packs in a full-fledged Intel Core i5 CPU.
Read the full review: Asus ZenBook UX305
3. Surface Book
The heavy duty performance Ultrabook
CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U | Graphics: Intel HD graphics 520; Nvidia GeForce graphics | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 3,000 x 2,000 PixelSense Display | Storage: 256GB PCIe3.0 SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE | Camera: Windows 8MP rear-facing autofocus camera (1080p HD), 5MP front-facing Hello face-authentication camera (1080p HD) | Weight: 3.48 pounds | Dimensions: 12.3 x 9.14 x 0.51-0.90 (W x D x H)
Seamless tablet separation
Battery life falls well below promises
A bit heavy set
The Surface Book is both the world’s most powerful and thinnest Windows 10 PC as well as an excellent laptop. This is all thanks to its ability to swap between being a really terrific notebook and tablet.
Plus with all the power of an Intel Skylake processor and a discrete Nvidia GPU, this machine outpaces almost every other Ultrabook. The only thing users might find annoying is how it’s heavier and bigger than most 13-inch laptops thanks to its 3:2 aspect ratio and 13.5-inch screen.
Read the full review: Surface Book
4. Lenovo Yoga 900
Performance meets design, Lenovo’s latest flagship is a jewel
CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch QHD+ 3,200 x 1,800 IPS display | Storage: 512GB SSD | Connectivity: Intel Wireless-AC 8260; Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: 720p webcam | Weight: 2.84 pounds | Dimensions: 12.75 x 8.86 x 0.59 inches
Display drivers issues
If you’re all about style and want power to back it up, things don’t get much better than Lenovo’s latest flagship hybrid Ultrabook. It’s much more punch than its Intel Core M-toting predecessor thanks to trading in Core i5 and i7 CPUs, and it has bigger batteries to boot.
Though it’s no longer one of the lightest Windows laptops to date, the Yoga 900 still retains an incredibly sharp and thin design. Although it comes at a steep price, such panache will be worth it for style nuts.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 900
5. Samsung Notebook 9
One stellar entry-level Ultrabook
CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.8GHz with Turbo Boost) | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB DDR3 1866 | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED anti-reflective display | Storage: 256GB m.2 SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 | Camera: 720p HD webcam | Weight: 1.85 pounds | Dimensions: 13.64 x 9.33 x 0.57 inches (W x D x H)
Thin, smart styling
Nearly perfect display
Micro-sized video ports
Short battery life
The Samsung Notebook 9 retains the paper-thin (not literally) design of the Series 9 notebook we all came to know and love back in 2012.
This time, however, we’re greeted with a considerably competent Core i5 Skylake processor in addition to an attractive screen, design, and – unlike past Samsung ultrabooks – an approachable price.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9
6. Dell Latitude 13 7000
A higher class of business laptop we deserve
CPU: 1.10GHz Intel Core m5-6Y57 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 8GB LPDDR3 (1,866MHz) | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) InfinityEdge display | Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
Thin and light
Intel Core M only
Unusual webcam placement
Following in the footsteps of the king of Ultrabooks, Dell has revamped its Latitude series of business notebooks with the Infinity display redesign. With a compact chassis, the best keyboards ever and great build quality, the Dell Latitude 13 7000 is one of the best Windows laptops to take on the road.
However, thanks to only Intel’s Core M chip inside, it isn’t the fastest business brain on the block. Still, if you’re looking for a reliable machine, you’ll be pleased with the Latitude 13 7000’s seven hour battery life.
Read the full review: Dell Latitude 13 7000
7. HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1
A thin, attractive business laptop posing as an Ultrabook
CPU: 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M-5Y71 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5300 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: value | Storage: 256GB M.2 SSD | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0; dual-band 802.11ac (B/G/N), dual-band Wi-Fi | Camera: 720p webcam | Weight: 2.68-pound | Dimensions: 12.2 x 8.27 x 0.62-inch
Sleek design and tough construction
Fingerprint scanner, enterprise security
Underpowered Intel Core M performance
No full-sized SD card reader
Although it has the look and body of an Ultrabook, the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 is very much a business laptop in disguise. Underneath its MacBook Air like exterior, this machine packs plenty of enterprise perks including fingerprint scanner, enterprise security and the durable build quality to meet a Military Specifications certification.
At the same time though, the HP Folio 1020 G1 has a gorgeous aluminum and fanless design that’s atypical of business-class notebooks. Add in a gorgeous QHD screen, comfortably ergonomic keyboard, and this premium business machine is well worth its slightly upscale price tag.
Read the full review: HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1
8. Acer Aspire S7
Acer’s luxurious laptop is an ultraportable star
CPU: 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7-550U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 touchscreen | Storage: 256GB SSD | Connectivity: value | Camera: value | Weight: value | 12.72 x 8.78 x 0.51 | Dimensions: 12.72 x 8.78 x 0.51 inches
Attractive glass design
Full-day battery life
Screen limited to 1080p
Too much bloatware
If you have a passion for white electronics, the Aspire S7’s looks alone may seal the deal, but the laptop is more than just a pretty face. Acer packs in Intel’s Broadwell Core i7 processor, a battery that lasts close to a full work day, plenty of storage and RAM all into a sleek body.
The Aspire S7 is an attractive and powerful laptop, but not one without compromises. If you’re willing to invest a little time to removing bloatware and can live with a keyboard with the shallow key travel, then the Aspire S7 rewards you with a very capable computing experience that also looks stunning on your desk.
Read the full review: Acer Aspire S7
9. Toshiba Kirabook
A high-res Ultrabook that’s easy on the eyes
CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U | Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3 inch 2560 x 1440 WQHD touchscreen | Storage: 256GB SSD | Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 + Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: HD webcam | Weight: 2.9 pounds | Dimensions: 12.4 x 8 x 0.37 inches
Good battery life
Dim, bendy screen
The Toshiba Kirabook (otherwise known as the Kira in the UK) sits at the higher end of the Ultrabook spectrum. It offers a high-res screen and a fully metal body that feels so premium, it even gives the MacBook a run for its money.
While there were a few missteps with the annoying keyboard and dim screen, you’ll be pleased with this long lasting machine that’s easy on the eyes.
Read the full review: Toshiba Kirabook
10. Toshiba Satellite Radius 12
The best 4K screen available on an Ultrabook today
CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) TruBrite LED backlit touchscreen | Storage: 256GB SSD | Connectivity: Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 7265; Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: HD webcam | Weight: 2.9 pounds | Dimensions: 11.8 x 8.2 x 0.61 inches
Smart design and ergonomics
Incredibly colorful screen
Strange keyboard layout
Dismal battery life
High resolution screens have become synonymous with Ultrabooks but few have a true 4K screen and that’s where the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 comes into impress. Packing a vibrant and very color accurate screen, this 12.5-inch hybrid notebook is one of the new Technicolor-certified devices on the market.
Of course, that makes it an excellent choice for photographers and those in media production. That said, it has a few flaws including a shrunken keyboard and competitively shorter battery life.
Read the full review: Toshiba Satellite Radius 12
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
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