As the popularity of Chromebooks has demonstrated, most of us don't actually need the amount of processing power, especially on the graphics side, that's available to us through large, hefty desktops or laptops.

Not everyone wants something low-powered or cheap though, and the idea of the Ultrabook is to make laptops a bit more convenient particularly in portable terms, but powerful enough for most tasks.

The term Ultrabook is actually pure marketing. It's a specification for ultraportables cooked up by Intel, and backed by a sizeable development fund, for encouraging a new generation of portable PCs featuring Intel's technology.

The best way to think of an Ultrabook is a MacBook Air that isn't made by Apple. They are light like netbooks but without their lack of processing power, and they are required to conform to a certain shape. For example, 14-inch and bigger Ultrabooks can't be thicker than 23mm if they use the latest Intel Haswell processors.

Being an Intel trademark, you only see its processors - Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 - and they all have 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 the Windows 8 touchscreen capabilities, we're starting to see the lines blur between Ultrabook and tablet.

Ultrabooks tend to be made with design in mind too, so come in more expensive than most mid-range home laptops.

So which of the many Ultrabooks should you consider? These are the best ones we've reviewed recently that garnered three stars and above.

1. Acer Aspire P3


Acer Aspire P3

Just to confuse you, lets start off with a slate that's also an Ultrabook via keyboard dock - trust Acer to be disruptive. Unfortunately, unlike the Aspire S7, this Aspire P3 and doesn't entirely deliver.

Acer has tried to go for that heady mix of a tablet's convenience and laptop's usability, but, as we know, heading down that path leads to compromises. Ultimately, it's let down by a weak last gen Core i3 3229Y extreme-low power chip with integrated graphics (Note: the US starter model has a Pentium), which leads to a less than spritely menu navigation and loading times on Windows 8.

The 11.6-inch display at a native resolution of 1,366 x 768 is also below the usual Full HD of most Ultrabooks and is washed out to boot.

Storage is sparse too, a 60GB SSD makes using the cloud seem almost mandatory to avoid perpetually running out of space.

This is a decent enough Windows 8 tablet, but the comments about the Aspire P3's keyboard make for painful reading.

2. Lenovo ThinkPad S431 Touch


Lenovo ThinkPad S431 Touch

The 13-inch S431 Touch treads a tightrope between price and solid performance for business users, and manages to stay on... albeit with a few wobbles.

You won't, however, see any high-end components here. The processor, for example, is a low-voltage Intel Core i5 3337U and integrated HD Graphics 4000, which will handle productivity software in a workman-like fashion and any 'research' you may need to do on the growth of casual gaming.

The changes to the ThinkPad's classic keyboard have had some very vocal detractors, but we found the chiclet-style keyboard very comfortable to use for long sessions. It's a real worker's tool, enabling long typing sessions, and still sports the iconic red trackpoint.

The S431 Touch, however, had two low points for us. Even though Lenovo managed to pack in a 14-ich screen into a 13-inch chassis, it's a sub-par LCD display with a restrictive viewing angle and a lower resolution than the hoped for Full HD. Considering also that this an Ultrabook designed for a working day, we found the battery life lacking.

The Lenovo ThinkPad S431 Touch isn't a flashy number, but it is a snappy performer at a price that will make the bean counters happy.

3. Lenovo Yoga 11S


Lenovo Yoga 11S

This will not be last time you see the name Lenovo Yoga. There's quite a range now and they all have a habit of reviewing well. That doesn't stop the 11S from being a handy 11.6-inch hybrid laptop in its own right.

As the name suggests. this quite a versatile portable: bend the screen back on its solid hinge and it becomes a Windows 8 tablet for a quick surf during a study break. Alternatively, you can flip the screen back to make a stand and it's great for watching movies in bed.

The hardware specs are respectable: a Core i7 processor, 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM. We'd have preferred a more recent Haswell processor, but unless you like to relax with some serious gaming, it will be fast enough for office work. The full QWERTY keyboard will keep your typing on track as well as it's small and comfortable enough.

The 11.6-inch LCD display doesn't support full HD at a maximum 1,366 x 768 resolution, and the battery will last around 3 hours before you'll need to pull out your charger.

Overall, the Lenovo Yoga 11S is a light and portable companion that will garner appreciate nods from fellow travellers as you wander through an airport, it's only real omission is the lack of USB 3.0 ports, which is a puzzling oversight.

4. Toshiba Satellite U50T


Toshiba Satellite U50T

This is a sub-£700 laptop that looks slick, meets the minimum specs for an Intel Ultrabook head on and does a good job of not cutting too many corners on the way.

More expensive Ultrabooks, for instance, would offer an SSD for storage, but the Satellite U50T offers a reasonable compromise with a 32GB SSD cache on a 750GB hybrid drive.

Toshiba has also chosen a decent Haswell processor, the ultra-low power Core i5-4200U supported by 6GB of RAM. This, coupled with the hybrid drive, will slog steadily through spreadsheets, general office work and even the odd game of Counter-Strike with the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400.

Usually at this point we shake our heads and tut at a mediocre battery performance, but 6 hours 40 minutes of video playback isn't to be sniffed at. That converts to a good day's work in general use, or two days if you're the boss.

Unfortunately, the low blow hits home with the display. It's a generous 15.6-inch screen but an LCD with a native resolution of 1,366 x 768, which is adequate but dull.

The Toshiba Satellite is a nice machine for the money, which loses points for a low-res screen and it's a little too heavy at 2.3kg for that ultimate portability but this is still a quality Ultrabook.

5. Samsung Series 7 Ultra


Samsung Series 7 Ultra

Stylish. Slim. Sexy? We'll stop using one word sentences now and enthuse about the quality components in the Samsung Series 7 Ultra. It's powered by a solid Core i5 processor, which is to be welcomed, but one of its standout features is the AMD Radeon HD 8500M graphics chip. This means the Samsung has some real graphic clout, while aiding the Full HD display (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) in providing a pin-sharp viewing experience.

There were a few things we didn't like about the Ultra, though. At 1.6kg it's not as portable as others in its price range and, unless you're prepared to trump up for cloud storage, the small 128GB SSD is going to fill up fast if you use this Ultrabook every day.

The whole Series 7 Ultra experience is stylish and the performance is nippy nonetheless. If a quality screen is a priority and you need a little more graphical punch from your portable this is worth a spin.

6. Lenovo IdeaPad U410 Touch


Lenovo IdeaPad U410 Touch

This refresh adds the word 'Touch' to the end of the product name, but that isn't the feature we'd highlight. No, it turns out to be the Nvidia GeForce GL710M graphics, which is capable of some pleasing game performance, such as 52fps on High Settings in BioShock Infinite.

In pursuit of that gaming sweet spot Lenovo has dragged down the resolution of the 14-inch screen to 1,366 x 768, which is an acceptable but washed out affair.

The rest of the core specs are generally good, the Intel Core i5-3337U will handle all the pie charts you can throw at it and the keyboard offers good feedback when you're in a typing frenzy, but is on the small side. The last-gen Core i5 also tends to drain the battery life, which means you'll need to keep an eye out for wall sockets - it ran out after just over two and half hours.

The U410 Touch is topped off with a very generous 1TB hard drive paired with a small 24GB SSD for fast booting, and, overall, we'd say you're getting nippy Windows 8 experience at a pretty reasonable price.