Update: The Surface Laptop is finally here, and to no real surprise, Microsoft’s latest bit of hardware has made our list of the best Ultrabooks around. Find out why this clear shot at Apple’s 12-inch MacBook deserves a shout-out at number 7!
In the vast world of laptops, the Ultrabook is a relatively new concept. They don’t reign supreme when it comes to graphics and processing performance like a workstation or gaming laptop would, but their thin and light designs make them a breeze to carry anywhere and their extensive battery life cuts down on the hassle of dragging a power cord everywhere you go.
By definition, the top Ultrabooks are powered by Intel processors lacking the appetite for high power consumption. Rather than hoisting heavier, louder and less reliable hard drives, the best Ultrabooks take advantage of faster and typically lower capacity solid-state drives, or SSDs. Lastly, an Ultrabook is defined by its unibody design, usually sporting an all-aluminum chassis.
So, what will it be? The affordable yet practical Acer Aspire S 13 or the gold-encrusted HP Spectre? Who knows, maybe even the Windows 10 S-powered Surface Laptop will satisfy your hunger. No matter your budget or style and performance preferences, you’ll find that the best Ultrabook for you is right here in this list. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the options.
- Dell XPS 13
- Razer Blade Stealth
- HP Spectre x360
- Samsung Notebook 9
- Asus ZenBook UX310
- Acer Aspire S 13
- Microsoft Surface Laptop
- Acer Swift 7
- Lenovo Yoga 910
- HP Spectre
1. Dell XPS 13
The best laptop on the planet, Dell's latest Ultrabook is a masterpiece
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
The new, 7th-generation Intel Core i-powered Dell XPS 13 is nothing short of a miracle, in terms of both design and pricing. Once again, Dell has done the universe a favor by squeezing a 13.3-inch display into a measly 11-inch figure, and weighing in at only 2.9 pounds (1.29kg), the XPS 13 is blessed with extravagance.
The Dell XPS 13 not only bears a lengthy battery life exceeding 7 hours in accordance with our in-house movie test, but it does so with a virtually bezel-less InfinityEdge display. What’s more, not only is the starting cost of the laptop relatively low, but the Dell XPS 13 is sold in a variety of different flavors, all the way up to an i7-7700U model. And to top it all off? It comes in Rose Gold.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
2. Razer Blade Stealth
More than just an Ultrabook for gaming
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.5-inch QHD (2,560 x 1,440) – 4K (3,840 x 2,160) | Storage: 128GB – 1TB PCIe SSD
When we think of Razer, instantly our heads turn to gaming. While a case can be made for the Razer Blade Stealth as a gaming notebook, the lack of a discrete GPU suggests otherwise. When paired with a Razer Core external graphics card enclosure, however, the Blade Stealth goes from powerful to unparalleled. On the upside, even without it, this laptop is capable of much more than meets the eye.
With help from Intel’s latest Kaby Lake CPU architecture, the 2016 Razer Blade Stealth is not only more powerful than its predecessor, but it’s also more resilient. The battery, for instance, lasts an overwhelming 5 hours and 44 minutes, according to the results of our own in-house movie test. It’s a good thing, too, because the power brick required to charge the Razer Blade Stealth is less than practical. Nevertheless, this is one for the books.
Read the full review: Razer Blade Stealth
3. HP Spectre x360
An ultra-light Ultrabook now with Kaby Lake performance
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
Among the first to sport 7th-generation Kaby Lake processors, the HP Spectre x360 is more than a CPU upgrade. Sure, the 2-in-1 zips by faster than it did last year, but it’s also thinner and lighter than it was before – not to mention more stylish. From the revamped HP logo on the outer shell to the higher quality keyboard, the Spectre x360 is a force to be reckoned with.
With the better battery life and improved performance, of course, some unwanted change for some. Two USB Type-C ports are present while only one traditional, USB Type-A port is onboard. Sure, this equates to better transfer rates, but it also necessitates the need for an onslaught of new cables and peripherals.
The Spectre x360 is a thrifty little Ultrabook no matter what your use case, made even better by the recent addition of a 4K display option paired with an optional 1TB of SSD storage.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360
4. Samsung Notebook 9
One stellar entry-level Ultrabook
CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U | 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
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
5. Asus ZenBook UX310
A truly excellent ultrabook at a very agreeable price point
CPU: Intel Core i3 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 500GB – 1TB HDD; 500GB – 1TB SSD
It’s no secret that Apple has all but neglected the MacBook Air recently, but in some cases a Windows Ultrabook can be just as good. Take the Asus ZenBook UX310, for example, the long awaited follow-up to the ZenBook UX305 to which we awarded our editor’s choice stamp last January.
Sporting a 7th-generation Intel Kaby Lake processor (with some configurations comparable to the top-notch Dell XPS 13) and an all-aluminum shell, this truly a candidate for the MacBook Air’s throne. That’s thanks in no small part to the Asus ZenBook UX310 housing all the latest ports, including USB Type-C, and the option of a gorgeous QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) display, complete with 178 degrees of rotation and a serious case of the anti-glare.
Read the full review: Asus ZenBook UX310
6. Acer Aspire S 13
One of the most affordable ways to get into Ultrabooks
CPU: 6th Gen Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 4 – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) touchscreen | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
The Acer Aspire S 13 may not win prizes for being the thinnest nor the lightest Ultrabook around, nor does it offer more than 10 hours of battery life. But it's an impressive machine none the less with speedy and reliable performance. It's nearly as affordable as the Asus ZenBook UX305 and the touchscreen comes standard, something you won't find on most budget Ultrabooks.
Read the full review: Acer Aspire S 13
7. Microsoft Surface Laptop
The Surface Book's best prodigy
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 2,256 x 1,504 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
No, it’s not another Surface Book – this is a full-on traditional laptop (albeit with a touchscreen) designed by Microsoft. From the Italian imported Alcantara fabric material decorating the keyboard to its gorgeous 13.5-inch, 3:2 PixelSense display, there’s no questioning the Surface Laptop’s appeal at face value, but dig even deeper and you’ll find a notebook that’s arguably more competent than Apple’s more expensive 12-inch MacBook.
Though it’s been designed with Microsoft’s lightweight operating system Windows 10 S in mind, the Surface Laptop can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro for free until the end of 2017. However, the 4GB of starting RAM was clearly intended to be used in conjunction with Windows 10 S, meaning you’ll want to opt for a higher config if your workload necessitates a full desktop OS. On the bright side, you get a more classic arrangement of ports including USB 3.0.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop
8. Acer Swift 7
Thin, light and handsome, if not short-lived
CPU: Intel Core i5-7Y54 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD 1,920 x 1,080 | Storage: 256GB SATA SSD
It’s no surprise that the world’s thinnest laptop doesn’t come without its own share of port shortages; however, it’s also unfair to judge the Acer Swift 7 by its pair of USB-C twins alone. Sporting an Core i5 processor from Intel’s 7th-gen Y-series lineup (previously Core M), the Swift 7 is by no means a powerhouse, but it doesn’t need to be, really.
The Acer Swift 7 is a testament to just how luxurious a laptop can look and feel without facilitating a lofty price tag. It also serves as a reminder that everything looks better in gold. Though admittedly short on battery life, clocking in at only 5 hours and 41 minutes in our in-house movie test, the Acer Swift 7 soars areas such as portability and style.
Read the full review: Acer Swift 7
9. Lenovo Yoga 910
Elegance meets horsepower with this hardy 2-in-1
CPU: Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.9-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
The Lenovo Yoga 910 is a fine example of a laptop that takes two steps forward and one step back. It may be heavier and colder to the touch than the Yoga 900, no thanks to its aluminum finish, but it’s also substantially more stylish. Not only that, but Lenovo even managed to keep the same frame size and fit a larger, 14-inch screen inside it.
As a result, it’s still not perfect, but the Yoga 910 is – rest assured – a clear upgrade over its predecessor. Because it’s wholly adorned with sharp angles galore, the Yoga 910 is a feat in fashion. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s outfitted with a 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processor and the option of a 4K screen. Unfortunately, even though the battery is larger, these changes leave longevity underwhelming.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 910
10. HP Spectre
Thin, powerful and delightfully chic
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS UWVA WLED | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
One glance at the HP Spectre, and you'd think it belongs in a mansion. As if looks weren't enough, this gilded machine is actually more powerful than the latest MacBook and for a lower price at that.
You won't find laptops thinner than this and with an optional Intel Core i7 configuration to the trio of USB-C ports, it's supremely capable and not to mention future-proof. Even when it only boasts a 1080p screen, it renders deeper blacks and brighter colors than most.
If there were ever a such thing as a MacBook killer, it would be called the HP Spectre – front and center, folks.
Read the full review: HP Spectre
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article