Who needs a DVD or Blu-ray writer when you can put your laptop in an envelope? Ultraportables have become incredibly popular, thanks in part to the MacBook Air and Intel's $300 million marketing fund for developing Ultrabooks.

While ultraportables don't have any specific requirements other than being thin and light, a manufacturer has to follow a defined specification to be able to use Intel's Ultrabook brand. This is based on the particular Intel chips being used and has become quite restrictive.

Some of the requirements, for instance, for a 14-inch Ultrabook using the new Haswell processors are that it's 23mm thick or less, has a touchscreen and can hit six hours of HD video playback. What this means is that the Ultrabook trademark offers a certain level of quality and performance, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee that you're buying the best ultraportable, so lets have a look at some good ones.

15. Samsung Series 7 Ultra

Samsung Series 7 Ultra

The slim and sharp exterior of the Samsung Series 7 Ultra screams quality, and that's echoed in the premium internals as well. The Ultra is powered by a Core i5, which is to be welcomed, but one of its standout features is the AMD Radeon HD 8500M graphics chip, which gives the Samsung some real graphical clout, while aiding the Full HD display in providing a pin-sharp viewing experience.

The overall package is pulled down slightly by its weight. At 1.6kg it's not as portable as others in its price range, and the small 128GB SSD isn't enough if you intend this to be your main computer.

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.

16. MacBook Air

MacBook Air

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Like most recent MacBook Air refreshes, the mid-2013 update brings us four new models; two with 11-inch screens and two with 13-inch displays. All use Haswell 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processors, replete with Intel HD Graphics 5000, the latest version of Intel's integrated graphics chipset.

The cheaper model in each of the two screen sizes has 128GB of solid state storage, the more expensive version has 256GB, and all offer 4GB of RAM.

The benchmarks weren't as great as we hoped but the newest MacBook Air is a definite step up from last year's release. The battery life is little short of incredible - business travelers taking long flights and students who need it all day for lectures, and then throughout the evening for writing an essay will love its all-day power.

17. Acer Aspire S7

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Best laptop

While I'm torn on the utility of such a sharp display in 2014 on the Acer Aspire S7, it's purpose is clear. This 2560 x 1440 panel is prepared for the day when hyper-HD content is finally viable to watch over wireless internet. In the now, text looks gorgeous, as do images – thus adding to the near-future feel of this device.

The build quality on display here, from the Aspire S7's aluminum and Gorilla Glass frame is palpable. That goes for the snappy keyboard, with its fancy electroluminescent lighting, too. And that the Aspire S7 never gets uncomfortably hot is a major plus. Frequent travelers and bathroom laptop users (you know who you are) need not worry about scorching their laps here.

The Aspire S7 truly feels like a machine built for the now, 2014, and one that you won't mind using well into 2016, possibly longer. So love the Aspire S7 for its cutting edge build, fine typing experience and premium specs.

18. Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus

Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus

The 13.3-inch ATIV Book 9 is on the business end of Samsung's Ultrabooks, which means performance and staying power are a crucial part of its sell. Fortunately, as well as being highly portable it also manages a solid nine hours of battery life.

That's quite a remarkable feature in its own right but when married with it's near-silent operation and a screen that has a native resolution of 3,200 x 1,800, it becomes an astonishing spec. Unfortunately, as our reviewer noted it's not entirely practical. The default desktop icons were tiny at this resolution. Note this should be resolved in Windows 8.1 as the DPI is automatically set and icons will look their normal size. As our reviewer noted though, it's likely you'll drop the screen down to 1080p, especially as this is the norm for watching films. This means that unless you particularly like the fact that the chassis can be laid flat for some tabletop touchscreen brainstorming with colleagues, the screen's full resolution becomes more of a bragging point.

We found the overall look and feel of the ATIV to be excellent, particularly the touchscreen and multi-touch trackpad, and it has all the connectivity you'll need for business purposes, including Ethernet.

19. Samsung Series 9

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You'll be amazed at how thin the Samsung Series 9 actually is when you hold the 13-inch laptop. It looks every bit as stylish as rivals like the MacBook Air, and competes favorably on price.

The Series 9 isn't a cheap laptop though, and has the specs you'd expect from a premium machine. It used to be the case that ultraportable laptops were somewhat underpowered, but thanks to processors that use less power but offer higher performance, this is no longer an issue.

Despite some issues, we believe the Series 9 is a good buy, if not a truly excellent one. You won't walk out of the shop feeling like you've been ripped off, but you certainly won't feel like you've got the steal of the century, either.

20. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

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The ThinkPad X1 Carbon does a fantastic job of straddling the line between function and form. An improvement on the previous X1 Carbon in every way, it's the details that might turn veterans away and lure in new fans.

Those with a penchant for aesthetics, here's a brand new design with some fantastic new features. And to keep the no-nonsense business user happy, this is a plenty powerful piece of hardware.

The connectivity on offer through this Ultrabook's super slim design profile alone is impressive. And the adaptive keys, while divisive, add a ton of function in a limited amount of space and an attractive presentation. Look out, MacBook Pro, you're no longer the only thin and light business option on the block.

21. Dell XPS 13

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Best laptop

The Dell XPS 13 is a pleasure to look at, and at first glance it's hard to see the differences between it and an Apple Macbook. Thanks to the latest components, this Ultrabook will handle pretty much anything you can throw at it.

Dell has finally added wonderful FHD touchscreens to the XPS 13 line, in addition to slightly larger batteries and 802.11ac networking. However, there's still no SD card slot available on this model, and the battery life we witnessed wasn't all that great for a Haswell machine.

Photography buffs and frequent travelers might want to take heed. Regardless, the Dell XPS 13 is still one of the best laptops you can buy, offering top performance, excellent build quality and superior usability.