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Computers are a part of our everyday lives, but most of us don't actually need the amount of processing power available to us in large, hefty desktops or laptops.
The idea of the Ultrabook is to make laptops a bit more convenient, but powerful enough for most tasks.The term "Ultrabook" is actually pure marketing, dreamt up by Intel for a new generation of portable PCs featuring its technology.
The best way to think of an Ultrabook is a MacBook Air that isn't made by Apple, a netbook that isn't underpowered or a laptop that's been on a crash diet.
The term Ultrabook was coined by Intel, and it specifies laptops with particular specifications, separating them from other ultraportable laptops. They all have Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processors, 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 Windows 8 touchscreen capabilities, we're starting to see the lines blur between Ultrabook and tablet.
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Ultrabooks tend to be made with design in mind, so come in more expensive than most mid-range home laptops.
They tend to start from around $999 in the lower end, going to nearly $2,000 at the very high end. For the most part, you're likely to spend between $899 and $1,500 for a newer model, though you can get some older models for good prices.
So which of the many Ultrabooks should you consider? These are the very best ones we've reviewed.
Dell XPS 13 (starting at $999)
Dell has really got serious with the internals of the Dell XPS 13. Haswell (4th generation) Intel Core processors, at least 8GB of RAM, an SSD for fast performance and a snappy keyboard all combine to make this an attractive laptop.
It's brilliantly thin and light, and 13-inch screen still gives you room to work. This time around, Dell offers a 1080p touchscreen to keep up with the competition. The Dell XPS 13 remains one of the best laptops you can buy, offering top-notch performance and excellent build quality.
- Read our Dell XPS 13 review
Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (starting at $999)
The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro is a winner of a laptop, pure and simple. At the $1,000 price point, you could put the Yoga 2 Pro in just about anyone's hands and make them feel quite pleased.
Some of Lenovo's pre-loaded software borders on bloat, and we struggled to find more than handful of uses for half of the Yoga's operating modes. It's also a shame that the battery life is so low, for Haswell as least, but you are getting that gorgeous 3200 x 1800 display as a trade off. For what you're paying, you're getting your money's worth.
- Read our Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro review
Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus (starting at $1,399)
Samsung was one of the very first PC manufacturers to jump on the Ultrabook bandwagon. It's done a fine job of representing Intel's baby ever since, with some stunning offerings, including the Series 5 Ultra Touch and, more recently, the top-of-the-line Series 9 NP900X3D.
Samsung's new Ultrabook: the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus, might keep the company ahead of the game for a while, at least if its on-paper abilities are anything to go by.
It's a wonderful-looking unit. It's thin and carefully crafted, with shiny, chamfered edges lining its all-aluminium chassis. But its plain black exterior might lend some clues as to its intent: This is premium-priced Ultrabook focused as much on the business user as the coffee shop regular.
- Read our Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus review
Lenovo Yoga 11S (starting at $1,099)
If you're in the market for a Windows 8 tablet or laptop, you'd be remiss to not check out the Lenovo Yoga 11S.
While it lacks a Haswell option, it's still plenty fast enough for whatever you want to do, with the exception of hardcore PC gaming. We took this model on several business trips and experienced nary a hiccup. On planes, its diminutive size made it perfect for working or watching videos. Plus, it easily tucks away nicely into any bag you may be traveling with.
- Read our Lenovo Yoga 11S review