The Top Five Lightweight Ultrabooks

by Reads (102,281)

Since late 2011, the laptop market has been flooded with thin and light premium notebooks from a new category call Ultrabooks. Developed by Intel in cooperation with the major notebook OEMs these sleek laptops feature the latest Intel technology. While most experts agree the Ultrabook form factor is based on the design of the Apple MacBook Air, you’ll find a wide variety of Ultrabook styles and hardware configurations.

The editors at Notebook Review have taken a look at some of the most interesting Ultrabooks and compiled our list of top picks based on editor opinions and the scores from our in-depth reviews. The Ultrabook category isn’t easy to judge; there are many varieties of Ultrabooks from premium multimedia models with discrete graphics to business-focused systems and everything in between. If you’ve decided that you want an Ultrabook, then this list is a great place to start your search.

If you don’t see the perfect notebook in the list we’ve provided, be sure to seek out buying advice in our “What Notebook Should I Buy?” discussion forum. Our forum members, moderators, and staff will graciously offer their insight in helping you pick the best laptop for your student.

#1 Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M-series

The first Ultrabook to feature a dedicated graphics card for superior multimedia and gaming performance, the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 was the first in a new subcategory of Ultrabooks.

Featuring a 15-inch display and NVIDIA GeForce 640M graphics, this bigger-than-average Ultrabook was the first laptop on the market to feature NVIDIA’s new GeForce 600M series graphics with the new Kepler architecture. In other words, it’s loaded with enough muscle to play even most modern games … as long as you don’t demand the highest possible detail settings.

While it’s fair to argue that a 15-inch laptop is too big to be an “Ultrabook” the simple reality is that US consumers buy more 15-inch notebooks than any other screen size. The hardest part is finding either the M3 or the newer M5 with NVIDIA graphics in stock in US stores thanks to the bargain retail prices around $800.

Rating Average: 8 out of 10

Read the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M-series Review

#2 Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook is a unique hybrid of a premium consumer laptop and a thin-and-light business notebook. Loaded with your choice of either an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor and a blazingly fast solid state drive, this little laptop might just give Apple a run for its money. Since the XPS 13 features a nearly borderless 13-inch display, this Ultrabook actually takes up less space on a desk (or in a backpack) than the 13-inch MacBook Air. Although the display on the XPS 13 is limited by a resolution of just 1366 x 768, the screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass making it almost impossible to scratch … a GREAT feature for both a careless business pro or a student.

Our only real complaints about the XPS 13 are the lack of a SD card slot (an almost unforgiveable sin at the $999 starting price) and the fact that the Gorilla Glass covering makes the screen more prone to reflections and thus text is sometimes more difficult to read.

Rating Average: 8 out of 10

Read the Dell XPS 13 Review

#3 Samsung Series 9

The Series 9 Ultrabooks from Samsung are available in 13-inch and 15-inch form factors with a range of features and prices that make them compelling options for back to school. The 13-inch Series 9 features a Samsung PLS (equivalent to IPS) display that looks great from any angle (think iPad screen). The 15-inch (NP900X4C) delivers a similar thin and light design but with a bigger screen and better components for superior performance.

Both the 13-inch and 15-inch versions combine exceptional build quality, solid performance, and that thin and light design to deliver a great Ultrabook. However, with retail prices above $1,000, it’s fair to say that most consumers will probably end up buying an Apple MacBook Air or a less expensive Windows-based Ultrabook.

Rating Average: 7.8 out of 10

Read the Samsung Series 9 Review

#4 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

A brand new addition to the world of Ultrabooks, the business-class ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook combines the famous ThinkPad durability with the thin and light features of the Ultrabook category. The carbon fiber roll-cage and MIL spec toughness make this a standout laptop.

We criticized the X1 Carbon pretty heavily in our review because it lost a few nice features from the old ThinkPad X1 (like the optional slice battery) and the ThinkPad X230 is a less expensive portable business laptop — just not an “Ultrabook” — with better features. However, the new glass touchpad surface on the X1 Carbon is better than anything else on the market; better than the touchpad on a MacBook Pro and better than every notebook PC touchpad we’ve used to date.

Despite losing points for price (starting at $1,399 in August) and a few missing features, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the best business-oriented Ultrabook we’ve seen to date. If you want a sexy laptop that is built to business standards and has an AMAZING touchpad then the X1 Carbon is probably your best option.

Rating Average: 7 out of 10

Read the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Review

#5 HP Folio 13

If the ThinkPad X1 Carbon gained points for its fabulous touchpad then the HP Folio 13 lost points for its less-than-perfect interface. The HP Folio 13 is a well-built ultrabook with a good balance of performance and features with not-so-great touchpad and an average screen.

The build quality of the HP Folio 13 is outstanding compared to most Ultrabooks. The aluminum construction makes the Folio 13 extremely solid without making it too thick or heavy. Not only that, but HP didn’t sacrifice something important like a media card reader just to save a fraction of an inch or an extra ounce of weight. The LED-backlit keyboard is quite nice and the battery life is more than enough to get you through a typical work day (particularly if you let the notebook go to sleep during lunch).

Combine all that with a starting price tag of $899 or less and this is a pretty good deal for an Ultrabook.

Rating Average: 7 out of 10

Read the HP Folio 13 Review

Want to know which noteboooks are tops in the minds of NotebookReview‘s readers?  Check out our Most Popular Notebooks lists, based on traffic across our site!



All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.