In 2011, Intel created a new breed of laptops known as “ultrabooks,” which are super thin, efficient, and relatively low-powered machines that use one of Intel’s three ultrabook processors: the i3, i5, or i7. Ultrabooks are a favorite among users who need long battery life and portability, and aren’t concerned about raw computing power. Dozens of ultrabooks are available from various makers, such as Dell, Apple, and HP, but these four models stand out as the best you can buy.
Asus Zenbook – $1,049
Asus’s Zenbook proves that ultrabooks can compete with their larger, heavier counterparts by offering everything a user could ask for in a laptop: excellent high-definition sound, long battery life, HDMI and VGA-out, USB 3.0, a 13.3-inch LCD with a very high resolution of 1600×900, a metal chiclet keyboard, and a thickness that tapers from a little over half an inch to a mere 0.11-inches. The Zenbook weighs 2.94lbs.
The Zenbook excels in battery life, averaging about 6 hours at normal usage, though it is officially rated at 8 hours per charge. In addition to the excellent battery life, it has a higher-than-normal resolution for its relatively small screen size. Unfortunately, the Zenbook does have its downsides, such as only mini-HDMI and mini-VGA ports, no optical drive, and no backlight on the keyboard, yet, even with these minor issues, it is still one of the best ultrabooks available. This ultrabook is available from many different vendors, including Best Buy and Newegg, where you can get it cheaper using a Newegg promo code.
HP Envy Spectre – $1,399
The HP Envy Spectre visually resembles the Macbook Air, yet offers some features you cannot get from the Apple product while providing a lower price tag. With a 14-inch Gorilla Glass screen with a resolution of 1600×900, backlit keyboard, HDMI and VGA-out ports, and the Beats audio systems, the Envy Spectre boasts some impressive features in a small frame
One of the Spectre’s claims to fame is its very small LCD bezel, which is carefully designed so that the screen is 14-inches in size, but fits within a standard 13.3-inch ultrabook chassis, giving users more screen real estate without too much extra weight. The downside to this feature is that it does increase the machine’s overall size and weight a bit, so that it measures in with a thickness of 22mm, and a weight of just under 4lbs. Still, with the extra screen size and sleek, Airbook-esque design, you can’t go wrong with HP’s Envy Spectre ultrabook.
Samsung Series 9 – $1880
The Samsung Series 9 is one of the thinnest ultrabooks in the world, and boasts both a weight and thickness that is smaller than the Apple Macbook at only 2.6lbs with a total thickness of 14mm. The Series 9 has many features, including Fast Sleep, a 1.6GHz processor with Turbo Boost, HD graphics, a 13.3-inch LCD, and 4GBs of RAM.
The Samsung Series 9’s only downside is its price tag, which, at $1889, is well above its competitors and beyond most budgets. If you can afford the price tag, however, and you need an extremely light, sleek, and portable ultrabook, you can’t do better than the Series 9.
Lenovo Ideapad U300S – $1299
Lenovo has never been known for creating particularly stylish, ground-breaking laptops, instead choosing a conservative look and focusing on features and a quality build. Because of this, it isn’t surprising that the company’s Ideapad U300S isn’t the most visually sleek ultrabook available on the market. Despite its plainness, however, it has still earned a spot on the list of top four ultrabooks due to its features, which include a thickness of 16mm, a weight of 3lbs, and a 128GB SSD hard drive. This Ideapad has one USB 3.0 port and one HDMI-out video port, and a 13.3-inch LCD. Unlike some of the other ultrabooks available, the Ideapad U300S embraces the idea of cloud computing, shirking unnecessary ports and features. The battery life lasts about 4 hours.
Unfortunately, and oddly enough, the Ideapad U300S doesn’t have an SD card slot, which seems like a strange omission from an otherwise well-rounded device. Aside from the issue, this Lenovo ultrabook is a solid choice for users who want a dependable machine that isn’t overloaded with unnecessary features.
Blair Mathis is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing technology-related content for a variety of publications, including PC World Magazine, Smashing Magazine, and The Mac Lawyer