The 10 Best Ultrabooks
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in March of 2015. As technology progresses, components get smaller and lighter, and the compromise between computing power and portability entails far fewer sacrifices than it once did. These Ultrabooks offer reduced bulk without loss of battery life or processing power, and many feature advanced graphics cards and display capabilities, too. We've included a wide variety of options for any need or budget. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best ultrabook on Amazon.
June 18, 2020:
For the most part, this iteration of our list consists of upgraded versions of many of our previous list's offerings, but there are a few points worth making with regards to the quality of those upgrades. The Apple MacBook Air 13-Inch, for example, is one of the first laptops from the company in a long time to have a keyboard that isn't horrible, as they seem to have fixed the issues they'd been having for the past few years. I still have an Air from 2010 that's running like a charm, and the company's reputation for longevity has only slightly suffered since the loss of Steve Jobs.
Among the other upgrades, the gaming laptop Razer Blade Stealth 13 is an offering that fits in better with other Ultrabooks than it did previously, especially considering its form factor. It's lost an inch in diagonal size, but made up for that in screen size by reducing its bezel. It's also shed more than a pound in weight and gone from a 1080 HD display to a full 4K with a touchscreen interface.
The long-awaited Microsoft Surface Book 3 has seen a renewal, as well, with improved graphics and a 10th generation Intel processor. It's using the same size batteries as its predecessor, but it claims it can milk another 30 minutes or so out of them by improving its energy and processing efficiency.
What Exactly Is An Ultrabook?
Over time, Intel has adjusted the specifications to keep up with current technology.
The term Ultrabook is trademarked by Intel to refer to a number of premium laptops that are smaller and faster than standard models. They make use of ultra-low-voltage Intel processors to extend their battery life, and have a small chassis for ultimate portability. To achieve such a small size, they often omit common laptop features, such as Ethernet ports and an optical disc drive.
Intel first announced Ultrabooks at Computex in 2011. The first two Ultrabooks released were the Acer Aspire S3-951and the Asus Zenbook UX21E, both of which went on sale in October of 2011. Lenovo and HP quickly followed suit, releasing their own Ultrabooks in November and December, respectively. In 2012, Intel created a $300 million fund to support startups working on technology that could be integrated into the following generations of Ultrabooks. Intel's goal in creating the Ultrabook subnotebook class was to reinvigorate slumping PC laptop sales at a time when they were facing heavy competition from tablets, smartphones, and the Macbook Air.
Intel created specifications that a laptop must meet to be marketed as an Ultrabook. For the first iteration, Ultrabooks had to have a processor based on Sandy Bridge microarchitecture and a minimum battery life of five hours. Models with a 13.3-inch or smaller screen had to be 18mm or less in height, and models with a 14-inch or larger screen had to be 21mm tall or less. They also had to be able to resume operations from hibernation within seven seconds, which often called for the use of an SSD or SSD/HDD hybrid storage option. Over time, Intel has adjusted the specifications to keep up with current technology. For example, Ultrabooks now must have storage that is capable of a minimum of 80 MB/s transfer rate, a 3.0 USB or Thunderbolt port, a touchscreen, and be capable of six hours of battery life during HD video playback.
Tips For Choosing The Best Ultrabook For Your Needs
The first thing you should consider is what size Ultrabook best fits your intended uses. If you plan to take your laptop to and from school or the office every day, portability should be a top priority. No one wants to be stuck lugging around a giant, 17-inch laptop in their backpack or laptop bag. The best size for those who need an Ultrabook that is ultra-portable is usually 13.3 inches. Anything bigger tends to get heavy and cumbersome to insert or remove from a bag, while anything smaller tends to inhibit productivity. If you don't plan to carry your laptop around too often, and like to use it to watch movies and play games, or often find yourself keeping multiple windows open at the same time, you will probably be better off with a 15-inch model.
Most laptops will get considerably shorter battery life in real-life operation, so choose one with a marketed battery life well above your needs.
If portability is one of your top priorities, you'll also need to take battery life into account. Some Ultrabooks get as few as six hours of battery life, while others get 10 hours or more. Remember though, that these numbers are theoretical. Most laptops will get considerably shorter battery life in real-life operation, so choose one with a marketed battery life well above your needs.
Next, you should consider storage space and type. Ultrabooks with an SSD will often have less storage space than their hybrid SSD/HDD counterparts, but they are quicker. Booting up and reading and writing information from and to a disk will take less time. The average Ultrabook with an SSD will come with somewhere between 128 and 512GB of storage space. Ultrabooks that utilize a hybrid SSD/HDD drive can often be found with 1TB of space for the same price as one would pay for a similar model featuring a 256 or 512GB SSD. To save a bit of cash and still wind up with the fastest laptop possible, consider buying one with a 128 or 256GB SSD, and then purchasing an external hard drive to compensate for the limited amount of storage space.
After you have these vital decisions out of the way, it is finally time to focus on a few other features. As a rule of thumb, you should never buy a laptop with less than 4GB of RAM, and you'll be better off with at least 8GB. If you like to play games, choose one with a dedicated graphics card to prevent game stutter. It is also a smart idea to look at the type and number of USB ports. If you like to use a USB mouse, make sure the laptop you choose has a least two USB ports, so you can simultaneously connect your external mouse and another device.
How To Extend The Battery Life Of Your Ultrabook
Battery life is something nearly every laptop user complains about at one point in time. There are a few steps you can take, though, to ensure you get the maximum battery life out of your Ultrabook. One of the biggest drains on battery life is the screen. When working indoors, reduce your screen brightness as much as is comfortable for you. Adjusting the screen brightness to match surrounding lighting can also help to reduce eye strain. Altering your PCs settings so that the display automatically turns off after a minute or two of inactivity, rather than initiating a screen saver, can help, as well.
You can also disable some hardware devices. If you are working offline, put your Ultrabook into airplane mode. If you aren't using Bluetooth, turn it off. Disabling your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use can dramatically increase battery life. Modifying your power plan can help, too. Many of us have laptops that are overpowered for many of our daily tasks. You can customize your device so that it automatically enters power saving mode any time it is unplugged. While this will decrease processing power, many people won't notice it. Closing any unused applications is another good way to increase battery life. To make this more convenient, you can select which applications automatically start when you turn your laptop on. The fewer processes that start automatically, the fewer you will have to worry about turning off manually.
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