Ultrabooks occupy that sweet spot between heavier, more awkward laptops and flimsier, less powerful tablets. Judging from the latest and greatest entries in the market, they aren’t going anywhere, either. These ultrabooks are more powerful, capacious, and feature-rich than ever before – take a look at the best, and you’ll see what we mean.
Dell XPS 13 (2015) ($800+)
You may have seen the XPS 13 pop up on some of our other lists, too – this is simply one of the best ultrabooks that has been brought to market. It comes equipped with a 13-inch screen using Dell’s slim InfinityEdge border, plus an optional 3,200 x 1,800 touchscreen.
On the inside, you have options up to a 6th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of SSD storage. You can also choose to improve the video card if you prefer. Ports are not customized, but come with a very solid set of USB 3.0 ports, a 2-in-1 card reader, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, and more. There is no HDMI or Ethernet port, however, so you’ll need an adapter for those connections.
With these high-end configuration options, prices can quickly go north of $1,500, which doesn’t make the XPS 13 very budget-friendly. However, the basic model is priced at $800, so there are more budget-friendly options if you are willing to tinker or settle for less.
Microsoft Surface Book ($1,500+)
As the newest product on our list, it’s reasonable to expect a lot from the Microsoft Surface Book – and yes, the Book does deliver. If you have always liked the idea of the Surface Pro line, but been scared off by the idea of a hybrid tablet, then you’re exactly why Microsoft created the Book.
Almost everything about the Surface Book is on the high-end of what ultrabooks can do, handily surpassing most models on the market. The display is a 13.5-inch, 3,000 x 2,000 touchscreen. The processor is a 6th gen Intel Core i5 or i7, with RAM options up to 16GB. SSD storage can go up to a whopping 1TB of data, and the battery lasts for up to 12 hours, though we found it manages about half that in the real world.
Ports include two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, Surface Connect for charging, and mini-DisplayPort. There are also more unique extras like a TPM chip for enterprise security, an included Surface Pen, and more.
In other words, when it comes to a professional laptop, the Surface Book offers exemplary specs. But specs are only one part of the ultrabook story. Remember that the Book is new and relatively untested in the real world, so it can be difficult to foresee every flaw. Also keep in mind that these specs launch the Book into the stratosphere when it comes to MSRP – prices start at $1,500 and go beyond $3,000 for the best models.
Asus Zenbook UX305 ($700+)
The solid Zenbook line continues with the UX305 models, one of the most complete ultrabooks available in its price range, and easily a contender for the best ultrabook around. The 13.3-inch display is backed up by an Intel Core M processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD for your storage. For connectivity, this model has three USB 3.0 ports and a micro HDMI, but not much else – no DisplayPort, ThunderBolt, or other extras.
Those are some very serious specs for the price point. Plus, it only weighs around 2.6 pounds, so carrying it around is not an issue. There’s a reason that the UX305 has a reputation as a great school computer, but it also serves well on the job.
When purchasing this model, remember to choose the newer version with Windows 10 and the updated chip. If you have extra money burning a hole in your pocket, you can spend it on the upgraded model, which has a faster processor and 3,200 x 1,800 display.
Asus Zenbook Pro UX501 ($1,500)
Another Zenbook makes it on our best ultrabooks list with the Pro UX501, an ultrabook for designers/media gurus who need the best screen they can get and the latest ports to go with it. The screen is a massive 15.6-inch display with 4K resolution, powered by an Nvidia graphics card with 2GB of VRAM.
The UX501 also includes 8 to 16GB of RAM, up to 512GB of SSD storage, and a processor with speeds up to 3.6GHz to handle more demanding software. Those impressive ports include three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, and connection options for Thunderbolt and micro SD cards.
As you can see, the ultrabook is made to handle high-resolution visuals on the go, and is therefore a bit more niche than the average laptop. Sure, it’s great for entertainment options, but its price, which starts at $1,500 and goes up from there, is not the most affordable.
The battery life is also worth a mention. A lot of power is drawn by the high-resolution display, so the battery will only last around 6 hours at most, which is low compared to the other models on the list. Keep your adapter handy.
HP Spectre x360 ($1,000+)
This 13.3-inch touchscreen ultrabook includes extra swivel to convert it into a semi-hybrid if you feel like using the tablet configuration from time to time. Inside, it has a 5th gen Intel Core i5 to i7 processor, up to 8GB of RAM, and up to 256GB for your SSD. Ports include USB 3.0, a mini DisplayPort, and an HDMI port.
In many ways (not including that convertible screen) this is a higher-end version of the ZenBook UX305, a good general laptop for work or school with a solid set of specs. The big difference is that the Spectre comes with a touchscreen to take advantage of its tablet-ish properties. If that floats your boat, this ultrabook may be the better option, especially if you prefer to sketch or scribble in your busier moments.