Want a thin but fast PC? Check out the 5 best ultrabooks

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.

The Best

Dell XPS 13 (2016) ($809+)

dell-xps-13-gold-2016-front-angle-2-1500x1000
Digital Trends
Digital Trends

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. Bonuses to the 2016 version include an even brighter screen, a more robust battery, and a new USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 to keep up on all the latest laptop demands.

On the inside, you have options up to a 6th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of SSD storage. You can also choose to improve the integrated graphics chip if you prefer, but only if you select the Core i7, which has Intel HD 540 graphics. Ports are not customizable, 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. Read our full review.

Amazon Microsoft

The Rest

Asus Zenbook UX305UA ($750+)

Asus-Zenbook-UX305UA-screen
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Zenbook has been a popular super-light laptop choice for years, andAsus is only making these portable machines better with time.The current crop is especially good, as exemplified by the UX305UA, which is closer than ever to the XPS throne.

Top specs for this 13-inch laptop include a 6th gen Intel Core i5 processor, up to 8 GB of RAM, and up to 512GB in an SSD. These specs are particularly useful if you prefer to treat your ultrabook model more like a traditional laptop, which requires a bit more space and speed, neither of which will be a problem here. The screen is also worth calling attention to here, with its anti-glare coating that makes use in bright rooms easier. However, the display is regular HD, with no ultra HD resolution option available.

Ports for the model include two USB 3 ports, one USB 2.0 port, and one microHDMI, but not USB type C ports. Battery life is a bit shorter than our top XPS pick at around 12 hours instead of around 15, so Asus still has some catching up to do there, but overall this is a fantastic work or school model. Read our full review.

Amazon Newegg

Asus Zenbook UX305CA ($660+)

asus-ux305-desk-1500x1000-3-1500x1000
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

One of the drawbacks of our first Zenbook model was that it didn’t have an option for a resolution higher than full HD or for a touchscreen model. The UX305CA, however, does. And it’s thinner and lighter than the UX305UA.

On screens this small it’s important to note that the effects of ultra HD resolutions are likely to be minimal, but they can still make a difference when it comes to graphic design work, professional photography, or, we suppose, watching movies very, very closely. For these purposes the 3200 x 1800 touchscreen display is equal to the higher-end versions of the XPS 13 and will give you all the image quality you need.

The trade-off, compared to the UX305UA, is power. The CA has a 6th-gen Intel Core MX-6Y30 processor, which is (much) slower than the Core i5 in the UA. Other hardware specs include up to 512GB of SSD storage and 8GB of RAM. Ports include three USB 3.0 connections, microHDMI, and a micro SDXC card reader. The downside here is that the bright, high-res screen is a drain on battery life, which only lasts around 8 to 10 hours. Read our full review.

Amazon Newegg

Samsung Notebook 9 ($1,148+)

Samsung Notebook 9 900X5L
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Okay, maybe you like the idea of a travel-ready laptop, but these ultraportable models are leaving you cold – you want something bigger, more powerful, and closer to a traditional laptop: The Samsung Notebook 9 may be just what you need. This laptop comes in a 15-inch variant for extra screen size (plus options for both ultra HD and traditional HD), and a 2.5GHz Intel Core i7 processor (with 3.1GHz turbo boost).

Storage is set at 256GB, system memory is set at 8GB, and you may be seeing that the key phrase here is “set at.” There’s not as much room for customization with the Notebook 9 as there is with our other models. The screen size and resolution are the primary customization options. On one hand that makes decisions easier, but on the other hand if you want more built-in storage or speed, you’re out of luck.

Despite its large screen, the Samsung Notebook 9 15-inch is extremely thin and light. It weighs just three pounds and is about sixth-tenths of an inch thick. Both numbers are just a fraction above the Dell XPS 13 or the Asus UX305UA, despite the smaller screens on those notebooks. Read our full review.

Amazon Newegg Samsung

Microsoft Surface Book ($1,289+)

Microsoft-Surface-Book-hero
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

It’s easonable 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. Read our full review.

Amazon Best Buy

Computing

The number pad on HP’s Chromebook 15 makes spreadsheet work a breeze

HP's Chromebook 15 comes with a 15.6-inch display, a metal keyboard deck with full-size keys, and a dedicated number pad, making it the second Chromebook model, following Acer's Chromebook 715, to be suited for spreadsheet work.
Emerging Tech

Drown out noisy neighbors and rest easy with these white noise machines

Some people are more sensitive to sound during sleep than others. Luckily, there are a number of white noise machines on the market to mask the noise. Here are our five of our current favorites.
Deals

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for April 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for April 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for April 2018.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Computing

AMD’s 2020 Ryzen CPUs could have a big boost in power efficiency

The sequel to AMD's Zen 2-based Ryzen 3000 CPUs is slated for a 2020 release and when it arrives, could leverage the new Zen 3 architecture to deliver impressive gains to performance and power efficiency.
Computing

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.
Computing

Here's how you can download the best free music players for your Mac

Tired of your Mac's default music player? Take a look at our picks for the best free music players available for your Apple rig. Whether you're a casual listener or an audiophile, you're sure to find something that fits your needs here.
Computing

Want to make calls across the internet for less? Try these great VOIP services

Voice over IP services are getting more and more popular, but there are still a few that stand above the pack. In this guide, we'll give you a few options for the best VOIP services for home and business users.
Gaming

Transform into the ultimate leader with our tips and tricks for Civilization 6

Civilization VI offers both series veterans and total newcomers a lot to chew on from the get-go. Here are some essential starting tips to help you master the game's many intricacies.
Computing

The iPhone’s Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts could land on Macs this year

For its desktop computers, it appears that Apple may continue to draw from the iPhone for inspiration. iOS 12 features, like Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts, are believed to be making their way to MacOS this year at WWDC in June.
Computing

Dell slashes prices of XPS 13 and Alienware 17 laptops in latest promo

Dell's latest promotion will score you big savings on the XPS 13 or the Alienware 17. The stylish XPS 13's discount is for $430, and only the rose gold model is on sale, while gamers who choose the Alienware 17 will save $860.
Computing

Lenovo’s Yoga C930 sale drops a $650 discount on its 2TB SSD laptop

Lenovo is offering one of its 2-in-1 laptops at a $650 discount. This Lenovo Yoga C930 laptop comes with a 2TB solid-state drive, a digital pen, a fingerprint reader, and a Dolby Atmos sound bar.