Ultrabooks are thin and light laptops, focused on portability while still remaining productive and keeping a traditional keyboard and touchpad handy for when you need to do some serious work. There are quite a few out there on store shelves, though, and picking the right one can be a bit of a difficult ask. If you can stick to a specific price point, you’ll have far better luck and an easier time.
For this list, I’m including officially sanctioned Ultrabooks — Intel’s certified range of ultra-thin notebooks including an Intel processor and certain other specifications — and the also-rans that may not be completely up to spec but are otherwise especially competitive in design or price.
The Best Ultrabooks Under $1500
The cheapest Dell XPS 13 is $1359, although you can get a higher-spec model still under $1500. The low-end model still gets a powerful Core i5 processor and has a Full HD display for its 13-inch screen, and it’s also touch-enabled for easy navigation through Windows 8.1. Dell’s design is simple and understated unlike some of its competitors, so there’s little chance that the XPS 13 will clash with any of your decor.
Just scraping under the price barrier with a $1499 retail price, the UX303 ZenBook distinguishes itself from the crowd by combining a standard Intel Core i3 or i5 Ultrabook processor with dedicated Nvidia graphics for extra visual power — perfect for the mobile gamer. You can choose from a range of storage options, too, but all models have ASUS’s unique spun-metal finish on the lid and are just as thin and lovely as you’d expect.
The $1299 Portege Z10t is actually a tablet, but still an Ultrabook — it packs in the world’s first detachable Ultrabook keyboard and combines that with a 16.9mm-thin tablet packing anything up to a Core i7 processor. The cheapest model uses a lower Intel Celeron processor, but you can get a mid-spec Core i5 for just under the $1500 mark. The 11.6-inch convertible had a beautiful Full HD screen, too, so it’s one of the most pixel-dense offerings on this list.
The $1399 LG Ultra PC is an Ultrabook in everything but name. It weighs under a kilogram, has a beautiful 13-inch Full HD screen (that is not touch-sensitive, both good and bad), packs in the standard high-power Intel Core i5 Ultrabook chipset, has plenty of flash memory storage and is super-slim. Battery life is a bit of a concern if you’re out and about for extended periods, but for quick trips out of the office or for short plane journeys it’s perfect.
No list of thin and light laptops can be complete without mentioning Apple’s ultraportable. The MacBook Air starts at $1099 for the 11-inch and $1199 for the 13-inch, and although the current model hasn’t evolved greatly in design from the first Air release, it’s still a beautiful device and one that can do anything that you need it to. If you can handle using Mac OS X, you get amazing battery life and surprisingly fast storage built into your shiny new laptop.
The Best Ultrabooks Under $750
You can find the ASUS VivoBook S500CA for under $500 on eBay for the lowest-specced Intel Core i3 model, which is pretty good value for a beautiful touchscreen thin and lightweight notebook. A 15-inch display and up to 500GB of hard drive space should make this VivoBook variant a useful everyday work or home tool. If you want to spend a little more, you can jump up in processing power with everything up to a full-fat Intel Core i7 chip.
The HP Pavilion x360 is surprisingly cheap — starting at a $599 retail price — and stands out from the crowd with its 360-degree folding hinge. If you want to use your PC as a tablet, or to stand it up and watch a movie, or to tap away at the screen for a game, this is the bargain device to get. Sure, it’s a little thicker than the Ultrabook standard, but you have to make a couple of trade-offs for this kind of money.
Do you disagree, or is there anything that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.