Laptops are some of the most important tools people use today. Whether you’re a student submitting homework, at work typing away at documents, spreadsheets or presentation, or just someone who wants to access resources online and connect with family and friends, you want a notebook with the components and features you’ll need to get the job done. That means an great screen, a comfortable keyboard, and long battery life (nice design doesn’t hurt, either!). If you’re looking for a powerful laptop that easily fits in your bag and doesn’t break your back, you’re looking for what some call an “ultrabook.”
The “ultrabook” moniker was originally coined by Intel in 2012 and used to refer to a set of premium, super-thin laptops that met the chipmaker’s predefined standards. Much of this occurred as the PC world was first catching up to the original MacBook Air. However, just as many people refer to tissues as Kleenexes or web searching as Googling, the term ultrabook commonly refers to any premium ultraportable laptop, whether it carries Intel’s seal of approval or not. These days, Intel tends to use its Evo standard to label its top ultrabooks, and you’ll often see the name on sticker badges alongside Core i5 or i7.Of course, there’s always new tech coming down the pipe. Intel’s most recent chips are its 13th Gen “Raptor Lake” chips. Those are broken into 28-watt P-series chips for performance and 15-watt U-series for the slimmest designs. AMD’s first laptops with its 7040U series chips are shipping, though we’ve mostly seen them in gaming systems so far.
On Macs, Apple’s top chip are the M2 series. The standard M2 can be found which you can find in the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air (including the 15-inch version). We checked out the M2 Pro and M2 Max in the 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros.
Coming down the pipe: Rumors point to Intel’s “Meteor Lake” chips launching sooner rather than later, as well as a potential upcoming move to Apple’s M3 chips. We’ll find out in the coming months.
The Windows-based picks on this list should be ready to run Windows 11. You can find the system requirements for Windows 11 here. That being said, it’s getting less and less likely you’ll buy a new laptop with Windows 10. Most PCs are coming out of the box with the new operating system.
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- Get a good keyboard: Whether you’re using an ultrabook to browse the web, send emails, code, write or do other productivity work, the keyboard is one of your primary ways of interacting with your computer. Get something with responsive keys that aren’t mushy. Low-travel is ok if the keys have the right feel to them, but the last thing you want to do is “bottom out” while typing. Ideally, you can try out a store model before buying.
- Consider what you need in a screen: At a minimum, your laptop should have a 1920 x 1080 screen. Some laptops offer 4K options, though it’s sometimes harder to see the difference at 13-inches or below. While 4K may be more detailed, 1080p screens give you much longer battery life. OLED screens are becoming far more common on laptops, with deep blacks and bright colors, but often at the cost of battery life. Many laptop screens still use a 16:9 aspect ratio, but consider 16:10 or 3:2 if you want a taller screen that shows more of your work at a time.
- Some laptops can be upgraded: While CPUs and GPUs are almost always soldered down, some laptops let you replace the RAM and storage, so you can buy cheaper now and add more memory and a bigger best hard drive or SSD down the road. But the thinnest laptops may not have that option, so buy with the future in mind.
- Battery life is important: Aim for something that lasts for 8 hours or longer on a charge (gaming is an exception) at a bare minimum. For productivity, many laptops easily surpass this number, so 10 hours would be even better. But be wary of manufacturer claims, which don’t always use strenuous tests. Some laptops are starting to add fast charging, which is a nice bonus that tops you off more quickly.
Best Ultrabooks and Premium Laptops You Can Buy Today
Classy and capable, the HP Spectre x360 13.5 is the premier convertible 2-in-1 right now. It offers both Thunderbolt (USB Type-C) and USB-A ports, as well as a colorful OLED screen and high-resolution webcam.
I’m still a fan of the design, which is mature but luxurious. We tested it with a black aluminum using copper accents, though silver and blue options are available as well.
HP is using a 15W Intel Core U-series processor here, but we didn’t see the Spectre missing out on performance, beating a 28W rival in Geekbench and Handbrake.
The stylus, which comes included with the Spectre, now attached to the side of the display, similar to Microsoft’s Surface, making for a familiar and easy-to-reach location whether you use the device as a laptop or a tablet.
Read: HP Spectre x360 13.5 Review
The Lenovo Yoga 9i (Gen 8) is a 14-inch 2-in-1 with an attractive, portable design, a bright display and a mix of ports. Its rounded corners aren’t just about form, they make it comfortable to use, and still leave from for Thunderbolt 4 and USB Type-A.
The screen is beautiful. On our colorimeter, it covered 201% of the sRGB gamut and 142.1% of the DCI-P3 spectrum.
Lenovo throws a stylus in the box, so those who want the option to take notes by hand or with a keyboard won’t need to buy any extra accessories. We did find the keyboard to be a bit stiff, however.
And Intel’s Core i7-1360P offers strong performance, with a speedy SSD and strong single-core and multi-core benchmarks.
Read: Lenovo Yoga 9i (Gen 8) Review
The MacBook Air with M2 is arguably Apple’s biggest change to the lineup since it launched, eschewing the historical wedge design for a thinner, flatter look. It’s the first MacBook Air to be designed for Apple Silicon, and it sure makes a statement.
But there are a slew of other important changes. The M2 chip is powerful and long-lasting; the display is bright and vivid; MagSafe, the magnetic power connector, has returned; and there’s a 1080p webcam, which is a huge improvement, though it’s in a notch.
It’s a fanless design, so those doing intensive work like video editing or rendering will need to keep that in mind. But for most documents, spreadsheets and even basic photo editing, it does the job just fine.
Read: MacBook Air (M2) Review
Apple’s second-generation MacBook Pros on Apple Silicon haven’t made too many changes on the outside, but offer more performance and longer battery life. It retains the wide variety of ports, including HDMI and an SD card slot, that we loved last year, as well as a bright, vivid Mini-LED display.
With an M2 Pro, the 14-inch MacBook Pro lasted over 14 hours on our batter test, showing off the efficiency Apple can achieve with its own silicon. Apple has also added a few new features, like Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3 and improved HDMI.
While the design hasn’t changed, that means you also get excellent speakers and a comfortable keyboard with full-size function keys. But it also means that there’s still a notch in the display to hold the 1080p webcam, which some might find to be distracting.
For those who need more graphics power, you may want to step up to the M2 Max, with up to 38 graphics cores. If you want more battery life, the 16-inch MacBook Pro has a larger battery (100 WHr vs the 14-incher MacBook Pro’s 70 WHr), and endured for just shy of 19 hours on our test. If you simply prefer a bigger screen, the 16-inch MacBook Pro may also be for you, and you can get it with either an M2 Pro or M2 Max.
Read: MacBook Pro (2023) Review
You don’t have to spend over $1,000 to get a good clamshell notebook. The HP Pavilion can get you the latest Intel processor, 16GB of RAM of a 90 Hz, 2880 x 1800 OLED display. You can go lower for the same design, but with a Core i5, 8GB of RAM and a non-OLED screen.
We liked the Pavilion for its great port selection, lovely screen and strong performance, all at a value price. The battery life could use some work, but we tested with OLED, and that sucks up battery.
The ports include two USB Type-C ports, two USB Type-A ports, HDMI, a headphone jack and a microSD card reader.
The laptop is made from a mix of aluminum and plastic, giving you a bit of the premium feel you get in more expensive notebooks, even if the design is a bit bland.
Read: HP Pavilion Plus Review
The MSI GE76 Raider is our pick for a gaming laptop that can replace your desktop. And yes, it has a massive RGB light bar. It offers seriously strong performance with components ranging up to an Intel Core i9-11980HK and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080.
The 17.3-inch display is bright and goes up to 360 Hz, for those who want to play esports titles like Dota 2 or League of Legends as smoothly as possible.
But unlike many of the other laptops on this list, the Raider is not thin. In fact, it’s quite large, but you need that for all of the power inside (and for the 17.3-inch build quality). If you want something smaller, the GE66 Raider, our former pick for this spot, which we reviewed last year, has also been updated to more recent parts.
Read: MSI GE76 Raider Review
There are plenty of reasons why the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a classic. It’s thin design and strong build quality are beloved by ThinkPad diehards. The latest model, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 11), offers long battery life and great speakers.
Perhaps most critically, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers an excellent keyboard. Lenovo’s reputation was built on great typing experiences, so this is crucial. For those who love Lenovo’s TrackPoint, it’s still here, allowing you to move the mouse without ever taking your fingers away from the home row on the keyboard.
The latest version comes with Intel’s 13th Gen Core processors. We reviewed it with a Core i7-1355U, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe Gen 4 SSD.
The one real issue we had is that the base screen could benefit from being a bit brighter. Those who want the most vivid experience can opt for an OLED panel, but at a higher price.
When shopping for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 11), keep an eye out for Lenovo’s frequent sales, as there’s often a deal available.
Read: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 11) Review
Asus has begun to refine the dual screen laptop. Sure, there’s a more powerful version, but for a laptop with two screens, this one is fairly light, and ran for over 10 and a half hours on a charge.
Windows 10 doesn’t yet natively support dual screen software, Asus’s ScreenPad Plus launcher has improved since launch, with easy flicks and drags to move apps around the display. For Adobe apps, there’s custom dial-based software.
The keyboard and mouse placement are the big compromises, as there isn’t a wrist rest and they can feel cramped. But if you want two-screens, this is as good as it gets for now.
Read: Asus ZenBook Duo 14 UX482 Review
The Dell XPS 17 (9724) is our favorite laptop that’s slim but still has a big, 17-inch screen. This one goes up to 3840 x 2400 (the way we tested it) with support for touch and a 16:10 aspect ratio to show more spreadsheets or documents. It’s made all the more impressive by the minimal bezel, which really highlights whatever is on the display.
We tested the XPS 17 with an Intel Core i7-13700H and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070, though Dell. If you want to save some money, you can get integrated graphics or a cheaper RTX 4050.
Dell’s design here is impeccable, though you only get the same ports as the smaller XPS 15, including four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and an SD card reader. A USB Type-A port would have been nice for the creatives likely to flock to this laptop. We do wish that Dell would finally upgrade from its 720p webcam, though.
Read: Dell XPS 17 (9730) Review
With the Surface Pro 9, Microsoft is offering Intel and Arm options in the same chassis. Either way, you get a sleek, rounded tablet with thin bezels and anodized aluminum (though the Intel model comes in fun colors while the Arm version comes only in platinum).
We think that people focused on the best performance will prefer the Intel models, which start a bit cheaper and, in most cases, offer better performance than Microsoft’s SQ3 chip. They also have better app compatibility, as you don’t require any emulation.
If you want 5G, though, the SQ3 version is the one to get, but that and just a slight battery life advantage are the big things that it offers.
The Pro 9 doesn’t differ from its predecessors in huge ways, but still, its the flagship Windows tablet for a reason. It continues to be expensive, though, as the keyboards are sold separately, adding a cost of $139.99 for the basic keyboard and going higher if you want premium materials or a charging cradle for a stylus.
Read: Microsoft Surface Pro 9 Review
If you want something sleek and slim like a Mac, but prefer Windows 11, Samsung may have the answer for you. The Galaxy Book 3 Ultra has clean lines and an aluminum unibody chassis, and a massive touchpad so big it might make MacBook Pro users a bit envious. It also has two things Apple doesn’t currently offer – an AMOLED display and a number pad.
While its 9:03 battery life couldn’t touch the MacBook Pro, it was competitive among Windows devices. And our review unit’s Intel Core i7-13700H CPU, GeForce RTX 4050, 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD delivered solid performance among competitors.
Like the Macs and a number of other thin Windows laptops, like the Dell XPS 13, the RAM is soldered down. Samsung has limited the Galaxy Book Pro to one display, with a resolution of 2880 x 1800, which is nice but not as high as what you can get on some Windows and macOS-based competitors. But if you want the style to go along with the performance, the Galaxy Book Ultra is worth considering.
Read: Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra Laptop Review
Finding Discounts on the Best Ultrabooks
Whether you’re shopping for one of the best ultrabooks or a laptop didn’t quite make our list, you may find savings by checking out our lists of the latest Dell coupon codes, HP coupon codes, Lenovo coupon codes, Best Buy promo codes or Newegg promo codes.