The Age of Ultrabook: Best Ultrabooks for the Holidays
What is an Ultrabook laptop? Technically, according to Intel—since they came up with the name—an Ultrabook is a laptop no thicker than 0.9 inches with a solid state drive, unibody chassis, touchscreen, long battery life and, of course, Intel Core ULV processors, among other things. Oh, and they’re expensive. That leaves out previously indispensable features like ethernet ports and optical drives.
For the purposes of our list, we’ve adhered to most of these requirements, but names can be a funny thing after they get into the mainstream. They begin to change, and ultrabooks (lower case) are now simply regarded by the public as a thin and light laptop, which is all that really matters.
In short, ultrabooks are the laptops that you really want.
By the way, Macbook Air, you may not be a branded “Ultrabook,” but you’re still one of the best of the bunch. However, we’re leaving the Macbook Air off this year’s list. The long-awaited Macbook Air with Retina Display is due next year, and you’ll probably regret buying one now.
Here’s our list of the top five ultrabooks to get this holiday season:
Buy This for the Athletically Inclined: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 3 Pro
The awesome Yoga 2 Pro was on this list last year, and the latest iteration (promoted by Ashton Kutcher) now has the cutting-edge 5th Generation Intel Core M “Broadwell” processors.
The 13.3-inch Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 2-in-1 Laptop/Tablet (2014) is thinner than ever at a startling 0.5 inches, lighter than ever at 2.6 pounds and now features an updated 360-degree hinge that resembles a metal watchband.
It’s still got the eyeball-popping 3200 x 1800 touchscreen and an Apple-rivaling flair for design.
MSRP (entry level Core M-5Y70 model): $1,300 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $1,300
- Pros: Absurdly thin and light. Stunning design. Touchscreen hybrid tablet/laptop. First out with the Core M processor. Backlit keyboard for you night owls.
- Cons: Absurd thinness and lightness has its drawbacks: not a workhorse machine.
Buy This for Someone Who Wants Apple Without the Apple: Dell XPS 15 Touch
The 15.6-inch Dell XPS 15 Touchscreen Laptop (2014) has a lot in common with the Macbook Pro Retina 15, right down to the dimensions: both are just 0.71 inches thin but also a sturdy 4.4 pounds (give or take), which is just a shade under the Ultrabook weight limit for this display size. The Gorilla Glass IGZO display made by Sharp comes in a fancy 3200 x 1800 flavor, which is becoming de rigueur for premium ultrabooks.
The XPS 15 runs a 4th generation Intel Core processor, and with the Quad Core i7 configuration, it can be your primary workhorse. In July, InfoWorld called it “the best Windows laptop ever.” All right then.
MSRP (entry level Core i5 model): $1,550 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $1440 (Core i7/QHD+)
- Pros: Good-looking design with carbon fiber chassis. Decent battery life. Powerful machine with the right specs.
- Cons: Very expensive. Not super portable.
Buy This for the Mac Addict: 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display
If you don’t want Windows, skip over the XPS 15 and get this beast, the evergreen Apple Macbook Pro 15 with Retina Display (mid-2014). We featured its little brother, the 13.3-inch MBP, on this list last year.
While it didn’t receive any major upgrades this year, the Macbook Pro 15 comes standard with 16GB of memory and is ready to tackle anything you throw at it. And unlike the Macbook Air, it already has Retina.
This BMW of laptops will cost you, but if you spring for a 2013 model, you’ll still get basically the same Haswell processors with long battery life and the same thin form factor. And there are deals to be had for the 2013 Macbook Pros.
MSRP (entry level model): $1,999 | Lowest Price on Ben’s (2014): N/A ; (2013): $1,699
- Pros: Build quality nonpareil. Workhorse machine with amazing battery life (almost 9 hours).
- Cons: No touchscreen, but if you want a Mac, you probably don’t care. Very expensive.
Buy This for Someone Who Loves the Classics: Sony Vaio Pro 11
It’s a year old, and Sony sold off the VAIO business earlier this year, so this pick might scare off some buyers. But if like Steve Jobs, you love innovative designs (and he famously loved Sony’s designs), then you might want to grab the diminutive 11.6-inch Sony Vaio Pro 11 Touchscreen Laptop (2013) while you can still find it.
This ultraportable Windows 8.1 laptop weighs only 1.9 pounds and is just 0.68 inches thin. You also get full HD (1920 x 1080) on the small screen, which far surpasses the 1366 x 768 resolution on the 11.6-inch Macbook Air.
Though we don’t have a Macbook Air on the list this year, the Vaio Pro 11 is a worthy Windows substitute until the new super-thin Retina MBAs arrive.
MSRP (Standard Core i5 model): $1,150 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: N/A
- Pros: Fantastically light and beautifully designed. Decent battery life (around 6 hours). Touchscreen. Perfect for people who really use their laptop on the go.
- Cons: Not a primary machine. Might be too cramped for some users. Pricier than the Macbook Air. Sony no longer making PCs.
Buy This for the Show-Off: ASUS Zenbook Infinity UX301LA
The 13.3-inch ASUS Zenbook (Infinity) UX301LA Quad HD Touchscreen Laptop is another supermodel ultrabook with a host of adoring fans.
Replacing the Zenbook Prime, the Infinity has a striking midnight-blue Gorilla Glass 3 lid that makes it scratch-resistant. It’s two-and-a-half pounds and 0.6 inches thin. The 2560 x 1440 display isn’t in the same league specs-wise as the ones found on the Yoga 3 Pro or XPS 15, but it will still turn heads
The Zenbook Infinity is a powerful laptop with excellent battery life that would be suitable as your primary home/work machine.
MSRP (Core i5 model): $1,799 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $1,107
- Pros: Striking yet durable design. Nearly 8 hours of battery life. Gets the job done.
- Cons: Weaker integrated graphics. Quite expensive. Display spec not as awesome as competitors (but helps with battery life).