Intel's ultrabooks – a laptop specification coined by the company – are feather-light and elegant in design, but also powerhouses under the hood: upgrades to Intel processors and tiny solid-state drives enable the super-slim laptops to do anything from video editing to intensive gaming. A few of the ultrabooks we looked at even have dedicated video cards, which are far superior to integrated graphics for gaming. Screen sizes range from 13 to 15 inches, big enough to make watching videos enjoyable.
Performance upgrades aside, ultrabooks still have to maintain certain specifications, such as resuming from sleep mode in 3 seconds or less, a maximum width of 0.9 inches at its thinnest spot and at least five hours of battery life. Ultrabooks like top picks Asus Zenbook Prime, Gigabyte Ultrabook and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga are, above all, portable. For more information regarding these machines as serious contenders for work and leisure, read our articles on ultrabooks.
Because of Intel's standard features for ultrabooks, there are a few things you can expect in any model. Along with slim cases, ultrabooks are built around options such as touch functionality and WiDi, Intel's wireless home theater technology. There are plenty of options to consider, some of which cost extra but may be necessary depending on your needs, and others that you may decide create an unnecessary expense.
The best ultrabooks feature Intel's Haswell fourth generation processors, which use less power than older models and include onboard graphics processors. Haswell processors have speeds of 1.8GHz to 3.2GHz.
If you want a dedicated graphics card for graphics-intensive gaming or video-editing work, look for an ultrabook that features a card with its own memory (GPU or video RAM) that is separate from general system memory (RAM). You should also find models that let you upgrade to 8GB of system RAM, making your computer smooth and efficient. The “ultra” in ultrabook stands for more than ultrathin and ultralight: to merit the name, ultrabooks must also have an ultralong battery life of at least five hours.
The first thing you’ll note about ultrabooks is their slim and minimalist design. In addition to fitting easily in your backpack, the chic designs we've seen are worth showing off. The design also includes screen resolution; many ultrabook models have high-resolution screens that display at least 128 pixels per inch, which is great for playing games and watching movies.
As with all mobile computers, standard features include Wi-Fi capabilities, a webcam, Bluetooth support and a memory card reader. Look for an ultrabook that has USB 3.0 ports, which are 10 times as fast at transferring data than the USB 2.0 ports. Optional Thunderbolt ports also allow you to connect up to six peripherals from the one port. With the prevalence of touchscreens on the rise, some innovative ultrabook designs let you fold away the keyboard entirely when it isn’t needed.
Help & Support
Laptop technology is always changing, so look for a manufacturer that makes it easy to find BIOS and driver updates and downloads. All of the ultrabooks we looked at have at least a one-year warranty, but the best systems give you up to three years. And we know that you don't have time to waste if you should need help from the manufacturer, so we look for companies that respond to questions and concerns quickly and helpfully.
In just a few years, ultrabooks have become a powerful class of laptops that balance portability and performance. These thin laptops are packed with enough CPU power, storage space and memory to let you edit photos and videos or play graphically intensive PC games.