Best Ultrabook 2019: 10 excellent thin and light notebooks

Trusted Reviews reviews and ranks the best lightweight laptops so you can find the best ultrabook for your budget and needs.

Which is the best Ultrabook? Here are the best we’ve tested

best overall ultrabook

Dell XPS 13 13.3-Inch Notebook - (Silver) (Intel Core i5-7200U, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, Windows 10)

Our top choice, the design is beautiful with many improvements in terms of both performance and battery life.

Now £1,199.99

The Dell XPS 13 currently sits on the ultrabook throne thanks to a 2019 update. With an A-star grade for design and performance, it’s both a looker and a workaholic. The LG Gram 14Z980 follows close behind though, and is a fantastic alternative if you want your laptop as light as possible but to still rock all the necessary ports.

If you’re looking to spend a little less, the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S is the best-value Ultrabook at the moment. The Asus ZenBook 15 is slightly more powerful than the LG Gram, but it’s also more expensive. It therefore  gets our vote for the best ultrabook, if money is no cost.

We’ve recently reviewed the Asus ZenBook Pro 15, an excellent ultrabook which, earned a Trusted Reviews Recommended accolade, though its a premium product and therefore costs money. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 received a recommended award from us this year too, boasting not only a lightweight frame but also enough gusto to play video games such as Apex Legends and Fortnite. These are the best four ultrabooks you can pick up right now.

You’ll also want to check out our Best Laptop Deals round up for discounts on these and other great ultrabooks for any last minute fire sales.

If you’re the patient type, LG has also announced a new 17-inch version of the LG Gram, which we’ll be reviewing soon. We’ve also recently picked up a sample of the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2, a review of which we’ll be publishing shortly.

After something a little more affordable or specifically for gaming? Then you may want to jump to one of our other specialist guides:

Dell XPS 13

1. Dell XPS 13

The best Windows ultrabook available

Pros:

  • Quality design and display
  • Improved performance and battery life
  • Webcam moved back to top
  • Huge range of configurations

Cons:

  • Still no full-sized SD card reader or USB port
  • SSD slow at saving data
  • Screen not ideal for artists

The Dell XPS 13 only had a few subtle improvements for the 2019 refresh, including a new Whiskey Lake processor and better placed webcam, but they were enough to propel this portable back to the top of our ‘best ultrabook’ ranking.

With a super-charged performance, stunning display and gorgeous design, the Dell XPS 13 smashes through every major criteria. It may not be as light as the LG Gram or offer the option of a dedicated GPU like the Asus ZenBook 15, but its expansive range of configuration options give the XPS 13 the edge for the ultrabook throne.

It’s not perfect, as we’d happily add a little more heft to this laptop if it meant a more generous offering of ports, and the display isn’t quite good enough to accurately display photographs, but this is still our top recommendation if you fancy a lightweight laptop with a top class performance.

Best ultrabook - Lenovo Idapad 720S

2. Lenovo IdeaPad 720S

Our recommendation for best value ultrabook

Pros:

  • Slim, stylish, all-metal exterior
  • Great screen
  • Excellent overall performance
  • Good connectivity

Cons:

  • Nvidia graphics not necessary for all
  • 14-inch form factor adds weight

The Lenovo IdeaPad 720S is one of the most impressive laptops we’ve reviewed. While its 14-inch frame means overall weight is relatively high at 1.55kg (especially compared to the 1.1kg of its 13-inch predecessor, the 710S) this is is still very much an Ultrabook.

It’s powerful, coming with Intel Core i5-7200U or Core i7-7500U processor options. That’s enough processing power for light video and photo editing, along with dedicated graphics from AMD. The GPU won’t be capable of rendering the latest games at high resolutions at playable frame rates, but if you have a hankering for older titles, it’ll do just about fine.

Battery life is good – we recorded around nine hours in our tests, build quality is excellent for the money. Available for just over £800 now, the IdeaPad 720S remains our pick for the best value ultrabook purchase.

Best ultrabook - LG Gram 14Z980

3. LG Gram 14Z980

The LG Gram is the lightest ultrabook around

Pros:

  • An ultra-portable machine weighing just 1kg
  • Speedy processing power
  • Superb battery life

Cons:

  • 256GB storage isn’t plentiful
  • Some might expect a dedicated GPU at this price

Weighing a fraction less than 1kg, this 14-inch laptop is an absolute doddle to transport around. You’ll barely notice in your rucksack. Impressively, the LG Gram doesn’t sacrifice performance power in order to fit everything in such a light and compact shell. With an Intel Core i5-8250U Processor, it breezes through day-to-day tasks and is even capable of basic creative work thanks to the the integrated Intel UHD 620 GPU.

Given LG’s record of producing premium TVs, there’s no surprise that the Gram’s display offers eye-popping colour. HD content looks stunning on the Gram’s screen. This in no doubt an excellent ultrabook for watching Netflix and YouTube. Designers should be pleased with the accuracy of the display too, with the Gram boasting an sRGB gamut coverage of 94.9%. This isn’t so great for photographers mind, with the the Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 colour gamuts coming in at 67.5% and 70.6%.

A robust design, long-lasting battery life and a slew of useful ports further establish this as a fantastic ultrabook. In fact, other than a skimpy 256GB SSD, its hard to find fault with the LG Gram 14Z980. It’s a solid Windows 10 alternative to the Apple MacBook Air 2018.

Asus ZenBook 15 (UX533F)

4. Asus ZenBook 15 (UX533F)

A powerful ultrabook with dedicated GPU

Pros:

  • Solid performance
  • Fantastic battery life
  • ErgoLift shape makes for easier typing
  • Dedicated graphics card

Cons:

  • Trackpad issues
  • Low Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 coverage on anti-glare version

The Asus ZenBook 15 (UX533F) is a top-of-the-range ultrabook which boasts great design, features a large number of ports, solid overall performance, and comes with a battery that will last you throughout the working day.  

This last feature can be chalked up to the fact that the ZenBook 15 is one of the first laptops to feature Intel’s new Whiskey Lake range of 8th gen laptop processors, which promises more efficient power management, in addition to support for gigabit Wi-Fi (provided that your router can offer it) and faster video rendering.

While you won’t want to be doing any seriously heavy video editing on the ZenBook 15 – that’s something perhaps better done on an Asus ZenBook Pro 15 – it will blaze through most work tasks and the dedicated graphics card (an Nvidia GTX 1050) and up to 16GB of RAM mean that light 1080p gaming is entirely doable. Don’t expect to be able to play new titles on Ultra settings at 60fps though – for that, you’ll want to check out our best gaming laptops round up – but you should be able to play most things at a comfortable 30fps, with some of the higher end settings and textures dialled down.

Design-wise, the ZenBook 15 is also a cut above the rest, featuring a fetching navy blue and gold colour scheme, and an asymmetric hinge – called the ‘ErgoLift’ by Asus – which sees the keyboard angled towards your hands, instead of it lying flush with the surface of your desk.

Unlike a lot of lightweight performance laptops, the ZenBook 15 is generous with ports – you get two Type-A USB 3.1 ports, one Type-C USB with display support and HDMI, should you want to connect to an external monitor, and a built-in SD card reader, so you won’t have to immediately splash out for an array of dongles in order to get your work done. On that note, we should mention that you get a USB-A-to-Ethernet adapter in the box, meaning you can get wired in for no extra cost.

Razer Blade Stealth

5. Razer Blade Stealth 13 (2019)

The best gaming-focused ultrabook

Pros:

  • Premium lightweight design
  • Excellent CPU performance
  • Dedicated graphics card
  • Dazzling display

Cons:

  • Average battery life with RGB lighting turned off
  • Could do with more ports
  • Stingy storage

You could easily mistake the Razer Blade Stealth 13 as a gaming laptop given Razer’s history, but this is more like an edgy MacBook Air than any portable gaming rig.

At 14.8mm the Stealth is super slim. It also weighs barely anything at 1.31kg, so there’s no need to hesitate about chucking it in your bag ahead of a long commute. It also boasts a top-notch premium quality, made from high-grade aluminium and drenched in a stylish jet black coating. The keyboard and touchpad are among the best we’ve ever used too.

As well as oozing style, the Stealth has a stonker of an engine. The 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8565U processor is as speedy as you’d like. And while the Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card is no match for modern AAA titles, it can handle mass-favourites such as Fortnite, Apex Legends and Overwatch.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

6. Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

The new Surface Laptop 2 offers decent performance, a great display and excellent battery life

Pros:

  • Excellent display
  • Battery that’ll easily last you a day
  • Lightweight and attractive design
  • Nicely spaced keyboard

Cons:

  • No USB-C ports
  • Expensive

The Surface Laptop 2 offers seriously good battery performance. Despite its small size (308.1 x 223.27 x 14.48 mm) and 379 nits-bright 2256 x 1504 13.5-inch touchscreen, the battery gave us ten hours of power most days. In terms of design, it’s very fetching, blending smooth aluminium with textured alcantara, a vegan suede alternative. The keycaps are nice and springy, benefiting from a nicely spaced layout and minimal travel.

The performance isn’t a headline grabber, but the Intel Core i5-8250U version we tested gave ample power for everyday work. If you don’t need a laptop to do more than office work, light photo editing, and you want enough left in the tank so you can get a couple of hours of Netflix done on the commute home, then the Surface Laptop 2 is for you.

Limitations include ports and the price. For your money (the range starts at £979 and ends at an eye-watering £2529), you get just one USB-A port, a mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm headphone jack and a proprietary Surface Connect port for charging. There are plenty of dongles available if you want more connectivity, but at these prices, you’d hope that at least one was bunged in the box gratis.

HP EliteBook X360 G2 - Asus ZenBook Pro 15

7. Asus ZenBook Pro 15

Boasting a pin-sharp and colour-accurate display and a Core i9 processor, the ZenBook Pro 15 from Asus is a powerhouse

Pros:

  • Large, high resolution touchscreen
  • Powerhouse work laptop
  • Stylish exterior
  • ScreenPad has potential

Cons:

  • Noisy fans
  • Below average battery performance

The Asus ZenBook Pro 15 is a very slick-looking ultrabook which offers powerful performance alongside an uncommon feature, a secondary display that also doubles as a touchpad.

This attention grabbing feature, dubbed the ScreenPad, is a head turner. It lets you do things like drag YouTube videos playing in Chrome, so you can sneakily watch a live sports stream or music video playlist on the go. There are also additional features which will let you format text and sheets in Word and Excel. As the trackpad doubles as a second screen, this does mean that you’ll need to use a mouse to navigate, if any of these features sound good to you.

Much like we’re on the fence with regards to the TouchPad on the current run of MacBook Pros, we’re not totally sold on the ScreenPad, but it is pretty cool.

Other points in the ZenBook Pro 15’s favour is general performance. In benchmarking scores, it leapt ahead of the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the 2018 Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch, and powered through our everyday workload without breaking a sweat. The ZenBook Pro 15’s display, a 15.6-inch 4K ten point touchscreen, is also excellent, boasting near full coverage of the sRGB and Adobe RGB gamuts. At 382.88 nits max brightness, it’s a little darker than most laptops in this part of the market, but it offers excellent contrast.

A downside is the battery life. We’d get between 4-5 hours on a typical workday, which is not ideal – don’t leave home without the mains adaptor.

Microsoft Surface Laptop - ultrabook

8. Microsoft Surface Laptop

Last year’s Surface Laptop still offers an excellent display, speakers, and typing experience

Pros:

  • Lightweight design
  • Great keyboard
  • Excellent screen
  • Good speakers

Cons:

  • Lack of ports
  • You’ll want to upgrade from Windows 10 S
  • Rivals offer better value

The Surface Laptop starts at just £979, and is even less if you’re a student in the UK. You won’t find such good build quality for that price, and for that reason it’s very impressive.

The alcantara keyboard tray might divide opinion, but the full metal chassis and lid is impressive considering how little this laptop weighs. Performance is good, too, especially if you opt for the top-end Core i7 model that tops out at a massive 4GHz and benefits from faster Intel Iris graphics.

Battery life is good, too, we reckon you could snag a full day’s working out of it with conservative use. The screen is among the best of any laptop on this list as well.

You get Windows 10 S as standard, which is quite limiting, but great for security and privacy. However, most people will probably want to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Lenovo Yoga 920 - best ultrabook

9. Lenovo Yoga 920

A solid 2-in-1 laptop with a stylus option for sketching in between work and Netflix binges

Pros:

  • Amazing battery life and decent overall performance
  • Good stylus included
  • Versatile hybrid form factor

Cons:

  • Screen isn’t up to pro creative standard
  • Speakers sound brittle
  • No memory card slots

Is stamina your main priority? Look no further than the Lenovo Yoga 920, which is one of the few laptops that could get you through a full working day without getting in sniffing distance of a power socket.

The hybrid design is incredibly versatile, too, with a watch-band hinge that enables the 13.3-inch touchscreen (Full HD or 4K) to fold into a tent for video viewing or fully back on itself for tablet use. For the latter there’s the excellent Active Pen 2 stylus included – although the Full HD screen we tested didn’t quite have the colour coverage to be up to pro creative work, if you’re more interested in simply sketching and taking notes than doing serious creative work, don’t let this dissuade you. 

Thanks to Intel’s 8th Gen i5 and i7 processors, performance is impressive – although there’s no option with a dedicated GPU – and the build quality is superb.

The Yoga 920  range starts at an i5-8250U model with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and Full HD screen.

Best ultrabook - Acer Swift 3

10. Acer Swift 3

An excellent budget option

Pros:

  • Quality, all-metal design
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Decent performance
  • Good touchpad

Cons:

  • Mediocre screen quality for the money
  • Reflective screen isn’t bright enough
  • More expensive than predecessor

The Acer Swift 3 is the model that proves that Ultrabooks don’t have to be expensive. Impressively, considering the price this laptop is all-metal. Although build quality can’t quite match the best Ultrabooks, it’s still great to have a metal case.

Weighing in at 1.5kg, the Swift 3 is at the cusp of what’s acceptable to carry around all day. For more frequent travellers, a lighter Ultrabook would be a better choice.

Acer has used a Full HD 14-inch IPS screen. Its matte finish helps reduce reflections, but it’s a little dim, and we found that images looked a little muted.

The Core i5-7200U model reviewed hits the sweet spot for performance and price (around £650), but you can upgrade to a Core i7-7500U – although it’s unlikely that the majority of folk will need this. For light use, go for the Core i3 model (around £500). Our i5-based Swift 3 showed itself to be a capable performer.

We measured battery life at 7hrs 24mins, which is a little weak; you’ll get most of a working day out of the Swift 3, but in our tests the laptop was a little shy of Acer’s claimed 10 hours. While the screen isn’t the best, we can forgive that given the Swift 3’s low starting price.

Those are our top picks of the best Ultrabooks. If you want to know more about how more about what to look out for when buying an Ultrabook then read on.

How we test Ultrabooks

Every Ultrabook that passes through our lab is put through a series of synthetic benchmarks to gauge its GPU, CPU and SSD performance. Its screen is then tested with a colorimeter and DispCalGUI. Finally we run a battery test by synthetically looping 10 minutes of web browsing and five minutes of video playback until it runs out of juice. Afterwards the reviewer uses the device as their primary work and personal laptop for at least a week before giving it a final score.

What is an Ultrabook?

An Ultrabook is a term that was invented by Intel, although it’s now a common vernacular for any thin and light ultraportable laptop. Such laptops are what most of us desire to own, offering power in a chassis that’s light enough to carry around everywhere. For the purposes of this guide, we’ve limited it to thin and light Windows 10 laptops, since MacBooks and MacBook Pros fall into their own unique category.

The marvels of miniaturisation don’t come particularly cheap, however. So while you can pick up a traditional laptop from £200, prices for Ultrabooks start at around £500. Typically speaking, the more expensive laptops offer smaller cases, higher-resolution displays and better build quality, rather than more power.

Spending between £500 and £600 will buy you a 14-inch model, weighing around 1.5kg; you won’t get the premium build quality of more expensive models. At this price, Ultrabooks will be light enough for occasional travels, but those who are on the move more often will want something lighter still.

Related: Best laptop deals

For this, you’ll need to spend around £800 to £1000. Typically, these Ultrabooks will weigh closer to 1kg have a 13.3-inch screen. Expect a Full HD model at this kind of price.

Spend upwards of £1000 and you’re heading into premium territory. Expect high-quality metal cases, weights of around 1kg to 1.3kg, and much higher-resolution displays.

Are Ultrabooks powerful enough?

Thanks to Intel’s increasingly efficient range of processors, Ultrabooks are home to the same range of mobile processors as most other notebooks. As such, you can expect performance from an Ultrabook to be just as good as that seen from a larger laptop, showing that these computers can cope with most tasks. The one caveat is that some desktop replacement laptops use the more powerful ‘HQ’ or ‘H’ processors, such as the Core i7-7920HQ. These are considerably more powerful, but you have to sacrifice portability to get this level of performance.

The one thing that you usually have to sacrifice when buying an Ultrabook is gaming performance. Thanks to their small cases, they physically lack enough room to fit in a discrete gaming chip. If games are your thing, you’ll need a dedicated gaming laptop instead.

How much battery life is enough?

Given the small size of Ultrabooks, it’s likely that you’ll often be using one away from a power socket. Battery life is incredibly important, then, and it’s worth getting a computer that can last a typical working day away from a wall socket. We put all of our laptops through rigorous battery tests. Any laptop that lasts seven hours should see you through a real working day – but for those who are on the move for much of the day, a model lasting ten hours or above will serve your needs better.

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