Best ultrabooks 2019: 10 superb light and thin notebooks

Trusted Reviews tests and ranks the best lightweight laptops to help you find the ultrabook to suit 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

Thanks to a 2019 update, the Dell XPS 13 is currently sitting pretty in the top spot as our best ultrabook. We’ve awarded it an A-star grade for design and performance – it doesn’t just look good, it’s also a workaholic. Following closely behind, the LG Gram 14Z980 is a fantastic alternative if you want as a laptop that’s as light as possible, and still delivers all the necessary ports.

For those looking to spend a little less, the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S is the best-value ultrabook at the moment. Slightly more powerful than the LG Gram, the Asus ZenBook 15 is also more expensive and therefore gets our vote for the best ultrabook if money is no object.

Recently, we reviewed the excellent Asus ZenBook Pro 15 ultrabook, which we awarded a Trusted Reviews Recommended accolade. A premium product, it is priced accordingly. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 2019 received a Recommended award from us this year too, and boasts not only a lightweight frame but also enough gusto to play video games such as Apex Legends and Fortnite. Read on to discover the best ultrabooks you can pick up right now.

To make this guide as easy as possible to use, we’ve included a quick summary of every ultrabook in our list, so it won’t take endless scrolling to find the perfect portable for you.

You should also explore our Best laptop deals round-up for discounts and any last-minute fire sales on these and other great ultrabooks.

Dell XPS 13

1. Dell XPS 13

The best Windows ultrabook available

Pros:

  • Huge range of configurations
  • Improved performance and battery life
  • Quality design and display
  • Webcam repositioned back at the top

Cons:

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

The Dell XPS 13’s 2019 refresh only included a few minor improvements, such as a better-placed webcam and new Whiskey Lake processor, but these were enough to boost this portable back to the top of our best ultrabook rankings.

With a stunning display, gorgeous design and super-charged performance, the Dell XPS 13 smashes through every major criteria. Although it’s not as light as the LG Gram and doesn’t offer the option of a dedicated GPU, like the Asus ZenBook 15 does, its impressive range of configuration options gives the XPS 13 enough of an edge to take the ultrabook throne.

It’s not perfect – we’d happily accept slightly more heft to this ultrabook if it meant a more generous offering of ports – and the quality of the display isn’t quite accurate enough for photographs, but if you are seeking a lightweight laptop that offers top-class performance, this is still our top recommendation.

Best ultrabook - Lenovo Idapad 720S

2. Lenovo IdeaPad 720S

Our recommendation for the best-value ultrabook

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

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

It’s powerful and comes 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 9 hrs in our tests – and build quality is excellent for the money. Available now for just over £800, the IdeaPad 720S remains our pick for the best-value ultrabook to 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
  • Superb battery life
  • Speedy processing power

Cons:

  • Some competitors include a dedicated GPU for the same price
  • 256GB storage isn’t hugely spacious

Weighing a fraction less than 1kg, this 14-inch laptop is an absolute dream to carry around, and you’ll barely notice it’s in your rucksack. Impressively, given its light and compact shell, the LG Gram doesn’t sacrifice performance power in order to fit everything in. 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 integrated Intel UHD 620 GPU.

LG has a proven track record of producing premium TVs, so it comes as no surprise that the Gram’s display offers eye-popping colour and HD content looks stunning on the Gram’s screen. This is, without question, an excellent ultrabook for watching Netflix and YouTube. Designers should also be pleased with the display’s accuracy, too, and the Gram boasts a sRGB (standard Red Green Blue) gamut coverage of 94.9%. This isn’t great for photographers, however, with 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, it’s 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:

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

Cons:

  • Low Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 coverage on anti-glare version
  • Issues with the trackpad

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

This last feature can be attributed 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 promise more efficient power management, in addition to support for gigabit Wi-Fi (provided that your router can offer it) and faster video rendering.

While the ZenBook 15 isn’t the best choice for serious heavy video editing – that’s perhaps better done on an Asus ZenBook Pro 15 – it will power through most work tasks. The dedicated graphics card (a 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.

The ZenBook 15 is also a cut above the rest in terms of design. It features a fetching navy blue and gold colour scheme, and an asymmetric ErgoLift hinge, which angles the keyboard towards your hands instead of  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 at no extra cost.

Razer Blade Stealth

5. Razer Blade Stealth 13 (2019)

The best gaming-focused ultrabook

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Given Razer’s track record, it would be easy to mistake the Razer Blade Stealth 13 2019 for a gaming laptop, but this is more like an edgy MacBook Air than any portable gaming rig.

At 14.8mm the Stealth is super-slim and weighs in at an extremely lightweight 1.31kg, so there’s no issue with chucking it in your bag to take with you on a long commute. The quality is also top-notch: this premium ultrabook is made from high-grade aluminium, drenched in a stylish jet black coating, and the keyboard and touchpad are among the best we’ve ever used.

As well as its incredibly stylish aesthetic, the Stealth has a seriously impressive engine. The 8th gen Intel Core i7-8565U processor offers all the speed you’ll need and the Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card can handle mass favourites such as Fortnite, Apex Legends and Overwatch, although it’s no match for modern AAA titles.

Before you go splashing your cash, a new version of the Razer Blade Stealth has been announced that features Intel’s new Ice Lake mobile processors. You’ll need to wait it out for that model if you want the best of the best, with the launch date set for late 2019.

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:

  • Lightweight and attractive design
  • Nicely spaced keyboard
  • Excellent display
  • Battery will easily last a day

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No USB-C ports

The battery performance of the Surface Laptop 2 is extremely impressive. Despite its small size (308.1 x 223.27 x 14.48mm), 379 nits of brightness and 2256 x 1504 13.5-inch touchscreen, on most days the battery gave us 10 hours of power. Its appealing, attractive design blends 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 headline-grabbing, but the Intel Core i5-8250U version we tested gave ample power for everyday work. If you only need a laptop for office work and light photo editing, with enough juice left in the tank to accommodate a couple of hours of Netflix on the commute home, then the Surface Laptop 2 is for you.

When it comes to limitations, we can’t overlook the ports and the price. The range starts at £979 and ends at an eye-watering £2529, and for this money 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 you’d expect at least one to be bunged in the box for free at these prices.

HP EliteBook X360 G2 - Asus ZenBook Pro 15

7. Asus ZenBook Pro 15

The ZenBook Pro 15 from Asus is a powerhouse that boasts a pin-sharp, colour-accurate display and a Core i9 processor

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Noisy fans
  • Below-average battery performance

The extremely slick-looking Asus ZenBook Pro 15 ultrabook features powerful performance as well as the unusual inclusion of a secondary display that also doubles as a touchpad.

Named the ScreenPad, this attention-grabbing feature is a real head-turner. It allows you the scope to do things such as 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 functions that will let you format text and sheets in Word and Excel. With the trackpad doubling as a second screen, it does mean that you’ll need to navigate using a mouse if you want to take advantage of this feature.

Just as we’re on the fence with regard to the TouchPad on the current run of MacBook Pros, we’re also not totally sold on the ScreenPad, although it is pretty cool.

Other plus points for the ZenBook Pro 15 include general performance. It leapt ahead of the 2018 Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch and the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 in benchmarking scores, and powered through our everyday workload without breaking a sweat. The ZenBook Pro 15’s display – a 15.6-inch, 4K, 10-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 does offer excellent contrast.

The battery life is a real down side, however. On a typical workday, we’d get 4-5 hrs, which is far from ideal – don’t forget to take the mains adaptor with you when you leave home.

Microsoft Surface Laptop - ultrabook

8. Microsoft Surface Laptop

The 2018 Surface Laptop still offers an excellent display, speakers, and typing experience

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

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

It’s likely that the Alcantara keyboard tray might divide opinion, but the full metal chassis and lid are impressive considering how lightweight this laptop is. 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 and we reckon, with conservative use, you could eke out a full day’s work from it. The screen is among the best of any laptop on this list as well.

Windows 10 S is given as standard, which is quite limiting but great for security and privacy. Most people, however, will probably want to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Lenovo Yoga 920 - best ultrabook

9. Lenovo Yoga 920

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

If stamina’s your main priority, look no further than the Lenovo Yoga 920. This is one of the few laptops that could get you through a full working day without the need to stay in close proximity to 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 either into a tent for video viewing or fully back on itself for tablet use. For the latter, the excellent Active Pen 2 stylus is included. Although the Full HD screen we tested didn’t quite have the colour coverage to be up to pro creative work, don’t let this dissuade you if you’re more interested in simply sketching and taking notes than doing serious creative work .

Performance is impressive thanks to Intel’s 8th gen i5 and i7 processors – although there’s no option with a dedicated GPU – and the build quality is also superb.

The starter model for the Yoga 920 range is the i5-8250U 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:

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

Cons:

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

The Acer Swift 3 is the model that proves ultrabooks don’t have to be expensive, and the price is particularly impressive considering this laptop is all metal. Although its build quality can’t quite match that of the best ultrabooks, a metal case is still a great feature.

The Swift 3 tips the scales at 1.5kg, meaning it’s at the cusp of being an acceptable weight to carry around all day. For more frequent travellers and those who regularly need to work on the go, 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 we 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 a slightly weak 7 hrs 24mins; 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 hrs. While the screen isn’t the best, we can forgive that given the Swift 3’s low starting price.

These are our top picks of the best ultrabooks. Read on if you want more information about what to look out for when buying an ultrabook.

What is an ultrabook?

The term ultrabook was coined by Intel, although it’s now common vernacular used to describe any thin and light ultraportable laptop. These are the type of laptops the majority of us would like to own and offer power in a chassis that’s light enough to carry around everywhere. For the purposes of this guide, we’ve limited the models we’ve tested 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.

If you’re looking to spend between £500 and £600, there are a number of 14-inch models available that weigh in at around 1.5kg. At this price level, you won’t get the premium build quality of more expensive models. These ultrabooks are light enough for occasional travels, but those who are on the move more often will want something lighter still.

Related: Best laptop deals

Frequent travellers looking for a lightweight option will need to spend around £800 to £1000. Typically, these ultrabooks will weigh closer to 1kg and have a 13.3-inch screen. You can expect to find a Full HD model at this kind of price.

For those able to spend upwards of £1000, there are a wealth of premium models around. Expect high-quality metal cases, weights of around 1kg to 1.3kg, and much higher-resolution displays.

How do 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. The screen is then tested with a colorimeter and DispCalGUI. Finally we run a battery test by synthetically looping 10 mins of web browsing and 5 mins 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 awarding it a final score.

How much battery life is enough?

Given most ultrabooks’ compact design, it’s likely that you’ll often want to use yours away from a power socket. This means battery life is extremely important and it’s worth getting a computer that can last a typical working day without needing to be plugged in. We put all of our laptops through rigorous battery tests. Any laptop that lasts 7 hrs should see you through a working day – but for those who are on the move for much of the day, a model lasting 10 hrs or above will serve your needs better.

Are ultrabooks powerful enough?

Thanks to Intel’s increasingly efficient range of processors, ultrabooks feature 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 of a larger laptop, and that these computers will be able to 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, to get this level of performance, you have to sacrifice portability.

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

 

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