What is the best ultrabook?
If you’re a student or an on-the-go office worker, portability is likely right at the top of your criteria for a laptop. We’ve ranked the best ultrabook options to help you find the perfect portable.
But what exactly is an ultrabook, and what distinguishes it from your average laptop? While Intel initially coined the term for its own range of ultra-portable laptops, it has since been used to reference any laptop that’s noticeably light and skinny.
For our top 10 ranking, we’ve narrowed down the criteria to only include laptops with a maximum screen since of 14 inches, while ruling out any portables that’s either thicker than an inch or weighs more than 1.5kg.
Do bear in mind that there are plenty of new ultrabooks expected to launch in the next few months following the announcement of Intel’s 11th Generation Tiger Lake mobile processors. Apple is also likely to launch its 12-inch MacBook Arm laptop shortly, which could flip the ultrabook market on its head.
But if you can’t wait any longer, check out our quick summary below of every ultrabook in our list, with more detailed entries further down the page:
- Overall best ultrabook: Dell XPS 13 (2020)
- Best value ultrabook: Honor MagicBook 14
- Best ultra-portable ultrabook: Acer Swift 5
- Most stylish ultrabook: Surface Laptop 3 13
- Great all-rounder ultrabook: Matebook X Pro
- Best business ultrabook: HP Envy 13 (2020)
- Best Apple ultrabook: MacBook Air (2020)
- Best ultrabook for portability: Galaxy Book Ion
- Best Google ultrabook: Pixelbook Go
- Best budget ultrabook: Avita Pura
You should also explore our Best laptop deals round-up for discounts and any last-minute fire sales on these and other great ultrabooks.
1. Dell XPS 13 (2020)
The best Windows ultrabook available
- Ideal 16:10 InfinityEdge display
- Comfortable and clicky keyboard
- Remarkably thin and compact
- Productivity performance perfection
- Short on ports
- Keyboard can get a tad warm
The Dell XPS 13 2020 is our top recommended laptop right now, as we awarded it a 5-star rating for an incredible all-round performance. With a uniquely gorgeous InfinityEdge display, fantastic performance and dinky ultra-portable design, the XPS 13 nails all of the most important ultrabook features with aplomb.
It’s genuinely difficult to come up with flaws with this laptop. It could do with more ports, but that can easily be fixed with an adaptor. It’s also it tad pricey compared to rival ultrabooks, but you’ve got to spend that extra cash if you want the absolute best system.
If you’re happy to spend the money, you won’t find a better Windows ultrabook than the Dell XPS 13.
- Read our full Dell XPS 13 2020 review
2. Honor MagicBook 14 (2020)
The best value ultrabook
- Student-friendly premium style
- Superb value
- Pleasant typing experience
- More than capable productivity performance
- Webcam position on keyboard
- Below average display
Despite the budget price, the MagicBook is a great laptop with an Apple-reminiscent design, comfortable keyboard and a performance greater that most devices at this price point. Don’t get us wrong, this is no powerhouse laptop, but it will happily get basic tasks done without much issue.
Our biggest complaints are the below-average display quality and annoying keyboard-placement of the webcam, but these are minor issues when you consider how cheap these excellent keyboard is.
- Read our full Honor MagicBook 14 review
3. Acer Swift 5
The best ultra-portable ultrabook
- Super cheap
- Solid performance, quiet running
- Pleasingly slim and light
- Looks great
- Couple of keyboard issues
The Acer Swift 5 (2019) is one of the lightest laptops on the market, weighing less than a kilogram. It’s also really affordable, sometimes available for around £600. An ultrabook at this price, with Intel’s 10th Generation processor, is practically unheard of, with rivals usually costing upwards of a grand.
Despite the low price, it’s hard to see where Acer has cut corners. It’s dainty size and weight means it’s incredibly easy to lug around, it has a very respectable battery life at ten hours and boasts some bang-up-to-date features such as Wi-Fi 6 support, Thunderbolt 3 and even the option of a dedicated graphics card.
The only negative points we can think of is that the keyboard requires firmer taps than usual, and the design isn’t quite as jaw dropping as Dell’s XPS 13. Otherwise, this is a pretty stellar ultrabook. Although it may be worth waiting for the upcoming Acer Swift 5 (2020) instead.
- Read our full Acer Swift 5 (2019) review
4. Surface Laptop 3 13
An ultrabook that merits a fashion degree
- Classy, ultra-portable design
- Excellent performance
- Stunning 3:2 display
- Fantastic keyboard
- Middling battery life
- Lack of Thunderbolt 3
If we’re talking solely about quality, the Surface Laptop 3 comes the closest to knocking the Dell XPS 13 off its perch. Microsoft’s ultrabook features Intel’s 10th Generation processor for a competitive performance, and looks good while doing so, especially with all of the available colour options. If style is your number one priority, you move this laptop to the top of your list.
Its not all style over substance here. A brilliant keyboard makes it dutiful essay machine, while the gorgeous 3:2 screen is one of the best on the market for prowling Instagram and YouTube. It’s may not be the lightest portable on this list, but 1288g is still very much in ultrabook territory.
Why did it fail to topple the XPS? The battery life was disappointing, while the lack of Thunderbolt 3 support rules out speedy data transfers. Still, these are minor issues for an otherwise belter of an ultrabook.
- Read our full Surface Laptop 3 13 review
5. Huawei MateBook X Pro (2020)
A great value all-rounder
- Looks fantastic
- Screen aspect-ratio is great for productivity
- Lots of good specs for the price
- That green colour
- Reflective screen
- Everything about the webcam is bad
- SD slot would have been icing on the cake
The Huawei Matebook X Pro has one special sauce feature that most of its rivals lack, and that’s the 3:2 aspect ratio. This means it has a taller panel than most other laptops, allowing to fit more content on screen when browsing the web and social media feeds. Pair that with the delightfully crisp 3000 x 2000 resolution (narrowly missing 4K) and Instagram photos will look absolutely stunning.
There is a drawback to having such a tall screen though, as video content gets sandwiched by thick black bars. If you can overlook that though, the extra pixels actually help videos looks better than would on most other laptops.
With a gorgeous green design and decent performance, there’s a lot to love about this laptop. It’s not priced badly at all either, especially since Huawei is throwing in free accessories if you buy directly from its website.
- Read our full Huawei MateBook X Pro 2020
6. HP Envy 13 (2020)
Best business ultrabook
- Relatively cheap price
- Great performance
- Ultra-portable design
- Great privacy features
- Loud fans
- Reflective screen
- Not as stylish as more expensive laptops
The HP Envy 13 (2020) offers a lot of the same top-notch features as the other ultrabooks on this list, but also comes with added privacy features to make it a worthwhile option for office-based tasks.
A kill switch allows you to cut the power to the webcam, so you know for sure there are no hackers taking a peek at your confidential meetings. The SureView display also allows you to restrict the view of the laptop’s screen from an angle, which comes in handy if you’re working with sensitive data on a train or in a cafe.
The Envy does see a couple of irritating flaws, such as loud fans and a reflective screen, but this is still a great ultrabook option for both work and pleasure.
- Read our full HP Envy 13 (2020) review
7. MacBook Air (2020)
Best Apple ultrabook
- New keyboard is a huge improvement
- The most affordable Mac
- Design still holds up
- Great speakers and fast Touch ID
- Performance not as good as Windows rivals
- Little improvement to battery life
- Terrible webcam
- Port layout is a bit annoying
Apple has finally refreshed its MacBook range with Intel’s 10th Generation chip, giving its ultrabook range a more up-to-date performance. The keyboard has also been upgraded to include scissor-switch keys, which are significantly better than the butterfly alternative on previous MacBook laptops.
What makes the MacBook Air a better buy than its Windows rivals? The 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600 display is one the best we’ve seen, and the new Big Sur update improves further on Apple’s superb macOS software.
The biggest issue with buying a MacBook Air right now is that Apple has confirmed it will be updating its entire Mac range with Apple Silicon processors in the near future. A 12-inch MacBook Arm is expected to be revealed very soon, and may prove a superior alternative to the MacBook Air (2020).
- Read our full Apple MacBook Air 2020
8. Samsung Galaxy Book Ion
The best ultrabook for portability
- Ultra-portable design
- Incredible battery life
- Lovely QLED screen
- Great port selection
- Relatively expensive
- Sub-standard keyboard
- Weak graphics performance
The Samsung Galaxy Book Ion is the skinniest and lightest ultrabook on the list, measuring in at just 12.9-inch thick and and weighing a dainty 970g. If portability is your chief concern, the Ion should be a leading contender.
However, there are a number of issues holding it back from dominating this list. The lack of Iris Plus graphics means this ultrabook isn’t really cable of casual content creation or gaming like the majority of the other laptops in this ‘top ten’ ranking. We were also disappointed by the sub-standard keyboard, especially since this laptop costs a fair whack.
Those flaws are pretty annoying, but there are plenty of other features that make up for them. An astonishing 14-hour battery life is double the stamina of many of its rivals, and that 13.3-inch Full HD QLED screen is absolutely gorgeous when displaying Netflix and YouTube.
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy Book Ion review
9. Google PixelBook Go
A Chromebook with ultrabook quality
- Fantastic keyboard
- Attractive, understated look
- Impressive battery life
- Android apps on Chrome can be useful (even if buggy)
- Can get far too expensive if you upgrade the specs
- No fingerprint scanner/facial unlock
- Have to get the top model if you want a 4K screen
Can you technically call a Chromebook an ultrabook? We’ll leave that up to you to decide, but the PixelBook Go certainly makes that decision harder by sporting laptop-grade components while running on Google’s ChromeOS operating system.
The most important thing to know, is the Chromebook Go hardly weighs a thing at just 1.06kg, while still managing to excel at the basic tasks including web browsing and web streaming. It’s also pretty cheap, with a starting price of £629 – although that can easily shoot up over the £1000-mark if you’re tempted by higher configurations.
If you’re happy with the constraints that come with Chromebooks, the Pixelbook Go is a great ultrabook option for students and penny pinchers.
- Read our full Google PixelBook Go review
10. Avita Pura
Best budget ultrabook
- Decent screen for the price
- Pleasing typing experience
- Good port selection
- Great for basic needs
- Durable plastic build
- Poor speakers
- Chunky bezel
- More expensive model faces tougher competition
The Avita Pura is the cheapest ultrabook on this list by a mile, costing an extremely affordable £329.99. For contrast, the Dell XPS 13 is roughly four times more expensive, so you’ll be saving several hundred quid by opting for this impressive little laptop.
You will of course have to accept a number of compromises by entering budget-buy territory. The performance is only really powerful enough to run Windows 10 in S Mode, which restricts you to the Microsoft App Store so you can’t download obscure third-party software. The speakers offer poor audio quality too, so you’ll want to don some headphones when rocking out to Spotify.
But with an excellent keyboard, generous port options and a decent 14-inch Full HD display, the Avita Pura remains an excellent option for those who just want a laptop that sticks to the basics.
- Read our full Avita Pura review