Best Ultrabook 2018: 7 excellent thin and light notebooks

Ultrabooks are the sports cars of laptops, featuring top end specs that are neatly contained in thin and light designs. Below are our picks of the best on the market.

We’re going to be reviewing a wave of new Ultrabooks, including the Asus Zenbook Pro, in the very near future. In its absence the HP EliteBook X360 G2 is our current pick for best Ultrabook Overall. If you’re looking to spend a little less, the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S is the best-value Ultrabook at the moment.

best overall ultrabook

HP EliteBook x360 1030 G2

This is our pick for the best overall Ultrabook. It's the Ultrabook that can do it all thanks to excellent performance. It's versatile, too, with its 360-degree hinge letting you use it like a tablet.

£1,530.00

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.

best value ultrabook

Lenovo IdeaPad 720S

This is our pick for the best value Ultrabook. Despite its travel-friendly form factor, it has enough performance for video and photo editing, and even includes dedicated graphics from Nvidia. It's also got great build quality for the money.

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

HP Spectre x360 G2

HP EliteBook X360 G2

Pros:

  • Attractive design
  • Lots of security features
  • Good performance
  • Decent battery life

Cons:

  • Slower SSD on this model
  • Stylus costs extra in UK

HP’s EliteBook range has been a mainstay of businesses for years. With the excellent EliteBook x360 G2, it isn’t difficult to see why this is the case. With its fully flexible hinge, metal chassis and optional stylus, this is an Ultrabook that can do it all.

The 13.3-inch Full HD IPS panel is excellent. Although it covers just 83.2% of the sRGB colour gamut, colours appeared bright and vibrant. Excellent contrast helps bring out details, although we wish the screen was a little brighter.

Thanks to the 360-degree hinge, the screen can fold all the way back, turning this Ultrabook into a tablet. That’s when the optional stylus comes into its own, transforming the x360 G2 into a capable machine for note-taking and sketching.

Performance is excellent, with the Core i5-7300U zooming through our tests. This CPU offers the best value for most people, although more demanding users can upgrade to a Core i7-7600U. Battery life is great, too, lasting around eight hours in our tests. That’s easily enough to get you through a full day.

Buy now: HP EliteBook X360 G2 for £1,399 / $1,200 from Amazon

Lenovo IdeaPad 720S

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 IdeaPad 720S is one of the most impressive laptops we’ve reviewed. While its slightly large 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, with a decent Intel Core i5-7200U processor that’s ripe for video and photo editing, along with dedicated graphics from Nvidia. The GPU isn’t worthy of the latest games at high resolutions, but if you have a hankering for older titles, it’ll do just about fine.

Battery life is good, which we tested at around nine hours, and build quality is excellent for the money. It’s more expensive and heavier than the Acer Swift 5, but with the extra screen real-estate and graphics power, it goes a long way to justify itself.

Buy now: Lenovo IdeaPad 720S for £1,123 / $1,029 from Amazon

Microsoft Surface Laptop

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.

Buy Now: Microsoft Surface Laptop for £1,199 / $815 from Amazon

Lenovo Yoga 920

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.

Thanks to Intel’s 8th Gen i5 and i7 processors, performance is very 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.

Buy now: Lenovo Yoga 920 for £1269.99 / $2,014 from Amazon

Asus ZenBook 3 1

Asus ZenBook 3

Pros:

  • Great design
  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Excellent performance

Cons:

  • Volatile battery life
  • Not enough ports
  • Core i5 model is better value for most

If you want a computer that you can carry around all of the time, a model that weighs under 1kg is ideal. Coming in at 910g, the Asus ZenBook 3 fulfills that brief and goes up against the MacBook. Apple’s laptop has a higher-resolution screen, but offers much slower performance.

Thanks to Asus using a decent CPU (an Intel Core i7-7500U) in our review sample, the ZenBook 3 can handle anything you throw at it. A fantastically fast SSD helps here too, making this computer feel super-snappy. You can save around £400 by dropping to the Core i5-based model, which will prove a better deal for most people.

Battery life is good: it lasted just over nine hours in our benchmarks. That’s clearly enough for a day’s work and will reduce the number of times that you have to visit a power socket.

While Apple’s MacBook may have the resolution advantage, the Full HD 12.5-inch display here remains excellent: it’s bright and vibrant, although colour coverage is a little low.

Technically stunning, with great performance, the Asus ZenBook 3 is the best choice for anyone that wants to carry their laptop with them everywhere.

Razer Blade Stealth 7

Razer Blade Stealth

Pros:

  • Thin and light design
  • Great performance
  • Excellent speakers

Cons:

  • Grease magnet
  • Small screen with huge bezels
  • So-so battery life
  • Noisy

One thing that we don’t usually associate with Ultrabooks is gaming prowess. With thin cases, there usually isn’t enough room inside for a discrete graphics chip. Razer has found a way around the issue with the Razer Core Dock. Connecting to the Razer Blade Stealth via Thunderbolt 3, the Razer Core offers up an external graphics card, turning this laptop into a more powerful gaming machine.

Although the Razer Blade Stealth looks good, its finish picks up fingerprints, and the large bezel makes the 12.5-inch laptop far bigger than it needs to be.

The display has a huge resolution of 2560 x 1440, and it means you’ll need to use Windows 10’s scaling options to see anything clearly.

On the inside sits Intel Core i7-7500U processor, which provides more than enough performance for any task; it’s one of the fastest Ultrabooks that we’d seen at the time of review. However, the laptop becomes quite noisy when under load.

Performance comes at the cost of battery life, and we couldn’t eke out more than five hours of real use. That’s disappointing; we’d expect Ultrabooks to last far longer.

Ultimately, if you simply want an Ultrabook then there are more affordable options. If you want an Ultrabook that can play games, however, then the Razer Blade Stealth and Razer Core are a tempting proposition.

Buy now: Razer Blade Stealth for £1,499 / $1,349 from Amazon

Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3

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 incredibly expensive, with models starting at just £500. 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.

Buy now: Acer Swift 3 for £629.97 / $650 from Amazon

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.

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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