Ultrabook reviews 2014, scoops and comparisons

Best ultrabooks under $800 (or $1000) in 2014

By Andrei Girbea - @andreigirbea , updated on October 17, 2014

If you’ve reached this post, you’re probably after an ultrabook and don’t want to spend a lot of money on it. That’s why I’ve put together a list of the best ultra-portables you can get for under $1000, $800 and $600 these days, and you can read all about them below.

Now, these laptops check all the Intel imposed ultrabook requirements, so they are still good looking, thin, fairly powerful and able to last for a few hours on each charge. However, the lower your budget, the more compromises you’ll need to make with your potential device, and that includes the materials used for the cases, the overall build quality, the screens, the performance and a few other features.

But hey, no laptop is perfect, and if you’re after a price-conscious ultrabook, you’ll have to learn to accept these shortcomings and choose the machine that best suits your needs, taste and wallet-size.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at the best budget ultrabooks you can get these days. Keep in mind that I’m mostly including modern notebooks here, powered by Intel’s Haswell platforms or later, with only a few older exceptions that are still worth considering today.

Best ultrabooks under $600

You can get these brand new ultrabooks for less than $600  right now, some even for under $500, as long as you shop for them online and hunt down the periodical discounts.

Asus Vivobook X200LA / K200MA / X202E

The Asus Vivobook X200LA (or S200LA as it’s known in Europe) is one of the the most interesting such cheap ultraportables. It’s a compact machine (1 inch thick, weighs roughly 3 lbs), packing only an 11.6 inch touchscreen with a TN 1366 x 768 px panel, but the overall image quality is not utterly bad.

The whole thing is built from plastic, but it’s fairly solid and sturdy. Inside you’ll find a Intel Core i3 Haswell processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB HDD, so not the most powerful hardware platform, but enough for casual everyday tasks. Of course, swapping the regular HDD for an SSD will make the whole thing a lot faster, and it’s easy to do that yourself. On top of that, there’s a 3 Cell battery on this Vivobook, which unfortunately is only enough for about 4 hours of daily use on this configuration.

The Asus Vivobook S200LA sells for roughly $499 these days (an you might find it even cheaper online), which is a pretty good price. The screen quality and the short battery life do draw it down though, but you’ll hardly find anything similar for this kind of money.

Asus Vivobook S200LA - 11.6 incher with Intel Haswell hardware inside, for under $500

Asus Vivobook X200LA – 11.6 incher with Intel Haswell hardware inside, for under $500

If you don’t need the Haswell hardware though and only plan on using the computer for basic everyday activities, you’ve got better options, like the :

If you do need the extra power though, the S200LA is a great buy.

The Vivobook X202E series is the S200LA’s predecessor, similar in most ways, with a few exceptions: it is powered by an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3 processor, its case is mostly made from metal, it only features a 2 Cell battery and is available in a Light Silver color scheme, while the newer model goes in a few different colors. But it sells for around $450 or even less, which might be enough to get it on your radar. I did test the X202E a while ago, and you can find my detailed review over here, if interested.

And while we’re speaking of Asus laptops, you might want to have a look at the Vivobook S400CA (14 incher, IvyBridge hardware – detailed review over here) and the sleek Zenbook UX32A (13.3 incher, aluminum body, IvyBridge hardware – detailed review here), as you’ll find several configurations on both of these for under $500.

Other laptops that go for between 500 and 600 bucks these days are the:

  • Lenovo IdeaPad U310 (detailed reviewlatest discounts) – 13 inch laptop – you’ll get a Core i5-3317U processor, with 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB of storage for roughly $590 right now;
  • Toshiba Satellite E55T (latest discounts) – a larger 15 incher with a touchscreen, that weighs about 4.7 pounds; the Core i5-4200U CPU (Haswell!) with 4 GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD sells for under $600;
  • Acer Aspire S3 (detailed reviewlatest discounts) – a first generation ultrabook, but still, a thin and light 13 incher that goes for about $450, for a Core i3-2367M configuration, with 4 GB of RAM and a 320 GB HDD, which might be good enough for basic use.

The Lenovo Flex 2 14 and 15 series also starts just under $600 for the base configuration that includes a Core i3-4010U processor, 4 GB of RAM and hybrid storage. If you opt for beefier processors and specs though, you’d have to pay more, but even so, the Flex 2 laptops are some of the most affordable out there, which is in fact their major selling point. The other is the convertible screen that goes all the way back around its hinges to 270 degrees, which means that it doesn’t go completely flat, thus you won’t be able to use these devices as tablets, like you can with the Lenovo Yogas and other similar form-factor laptops.

That aside, the Flex 2 laptops are made from plastic, are rather bulky, don’t last very long on a charge (roughly 5 hours) and stick to HD TN panels, albeit touchscreens. If you’re willing to live with these shortcomings, than the Flex 2s could be the right ultrabooks for you. If not, you’ve got better alternatives, but you’ll have to pay extra for them, as you’ll find out below.

$600 can get you the base versions of the Lenovo Flex 2 14 or 15, convertible ultrabooks with toushcreens and Haswell hardware, but also with a few shortcomings

$600 can get you the base versions of the Lenovo Flex 2 14 or 15, convertible ultrabooks with touchcreens and Haswell hardware, but also with a few shortcomings

Best ultrabooks under $800

There’s a fair offer of ultrabooks selling for between 600 and 800 bucks these days. You can either get a modern Haswell laptop, but settle for an entry-level configuration or/and a rather poor screen and bulky body, or you can get some of the previous generation premium IvyBridge devices, but compromise for poorer performance and battery life. The choice is yours.

14 and 15 inch full-size ultrabooks

I’ve covered these laptops in depth in this detailed article that speaks both about the affordable 14/15 inchers and about the premium options, and you should definitely check it out if you’re after a computer in these size-classes.

As a quick recap though, you could look at the:

  • Acer Aspire E1-472, E1-572 and E1-572P  – entry level ultrabooks, without or with a touchscreen (the 527P model), starting at about $600.
  • Lenovo Flex 2 14 and 15 series  – already mentioned above.
  • Asus Vivobooks V451  and V551 (reviewed here) – thinner and sleeker than the ones above, with aluminum-cast bodies, touchscreens, a DVD-RW (on the 15 inch model) and options for dedicated graphics. Core i5 and i7 Haswell configurations with 8 GB of RAM and Haswell hardware sell for under $800 these days.
  • Asus Transformer Book Flips TP500 series – you’ll hardly find a 15 incher comparable to this one right now, as the TP500LA is a convertible with a Yoga-like form factor. Its case is made from metal, Intel Haswell hardware motorizes it with options for dedicated graphics and it comes with a FHD IPS touchscreen. The Core i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB HDD sells for under $800 and you can find more about this laptop from my detailed review also available here on the site.
  • Lenovo IdeaPad S510P – a simple and affordable clamshell laptop with a 15.6 inch non-touch display , plastic body and a DVD-RW. Core i5 Haswell configurations are available for a bit over 600 bucks.
  • Lenovo U430 – one of my favorite 14 inchers, with a sturdy body, excellent keyboard and good hardware options. It’s available with or without a touchscreen, with or without Nvidia dedicated graphics and can go for about 5 hours of daily use on a charge. Intel Core i5-4200U combos with 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB HDDs sell for under $700, while the Core i7-4500U models sell for around $750. See this link for more details and potential discounts.
  • Dell Inspiron 5000 and 7000 series – slightly heavier 14 and 15 inch laptops with metallic cases, options for FHD IPS screens and large batteries. Worth your attention especially if you’re living in the US, where Dell’s customer support and after-sale services are good, compared to others.
A few affordable 15 inchers: the Acer E1-572 (left), the Lenovo S510P (middle) and the Dell Inspiron 7000 (right)

A few affordable 15 inchers: the Acer E1-572 (left), the Lenovo S510P (middle) and the Dell Inspiron 7000 (right)

Higher end configurations of all these laptops above will get to roughly $900-$1000, with some exceptions, and will include Intel Core i7 Haswell U processors, 8 GB of RAM and even SSD storage in some cases.

13 inch portable laptops

This post gets in depth with all the available 13 inch ultrabooks, but there’s also another quick recap below:

  • Lenovo IdeaPad U330 – this is the 13 inch version of the IdeaPad U430 mentioned before. It’s also available with or without a touchscreen and packs Haswell hardware, but it seems to be in short supplies in some regions, so it might be discontinued soon, it it weren’t already by the time you’re reading this post.
  • Asus Vivobook Q301 LA/LP – this Asus Vivobook is more widely available an roughly $650 (or even less) will get you a Core i5-4200U CPU / 6GB of RAM / 750 GB HDD configuration. You’re also getting a touchscreen with an HD TN panel and a metallic body, but Asus did sacrifice the battery size on this device, as you’ll find out from my detailed review.

You might also find the base versions of the Asus Zenbook UX303LA, Lenovo Yoga 2 13, Dell Inspiron 13 7000 or the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300 for under $800, the ones bundled with Intel Core i3 Haswell processors, but those are only available in some regions and the Core i5 configurations sell for over 800 bucks, so we’ll talk about them in the next chapter.

There are also a few older laptops you could consider buying, and I’d personally look at the Asus Zenbook UX32A (reviewed here) and the UX31A (reviewed here) , the affordable Lenovo IdeaPad U310 (reviewed here) and the Dell XPS 13 2013. Keep in mind that these are all running on Intel IvyBridge hardware, so they won’t last as long as the newer Haswell powered machines do on each charge.

12, 11 and 10 inch mini-laptops

This post covers 11 inch or small ultrabooks in depth, but if you want the short-list, well, here you go:

  • Dell XPS 12 – a 2-in-1 convertible with a 12.5 inch FHD IPS touchscreen which flips inside its own frame, with Haswell hardware and excellent build quality. Core i5-4200U CPU / 4GB of RAM / 128 GB SSD configurations are available these days for under $800.
  • Lenovo Yoga 2 11 – another convertible whose 11 inch screen rotates 360 degrees around its hinges. It’s available with either Intel BayTrail hardware or Intel Haswell Y processors, 4 GB of RAM and various types of storage, with prices ranging from $500 to $800. See my detailed review of the Yoga 2 11 for more details.
  • Dell Inspiron 11 3000 – similar in many ways to the Yoga above, the Inspiron 11 3000 is somewhat cheaper than Lenovo’s unit and packs a larger battery and more full-size ports, which do make it one of the most interesting 11 inch affordable convertibles available right now.
  • Dell XPS 11 – just another 11.6 inch hybrid with a few aces down its sleeve: the XPS 11 is very light/thin (2.5 lbs, 0.6 inches) and packs an 11.6 inch QHD touchscreen with an integrated digitizer and pen-support, which could make it ideal for school, taking notes and sketching. It is only powered by Intel Haswell Y processors, packs a 40Wh battery and only lists a limited number of ports on its sides, but nor these or its higher starting price (roughly $750 for the Core i5 / 4 GB RAM / 128 GB SSD config) drag it down. Its abysmal keyboard and typing experience might though, so you should really look into it if the XPS 11 checks all the other right boxes.
The XPS 11 is sleek, light and features-stuffed, but its keyboard might be enough to steer you away from it quickly

The XPS 11 is sleek, light and features-stuffed, but its keyboard might be enough to steer you away from it quickly

Best ultrabooks between $800 and $1000

If you’re willing to expand your budget somewhat, you’ll find a bunch of other good laptops in this section, on top of the higher-specked versions of some of the devices mentioned in the previous chapter.

14 and 15 inchers

  • Acer Aspire V7 482PG and 582PG – the higher end 14 and 15 inch Acer clamshell ultrabooks, the V7s offer metallic bodies and a nice-looking design, but also solid features and specs , with list prices ranging between $850 and $1100. The 15 inch model includes Haswell hardware, a Full HD IPS touchscreen, dedicated Nvidia graphics and a 53 Wh battery, all tucked inside a 4.8 pounds body, while the 14 incher is even lighter. See this link for more details and potential discounts.
  • Lenovo Y40 – this is one of the few ultraportables that you can get for under 1G able to handle games. The Y40 comes with a 14 inch screen (and a poor TN panel that might actually break it for many of you), but beastly specs: an Intel Core i7-4710U processor, 8 GB of RAM, hybrid storage and an AMD Radeon R9 275M graphics chip configuration can be yours for just under $900.
  • Acer Aspire R7-582 -  a solid built 15 incher with a convertible touchscreen and digitizer/pen support, Haswell Hardware, Nvidia dedicated graphics and a weird form-factor. This one does seem to be in short supply lately though, so it might be a bit difficult to track down.
Acer's offer in this price-range is hard to beat: the sleek Aspire V7-582PG (left) and the convertible Aspire R7-582 (right)

Acer’s offer in this price-range is hard to beat: the sleek Aspire V7-582PG (left) and the convertible Aspire R7-582 (right)

13 inchers

  • Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300 and Q302LA – a solid priced 13 inch convertible with Haswell hardware and an IPS FHD touchscreen, but a bit bulky and heavy for this class. Even so, metal is used for most of its case and it is cheaper than its rivals. The TP300 is available in silver, while the Q302LA can be found in black in some stores around the world. Check out my review of this series for more details.
  • Lenovo Yoga 2 13 – Lenovo’s alternative to the Asus above and the updated iteration of the original Yoga, this device also offers Haswell hardware and an IPS FHD touchscreen, but only in a plastic shell. As a result, it is somewhat more compact and lighter than the Transformer Book Flip, but it’s also slightly more expensive. However, Lenovo does offer the Yoga 2 13 in a bunch of different configurations, which can’t be said about Asus’s 2-in-1 for the time being.
  • Dell Inspiron 13 7000 series - Dell’s alternative to those two mentioned before, packing Haswell hardware and an IPS FHD screen, but also an excellent keyboard and plenty of ports, in what I believe it’s a much better looking case. Dell did cut the corner where it came to battery though and only put a 43H one on this unit, and that translates in rather short battery life. But on the other hand this Dell is affordable. Check out my review for more details.
  • Macbook Air 13 2014 – if it weren’t for the screen, we could say that this is by far the best 13 inch ultraportable of the moment. It’s sleek and solid built, it packs a good keyboard and trackpad, it bundles more-powerful Haswell processors than most ultrabooks, with Intel Iris graphics, and lasts longer than any other 13 incher on a charge (12-13 hours of daily use).

On top of that, the base configuration is listed at $999, but you can find it cheaper online, which makes the Macbook Air more affordable than most other premium 13 inch devices.

Its 1440 x 900 px screen with a TN panel might steer you towards something else though, as well as the necessity to get a Windows computer, in case you’re running software that does not work properly on Macs. See this post for a detailed comparison between the Macbook Airs and the top-tier ultrabooks.

  • HP Spectre 13T-3000 – one of the few premium 13 inchers selling for under $1000, the HP Spectre 13T is sleeker, lighter and better built than many of the other devices in this category, while packing top tier features. See this post for its strong-points and quirks.
  • Asus Zenbook UX303LA/LN – the 2014 Zenbook series is almost without flaws. It offers a metallic case, a Full HD IPS touchscreen, a few different Haswell configurations and a 50 Wh battery, plus leaves room for user upgrades, something not many other similar 13 inchers allow.

On top of that, the UX303LA, the model that relies entirely on the Intel HD 4400 graphics, is cheaper than similarly configured Macbook Airs or HP Spectre 13Ts, while the UX303LN offers Nvidia 840M graphics and all the other goodies for under $1000. See my detailed review of the Zenbook UX303LN for more details and my comparison between the LA and the LN models.

Some of the best 13 inch ultrabooks you can get for under $1000: the Lenovo Yoga 2 13 (left), the HP Spectre 13T-3000 (middle) and the Asus Zenbook UX303LA (right)

Some of the best 13 inch ultrabooks you can get for under $1000: the Lenovo Yoga 2 13 (left), the HP Spectre 13T-3000 (middle) and the Asus Zenbook UX303LA (right)

You could also look for discounts on the premium 13 inch ultrabooks discussed in this post, like the Dell XPS 13, the Toshiba Kirabook 2014, the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, the Acer Aspire S7, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus, the Asus Zenbook UX301LA and so on.

12, 11 inch or smaller notebooks

  • Macbook Air 11 2014  – the 11 inch version of the Macbook Air, built on Intel Haswell processors with Iris graphics, but with a smaller battery (should last 8-9 hours on daily use), lower resolution screen and fewer connectivity options (no SD card card) than the 13 inch model. It is however cheaper, starting at $899, and you’ll will find it discounted online.
  • Sony Vaio Pro 11 – one of the lightest ultrabooks out there, tipping the scales just under 2 lbs, the Vaio Pro 11 sells these days for under $1000, but some units are plagued by annoying Wi-Fi problems.
The Macbook Airs are some of the best, and surprisingly, the most affordable premium ultra-portables of the moment

The Macbook Airs are some of the best, and surprisingly, the most affordable premium ultra-portables of the moment

Wrap up – are the cheap ultrabooks good enough for you?

The first thing you might ask yourself is whether a budget ultrabook is worth your money or not. I’d say yes, you will find plenty of good devices for under $1000 these days, and some decent ones if you want to pay even less and you’re OK with somewhat sacrificing the lightweight and some specs and features.

In the end, it’s up to you to choose what’s best fits your needs, your taste and your wallet size. Most of the units mentioned above will do fine as portable everyday computers meant to deal with browsing, watching movies, listening to music and some work. Many will also do fine as laptops for school, laptops for your kids or secondary inexpensive notebooks you’ll just use when traveling. And one or two can even go as business or light-gaming machines.

If you need more help in your quest for the ideal ultra-portable, you might also want to check these other articles on the site:

Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’m constantly updating this list of budget ultrabooks under $1000, adding new models as they become available. In the meantime, leave a comment if you have anything to add to this post, if you have any questions or need help deciding what you should get, I’ll be around here to reply.

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Andrei Girbea, aka Mike, Editor-in-Chief and a huge fan of mobile computers. Since 2007, I've only owned smaller than 12.5" laptops and I've been testing tens, if not hundreds of mini laptops. You'll find mostly reviews and guides written by me here on the site.

100 Comments

  1. Courtney

    July 18, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Hi! I was browsing through great affordable ultrabooks and I found your list. So far, I’ve been eyeing the Dell – Inspiron 7000 Series 15.6.

    I just need to know if that is enough for Adobe softwares. I’m an Advertising Art student and we use A LOT of Photoshop, Illustrator, even occasional video editing (I mainly use sony vegas) and 3D modeling.

    I have a good desktop at home so mainly I just need it when I’m out. I would love to know if you have a better (and cheaper) suggestion. Thanks for your time! :)

    • Andrei Girbea

      July 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      Hi Courtney. What’s your max-budget and what configuration of the 7000 Series are you looking at right now? Since you have a desktop already, have you considered getting a smaller device. It’s not going to be as powerful for the money as a 15 incher, but it’s going to a be a lot easier to carry around. The 7000 is almost as heavy as a standard laptop

  2. kaycee

    July 29, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Pls what do you think of the dell inspiron 14 7000 series. I want an ultraportable for moderate gaming and I do a lot of adobe programs too

    • Andrei Girbea

      July 30, 2014 at 7:52 am

      I haven’t personally tested it but seems like a good laptop,from the reviews I’ve read. Don’t like the Silver keyboard (no contrast, and mushy from what I’ve read) and the screen is reported to be a bit dim, which could be problematic in bright conditions.

  3. angao

    August 25, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    hi Andrei, understand your article is about laptops in US market, it is difficulty to find same article here in Australian market , am i right ?

    • Andrei Girbea

      August 26, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Well, this covers units available worldwide, with a slight focus on the US market (prices are expressed in USD, but you can do the conversions yourself – what’s let’s say $500 in the US can’t be much more expensive in AUS). I’m not familiar with the AUS market, but some of the models in here should be available there as well, while some might not. If you narrow down your selection to a few options, get back to me here or on email and I could help you choose.

  4. Alexander

    September 3, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Hi Andrei, i’m looking for a laptop under 650$ mainly to work, but also, if possible, for playing games (such as Total War series or others similar). Can you suggest me a suitable one, please? Thanks

    • Andrei Girbea

      September 5, 2014 at 9:54 am

      Hi Alexander, sry for the delayed reply.

      You’ll want dedicated graphics, that’s for sure. 650 won’t get you a portable device. Could you please let me know what size-range are you interested in? 13 or 15 inchers?

  5. Joe

    September 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Hi Andrei,

    Excellent advice however I just don’t know exactly what is the right one for me! I’m a photographer so I’d be editing photos very regularly on photoshop although not in 3D and I’m also a student so it would most probably have to be as light as possible

    What I’m looking for:

    Screen size: 13″
    Ram: 6gb (possibility to upgrade at a later date if possible)
    Battery life: 5/6 hours
    Other specs: backlit keyboard if possible, webcam and SD slot

    (If you need me to give any other details just ask)

    Thank you very much,
    Joe

    • Joe

      September 9, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Sorry I forgot to say, my budget is around £500-£600

    • Andrei Girbea

      September 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      You can’t squeeze any of the latest-gen 13 inchers within you budget, especially since I’d get a Core i5 processor or better. And that’s why the battery-life expectations are going to be hard to meet.

      You could look at devices like the Asus Vivobook Q301/S301, Lenovo IdeaPad U330 and maybe the Asus Zenbook UX303LA , see what you can find. Tee latter has a better screen with an IPS panel, which might matter if you say you’re working with pictures.

      As for the older devices, something like the Asus UX32A or the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 should fit nicely or the Vivobook S300, but you won’t get 5-6 hours of use out of them especially if you’re running Photoshop most of the time. Expect more like 4-5.

      • Joe

        September 9, 2014 at 9:05 pm

        Ok, thank you for the fast reply!

  6. bebe

    September 21, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Hi I would like an ultrabook below 700 euros. I want thin laptop probably 13 inch. I don’t play games but i want my ultrabook to be fast in speed and enough memory for normal files. Use of ultrabook just for some web programming, watching movies, and normal activities. And also good battery life. Can you recommend me one like this? thank you…

  7. Andre Sayson

    October 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Hi Andrei, Andre here (haha). Is there any laptop that you can recommend that can be suitable for my needs? I’m a college student right now, but I want a bit more gaming too, DOTA 2 and some FPSes for that matter. I’m okay with having an 11 or a 15.6 incher, but 13.3 inches would be the best for me. It would also be great if the screen has IPS and is high res. My current set-up is a Samsung Book 9 Lite (which is very laggy and unusable at time) and a 2009 iMac with dedicated graphics (which is dated, but still serviceable). It sounds like the ASUS Vivobook S301 is a good fit for me, with its large RAM and dedicated graphics; however, its screen is a bit of a let down according to your review. My Samsung is similarly spec’ed, a 13.3 that has 1333 x 768 and I’m not raving about its screen too. Thank you, and I hope to hear from you here in the Philippines. :)

    • Andrei Girbea

      October 12, 2014 at 10:45 pm

      Hi Andre. What’s your budget? From what you’/re saying, the Asus UX303LN , UX32LN or the UX302LG would best fit your needs, all 13 inch ultrabooks with dedicated graphics and IPS high-res panels, but I’m not sure if they’re within your budget or not. Check them out.

      The S301 is a decent option, but with a poor screen. You could also check out the Acer Aspire S3 2014 model (only available in a few countries).

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