Ultrabook reviews 2014, scoops and comparisons

Best ultrabooks under $800 (or $1000) – top 8 cheap ultrabooks in 2014

Last updated: January 14, 2014

If you’ve reached this post, you’re probably after an ultrabook but don’t have a lot of money to spend on it.

I for one love this new type of computers, powerful enough for most of our daily tasks, but also, thin, light, beautiful and able to run for at least 4 hours on a charge.

However, there’s one thing holding many of you from buying such a computer: the high prices. The first generation ultrabooks launched at the beginning of 2011 averaged at around $1000. However, in the meantime, there are some budget ultrabooks available that can get as low as 500 or 600 bucks.

We’ll speak about these in this post and I’ll tell you which of the available ultrabooks offer the best value for the money, in my eyes. If you’re after the best ultrabooks though, price aside, you should have a look at this other post from this website.

Anyway, before we proceed, you do have to understand that some corners need to be cut with the devices listed in here, in order to meet the lower price tags, so whether there’s the screen, the overall weight or the battery life, all of the laptops in this post have at least one or two shortcomings. But hey, no laptop is perfect, and if you’re after a price-conscious ultrabook, you’ll have to learn to accept this fact and choose the one that best suits your needs and taste.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at the best budget ultrabooks you can get these days.

Best ultrabooks under $600

While still a rare commodity, you can get these days brand new ultrabooks for less than $600, some even under $500, with several discounts.

Asus Vivobook X202E / S200

The Asus Vivobook X202 (or S200 as it’s known in Europe) is the most impressive of them all. It’s a rather compact machine, packing an 11.6 inch display, but it’s a touchscreen, and a fairly good one. Here’s my full review for this one.

The whole thing is solid built, as the case is covered in aluminum and packs most of the needed ports on the side. Inside, there’s an Intel Core i3 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 snappier.

The VivoBook X202E sells for just under $500 these days, and you really are getting a lot for that kind of money. See this link for more details, including up-to-date prices and user reviews. And if you want to see exactly why I like the X202 so much, watch my complete video review below.

Asus Zenbook UX32A

This one is right now the cheapest of the Zenbooks. And while it lacks some of the features of the Primes, it does compensate when it comes to price tags, as it only starts at about $600.

Of course, for this kind of money you only get a standard 13 x 7 screen, hybrid storage and a lower-power Intel Core i3 processor, but still part of the latest Intel Ivy Bridge platform. As a result, the laptop is going to be decently snappy for daily use, although if you plan to push it a bit harder, you’re going to be better with the Core i5 version, that goes for about $200 extra.

With the cheaper version of the UX32A you still keep the most of the looks and the thin-and-light body of the other Zenbooks, a decent keyboard and trackpad and you get 6+ hours of battery life on average daily use, which is just great. On the other hand, the laptop is a bit noisy and Asus bundles it with plenty of bloatware.

All in all, the Asus UX32A has a list price of around $750, but you can find it cheaper online these days.

Asus UX32A budget Zenbooks - keeps the looks, body and battery life of the more expensive Zenbook Primes

Asus UX32A budget Zenbooks – keeps most of the looks, body and battery life of the more expensive Zenbook Primes

Best ultrabooks under $800

These days you can get good ultrabooks for less than $800 and some for under $700 as well. In order to meet the lower prices, corners had to be cut, so the devices listed in here are not really a match for the premium ultrabooks.

But if you want a thin, light and fairly powerful laptop, I think you’ll want to have a look at the units selected below.

Lenovo IdeaPad U310

Lenovo's IdeaPad U310 - a budget ultrabook for students

Lenovo’s IdeaPad U310 – a budget ultrabook for students

While heavier and thicker than the Asus above, the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 is also a very good pick in this class, mainly because it’s sturdy and offers an excellent keyboard and trackpad. And those are going to be greatly appreciated by students and those of you that are still in school.

The Lenovo is also more affordable than the Asus, as you can get the Intel Core i5 config for less than $600 right now, online. But it can only go for about 5 hours on a charge and adds of course that extra bulk I was talking about above.

More details about the IdeaPad U310 are available in my review, also here on this site. And this post tells you where you can find the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 discounted these days.

Asus VivoBook S400 – detailed review here

The VivoBook S400 (or S400CA in the United States) is another great ultra-portable that sells for just under $700 right now.

The S400 is a 14 inch laptop, so slightly larger than some of the other above. It’s still thin, measuring just 0.8 inches in thickness, and weighs around 4 pounds.

The extra bulk is mainly caused by the display, as this machine features a touchscreen. The panel quality however is not impressive, which is probably the most important issue you could have with the Asus VivoBook S400. See my full review below for more details.

Of course, the S400 is built on an Intel hardware platform, offers 4 GB of RAM and hybrid storage. And is running Windows 8. The keyboard and trackpad are pretty good and the battery life is average, definitely not bad, but not impressive either.

So, is the S400 a good deal for roughly $700? I’d say yes if you want a larger ultrabook with a touchscreen, yet still compact and light when compared to the regular 14 or 15 inch laptops. And those who bought the S400 already seem to agree with that. See this link for more details about the laptop, pictures, specs and discounted prices.

Sony Vaio T Series 13

Sony’s Vaios aren’t usually affordable, but their T Series 13 ultrabook is an exception, going for less than $700 these days.

Vaio T13 - Sony's affordable ultrabook

Vaio T13 – Sony’s affordable ultrabook

For that you get a config very similar to the ones mentioned above, with a latest generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 500 GB HDD and Windows 7 HP. So the differences are mainly on the outside.

The T13 looks alright, with its metallic body, but its screen, keyboard and trackpad are not that good. On the other hand, it’s one of the few ultrabooks that allow you to remove the battery and quickly access the memory and storage drive, and this might matter a lot for some of you.

Anyway, several online stores offer the T13 discounted these days and you could check out the latest prices via this link. Or, if you’re after in-depth details about this laptop, you should also see my Vaio T13 review.

HP Envy 6t ultrabook and 6z sleekbook

Unlike the laptops above, that feature a 13 inch screen, the HP Envy 6 comes with a 15.6 inch display, so it’s in fact an everyday laptop, just thinner and lighter than the average laptop.

You can find more about it in my review, but in just a couple of words, this computer is able to deal with most basic tasks and even a bit more, as it can be equipped with dedicated graphics. The overall built quality is good, the keyboard and trackpad are decent and the laptop can run for more than 4 hours on a charge.

We are of course talking about the Envy 6t ultrabook here, but if you want a cheaper laptop with the same body, you should have a look at the Envy 6z sleekbook as well, which starts at around $600, but packs some slower and less efficient AMD hardware.

Of course, you can get all these via HP’s website, or see this article that will show you where you can find these HP laptops slightly discounted.

HP Envy 6 - price-conscious ultrabook for the mainstream laptop user

HP Envy 6 – price-conscious ultrabook for the mainstream laptop user

Best ultrabooks between $800 and $1000

If you’re willing to extend the budget a tiny bit, you’ll find a bunch of other good laptops in this class, but I’m only going to mention some of them, the ones that menage to stand out from the crowd.

Acer Aspire M5

Acer Aspire M5 - sleek, fast and fairly affordable

Acer Aspire M5 – sleek, fast and fairly affordable

Both the M3 and the M5 Aspire lines from Acer have something in common: they are fast. The M5 is the newer breed, built on Intel’s Ivy Bridge hardware, with hybrid storage and Nvidia’s GT640M dedicated graphics. Add a 14 inch screen and 5+ hours of daily battery life, plus a price tag of around $800, and you’ll get a bit of the whole deal.

Of course, the Acer’s are not without issues, as they come with rather heavy plastic bodies and are in no way as well finished as most of the other ultrabooks you can get in stores today. Plus, that 14 inch screen is glossy and only offer 1366 x 768 px resolution.

But for the money, if you want a sleeker than average laptop that can deal with games and some heavier tasks, the Acer Aspire M5 has no competition right now.

See this link for more details and up-to-date prices.

Toshiba Portege  Z930

Toshiba Portege Z930 - the same old thin and light laptop, brought to 2012

Toshiba Portege Z930 – the same old thin and light laptop, brought to 2012

Last year’s Toshiba Portege Z830 was amongst one of the most appreciated ultrabooks of its time. The Z930, its successor, is just as good, but now packs up-to-date Intel Ivy Bridge processors and a redesigned cooling system, less noisier than it used to be.

The under 2.5 pounds body is here as well, but unfortunately Toshiba did nothing to reenforce the screen’s frame, as that one is flexible and feels like it could crack sooner than latter. Toshiba say that’s not going to happen, but if you want this ultra thin and ultra light ultrabook, you’d better treat it with extra care.

The Portege Z930 starts at about $900 right now, but you’ll probably find it cheaper online.

You should look at the Spectre XT if you want a fancy looking ultrabook

You should look at the Spectre XT if you want a fancy looking ultrabook

If you’re willing to pick between the previous generation ultrabooks, you should also have a look at the HP Folio 13, Dell XPS 13 or the Asus UX31E, you’ll find those for less than one grand these days. Just make sure you read the reviews and understand their strong points and their flaws.

HP’s Spectre XT is also an ultrabook you could consider, starting at $999 (but once again discounted online) and impressing with its astonishing looks and overall build quality.

Best ultrabook alternatives

We’re not going to focus on this matter in this post, I’ve already written a detailed post on what I consider to be the best ultrabook alternatives available right now, which includes cheaper mini-laptops that go for between 300 to 700 bucks, but also powerful ultra-portables that can offer an extra punch and more features.

And then, there’s also the Macbook Air you must consider, as you’ll find out from this post comparing Ultrabooks with the Apple MBA.

Last but not least, you can find some other good ultrabooks in our list of Top 25 ultrabooks 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, but it depends.

Do you really need a thinner and lighter laptop? Are you willing to pay a bit more for it than you’d pay for a similarly equipped regular notebook?  Do you need a laptop mainly for daily tasks and not so much for gaming or heavy duty activities? If you’ll answer yes to these questions, then an ultrabook will do fine for you, but you’ve seen that all the machines listed above have their more or less annoying issues.

In the end, it’s up to you to choose. For a portable everyday computer, I’m confident you’ll be satisfied with at least some of the units mentioned above. Some will also do fine as laptops for school, laptops for your kids or laptops you’ll just use when traveling. And one or two can even go as business or light-gaming machines.

That’s about it for now. I’ll update this list of budget ultrabooks under $1000 and I’ll keep it up-to-date, adding new models as they reach the stores. In the meantime, leave a comment if you have anything to add or if you have any questions.

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.

36 Comments

  1. Billy

    March 31, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Andrei, first off – thanks for the effort to put this together!

    Perhaps you can recommend a nice ultrabook for me. Primary factors (in order) are:

    1. 13.3″ or larger screen
    2. i5 Processor
    3. 64-128GB SSD, and is it possible to have at least ~500GB of normal HD?
    4. 4GB RAM
    5. The thinner the better :)
    6. Price (under $1000)
    7. Illuminated keyboard :)

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