Best ultrabooks and portable laptops in 2021 – complete buying guide

Best ultrabooks and portable laptops in 2021 – complete buying guide
By Andrei Girbea , last updated on April 7, 2021

Here at, we’ve reviewed hundreds of ultrabooks and portable laptops over the last decade, of all kinds and from all brands. Throughout this guide, I’ll tell you which are our favorite current options and why, to make it easier for you to choose the laptop that would best fit your needs and budget out of the multitude of available models.

I’ll primarily cover ultrabooks in this article, compact and light-weight laptops meant for everyday use and productivity, but I’ll also touch on some of the full-size good-value buys, especially since most of these are also fairly portable these days.

With the multiple types of portable laptops out there, I’ve split this guide into a few different sections, based on their overall size, capabilities, and pricing; there’s a Table of Contents below that will point you towards the section of interest. I tried to keep things as simple as possible, with only the best options mentioned in each category, but you’ll also find links towards our reviews and more detailed guides that treat each subtopic in-depth, in case you’re interested in more variants.

I also add that we update the article several times a year, or when something remarkable comes out, and if you need more guidance or have any questions, there’s a comments section at the end of the post where you can get in touch with us.

That aside, thorough testing and analysis take a lot of time and effort, thus if you’ll find the article helpful, I’d appreciate you supporting our independent journalism endeavor. Sharing the post with your friends or buying from our links greatly help us continue what we do here.

Table of contents – best 2021 ultrabooks

Besides these, all our reviews are available in this dedicated section.

The best traditional ultraportables

This section includes our recommendations on thin-and-light traditional (clamshell) ultrabooks with modern hardware and features.

Dell XPS 13 – the complete ultra-compact option

The XPS 13 has been my ultraportable of choice for a few years now (here’s my initial review, if interested) and the recent variants have improved on the original in many ways.

In fact, there are many reasons why the XPS 13 is one of the most appreciated ultrabooks on the market right now. The small 13-inch form-factor with tiny bezels, the sturdy and lightweight build, the excellent display options, the performance and battery life, the Thunderbolt connectivity, or the fair audio quality are some of them. These make the XPS 13 hard to beat for those who highly value portability, as long as it’s within your price range and as long as you don’t run into any quality-control issues. For that reason, I’d recommend buying this from stores that properly handle returns and give it a good test once it arrives, just in case.

The latest iteration of the XPS 13 further refines on its predecessors (reviewed by me here and by Doug over here). Dell put a 16:10 screen on this generation available in a multitude of options, updated the hardware specs, and further improved the cooling design and power profiles, allowing us to easily juggle with the performance, thermals, and noise levels according to our need. They’ve also updated the keyboard and clickpad, which were in dire need of a revamp. The 52 Wh battery and the miniaturized IO haven’t changed, though.

Now, the XPS 13 is available in many different configurations, starting at just under $1000 for an i3/8GB RAM/256 GB SSD model that can still handle everyday use well-enough. Higher tier models add in a UHD touchscreen, more powerful processors, extra memory and storage space, with the i7/16 GB RAM/ 512 GB SSD model going for around $1600 at this moment, which is fairly expensive. Furthermore, Dell notebooks tend to be more expensive than the competition outside the US, and that can affect their value in some markets.

Follow this link for up-to-date details on the available XPS 13 configurations and potential discounts, or this link for all our reviews of the Dell XPS 13 lines.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – the business ultrabook

The X1 Carbon is Lenovo’s flagship compact ThinkPad, and we’ve reviewed the latest generation in this detailed article, as well as pitched it against the XPS 13 in this one.

It gets a 14-inch screen, thus it’s a bit larger than the XPS 13, but it’s lighter due to the choice in materials used for the case. It also offers what most consider a superior keyboard, as well as a more diversified IO, more configurations, and improved business features (IR sensor, TPM, vPro CPUs, etc).

At the same time, though, the X1 Carbon is more expensive than the XPS 13 in most regions, is only available in a single color scheme (the classic black ThinkPad design), and only gets a 51 Wh battery and rather measly speakers. Furthermore, the X1 Carbon is built on a different hardware-platform than the XPS 13, which allows it to do well in multitasking and CPU-heavier loads, but not perform great with GPU-demanding activities, and on top of that, its cooling module somewhat struggles at the higher end, as explained in our reviews.

Overall, I still lean towards the XPS 13 over the X1 Carbon, but the choice is up to you. As a heads up, though, if you can live with a slightly thicker and heavier laptop at around 3 lbs of weight, I’d also recommend checking out Lenovo’s ThinkPad X13 and T14s/T14 updates, available with both Intel and AMD Ryzen hardware.

Follow this link for up-to-date details on the available ThinkPad X1 configurations and potential discounts, or this link for all our reviews of the ThinkPad lines.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon - lighweight and packed full of features, but expensive

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – lightweight and packed full of features, but expensive

Apple MacBooks – the friendly all-rounders

Apple offers portable 13-inch versions of both the popular MacBook Air and the more powerful MacBook Pro.

Aside from the excellent build quality, solid features, and smooth hardware/software integration, MacBooks are even more enticing for those already into the Apple ecosystem. The phone, the watch, the earbuds, the laptop, all work seamlessly together and make your digital life easier. Not necessarily better, but easier nonetheless.

The Air is meant for everyday use, for browsing, streaming, text editing, and casual multitasking, and is not as powerful as the Pro and in fact not as powerful as most of the Windows-based products either. But it still works fine and lasts for a long while on a charge, it’s still very well built, compact and lightweight, it still includes a good quality screen and punchy speakers, and, at last, a good keyboard, with the latest 2020 update. All these for $999 and up, and the base model is what I’d primarily look at here, if you’re fine with just 256 GB of storage space.

The Pro is a more powerful product with an improved thermal module, a higher-quality display, a larger battery, and a slightly different keyboard, as it implements what Apple calls a touch bar at the top, instead of a regular row of Function-keys. At the same time, it’s also slightly heavier and chunkier than the Air, but by a small margin.

Much like the Air, the Pro can easily handle everyday use, but also some serious multitasking as well, so it’s better suited for programming, creative work, and other activities that require extra processing power. It’s still built on an Intel Core U platform, though, so onyl expect that much, as this is not a power-horse.

Finally, the MacBook Pro is a fair bit more expensive than the Air, with the base-model starting at $1299, but the updated versions built on the latest Intel hardware going for $1799. However, both the Air and the Pro are available on sale quite often, usually at least $100 off the MSRP price. If you end-up deciding on one of these, I’d suggest following these links for updated prices and configurations: the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro.

Select professionals will benefit from the MacBook Pros' performance, screens and selection of accessories, but the average-user might find better value elsewhere

Razer Blade Stealth 13 – the gaming ultrabook

The Blade Stealth 13 is by far the most capable gaming ultrabook on the market right now, as the only 13-inch device with a 120 Hz display and a GTX 1650Ti dGPU. We’ve properly reviewed it in this article, but we’ll also quickly go through what makes this unique down below.

From starters, you should know that this is an expensive little laptop, starting at $1399 MSRP and going for $1799 for a balanced configuration, plus is also not available worldwide and only on select markets. Discounts are available here and there, though.

However, if you’re willing to spend that kind of money and cand find it in your region, this thing can game and handle all sorts of every-day and demanding loads. It’s still built on an Intel Ice Lake platform, the same kind you’ll find inside the XPS 13 and a couple of other options, but it’s backed up by the Nvidia dGPU, competent power profiles, and a thermal module that can actually cope with both the processor and the graphics chip in this 13-inch chassis.

Furthermore, Razer products are among the best built in the branch, don’t skimp on inputs, ports, audio, or screens. However, while a 120 Hz panel is available on this Stealth 13, another of its unique particularities, this is not one of those fast panels offered on full-size 15-inch laptops, so expect to notice some degree of ghosting with CS:GO and other such fast-paced titles. Nonetheless, this is the best gaming panel available in a sub-15-inch format for the time being.

Follow this link for update Blade Stealth 13 configurations and prices, or this link for our detailed review.

We can’t move on without also mentioning the Asus Zephyrus G14 as a more powerful 14-inch gaming ultrabook, an interesting option if you’re after a mid-sized performance laptop built on an AMD Ryzen 9 HS platform and up to Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics. This is not nearly as compact as the Blade Stealth 13, but is a far more competent performer for even less money. You’ll find all about it from our detailed reviews.

Lenovo IdeaPad/Yoga Slim 7 – the value performance option

Lenovo’s IdeaPad/Yoga Slim 7 should be on your map if you’re after a truly powerful ultrabook for only about 1000 USD/EUR.

This is available in two variants, with either AMD Ryzen or Intel + Nvidia MX350 hardware. The latter is a more competent gamer, while the former implements the fastest mobile platform currently available, with the Ryzen 7 4800U, and smokes the alternatives in CPU-demanding tasks. You can find all about it from our detailed review.

Lenovo didn’t just put up together a list of good specs with this product, they also made sure to implement a thermal design that can cope with this sort of hardware, as well as matching power profiles that allow for either maximum-performance, a balanced experience, or long battery life and quiet fans, according to your needs. They also made the Slim 7 out of metal, put in a decent screen, IO and inputs on it, as well as fairly punchy speakers.

Now, this doesn’t feel as refined as the XPS 13 or the MacBooks and doesn’t offer the same typing experience or the same kind of premium display options, but it’s also a lot more affordable, with the higher tier configurations going for around 1000 EUR/USD where available, in both the Intel and AMD variants. That makes the IdeaPad Slim 7 one of the best-value performance laptops on the market right now, and a clear recommendation in its price-segment, as long as you actually need that kind of power and can find it in stock in your country.

Follow this link for updated configurations and prices, and this one for our detailed review.

Lenovo Ideapad Slim 7 review

Honorary mentions

Given the multitude of excellent premium ultrabooks out there, I’ve also put up together this list of honorary mentions in this segment, with links towards our detailed reviews:

  • Asus Zenbook S13 series – review and review – ultra-compact 14-inch laptops with modern specs, bright IPS screens, and big batteries, tucked inside lightweight aluminum unibody designs. The latest ZenBook UX393 series gets a 3:2 display, Tiger Lake hardware and a large 67 Wh battery.
  • Asus ZenBook 14 seriesreviews – mid-range compact and lightweight ultrabooks, various options with either Intel + MX or AMD hardware.
  • Asus ExpertBook B9 seriesreview – sub 1-kilo 14-inch business laptop with modern specs, IPS screen, big battery, and uncompromised IO and business features;
  • Dell Latitude 7000 13/14 – configurations and prices – Dell’s alternatives for the ThinkPad X1 line, excellently crafted business models with 13/14-inch screens, solid features, and big batteries.
  • HP Envy 13  configurations and prices – well-rounded mid-range compact 13-inch ultrabook based on Intel + Nvidia MX hardware. HP’s more affordable alternative to the Dell XPS 13.
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop previewconfigurations and prices – compact 13.5-inch ultrabook with a 3:2 high-resolution screen, modern hardware and an excellent keyboard, all tucked inside a 2.8 lbs aluminum unibody shell; small battery and limited availability;
  • MSI Prestige 14configurations and prices – compact and light 14-inch laptop, among the most powerful in its size-class with a six-core Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics; well priced for what it is;
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X13 and T14spreviews – 13/14-inch business ultrabooks, value alternatives for the X1 Carbon, with similar traits, but larger batteries and increased dimensions/weight;
  • LG Gram series – configurations and prices – compact and ultralight 13/14-inchers with matte screens, good inputs and large batteries; competitively priced for what they are.

Soem of the other premium options: Asus ZenBook S13, MS Surface Laptop and LG Gram

Affordable alternatives

And what if you’re not willing to spend $1000++ on a portable laptop? Well, we’ve got you covered, and this section includes a list of good-value mid-level options for you to check out:

  • Acer Swift 3 series reviews – configurations and prices – multiple options with Intel+ Nvidia MX or AMD hardware, 16:9 or 3:2 displays, and various features. Good value and affordable.
  • Asus Vivobook 14 seriesreviewsconfigurations and prices – affordable lightweight ultrabooks, various options with either Intel or AMD hardware.
  • Dell Inspiron 13 configurations and prices – Dell’s lineup of affordable compact laptops, available with Intel hardware.
  • HP Pavilion 13 configurations and prices – similarly, HP’s lineup of affordable compact laptops, also available with Intel hardware.
  • MSI Modern 14 configurations and prices –  MSI’s affordable ultrabooks based on either Intel or AMD hardware.
  • Lenovo ThinkBook series review – affordable 13/14-inch notebooks, larger than other options, but sturdily built and solid performers with daily use.
  • Lenovo IdeaPad 5review – affordable 14/15 inch series based on AMD Ryzen hardware, solid options across the board, but beware of the poor screen options.

Make sure to go through detailed reviews of these products to figure out the inherent quirks you’ll have to accept once you step into a lower price bracket. Look at the build quality, typing experience, displays, and thermal/power performance, and pick the one that checks most of your expectations. Understand that you’ll most likely have to compromise here and there.

The best gaming ultraportables

We’ve already thoroughly covered this topic in a separate article, so follow this link for the detailed guide.

In just a few words, though, gaming ultraportables are compact and light performance laptops with capable graphics. Most of these are full-size devices, thus get 15 or 17-inch screens. Options include premium ultraportables such as the Razer Blade 15 Advanced, Asus ROG Zephyrus S, Acer Predator Triton 500, MSI GS66 Stealth Thin or the Gigabyte Aero 15, but also good-value full-size notebooks like the Lenovo Legion 7i or the Acer Predator Helios 300. As for 17-inch models, I’d turn my attention to the Asus ROG Zephyrus S 17, the Gigabyte Aero 17, the MSI GS75 Stealth or the Razer Blade Pro. All these have been reviewed here on the site.

Those interested in even smaller and lighter computers should consider the existing 13 and 14-inch gaming ultrabooks mentioned earlier, such as the Razer Blade Stealth 13 or the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. Furthermore, there are also quite a few ultrabooks based on Nvidia MX350 and MX450 dGPUs you should also check out, especially when shopping at a lower budget.

The best portable gaming laptops on the moment

Productivity laptops

This section caters to those among you in need of a portable and powerful laptop for complex work and school tasks, the kind that cannot properly run on the ultra-compact devices mentioned in earlier sections of this article. These recommendations are meant for university students, engineers, programmers, architects and creatives, and mostly for those looking for a capable and reliable notebook, but still value a portable form-factor that’s easy to lug around every day.

For sure, the gaming ultraportables already covered above make for excellent all-round work&play devices, especially in their mid-tier configurations with i7 processors and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti/RTX 2060 graphics. However, you might appreciate a cleaner design and perhaps you might value a high-end display more than beefy specs, and if that’s the case, some of the options down below might better suits your requirements.

We’ve listed our recommendations below in alphabetical order, with links towards our more detailed reviews and guides:

  • Apple Macbook Pro – Core H hardware, optional Radeon Pro and Vega graphics, 15.4″ glossy retina screen, aluminum unibody construction, 4x TB3 ports, 84 Wh battery, starts at 1.83 kg / 4.05 lbs;
  • Asus ZenBook Pro – Core H hardware with GTX 1650Ti MQ graphics, 15.6″ UHD OLED touchscreen, slim and lightweight aluminum construction, 1x TB3 ports, up to 96 Wh battery, starts at 1.8 kg / 4 lbs;
  • Asus ZenBook Pro Duo – Core H hardware and RTX 2060 graphics, dual-screens with OLED main screen and matte touch second Screen, chunky all-metal build, 1x TB3 ports, 71 Wh battery, starts at 2.5 kg / 5.4 lbs ;
  • Dell XPS 15 and 17 – Core H hardware and up to RTX 2060 MQ graphics in the XPS 17, multiple screen and configuration options, up to 4x TB3, up to 97 Wh battery,  starts at 1.85 kg / 4.1 lbs for 15-inch, 2.2 kg / 4.8 lbs for 17-inch;
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme – Core H hardware and Nvidia 1650Ti MQ graphics, multiple screen and configuration options, ThinkPad looks, features and construction, 2x TB3, 80 Wh battery, starts at 1.7 kg for non-touch version;
  • HP Envy 15 – Core H hardware and up to Nvidia 2060 MQ graphics, UHD AMOLED touchscreen, aluminum build, 2x TB3, 71 Wh battery, starts at 2.05 kg /4.5 lbs;

Keep in mind that given the portable and slim form-factor of these products, the thermal design plays a crucial role in the way these perform with demanding loads, and I suggest carefully looking into detailed reviews to figure out what to expect from the units of your choice. Follow the links for our in-depth reviews and coverage, and get in touch in the comments section at the end if you have any questions about them.

Some of the premium performance ultrabooks: Apple MacBook Pro, Asus ZenBook Pro Duo and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Furthermore, the creators among you should prioritize a high-tier display on your products, and that means one of the UHD versions with %100 AdobeRGB/DCI-P3 color coverage, available in either IPS or OLED variants, each with their own advantages and quirks. Specs and everything else should come secondary on a creator laptop, but you might want to look at one of the Studio-branded options available. These get Nvidia Quadro graphics with optimized drivers and software support, clean designs, quiet fans and various types of displays, but are also highly expensive. Follow this link for all our Quadro RTX notebook reviews, or check out our coverage of the Asus StudioBook Pros, the Razer Blade Studio Edition, the Acer ConceptD Pro, the MSI WS65/75 or the Creator 15/17 lines.

2-in-1 convertible ultrabooks

Hybrids are modern devices with a convertible or detachable touchscreen, so they can be used as either regular notebooks or tablets. We’ve covered this topic in-depth in this separated article, which you should head over to, but we’ll also quickly go through our top recommendations below.

But first, you need to be aware that there are two kinds of 2-in-1s: stand-alone tablets that can act as laptops when hooked to an external dock or keyboard-folio, and regular laptops with 360-degrees convertible screens. The latter are more versatile notebooks, especially when used on the lap, and tend to get larger batteries, faster hardware and more ports, while the former are highly portable and excellent tablets, but not as practical when not on a flat surface.

Tablets: Microsoft Surface Go, Surface Pro, and iPad Pro

Microsoft makes some of the best Windows tablets out there, with the compact and affordable Surface Go and the powerful Surface Pro series.

The Surface Go is a 10-inch tablet with a high-resolution 3:2 touchscreen, fanless Core Y hardware and a base selling price of around $330 at the time of this update (plus $130 for the Keyboard Folio, and there’s also a more expensive LTE version). It’s compact, light and rather inexpensive, which makes it an awesome school-computer or secondary travel companion. It runs Windows S by default, but can be upgraded to regular Windows for the extra functionality. Follow this link for more details.

The Surface Pro is a much more powerful and capable device, able to handle daily multitasking and demanding chores, in a lightweight and compact magnesium chassis. It gets a 12.3-inch 3:2 touchscreen with smaller bezels, Intel Ice lake Core U hardware, and a larger battery, but with a starting price of $899 for a configuration that makes some sense these days (Core i5, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage). The keyboard and pen are not included and cost roughly $250 combined. Ouch! Follow this link for more details.

Finally, the iPad Pro makes its way into this section as well, as a competent choice for graphics artists and creators. It’s a lot more versatile than in the past, with the latest hardware and software updates, and includes an excellent screen with pen support, for less than you’ll pay for a fully accessorized Surface Pro. Of course, it’s not a Windows tablet and can’t run the things you can run on the Surface devices, but has its own software strong points. Follow this link for more details.

Premium convertibles: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, HP Spectre x360 and Lenovo Yoga C940/9i

Both the HP Spectre x360 and the Lenovo Yoga C9xx have been around for a few years and were further refined with each generation, so it’s no surprise they top this segment.

The HP Spectre x360 is available in either a 13-inch of a 15-inch variant, both reviewed here on the site. The Spectre x360 13t makes more sense as a convertible, due to its smaller build, but the x360 15t offers aster hardware, a larger battery, and improved IO. Both are premium computers and bundle the latest and greatest in terms of features, connectivity, and everyday user experience in their niche. They also emphasize on excellent screens, with high-resolution wide-gamut options on both sizes, as well as OLED variants.

The Lenovo Yoga C940 is available in 13.9 and 15-inch variants, thus the smaller model is not as portable as the Spectre or the XPS 13, but still within a few millimeters and tens of grams. It does get a large battery, a larger UHD screen (finally brighter than in the past), and better audio, with part of the speaker-system integrated within the hinge. The 15-inch Yoga C940 15 is a completely different beast though, with Core H and dedicated GTX hardware, thus more powerful than the 15-inch HP and Dell models. Both Yogas are however more expensive than their direct competitors. As of recently, Lenovo also launched the Yoga 9i updated 14-inch ultraportable, as a successor of the C940 series. It’s not yet available at the time of this update, but something to keep an eye on in the future.

Finally, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is a lighter and smaller convertible with one major strong point: a 16:10 display with a punchy and bright 500-nits panel. The thinner and smaller construction only leaves room for a smaller battery and more cramped keyboard, though, as well as leads to noisier fans and higher temperatures in demanding loads. Thus, the XPS 13 makes for an excellent everyday convertible, but the Spectre and Yoga should be the go-tos if you need the extra performance and longer runtimes.

Follow this link for a more thorough list of recommended 2-in-1 laptops and hybrids.

Convertible Ultrabooks: Hp Spextre x360, Lenovo Yoga C940 and Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

Convertible Ultrabooks: HP Spextre x360, Lenovo Yoga C940 and Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

Top affordable convertible: Asus Chromebook Flip C434

Much like the Surface Go, the Asus Chromebook C434 is a competent all-day convertible laptop, but this time a ChomreBook built on ChromeOS. That makes it well suited for browsing, streaming, text-editing and everything else you can do in a browser, as well as a snappy overall computer with excellent battery life, much like the other flagship Chromebooks of this generation.

The Chromebook Flip C434 is available for around $550 at the time of this update. Follow this link for more details.

If you’d rather get an affordable Windows 2-in-1, I’d look into some of these options: Acer Spin series, Asus ZenBook Flip, Dell Inspiron 2-in-1, Lenovo Flex and Yoga 6 series. I’d especially focus on that recent Flex 14 based on AMD Ryzen hardware, it’s a great value option in its niche.

Fanless ultraportables

If you want a totally quiet computer without a fan or spinning hard-drive inside, these fanless options are the ones for you. Just keep in mind that passively cooled platforms are not going to offer the same amount performance as those cooled by a fan, so you should only get one of these for daily activities and light multitasking, but not for demanding loads.

I’ve listed my favorite options below, as well as gathered a complete list of fanless ultraportables in this article, in case you’re interested in more suggestions.

  • Apple MacBook 12 – compact and ultralight, runs on older Core M computer, but still OK for light daily use. Competitively priced these days, if you can still find it.
  • Asus Chromebook Flip – 14-inch ChromeBook with solid traits and a competitive price. Thanks to the lightweight operating system, most Chromebooks run on silent hardware and perform smoother than the Mac/Windows alternatives in this class.
  • Microsoft Surface Pro – the base Core i3/i5 variants on the Surface Pro are passively cooled and provide the best Windows experience you can get in a fanless computer these days; expensive for what they are.

Follow this list for a more detailed list of fanless ultraportables you could consider.

This is the Apple Macbook 12

This is the Apple Macbook 12

Laptops with digitizer and pen support

We’re working on a dedicated article on this particular topic, with recommendations and details on the types of digitizers (EMR, AES, etc.) and pens available these days.

In the meantime, these options should get you started with your search:

  • 2-in-1 tablets (detachables): Microsoft Surface Pro, Surface Go, Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S, Asus Transformer Pro, HP Spectre X2 and Elite X2, Dell Latitude 13 7000, Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12;
  • 2-in-1 convertibles (360-degrees rotating screen): HP Spectre x360, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, Asus ZenBook Flips.

Stay tuned for the update.

Affordable laptops under $500

There are a few types of computers you should consider when shopping on a budget, and we’ve covered them in separate articles:

  • Chromebooks awesome for web-based activities and dependent on an Internet connection, snappier, easier to use and safer than Windows laptops in the same price segment. Available in multiple sizes and variants, starting at as low as $150.
  • affordable mini laptops compact Windows computers with small 11 to 13-inch screens and entry-level specs. Some sell for under $300, but if you want a faster platform, larger battery or an IPS screen you’ll have to spend a little more.
  • affordable full-size laptops – budget traditional notebooks with 14/15-inch screens and competitive features. Most are fast enough for everyday use and some multitasking, but you’ll have to pay a little extra for modern perks like a backlit keyboard, SSD storage, metallic builds or an IPS .

Over here you’ll also find large collection of popular laptops that sell for under $500, with user reviews and extra details. We’ve also covered this topic in this separated article here on the site, my selection of top-affordable ultraportables

Wrap-up – what’s the best ultrabook?

None of the laptops listed here are perfect, but the current generations have definitely come a long way over the years.

The hardware is faster and more efficient these days, which was expected. Alongside came new form factors and features, as well as improvements on all the fundamentals that make for a competent laptop: build quality, typing experience, touchpads, screens, connectivity, and battery life, among them. As a result, there are now many excellent options to choose from.

As for what’s the best ultrabook for you, that’s in the end for each one of you to decide. You know what you want and value in a laptop, so go through the options and pick the one that best fits these needs and your budget.

If by any chance you haven’t found what you needed in this massive post, you should check out these other articles on the site:

Last but not least, you can check out the reviews posted here on the site and our thorough comparisons, or get in touch in the comments section if you need any help with your decision, have any questions or just want to add something to this article.

Keep in mind that we’re updating this list of recommended ultrabooks and portable laptops every three to four weeks, if not more often. That takes a lot of work, so your support is greatly appreciated.

Disclaimer: Our content is reader-supported. If you buy through some of the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief of I've been covering mobile computers since the 2000s and you'll mostly find reviews and thorough guides written by me here on the site.


  1. Jan Pinxter

    July 24, 2017 at 7:57 am

    As I read your udate, se below:

    Update: As of late 2016 there’s a new version of the HP Spectre x360 available, with a more compact and lighter body, Intel Kaby Lake hardware and two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and you can read all about it in our in-depth review. Spoiler alert: it’s an excellent 13-incher, but it no longer offers a digitizer and pen support like the previous version.

    Pity it is not really updated yet having now support of an active pen and, optionally, a 4K/UHD display, although at least in Europe!

    • Andrei Girbea

      July 24, 2017 at 8:03 am

      Yes, this article is in need of a rehaul, I'm sorry for the misinformation, working on it.

  2. Carina Potgieter

    August 9, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Hello Andrei,

    I have to commend you on your excellent use of language and clear, unambiguous writing style. I shy away from many review sites because of their poor language, which simply does not instil (British English :)) confidence. Thank you also, for not alienating the man in the street, like me, with heaps of confusing jargon.

    I am urgently looking for a new computer for work purposes – possibly a 15" laptop to use in conjunction with a wide screen on my desktop at times. My requirements are, roughly:

    – SILENT operation
    – Soft-touch responsive keypad (spill-proof would be great!) or even chiclet
    – Relatively fast processing speed supporting latest software
    – Large screen
    – If possible fanless, with SSD
    – A computer which will NOT overheat easily (I work very long hours)
    – Matt screen, preferably
    – If possible, number pad
    – I am not a gamer, so I won't need elaborate graphics, nor will I need a touchscreen

    I am from South Africa (different model types here) and have been looking at middle-of-the-range computers, such as the HP Envy 15 (Core i7, 12 gig RAM, 512 SSD, fanless, with number pad, USB-C slot and Windows 10). I have, however, previously had HP machines and found them to overheat easily. Does this happen with the Envy too? I don't want a repeat of the same problem! If so, what can you recommend? Any other computers?

    In South Africa, Dell has better after-sales service than HP, which is also a consideration for me.

    Also, I have back problems and was wondering about the strain caused by working on a laptop with a desktop screen further away. Is this a problem?

    Kind regards

    • Andrei Girbea

      August 10, 2017 at 3:26 am

      Hi, thank for the kind words. You didn't mention a budget, that would have been very helpful, but you do say mid-range and I'll work with that.

      What I can tell you is that there are no 15-inch fanless options that I can think of, and the thinner the laptop, the hotter it would get. I don't have a lot of experience with HP laptops lately, they are not that widely available over here. Could be good options, ut I suggest looking for reviews on and other websites, I can't share any insiders.

      I would also suggest checking on the mid-level Dell Inspiron laptops, series 5000 and 7000, should check most boxes. Lenovo makes some good 15-inchers as well, their IdeaPad 320, 510 and 710 lines. The Asus Zenbook Pro UX550 could be an option if you want something nicer and more powerful, as well as the Dell XPS 15, but these are expensive. Not sure if any of these are available down there, but check them out.

      • Pinxter

        August 10, 2017 at 4:05 am

        The new Matebook X might be a good fanless option too although just 13". Have a look:

      • Andrei Girbea

        August 11, 2017 at 3:17 am

        Yes, thanks for the suggestion. I'd wait for reviews first, there's plenty that could go wrong on such a build. But Huawei made some pretty interesting WIndows devices in the last year, so this can be good too.

      • Jan Pinxter

        August 11, 2017 at 4:36 am

        The many reviews I read sofar were pretty positive, except maybe the battery time its limited connectivity and no touch panel but ultraslim (less than 1/2 inch), gorgeous display and no fan but still having proper Intel® Core™ i7-7500U processor.
        Looking forward to your review Andrei!

  3. Aaron

    August 24, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Hi, any recommendations of a laptop which is suitable for students to make notes for long hours yet powerful enough for games like Dota 2? It will be best if it is light enough to carry around whole day (around 3.5 lbs). Preferably Asus products or similar design. I can afford price range below $800. Thank you for your help.

    • Andrei Girbea

      August 26, 2017 at 4:12 am

      I'd get at least a laptop with Nvidia 940MX for Dota 2 so that means the Zenbook UX303UB or perhaps the UX410UQ, if available in your region. Not sure if you can find them in your budget though.

  4. antoine amanieux

    November 18, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    great site, very useful thanks.
    i had one suggestion : try to add rough estimates of numbers of units sold because we want to buy a machine a lot of people also bought.
    1/ for the wisdom of the crowd that will translate good choice into high sell number (we are all unique but 80% of our "jobs to be done" are the same)
    2/ we will always at one time come upon a problem due to hardware/firmware/software conflicts and when you buy a laptop a lot of people also bought you increase your chances of googling a right answer to your problem if a lot of people had the same problem on the same machine.

    • Andrei Girbea

      November 20, 2017 at 5:44 am

      Hi, that would be helpful, but unfortunately there's no way I can add it, as nobody provides such info.

  5. Ahmed

    December 28, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    Love how you break down the categories, quite helpful.

    I'd like to ask about the Lenovo yoga e11, please. I have three options right now: one with a n3160 processor, another with an n3150, and a third with an m5y10c. I looked up the processors online and am getting mixed messages, which one is best? My main use for this unit will be remotely accessing my workstation which (i.e. the workstation) will be running fairly intense graphics.

    Many thanks,

  6. Tora

    December 29, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Hello Andrei!
    Thank you for a great site with thorough reviews that are easy to understand.
    I am looking to buy an asus zenbook 3, but then I noticed that all the zenbooks were described as too fan active, which worries me. I live in Sweden but dont mind ordering from outside and waiting for delivery.

    Budget: 1100 euro.
    Mostly quiet.
    Doesnt have to handle games at all, but multitask for example tor guard and around 15 browser windows and powerpoint.
    Max weight 1.6 kg, the lighter the better.
    No need for a backlit keyboard, but I like low resistance keys.
    Not apple.
    Matte screen.
    I dont care what it looks like.

    I need to buy it on sunday 31st at the latest, and I completely understand if you dont have time to answer so fast. Thank you so much!

    • Andrei Girbea

      January 2, 2018 at 7:04 am

      Hi, sry for the late reply, something like the new Zenbook UX331 or the Zenbook UX430 should meet your requirements fine. You'll probably get the i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM for that kind of money, though.

  7. Dimonoid

    April 12, 2019 at 11:57 am

    I am looking for a laptop weighting 1.0-1.2kg with touch screen and resolution quad hd or greater(1080p is not enough for me). The diagonal must be 14 inch or greater. Also I need a great battery life at least 8-10 hours.

    I was looking at the lg gram 17, but it does not have touchscreen, and it is a little too heavy.

    Thinkpad x1 yoga 3rd gen is also too heavy, as it is whole 1.4 kilograms, and I heard it's battery is bad.


    • Andrei Girbea

      April 12, 2019 at 1:25 pm

      That's not realistic.

      You'll need a big battery for that kind of battery life, I'd say at least 60 Wh, preferably more. And a big battery + touch + 14-inch screen add up on the weight. You can go through this list, it doesn't include all the latest launches, but it's a starting point: .

      My first choice for what you need is probably the Surface Pro (yes, it's smaller, I know), with the Lenovo Yoga 920/930 as a second, but you'll have to compromise on some of those requirements.

  8. Hong

    June 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Hi Andrei,

    I am looking for an ultrabook which can support Microsoft office (for business emails), wifi and for watching movies.

    My budget is ~$1000. Please recommend a few models for me.

    • Andrei Girbea

      June 11, 2019 at 10:43 am

      there are many that can fit within that budget, go through he options int eh article and find the one that best fits your needs. I'd recommend something with a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD.

  9. Yury

    June 15, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    why microsoft surface laptop is not on the list?
    isn't it the option to consider among thin and light laptops?

  10. Jeanette

    July 22, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Hi Andrei, Thank you for a lovely site with lots of info, unfortunately it confused me more. I am going overseas shortly but still need to keep up with my e-mails, making payments and use a couple of Document files while away. Also need some space for saving photos. I do not want to take my Lenovo G50-30 as it is too big and heavy. What should I look for?

    • Andrei Girbea

      July 22, 2019 at 2:15 pm

      Hi, a budget would help in proving any recommendations, as well more details on certain features that you might want: long battery life, premium construction, touchscreen, etc etc.

      • Jeanette

        July 22, 2019 at 7:53 pm

        Hi, Battery life is important, construction – should withstand everyday wear and tear and travelling. Size and weight is important – smaller/lighter, touchscreen not that important but would like to work with cordless mouse. It should also not be sluggish.

      • Andrei Girbea

        July 22, 2019 at 9:36 pm

        Jeanette, you still didn't mention a budget

      • Jeanette

        July 23, 2019 at 12:07 am

        Budget is not a problem.

      • Andrei Girbea

        July 23, 2019 at 10:32 am

        I that case, I'd go with one of the best ultraportables out there:
        – Dell XPS 13 9370 – small, light, excellently crafted, good battery life, matte opt touch screen options, miniaturized ports
        – Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon – bit larger, different design, better keyboard, full-size ports
        – Huawei MateBook X Pro – excellent touchscreen with 3:2 aspect ratio (taller than most screens), good battery life
        – Huawei MateBook 13 – smaller and more compact, similar 3:2 screen, shorter battery life
        – Asus Zenbook S13 UX392 – compact and small, miniaturized ports, more affordable than the others

        On top of that, aim for at least a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage.
        You'll find reviews for all of these on the site, have a look and narrow down the one you like best.

  11. rob

    November 4, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    ok andrei, new category.

    -BYOD for office and work from home. Haul to the work office 2-3 days a week and haul to home office 2-3 days a week, only use as a literal laptop a handful times per year, but often enough that any present-day iteration of a slab PC like the old XPS 18 is a non-starter.

    -Valued attributes:
    * USB-C PD for universal docks in office and home (no dell/hp/lenovo proprietary docking solutions that have zero legs for personal use)
    * 14-15" display. 13" and smaller screens are useless when combined with desktop monitors, and 17" displays refuse to leave empty space in the chassis making them too heavy.
    * thermals. workflows that dip into a variety of intensive processes like video renders, code compiles, data/user modeling, high quantity shell pipeline looping. all together, something like 5% of the time but more time-important than the 95% of menial tasks. I hate modeling something that completes in under 5 minutes, then extrapolated expectation is wrong because thermal throttling kicks in when the real processing happens. workloads don't happen often enough to run them in an on-demand cloud solution.
    * weight. nothing over 5-6 lbs. every day even if it's only a couple hundred yards a day wears on you over the years.

    -low/zero value attributes:
    * all inputs; keyboard-trackpad-touchscreen, mic-speakers-camera, i/o ports that aren't named usb-c or tb3.
    * turbo performance over 2-5 minute workloads. workload assumption is anything that invokes turbo will run 15-60 minutes at a time, and anything that doesn't will bore any CPU/GPU in this system to death.
    * thinness. as a proxy for weight, sure fine whatever. but as a literal measure, I don't care about thin chassis at all. I actually would go out of my way to find a thicker chassis if it was a similar weight as the thermals would inherently improve.
    * battery life. 3 hours is more than enough. always plugged in to a wall anyway, and the only time I'm not plugged in is literally because I'm too lazy to plug in for a 2 hours meeting even though a power outlet is available.
    * budget. if it's too expensive I just won't buy it, but I'm alternating between gamer/media laptops and 2-in-1s over the past 6-7 years so ballparking it should be over $1k and less than $2k US.

    -comp to current daily driver.
    current driver x360 (2017) convertible 15-bl1xx, i7 8550u, 16gb ram, some SSD who knows. it's fine, but the thermals ssssuck. I don't need a heavy 15 inch tablet mode so clamshell would be fine in a new system. it's not heavy but at 4.1 lbs I wouldn't want to go a ton heavier unless there was an amazing performance advantage. I don't really game anymore so as long as it plays terrible freemium mtx junk and 10 year old stuff on low res that's good enough for me.

  12. Colin

    November 28, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Hi Andrei,
    Thanks for this extensive work !
    Have you ever mind reviewing the Honor MagicBook series ?

    • Andrei Girbea

      November 28, 2020 at 11:55 am

      I haven't' so far because the Honor lineup of laptops is not available over here. However, those are very similar to the Huawei laptops and we've reviewed a couple of them. They're pretty solid value in their niches. Let me know if you're interested in one model in particular and I will come back with impressions based on the Huawei counterpart, if I've reviewed it.

  13. Colin

    November 28, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    @Andrei, thanks for your comment.
    I'm thinking about buying the MagicBook Pro 16, which comes with 16 GB of RAM and a Ryzen 4xxx processor.
    It will basically have to manage large number of tabs in Firefox or Chrome, simultaneously with raw photos post-processing in Lightroom, and occasionnally light video editing.
    It would be great if it can do this without being always plugged to power outlet.
    I cannot see any competitor at this price point, but I may be missing some ?

    • Andrei Girbea

      November 28, 2020 at 8:21 pm

      That chassis is used by Honor and Xiaomi, and unfortunately, I don't have any hands-on experience with it, so I can't comment on the performance when unplugged. For what is worth, there's an in-depth review over here on NBC:

      I'd suggest getting it from a store that allows returns, that shouldn't be a problem if you're in the UK/US. Give it a try, see how it works for you, and return if not satisfied. Based on my experience with the 14/15-inch models from the Chinese brands, I think this should be fairly solid. Not sure about that fan noise that Notebookcheck mentions in their article, that could be deal-breaker but no way to tell without trying it in person.

  14. Colin

    November 28, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    Thanks a lot for your inputs.
    I'll take a look at this review by NotebookCheck.
    Here in France, we can buy Honor products from which, I think is directly operated by the brand, and apply the European obligation to accept returns for 14 days.
    So your idea may be the best, just try and see :-)
    Thanks again

  15. Maria

    January 7, 2021 at 12:17 am

    Hi Andrei,
    I've had a read through some of your reviews- thank you! I'm very torn about what laptop to get for the past few weeks and I'm desperate. Ultimately I need something that is light, handles basic web browsing, MS office, emails, netflix etc (plus a few programmes for grad school), and beautiful (sorry to be vain haha!) without breaking my bank account. I was tempted to get the Acer Swift 3 but then read your review where you mentioned you found the keyboard to be a little cramped which put me off it.
    My old Asus Zenbook Flip UX360U has breathed it's last breaths and it was actually the perfect laptop for me. Light, had an incredible keyboard, pleasant to use and powerful enough for me. Terrible speakers but that's not a priority for me. What would you recommend? I can live with paying £800max. Many thanks!

    • Andrei Girbea

      January 7, 2021 at 9:28 am

      The recent Swift 3 14-inch models should be fine for what you need. Aim for at least a core I5 processor (preferably the newer i5-1135G7), 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB SSD.

      The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 and Asus VivoBook 14 are also good options, especially the former. These aside, since you're in the UK you could also consider the Huawei MateBook 13 2020, with the 3:2 screen. Bit small battery, but good keyboard/clickpad and nice build/design.

  16. Maria

    January 7, 2021 at 9:47 am

    Thank you for getting back to me so quickly, I really appreciate it! I'll look into the ones you recommended.
    Ultimate priority for me is size, battery life and comfortable typing/using experience. It's a bit of a problem because I can't actually check out the laptops in real life before buying it due to the lockdown!
    I think I'll skip the huawei matebook despite the keyboard, purely because you mentioned the battery not being as good.
    Is the swift 3 14inch not as cramped keyboard wise as the 13.5inch model? Did you find it easier to use?

    • Andrei Girbea

      January 7, 2021 at 9:53 am

      This is the latest 14-inch Swift 3: . Not my favorite keyboard, but fine. Mind that what you'll find in shops comes with the backlit keyboard, which I like better than the non-backlit model on that review unit.

      Still, out of the three mentioned, I'd say the Lenovo gets the best keyboard, with the Asus coming second and this Acer coming last. If you can find that Ideapad Slim 7 within your budget, that's what I'd go with. You'll find reviews for all of these here on the site.

      Since you're in the UK, you should also consider buying from stores that allow easy returns, just to be on the safe side in case you're not entirely satisfied with your purchase.

  17. Ariella Knopp Warner

    February 22, 2021 at 9:35 pm

    You have one of the best sites for reviews I've found. Thank you! I'm searching for a new laptop, and while your reviews helped, I'm still a tad lost. I use Adope apps for video and photo editing, hobby right now, I do a lot of writing, video meetings, multitasking, often a lot of browsers and apps open at once. I currently run an older i7, 1TB ssd, 16gb ram, HP Spectre 2017. It didn't hold up as well as I'd like, and the screen is going on it already, it runs extremely hot when I'm barely doing more than browsing. I paid a lot for it at the time. I'd like to pay less than 1500 or less USD for my new laptop, which is half of what I spent for the current one. I do light gaming, and not very often. Ultimately I would like the option, but it doesn't have to be the newest fastest gaming laptop. This will be my work/play laptop so I have to be able to do whatever I need. Any help or suggestion would be great.

  18. LB

    April 15, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    DELL Inspiron 13 (7306) 2 in 1, COD: DI7306UI71165G716GB32GB512GBW3Y vs ASUS ZenBook S UX393EA-HK001R, pe care il recomanzi, amandoua fiind cam la aclesi pret. Care ar fi mai fiabil? Avantaje si dezavantaje?
    Ar face fata la lucrat cu baza de date statistice in fisiere excel sau word de marimi mari cca 100 MB, pline de tabele si formule si grafice? Am dell latitude e6540 face fata cu greu la astfel de fisiere. Trebuie sa fie ultraportabil ca munca acasa si apoi il plimb dupa mine. Multumesc.

    • Andrei Girbea

      April 15, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      Please keep it to English. Both should be fine, I'd go with the Asus for that larger screen though.

      Not sure about the performance, though, the i7-1165G7 might not be ideal for that kind of use. If possible, get the laptop, give it a try, and return if not good enough. Something Like a Lenovo IdeaPad Slim with a Ryzen 7 4800U or Ryzen 7 5700U might be better for those kinds of tasks.

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