Intel's seen the future of the laptop, and it's called the ultrabook. Designed to compete head-to-head with the MacBook Air, these new machines are extremely thin, promise over five hours of battery life, and boot / resume from sleep very quickly. Every major laptop manufacturer now has an ultrabook on its product list, so whether you favor Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, or Toshiba, there's a review here for you.
Mar 25, 2013
Last September, HP introduced one of the most credible MacBook Air competitors we’d yet seen: the 13-inch Envy Spectre XT was thin, light, strong, and yet still comfortable to use, a rarity in a Windows ultrabook. Yet it also had a low-quality, low-resolution 1366 x 768 display that had no place in a premium $1,000 laptop, and it arrived without a touchscreen, which quickly limited its utility with Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system.Read Article >
On paper, the new Envy Spectre XT TouchSmart seems like it could solve both problems at once. It's the same exact formula, but with a beautiful 15.6-inch 1080p touchscreen on top, and a larger, more spacious chassis to accommodate the two-inch screen size bump. It also comes standard with a large hard drive (a feature the original couldn't possibly hope to squeeze into its tiny frame), and a Thunderbolt port for high-speed connectivity. On paper, the only catch is the $1,199 starting price — pretty expensive for a simple dual-core 1.7GHz Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM.
Feb 13, 2013
Since Windows 8's debut last October, PC manufacturers have all followed pretty much the same playbook. Build a laptop with a touchscreen? Check. A docking laptop / tablet hybrid? Check. A strange, hinged device that twists and turns from tablet to laptop modes? Check. The PC market as a whole may look very different than it did a year ago, but the currently available devices don't vary much. Except for this one Asus device that crossed my desk a couple of weeks ago, that is.Read Article >
It's called the Taichi, it starts at $1,299, and it has two screens. That's pretty much everything you need to know. Rather than create a way to convert the device from a tablet to a laptop via a flexible hinge or rotating display, Asus instead just stuck a screen onto the lid of an otherwise fairly uninteresting notebook. Points to Asus for thinking of a new way to take advantage of all that Windows 8 offers, but does it work? Do more screens equal more fun? I've wondered that ever since the Taichi was first shown off at Computex back in August, and I finally got to take the device for a spin over the last few weeks.
Jan 17, 2013
When I reviewed the X1 Carbon, Lenovo's flagship ThinkPad laptop, I found few faults. It's an eye-catching computer that combines everything good about ThinkPads – great keyboard, sturdy design, solid performance — with a fit and finish I didn't expect from the company's "black box" line of laptops. Its price was a little high and its bloatware portion was heaping, but it was (and still is) one of my favorite Windows 7 ultrabooks.Read Article >
Now that Windows 8 is here, in all its touch-friendly, colorful glory, Lenovo's released a new X1 Carbon with a touchscreen. The X1 Carbon Touch is otherwise virtually identical to its untouchable sibling: same processor, same operating system, same beautiful matte black carbon fiber body (though a half-pound heavier). It comes at a $150 premium, sort of – the cheapest Carbon model is $1,249 and the cheapest Touch is $1,499, but the Touch's specs match the $1,349 model. I spent some time with the Carbon Touch trying to decide if it's worth the extra weight and the extra price, plus whether or not touchscreens are the future of laptops.
Dec 6, 2012
In ten years, it seems like everything's changed — but maybe things aren't so different after all.Read Article >
In 2002, Acer revealed a PC that was also a tablet, the TravelMate 100. The convertible device used a swiveling central hinge, allowing the screen to rotate 180 degrees and fold down on top of the keyboard so you could hold it in two hands like a tablet. The concept never caught on in a truly mainstream way, but has occupied a niche ever since the TravelMate's introduction.
Dec 4, 2012
Battlefield 3 on a power-sipping ultrabook? They said it couldn't be done. In March, however, Acer and Nvidia proved them wrong. Behind closed doors at the 2012 Game Developer's Conference, the sleek black 15.6-inch Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 ran the demanding game, thanks to a brand-new Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics chip with more bang per watt than anything else we'd seen. Unfortunately for the world, most every other part of that laptop was sorely lacking in quality, and the Timeline M3 was shelved.Read Article >
That is, until Acer decided to turn that machine into the best bang-for-the-buck laptop on the market. The new Acer Aspire M5 starts at just $629.99 in the US for a solid set of ultrabook specs inside a much-improved chassis, and upgrades are relatively cheap: the $779.99 model adds dedicated GeForce GT 640M LE graphics for gaming, and for $799.99 you can find a touchscreen variant with Windows 8.
Nov 20, 2012
The Dell XPS 12 and Acer Aspire S7 arenât your average laptops. Theyâre premium, and unique.Read Article >
One is a razor-thin, Gorilla Glass-infused attempt to transform Acerâs reputation, the other Dellâs carbon fiber-laced realization of an idea that was ahead of its time. Both start at $1,199 for a Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory, 128GB of solid state storage, and a brilliant 1080p touchscreen display, but each has its own special way of running Windows 8. The Acer Aspire S7âs screen bends backwards 180 degrees to lay completely flat on a table, sharing a 13.3-inch or 11.6-inch display, while Dellâs XPS 12 has a 12.5-inch monitor that literally spins 180 degrees inside its aluminum bezel, turning the machine into a tablet.
Nov 5, 2012
To prepare for the Windows 8 onslaught, laptop manufacturers are trying all sorts of inventive touchscreen notebook designs. Some screens flip, some spin, some twist, and some can actually be detached from their keyboards so you can have a tablet for the road. However, the craziest new laptop design may be the simplest of all: simply graft a touchscreen onto an existing clamshell.Read Article >
The $799.99 HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 is one such touchscreen notebook, and it also just so happens to be the very first one in our labs. With a fairly standard set of ultrabook specs, a relatively thick, weighty chassis, and a 1366 x 768 screen, the 14-inch laptop doesn’t really stand out in any other way, however. Does the touchscreen make it a better Windows 8 laptop than with keyboard and touchpad alone? Is the Envy 4 a good laptop, period? Read on.
Sep 26, 2012
Three years ago, HP introduced the Envy 13. This week, weâre reviewing its spiritual successor, the Envy Spectre XT. Oh, how times have changed. Then, as now, the Envy was accused of cribbing from Apple's MacBook playbook. Then, as now, it's a shiny silver machine, with an ultra-low-voltage processor, a single-button clickpad, no optical drive, few ports, and a 13-inch screen.Read Article >
So, what's new? HP's latest Envy sheds weight, girth, and adds a solid state drive to compete with the MacBook Air. At $1,000, you won't find a discrete graphics chip or a high-res screen in this Intel ultrabook, but it is $400 cheaper than the Gorilla Glass-covered HP Envy 14 Spectre we liked earlier this year.
Aug 13, 2012
Lenovo's made the most of the time since Intel defined the "ultrabook" last fall, releasing a number of different models designed for different users. By and large, the company's done good work, too: we called the ThinkPad U300s the best ultrabook on the market back in November, and the IdeaPad U310 delivers pretty solid value for $799.Read Article >
But Lenovo saved its best for its latest, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The Carbon is the successor to last year's X1, and ticks all the ultrabook boxes, but it tries to go even further and outdo everyone: it's a 14-inch laptop that's barely bigger than a typical 13-inch model, and its carbon fiber body is less than three quarters of an inch thick and weighs all of three pounds. There's no shortage of power inside, either, thanks to a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD in the base model. Solid specs and excellent design add up to Lenovo's most premium ultrabook to date and also its most expensive: it starts at $1,399 and you can easily pay $500 more.
Aug 2, 2012
Laptops in 2012 may be thinner and lighter than ever, but the form factor's otherwise been largely untouched. You get a keyboard, a trackpad, a 16:9 widescreen display, and some ports. One of Toshiba's latest Satellite ultrabooks looks like that: the U845 is thin, light, and overwhelmingly laptop-y. But the other new Satellite is a bit different: the U845W's 14.4-inch display is "ultra-widescreen," with a 21:9 aspect ratio that is far wider and shorter than most displays its size. The U845W is focused on multimedia, designed for watching movies as much as for getting work done. Inside, the two devices are still largely the same, featuring the thin, fast, SSD-powered ultrabook specs we've come to expect.Read Article >
Is the $749 U845 a better choice, with its tried-and-true form factor? Or is the company smartly thinking outside the box with the $999 U845W, reimagining how a laptop should look and work? Read on, and we'll find out.
Jul 23, 2012
Vizio makes laptops? Yes, it does. This year, the TV company revealed a grand plan to shake up the Windows PC industry by creating its own computers. It began with a mysterious Super Bowl ad, but it wasn't long before the world got a glimpse of Vizio's first machines: an iconic series of three slim silver notebooks and two all-in-one PCs. Well-known for producing decent televisions at fantastic bargains, Vizio was expected to keep up that bang-for-the-buck trend in the laptop realm, and the company's price points seem to agree. Today, we're reviewing Vizio's top-of-the-line ultrabook, a 15.6-inch aluminum computer with a 1.9GHz Core i7 ULV processor, 256GB of solid state storage and a crisp 1080p screen... for a mere $1,249 MSRP.Read Article >
What no one expected was Vizio's promise not to cut corners on quality. When we visited the all-American electronics company's headquarters last month, CTO Matt McRae explained: "We basically built a $2,000 PC for half the price — that's how we approached it. We didn't skimp on a single thing." There's no bloatware on these Vizio computers, no tacky stickers to remove, and most surprisingly of all, the company promised us that the trackpad — a pain point for Windows machines — would be nearly perfect when the laptops arrived at retail.
Jul 16, 2012
Samsung's Series 9 laptops have a lot to prove. Since the day Samsung showed the first one off at CES last year, they've consistently been priced higher than the equivalent MacBook Air, and that can be a pretty hard sell. If you want a premium Windows machine, though, a MacBook Air just won't do. So when I reviewed the 15-inch Samsung Series 9, I was hopeful that its $1,500 price tag meant it would be the Windows ultrabook of choice going forward.Read Article >
If you read my review, though, you already know that presumption wasn't quite true. The 15-inch Samsung Series 9 is a gorgeous machine, but in an attempt to stretch the thin form factor to larger dimensions, Samsung wound up with a wobbly hinge, dull speakers, and an unremarkable screen. When I got the chance to test the smaller, cheaper 13-inch version of Samsung's flagship notebook, with Intel's newer Ivy Bridge processors to boot, I leapt at the opportunity to find out if it could make up for its larger relative.
Jul 12, 2012
Since the day the chunky XPS M1210 notebook morphed into the XPS M1330's sleek frame, Dell has almost always had a stylish laptop lineup to its name. Back in 2007, they were defined by brushed aluminum surfaces and ultra-thin LED backlit screens, and in 2010, they went to a black-and-silver design with distinctive port-filled corners and magnesium alloy decks. In 2011, the XPS 15z took a page from Apple's playbook before that was cool, and this year's XPS 13 could practically have sprung from a MacBook Air mold.Read Article >
The new XPS 14, however, is not Dell's new MacBook Pro.
Jul 12, 2012
When Acer introduced the Aspire S5 ultrabook at CES in January, it did so to considerable fanfare. The company said it was the thinnest ultrabook yet, and that it didn't cut corners to get there: the S5 has a Thunderbolt port (good luck finding one on another ultrabook), a huge 256GB SSD, and a bizarre ports panel called MagicFlip. Thin, light, fast, and Thunderbolt sounded like a gang not to be trifled with.Read Article >
More details rolled out over the last few months, leading up to the S5’s release. The final model ships with a Core i7 Ivy Bridge processor, a look that’s much refined and improved over last year’s S3, and a price to match it all: at $1,399 it’s one of the most expensive ultrabooks on the market. Competing with devices like the $799 Lenovo IdeaPad U310, Acer has some work to do to prove that the S5 is worth the extra outlay. How does it fare? Let’s find out.
Jul 9, 2012
The deluge of competitors to the MacBook Air’s throne shows no sign of slowing, and while the jury’s still out on whether an ultrabook has yet to truly best Apple’s wunder-device there have been a number of attractive options. Consider the IdeaPad U310, successor to the IdeaPad U300s we checked out (and enjoyed) in November — albeit with new hardware and a few budget-minded compromises.Read Article >
The U310 is powered by a dual-core Ivy Bridge processor, 4GB of RAM and equipped with a 500GB hard drive. The $799 (as configured) price tag makes it one of the cheapest ultrabooks we’ve reviewed to date. It also features Lenovo’s chiclet-style AccuType keyboard, previously experienced on the Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 and ThinkPad X230. Is the latest revision enough to pique your interest? Read on, and we’ll find out.
Jul 5, 2012
Eight months ago, Asus was one of the first to build a credible MacBook Air alternative with a similar look and feel. The 13-inch Asus Zenbook UX31 and 11-inch UX21 delivered extremely rigid all-metal frames, power-sipping Intel Sandy Bridge processors, speedy solid state storage, and unfortunately, an incredibly frustrating trackpad. Ultimately, we couldn't recommend them over their Apple competitors in any particular way, and that trackpad threw a wrench in the formula.Read Article >
In March, however, we discovered that Asus intended to change the Zenbook for the better. The new Zenbook Prime UX31A and UX21A would include a revamped design with newer Ivy Bridge processors, backlit keyboards, an optional Nvidia 620M GPU, and best of all, matte 1080p IPS displays... even on the 11-inch model. That's a lot of pixels for a laptop this small.
Mar 29, 2012
One year ago, Samsung released the Series 9 laptop, and at the time, we'd never seen a more premium Windows machine. It was thin, light, visually striking, and choice components filled the svelte machine, including a comfortable backlit keyboard, a fast SSD, an aluminum alloy chassis, and a wonderful matte screen. If it weren't for the 13-inch computer's $1,649 price tag (which admittedly fell to $1,399 after a few months), it might have been a roaring success.Read Article >
As is, it was good enough for Samsung to give the formula a second chance. The updated 13-inch Series 9 is even thinner and lighter than its predecessor — at 12.7mm thick, it could be the thinnest of them all — and at 14.7mm thick, the brand-new 15-inch Series 9 is definitely the slimmest 15-inch laptop around. Is there no end to how thin these machines can get before compromises rear their ugly heads? Does that thinness make up for price tags that are still quite high to begin with, when the specs (a 1.6GHz Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, integrated graphics) are basically the same?
Mar 21, 2012
What is an ultrabook? Intel has a pretty loose definition: as long as your laptop is less than 0.8 inches thin, has five hours of battery life, rapidly wakes from sleep, and has a second-generation Intel Core processor, you're basically part of the club. What "ultrabook" stands for, though, is an entirely different matter. The first wave of ultrabooks were designed specifically to compete with Apple's MacBook Air, and it showed: a teardrop-shaped wedge design, a metal frame, a 13-inch screen, a Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of memory, and integrated Intel graphics featured in almost every machine.Read Article >
Why do I bring this up? Acer broke the mold. The Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 technically fulfills all of Intel's criteria, but it's nothing like the ultrabooks that came before: it's a 15-inch laptop with a plastic chassis, a low-res screen, a 10-key numpad, and a DVD drive. It's a sleeper, too. Underneath that unassuming polycarbonate exterior lies an Nvidia GeForce GT 640M dedicated graphics chip that can actually play graphically intensive games, unlike any other ultrabook on the market. There are plenty of tradeoffs, though. Are they worth it? Read on.
Mar 14, 2012
Can you believe that just six months ago, HP was thinking of ditching the PC business? It seems far fetched today, now that we know the company had laptops like the lightweight, long-lasting Folio 13 and the powerful yet relatively inexpensive Envy series up its sleeves. And of course, that's before we consider the HP Envy 14 Spectre, too. First revealed to us in an FCC filing and then again in a video tease, the Spectre turned out to be a 14-inch ultrabook practically bathed in Gorilla Glass, with a lovely high-res screen... but also a $1,399 price tag to go along with its fairly standard internal specifications. When it comes to ultrabooks, the user experience is paramount, but that's a lot to spend on a Core i5 chip with integrated graphics and 4GB of RAM. Is the Envy 14 Spectre worth $500 more than HP's own Folio 13? Is it worth $100 more than a 13-inch MacBook Air?Read Article >
The Envy 14 Spectre is a perfectly fine, competent and desirable machine. It checks most of the right boxes up and down the line. Still, I have to admit, I wonder for whom it would be the right choice. While it's a striking machine, to be sure, I can't honestly say it beats the MacBook Air on any crucial point, and it costs $100 more. HP paints a lovely picture in bold strokes, but lacks Apple's attention to detail. If you prefer Windows, though, as I do, the Spectre is a great place to start, and it's got a better display, trackpad and port selection than most any ultrabook on the market. Just know that without the battery life and price to match, it’s not a flawless victory. In some ways, the Folio 13 is still the best all-around ultrabook on the market.
Mar 6, 2012
Acer Aspire S3. Asus Zenbook UX31. Lenovo IdeaPad U300S. Toshiba Portege Z835. HP Folio 13. And now, Dell's XPS. Since Intel and its OEM partners set out to beat the Apple MacBook Air on price and match its exceptionally thin, superbly solid build, six Windows laptops have risen to the challenge... and while a few have come close, none have quite done the job. The XPS 13 is Dell's entry into the ultrabook arena, and while it's got the same basic specs as most of the other thin-and-lights we've recently reviewed, it might be the most comfortable ultrabook we've ever held. Not only did Dell fit a 13-inch panel into a smaller chassis than any of its competitors, but vast expanses of soft-touch plastic paint make its keyboard deck feel great, and the entire base of the laptop consists of a stylish carbon fiber weave. Starting at $999, the XPS 13 looks fantastic at first blush. Does that feeling permeate the entire laptop experience, though? Read on.Read Article >
Our quest for the perfect ultrabook continues. The XPS 13 isn't quite there, held back by its display, somewhat disappointing battery life, and lack of ports or adapters. It's a shame, too, because it feels like Dell came quite close to a truly excellent machine. Perhaps the battery life couldn't be helped in the smaller frame, but with a higher-quality display to match its well-designed keyboard and chassis, it'd definitely have my recommendation. For now, if you don't mind the 1366 x 768 resolution and a little more girth, you'd be better off with the $899 HP Folio 13 or the $1,195 Lenovo U300s, or, of course, a $1,299 MacBook Air so long as you're comfortable with OS X. There's one more option, though: you could wait just a few short months to see what kind of performance and battery life Intel's Ivy Bridge and AMD's Trinity processors might bring.
Feb 10, 2012
Let’s be honest: The ultrabook phenomenon is by and large Intel's and the rest of the PC industry's reaction to Apple’s MacBook Air. Just take a look at a lot of the designs and the features: the influence (and in some places the outright imitation) is obvious. However, while the ultrabooks on the market today have all tried to mimic and beat the Air on one thing or another — price, more storage, and so on — none have managed to pull it off.Read Article >
In fact, I’ve concluded in almost all of The Verge’s ultrabook reviews that it’s probably worth spending a bit more and buying an Air. However, I’ve realized (thanks to a number of readers) that really isn’t an apples to apples comparison: the Air doesn’t run Windows 7, at least not out of the box, and many who are buying ultrabooks are likely looking for a very thin and light Windows PC, not a Mac OS X laptop.
Jan 3, 2012
“I hardly think that we're too late, the work we're doing with Microsoft is extraordinarily compelling — ultraportables are compelling," HP’s Todd Bradley said during the call where Meg Whitman, the company’s new CEO, declared her decision to keep its PC business. Of course, Bradley wasn’t only defending HP’s role in the computer and mobile market, but he was hinting at HP’s intention to jump into the new crowded ultrabook pool. And the HP Folio 13 is just that entry.Read Article >
Interestingly, the 13.3-inch Folio isn’t really a consumer-focused PC — it doesn’t have HP’s typical Beats branding or its characteristic playful design language — but it does have a nice array of features that will appeal to everyday users. Sure, it has the standard ultrabook specs — an Intel Core processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB Samsung SSD for fast boot and resume times — but for just $899.99, it also has a backlit keyboard, Core i5 (most at that price have an i3), and the important ports that many ultrabooks have left off (see Lenovo's IdeaPad U300s). So, is the Folio just as “compelling” as Bradley believes, and can it provide HP — a company with a floundering mobile strategy — with the firm momentum it needs in this new fiery ultrabook market? And more to the point, is it the ultrabook you should buy? Read on for the full review of the Folio 13.
Nov 12, 2011
In the last couple of weeks, ultrabooks — Intel’s new category of ultrathin and ultralight laptops — have been arriving one by one, each aiming to derail the MacBook Air’s lead with a mix of competitive pricing and new features. But none of them have been successful; each has had its own set of compromises which just haven’t been worth the savings. To recap: the Acer Aspire S3 had a slower hard drive / SSD combo and atrocious keyboard, the Asus Zenbook UX31 had unforgivable trackpad issues, and the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s’ price didn’t undercut the Air enough to excuse its missing SD card slot and lower resolution display.Read Article >
The Toshiba Portege Z835 is the fourth ultrabook to hit the market this fall, and it offers the most intriguing price / performance mix yet: it's just $900, but includes a number of attributes the others don’t, including a backlit keyboard, more ports (full size Ethernet, VGA, and HDMI jacks), and a lighter chassis. Could the Z835 be the no-compromise ultrabook that finally beats the Air on pricing and features? Is the fourth time the charm? Read on for my full review.
Nov 8, 2011
Months before Intel decided to jump-start its new ultrabook category, Lenovo made an extremely thin laptop which essentially fit 95 percent of Intel’s vision: the IdeaPad U260. The aluminum-wrapped laptop, which came out last December, was just 0.7 inches thick and was one of the best Windows ultraportables ever created in terms of performance and overall build. However, it couldn’t take on its closest competitor — the MacBook Air — for one major reason: battery life. An incredibly thin laptop cannot last under three hours on a charge and expect to be taken as a serious rival.Read Article >
But every first draft deserves a rewrite, and the 13.3-inch, $1,199 IdeaPad U300s is just that. The latest ultrabook entrant has the now-familiar Intel-mandated attributes, including Core i5 / i7 processors, 256GB solid-state drives for fast boot and resume times, and long battery life. So has a year and some direction from Intel made the U300s the perfect laptop? Or does it — like the other two ultrabooks out there — have another set of issues entirely? Those answers and many many more await in the review below.
Nov 1, 2011Read Article >
When Intel unveiled its notion of the ultrabook in June, Asus could hardly contain its excitement. Just moments after Intel’s Sean Maloney announced the newly-named laptop category, which promised fast boot times and great battery life, Asus’ Chairman Jonney Shih took the stage in his always-entertaining, yet transcendent style to show off his company’s future UX ultrabooks. The laptops had more than just a few things in common with Apple's MacBook Air – aluminum chassis, teardrop designs, buttonless touchpads, fast resume times, and 11.6- and 13-inch screens. However, unlike other PC manufacturers that have dared to mimic Apple, Asus promised to focus on style and refinement without cutting corners on the parts of the computer that make the experience. And even better, it planned to stay competitive on price – the Core i3, 128GB UX21 costs $999 and the Core i5, 128GB UX31 runs $1,199 ($200 less than the similarly spec’d Air). The two ultrabooks are now ready to hit shelves, but has Asus really brought both quality and performance for an enticing price? Or is the UX just another disappointing entry like Acer’s Aspire S3 ultrabook? I’ve spent the last week with the UX31 in search of those answers and more.