Best Ultrabook: Top lightweight laptop picks Windows Central 2021
Ultrabooks were first defined by Intel nearly a decade ago when a new type of laptop was introduced, and they're now among the best Windows laptops available. While laptops have always been on a trend toward a thinner, more compact body, Ultrabooks go one step further. They achieve as thin a body as possible while also not sacrificing battery life or much performance. Over the years Ultrabooks have continued to be refined, and we've arrived now at Dell's XPS 13 9310, our top overall pick. It's the best-looking laptop on the market today thanks to a thin aluminum chassis, display with 16:10 aspect ratio, and sizable keyboard and touchpad. Performance is solid from 11th Gen Intel Core processor (CPU) options, and it's packed with premium features that make it worth the relatively high price tag. If it's not quite what you're looking for, there are plenty of other great Ultrabooks that we've rounded up here.
- Best overall: Dell XPS 13 9310 Ultrabook
- Runner-up: Razer Book 13 Ultrabook
- Best convertible: HP Spectre x360 14 Ultrabook
- Two sizes available: Surface Laptop 4 Ultrabook
- Best 15-inch: Dell XPS 15 9510
- Best 17-inch: LG gram 17
- Best business: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6) Ultrabook
- Best for creators: HP ENVY 14 Ultrabook
- Best value: XPG Xenia 14
Best overall: Dell XPS 13 9310
Dell has been perfecting its XPS 13 for years, and it has finally produced the closest thing to perfection yet seen. The 9310 model has a display with 16:10 aspect ratio, which eliminates the chin normally found below the display. Combined with a 91.5% screen-to-body ratio, it makes for a beautiful look.
Dell offers four different display options. The basic non-touch option is 1920x1200 (FHD+) with an anti-glare finish and 500 nits brightness. A middle option has the same FHD+ resolution but includes touch and edge-to-edge glass, as well as 500 nits brightness. An anti-reflective layer helps cut down on glare. There's also a 3840x2400 (UHD+) touch version with an anti-reflective layer and 500 nits brightness if you'd like 4K. And finally, Dell most recently added a 3.5K (3456x2160) OLED touch display option that absolutely stuns. It has 400 nits brightness and an anti-reflective coating.
The 720p webcam resides above the display and does an OK job, though some might want 1080p for regular video conferencing. Included is also an IR camera for facial recognition, as well as a fingerprint reader built into the power button on the keyboard. Keys stretch to the sides of the laptop, and 1mm key travel is rather comfortable for typing all day. The Precision touchpad has been enlarged as well for easier productivity.
Intel 11th Gen CPUs are used here for excellent performance, and you can add up to 32GB of LPDDR4x RAM and 2TB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) to back it up. While RAM is soldered, the SSD can be upgraded after purchase. The XPS 13 is packed with hardware, yet it weighs just 2.65 pounds (1.2kg). Ports include two Thunderbolt 4, a microSD card reader, and 3.5mm audio. This laptop is also a part of Intel's Evo certification, ensuring you get snappy performance and outstanding battery life. Wi-Fi 6 is also included.
- Almost no bezel and 16:10 aspect ratio
- Beautiful display options
- Stunning look and design
- Excellent keyboard and touchpad
- Strong performance and battery
- 720p webcam could be better
Runner-up: Razer Book 13
The Razer Book 13 is right up there alongside the XPS 13 whenever we think of the best Ultrabook. The Book 13 offers better ports thanks to HDMI 2.0, dual Thunderbolt 4, USB-A 3.2, a microSD card reader, and 3.5mm audio. It also has better audio with top-firing THX speakers and some RGB lighting for its keyboard.
Razer uses Sharp's IGZO displays here, with a couple of 13.4-inch options with 16:10 aspect ratio. Grab one if FHD+ or UHD+ resolutions, as well as touch and non-touch. They all have an anti-reflective coating, excellent sRGB color reproduction, and plenty of brightness.
Performance hardware includes up to an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU, Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM, and a 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD. It's all built into an impeccable aluminum chassis with smooth lines and attention to detail. An IR camera is included for some extra security.
- Gorgeous, pristine design
- 11th Gen Intel and EVO certified
- Brilliant IGZO display
- Excellent keyboard, touchpad, RGB
- Fantastic THX Spatial Audio
- No LTE
Best convertible: HP Spectre x360 14
HP has really outdone itself with the HP Spectre x360 14. It's our top pick when it comes to Windows laptops, and it's indeed vying again for top spot here. The x360 14 has a 13.5-inch touch OLED display with boosted 3000x2000 resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio. It has an anti-reflective coating, 400 nits brightness, and 100% DCI-P3 color reproduction. It's compatible with an active pen for inking, and it even supports tilt. This is likely the biggest attraction to the convertible laptop, but there's so much more to love.
The touchpad is huge thanks to all that extra room caused by the taller display, and the keyboard is comfortable even during all-day typing binges. Top-firing speakers also make an impression with full audio. Wi-Fi 6 is included for fast and reliable wireless internet, and there's a webcam with privacy shutter and IR camera for added security. There's also a fingerprint reader.
The Spectre x360 14 hits the Intel Evo platform certification with 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs, Intel Iris Xe graphics, all-day battery life, and more. This is a top performer with the convertible versatility to really handle just about anything you throw its way. If you'd like to often use your laptop as a tablet, this is a great way to go.
- 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs
- Wi-Fi 6 connectivity
- 3K2K display with 3:2 aspect ratio
- Big 66Wh battery
- Quad speakers for excellent audio
- No LTE
- Slight touchpad looseness
Two sizes available: Surface Laptop 4
Microsoft's Surface Laptop 4 comes in 13.5- and 15-inch sizes to better suit your needs. No matter what, you're getting an incredibly high-end design that's hard to beat. The update from Laptop 3 to Laptop 4 was mostly a move to more modern performance hardware, so there's still no Thunderbolt, no display HDR or anti-reflective coating, and no 4G or 5G connectivity. But the 3:2 display with inking support, comfortable keyboard, and touchpad are all top-notch.
Add up to either an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 CPU with Iris Xe graphics or AMD Ryzen 7 4980U CPU with Radeon graphics in the 15-inch laptop, with the 13.5-inch model capping off at a Ryzen 5 4680U. Then add up to 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. The 13.5-inch model comes in both Alcantara and metal finishes with four different colors, while the 15-inch model is available in metal with two different colors.
You can see how the Surface Laptop 4 compares to other Surface products in our collection of the best Microsoft Surface PCs.
- Gorgeous design and craftsmanship
- Superb keyboard and touchpad
- Intel Core or AMD Ryzen
- Some parts can be upgraded
- 13.5- or 15-inch versions available
- No Thunderbolt
- No Dolby Vision or anti-glare display
Best 15-inch: Dell XPS 15 9510
The Dell XPS 15 9510 has received the same treatment as our top pick, the XPS 13 9310, with larger 16:10 display, larger keycaps on the keyboard, and larger Precision touchpad. The keyboard is now more comfortable thanks to larger keys, and the touchpad is absolutely enormous for easier pointing. Flanking the keyboard on either side are top-firing speakers. Combined with two down-firing speakers, audio is excellent.
The display comes in three different resolutions for easier buying. There's FHD+ non-touch or UHD+ touch, both Sharp IGZO panels with unreal color and contrast. There's almost no bezel at all, yet Dell has managed to fit an IR camera for Windows Hello just above the display. And Dell has also now added a 3.5K OLED touch display with anti-reflective coating and 400 nits brightness. It's the right choice if you want your darks darker and your lights lighter.
Configure models with up to an 11th Gen Intel Core i9-11900H CPU, 64GB of DDR4 RAM, 4TB M.2 PCIe SSD, and NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti dedicated GPU with 4GB of VRAM. RAM and SSD can be upgraded after purchase if you decide to go with lesser hardware to save some money at checkout. The larger 86Wh battery delivers strong battery life, and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity offers fast wireless connectivity.
- 16:10 aspect ratio display
- Beautiful display options
- Powerful performance
- Top-firing speakers with solid audio
- Comfortable keyboard and enormous touchpad
Best 17-inch: LG gram 17
Laptops as large as the LG gram 17 usually come with quite a bit of weight, but the gram keeps its weight down to just 2.98 pounds (1.35kg). That's only a half-pound heavier than the XPS 13, which is quite an achievement. It has a 17-inch display with 16:10 aspect ratio and 2560x1600 resolution, making it an excellent option for even specialized work.
The Precision touchpad is relatively small but tracks well. The keyboard includes a number pad and has decent travel, making typing comfortable. The power button in the top-right corner of the keyboard has a fingerprint reader built in, and Wi-Fi 6 is included for speedy wireless connectivity. This is also an Intel Evo certified device.
For internal hardware, add up to an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD. There's, unfortunately, no discrete GPU for extra performance, but Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics put up a good fight. For ports, you get two Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, two USB-A 3.1, a microSD card reader, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
- 16:10 display aspect ratio with 2K resolution
- All-day battery life
- Fingerprint reader
- Good for typing, nice ports
- Just 2.98 pounds
- No touchscreen support
- No dedicated GPU despite size
Best business: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6)
Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Yoga has now moved into its sixth generation, and this time around it received one of the most substantial refreshes yet. It's no doubt one of the best convertible Ultrabooks on the market today, and its focus on business features only makes it better.
The new 16:10 aspect ratio for the displays is a big step forward. I tested the UHD+ version in my ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6) review and came away delighted thanks to full color reproduction, tons of brightness, and not much glare. You can also get it in FHD+ to save some money and to get better battery life. All models have a built-in active pen for easy inking.
The keyboard is as good as ever, and the touchpad has been enlarged for easier productivity. Flanking the keyboard are dual top-firing speakers, joined by dual down-firing speakers for fuller audio that remains unmuffled whether you're using the device as a tablet or notebook. An IR camera is included, as is a privacy shutter for the standard 720p webcam. Human presence detection locks and unlocks your PC automatically when you sit down, getting you back to work quicker or keeping you more secure. There's even optional 4G and 5G connectivity for those who need to stay connected.
- New 16:10 display is tops
- Keyboard and touchpad are excellent
- Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6, optional 4G/5G
- Human presence detection
- Overall flawless convertible design
- Camera should be 1080p
- No SD card reader
- RAM not upgradeable
Best for creators: HP ENVY 14
The HP ENVY 14 isn't your standard 14-inch Ultrabook. It adds a dedicated NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q GPU into the mix, which when coupled with up to an Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU turns the laptop into a potent but compact creator's machine. It weighs in at just 3.53 pounds (1.6kg), measures 0.71 inches (18mm) thin, and is built to a standard you'd usually find in a more expensive device.
HP made the move to a 16:10 aspect ratio for the display, giving it a taller look with more real estate. It's available in only an FHD+ resolution, though you can choose between touch and non-touch. Expect about 400 nits brightness from either display. You can expect about 13 hours of battery life if you're not pushing the machine.
The keyboard won't interfere with productivity, and the Precision touchpad makes good use of space below the keys. Ports include Thunderbolt 4, two USB-A, 3.5mm audio, a microSD card reader, and HDMI 2.0 for easy connectivity.
- Strong performance
- Color-accurate 16:10 display
- Outstanding design
- Long battery life
- Excellent keyboard and audio
- No 4K display option
- Aggressive coil whine
Best value: XPG Xenia 14
The XPG Xenia 14 is so far the most impressive PC from the fresh brand. It's a 14-inch Ultrabook with a focus on portability, but it has so much more to unpack. Weighing in at just 2.14 pounds (970g), its magnesium-alloy chassis is actually lighter than LG's similar gram. That's quite a feat, and it makes the Xenia 14 a top option for anyone who likes to travel light.
Its keyboard has ample travel and well-spaced keys, the Precision touchpad is enormous, and there are plenty of ports, including Thunderbolt 4, USB-C, two USB-A, HDMI, SD card reader, and 3.5mm audio. An IR camera is coupled up with the 720p webcam for added security. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 are included.
XPG went with a 16:10 aspect ratio here, with just the one FHD+ resolution available. Slim bezel around all four sides gives it a 92% screen-to-body ratio with a modern look. It has a matte finish, about 364 nits brightness (as tested), and 98% sRGB color reproduction. Performance from 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs is average, and the battery will get you about eight to 10 hours of use before needing a charge. One key feature is the ability to upgrade the PCIe 4.0 SSD (there are two M.2 slots available) and the SODIMM RAM (also with two slots available).
If you're looking for a super lightweight Ultrabook available at a great price, definitely give this new laptop a second glance.
- 16:10 aspect ratio, slim bezel
- Enormous touchpad, comfy keyboard
- Lighter than LG's gram
- Thunderbolt 4, IR camera, Wi-Fi 6
- SSD (PCIe 4) and RAM upgradeable
- No webcam shutter
- Just one display option
All of the above laptops fit the Ultrabook criteria, and all options should ultimately please. However, if we had to pick just one to suit most people, it's the Dell XPS 13 9310. This Ultrabook is as close to perfection as we've seen, earning a full five stars in Executive Editor Daniel Rubino's glowing review. Its gorgeous display options have almost no bezel at all, even along the bottom, and the 16:10 aspect ratio delivers a boxier look that is very attractive.
It's thin, it's light, and it has the performance hardware inside to keep up with productivity work. Battery life is excellent and should get you through a day (especially with the FHD+ model), and the keyboard and touchpad won't hold you back. It's available in the classic silver exterior with a black carbon fiber interior. However, the white woven glass interior is quite fetching and will cover up oil and smudges a lot better.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
Daniel Rubino is the executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009 back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.
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