Best Ultrabooks in 2020 | Laptop Mag

If you want a portable laptop, go with one of the best Ultrabooks. When a laptop is designated an Ultrabook, you can trust that it will be thin and lightweight yet offer long battery life. But as these ultraportable laptops grow in popularity, it becomes more difficult to choose the right one. Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you and ranked the best Ultrabooks on the market. 

The best Ultrabook right now is the Dell XPS 13, which has a sleek design, fast performance and a gorgeous display. If you don’t want to spend so much fast, consider the Envy 13 — an $800 laptop that offers just about everything the Dell delivers. And macOS users really only have one choice: the MacBook Air. Yes, the MacBook Pro is great, but it’s a bit heftier than what we consider an Ultrabook.

If you need a work machine, see our best business laptops rankings. Or if you’re a student, we’ve put together a list of the best laptops for college. It’s also worth checking out our best 13-inch laptops page as most of those listed below fall into this category. 

Black Friday 2020

Black Friday kicks off on November 27 and we expect to see tons of deals on the industry’s best laptops, including top Ultrabooks, from now until then. Be sure to bookmark our Black Friday laptop deals page for this year’s exclusive deals on laptops. 

What are the best Ultrabooks?

Dell’s XPS 13 has been the best Ultrabook for several years running and the 2020 model is the best yet. It takes the edge-to-edge display Dell popularized years ago and amps it up by removing the bottom bezel. The effect is mesmerizing. On top of that, the XPS 13 offers fast performance and long battery life in the smallest chassis yet for the thin and light series. 

If you don’t want to spend so much, go with the HP Envy 13. It might not be quite as premium as the XPS 13 or its sibling, the Spectre x360 13, but at $800, you won’t get much better. Apple fans or those who prefer macOS over Windows 10 should probably opt for the MacBook Air, which finally has a good keyboard. 

Other top Ultrabooks to consider include the aforementioned HP Spectre x360 13 or its rival the Lenovo Yoga C940. Lenovo still has the business market locked down with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and ThinkPad X1 Yoga although HP is making a serious claim with the new Elite Dragonfly. 

The best Ultrabooks you can buy today

1. Dell XPS 13 (2020)
2. HP Envy 13 (2019)
3. HP Envy x360 13 (2020)
4. Apple MacBook Air (2020)
5. HP Spectre x360 (Late 2019)
6. Lenovo Yoga C940 (14-inch)
7. Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA
8. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen)
9. Acer Swift 3 (2020, AMD)
10. Asus ZenBook 13 (UX334FLC)

The ultimate portable laptop, Dell’s XPS 13 packages fast performance in a compact, premium chassis.  (Image credit: Future)1. Dell XPS 13 (2020)

CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7 (10th Gen) | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200 | Size: 11.6 x 7.6 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Attractive, premium chassis

Powerful performance

No bezels whatsoever

Excellent battery life

Lacks legacy ports

The Dell XPS 13 is a serious workhorse. Powered by up to a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor with Iris Plus graphics, the notebook is ready for work or play. And with over 12 hours of battery life, you’ve got plenty of time for both, The notebook consistently performed either better or on a par with competing systems.

But rest assured, the laptop is just as pretty as it is powerful. The company managed to make a laptop that’s smaller and lighter than previous models. Despite the smaller size, Dell added some big changes, including a larger trackpad and keyboard. Plus, you get a 13.4-inch, near-bezeless display on every side –– the first in the world to do so. 

It’s an exercise in patient restraint, improving the notebook in a bunch of small ways that add up to a big leap for the system. If you’re looking for the total package, the Dell XPS 13 is the laptop for you. 

See our full Dell XPS 13 (2020) review.

 

At under $1,000, the HP Envy 13 is the best Ultrabook value around.  2. HP Envy 13 (2019)

CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620/Nvidia GeForce MX250 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.1 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Attractive, portable chassis

Fast performance

Bright display

Poor battery life (on 4K model)

No Thunderbolt 3

Starting at $799, the new HP Envy 13t is our favorite sub-$1,000 thanks to its sleek, portable design, bright 4K and 1080p display options, and fast performance. New to the 2019 model is a webcam kill switch and fingerprint sensor for those who value security and privacy. And unlike its predecessor, the latest Envy 13 has great speakers.  

All these perks make the Envy 13 the best laptop for anyone who wants a premium machine but are trying to save a buck. Our only reservations with the Envy 13 are that the 4K model doesn’t last very long on a charge and that the Envy x360 13, its 2-in-1 sibling, is so good. 

See our full HP Envy 13 (2019) Review

The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000, offering similar benefits to the Spectre at a lower price. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)3. HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U | GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Outstanding performance

1080p display is bright and vivid

Stylish and compact aluminum design

Long battery life

No IR camera

The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000 and one of the best Ultrabooks on the market. While it doesn’t come with a stylus (neither does the Surface Pro), the Envy is a 2-in-1, which lets you flip it into tent or tablet mode. What makes this such a fantastic value is its entirely aluminum design and Herculian AMD Ryzen processors. 

In our testing, we found that an Envy x360 13 with a Ryzen 5 4500U CPU can outperform laptops with 10th Gen Intel chips. This specific Envy costs just $800 and can outmuscle laptops that cost well over $1,000, including the exorbitant MacBook Pro. Moreover, the Envy x360 13 has a bright, vivid 13.3-inch display and a comfortable keyboard. 

There is very little we don’t like about the Envy x360. If you can get over the lack of a Thunderbolt 3 port and IR camera, then it is the ultimate money-saving laptop.

See our HP Envy x360 13 (2020) review

The MacBook Air 2020 has a lower starting price than its predecessor and offers improved performance.  (Image credit: Future)4. MacBook Air (2020)

The most affordable MacBook

CPU: 10th Gen Y-Series Core i5 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.3 inches, 2560 x 1600 pixels | Size: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Sleek design

Great battery life

Magic Keyboard

Underwhelming performance

Limited ports

The new MacBook Air is top among the best MacBooks for those who don’t want to spend too much. This latest model not only starts at a lower $999 price as its predecessor but it now features the Magic Keyboard, which is a huge improvement in both reliability and comfort over the doomed Butterfly keyboard. 

On top of that, you get the latest Intel 10th Gen CPUs. Yes, they’re still Y-series, so don’t expect amazing performance, but they are a notch up from the previous model.  Another benefit of the new model is that it starts with 256GB of storage — no more measly 128GB. 

Everything else about the 2020 model is about what you’d expect from a MacBook Air. It’s a slim, sleek laptop that weighs just 2.8 pounds and comes in at 0.6 inches thick. Those numbers don’t break any records but they keep this notebook easy to carry around. Battery life is also great, at 9 hours and 31 minutes, and the speakers sound remarkably good. 

See our full Apple MacBook Air (2020) review

Offering beauty and brawn, the HP Spectre x360 13 is the best 2-in-1 Ultrabook.  (Image credit: Laptop Mag)5. HP Spectre x360 (Late 2019)

CPU: Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.7 pounds

Stunning, ultraportable design

Epic battery life

Bright, vivid display with thinner bezels

Fast overall performance

Lots of bloatware

Shrill speakers at max volume

The Spectre x360 13 is the best 2-in-1 laptop ever and one of the best Ultrabooks around. Updated with a 10th Gen CPU and a more modern design, the Spectre x360 13 is improved in almost every way over its excellent predecessor. 

Highlights of this laptop include a stunning design, a bright 1080p display, epic 13+ hour battery life and fast overall performance. It really hits all the major things we look for in a good laptop, even offering a comfortable keyboard in a small design. If anything gave us pause about the Spectre x360 it’s that the Envy x360 13 is similar in many ways but costs less. 

Still, if you have a bit extra to spend, we recommend getting the Spectre x360 13 over the Envy 13, even if the latter is a better value.

See our HP Spectre x360 13 (Late 2019) review

Lenovo’s Yoga C940 (14-inch) refines a proven formula, making it one of the best Ultrabooks around. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)6. Lenovo Yoga C940 (14-inch)

An excellent 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: Up to Intel Core i7-1065G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: Up to 16GB | Storage: Up to 2TB | Display: 14-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Slim, premium design

Beautiful 4K display

Fast performance

Crisp, dynamic speakers

Below-average battery life (on 4K model)

Stylus is difficult to remove

With the Yoga C940, Lenovo took a proven formula and refined it. Subtle design improvements, longer battery life (up to 11:46) and refreshed 10th Gen Intel processors make the Yoga C940 a worthy successor to last year’s excellent Yoga C930.

As you’d expect from a Yoga-series laptop, the C940 has a premium, ultra-portable chassis and a unique hinge that doubles as a soundbar speaker. As a 2-in-1, that hinge can rotate 360-degrees to convert the Yoga C940 into a proper tablet. When it comes to viewing content, the Yoga C940’s 1080p and 4K displays are crisp, vibrant and bright — just beware, the UHD display drains the battery.

For all the basics it gets right, my favorite things about the Yoga C940 are its extra features. Those include a webcam cover (no more need to buy tape), a slot for the included stylus and a fingerprint sensor.

See our Lenovo Yoga C940 (14-inch) review.

(Image credit: Future)7. Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA

CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB M.2 PCI 3.0 SSD | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 11.9 x 8 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 2.5 pounds

Sleek, lightweight frame

Powerful overall and gaming performance

Excellent battery life

Weak speakers

Display could be brighter

Good luck finding a better laptop than Asus’ ZenBook 13 UX325EA for under $1,000. Want a gorgeous chassis? You got it! Want long battery life? Of course, you do! And the ZenBook 13 delivers here, too. And if you want quick performance and a great keyboard, well, I think you can guess where I’m going with this. But wait, don’t the other laptops in this list deliver in those areas as well? Yes, but not for only $999.

Asus’ ZenBook line has historically delivered on value and now it returns with the ZenBook 13 UX325EA after a brief hiatus. For $999, you can the latest Intel 11th Gen Core i7-1165G7 CPU with Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD. It’s a specs-to-price ratio you just won’t find in premium laptops from other brands. The icing on the cake is the 13 hours and 47 minutes of battery life, which makes this one of the longest-lasting laptops we’ve ever tested. So yes, the ZenBook 13 UX352EA is a fantastic choice.

See our Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA review

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon is, once again, the best business laptop thanks to its sleek design and fast performance.  (Image credit: Laptop Mag)8. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (8th Gen)

Best overall business laptop

CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB SSD | Display: 14-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.4 pounds

Slim, lightweight design

Bright, vibrant 1080p and 4K display options

Class-leading keyboard

Fast performance

Weak graphics

Lenovo didn’t make many changes to our favorite business laptop but the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon now flaunts Intel 10th Gen CPUs. On top of delivering fast performance, you get long battery life (on the 1080p model) and two gorgeous, 1080p and 4K display options, all in an impossibly lightweight chassis (2.4 pounds). 

But it’s still those classic ThinkPad features —  a durable design (with MIL-STD-810G strength), best-in-class keyboard and stealthy black/red aesthetics — that carry the X1 Carbon to greatness.

Yes, we wish the ThinkPad X1 Carbon hadn’t ditched the SD card reader in the previous, and top configurations can get very expensive, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better overall business machine.

While we wholehearted recommend the ThinkPad X1 Carbon,  before you go out and buy one, consider the all-metal ThinkPad X1 Yoga, a 2-in-1 version of this notebook.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 (8th Gen) review.

The Acer Swift 3 with AMD CPUs is a fantastic value (Image credit: Future)9. Acer Swift 3 (2020, AMD)

The best performance on a budget

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4700U | GPU: AMD Radeon graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 512GB | Display: 14-inch, 1080p | Size: 12.7 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.7 pounds

Herculean performance

A beastly multitasker

Clicky keyboard

Fingerprint scanner

Dim display

You won’t find faster performance for the price than what the Acer Swift 3 with AMD CPUs offers. For just $649, you can get it configured with the ridiculously fast Ryzen 7 4700U CPU, which even outperformed the MacBook Pro in many of our tests. It is truly a price-to-performance ratio we haven’t ever seen before.

Other things we like about the Swift 3 include its lightweight design (2.7 pounds) and that it comes with a fingerprint reader. The keyboard is also a bright spot, delivering a satisfying typing experience. And while the display is a tad dim, that is easily forgotten when you’re multitasking demanding workloads on a laptop that costs well below $1,000.

See our full Acer Swift 3 (2020, AMD) review.

(Image credit: Future)10. Asus ZenBook 13 (UX334FLC)

CPU: Intel Core i7-10510U CPU | GPU: Nvidia GeForce MX250 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 11.9 x 7.4 x 0.76 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Attractive chassis

Military-grade durability

Touchpad doubles as a mini-display

Nice variety of ports

Dim display

It’s a bit thicker than some of the other options in this roundup but the ZenBook 13 earns its spot for having an innovative secondary display and discrete graphics in a relatively portable chassis. Speaking of the chassis, the ZenBook 13 is a gorgeous laptop whose dark blue aluminum frame stands out against its bland peers and is tested to military-grade durability. 

If that indigo hue doesn’t catch your eyes, the ScreenPad 2.0, a touchpad that doubles as a mini display, certainly will. You can use the extra screen real estate to extend the main display or you can launch and control apps straight from your touchpad. While the ZenBook 13 has a dim display, it makes up for it with good audio, a decent selection of ports and a discrete GPU.

Read our full Asus ZenBook 13 UX334FLC review.

How to choose an Ultrabook

The word “Ultrabook” officially refers to notebooks that meet Intel’s strict standards for weight, thickness and usability. These days, nonbusiness laptops rarely carry the chipmaker’s official Ultrabook label, but many people still use the term to describe superthin and light laptops of all kinds.

We’ve listed our favorite Ultrabooks on this page. If you’re shopping for one, consider the following:

Three Pounds or Less: If you want a system that’s really easy on your arms, look for one that’s under this threshold.9+ Hours of Battery Life: What good is a highly portable laptop if you need to re-charge it every few hours? Look for systems that lasted at least 9 hours on the Laptop Mag Battery Test.The Right Ports: Decide what ports you absolutely need, before you buy. Some Ultrabooks only have USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports, while others have a mix of both next-gen and legacy connectors.Touch or Non-Touch?: If you’re buying a 2-in-1, a touch screen comes standard. However, if you’re getting a clamshell laptop, touch may cost extra and could drain battery life.How we test Ultrabooks

We put Ultrabooks through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world — before they end up in the hands of our reviewers. We evaluate everything from speed and battery life to display brightness, speaker volume and system heat.

We use a Klein K10 colorimeter to detect the brightness and sRGB color gamut of a laptop’s display. For performance benchmarking, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 4.3 and 5.0 and 3DMark professional graphics tests. 

To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and to duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics test is the Dirt 3 benchmark with medium settings and 1080p resolution. 

We also run heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video and our battery test consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. We consider everything over the category average (8 hours and 36 minutes) to be a good result. Of course, these tests are complemented with hands-on testing from our reviewers.

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