Tech review

Slim pickings: Our favorite ultrabooks

 

CNET.com

Though “Ultrabook” is a trademarked Intel term, it’s used more broadly for the now-popular class of thin notebooks without optical drives. If you’re not looking for a desktop replacement, just something sleek and light, open up an ultrabook.

Apple MacBook Air

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The 13-inch MacBook Air has new Intel CPUs, better battery life, an improved 720p Webcam, and finally adds USB 3.0 ports, while shaving $100 off the price of last year’s models.

The bad: The design, while strong, stays largely the same: there’s no Ethernet port, and the base SSD storage option of 128GB is smaller than a standard hard drive, though common for ultrabooks.

The cost: $1,124.95 to $1,199.99

The bottom line: This year’s MacBook Air opts for gradual improvements rather than anything revolutionary, but lowered prices continue to make it the go-to mainstream recommendation for any MacBook owner-to-be.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 looks as good as any 13-inch ultrabook, with the added attraction of a 360-degree screen and a laptop body that can fold into a tent, stand or slate.

The bad: Tablet mode leaves the keyboard exposed, and the Yoga 13 costs more than standard ultrabooks with similar components.

The cost: $1,099 to $1,213.99

The bottom line: The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is a convertible touch-screen laptop/tablet that most importantly doesn’t compromise the traditional laptop experience.

Acer Aspire S7-391-9886

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Acer Aspire S7 is a premium-looking ultrabook, with great performance, strong battery life and a high-res touch screen.

The bad: The expensive S7 is priced well beyond most other touch-screen Windows 8 laptops. The touch pad is not as responsive as it should be.

The cost: $1,599.99 to $1,649.99

The bottom line: One of the few standout products from the first wave of Windows 8 laptops, the Acer Aspire S7 proves that Apple does not have a monopoly on great design.

HP Envy Spectre XT

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: Slim and lightweight, the HP Envy Spectre XT is portable, well-built and easy to use, with a great keyboard.

The bad: The design doesn’t stand out as much as the original Spectre’s did, and its battery life won’t get you through an entire day. From a premium product, we’d expect a higher screen resolution.

The cost: $999 to $1,074.95

The bottom line: A high-end laptop at a mainstream price, the HP Envy Spectre XT gets much of the look and feel right, with only a few missteps.

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