Thin, light and sleek, Ultrabooks are the "Windows version of the MacBook Air," says CNET's Dan Ackerman. Ultrabooks pack enough power to blast through everyday tasks with ease -- photo editing, yes; graphics-heavy gaming, no -- and they're easier to tote around than a traditional laptop. The best cheap Ultrabook is also the best cheap laptop, period: the Lenovo IdeaPad U430 Touch profiled in our discussion of Best Cheap Laptops. However, those who like their laptops thin and light have some other options to choose from.
Lenovo offers a step-up version of the U430 Touch, the IdeaPad U530 Touch (Est. $750 and up) . You can configure it myriad ways at Lenovo's website, but we've seen the most feedback for a retail configuration that's sold only -- again -- at BestBuy.com and its stores (Est. $830). The U530-59385621 (Est. $830) features a 15.6-inch touch display, a fourth-generation Intel Core i7-4500u processor, 8 GB of system memory, a 500 GB hard drive and an 8 GB solid-state flash drive. It scores highly in professional testing, with terrific performance on everyday tasks and enough battery stamina to last all day. Ergonomics are again excellent, although some keyboard flex is noted. Like the U430 Touch, the Lenovo IdeaPad U530 Touch is packed with extras such as voice and facial recognition, although critics say those features are of only limited usefulness. User feedback is slightly less plentiful than for the U430 Touch, but those who post reviews are equally pleased.
Toshiba challenges the Lenovo IdeaPad U430 Touch Ultrabook head-on with the Satellite E45T-A4300 (Est. $700) . It's a little pricier than the U430 Touch and a bit heavier, but it packs 6 GB of RAM and a bigger 750 GB hard drive, plus 32 GB of solid-state memory. "For an entry-level system, the Toshiba Satellite E45t-A4300 delivers a high-quality user experience, combining luxurious design, solid performance, and all-day battery life that put it alongside our Editors' Choice Lenovo IdeaPad U430 Touch as one of the better ultrabooks available in this price range," says PCMag.com's Brian Westover.
Laptop Magazine has a few more nits to pick, and one major complaint is the Toshiba's display. "The Satellite E45t's 14-inch 1366 x 768-pixel TFT display delivered mediocre visuals," says Cherlynn Low. Oddly, while colors in video material looked washed out, they were rich and vibrant in game graphics. Touch screen gestures registered reliably.
The Satellite E45T-A4300 is a Best Buy exclusive and user feedback at the BestBuy.com website is generally strong, although Lenovo's Ultrabooks earn somewhat more recommendations. The Toshiba Satellite E45T-AST2N01 (Est. $820) is largely similar, but with 8 GB of memory and a 1 TB hard drive. It's available directly from Toshiba.