Ultrabooks might be small -- weighing less than 5 pounds and measuring 0.82 inch thick or less -- but they pack more than enough power for most users. That's thanks to the baseline requirements imposed by Intel, owner of the Ultrabook name and the company behind the required Intel Core processors found inside Ultrabooks. These laptops also require at least five hours of battery life and a speedy wake-up from sleep of less than seven seconds. Most use solid-state drives (SSD), which are much faster than traditional hard drives.
The thinnest, lightest and most dramatically beautiful ultraportable in reviews, the Acer Aspire S7 boasts something else you won't find on most other laptops: a 1,080p HD touch screen. HD movies look glorious, whether you choose the 11.6-inch S7-191 or 13.3-inch S7-391 . "Absolutely stunning," says Laptop Magazine of the S7-391's sleek, minimalist design. It starts with the same slim aluminum unibody as the S7-191 and adds a scratch-resistant white Gorilla Glass lid. At less than half an inch thick and under 3 pounds, the whole package is even thinner and lighter than a 13-inch MacBook Air .
Base versions come with the Ultrabook-standard Core i5 processor, plus 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB solid-state drive. Experts usually test the step-up version, a Core i7, 256 GB SSD powerhouse that obliterates benchmark averages in tests. Aside from serious gaming, testers say this Ultrabook will shrug off anything you can dish out. Battery life isn't spectacular at four to five hours in most tests, but an external battery turns the S7 into a nine-hour workhorse. It's bundled with the 11.6-inch model, but costs $150 extra with the 13.3-inch version.
A very close runner-up, the aluminum Asus Zenbook UX31A is equally pretty, comparably quick, and almost as thin and light as the Acer S7. It's also now available in a configuration with a 13.3-inch, full-HD touch screen for less money as the Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A . Its specs are nearly identical to the S7's, but the brand-new offering hadn't been extensively tested by experts at the time of this report. It hasn't yet racked up a ton of awards like the Acer S7, but early reviews indicate that the Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A is definitely worth a close look.
If you'd like a bigger screen, the Samsung Series 9 is one of the few ultraportable options. Its base model is 13.3 inches, but it's available in a configuration with a 15-inch screen (*Est. $1,100 and up) that's only 0.1 inch thicker than the 13-inch Acer S7. It is, however, 10 ounces heavier. Although Samsung had just upgraded the Series 9 to a full-HD screen at the time of this report, a touch screen isn't available.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch (*Est. $1,500 and up) wins more praise than any other Ultrabook, but it's built for business; we discuss it more in the Best Business Laptops section of this report.