Ultraportables

Thin and light laptops offer a smooth blend of performance, portability and battery life. This segment was previously reserved for super-expensive laptops that tried to emphasize all of these features. While some luxury systems still fit that description, nowadays with the MacBook Air and Intel heavily pushing 'Ultrabooks' you can find great thin and light systems priced between $900 and $1,300.

The typical thin and light sports an 11-, 12- or 13-inch display, Intel's third-generation Core i3, i5 or i7 processors, 4GB of RAM, 6+ hours of battery life, and start with around 120GB SSD storage -- although you can find some models with standard or hybrid HDDs if you need the extra space or want to save a few extra bucks. The vast majority of them also drop the optical drive for the sake of portability.


Apple MacBook Air (2012)

85 40 Reviews The MacBook Air doesn't appear to have changed much since 2011's refresh. It still has the same flawless design, only now it packs an Intel "Ivy Bridge" processor inside, offers more RAM, and supports USB 3.0 at last. There's also a smaller MagSafe connector this time around. Some might be disappointed that the Retina Display hasn’t made it to the MacBook Air range yet, but Apple's iconic ultra-portable is still the gold standard by which ultrathin machines are measured against.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,199
Processor: Intel Core i5-3427U 1.8GHz Graphics: Intel Graphics HD 4000
Memory: 4GB DDR3 1600MHz memory Storage: 128GB SSD
Display size: 13.3" (1440 x 900) Optical: none
Weight: ~2.9lbs (~1.3 kg) Battery: ~7 hours


Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A

86 7 Reviews The 13.3-inch Zenbook Prime UX31A, a follow-up to last year's Zenbook UX31, brings updated internals along with the same sleek MacBook Air-like aluminum shell of its predecessor. Asus included a third-generation Intel Core processor for a nice speed boost, a comfier backlit keyboard, better webcam and audio, and a gorgeous display that produces bright and clear images with wide 178-degree viewing angles.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,099 ($1,350 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i7-3517UM 1.7GHz Graphics: Intel Graphics HD 4000
Memory: 4GB DDR3 1600MHz memory Storage: 128GB SSD
Display size: 13.3" IPS (1920x1080) Optical: none
Weight: ~2.86lbs (~1.3 kg) Battery: ~6.5 hours


Dell XPS 13

80 90 Reviews Dell's new XPS 13 ultrabook measures just 0.71 inches at its thickest point and 0.24 inches at its thinnest. The laptop's main body is a mix of magnesium alloy and aluminum along the lid and keyboard deck, with a carbon fiber base that's cool to the touch. This makes it quite rigid yet also lightweight at just under 3 pounds. Ports and connectivity options include 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, one USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 port each, as well as a mini DisplayPort, but there's no HDMI, Ethernet, or a memory-card reader.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $990 ($1,400 with 256GB SSD)
Processor: Intel Core i5-2467M 1.6GHz Graphics: Intel Graphics HD 4000
Memory: 4GB DDR3 1600MHz memory Storage: 128GB SSD
Display size: 13.3" (1366 x 768) Optical: none
Weight: ~2.9lbs (~1.3 kg) Battery: ~5 hours


Toshiba Portege Z930 / Z935

80 19 Reviews Toshiba’s well regarded Portege Z835 is also getting upgraded with Ivy Bridge processors and rechristened as the Z935. The 13.3-inch laptop is super light, weighing in at just over 2.4 pounds, and it's a slim 8.3mm at its thinnest point. Specs include Intel's HD 4000 graphics, up to 12GB of DDR3 RAM, up to 512GB SSD, and an array of ports that include USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA and an SD card reader.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $900 ($1,200 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i7-3667U 2.0GHz Graphics: Intel Graphics HD 4000
Memory: 6GB DDR3 1600MHz memory Storage: 128GB SSD
Display size: 13.3" (1366x768) Optical: none
Weight: ~2.4lbs (~1.1 kg) Battery: ~7 hours


Other noteworthy Ultraportable options

Samsung Series 5

The 13-inch Samsung Series 5 Ultra is a more affordable ultrabook than the Series 9, and has plenty of ports crammed into its sleek body. If you can settle for an Ultrabook with HDD storage instead of SSD the Series 5 is a good deal at $800.

Price range: From $800