The 5 best value Ultrabooks from as little as £388.39

The average price of Intel Ultrabooks is undeniably falling, due to economies of scale, a formidable marketing campaign by Intel, and an increased flexibility in the bill of materials. This makes those ultra thin laptops even more attractive to consumers although it implies some compromises like the use of spinning hard drives and slower processors.

We managed to track down five Ultrabooks in the UK, plus one which offers Ultrabook-like performance but is based on AMD’s platform. All prices are correct at the time of printing and include VAT. Also note that you will be able to swap Windows 7 for Windows 8 Pro for only £15 (with Acer reimbursing the cost of the upgrade).

Lenovo Ideapad U310, £559 

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This Lenovo Ultrabook is part of this new generation of Ultrabooks with an Intel Core i3-2367M processor clocked at 1.4GHz with 3MB L3 cache, 4GB of RAM, an Intel HD 3000 Graphics solution, a 32GB SSD plus a 500GB hard disk drive, a 13.3in LED display with a 1,366 x 768 display, a card reader, two USB 3.0 plus a USB 2.0 port, Windows 7 Home Premium, a HD webcam, Ethernet, HDMI, two 1.5W speakers powered by Dolby Home Theater V4 technology, a 6-cell 48Whr battery that offers up to seven hours battery life, WiDi, Wi-Fi, a glass touchpad, a thickness of only 19mm and a weight of 1.7Kg.

Lenovo has also included a few other improvements like the ability to update social feeds (email, IM, Facebook, Twitter) even when in sleep mode or Bootshield, Experience 3 with RapidBoot which almost halves the starting time of the Ultrabook and cuts boot up time to one second. Note that there’s no VGA or Bluetooth and that the device is available in a number of non-traditional hues like blue. Check out our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Ultrabook.

Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3-581T, £450

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Another odd Ultrabook product from Acer which adapts a traditional laptop to an Ultrabook form factor with a number of compromises. It runs on an Intel Core i3-2377M which is based on the Sandy Bridge architecture, with 3MB cache and a clock speed of 1.5GHz. It has 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard disk drive but no SSD and there’s even a DVD writer, a unique feature in the world of Ultrabooks. That’s not the only one though; it features a full size island-style keyboard, Dolby Theater v4, numeric keypad, a 15.6in Acer CineCrystal display (with a 1,366 x 768 pixels) and weighs 2.2Kg, making it possibly the heaviest Ultrabook on the market.

The rest of its spec list of this Timeline Ultra Ultrabook is fairly mundane. Windows 7 Home Premium, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, Wi-Fi, webcam, a card reader, two USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port, Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI, up to eight hours battery life and a thickness of 20mm. Acer also added GIO (which stands for Green Instant On) which promises to wake your laptop from sleep in a few seconds with the Always Connect feature getting the laptop online in 2.5 seconds.

Toshiba Satellite U-840111

Toshiba’s entry in the world of Ultrabooks is, personally, an interesting one because I own a Toshiba Satellite Ultrabook and am keen to see how its sibling performs, at least on paper. Like most others, the Satellite U-840111 runs on a Core i3 processor, the i3-2377M in this case which runs at 1.5GHz and has 3MB L3 cache. It packs 4GB of RAM, a 32GB SSD (as system disk), a 500GB hard disk spinning at 5400RPM, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, a 14in 1,366 x 768 pixels TruBrite HD display, a card reader, three USB ports, HDMI, WiDi, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, SRS Premium Sound 3D technology, HD webcam, a 6-cell battery with an eight hours battery life, a thickness of 19.9mm and a weight of only 1.58Kg.

As expected, Toshiba bundled a few of its own applications which some would qualify as being bloatware (Wildtangent games console or McAfee internet security) although there are some useful ones like the Toshiba Recovery Media Creator or Nero KwikMedia, Nero BackItUp & Burn Autobackup. Also note that all PC World laptops can get a £150 cashback when the customer trades in an old laptop and this particular model gets two movies for free from KnowHow movies, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

Samsung Series 5 Ultra 535U3C, £269

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Although not strictly an Ultrabook (this is an Intel brand), the 535U3C shares a number of features with its Intel cousins which is possibly why Samsung categorised it as a Series 5 model. It runs on an AMD APU, the A6-4455M, a dual-core model clocked at 2.1GHz with 2MB cache that uses the Piledriver architecture plus 6GB DDR3, a 500GB hard disk drive, AMD Radeon HD 7500G graphics, a 13.3in non-gloss display with a 1,366 x 768 pixels resolution, Windows 7 Home Premium, GbE, Wi-Fi, Webcam, a card reader, Bluetooth 4.0, three USB ports, HDMI up to six hours battery life, VGA and a weight of only 1.6Kg.

The fact that it is amongst the lightest of the lot, has 50 per cent more system memory, is one of the cheaper models, has a GbE port rather than a 10/100 one and comes both with a HDMI and a VGA port mean that it is an attractive option. Bear in mind though that (a) there’s no SSD which means that boot up times is likely to be as slow as normal laptops (b) there are no fancy options like WiDi

Samsung Series 5 Ultra 530U4B

If you’re quick enough and order this Ultrabook by the end of the month, you can get up to £100 cashback direct from the manufacturer Samsung, bringing the price of the Ultrabook (the NP530U4B-A03UK) to only £388.39 excluding delivery. This Ultrabook comes with a dual-core Intel Core i3-2367M processor clocked at 1.4GHz with 6GB of RAM, 16GB SSD, a 500GB hard disk drive, a 14in SuperBright HD LED display with a 1,366 x 768 pixels resolution, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, Bluetooth, a HD webcam, HDMI, GbE, two speakers, a DVD writer, two USB 3.0 ports, VGA, HDMI, a card reader, Wi-Fi, Wi-Di, two 2W speakers, an 8-cell battery cell and Windows 7 Home premium. Arguably it is the best Ultrabook of the lot even though it is slightly thicker (21mm) and heavier (at 1.84Kg) compared to the most portable models.

This particular device has reached the end of its life (it was launched in the first quarter of 2012) which explains why it is currently being cleared out. Like all other Ultrabooks in this round-up it uses a hybrid storage platform (SSD + HDD) with one of the cheapest ultra low voltage processors on the market to meet Intel’s minimum requirements for an Ultrabook badge (and marketing budget).