6 of the best Ultrabooks

Since Intel’s introduction of the category a few years ago, Ultrabooks have truly become ubiquitous on store shelves. The laptops themselves aren't a mutation of some sort – Intel simply put a new spin on an evolving category of laptops that are incredibly thin, battery-efficient, and use low-voltage processors. Interestingly enough, these laptops were previously known as CULV laptops (CULV stands for consumer ultra-low-voltage processors), but Intel decided, and rightly so, that CULV doesn't exactly sound sexy to consumers. In fact, it doesn't sound like anything at all – which is exactly why the term Ultrabook was invented.

But what exactly does an Ultrabook comprise of? Intel has a long list of specifications on its blog. While the specifications are still evolving, the main ones are a low-voltage Intel Core processor, a frame no thicker than 21mm, at least five hours of battery life, and fast boot times. The latter relies on an Intel technology called Rapid Start, which makes use of flash storage embedded on the laptop's motherboard.

With Windows 8, touchscreens look to become an integral part of the Ultrabook spec, with all eyes on how Microsoft's new operating system will drive this segment. Indeed, many of the new Windows 8 Ultrabooks that have launched feature touchscreens.

By including touch functionality, Intel is also anticipating that its Ultrabooks will encompass tablets and convertibles/hybrids as well, and some of the new PCs bear that out. Hybrid models have met with mixed results so far, but expect more to launch as we go forward into 2014.

An unspoken factor is that Intel would like prices for Ultrabooks to come in at a cheaper level than we’ve seen thus far. The price tag on some Ultrabooks has certainly been hefty, but of course, this is still an evolving device category, and maybe next year we shall see some more downward movement in that respect.

At any rate, if you fancy taking the plunge with an Ultrabook, here are the six best models you can buy right now.

Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus (£1,300)

The Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus goes toe-to-toe with the best premium Ultrabooks, then tops it off with a jaw-dropping 3,200 x 1,800 display. This notebook is slim, speedy, and has a long battery life – but it has to be said that it isn’t a particularly wallet-friendly option.

Acer Aspire S7-392 (£1,140)

If you're looking for a svelte laptop to show off, and yet still be able to do real work in Windows 8, the Acer Aspire S7-392 is the Ultrabook you want at the top of your list. It's the current pinnacle of the Ultrabook trend and shows the brilliance that PC makers can return under Intel's increasingly stringent standards for Ultrabooks.

Dell XPS 12 (£979)

If you can get over the Dell XPS 12’s screen acrobatics, this convertible Ultrabook is a good way to get both tablet and laptop functionality in one unit. It’s fast and has an impressive battery life.

Gigabyte U2442T (£850)

The Gigabyte U2442T has most of the features that a high-end power user wants, including decent multimedia and 3D benchmark performance, a 10-point touchscreen, and a comfortable keyboard and chassis. The downsides are a mediocre battery life, and the display isn’t the best we’ve seen.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix (£1,265)

One of the better detachable hybrid tablets on the market, the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix gives the corporate IT buyer a prime option for their highly mobile workforce. This could be the best choice if you need both laptop and tablet functionality – but you do pay for the privilege here.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch (£1,405)

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch is an executive's dream Ultrabook. It's slim, has a lovely carbon fibre construction, and is powerful enough to view and edit large spreadsheets. The only downsides are its average battery life and connectivity, and the somewhat pricey nature of this beautiful beast.