Update: Coming off the technology high that is CES 2015, we've seen some strong contenders for this very list, namely the brand new Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo LaVie Z, slated to land this year. Check out the links and see for yourself what may earn our recommendations in 2015.
Computers are a part of our everyday lives, but most of us don't actually need the amount of processing power available to us in large, hefty desktops or laptops. The idea of the Ultrabook is to make laptops a bit more convenient, but powerful enough for most tasks.
The term "Ultrabook" is actually pure marketing, dreamt up by Intel for a new generation of portable PCs featuring its technology. The best way to think of an Ultrabook is a 13-inch MacBook Air that isn't made by Apple, a netbook that isn't underpowered or a laptop that's been on a crash diet.
The term Ultrabook was coined by Intel, and it specifies laptops with particular specifications, separating them from other ultraportable laptops. They all have Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processors, fast SSD storage to some degree, and now USB 3.0 connectivity, for speedy file transfers.
Ultrabooks are made with design in mind, so they tend to start from around $999 (around £584, AU$1,064) in the lower end, going to nearly $2,000 (around £1,169, AU$2,131) at the very high end. Ultimately, you're likely to spend between $899 and $1,500 for a newer model, though you can get some older models for good prices. Below are our five favorite Ultrabooks at the moment, based on our comprehensive reviews.
Acer Aspire S7
For 2014, Acer has updated it's luxury laptop with a super sharp QHD display. This 2560 x 1440 panel is prepared for the day when hyper-HD content is finally viable to watch over wireless internet. In the now, text looks gorgeous, as do images – thus adding to the near-future feel of this device.
The build quality on display here, from the Aspire S7's aluminum and Gorilla Glass frame is palpable. That goes for the snappy keyboard, with its fancy electroluminescent lighting, too.
The Acer Aspire S7 (starting at $1,349, £1,199, AU$2,599) truly feels like a machine built for the now, 2014, and one that you won't mind using well into 2016, possibly longer. So, love the Aspire S7 for its cutting edge build, fine typing experience and premium specs.
- Read our Acer Aspire S7 review
Dell has really got serious with the internals of the Dell XPS 13 (starting at $1,299, £1,099, AU$1,699). Haswell (4th generation) Intel Core processors, at least 8GB of RAM, an SSD for fast performance and a snappy keyboard all combine to make this an attractive laptop.
It's brilliantly thin and light, and 13-inch screen still gives you room to work. This time around, Dell offers a 1080p touchscreen to keep up with the competition. The Dell XPS 13 remains one of the best laptops you can buy, offering top-notch performance and excellent build quality.
- Read our Dell XPS 13 review
If you're all about style and don't need a super powerful machine, it doesn't get much better than Lenovo's latest flagship Ultrabook. While it may not be as punchy as its predecessor (thanks in part to its low-power, fanless Intel Core M chip), it can still manage all of the usual tasks you would throw at it.
And given its new metallic hinge and super thin design, the Yoga 3 Pro makes a better case than ever for its multitudes of usage modes. At any rate, this is one of the thinnest, lightest and sharpest Windows laptops to date. And while you'll certainly pay for it, the price for such panache will be worth it for style nuts.
- Read our Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro review
Samsung was one of the very first PC manufacturers to jump on the Ultrabook bandwagon. It's done a fine job of representing Intel's baby ever since, with some stunning offerings, including the Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch and, more recently, the top-of-the-line Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D.
Samsung's new Ultrabook: the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus (starting at $1,399, £1,412, AU$2,259), might keep the company ahead of the game for a while, at least if its on-paper abilities are anything to go by.
It's a wonderful-looking unit. It's thin and carefully crafted, with shiny, chamfered edges lining its all-aluminium chassis. But its plain black exterior might lend some clues as to its intent: This is premium-priced Ultrabook focused as much on the business user as the coffee shop regular.
- Read our Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus review
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (starting at $1,186, £1,198, AU$1,699) is a business laptop that straddles the line between form and function more than ever after this update. For those with a penchant for aesthetics, here's a brand new design with some fantastic new features. And to keep the no-nonsense business user happy, this is a plenty powerful piece of hardware.
The connectivity on offer through this Ultrabook's super slim design profile alone is impressive. And the adaptive keys, while divisive, add a ton of function in a limited amount of space and an attractive presentation. Look out, MacBook Pro, you're no longer the only thin and light business option on the block.
- Read our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review