Ultraportables are experiencing a surge in popularity lately, edging out other laptop classes like desktop replacements and netbooks through a (supposedly) balanced combination of portability, laptop parts specs, and looks.
In the past, ultras eschewed certain laptop components like GPUs and optical drives to account for the limited space in exchange for extremely convenient portability. Recent technological developments have put these laptop parts back inside ultras, though, like NVIDIA’s breakthrough in GPU cooling with their GeForce 600M line of video cards.
As fierce as the competition is for ultra-manufacturers right now, there are laptops that stand out. Below are five of the best ultras in the market.
1. Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E220s 12.5 inch
The ThinkPad Edge E220s is priced a bit more expensively than most ultras, but at $700, you’ll certainly feel that you get what you pay for, and more besides.
Its laptop components are par for the course with other ultras in the same price range, but 320 GB storage space gives it added value. Since most ultras use solid state drives, storage space isn’t as huge as those in other laptop classes. The Edge E220, however, uses a hard drive instead, giving it a bigger storage space.
The downside to hard drives in ultras is that, with their small chassis, things tend to heat up rather quickly. To get around this, Lenovo added a bit more thickness to the Edge E220’s depth; just enough to still keep it within the ultraportable category.
2. Toshiba Portege R835-P56X
Of all the ultras out there, the Portege probably gives the best balance between specs and cooling capacity. It houses an Intel Core i5-2410M processor, 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, a g40 GB hard drive and a DVD writer optical drive. The whole package costs $800. It costs more than most ultras, to be sure, but it’s still definietly hundreds of dollars cheaper than a bigger laptop with comparable laptop parts specs.
3. HP Folio 13
The Folio 13 can very well be a traveller’s best friend, all because of its very lengthy battery life. Even if you don’t travel a lot, if you find yourself away from a wall socket for extended periods, you’ll find the Folio 13 quite the handy ultra.
Its battery can last up to six hours, and that’s with video files continuously playing. The price tag comes to around $850, but considering that portability places such a pemium on battery life, you’ll definitely be satisfied with this purchase if you’re the type who gets around a lot.
4. Apple MacBook Air 13
What would a “best ultras” list be without the poster boy of ultras, the MacBook Air? For many people, Airs are the best ultras around, and the Air 13 certainly lives up to this reputation.
Like all other Airs, the 13 bests other ultras in the two areas that count for most consumers: Boot times and overall performance. Furthermore, Apple’s Retina Display gives the Air 13 an additional “cool factor” by letting its 13 inch 1440 x 990 screen display images in full splender, and at better viewing angles than most ultras.
The Air 13 costs $1,300, but most will agree that that’s the price befitting of the best.
5. Alienware M11x
Here’s an alien concept: High-end gaming on an ultra. Who better to bring this concept to fruition than Alienware? And no, the play on words isn’t the main reason. It’s that Alienware has long been developing powerful desktop and laptop gaming rigs, and it was only a matter of time before they tested the ultraportable waters.
The M11x sports 4 GB of DDR3 RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GT540M GPU, which are more than enough to run some of the latest, most demanding games. All that power can be seen through the M11x’s 11.6 inch 1366 x 768 screen; and if that doesn’t sate your gaming appetite, you can always hook the ultra to an HDTV via its HDMI and DisplayPort video ports.
The catch? The M11x’s chassis is rather huge for an ultra that it almost borders on being a thin-and-light. But who cares about that as long as you can conveniently carry your gaming rig around, eh?