Many windows ultrabook are good—by definition, they’re powerful thin-and-light laptops with long battery life—but only a couple of stand out as great. After testing 12 new models in early 2020 and testing many laptops within the past six years, we found that the Dell XPS 13 (9300) is that the best Windows ultrabook for many people. Different versions of the XPS 13 are our top pick since early 2015, and this new redesign is that the best one yet.
|Processor:||Intel Core i5-1035G1||Screen:||13.4-inch 1920×1200 non-touch|
|Memory:||8 GB||Weight:||2.65 pounds|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||10.5 hours|
The Dell XPS 13 (9300) Windows Ultrabook is exceptionally light and compact—even compared with other laptops during this category—it has long battery life, and it’s a top-quality keyboard and trackpad. It also offers fast performance and a spacious screen with a taller ratio ideal for Web browsing and document work. The XPS 13 has only two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports to transfer data, connect an external display, or charge the laptop; we wish it had a USB-A port, as well, but it does accompany a USB-C–to–A adapter, and if you would like more ports you’ll get a USB-C hub or dock.
Different versions of the XPS 13 are our top pick since early 2015, and this new redesign is that the best one yet. The Dell XPS 13 (9300) Windows Ultrabook extends the best balance of what makes an ultrabook exceptional: It’s light and compact—even compared with other laptops in this category—it has long battery life, and it has a quality keyboard and trackpad. It also offers fast performance and a spacious screen, though it has only two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports.
The XPS 13 (9300) Windows Ultrabook is extremely compact. At 11.6 by 7.8 by 0.58 inches, it’s even smaller than its predecessor, despite having a taller screen, and it’s more compact than the 2020 MacBook Air’s 11.97-by-8.36-by-0.63-inch body. The XPS 13 is additionally lighter than most of its competition at 2.65 pounds; the MacBook Air weighs 2.8 pounds, and therefore the HP Spectre x360 13 weighs 2.88 pounds.
But the new XPS 13 still lasted 10 hours 36 minutes in our Web-browsing battery tests, a shorter result than we got from its predecessor, but an extended span than we’ve seen from most of the opposite ultrabooks we’ve tested. And that’s still many battery life for a full day of labor or classes.
The XPS 13 Windows Ultrabook features a responsive keyboard that feels snappy to type on, and you’ll cycle through three levels of backlighting employing a function key. Its keys aren’t as shallow because the failure-prone and much-maligned keyboards on Apple’s previous-generation MacBooks, but they aren’t quite as an enjoyably deep and bouncy feeling because the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s keys, either.
We found the accuracy touchpad to be exact and reliable, with perfect tap-to-click and a satisfying, comparatively quiet physical click. The XPS 13’s trackpad never dropped swipes in our testing and worked well for two-finger and three-finger gestures.
The non-touch Dell XPS 13 (9300) features a 13.4-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio—it’s a touch taller than the 16:9 widescreen displays found in most Windows laptops, and it’s an equivalent ratio as those in Apple’s current MacBook lineup. This taller screen provides a touch more vertical space, which makes it better for browsing sites than typical squat screens, though it’s almost as tall because the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3’s 3:2-aspect-ratio screen.
The XPS 13’s 1920×1200 screen is brilliant and immersive (and the laptop remains impressively compact) because of the super-slim bezel surrounding the screen. Dell offers the XPS 13 with a 4K display, but that sometimes adds a minimum of $300 more and shortens battery life thanks to the additional power needed to illuminate a 3840×2400 display. The webcam is found at the highest center, above the screen.3
Cheaper laptops can feel hollow, and their chassis can creak and flex under light pressure; some are so flimsy that you simply can accidentally click the trackpad by placing your hands on the palm-rest area. But the XPS 13’s aluminum body is sleek and durable , and therefore the lid has minimal flex. even as on previous generations of the XPS 13, this model’s carbon-fiber-composite palm rest is coated in textured, soft-touch black paint, which makes for a cushty , non-sweaty surface. the center of the keyboard flexes a touch under heavy pressure, but overall the XPS 13 looks and seems like the premium laptop it’s .
The XPS 13 (9300) features a reliable fingerprint reader on the facility button; it worked quickly whenever we logged in. We do wish this laptop had a hardware switch or cover to disable the webcam when you’re not using it, just like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 and HP Spectre x360 13 have. Our pick comes with the latest-generation Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, and like our other picks, it comes with a one-year limited warranty.
|Processor:||Intel Core i5-1035G4||Screen:||13.3-inch 1920×1080 touch|
|Memory:||8 GB||Weight:||2.88 pounds|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||10.5 hours|
If you want a laptop with a stylus and a 360-degree hinge that lets you flip the screen all the way around to use the system as a tablet (or in any intermediate position, such as tent mode) and you don’t mind carrying something a little heavier than our top pick, get the HP Spectre x360 13 Windows Ultrabook. It’s similar in size to the XPS 13, and it offers solid battery life, comparable performance, a reliable keyboard and trackpad, and a vibrant touchscreen. Plus, it has two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port for connecting older devices, and a fingerprint reader for easy logins.
If you want a laptop with a 360-degree hinge that lets you flip the screen all the way around to use it as a tablet (or in any intermediate position) and you don’t mind carrying something heavier than our top pick, get the HP Spectre x360 13 Windows Ultrabook. It’s similar in size to the Dell XPS 13, with solid battery life, a reliable keyboard and trackpad, and a vibrant touchscreen. It looks and feels like a premium laptop, and it comes with a large active pen. The Spectre x360 13 also has two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port for connecting older devices, and a fingerprint reader. We prefer the XPS 13’s lighter body, taller screen, and standard-layout keyboard, but if you need a convertible laptop with a touchscreen, the Spectre x360 13 is the way to go.
The HP Spectre x360 13 is similar in size to the XPS 13 (9300); the Spectre x360 13 measures 12.1 by 7.7 by 0.67 inches, half an inch wider and a bit thicker than the XPS 13, but less deep. It’s also heavier at 2.88 pounds versus 2.65 pounds. But compared with our previous favorite convertible laptop, the Lenovo Yoga C940, the Spectre x360 13 is more compact—thanks in part to its smaller screen—and a bit lighter. For a laptop that you’ll occasionally flip around to use in different modes, the Spectre x360 13’s size and weight are a distinct advantage.
Among the ultrabooks we tested in late 2019 and early 2020, the HP Spectre x360 13 had one of the best results in our battery life tests, lasting 10 hours 19 minutes, just a little less than the Dell XPS 13 (9300)’s 10 hours 36 minutes. But both laptops have superb battery life that’ll last a full workday.
Although the HP Spectre x360 13’s keyboard feels springy and aware of type on, it’s some quirks. First, the keyboard is offset to the left to form room for a further column of navigation keys on the proper . It took a couple of days and an entire lot of typos before I got acclimated to the situation of the keys, but I did adjust. Second, the keyboard is silver with a white backlight, which makes the key legends impossible to read during a well-lit room. We recommend turning off the backlight.
In everyday use, the x360 13’s precision touchpad was smooth and enjoyable; the trackpad skilled all of our two-finger and three-finger gestures, and that we never accidentally moved the cursor with our palms while we were using the keyboard.
The 13.3-inch, 1080p (1920×1080) IPS screen was vivid and enjoyable to use, and its colors looked a touch closer to neutral compared with the XPS 13’s warm, slightly greenish tint. Like Dell, HP offers a 4K display option; we prefer Windows Ultrabook with 1080p screens for his or her longer battery life. The Spectre x360 13’s touch display has more glare than the XPS 13’s screen, which makes this model less suitable to be used during a sunny room. The Spectre x360 13 also features a thin bezel—though not as thin because the XPS 13’s—a webcam located within the top center above the display, and a hardware turn on the proper side of the laptop to disable the webcam when it isn’t in use.
The Spectre x360 13 also comes with a lively stylus for taking notes, drawing, and sketching, and it worked fine during our writing tests. It’s about the dimensions of a traditional pen, so it’s easier to write down with than the Lenovo Yoga C940’s tiny stylus, but that also means there’s nowhere to store it just like the handy “digital pen garage” on the C940. (In fact, our pictures lack a photograph of the stylus because I forgot to send it to our photo team.)
The Spectre x360 13 features a stylish aluminum chassis and feels solidly built. The lid seems durable, and therefore the base has minimal flex. The hinge is tight and keeps the screen in situ , but when the laptop is shut, there’s a touch of a niche where crumbs and other gunk can get into the keyboard area. We didn’t have any problems with this during testing, albeit there’s tons of loose tea at rock bottom of my backpack. (Thanks, TSA!)
The HP Spectre x360 13 has two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports as well as a headset jack, a microSD slot, and one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port for older peripherals. I didn’t love the awkward port and power-button placement on the back corners of the laptop, but their location wasn’t problematic in everyday use. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports being on the right side of the laptop can be inconvenient, though, since you can charge the laptop only from the right side. (The Lenovo Yoga C940 and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon can charge only from the left side, and the Dell XPS 13 has charge ports on both sides.)
Although the Spectre x360 13 doesn’t have any dedicated video-out ports such as Mini DisplayPort or HDMI, its Thunderbolt 3 ports can carry a video signal through the proper cable, adapter, or dock. The Spectre x360 13 supports Wi-Fi 6 with Bluetooth 5.0, and the company includes a one-year limited warranty with the laptop.
|Processor:||Intel Core i5-10210U||Screen:||14-inch 1920×1080 touch|
|Memory:||8 GB||Weight:||3.09 pounds|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||9.5 hours|
If you want an excellent Windows Ultrabook and do not able to spend more dollars. we propose the Lenovo Yoga C740 (14″) Windows Ultrabook. Compared with the XPS 13, the C740 is larger and heavier, it’s shorter battery life, and its keyboard isn’t quite as enjoyable to type on. But it’s powerful and portable enough to use for a full day of labor or classes. And unlike most inexpensive Windows Ultrabook, the C740 is sturdy, features a fingerprint reader, and comes with a USB-C charger.
If you want a great Windows Ultrabook but don’t have a thousand dollars to spend. We recommend the Lenovo Yoga C740 (14″). Compared with our top pick, the Yoga C740 is larger and heavier, its battery life isn’t quite as long, and its keyboard isn’t quite as enjoyable to type on. But it’s still plenty portable to use for a full day of work or classes, and it has performance similar to that of our top picks. It’s also sturdy, equipped with a fingerprint reader, and bundled with a USB-C charger, all rare amenities for a cheap Windows Ultrabook.
The Yoga C740 (14″) is thicker and bulkier and at least an inch wider, More than 1/2 an inch deeper, and about a 10th of an inch thicker than the Dell XPS 13. The Yoga C740 is also quite a bit heavier at 3.09 pounds—you’d feel the difference lugging it around in a bag compared with the 2.65-pound XPS 13 or even the 2.88-pound HP Spectre x360 13.
With 9 hours 36 minutes of battery life in our test, the Yoga C740 fell about an hour short of the Dell XPS 13 (9300); it won’t last quite as long away from an outlet as our other picks. Even so, that’s enough battery life to survive through a day of work or classes.
Though the Yoga C740’s Windows Ultrabook keyboard isn’t on the same level as the ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s fantastic keyboard, and we prefer the XPS 13 (9300)’s snappy keys, this keyboard is still reliable and responsive. The spacebar on our review unit felt loose and rattly (and it squeaked when I pressed it repeatedly), but based on our experience in past tests, this isn’t typical of Yoga keyboards, and we couldn’t find widespread reports of issues. If you run into this problem—and please let us know if you do—it should be covered by Lenovo’s warranty. We didn’t have any problems with the Yoga C740’s precision touchpad; it worked well for all swipes, gestures, and taps.
In our tests, the colors on the Yoga C740’s 14-inch 1920×1080 IPS touchscreen were a touch warm—neutral colors like whites and grays had a small yellowish tint—but it’s fine for work and Netflix. Although the C740 features a 360-degree hinge and may flip into tablet mode just like the HP Spectre x360 13 and therefore the Lenovo Yoga C940, this budget model is larger and more unwieldy, and it doesn’t accompany a lively stylus for taking notes or drawing.
The Yoga C740 feels sturdier and fewer hollow than another budget Windows Ultrabook just like the Asus ZenBook UX333FA or both Dell Inspiron models we’ve tested. The C740’s lid is difficult to open with one hand; we wish Lenovo would add a lip to supply better purchase because it did on the C940.
It has two USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 ports that employment for both power and display and one USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 port for older peripherals, and an audio jack. We especially like that the Yoga C740 can charge via USB-C and comes with a USB-C charger within the box—many other cheap Windows Ultrabook either cannot charge via USB-C or can but don’t accompany a USB-C charger. As phones, tablets, laptops, and more move to USB-C, you’ll use an equivalent charger for all of your devices rather than having to hold several. The fingerprint reader, located on the proper side of the palm rest, was reliable in our testing. Other cheap Windows Ultrabook we tested either lacked fingerprint readers entirely or didn’t read my fingerprint quickly or accurately whenever . The C740 supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0, and it’s a one-year limited warranty.
|Processor:||Intel Core i5-10210U||Screen:||14-inch 1920×1080 non-touch|
|Memory:||8 GB||Weight:||2.4 pounds|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD||Tested battery life:||10 hours|
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 is the best laptop we’ve tested in the past few years; it’s just several hundred dollars more than most people should pay for an Windows Ultrabook. But if you don’t mind spending more, you get a lighter laptop with a stellar keyboard, a 14-inch screen, and a more useful array of ports than on our top pick—including two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, and an HDMI port. It comes with a fingerprint reader and a handy webcam cover, and although its battery doesn’t last quite as long as the XPS 13’s, it still survives long enough for a full day or work or classes. We recommend the model with a 10th-generation Intel processor, but the version with an Intel Core i5-8265U processor is still a great option if you find it on sale for less.
A few other ultrabooks we tested are good, although they each suffer from at least one setback that keeps them from matching our top picks’ excellence.
If you don’t mind paying more for a lighter laptop with a more comfortable keyboard, a 14-inch screen, and a wider variety of ports, we recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7. It includes two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports and two Thunderbolt 3 ports—the ideal combination to work with old and new accessories. But its battery life falls a bit short of the Dell XPS 13’s, and it lacks a microSD card slot. The X1 Carbon Gen 7’s greatest flaw is its typically high price, but if you can overlook that, this laptop is nearly perfect.
We now recommend the X1 Carbon with a 10th-generation Intel Core i5-10210U processor over the version with the older, eighth-generation Intel Core i5-8265U processor because they typically cost the same. If you find the X1 Carbon Gen 7 with an eighth-generation processor for less, though, go for it. The difference isn’t significant, but if you’re the sort to need 16 GB of RAM, you’ll likely want to stick to the 10th-gen processor.
The X1 Carbon Gen 7 measures 12.7 by 8.5 by 0.6 inches, which makes it about an inch wider and deeper than the Dell XPS 13. It’s slightly lighter than the Dell: The X1 Carbon Gen 7 weighs 2.4 pounds while the XPS 13 weighs 2.65 pounds.
In battery life, the X1 Carbon Gen 7 falls a bit short of the Dell XPS 13 (9300), but both laptops will last for a full day’s work. The model with an Intel Core i5-8265U lasted 9 hours 59 minutes in our tests, and we expect the new model to have similar battery life.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 has the best keyboard of any laptop we’ve ever used. In our tests, the keyboard was impressively bouncy and responsive—we could feel the entire depth of each key with every tap. It’s a joy to use.
Its precision touchpad doesn’t provide the same satisfying clicking noise as the XPS 13’s trackpad, but it’s quiet, comfortable, and accurate. The X1 Carbon Gen 7 also has a red TrackPoint nub in the middle of the keyboard; if you so choose, you can use this dot to navigate instead of the trackpad.
The 14-inch IPS screen is pleasant to look at, and the extra space compared with that of a 13-inch laptop is helpful when you’re editing large spreadsheets or running apps side by side. In our tests, the colors were crisp, we didn’t notice any distracting glare, and its bezel wasn’t thick enough to be distracting. The webcam has a sliding privacy cover, a nice bonus for the privacy-minded that our other picks don’t have.
The laptop’s lid feels smooth to the touch, its solid body is made from carbon fiber and magnesium, and its palm rest is a comfortable place to keep your hand while you’re not typing. We didn’t notice any flex in its keyboard or its lid; like the XPS 13, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 is sturdily and reliably built.
The X1 Carbon Gen 7 provides more port options than the competition, too. In addition to two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, it has two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports (which you can use to charge the laptop), as well as an HDMI port and a Kensington lock slot. It also has a fingerprint reader for quick logins. The X1 Carbon Gen 7 has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0, and Lenovo includes a one-year warranty (PDF).
How we picked
These are the features you ought to search for during a good ultrabook, in rough order of importance:
- Size: An ultrabook should be as thin and lightweight as possible, but a well-built, slightly thicker laptop is best than a skinny one that feels flimsy or has poor battery life. It needs a 12- to 14-inch screen that’s large enough for work but sufficiently small that the laptop can slip into a backpack. We generally search for ultrabooks under 3 pounds, too; there’s a clear difference when you’re handling a laptop that weighs more.
- Battery life: an excellent ultrabook must survive through each day of labor far away from an outlet. For ultrabooks, we would like to ascertain a minimum of 10 hours of battery life in our tests, which indicates that you simply won’t need to worry about rushing to seek out an outlet at the top of the day. Battery life degrades over time, therefore the more a laptop starts out with, the higher.
- Processor: An eighth- or 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor or better is powerful enough for many work; Intel’s model numbers are complicated, but if you see the amount 8 or 10 after the i5 or i7, that’s what you would like .1 You’ll also see some ultrabooks with Intel’s ultra-low-voltage (ULV) processors, with model names like “Intel Core i5-8200Y”—look for the Y at the top of the amount. These ULV processors aren’t as powerful because the more common Core processors with a U or G within the model number, but they’re more battery efficient and don’t require cooling fans, and they’re quick enough for routine laptop work.
- Memory: You’ll need a minimum of 8 GB of RAM to stay everything running smoothly when switching between programs, opening many files, and thumbing through browser tabs. But since RAM is soldered into the motherboard of most ultrabooks—and therefore not upgradable—you should consider starting with 16 GB if you often open dozens of browser tabs at a time or edit large photos or video files.
- Solid-state storage: A solid-state drive (SSD) can read and write data much faster than a standard disk drive. Having an SSD accelerates any task that needs accessing data, like booting up your laptop and saving and loading files. SSDs also use less power than hard drives, put out less heat, and don’t vibrate; they’re less susceptible to mechanical failure. A 256 GB SSD offers enough space for many people.2
- Keyboard and trackpad: It’s crucial that your laptop’s keyboard and trackpad are accurate and cozy to use for long periods of your time (even if you often use an external keyboard and mouse).
- Display: We recommend a resolution of 1920×1080. Higher-resolution screens—think 3840×2160 (4K)—are now commonplace, but they’re not ideal for ultrabooks, because the benefits of a higher-resolution screen are hard to ascertain on a 13- or 14-inch display and aren’t well worth the reduced battery life. Similarly, many Windows laptops now have touchscreens, but their glossy glass is susceptible to glare, which may make touchscreens less convenient to use in additional situations.
- Build quality: An ultrabook’s lid and hinge should feel sturdy once you open and shut it, and no parts should creak or feel breakable. You’re spending a thousand dollars or more—your laptop should reflect that regardless of how thin and lightweight it’s.
- Ports: Different ports interest different computer owners, so a variety of latest and legacy ports is right. Since most of the people still have USB-A accessories, a few USB 3.0 Type-A ports are universally useful. A Thunderbolt 3 port—which looks a bit like a USB-C port and may use equivalent accessories, plus more—is handy for futureproofing as more docks, displays, and peripherals move to the USB-C standard. And most ultrabooks now charge over USB-C; because good USB-C chargers are cheaper and easier to shop for than proprietary chargers, we prefer our laptop picks to possess that ability.
- Extras: With laptops that support Windows Hello, you’ll log in using your fingerprint or face, a way intended to discourage weak passwords by letting you log in instantly without having to type during a password whenever. These biometric locks can increase the safety of your device against people, but courts have issued disparate opinions about whether it’s legal for enforcement to force someone to unlock a tool with their face or fingerprint.
- Wi-Fi: Some laptops are now shipping with Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, rather than the older 802.11ac. It’ll be a short time before most of the people will see the advantages of those newer chips, since you furthermore may need a Wi-Fi 6 router, which remains too expensive.
How we tested
We used each laptop for a minimum of each day of ordinary work, which consisted of running two browsers with a minimum of 20 open tabs at a time (using Google Docs, Sheets, Slack, Basecamp, and Gmail, and doing many research) while streaming music within the background. This process gave us a pity each laptop’s performance, keyboard, trackpad, and screen. We then lived with each finalist for a couple of days, which gave us an intimate understanding of every competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, and quirks.
To test battery life, we set each screen’s backlight to 150 nits (or candelas per square meter, cd/m2) and ran a Web-browsing battery test that cycled through sites, email, Google Docs items, and video. Because we set each laptop to an equivalent brightness, the results are directly comparable.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The XPS 13 (9300) has only two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports—which you can use to charge mobile devices or the laptop itself, to transfer data, or to connect an external display via DisplayPort or HDMI with the proper adapter—as well as a MicroSD slot and a headphone jack. It does come with a USB-C–to–A adapter, which is useful for plugging in USB-A peripherals. Living with so few ports can be inconvenient, but you can always add a USB-C hub or dock to connect more things.
Most laptop manufacturers (except Apple) have poor customer service.