Ultrabooks are some of the most popular laptops on the market these days, because they’re thin, portable and fast. Reader Tsunemori wrote in to our forums asking which one they should buy, given a strict budget of $800, which isn’t unreasonable. There’s another demand: it has to be on Best Buy or Amazon.
Tsunemori also did some research, which is fantastic. (You should always do your due diligence!) He or she wants an Intel Core i5 CPU, 256GB SSD and a 14-inch or smaller 1080p display. They don’t want a touch screen or a convertible, just a plain old laptop, and it has to be portable. Our reader even has three potential choices: the Asus ZenBook UX330UA, Lenovo IdeaPad 710S and last year’s Dell Inspiron 13 7000.
Here’s the good news: Tsunemori picked almost all of our favorite specs for the average laptop user. The Core i5, 256GB SSD and a 1080p display are features I would recommend to anyone not doing heavy gaming or video editing. They want a laptop for “college stuff and casual gaming,” so this should be fine. A new Kaby Lake CPU won’t run games like The Witcher III or Rise of the Tomb Raider, but you could squeeze some World of Warcraft out of it or even Overwatch.
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Let’s start by ditching last year’s Dell Inspiron 13 7000 and the Lenovo 710S. Both use Skylake CPUs that are less powerful, and there are new options from every company that uses the latest chips.
The UX330UA is a strong choice, and it’s our best value pick among ultrabooks. In fact, you could probably end the search here. Of the laptops Tsunemori is considering, it’s the only model to earn our Editors’ Choice award and the only one that offers the latest 7th-generation Intel CPU. It has all of the specs they want, and in our review we praised it for its long battery life (over 10 hours), a beautiful display and strong audio performance. There’s quite a bit of bloatware on the machine and the touchpad is kind of stiff, but you can’t argue with the $700 price tag. You even get USB Type-C (but only for data, not charging).
In fact, for that price, you won’t find much more of what you’re looking for. The $799 base model XPS 13 only offers a Core i3 CPU and 128GB SSD, for instance.
If you don’t mind the older CPUs, we still advise skipping the Inspiron, which had unreliable battery life and a slow CPU. The IdeaPad 710S is also a solid computer, but you shouldn’t pay $100 more for a last generation CPU.
Of the three laptops Tsunemori picked, the best possible choice is the UX330UA. And, as they requested, it’s available on Amazon (opens in new tab).
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