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Best ultrabooks in South Africa for 2021 - the thin-and-light champions

Best ultrabooks
Our selection of the best ultrabooks on the market (Image credit: Future)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

The best ultrabooks do not compromise on speed and power or rugged reliability despite being characterised by an exceptionally low profile and lightweight components and materials.

Technically these thin-and-light are defined by its power-sipping design, so that you get maximum battery performance out of a highly portable form factor.

Our favourite feature of the best ultrabooks is the interesting array of materials used  across all these models including lightweight magnesium alloys and even carbon fibre on the latest Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Rest assured that we have rigorously tested all of these products to expose their strengths and weaknesses, so you can make an informed choice of the best ultrabook to suit your workstyle.

Best ultrabooks at a glance

  1. Dell XPS 15 (2020)
  2. HP Elite Dragonfly
  3. HP Spectre x360 (2020)
  4. Dell XPS 13 (2020)
  5. Asus ZenBook 13
  6. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
  7. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano
  8. Acer Swift 3
  9. Asus VivoBook S14 S433 
  10. Huawei Matebook D15

Dell XPS 15

(Image credit: Dell)

1. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

The ultimate laptop has arrived

Specifications
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti
RAM: 8GB – 64GB
Screen: 15.6" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit – 15.6" UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit Display
Storage: 256GB – 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe
Reasons to buy
+Amazing speakers+Beautiful display+Comfy keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-GTX 1650 Ti is a little weak

The Dell XPS 15 might just be incredible enough to tempt hardcore Mac users. It’s easily the best Ultrabook in 2020, and in a lot of ways, the best laptop (period). Combining staggering power in a stylish thin and light chassis, this laptop doesn’t hold back when it comes to internals and features that improve your computing experience overall. Among those amazing features are a gorgeous bright display with 500 nits of brightness, an extremely comfortable keyboard, impressive speakers, and a terrific trackpad. We’re not saying that this laptop is perfect, but our coveted 5 out of 5 rating should speak for itself.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 15

HP Elite Dragonfly

(Image credit: HP)

2. HP Elite Dragonfly

The best Ultrabook for the traveling professional

Specifications
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB - 16GB
Screen: 13.3" diagonal Full HD touch display – Full HD touch Sure View display
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Impeccable design+Excellent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty expensive

If you’re a traveling professional, and you’re looking for the best of the best this 2020, then you will be hard-pressed to find anything that will rival the HP Elite Dragonfly. Garnering our coveted five-star rating, this laptop tops many of our lists this year, including the best Ultrabooks list. It’s no surprise, as it delivers a deadly combination of incredible features like a sublime keyboard and amazing speakers, raw power, portability, a beautiful design and a long battery life. Admittedly, it’s pricier than many of its competition; but if you’ve got the funds, it’s worth every penny.

Read the full review: HP Elite Dragonfly

HP Spectre x360 (2020)

(Image credit: HP)

3. HP Spectre x360 (2020)

HP’s flagship 2-in-1 gets a 2020 refresh

Specifications
CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS BrightView micro-edge WLED-backlit multitouch – 13.3" diagonal 4K (3840 x 2160) UWVA BrightView micro-edge AMOLED multitouch
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Stylish and high-quality finish+Great all-around performance+Built-in security features are useful
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life takes a hit-Can run hot at times

HP’s beloved and highly praised 2-in-1 is back with a vengeance, this time with more powerful components like the 10th-generation Intel Core processors and Intel Iris Plus graphics. Of course, that impeccable 2-in-1 design and pristine gem-cut chassis are back, as are its security features and Bang & Olufsen speakers. That killer combination makes it, now more than ever, one of the best Ultrabooks out there. Is it a wonder that this is one of our favorite laptops of 2020? If you care about aesthetics as much as you do performance and overall quality, this is the laptop for you.

Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 (2020) 

Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

(Image credit: Dell)

4. Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

Dell does it again

Specifications
CPU: Up to 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1165G7
Graphics: Up to Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: Up to 32GB 4267MHz LPDDR4x
Screen: 13.4" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit – 13.4" UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit Display
Storage: Up to 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe
Reasons to buy
+Stunning design+Gorgeous 16:10 display+Excellent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Sound quality is just OK-Pricey

At this point, we doubt that the Dell XPS line can do anything wrong. Its yearly updates have consistently made it to our best laptops list, and they’re only getting better. The Dell XPS 13 (2020) is not only a gorgeous piece of kit. It also comes, as expected, with excellent performance, a stunning display and long battery life, alongside a few others. Much like its predecessor, it’s a pricey investment – but that is barely reason enough for us to discourage Ultrabook fans. This is among the best Ultrabooks of 2020, and it’s worth every penny.Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 (2020) 

ASUS ZenBook 13

(Image credit: ASUS)

5. Asus ZenBook 13

The same light, durable and affordable workhorse

Specifications
CPU: 10th-gen Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce MX250
RAM: 8GB – 32GB
Screen: 13.3" (16:9) LED-backlit FHD (1920x1080) 60Hz Anti-Glare Panel
Storage: up to 2TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Blends sleek and ultra slim design with MIL-STD-810G durability+Outstanding external speakers+Great battery
Reasons to avoid
-Underpowered-Wired headphone usage requires included dongle

With the next-generation Asus ZenBook 13, portability takes centerstage. It weighs just under three pounds, and has a sleek, ultra-slim design. Yet, that doesn’t take away from it durability and longevity. It’s one of the most durable ultrabooks out there, and it’s battery life is just exceptional. That’s even without mentioning its outstanding external speakers that’s truly impressive for a laptop this thin. Unfortunately, some sacrifices needed to be made – namely, in power and storage. So, only invest if you need something for general use.

Read the full review: Asus ZenBook 13

Surface Laptop 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

6. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Longer-lasting than most

Specifications
CPU: Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM: 8GB – 32GB
Screen: 15” 2496 x 1664 PixelSense Touch Display
Storage: 128GB – 1TB
Reasons to buy
+Excellent battery life+Exciting AMD flagship debut
Reasons to avoid
-Far too few ports-Lacking in power

With an impressive, reasonable price tag and some of the best battery life we’ve experienced in a 15-inch laptop, the Surface Laptop 3 certainly has a lot going for it. That also includes the fact that it’s got a great look and feel, as well as a weight that surprisingly light for a product its size. Performance-wise, it certainly knocks it out of the park. While it isn’t the most powerful 15-inch laptop out there, it has Intel’s 10th-generation chips and the Iris Plus graphics. That’s more than enough to make it one of the best Ultrabooks out there for 2020.

Read the full review: Surface Laptop 3 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

(Image credit: Lenovo)

7. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Ultra light and surprisingly powerful

Specifications
CPU: up to 11th-gen Intel Core i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 8GB - 16GB LPDDR4x
Screen: 13.0" 2K (2160 x 1350) IPS, anti-reflective, anti-smudge, touchscreen with Dolby Vision
Storage: 256GB – 1TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Sleek design+Incredibly light+Excellent display
Reasons to avoid
-Limited ports-Keyboard layout

Even its limited ports and small trackpad cannot hold the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano back. One of the best Ultrabooks we’ve ever tested, this portable is not only the lightest laptop we’ve ever tested, but also surprisingly powerful considering how sleek it is. Excellent features abound as well, with the likes of a crisp 2K 16:10 touchscreen, a physical webcam shutter and advanced biometrics of the fingerprint scanner adding to its value and making it worth its steep price. At least if portability and performance are your top priorities.

Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Acer Swift 3 2020 Intel

(Image credit: Acer)

8. Acer Swift 3

Still the ultrabook for the rest of us

Specifications
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 3500
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics or AMD Radeon Vega 8
RAM: 8GB – 64GB
Screen: 14" FHD (1920 x 1200)
Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe
Reasons to buy
+Good value at the price+Stylish and well built
Reasons to avoid
-No outstanding features

For some years running the Swift 3 has featured as our low-priced ultrabook hero product. That is, it has all the most important hallmarks of a top-class ultrabook, but costs far less than others. This latest model does not disappoint with a choice of Intel i5 or the battery-saver AMD Ryzen 5 processor in a lightweight (1.3kg) aluminium body and a battery that runs well past seven hours.

The full HD 14-inch screen won't match up to the market leaders, but it's perfectly sharp and its colours are still vibrant. For a 14-inch design the keyboard never feels cramped, and the keys are properly responsive with some decent travel. And, despite its beautiful Ultrabook lines you still get as decent set of ports including two USB, one USB-C and HDMI Out. 

Read the full review: Acer Swift 3

Asus Vivobook S14

Asus Vivobook S14 (Image credit: asus)

9. Asus VivoBook S14

Great form factor and build quality

Specifications
CPU: 10th-generation Intel i7
Graphics: Nvidia® GeForce MX250
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; touch)
Storage: 512GB SSD
Weight: 1,4kg
Reasons to buy
+Great in-hand feel
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly expensive

Priced well above a mid-range laptop this is still a lot of thin-and-light computing for  your buck. It comes pretty close to what we would consider a perfect trade off of price, build and performance and would have ranked higher on this list if pricing was a bigger consideration.  

We loved the compact shape and the inhand feel of the diamond cut and beveled edges, and the all-aluminium alloy chassis and bodywork. 

The keyboard is remarkably spacious for its small footprint, and the key travel was very comfortable too for marathon typing sessions. We also like the fingerprint sensor built into the trackpad which speeds up logins and access to web sites and services. As a nice bonus you can get an optional Nvidia MX250 gaming graphics chip which will easily handle most modern games, albeit with some settings turned down. 

Read the full review: ASUS VivoBook S14 

Huawei Matebook D15

(Image credit: Huawei)

10. Huawei Matebook D15

Our best-priced full-featured ultrabook

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500U
Graphics: AMD Vega 8 GPU + NVIDIA MX230
RAM: 8GB – 64GB
Screen: 15.6" FHD+ (1920 x 1200)
Storage: 256GB – 1TB
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful design and materials+Well-priced+Basic gaming graphics option
Reasons to avoid
-Lower-end CPU-Soft keyboard

Although newly arrived in South Africa Huawei's laptops have been very well received all over the world. This one certainly cuts a fine figure with its chiselled edges, all-aluminium body shell and thin bezels around the brilliant 15,6-inch screen. 

It's powered by the battery-efficient AMD Ryzen 5 which compares with Intel's i3 but it's a true ultrabook through and through which boots in around 10 seconds and weighs just 1.4kg. Despite the low profile it has a generous complement of useful ports and is very well priced indeed at R13,500.  

Read the full review: Huawei Matebook D15