Skip to main content

Best ultrabooks in SA

Best ultrabooks
Our selection of the best ultrabooks on the market (Image credit: Future)

The best ultrabooks exude style and elegance in the design department while delivering on the power professional users need, balanced with good battery life. In the world of mobile computing ultrabooks are the apex product.

The best ultrabooks are beautifully thin and light but can handle a hefty workload. They’re powerful enough manage large applications and large files in complex tasks like multimedia editing and 3D design. 

Here is our line-up of the best ultrabooks we've reviewed in 2020 to help you make a smart purchasing decision. 

Best ultrabooks at a glance

  1. Dell XPS 15 (2020)
  2. HP Elite Dragonfly
  3. HP Spectre x360 (2020)
  4. Dell XPS 13
  5. Lenovo Yoga C930
  6. Acer Swift 3
  7. HP Envy x360 13 (2019)
  8. Acer Swift 7
  9. Apple MacBook Air (2020)
  10. Asus VivoBook S14 S433

Dell XPS 15

(Image credit: Dell)

1. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

The ultimate laptop has arrived

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

Amazing speakers
Beautiful display
Comfy keyboard
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

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

Impeccable design
Excellent battery life
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

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

Stylish and high-quality finish
Great all-around performance
Built-in security features are useful
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

(Image credit: Dell)

4. Dell XPS 13

A small change with a big impact

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) – 4K (3,840 x 2,160; touchscreen) | Storage: 128GB – 2TB SSD

The webcam is in the right spot
Entry level is back
Otherwise small upgrade

The Dell XPS 13 has been king of the Ultrabooks for years, and while it’s been unseated by the Huawei MateBook 13, it remains one of the Ultrabooks to beat in 2020. This time around, Dell has moved the webcam from the bottom of the display back to the top, fixing one of the biggest flaws that held back the XPS 13 for years. Add the updated internal components to the mix, and the Dell XPS 13 still makes the best Ultrabooks list – even in the face of tough competition.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13

Lenovo Yoga C930

(Image credit: Lenovo)

5. Lenovo Yoga C930

A 2-in-1 laptop experience with little to no compromise

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: up to 16 GB DDR4 | Screen: 13.9-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) | Storage: up to 2 TB PCIe SSD

Strong build quality
Robust feature set
Excellent battery life
Weak graphics performance
Pricey upgrade options

The Lenovo Yoga C930 has quite a few of the makings of the best Ultrabook – from an absurd 14.5 hours of battery life and dual Thunderbolt-enabled USB-C ports to internal components that will easily handle those daily productivity tasks. That’s without even considering it’s a 2-in-1 that offers form versatility so you can squeeze in some light gaming and movie-watching once you’re done working. It has a few cherries on top as well, specifically the integrated self-charging stylus and the fab speaker system.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga C930

Acer Swift 3 2020 Intel

(Image credit: Acer)

6. Acer Swift 3

The ultrabook for the rest of us

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) | Storage: 512GB SSD | Weight: 1.2kg

Great value
Stylish design
Screen "only" HD
Chunky bezels

The Swift 3 perfectly fills a pretty important niche. Everybody wants their laptop to be svelte but powerful, and have great battery life, but that usually comes with a business-class price tag. But the Swift 3 is the ultrabook for the rest of us. This affordable thin-and-light holds its own, both in size and weight and also in all round performance, against models costing more than twice as much. 

It's certainly understated in appearance but its got  great lines and could easily be mistaken for a Macbook Air at a glance. Standing just 1.5cm thick and weighing just over 1kg it has a generous arrangement of USB three USB ports and HDMI out. And while the screen is merely good, but not great, the keyboard and trackpad never feel cramped. Top that off with around 7 hours of battery life and its easy to see why this remains one of our favourite laptops.

Read the full review: Acer Swift 3

HP Envy x360 13 (2019)

(Image credit: HP)

7. HP Envy x360 13 (2019)

An old favourite, but for much less

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 | Graphics: AMD Vega 8 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; touch) | Storage: 256GB SSD | Weight: 1.29kg

Superb build quality
Low price, great value 
Underwhelming graphics
Small trackpad

Warmly received in its original configuration, this new version uses the more power efficient AMD Ryzen instead of Intel, coupled with the Vega 8 GPU. While this doesn't technically give you a power boost, it does provide about the same oomph as the older Intel version with some battery saving. Most importantly it now costs almost 20% less which brings it neatly in sight of the shrewd ultrabook shopper looking for a bargain.

The build quality is still excellent; it feels engineered to last from the all-aluminium chassis to the smooth hinges and Gorilla Glass screen. We also like the mix of two full size  USB and a single USB-C ports. The keyboard was a delight to type on, although this tends to be very subjective, and the touchscreen was beautifully sharp and rich for an ultrabook costing almost half that of the front runners.  

Read the full review: HP Envy x360 13 (2019) 

Acer Swift 7 SF714-51T

Acer Swift 7 (Image credit: Acer)

8. Acer Swift 7

Still the thinnest laptop in the world

CPU: 9th-generation Intel i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; touch) | Storage: 512GB SSD | Weight: 0,89kg

Exceptional design
Great battery life 
Poor webcam position
Mediocre graphics

For the second year in a row Acer lays claim to the thinnest laptop title. Its a remarkable feat of engineeering made possible using a dual core fanless i7 cpu  (the same as for Apple's Macbook Air) and using lighter and stronger magnesium alloy instead of the aluminium used by pretty much everyone else, which translates to a lot less flex, a common problem with super skinny laptops.  

There's just two USB-C ports, as you might expect on  a laptop less than 1cm thick, and one of those is used for power. We're impressed by the 14-inch screen, which is bigger than average for an executive class ultrabook, and only possible by eliminiating bezels on all sides. The touchscreen screen is bright, rich and responsive, as you'd expect at this price. Other big wins for the Swift 7 include near full-size keys with good tactile feedback, a decent size trackpad and around 10 hours battery.

Read the full review: Acer Swift 7 

MacBook Air 2020

MacBook Air 2020 (Image credit: Apple)

9. Apple MacBook Air (2020)

Same classic look, but feels different

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i3 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plua | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (2,560 x 1,600; non-touch)) | Storage: 256GB SSD | Weight: 1.29kg

Robust build quality
Improved keyboard
More storage
Aging screen tech
Disappointing battery life 
Heat build up

Updates to the most affordable Macbook have been minimal for years, and the latest update again changes little in the basic design. Most of the changes are under the hood where the base model now uses Intel's latest, and most power efficient i3 dual core fanless CPUs. Otherwise the sleek aluminium chassis is identical to the format that more-or-less defined the ultrabook category over ten years ago (when, on stage, Steve Jobs dramatically slid it out of an A4 size envelope!). 

But while the look hasn't changed the feel certainly has, most notably in the keyboard which replaces the former failure prone butterfly hinges with more traditional scissor type. The 13-inch LCD screen still looks pretty good despite not being updated for years. 

Disappointingly it appears that heat build up is an issue, so the CPUs are throttled from performing at their peak, and even then the body gets uncomfortably hot. The battery also achieved nowhere near the claimed 11 hours in our real-world tests. It remains a very robust build, but every Windows laptop on this list easily exceed the Air in performance and also costs less.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Air (2020)

Asus Vivobook S14

Asus Vivobook S14 (Image credit: asus)

12. ASUS VivoBook S14 S433

Great form factor and build quality

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

Great in-hand feel
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 handle most games, albeit with settings turned down. 

Read the full review: ASUS VivoBook S14 S433 

Michelle Rae Uy, Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article

Image credit: TechRadar

  • Looking for back to school gear? We’ve picked out the best deals for you

Best ultrabooks 2020 at a glance:

  1. HP Elite Dragonfly
  2. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019)
  3. HP Spectre x360
  4. Lenovo Yoga C930
  5. Acer Swift 3  
  6. Lenovo Yoga 730
  7. HP Spectre x360 (2020)
  8. HP Envy X360 
  9. Acer Swift 7
  10. MacBook Air 2020