Ultrabook Decathlon: Which Model Should You Buy?

Ultrabooks are the lean and mean super-athletes of the notebook world. According to Intel’s definition, these MacBook Air alternatives must be less than an inch thick, boot in less than 60 seconds and resume from sleep in less than five seconds. But there’s still room for each company to add its own imprimatur, from the design and keyboard to the display and audio capabilities. So, in the spirit of the upcoming Olympic Games, we subjected six of our favorite Ultrabooks to a 10-round competition to see which one has the makings of a gold-medal winner.

The Competition

ASUS ZenBook UX31 Dell XPS 13 HP Folio 13 Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Samsung
Series 5
Toshiba
Portege Z835
$1,099 $999 $1,048 $1,495 $879 $899
ASUS ZenBook
UX31 Review
Dell XPS 13 Review HP Folio
13 Review
Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Review Samsung Series 5 Review Toshiba Portege Z835 Review

How We Scored

For each round, we awarded 3 points for a first-place finish, 2 points for second place and 1 point for third.

Ultrabook Decathalon

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  1. Dan Tole Says:

    Great write up. I’m surprised the samsung and toshiba didn’t do a little bit better but looks like the others are just a little better at what they do. I know some of the samsung screens are really awful, no reflections but terrible picture quality and horrible viewing angles. That’s whats kept me away from them as of late.

  2. J.D. Says:

    I’m almost positive what you show as a photo of the ASUS Zenbook UX31 touchpad, is in fact the Toshiba Z830/Z835 touchpad. The Toshiba has the distinct buttons. All the ASUS UBs I’ve seen have the buttons as part of the touchpad

  3. J.D. Says:

    There are i3, i5 and i7 models of the Acer, ASUS, Toshiba, etc etc, and yet, you don’t say WHICH model variant you are testing. Might not matter for screen and keyboard and port comparison, but it sure DOES matter for performance comparisons. That’s a substantial lack of disclosure, lack of attention to detail, and not very good on your part. You’re not winning any medals yourself.

    How on earth does the Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook not get included in this review? Because, as a more premium model, it wins every category, has no peer, and would make the article a useless excersise perhaps? If not, it’s strange to have omitted it from the competition. No Ultrabooks on steroids allowed? lol

  4. Mike Prospero Says:

    J.D. – The specs for each notebook are in the individual reviews. Because the specs are not the same across all the systems, we addressed that in the Software, Warranty and Value section.

    HP Folio 13: Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD
    Dell XPS 13: Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD
    Toshiba Portégé Z835: Core i3-2367M processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD
    ASUS UX31: Core i5-2557M processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD
    Lenovo U300s: Core i7-2677M processor, 4GB of RAM, 256GB SSD
    Samsung Series 5: Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of RAM, 16GB cache+500GB HDD

  5. John Says:

    Why isnt the top dog Samsung 9 series not included??Will that top every category

  6. grasshopper80 Says:

    @J.D. Your ridiculously condescending tone aside, your opinion about the Samsung Series 9 is incorrect. It would not “win every category.” It should have been included in the review. However, at nearly $500 more than the “winner” of this article, it would probably not win for Value. Barely brighter, with the same resolution screen, means it would probably tie with the Zenbook in Display. It also has an hour less battery life than the Folio 13 so there goes Battery. Despite having a faster processor, it basically tied with the Zenbook in the PCMark07 score. The Samsung 9 review from this site also reports that the audio is weak, the keys are shallow, and it scored the same FPS or below on World of Warcraft as many of the other ultrabooks. It certainly has areas where it shines, but despite being $500-600 more than most of the ultrabooks in this review, the “premium” Samsung Series 9 would not be the clear winner. However, I am sure that you already knew that considering you are an expert regarding ultrabooks and have your own successful and higher quality laptop review website.

  7. Rob Says:

    John — I suspect the Series 9 wasn’t included because it doesn’t fully conform to Intel’s specs and therefore isn’t technically an Ultrabook. Although I personally would have included it, because a typical consumer DOES consider it an Ultrabook and would probably like to know how it compares to the others.

    That said, this comparison seems a bit late to the party. All of these Ultrabooks will be leaving the scene in about a month when next-gen Ivy Bridge processors bring with them an entirely new batch of machines — such as the Asus UX31a, which will look the same but offer such goodies as a 1080 screen.

  8. narayana reddy Says:

    Very good article.
    but little disappointed that hp envy 14 spectre and samsung series 9 being omitted from the article.

    it would have been more interesting if envy 14 spectre was included since it has same 1600×900 display as asus(lower on brightness though), good selection of ports like toshiba, cool unique design, beats audio and good backlit keyboard.so, it could have been a good contender in this article even though pricier model.
    I think spectre barely makes it to ultrabook thinness.But given its features it should been included in the list.

    Samsung series 9 even though it has its USP’s, as grasshopper80 mentioned, it might have not made it to top 3.

  9. J.D. Says:

    I can see the photo of the ASUS touchpad has been fixed now

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