Ultrabook Decathlon: Which Model Should You Buy?

While all of the Ultrabooks are light and thin, the Dell XPS 13 stands out because it’s smaller than the rest despite having a 13-inch screen, and it has a unique carbon-fiber bottom that looks and feels cool. The rest of the system is slick, too: An aluminum lid and soft-touch-coated magnesium deck add to its overall sleekness.

We also like the ASUS UX31’s design. It takes the iconic aesthetic of Apple’s MacBook Air and one-ups it with a two-tone spun-metal lid and brushed-aluminum interior. Finally, there’s something to be said for the Toshiba Portégé’s Z835’s weight of 2.4 pounds, the lightest among all the Ultrabooks.

Category Winners

1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place
     
 Dell
XPS 13
 ASUS
ZenBook UX31
 Toshiba
Portege Z835

Runners-Up

We like the aluminum finish of the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s; if you want to stand out, order it in orange. Samsung’s Series 5 is light for a 14-inch notebook at 4 pounds. The 3.2-pound HP Folio 13 is handsome enough for the business crowd, but is heavier than other Ultrabooks.


Owing to their thin profiles, there isn’t a lot of space on Ultrabooks for ports, but some companies do better than others. The Portégé Z835 has a full complement of full-size ports, including USB 3.0, Ethernet, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA. A VGA port is especially important for connecting to older projectors.

On Toshiba’s heels is the ASUS UX31, which, in addition to USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, has a microHDMI and mini DisplayPort.

The HP Folio 13 comes to the race with a full-size Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports and HDMI. All of these Ultrabooks offer SD Card readers.

Category Winners

1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place
     
 Toshiba
Portege Z835
 ASUS
ZenBook UX31
 HP
Folio 13

Runners-Up

The Samsung Series 5 cheats a bit in this round because of its larger chassis, but we like that it accommodates a trayloading DVD drive. Ultrabooks without SD Card slots—the IdeaPad U300s and the Dell XPS 13—never made it out of the starting block.

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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