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Best Ultrabooks and Premium Laptops 2021

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The best ultrabooks and premium laptops for work, play and general use.
Whether you’re a student, a professional or just want to stay connected and productive, a laptop is one of the most important tools of the trade. But some are better than others, with wide differences in keyboards, battery life, displays and design. If you’re looking for a powerful laptop that easily fits in your bag and doesn’t break your back, you want an ultrabook.
The “ultrabook” moniker was originally coined by Intel in 2012 and used to refer to a set of premium, super-thin laptops that met the chipmaker’s predefined standards. However, just as many folks refer to tissues as Kleenexes or web searching as Googling, the term ultrabook commonly refers to any premium ultraportable laptop, whether it carries Intel’s seal of approval or not.

Of course, there's always new tech coming down the pipe. Intel has announced its 11th Gen Core "Tiger Lake" processors with Iris Xe graphics and Thunderbolt 4, with laptops shipping in time for the holiday season. And its likely that an AMD Ryzen refresh won't be far behind, bringing USB 4 to laptops. That's in addition to the possibility of Apple's first Arm-powered MacBook coming this fall.
Quick Ultrabook / Premium Laptop Shopping Tips
• Get a good keyboard: Whether you’re using an ultrabook to browse the web, send emails, code, write or do other productivity work, the keyboard is one of your primary ways of interacting. Get something with responsive keys that aren’t mushy. Low-travel is ok if the keys have the right feel to them, but the last thing you want to do is “bottom out” while typing.
• Consider what you need in a screen: At a minimum, your laptop should have a 1920 x 1080 screen. Some laptops offer 4K options, though it’s sometimes harder to see the difference at 13-inches or below. While 4K may be more detailed, 1080p screens give you much longer battery life.
• Some laptops can be upgraded: While CPUs and GPUs are almost always soldered down, some laptops let you replace the RAM and storage, so you can buy cheaper now and add more memory and a bigger hard drive or SSD down the road. But the thinnest laptops may not have that option.
• Battery life is important: Aim for something that lasts for 8 hours or longer on a charge (gaming is an exception). For productivity, many laptops easily surpass this number. But be wary of manufacturer claims, which don’t always use strenuous tests. Some laptops are starting to add fast charging, which is a nice bonus.
Best Ultrabooks and Premium Laptops 2021

1. Dell XPS 13 (9310)
The Best Ultrabook Overall
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Xe (integrated) | Display: 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200, touchscreen | Weight: 2.8 pounds / 1.2 kg
Beautiful look
Bright, tall screen
Solid typing experience
Minimal port selection
The Dell XPS 13 has long been celebrated for both its form and function. The laptop is tiny, but packs a punch with Intel's Tiger Lake processors and adds some extra screen real estate with a tall, 16:10 display (many laptops have a 16:9 screen).
We also like the XPS 13's keyboard, with a snappy press and slightly larger keycaps than previous designs. The screen is bright, and we shouldn't take its thin bezels for granted, as Dell continues to lead on that front.

Admittedly, the XPS 13 is short on ports, opting for a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports for booth charging and accessories. Its performance, portability and long battery life are likely to make up for that for those on the go.
2. MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1)
The Best Mac
CPU: Apple M1 | GPU: 8-core GPU on SOC | Display: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600, True Tone | Weight: 3.0 pounds / 1.4 kg
M1 is powerful and fast
Runs cool and quiet
Apps just work, even if emulated
Long-lasting battery life
Strong audio
Limited ports and RAM options
Touch Bar isn't very useful
Poor webcam
While some people may still want the power, large display and port selection of the 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple has proved with the 13-inch version that its own home-grown M1 chip is capable of the needs of plenty of people. This is Apple's first step in breaking away from Intel, and it is extremely impressive.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro runs cool and quiet, while the chip is faster than its competition in most cases. It's also efficient and ran for more than 16 and a half hours on our battery test.
Many apps run natively on the Arm processor and those that don't use Apple's Rosetta 2 software for emulation. Even then, users will barely know that emulation is being used at all. Everything just works.
The big difference between the Pro and the Air, which also uses M1, is that the Pro has a fan. Those who aren't doing intensive work may be able to save a bit and get a very similar machine by going with the Air, and they will get function keys instead of the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar.
3. MSI GE66 Raider
The Best Overall Gaming Laptop
CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q | Display: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 300 Hz | Weight: 5.3 pounds (2.4 kg)
Great gaming performance
300 Hz display
Well-executed RGB light bar
High-end build
Cramped keyboard
Tinny audio
The MSI GE66 Raider is a gaming laptop, and it’s saying it loud with a massive RGB light bar. It’s new look is aggressive, but it’s not just talk, with options going up to an Intel Core i9-10980HK and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q.
For those looking for esports-level performance in games like League of Legends or Overwatch, there’s an option for a 300 Hz display.
And while it’s not the slimmest laptop around (or even MSI’s thinnest), it does feel remarkably portable considering the power inside, and we can’t help but appreciate high-end build quality.
4. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 8)
The Best Ultrabook for Work
CPU: Intel Core i7-10610U | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics | Display: 14-inch, 3840 x 2160 touchscreen | Weight: 2.4 pounds / 1.1 kg
Slim, lightweight design
Excellent keyboard
Vibrant 4K display
Great port selection
Dull, blurry webcam
Annoying power button placement
VoIP controls only work with two apps
Lenovo’s ThinkPads have always been favorites, and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 8) continues that trend with a slim design, excellent keyboard and an excellent selection of ports to keep you connected to all of your peripherals.
If you get the 1080p option, you can count on all-day battery life (the 4K model we tested didn’t fare as well, but that’s often the tradeoff for higher resolution among ultrabooks).

Of course, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon also attracts one other audience: fans of the TrackPoint nub in the center of the keyboard.
5. Asus ZenBook Duo UX481
Best Dual Screen Laptop
CPU: Intel Core i7-10510U | GPU: Nvidia GeForce MX250 | Display: 14 inch 1080p (1920 x1080) touchscreen, 12.6 inch (1920 x 515) ScreenPad Plus | Weight: 3.3 pounds / 1.5 kg
Reasonably thin and light for a dual-screen laptop
Intuitive control software for managing the second screen
Very good battery life for a dual-screen laptop
Second screen mean small keys and a tiny touchpad
Mostly middling performance
The dual screen laptop market is still very young, but the Asus ZenBook Duo is the most promising out of the gate. While it isn’t as powerful as the Pro version, the Duo is rather light and thin for a laptop with two screens, and we got 9 hours and 44 minutes of battery life out of it.
While Windows 10 doesn’t natively support dual screen applications just yet, Asus’ ScreenPad Plus launcher is intuitive, letting you drag apps to the secondary display or even launch them there with a touch.
There are some compromises, particularly in the size and placement of the keyboard and touchpad. But if you want two screens for productivity on a laptop, this is your best option right now.
6. Dell XPS 17
The Best Big Screen Laptop
CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q | Display: 17-inch, 3840 x 2400, 16:10 aspect ratio, touch | Weight: 4.7 pounds / 2.1 kg
Slim bezels and attractive design
Bright, vivid, 16:10 display
Strong performance and gaming-grade GPU
Massive touchpad
Middling-quality webcam
If you’re going for a big screen, the Dell XPS 17 shines. The display on the laptop is bright and colorful, especially on the 4K+ option that we tested, and with minimal bezels around it, your work (or play) is all that’s in focus.
With up to an Intel Core i7 and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q, there’s plenty of power here. While it’s not on our list of best gaming laptops, you can definitely play video games on it, including intensive games that use ray tracing.
All of that comes in an attractive design similar to the XPS 13 and XPS 15, though the trackpad takes advantage of the extra space. It’s a luxurious amount of room to navigate and perform gestures.

7. Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371
A Beautiful Convertible 2-in-1
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Xe | Display: 13.3-inch, 3840 x 2160 OLED touchscreen | Weight: 2.7 pounds / 1.2 kg
Beautiful, slim design
Over 8 hours battery life
Gorgeous 4K OLED screen
No headphone jack
Mixed performance scores
One of the first 11th Gen Intel laptops we tested, the Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371 gives you a luxury look and feel. The metal chassis is ritzy, but not tacky. It has a beautiful 4K OLED display, and somehow still pulls off over 8 hours of battery life.
While it offers decent sound for such a slim laptop, we still missed the fact that it lacks a 3.5 mm headphone jack. An USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter is included in the box to plug into a Thunderbolt 4 port, however.

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