December 07, 2012, 11:52 AM — Have you picked up your laptop lately? If it's getting long in the tooth, it's probably as heavy as it is slow. Fortunately there's no better time to look for a more portable and modern machine than during the holidays. Even if you can't find a year-end deal on the particular model that interests you, you'll be able to impress family and friends when you whip out your new laptop at holiday gatherings.
Thanks to the performance and efficiency of Intel's Core-branded processor platform, Ultrabooks are gradually gaining in popularity. These machines provide great performance and long battery life, despite weighing less than 4 pounds. They're also a traveler's best friendslim and light, with quick boot times owing to built-in solid-state memory drives.
That said, if you need more raw power and are willing to compromise on portability, you can find plenty of great traditional laptops. These machines may weigh more, but they also carry larger screens, which are helpful in countless multitasking scenarios.
To help you with your purchasing decision, we've compiled a list of the best Ultrabooks and laptops available right now. PCWorld staffers test as many models as possibleand then we pass our experiences on to you.
Without further ado, let's start with a look at our four favorite Ultrabooks, and then follow up with four great traditional laptops.
The CT15-A2 is the 15.6-inch version of the 14-inch CT14-A2, which impressed us last August with its sleek, minimalist design. Though the 14-inch model is no longer available, you can pick up the 15.6-inch model for the same low pricedespite its extra screen real estate.
The keys are shallow, but large and easy to locate even for the clumsiest fingers; and the accompanying touchpad supports multitouch gestures. Best of all, the CT15-A2 delivers strong performance at an affordable price. In our WorldBench 7 benchmarking gauntlet, it earned a mark of 81 for overall performance, keeping pace with some of the highest-rated Ultrabooks, at for a much lower cost. Read our full review of the 14-inch model here.
[$1199 for a 15.6-inch Ultrabook with a 1600-by-900-pixel display, a Core-i7 processor, and Windows 7]
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
The UX31A upgrades last year's UX31E with a new touchpad and an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU. It rivals other top-rated Ultrabooks in overall performance, and sports a beautiful full HD IPS display with an excellent antiglare filter to reduce annoying reflections.