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The 5 Best HP Ultrabooks
March 24, 2019
Portability is one of the key selling points of nearly all laptops, no matter their power or performance level. And for those who need a finely tuned balance of high functionality and portability, the HP ultrabook is a strong choice that you can take anywhere and use to run nearly anything.
Thanks to ongoing improvements in PC technology, there are more options to consider than just the higher-priced powerhouses you may be familiar with. But before we look at the devices available, let’s look at what qualifies as an ultrabook these days. The definition has repeatedly changed to keep up with the technology, so it’s good to clarify some of the basics.
We’ll also look at five of the best HP ultrabook models and provide a review of each with a focus on features. Here are the families and models we’ll talk about in our ultrabook product highlights:
- HP ENVY 13-inch laptop
- HP ENVY x360 convertible laptop
- HP Spectre x360 convertible laptop
- HP EliteBook 850 G5 business laptop
- HP ZBook 14u and 15u laptop workstations
These lines and models offer some of the best combinations of high-quality hardware configurations with slim, featherweight builds. But first, here’s a rundown of what sets the top ultrabooks apart and how you can identify the best model for you.
What is an ultrabook?
To define the term as briefly as possible, an ultrabook is a next-gen laptop class designed with a comprehensive approach to portability. In this case, portability is intended to cover more than just dimensions. It also covers performance, because a lackluster model that can’t handle your routine isn’t truly portable.
This results in an extremely light and thin build that preserves the same performance features as a larger laptop. These are also the same key features that smaller notebooks historically sacrificed to reduce weight or size.
Developed by Intel®, the standards for an ultrabook are maintained and updated to make sure customers know they aren’t losing out on performance or battery life when they shop from qualifying models.
The standard focuses on many of the features you’d expect to lose in a streamlined laptop design. For size, ultrabooks must be thinner than an inch - less than .8 inches or 20 mm, to be exact - and many we’ll review are even slimmer. For example, the HP Spectre line boasts an ultrathin 10.4 mm thickness. That’s less than half an inch!
To guarantee long-life and performance, the standard also calls for more than five hours of battery life and solid-state drives (SSDs).
In the past, these size restrictions have called for smaller displays, but that’s no longer an issue either. Also, while there are no specific weight requirements, the majority of the HP ultrabooks we’ll discuss weigh around 4 lbs or less.
Other features to remember
While ultrabooks offer a high benchmark for performance, they do sacrifice some traditional laptop features that certain users may need. Primarily, they don’t include an optical drive, such as a CD/DVD drive, as a way to preserve space.
That being said, these drives are not seeing as much use these days. And you can always use an external DVD read-and-write drive for those rare instances it’s necessary.
HP ultrabooks are designed to provide a high degree of performance and portability. That’s why the definition has changed within the greater ultrabook marketplace. The configuration is tied to an increasingly high standard of experience, not just a size requirement or hardware benchmark.
For this article, we’ll highlight a range of options that cover several different niches and needs, from the more affordable models to the high-powered premium series like HP ZBook.
1. HP ENVY 13-inch laptop
If you’re shopping for an ultrabook on a stricter budget, the touch-optimized HP ENVY family offers both 13- and 15-inch display options at affordable prices. The 15-inch configuration is restricted to the convertible model, so let’s look at the smaller version first.
The HP ENVY 13t laptop starts with an 8th Generation Intel Core™ i7 processor along with plenty of room for customization, from the OS to the display. Configure yours with the extra functionality of the Windows 10 Pro 64 OS or boost your touch and visual experience with a 4K monitor display.
It features 8GB of memory and a few options to consider for graphics, with the starting configuration featuring Intel UHD Graphics 620. If you need more storage, you can upgrade from the starting 256GB SSD to as much as 1TB.
The HP ENVY 17t offers near-ultrabook specs with a bigger display
Not all HP ENVY laptops technically meet the strict ultrabook standards. For example, larger 17-inch display models like the HP ENVY 17t laptop aren’t quite thin enough, but in this case, it’s a fraction of an inch that prevents it from ultrabook classification.
The 17-inch HP ENVY still offers efficient SSD storage and robust battery life of up to 10 hours and 45 minutes on a single charge.
2. HP ENVY x360 convertible laptop
The HP ENVY x360 is a fully-qualified ultrabook candidate, offering the benefits of a convertible laptop with multiple work modes and superb portability at a very competitive price.
It weighs less than 3 lbs and can still pack up to 1TB of SSD storage, making select configurations a real contender for best ultrabook under $1000. You also have access to premium upgrades like Corning® Gorilla® Glass for additional screen protection.
If you’re unfamiliar with convertible laptop designs, you should know that a convertible PC can be used just like a standard laptop. However, it also features a strong chassis and hinge for users to fold their display all the way back to convert the PC into a high-powered tablet.
They also boast other modes that allow you to optimize video playback or host a video conference with ease.
3. HP EliteBook 850 G5 business laptop
For deep customization, the HP EliteBook family is full of choices that overwhelmingly qualify as ultrabooks when it comes to thickness and performance.
The HP EliteBook 850 G5 notebook is an immediate standout with an affordable starting configuration and a huge spread of options to upgrade or scale back and save.
You’ll start by choosing your preferred processor and graphics configuration. They range from 7th Generation Intel Core i5 to i7 options, and an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 up to dedicated AMD Radeon™ graphics cards.
For visual-focused users, the HP EliteBook 850 G5 boasts numerous display options, from variants designed to improve privacy and security to those that enhance touch interaction. To guarantee a responsive experience, it can be configured for up to a 1TB SSD and 32GB of RAM.
It also features a long battery life of more than 10 hours in most configurations, along with ENERGY STAR® certification for those concerned about their environmental impact. The computer’s weight is determined by which model style you choose. For example, the touch option is slightly over 4 lbs, while the non-touch is just under 4 lbs.
4. HP Spectre x360 convertible laptop
The HP Spectre x360 laptop series is a premium convertible line with a variety of powerful features and unique luxury options, including the HP Spectre Folio that we’ll cover in a bit.
Although the line is tailored for high-performance users, there are some surprisingly competitive prices available depending on your configuration.
The base configuration HP Spectre x360 15t touch screen laptop is a perfect example, because it has an affordable price paired with plenty of options to customize.
You’ll start with your choice of dedicated NVIDIA® GeForce® MX150 or Radeon™ RX Vega M graphics, and then can go up to 2TB for storage and 16GB for RAM.
It also packs in a bunch of peripheral perks that you may expect to cost extra, like the protection of a Corning Gorilla Glass display and quick recharging thanks to HP Fast Charge. That’s on top of an already long battery life estimate of up to 12 hours in certain configurations.
If you’re looking for a smaller device and don’t necessarily need a convertible design, consider the thin and light HP Spectre 13t laptop that weighs a mere 3 lbs.
Upgrade to the premium leather-clad HP Spectre Folio edition
The HP Spectre Folio is the line’s luxury option that wraps the HP Spectre x360 in a 100% genuine leather exterior. With a design that already emphasizes portability and ease of use, this HP Spectre takes the idea further by adding a material that can weather and adapt with you, just like leather clothing or shoes.
Leather may require a little extra care compared to a typical laptop finish, but it can also add security and adaptability to your mobile work routine.
The HP Spectre Folio is a little more expensive than some of the other models we’ve talked about, but it’s only a small increase over the standard HP Spectre x360 and boasts the same high-quality hardware, like an 8th Generation Intel processor. It can also add value to your user experience thanks to the quality and feel of using real leather.
5. HP ZBook 14u and 15u mobile workstations
Loaded with responsive HP Z Turbo Drive storage and a bevy of added security features, the HP ZBook 14u and the HP ZBook 15u laptop workstation are designed for performance, security, and extreme portability.
Given its hardware specs, the bigger option is arguably the best 15-inch ultrabook available, while both certainly qualify as the most powerful ultrabook in their respective sizes.
Intended for designers and managers, the HP ZBook family generally offers robust hardware designed to support demanding applications like AutoCAD.
With the HP ZBook 14u and 15u, you’ll find integrated graphics in addition to an AMD Radeon Pro dedicated graphics card, and the benefits of industry-specific testing so you know what to expect from your usual software suite.
You can also choose between touch and non-touch capabilities on displays that can be configured up to 4K monitor resolution. Whichever style you chose, both HP ZBook laptops are ready for travel with up to 10 hours of battery life along with slim weights and measurements.
The HP ZBook 14u weighs 3.27 lbs and measures just 17.9 mm thick, while the HP ZBook15u is 3.89 lbs and 18.6 mm thick.
More choices from the full HP ZBook line
While these HP ZBook workstation laptops are certainly versatile, the complete HP ZBook family provides even more options for you to find the right computer for your work routine.
What about the best gaming ultrabooks?
The HP gaming lines currently don’t include any ultrabook configurations, but you can achieve similar configurations within the HP OMEN and HP Pavilion laptop series with a slightly thicker design and mixed storage options.
Otherwise, you can certainly design a gaming-focused build by adding a dedicated graphics card. Both the HP Spectre and HP ZBook laptops we discussed are capable of handling the modern gaming experience.
Something for everyone
With options that run the gamut from sleek and affordable models to high-powered mobile workstations, HP® offers a hefty selection of Windows ultrabooks to consider.
Whether you’re looking for the best HP ultrabook under $1,000 or the best gaming ultrabook, chances are you can find something to suit your laptop budget and needs.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.