It's never too late to stay with a reliable OS
Microsoft is aiming to make a splash on October 26 with the debut of Windows 8, but most businesses aren’t leaping to upgrade right away. If you’re planning to run Windows 7 for a while, but you still need to buy hardware today, one of these laptops could be just right for you or the staff you manage. We put a clutch of Ultrabooks and lightweight laptops with good battery life to the test to help you pick the perfect machine for your workplace.
Let's start with the Vizio CT14-A2 Ultrabook...
Curvaceous: Vizio CT14-A2 Ultrabook
Vizio chose to leave out a few features in the CT14-A2 to save on space, and the payoff is immediately apparent in this Ultrabook's superthin, curvaceous look. Like other Ultrabooks, the CT14-A2 packs good performance and impressive battery life into an exceedingly slim package.
You still get two USB 3.0 ports and HDMI connectivity, but the lack of an ethernet port, a flash card reader, and keyboard backlighting is worth noting if you’re considering Vizio's first Ultrabook offering.
Vizio CT14-A2 Ultrabook | $1199 | PCW Rating: 4.5 stars
Slim: Acer Aspire S5
With slim looks to rival those of the MacBook Air, and more than enough computing power to handle most business and multimedia tasks, the Acer Aspire S5 has what it takes to be your next business laptop.
Better-than-expected audio, a speedy Intel Core i7-3517U processor, and a 256GB solid-state drive make this one of the most credible threats to the MacBook Air we've reviewed.
Acer Aspire S5 | $1399 | PCW Rating: 4.5 stars
All-around quality: Dell XPS 13
If you can tolerate the relatively low-resolution display (1366 by 768 pixels), the Dell XPS 13 is a slam-dunk business Ultrabook. The entry-level model we reviewed had an Intel Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive to go with above-average laptop audio.
Those specs, along with the XPS 13's impressive design and high-quality build, make this one of the best Ultrabooks we've tested.
Dell XPS 13 | $999 (entry-level) | PCW Rating: 4.5 stars
Beautiful display: Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
The Zenbook Prime UX31A from Asus boasts impressive performance thanks to an Intel Core i7-3517U processor and 4GB of RAM, but the feature that stands out the most is this Ultrabook's beautiful 1080p LCD screen.
Multiple connectivity options, including two USB 3.0 ports, built-in Bluetooth, an integrated SD Card reader, and a Micro HDMI connector add to the UX31A's productivity potential.
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A | $1449 as reviewed | PCW Rating: 4 stars
All-day battery life: Dell Latitude E6220
Even though the Dell Latitude E6220 isn't particularly eye-catching, its exceptional battery life and extensive warranty and service options make it a great corporate ultraportable laptop.
And if you're impressed with the battery life of modern Ultrabooks, check this out: Although the battery lasts a respectable 7 hours, 30 minutes on its own, an optional bottom-mounted battery slice can extend this laptop's life to a ridiculous 20 hours.
Dell Latitude E6220 | $2000 as reviewed | PCW Rating: 4 stars
Comfortable keyboard: Dell XPS 14z
Nothing about the Dell XPS 14z is particularly flashy, but this lightweight laptop will tackle everyday computing and business tasks with ease. Comfortable typing should never be taken for granted, and the backlit keyboard on the XPS 14z delivers.
A speedy Intel Core i7-2640M processor and 8GB of RAM don't hurt either, making this laptop a well-rounded productivity machine.
Dell XPS 14z | $1299 as reviewed | PCW Rating: 4 stars
Well-rounded: Asus U46SV
In general, regular ultraportables don't have the same superthin sleekness as Ultrabooks do, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded laptop in today's market than the Asus U46SV. Whereas other notebooks sacrifice performance for battery life, the U46SV features an Intel Core i5-2430M processor, 8GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GT 540M GPU for better graphics performance while you're editing photos or videos, yet it delivers close to 7 hours of battery life.
At 4.9 pounds, the U46SV feels a little hefty compared with other laptops, but carrying around that extra weight may be a small price to pay for the strong performance and the generous battery life.
Asus U46SV | $900 as reviewed | PCW Rating: 4 stars
Workhorse: Lenovo ThinkPad T420
It might be an understatement to say that the Lenovo ThinkPad T420 isn't pretty. But what it lacks in looks, the T420 more than makes up for in all-around performance and long-term reliability.
The model we tested featured an Intel Core i5-2520M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and an Nvidia NVS 4200M GPU, all behind a crisp 14-inch display (1600 by 900 pixels). The legendary customization and warranty options that Lenovo offers are what really make the T420 a great option for business.
Lenovo ThinkPad T420 | $1249 as reviewed | PCW Rating: 4 stars
Slim yet powerful: MSI X460DX
If your business needs call for an ultraportable laptop with some power, but you don't want to spend more than $1000, look no further than the MSI X460DX.
The Intel Core i5 processor and 6GB of RAM won't set any benchmark records, but for such a slim and affordable machine, the performance is impressive.
MSI X460DX | $830 as reviewed | PCW Rating: 4 stars
Big screen: Acer TimelineUltra M5
While most ultraportable laptops draw the line for screen size line at around 13 inches, the TimelineUltra M5 from Acer takes it up a notch, sporting a 15.6-inch screen.
Unfortunately, Acer fills that extra real estate with only a 1366-by-768-pixel display–a letdown considering that the M5 also comes packed with a Nvidia GeForce GT 640M GPU for above-average graphics performance.
Acer TimelineUltra M5 | $829 as reviewed | PCW Rating: 4 stars