These days, though, few can even remember that time: Almost every laptop we review at Engadget, save for gaming rigs, can be considered an ultraportable. But like Apple did with the optical disc drive on the original Air, companies have had to continue making trade-offs in the name of weight savings. Before you buy your next laptop, it's important to be aware of the compromises you're likely to make.
What to expect
Ultraportable notebooks used to have to adhere to Intel's now-outdated size and weight criteria for Ultrabooks -- a marketing term it coined for thin and light laptops. Nowadays, compact, lightweight computers are so common that the term "Ultrabook" (and its requirements) have become obsolete. At this point, there's no real agreed-on standard for what constitutes an ultraportable; it's evolved into a subjective term.
That said, you'll find ultraportable laptops in a variety of screen sizes: They don't all have to be dainty 12-inch or 13-inch things. Even 14- or 15-inch devices cut striking profiles, measuring less than 23mm thick. Battery life is also important to consider. What's the point of a lightweight laptop if you have to lug around a charger and cable or stay close to an outlet? Thankfully, most ultraportables (including all of our suggestions) last at least eight hours on a charge, meaning most people should be able to get through a typical workday.
In their effort to squeeze large batteries and powerful processors into increasingly thin, compact enclosures, companies have had to sacrifice other features. Most often, this results in a dearth of ports (sometimes just one or two USB-C ports and a microSD card reader if you're lucky), so you'll have to get used to dongle life. Some laptop makers keep their products skinny by settling for keyboards with barely any travel while others slim down the bezels only to move the webcam to an awkward location, like right below the screen or tucked into the keyboard.
These devices are generally priced toward the high end, typically starting at around $1,000. But for those who are frequently on the go and don't mind paying a premium, this shortlist should help simplify your next laptop-buying decision.
The best ultraportable laptops
Dell XPS 13 (2018)