Published March 30, 2012
If you're a student, carrying around a heap of textbooks can be hard enough on your spine, and the extra 5 or 6 pounds a mainstream laptop can add to this burden may just be the figurative straw that broke the camel's back. In the age of the Ultrabook, however, notebooks are becoming slimmer and lighter than ever before.
Unfortunately, sometimes less is more -- literally. Super-thin ultraportable laptops can cost as much as $1,599 (we're looking at you, MacBook Air) and rarely drop below $1,000, putting them out of reach for many students on a budget. But if a clunky mainstream laptop just won't cut it -- and you're no fan of netbooks -- we're here to help you find a notebook that weighs 4 pounds or less for under $800. Read on to see what we found!
At 3.2 pounds and 0.8-inch thick, the HP Folio 13 is one of the heavier Ultrabooks on our list, but it's still a fantastic choice. When we reviewed the Folio 13, we gave it 4 stars and praised its sturdy design, great sound, long battery life, comfortable backlit keyboard and fast boot time. Sure, it's got a stiff clickpad and a relatively dim screen (only 139 lux, compared to as much as 360 lux on the ASUS Zenbook UX31), but its affordability more than makes up for these deficiencies. Although the HP Folio 13 debuted at $899, it's currently available for just $798 at Walmart in a configuration that includes a 1.4-GHz Intel Core i3-2367M processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive.
The 2.4-pound, 0.6-inch thick Toshiba Portege Z835, another 4-star Ultrabook, is lighter and thinner than the much-vaunted MacBook Air, but costs almost half as much. When we tested the Portege Z835, we loved the notebook's long battery life, light weight, plethora of full-size ports and -- perhaps most importantly for the notoriously clickpad-unfriendly Ultrabook category -- its accurate touchpad. The keyboard is a bit stiff and its 1366 x 768 screen isn't nearly as sharp or vivid as the display on the MacBook Air, but its $799 price on Amazon.com (1.4-GHz Intel Core i3-2367M CPU, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD) is hard to beat.
The 2011 edition of the 13-inch Samsung Series 9, which costs just $788 on Amazon.com, weighs just a bit more than the Portege Z835 at 2.88 pounds and is nearly as thin (0.68 inches). When we reviewed the 2011 Series 9, we gave it 3.5 stars for its slim and sturdy design, ultra-bright display and excellent touchpad and keyboard. Our review model ($1,063 MSRP) also featured a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The configuration on Amazon, unfortunately, only comes with a Core i3 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD -- hence the reduced price. Still, if weight and affordability are your top concerns, this isn't a bad deal.