How to choose from some of the most portable and powerful laptops ever

About a decade ago, Intel unveiled its Ultrabook certification for slim, lightweight laptops with great battery life and a respectable minimum standard of performance. On Sept. 2, 2020, the 11th-generation Intel Core CPUs were announced at the same time as a new standard to replace the Ultrabook, called Intel Evo certification. While the aim is the same as the Ultrabook standard — to classify which laptops are the most portable and best for running Windows — the requirements are understandably more stringent. Luckily, there are plenty of manufacturers excited to jump on the Evo bandwagon.

What is Intel Evo certification and why does it matter?

The standards that an Intel Evo laptop must meet ensure a minimum level of overall performance, versatility, convenience and security. The most basic requirement is an 11th-generation or newer Intel Core i5 or i7 processor with the recently revamped Xe integrated graphics controller, which means all Intel Evo notebook PCs have powerful and efficient quad-core processors. The screen has to be at least 1080p resolution with touch capability. The battery has to last at least 9 hours of constant usage and must recharge to the tune of 4 hours of life or more with just 30 minutes of charging. It also has to perform consistently at any battery charge level and wake from sleep in less than a second.

There are also some important connectivity requirements for Intel Evo laptops. Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 4 with its 40Gbps bandwidth are standard, as is USB-C Power Delivery charging. In terms of storage and memory, the designation ensures at least 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD capacity. For security purposes, Intel mandates biometric login functions like a fingerprint reader, IR camera or Bluetooth proximity sensor.

A laptop’s physical configuration is also covered by the designation. The acceptable size range for Intel Evo laptops is 12 inches to just over 15 inches. To ensure that Intel Evo laptops are especially portable, they have to have a thin and light chassis. These are really just some of the long list of requirements, and there are others found under the hood such as premium audio tuning and codecs plus compatibility with certain AI toolkits that you might not normally expect from an ultralight laptop.

As you can see, the Intel Evo certification is not one to be taken lightly. In fact, it’s a pretty useful designation, as that’s a lot of highly useful features that you don’t have to go digging for as long as the laptop you’re looking at has the Intel Evo badge. In reality, the only kinds of high-powered laptops you won’t find with an Intel Evo badge are gaming laptops, as there’s no way a gaming laptop could meet the stringent battery and chassis size and weight requirements.

The top Intel Evo laptops right now

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9

This is the latest evolution of one of the most popular laptop lines ever and it’s packed with some of today’s most powerful hardware. Not only is it fast and efficient, it boasts impressive durability and an overall pristine fit and finish. It’s one of the few laptops with a keyboard that’s so nice to type on that users consistently rave about it.

Sold by Lenovo and Amazon

 

Lenovo Yoga 7i

Lenovo Yoga 7i

Not only does this laptop meet the baseline Intel Evo requirements for portability, performance and versatility — it also sports a durable and consistent 360-degree hinge that lets you use it in laptop, tablet or tent mode. It also offers a backlit keyboard and specification-exceeding 12GB of RAM, which is actually overclocked to 3200MHz using Intel’s Extreme Memory Profile configuration.

Sold by Lenovo and Amazon

Lenovo Yoga 9i

Lenovo Yoga 9i

If you demand both performance and versatility, the Yoga 9i is definitely worth a look. It sports 16GB of system memory and one of the most advanced 11th-gen Core i7 CPUs, which is equipped with an integrated GPU so powerful it can even run some modern AAA games.

Sold by Lenovo and Amazon

 

Lenovo ThinkBook 1s Gen 2

Lenovo ThinkBook 1s Gen 2

While the ThinkBook is less expensive, you actually won’t sacrifice much performance compared to its more high-end relatives. In fact, its RAM is clocked at an impressive 4266MHz, which is significantly faster than the RAM in most other notebooks. Its 13.3-inch display has a 2560 by 1600 resolution, leading to a pixel density on a par with that of a slightly larger 4K notebook.

Sold by Lenovo and Amazon

 

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

The XPS lineup is one of the most well-known in the world and is extremely popular. At the top end, you can order the XPS 13 with Core i7-1195G7 CPU — one of the most powerful processor chipsets on the market.

Sold by Dell and Amazon

 

Dell XPS 2-in-1

Dell XPS 2-in-1

If you can’t decide between a high-end laptop and a tablet, don’t worry, because you don’t have to. This offering from Dell is one of the best-performing convertible laptops available. While it’s not available with quite the same top-tier hardware as its clamshell-only relative, it’s every bit as well made.

Sold by Dell and Amazon

 

Dell Inspiron 13

Dell Inspiron 13

The Inspiron 13 is one of the few Intel Evo laptops to come with an H-class Intel Core CPU, which uses more power and thus has a higher performance ceiling than the U-class processors normally found in the most portable laptops. Ultimately, that means that while it’s not as expensive as some others, it performs every bit as well; in this case, the CPU gets up to 5.0GHz, a seriously impressive benchmark for a laptop processor.

Sold by Dell and Amazon

 

Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3

The Acer Swift 3 is almost certainly the best value in the laptop market right now. If you’re familiar with Acer, that’s not surprising, as they’ve specialized in affordable yet high-quality PCs for quite some time now. It doesn’t contain the absolute most high-powered components out there, but it does check all the boxes for Intel Evo designation, and in fact claims a longer battery life than many far more expensive models.

Sold by Acer and Amazon

 

LG Gram 17

LG Gram 17

The LG Gram 17 gets its name from its remarkably light weight, as it tips the scales at just over 2 pounds. It’s just big enough to functionally use two browser windows side by side and this most recent version boasts a very impressive 99% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space, which is the same one professionals use when mastering films.

Sold by Amazon

Asus ZenBook Flip 13

ASUS ZenBook Flip 13

There are very few laptops like the ZenBook Flip 13, which sports a bright, bold and color-accurate OLED screen that has a Full HD resolution and relatively slim bezel. At a hair over a half-inch thick, it’s even thinner than most other Intel Evo laptops, and while it offers good performance, great looks and even better portability, it’s actually not terribly expensive.

Sold by Amazon

 

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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