The final part of my Christmas gift round up is six great Windows laptops. As I said in part 2 where I looked at Windows tablets some devices like the Surface Pro 4 could go into either section so I decided to put the Surface Pro 4 into this part.
ASUS ZenBook UX330UA Ultrabook -£999
The Zenbook is powerful and elegant laptop and has more than a passing resemblance to a Macbook Air 13. Designed to be taken on the road the devices is has a premium feel with a quartz grey aluminium body that feels like it could stand being thrown in and out a bag. Inside the UX330 is a 6th generation Intel i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and 500GB SSD drive. On the outside is a MicroHDMI port, USB C port, 2 x USB 3.0 port, SD card slot and headphone port. The combination of the i7 and SSD make the Zenbook fast and responsive, it should be good for Photoshop, video editing and working on large office documents. The 13.3 inch screen runs at 3200 x 1800 (275 ppi) and is very sharp and clear and has a matt finish. The backlit keyboard is the island type design that has a small amount of travel. It has a nice feel that you can comfortably type on, the one minor negative is it tends to squash down when you type but it’s only a small gripe. The precision trackpad is large and supports three and four finger gestures and has a nice smooth glossy finish to it. Asus say the battery should last 12 hours, I found is more like 10 hours with web browsing, email and Facebook. For an i7 processor that is pretty impressive. It weighs in at 1.2kg and is 13.5mm thin, there are no vents around the side but it doesn’t seem to get hot when running games or task intensive process.
Asus ZenBook Flip UX360CA – £699
The outside of the ZenBook is aluminium which has premium feel to it. At 13.9mm it feels, actually it is just a fraction thicker that my Surface Pro 4 which is surprising given it has “proper” keyboard. The screen folds right around so you can use it as tablet. It weighs 1.3kg which light enough to use it as a tablet despite it having a 13.3 inch screen. As well as using it as a laptop and tablet you can fold the screen around into presentation mode.
The UX360CA is a strong competitor in the two in one convertible space, the strong points are thin aluminium design and good all-around performance. The down sides are the average keyboard and washed out screen. If you want well designed, lightweight traditional style laptop with the option of using it as a tablet then this would be an ideal devices. The keys are the island type that have a small amount of travel, the problem with the keyboard is that it flexes as you type so feels more like a budget device. Having said that there is no problem typing on the device and I found I could type quickly on it. The precision trackpad is large and supports Windows 10’s multi-touch gestures, so you can setup three and four finger actions as well as supporting touch scrolling. The IPS screen is 13.3 inch and supports multi-touch (10 touch points). It runs at 1920 x 1080. The processor in the Flip is a Skylake Intel Core M3-6Y30 processor with 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD drive. This combination of RAM, processor and SSD drive means that Windows 10 runs really well, Microsoft Edge is quick, switching apps is fast and there are no problems running multiple apps at the same time. It isn’t a gaming machine but it would be ok for light games and even a bit of photo editing. The sound is good considering the weight of the device, it not particularly loud and there isn’t a lot of bass but good enough for the size. ASUS says that the battery should last 12 hours, I found it was more like 10 to 11 hours in the real world which is very impressive. The UX360CA is a strong competitor in the two in one convertible space, the strong points are thin aluminium design and good all-around performance.
Here is my video review and you can read my full review here.
HP Spectre Pro 13 G1 Ultrabook – £1500
The HP Spectre (HP Spectre Pro 13 G1 Laptop) has to be one of the most elegant notebooks I have come across for a while. The first thing you notice is how thin the Spectre is, 10.4mm to be precise which makes my Surface Pro 4 feel positively chunky! The laptop has real premium feel with its dark aluminium cover, brown bronze colouring and gold hinge. It has soft edges and a lot of subtle design ques that really add to the premium feel, like the bronze edges on the keys which is something really different. As well as being thin it is also light coming in at 2.45 lbs. The 13 inch screen has a relatively small bezel (see my pictures) not as small as the Dell XPS 15 but still small enough to look good. The IPS screen runs at 1920 x 1080 with a glossy finish which does make it reflective when using outside but it looks really great with clear and bright colours. When it comes to connectivity the Spectre leaves behind the old world of HDMI and big USB ports and instead has three USB Type C / Thunderbolt 3 ports plus a headphone jack. The supplied power adaptor uses one of the ports and you could use the other two for connecting to external devices or to a USB C docking station / hub. Thunderbolt 3 means 40Gbps transfer speeds, supports for dual video cards and networking. USB C and Thunderbolt 3 is also USB 3.1 compliant. In the box is a USB C to USB converter for connecting up USB 2/3 devices. Inside the Spectre 13 is an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD drive. This means the Spectre feels really fast, the SSD drive makes everything in Windows fast. Switching from app to app is instant, Microsoft Edge is fast and you can multiple tabs open and it doesn’t slow down at all. There will be no problems running Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop or using it for video editing on it. The device will handle anything you can throw it. HP say you can get 9 hours of battery life from the Spectre, I found it was more like 6 hours which is about the same as many devices in this class.I have to say this is one of the best Ultrabooks I have reviewed, it’s not a two in one and doesn’t have touch screen it is just an excellent and stylish laptop.
Here is my video review and you can find my full review here.
Dell XPS 15
The first thing you notice about the XPS 15 is the screen which looks gorgeous. It has a 15.6 inch display running at 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) with 100% Adobe RGB certified colour reproduction. It is incredibly sharp and bright, add that to the fact it has a tiny bezel (5.7mm) and it looks very impressive. The laptop is about the size of most 14 inch devices. The case is made of brushed aluminium with a carbon fibre wrist rest which has a soft coating on it so it is extremely comfortable to type on. The keyboard is pretty good for typing on, there is a positive feel to them with a short amount of travel, I have typed many blog posts with it and I find it very productive. There is also a large smooth trackpad that supports multi-touch gestures and also has palm rejections so you don’t get accidental movement on the trackpad. The XPS is 17mm thick at the hinge end and 11mm thick at the front, the tapered design makes it feel like a thin device. I really like the overall design of the Dell, it has a premium well made feel to it. The XPS 15 weights 2kg so it’s as light as something like my Surface Pro 3 but it compares well too many other 15 inch laptops.
The model I am using has a 6th generation quad core i7 processor with an Nvidia GTX 960 graphics chip paired with 16GB of RAM and 512 GB solid state drive. As you can imagine from the specs the machine really flies, the SSD drive and Intel processor makes it a really fast performer. I haven’t tried gaming on the Dell, I imagine the Nvidia GTX 960 is pretty good for gaming certainly it helps with video editing. I have been using the XPS for music production and podcast and for tasks like mixing down the audio files it takes about half the time of my i5 Surface Pro 3, and many times faster than my spinning drive based i5 Lenovo laptop. As you can see in the video below it is a very powerful laptop and a great design, it is working really well with Cubase and for podcast production. I am pretty sure it would work well for any situation where you want a hi-res screen, power and portability.
Here is my video review and you can read my full review here.
Surface Pro 4
The great thing about Surface is the lightweight design, you can throw it in your bag and not have to worry about the weight, and it certainly makes a real change from lugging a big heavy laptop around. It takes up hardly any space in your bag and with the detachable keyboard and touch screen it easily fits on a plane tray table so you work on a Powerpoint presentation, Excel file or Word document on the go. The 12.3 inch screen is great for editing photos, the high resolution display is sharp, bright and clear with excellent colour reproduction. The high DPI screen means you can see a lot of information on the screen at once so when editing a document like a large Excel file you don’t have to constantly scroll around the document. Movies and TV shows also look great thanks to the great screen. One of the really great features of the Surface Pro 4 is the kickstand. You can place the Surface at any angle you like and its rock solid and doesn’t move at all. I have used other 2 in 1 tablets and most tend to tip over when you touch the screen in tablet mode but not the Surface Pro 4. Whether you are working at a desk, on plane or editing photos sat on hotel bed the Surface design works really well. With the Surface Pro you can choose from a range of keyboards with colours to match your style. The Type Cover has a large trackpad supporting gestures and well-spaced keys, I have done a lot of typing on the keyboard and find it very combatable to type on. I can certainly type on the keyboard as fast as I can on a full sized laptop keyboard and it also doubles up as a cover to protect the screen when not in use. The other great thing about the Surface Pro 4 is the battery life, I spent most of the return flight editing photos and I didn’t need to worry about battery life. You get around 10 hours battery life so you don’t have to hunt down a power socket. The Surface Pro 4 has a full sized USB 3 port so you can plug in things like an external hard drive or a digital camera. It has a MicroSD card slot which is great as I use a MicroSD card in my DSLR so it is really easy for transferring photos from the camera to the Surface. There is also a MiniDisplay port for connecting the Surface up to external monitors or TVs. I really like traveling with the Surface Pro 4. It’s light, easy to use with the pen and touch, it runs full Windows 10 and has Windows Hello. You can process your photos, edit videos and you have full Office 2016 on it. If you are traveling this summer I wouldn’t drag around a big laptop and a tablet just take a Surface Pro 4 with you.
You read about my travels earlier this year with the Surface Pro 4 here.