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Apple has set the bar high with its new Retina MacBook, a computer that combines the slimness of the MacBook Air with the audacious screen of the Retina MacBook Pro.
The Retina MacBook isn't the only game in town, though, when it comes to the "ultrabook" -- a category of thin, low-power notebooks designed for portability and very long battery life that don't make the sacrifices of netbooks. So what's the best ultrabook for the money?
As small as the Retina MacBook is, reviewers haven't been so kind when it comes to the computer's performance. Rather than using an Intel Core i3, i5, or 17 chip like practically every modern laptop, the Retina MacBook uses Intel Core M, an Ultra-Low Voltage (ULV) processor that uses under 5 watts of power (compared to, say, the lowest-end Core i5, which uses 15 watts). It's also $1,300.
Like the Retina MacBook, the Asus Zenbook UX305 has no fan and is powered by Intel's low-power Core M processor. Unlike the Retina MacBook, it has a larger 13.3" screen and actual ports. (USB-C might be a great idea in theory, but no one has the peripherals for it quite yet.) The Zenbook is very reasonably priced at $700 ($800 with an Office 365 subscription). But where's the backlit keyboard?
On the other hand, points out ultrabook website Liliputing, if you spend just $100 more, you can get the Dell XPS 13. The folks at Dell seem to have used some kind of witchcraft to achieve the following: An Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of solid-state storage, and full HD (1920x1080) display, and 7 hours of battery, crammed into a machine that's 0.6 inches thick and costs $900.
For some reason, Lenovo thought that consumers would want a notebook whose display can fold over, making the machine into a de facto tablet. It seems they were right, given we're on the third iteration of the Yoga line. The machine has an incredible 3200x1800 pixel display, but CNET's review suggests that, while it's quite pretty, Lenovo may have sacrificed performance. It "feels robust enough for everyday use, but it also doesn't feel like a $1,300 laptop should," CNET said.
After examining these, and other ultrabooks, we've decided that the Dell XPS 13 is the best ultrabook for your money under $1,300. It's crazy thin and very well priced. As for the ludicrous display resolution of the Yoga 3 Pro, is that something you want to pay $400 more for? The Dell XPS 13 represents a confluence of performance, price, and design.
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