The Complete Guide To… Ultra-Portable Laptops
T3 Magazine|February 2021
The unveiling of Apple’s groundbreaking M1 chip is resculpting the laptop landscape. We’re on the verge of another revolution in the world of portables. Let us bear witness
Michelle Rae Uy

Apple certainly ended its 2020 with a bang. In true Steve Jobs fashion, it released newer MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch models that are more powerful than ever at its ‘One More Thing’ event.

That in and of itself is nothing new, as the Cupertino-based company has recently been giving its ultra-portable laptops an update every year. What does make this new round of updates notably different, however, is the fresh-from-the-oven M1 chip that is now powering both svelte laptops. And its timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

That isn’t to say that Intel and its host of ultrabooks have been letting things slide. Intel’s new Evo platform, the evolution of Project Athena, has also ushered in a new class of impressive laptops that are highly portable and blow-you-away powerful thanks to those new 11th generation Tiger Lake chips.

This new line-up, which includes the HP Spectre x360 13-inch, Dell XPS 13-inch, Lenovo Yoga 9i and Acer Swift 5 14-inch, also delivers features that Apple’s MacBooks only dream about – like a 2-in-1 form factor, touchscreen functionality, IR login, or the ability to upgrade to a 4K display. Such things are a boon for work-from-home pros. That 2-in-1 form factor eliminates the need for a separate tablet, saving you money, while a touchscreen or a 4K display should deliver a more seamless creative workflow.

Still, the revered M1 chip has already proven to be a gamechanger, giving the MacBook Air a whole lot of power to rival such popular contenders as the Dell XPS 13 and the HP Spectre 13.

Thanks to this chip, what was once a strictly-for-casual-users line is now rocking enough juice to tackle more demanding tasks. And, in that way, the MacBook Air M1 is helping lower the price of entry into prosumer-level ultrabooks.

Now, remote working professionals, office workers and creators have an irresistible option that keeps things portable as well as fiscal-friendly. In a time when the world’s economy is partially paralyzed and more people are turning to the comforts of home to put down their professional roots, it’s a crucial one as well. It’s also offering users more compelling reasons to abandon the less seamless Windows ecosystem and switch to Mac. At last, Apple is no longer the priciest proposition.

The MacBook Air M1 is proving to be a better value for your money, touting a more powerful performance, better display, longer battery life and superior graphical performance than the similarly priced Dell XPS 13.

SUPER POWERED

With the MacBook Air M1 giving formerly MacBook-Pro-level ultra-portable laptops a good run for their money in terms of power and battery life, things would have to change drastically for such Windows offerings to keep up. But things will change, as they always do. We are, right now, standing at the edge of an ultra-portable laptop revolution.

When you think about all those laptops that came out in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you’d be amazed at how far ultra-portable laptops have come.

The top three…

EASILY CARRIED EXTRAS

Ultra-portable laptops might be powerful and versatile, but a little help from these wouldn’t hurt

01 EGGTRONIC LAPTOP POWER BANK CANVAS

This external battery pack boasts a USB-C port that delivers up to 63W of power, two USB ports to charge your other devices, and enough juice in its smart form to give a MacBook Air M1 more than a full charge. £60, einova.com

02 CURVE BY TWELVE SOUTH

Put your laptop on a pedestal, quite literally. Twelve South’s Curve laptop stand not only raises your portable on a height much more comfortable for viewing but it also affords you additional space underneath for a docking station or an external SSD. £50, twelvesouth.com

03 SANDISK 1TB EXTREME PORTABLE SSD

Pros need all the storage space they can get, and this extra 1TB from SanDisk should more than suffice for your file-saving needs. It’s fast – with up to 550MB/s read speeds – pocket-sized, and has an IP55 rugged rating. £213, amazon.co.uk

The biggest selling point here, of course, is their form factor. Ultra-portable laptops have essentially given portability a whole new meaning, offering a chassis with an area only slightly larger than A4 paper and weighing less than 1.5kg. The MacBook Air M1, for example, is 1.29kg and 1.56cm at its thickest. Meanwhile, its biggest Windows 10 competitor, the Dell XPS 13, is even lighter and thinner at 1.2kg and 1.48cm.

SLIM FIT

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