What's an ultrabook, exactly? Is it a slim, portable 13-incher, or any laptop that's thinnish and cool-looking? The latest confounding trend in Intel's "ultrabook" brand creep has been the rise of 14- and 15-inch laptops boasting thinner designs and those same low-voltage CPUs that smaller ultrabooks have. Call them the return of the thin-and-light laptop, if you will, but ultrabooks have finally gotten supersized.
We've seen several of these already here at CNET Reviews: the HP Envy 14 Spectre, the 15-inch Samsung Series 9, the Samsung Series 5 Ultra, and the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3. The confusing thing about these larger ultrabooks is that some are heavier than others. Some have optical drives (the Acer Timeline Ultra, Samsung Series 5), others don't (the Spectre and the Series 9). One even has dedicated Nvidia graphics.
Some aren't even formally called ultrabooks at all, like Samsung's laptops -- which is confusing, because they certainly look the part in terms of size and processor. For all intents and purposes, I'm calling all of them ultrabooks here. Does bigger equal better for a class of laptop that prides itself, paradoxically, on being thin and compact? So far, two winners seem to have emerged: the HP Envy 14 Spectre and the Samsung Series 9 15-inch. Both are hardly budget-range, though; one is $1,399, whereas the other is $1,499.
Let's go through the ups and downs of these larger-screen laptops, shall we?
HP Envy 14 Spectre
HP's great glass ultrabook has Beats branding and a Gorilla Glass-covered body, making it the most iconic of the early big-screen ultrabooks...but its spectacular screen and sleek design come at a high price. Read the full review.
Samsung Series 9 (15-inch) NP900X4B-A02
The latest Samsung Series 9 goes extra-big, and the gamble pays off with the most portable and comfortable 15-incher you're likely to find. However, a lack of higher-end features doesn't make it the best value: under the hood, it's still got a 128GB SSD. Read the full review.
Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3-581TG
Acer's newest ultrabook features next-generation Nvidia graphics and a DVD drive...so what makes it an ultrabook, exactly? The processor and the size, although at 4.4 pounds this laptop pretty much crosses over into "standard thin laptop" territory. Read our detailed first take and hands-on.
Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook 530U4BI
Don't feel like spending more than $1,000 for a large-screen ultrabook? We don't blame you. Samsung's budget-minded Series 5 Ultra still costs anywhere between $800 and $1,000, and to tell the truth, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this and any other thinnish midsize laptop like the Dell XPS 14z. It does have a DVD drive, and a larger-capacity old-fashioned hard drive, too. Read the full review.