Notebookcheck's Top 10 Subnotebooks

Redaktion (translated by Martina Osztovits), 07/19/2014

July 2014 update. Here you will find the current best subnotebooks reviewed by Notebookcheck in the last few months. Our list of top models is regularly updated, maintained and commented on and should assist in purchase decisions.

For the original German article, see here.

Subnotebooks bridge the gap between the performance of big laptops and the mobility of small devices like tablets or even smartphones. In our opinion, subnotebooks are no larger than 14-inches (display diagonal), are lighter than 2 kg (~4.4 lbs) and usually feature integrated graphics cards. The price range is big and models from 300 to 2500 Euros (~$407 to $3393) can be represented in our Top 10.

The following table shows an overview of the Top 10 subnotebooks reviewed by Notebookcheck in the previous 10 months. If ratings are equal, the latest review is listed first. The table can be sorted by clicking its headers and filtered by entering text in the text field above it (e.g. "matte").

Subnotebook Charts as of July 2014

Pos. RatingDateModelWeightHeightSizeResolutionFinish
189%11/13

MacBook Pro Retina 13 2013
Intel Core i5 4258U
Intel HD Graphics 5100
8 GB RAM, SSD
- from $1599 at Amazon

1.6 kg18 mm13.32560x1440glossy
288%06/14

new!
Asus Zenbook UX32LN
Intel Core i7 4500U
Nvidia Geforce 840M
8 GB RAM, SSD
- from $1049 at Amazon
1.4 kg18 mm13.31920x1080matte
386%06/14

new!
Apple MacBook Air 13 2014
Intel Core i5 4260U
Intel HD Graphics 5000
4 GB RAM, SSD
- from $989 at Amazon
1.4 kg17 mm13.31440x900glossy
485%

06/14

new!

Asus UX32LA
Intel Core i5 4600U
Intel HD Graphics 4400
8 GB RAM, SSD
- from $873 at Amazon
1.5 kg18 mm13.31366x768matte
585%05/14Lenovo Thinkpad X240
Intel Core i7 4600U
Intel HD Graphics 4400
8 GB RAM, SSD
- from $1440 at Amazon
1.5 kg20 mm12.51920x1080matte
685%05/14HP Elitebook Folio 1040 G1
Intel Core i7 4650U
Intel HD Graphics 5000
8 GB RAM, SSD
- from $1865 at Amazon
1.5 kg17 mm14.01920x1080matte
785%01/14

Dell XPS 13
Intel Core i5 4200U
Intel HD Graphics 4400
8 GB RAM, SSD
- from $1155 at Amazon

1.4 kg21 mm13.31920x1080glossy
885%12/13Toshiba Portégé Z30
Intel Core i5 4500U
Intel HD Graphics 4400
16 GB RAM, SSD
- from $1549 at Amazon
1.2 kg18 mm13.3 1366x768matte
985%10/13Samsung ATIV 9 Plus 940X3G
Intel Core i5 4200U
Intel HD Graphics 4400
4 GB RAM, SSD
- from $1349 at Amazon
1.4 kg14 mm13.33200x1800glossy
1084%07/14

new!
HP EliteBook 820 G1
Intel Core i7 4600U
Intel HD Graphics 4400
8 GB RAM, SSD
- from $1652 at Amazon
1.5 kg21 mm12.5 1366x768matte

Top 10 of the previous 10 months at the time of writing the article, best rating first
Link: all reviewed subnotebooks ordered by total rating

Editors' Comments

Apple MacBook Pro 13: is it the better MacBook Air?
Apple MacBook Pro 13: is it the better MacBook Air?
IPS, Full-HD, matte: the most important pros of the Zenbook UX32LN
IPS, Full-HD, matte: the most important pros of the Zenbook UX32LN
Evergreen: Apple MacBook Air 13. New: It is now a little bit cheaper.
Evergreen: Apple MacBook Air 13. New: It is now a little bit cheaper.
The cheaper alternative of mobile subnotebooks: Asus UX32LA
The cheaper alternative of mobile subnotebooks: Asus UX32LA
Compact business office laptop: Lenovo Thinkpad X240
Compact business office laptop: Lenovo Thinkpad X240

1st

Apple's MacBook Pro Retina 13 Late 2013 with Haswell processor is still leading our Top 10. It continues the successful tradition of Retina models (start: 2012). A Core i5-4258U and an Apple SSD (SM0256F, 256 GB) work in the unchanged chassis (aluminum unibody). As a result, performance and battery life slightly improved. The MacBook Air 13 from Apple is only 14% lighter and only one millimeter thinner. The MacBook Pro's main advantage is its Retina display with a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels, great colors, and excellent viewing angles (IPS). From the Windows world, the Asus Zenbook Infinity UX301LA with Retina resolution competes with the MacBook Pro. The 13-incher is also in our Top 10. Disadvantages of the MacBook Pro are its modest WLAN performance and that it cannot be easily maintained and repaired.

2nd

One of many newcomers performs significantly better than the others, the Asus Zenbook UX32LN. Successor models of it have already been introduced at the Computex. They feature displays with finer resolution (3200x1800), but a glossy touch surface. So, the FullHD IPS display with matte surface used here appears to be a  discontinued model in Asus' portfolio. The UX32LN nearly completely convinced in our test. Only the incorporated SSD performs partly worse than the storage solutions used in competitors.

3rd

If only the rating is considered, Acer's Aspire S3-392G has to be mentioned here. Since it is no longer offered by any shop, the following devices move up and the Apple MacBook Air 13 moves into the 3rd place and the latest model of it is on the winners podium. It speaks all the more in favor of the successful bundle from the actual father of ultrabooks that Apple has only made smaller updates to the components for several years. Since the price slightly fell, the latest model of the Air 13 might become more interesting for prospects. Nevertheless, Air fans hope that the slightly old HD display (1440x900) will be replaced by an especially high-res Retina display.

4th

The rung of the UX32LA proves that Asus made a lot right in the design of its UX series. It is a cheap alternative to the Zenbook UX32LN and comes in slightly below it. It does neither have a FullHD display nor a dedicated graphics solution. But, the price of the UX32LA already starts from below 800 Euro. E.g. with a battery life of above than 10 hours and a good system performance, it is not inferior to the more expensive alternatives.

5th

With the same rating, Lenovo's ThinkPad X240 with FullHD display is fifth. The 12.5-incher with powerful low-voltage CPU was designed for business customers. The demanding target group expects and gets traditional ThinkPad features including very good input devices, long battery life (8 hours) and a sophisticated docking solution for 1850 Euros (~$2510). The 12.5 inch display has a very fine FullHD resolution. It is bright, contrast-rich and has wide viewing angles. 

6th

With an equally high level, HP pushed its EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 into our Top 10. This is also true for the price. Is the 14-incher worth its 2000 Euro (or more) or does the manufacturer squeeze money out of managers and CEOs? Customers get an excellent display. Usually only workstations or high-end consumer devices with GAMUT displays can achieve a TFT rating of 88%. We liked the very high brightness, the matte TFT (no touchscreen) and the wide viewing angles thanks to IPS. The relatively low contrast of 594:1 appears to be the only disadvantage. We did not like HP's Forcepad (a touchpad version), which requires relearning of basic input methods, that much. In addition, the GPU throttles. A device of this price range should not have such flaws. We do not mean throttling during our unrealistic stress test (which is massive), but GPU throttling during simple tasks. However, businessmen will not notice this, since the Folio 1040 G1 is still very fast. Thanks to good build quality, low temperatures/system noise and long battery life, the Folio 1040 achieved a high rating, anyway.

7th

Dell's XPS 13-9333 is 7th with the same rating than several competitors. The 13-incher from Dell also features an FHD display. The device scores points with an excellent build quality and almost perfect input devices. Rare: The camera and the audio rating are very high. So, the buyer does not have to accept poor webcam shots, clanging speakers and noisy telephony. Dell improved the battery life compared to the predecessor. The XPS achieves 7:45 hours in the WLAN test.

8th

A business model is also listed in our Top 10, the Toshiba Portégé Z30-A-12U. The 13-incher comes with many interfaces (docking port), features, and good input devices. The battery life of the light device with magnesium case (1.2 kg; ~2.65 lbs) is very long with 7:37 hours (WLAN test). The emissions are generally low and the performance is on the highest subnotebook level thanks to the Core i7-4500U and fast Toshiba SSD (256 GB). The biggest weakness is the TN display with narrow viewing angles, which is completely unsuitable for devices of the 1500 Euros (~$2035) price range. In addition, the warranty period of only 12 months is short.

9th

The Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus 940X3G is a 13-inch device weighing only 1.4 kg (~3.1 lbs) and has a tremendous resolution of 3200x1800 pixels. The display rating is on par with the MacBook Pro Retina's because of excellent colors and wide viewing angles. The ATIV Book 9 Plus is a balanced offer with meticulous build quality, excellent stability, and a crisp keyboard. Thanks to the fast SSD and Core i5 CPU, the system performance is high, while the cooling system's noise remained very low. The battery life of about six hours is convincing, too.

10th

HP's EliteBook 820 G1-H5G14ET just managed to stay in our Top 10: The 12-incher has a conventional key layout, a touchpad with real keys, a TrackPoint (with separate buttons), and a plain appearance without bells and whistles. We liked the excellent build quality, the easy maintainability, and the low system noise and temperature. Unfortunately, the price-performance ratio is poor since you will only get a 1366x768 TN panel (no other options) for 1700 Euros (~$2307). 

Runners-up

Although even four devices made it into our Top-10, several test devices missed them more or less scarcely. We will summarize these here.

Lenovo's new M30-70 is a 13.3 inch computer, which especially wants to score points with a price below 500 Euro. It reuses the case of a known model (Ideapad S300). Apart from low emissions and a matte display, we did not find many pros in our review.
With the Fujitsu Lifebook E734, we reviewed another business notebook. The total score of 83% hints on a passable bundle. Actually, the E734 is basically convincing. Unfortunately, alike so many others, it blunders in a key criterion: the display. It is too dark and low-contrast, and has a negative impact on its otherwise good rating.

Recent Subnotebook Awards

Size Comparison











Performance Comparison

Apple MBP Retina 13 2013
Asus Zenbook UX32LN
Apple MB Air 13 2014
Asus UX32LA
Lenovo Thinkpad X240
HP Elitebook Folio 1040 G1
Dell XPS 13
Toshiba Portu00e9gu00e9 Z30
Samsung Ativ 9 Plus 940X3G
HP Elitebook 820 G1
Illumination
Brightness Center360355280253377293.4450.1270301229
Black *0.40.330.320.510.518.494.6550.80.390.63
Contrast9001076875496728594687338772363
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *1.875.071.916.336.855.084.538.96410.75
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *2.196.0926.636.486.685.329.764.411.72
Gamma *2.582.482.262.172.752.622.352.172.432.62
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)6358444159.755.6639.854.837
Loudness
Idle Minimum *27.429.328.029.228.82829.129.629.629.6
Idle Average *27.429.328.029.229.028.129.229.629.630.7
Idle Maximum *27.429.328.031.229.028.229.331.629.631.3
Load Average *42.539.540.533.434.736.131.641.541.435.7
Load Maximum *44.742.843.733.440.53744.644.242.435.8
Heat
Maximum Upper Side *4348.24338.742.538.644.240.847.239.7
Maximum Lower Side *4041.64036.548.745.648.436.247.341.9
Idle Upper Side *2931.12632.132.431.232.627.73527.6
Idle Lower Side *2829.52631.035.132.835.826.235.328.8
Battery Runtime
Reader / Idle15356488707196829871195693813
Classic / Load9911413110793217139126124
WLAN569371515640363370465457372392
Idle Minimum *2.83.43.43.33.93.54.73.2
Idle Average *8.87.44.06.47.94.19.05.2
Idle Maximum *98.95.88.29.87.19.07.5
Load Average *5839.732.430.726.427.330.934.3
Load Maximum *60.659.632.239.226.727.631.826.8

* ... smaller is better

Benchmarks

Apple MBP Retina 13 2013
Asus Zenbook UX32LN
Apple MB Air 13 2014
Asus UX32LA
Lenovo Thinkpad X240
HP Elitebook Folio 1040 G1
Dell XPS 13
Toshiba Portu00e9gu00e9 Z30
Samsung Ativ 9 Plus 940X3G
HP Elitebook 820 G1
3DMark 11
1280x720 Performance1270237811349528289628971032931937
3DMark (2013)
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Score39510424104241329301402793407541559
1920x1080 Fire Strike Standard Score8631361622516646625592
PCMark 7
Score546050124654462946264862481249125196
PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v23738361836975363
static version load dynamic

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Notebookcheck's Top 10 Subnotebooks
Author: Redaktion, 2014-07-19 (Update: 2014-07-19)