Ultrabooks started to emerge in 2011 and are set to be a huge trend for 2012, competing with the current demand for tablet PCs.

Extremely lightweight and slim in design with Intel® Core™ i3, i5 or i7 processor power, ultrabooks are a new breed of laptop that offer the compact and ultra portable nature of a tablet PC, with the convenience and usability of a laptop. They run Windows operating system, are comparable with Apple's MacBook Air in design, and users can look forward to exciting new features in this latest personal computing device, as well as incredibly useful fast start-up times.

Giving the ultimate balance in portability and performance, ultrabooks weigh around three pounds, (less than 1.5kgs), and tend to be less than 25mm, (1 inch thick). In some cases the thickness of the ultrabook is only 3mm! The unibody chassis features integrated graphics and a solid state drive (SSD) while allowing for a larger battery. This means you can expect longer battery life, (approximately six hours).

Ultrabooks offer a variety of new features. These include protection from identity fraud, safeguards against viruses and anti-theft technology. Some models offer users a function that lets you disable your ultrabook automatically if it is stolen and re-enable if it is found.

There is a potential for ultrabook touchscreens to come into play in 2012, so you'll be able to use your ultrabook as both a laptop and a tablet. However, this could make your buying decision even harder - do you go for a tablet PC or an ultrabook? Other touted features include voice activation and movement tracking, similar to how the Microsoft Xbox Kinect functions.

What to look out for when it comes to buying an ultrabook

Asus Zenbook UX21E - Lightweight and slimline

The Asus Zenbook UX21E ultrabook is a svelte 3mm at the front and 9mm at the back, and weighs from just 2.4 pounds making it the most compact ultrabook around. This doesn't affect a powerful system boasting Intel® Core™ i5 processor, as well as a 128GB SSD, 11.6 inch HD LED screen, Windows 7 Home Premium and USB 3.0 as standard. Extras include exclusive speakers by Bang & Olufsen for breath-taking audio.

Speeding up your set-up time, the Asus Super Hybrid Engine II lets you start up the Zenbook from Sleep mode in 2 seconds, while the automatic data backup once the battery reaches 5% charges gives you peace of mind.

View Asus Zenbook here

Asus Zenbook UX21E Lightweight and slimline

Acer Aspire S3-951 - Get the edge

The Acer Aspire S3-951 ultrabook is not only 13mm thick with a weight of just 3 pounds, but it also offers plenty of digital storage. As well as the standard ultrabook SSD of 20GB, the S3 comes as a hybrid with 320GB HDD. This ultrabook features 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor, Windows 7 Home Premium and a 13.3" frame.

The Acer Green Instant On lets you put the ultrabook to sleep and wake it up in less than two seconds, as well as accessing the internet in 2.5 seconds. This intelligent model goes into a ´Deep Sleep´ after eight hours in Sleep mode, which conserves its battery. You´ll also discover a thermal design that utilises airflow channels to keep you and the ultrabook cool.

Available soon on Ebuyer.com.

Acer S3

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 - Feature-packed

The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 ultrabook comes packed with extras. It weighs around 3.7 pounds and offers 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i5, Genuine Windows 7 Professional, a 13.3 HD LCD screen and a 160GB SSD. However, features include a backlit keyboard that is spill-resistant, USB 3.0, noise cancellation technology, and Lenovo RapidCharge so you can charge your battery to 80‰ in 30 minutes.

Available soon on Ebuyer.com.

And a few more options

Samsung 9 Series notebook 900X3A

Made of Duralumin, a material used to build military aircrafts, the Samsung Series 9 models boast the largest screen of all current ultrabooks at 14 inches. Its 20mm thick body also houses Intel® Core™ i5 processor, Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium, a 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM, while it´s also the only ultrabook to feature an optical-disc drive.

Toshiba Satellite Z830

Weighing a super light 2.4 pounds and measuring just 15.9mm, the Toshiba Satellite Z830 ultrabook is ultra portable, yet offers the latest Intel® Core™ i5 or i3 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB SSD, USB3.0 and eight hours of battery life. This ultrabook´s extras include a backlit keyboard - great for using at night - and a durable, spill resistant casing.

HP Folio 13

Billed as an ultrabook for business, the HP Folio 13 gives you up to 9.5 hours of battery life - plenty for your working day. At 18mm, it is a little larger than other ultrabooks but weights from just 3.3 pounds and features Intel Rapid Start technology, 128GB of storage and the powerful Intel® Core™ i5 processor.

A Quick Glance at Ultrabooks

Model Thickness Weight Processor Screen Storage Memory
Asus Zenbook UX21E 9mm/3mm From 2.4lbs i5 11.6" 64 or 128 SSD 4GB
Acer Aspire S3 17.78/13mm 3lbs i7 13.3" 240 SSD or HDD option 4GB
Lenovo Thinkpad X1 15.24mm 3.9lbs i7 13.3" 160GB SSD or 320GB HDD option Up to 8GB
Samsung 9 Series 20.32mm From 3.1lbs i5 14" 128GB SSD 4GB
Toshiba Satellite 2830 16mm 2.4lbs i7 13.3" 128 SSD 6GB
HP Folio 13 18mm 3.3lbs i5 13.3" 128 SSD 4GB

*Data correct at time of publishing.