After the release of Apple MacBook Air, the laptop users were took by awe due to its ultra-slim design and super long battery life. Brands such as Dell tried to replicate a similar model to MacBook Air with Dell Adamo laptop but it turned out to be a big flop because it did not offer the processing power as well as battery life similar to the Apple MacBook Air. Then the other manufacturers came to know that only designing slim laptop frames won’t do, even hardware needs to be optimized for such needs.
Pioneered by the chip giant Intel, Ultrabook is a vision for laptops with all the capabilities of a desktop replacement but so portable and light, that you can literally take it anywhere. In the Computex 2011, Intel announced its roadmap for mobile computers, which will have comfortable performance and elegant form-factor. Later, in its official blog it announced the specs which a notebook should have to be marketed as an Ultrabook.
The PC market has been buzzing with the word ‘Ultrabooks’ for quite some time now. Tablets and netbooks have been popular, but have left too many people unsatisfied with the level of productivity that can be achieved by them. Some would even say that tablets are at best a compromise on productivity and at worst, toys and netbooks seem to have traded off too much of the specs. Ultrabooks are the latest targets on the tech crosshairs.
A year later, the market is slowly filling up with Ultrabooks from many manufacturers. Let’s have a look at some of the top Ultrabooks in the market
Lenovo ThinkPad T430u
Lenovo ThinkPad series laptops have always been on the lauded side of reviews. And, there seems to be no reason as to why ThinkPad T430u will be different. The Ultrabook comes with a 14-inch display panel with 1366 x 768 resolutions. It is just 21 mm thick and weighs less than 4 pounds, which comes right within the Intel specs for an Ultrabook. The keyboard has been the ThinkPad trademark, and this Ultrabook doesn’t compromise on that end. With a maximum battery life of 6 hours, it can be a great companion in a long day at office. Sporting an aluminum chassis, coated with rubberized paint, it is quite comfortable to hold. 1TB storage and 8 GB RAM and 3rd generation Intel Core i5 processor with powerful internal HD 4000 graphics for casual gaming and hardcore multimedia performance. It also sports a Thunderbolt port which can be used with external hard drives, printers etc. for faster transfer of data. An unexpected feature is a dedicated NVIDIA 1GB graphics card, which is avoided in Ultrabooks because of its energy demands.
Priced at $799, this Ultrabook can surely stir up the market.
HP Folio 13-1020US
By the time HP entered the Ultrabook market, competitors like Asus, Toshiba, and Lenovo had already launched their models. However, with Folio, HP devised a nice entrance to the Ultrabook market. The pricing of $900 rockets Folio to the top of the list of anyone who is looking to test the Ultrabook waters. It has a 13-inch display panel, with resolution fixed at 1366 x 768. With 18 mm thickness and weighing a little over 3 pounds, it undercuts many of its competitors. The design has some practical compromises. The back is made up of plastic, though the lid is of brushed metal which extends till the palm rest. The keyboard isn’t too cramped. What’s special about Folio is its full range of port availability. It has an Ethernet Jack, USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports; HDMI port, a combined headphone and mic port. It is probably the widest selection of ports which one can find for the price. As far as the specs are concerned, it comes with Core i5 CPU, 4 GB RAM (extendable up to 8GB) and 128 GB Solid State Drive, which ensures Rapid Startup. The battery life of maximum 6 hours is a nice touch.
Though the machine isn’t a premium Ultrabook, it is a great addition to HP Laptop series and isn’t that luxurious to carry, the feature-to-price ratio is still great.
Sony VAIO T13
Sony launched its Ultrabook amidst a crowded market. But, priced at $770, Vaio T13, is among the top in the market. T13 comes with Core i7 CPU with Ivy Bridge, 8 GB RAM and 512GB HDD and 32 GB SSD (which is a hybrid, and preferred over a 128 GB SSD which is becoming standard with most Ultrabooks). The pricing obviously indicates some compromises, starting with the design. The keyboard layout is minimalistic, which would be disappointing for those who intend to use laptops for heavy typing. From outside it looks great with brushed-metal lid and shining silver hinges. The battery life of 5 hours is a little less than what most Ultrabooks offer, but is still good enough, given the budget. The display isn’t stunning, but is crisp enough for decent graphics experience.
Overall, the Ultrabook is a great buy for starters.
Dell XPS 14
Dell has slumped in the rankings of PC makers. However, XPS 14 is a great attempt in the Ultrabook market. XPS 14 has a stunning design, has Core i7 processor with the latest Ivy Bridge clocking at around 2.0 GHz. It performs exceptionally well because it combines the Intel HD onboard graphics along with NVIDIA dedicated external graphics card. It’s under an inch thick (.81 inches). The battery life is appreciable with 6 hours. The only upsetting factor might be its weight which is a little over 4.5 pounds. The only problem might be the pricing – ranging from $1299 to $1999.
XPS 14 is an ultra-cool laptop, which almost anyone would enjoy.
Asus Zenbook UX31E
Asus has time and again delivered the high performance devices to the world. Zenbook UX31E is yet another feather in its cap. It is a premium machine, with the elegant brushed aluminum shell radiating a stunning look. Its design is very similar to the Asus Transformer Prime with eccentric lines and metal body. Saying that it’s extremely thin and light will be an understatement given it is 12 mm thick, and weighs less than 3 pounds. And that’s not all – it comes with the latest generation Intel Core processor (Ivy Bridge), 4 GB RAM and 128 or 512 GB SSD. Its 13.3 inch stunning, full HD display gives an out-of-the world viewing experience. The battery life is another goodie – around 6 hours. One thing, which might annoy some, is the lack of USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0 ports), but there are cheap workarounds for it.
The only factor, which might weigh it down a bit, is its starting price of $1449. But, with so many things on the plate, price tag can easily be overlooked.
All things said; it is safe to say that the laptop industry is currently experiencing what can only be called an Ultrabook revolution sparked by Apple’s MacBook Air. The weights and thicknesses are going down, feature-density is increasing manifold, and the overall portability of laptops is beginning to assume an entirely new dimension. With the chaos of competition reigning supreme, there is only one way for the laptop, rather the Ultrabook, market to go: upwards. There might soon come a time when Ultrabook sales dwarf those of tablets and netbooks, providing consumers the much-vaunted combination of great looks, great features, and a great carry-around quality.