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All posts tagged "ultrabook"

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gigabyte gives its Ultrabooks a Graphical Boost

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 01:30 PM

"Ultrabooks with Intel’s 3rd Generation Core Series processors may be good enough for productivity tasks, but we wouldn’t recommend playing Batman: Arkham City on them. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between a thin-lightweight notebook and one with strong graphics performance. While it’s not marketed as a gaming rig, the new Gigabyte u2442 14-inch Ultrabook comes with an optional Nvidia GT640M graphics chip, but weighs a reasonable 3.46 pounds while measuring just .7 inches thick. "

When netbooks came out, they were an interesting proposition. They were lightweight, mostly had a reasonable battery life and just enough computing power to get your day to day tasks done. Those days are over, with the rise of Ultrabooks. Thin and light, just like a netbook and with a good chunk of juice to last the day. However, while ultrabooks come with a little more horsepower than your standard netbook, they still lacked any graphical strength. Integrated graphics are much better than days of yore, but they still fall short when playing any of the more demanding modern games.

It is really a relief to see some manufacturers take notice, and offer ultrabooks with discrete graphics. If only they can emphasize this benefit more. Most people I have met show more interest in the speed of the CPU and the price tag. Hopefully they will realize that a happy laptop experience means taking more into account.

Friday, June 1, 2012

ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A: Better and Better

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Asus Laptops & Netbooks" @ 08:00 PM

"ASUS's original Ultrabook was the first ultraportable laptop to give the MacBook Air a run for its money, but it ultimately fell short. The new ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A (starting at $1,099, $1,499 as configured) is a sequel to truly get excited about."

A quick model upgrade brings the Zenbook Prime UX31A to market, replacing the UX31, fixing many (but not quite all) of the reported faults with generation one. Let's start with things improved: an available matte 1080p (1920x1080, and bright, at 423 lux) screen; newest third generation Intel Core processors; improved and backlit, less-mushy keyboard; faster boot and "awaken" times; better battery life (6:28 hh:mm); and better graphics. One item to note, however, is that this high resolution can make for some pretty small text on its 13-inch screen.

Areas where there was not much change: design; touchpad slighty better with some configuration tweaking, but still somewhat inconsistent behavior; B&O audio still good; ports; webcam very average despite being 720p; and a somewhat slow SSD. Need more ports and less cost? Check out the UX32A, coming soon, and starting at $799.

At prices starting from $1099 with a Core i5 processor an 128GB SSD, to $1499 with a Core i7 processor and a 256GB SSD, the UX31A gets you MacBook Air looks and battery life, better (vs. Bootcamp) performance, an arguably better screen at 1080p, better sound, and costs $100 less, in the high-end configuration. Your move Apple!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ASUS Zenbook Prime UX21A: A Stunning Ultrabook

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Asus Laptops & Netbooks" @ 11:00 PM

"It was only a matter of time before ASUS refreshed its line of Ultrabooks with Intel's new Ivy Bridge chips, but the truth is, the company needed to improve a little more than just the CPU model number. If you recall, the Zenbook UX31 ushered in a modern metal design and unbeatable speed, but our enthusiasm waned after spending a week with the flat keyboard and temperamental touchpad."

The frustrating keyboard and the maddening trackpad are gone, thankfully. With new Intel Ivy Bridge processors, improved backlit keyboards, excellent sound featuring Bang & Olufsen speakers, improved graphics, and 1080p (1920x1080) IPS displays, new Zenbook Primes should be arriving soon on our shores. With a fast SSD, a test unit booted Windows in 18 seconds, and resumed from sleep in less than two seconds.

Details on processor options are not yet available, but performance on a test system was very, very good, far better than most other Ultrabooks tested, only trailing ASUS' UX31 in PCMark Vantage, and leading the pack in the 3DMark06 benchmark. The UX21A beat a 2011 MacBook Air in both tests.

The 2.4-pound, 11.6-inch UX21 has a smallish 35Wh (4800 mAh) battery, so battery life is shorter than its competitors, topping out during testing at four hours 19 minutes. ASUS claims an additional hour in more normal usage, and an additional two hours using power-saving mode. ASUS also claims that the system will last two weeks in standby with one charge cycle.

It looks like ASUS really does listen to customer feedback!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Can Ultrabook Thinness Ever Coexist with Long Battery Life?

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts Talk" @ 12:30 PM

"Bandwagons, trains and Tranes. Can't say that these three have a heck of a lot in common in most regards, but one thing's for sure: trying to stop this trio would be a Herculean task. And so it goes with laptops -- once upon a time, it was good enough to have something that resembled a portable tower, but these days, the ability to even see the chassis at all feels like a negative. I exaggerate, of course, but the proverbial race in the laptop world is hardly about price; it's about thinness."

An interesting 'form vs. function' discussion. The holy grail here, as one would expect, is a laptop an inch or less thick, with battery life of a full "business day," while operating at full tilt. While battery technology has certainly improved, it's not enough to coax much more than ~4-6 hours of intermittent use out of today's (Ultrabook) batteries. It seems that the goal of 24-Hours is obtainable, but not with this less-is-more footprint. Is going back to the 4-5 pound 1-inch+ thick laptop the answer? Better battery technology is coming, but probably not soon enough for most users. Other thoughts: Making a 'battery slice' affordable and available for all models? Replacing the physical keyboard with a tablet-style virtual keyboard, freeing-up space for a larger battery (then why not just use a tablet?)? Unbreakable solar panels in the cover to constantly charge? Wireless Charging not requiring <1m proximity? Inventors? Any ideas that you can share?

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Ultimate Road Warrior Laptop? Meet the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Laptops & Netbooks" @ 10:00 PM

"The first ThinkPad X1 was a great business ultraportable laptop–we especially loved the keyboard–but at 3.8 pounds it was on the hefty side. The new ThinkPad X1 Carbon weights just 3 pounds but packs a larger 14-inch screen (up from 13 inches) and an Ivy Bridge processor. In fact, Lenovo says this is the lightest 14-inch Ultrabook on the market. Plus, the unit charges to 80 percent in just 30 minutes."

I'm excited to see that Lenovo keeps improving upon their X-series of laptops/Ultrabooks. From humble, hefty, and somewhat underpowered beginnings with the X1, up through the X120e that I own, and beyond, we finally herald the arrival of the latest magnesium and carbon fiber model, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Weighing-in at about 3-pounds, 18mm thick, with Ivy Bridge on-board, and a 14-inch screen with 1600x900 resolution, at last we get a backlit keyboard (with the DEL key back where it belongs), in arguably the lightest 14-inch laptop available. Information on pricing and availability (this summer, we hope) will be forthcoming. This may be my ideal Windows Ultrabook.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

HP Wants To Make Everyone Envious

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 02:00 PM

"Expanding its lineup of ultra-thin ultraportables, HP announced a new line of 14 and 15.6-inch notebooks that are less than 0.8 inches thick, weigh about 4 pounds, and start at $599. Since not all of configurations will meet Intel’s requirements for the “Ultrabook” moniker, those that don’t will be called Sleekbooks."

Thin is in! Extremely thin and portable laptops are not a new thing, but the designs are getting better, and they are showing fewer compromises. What I like is that the prices are starting to come down even further, reaching into the mainstream laptop range. Decades ago, getting a laptop that was 4 pounds or under cost you the mortgage on your home, several body parts, your first born and that piece of cake you were saving in the refrigerator. $599 sounds like a much better price, meaning that more people can get access to better hardware!

A Thin New HP Ultrabook: Envy Spectre XT

Posted by Michael Knutson in "HP Laptops & Netbooks" @ 10:00 AM

"Yes, the glass lid on the HP Envy 14 Spectre is cool, but everyone knows that thin is the name of the game when it comes to Ultrabooks. HP’s new Envy Spectre XT has an all-metal chassis, is just 0.57 inches thick and weighs 3.07 pounds. Available June 8th and starting at $999, this machine sports a 13.3-inch display, a third-generation Intel Core processor (Ivy Bridge), and a 128GB SSD. What’s more, this notebook should last up to 8 hours on a charge."

Pretty decent specs, a very good backlit keyboard and Beats Audio make this a strong contender in the 'under $1000' Ultrabook category. The trackpad, when initially tested, was responsive and smooth, and handled gestures with aplomb, boding well for Windows 8. More information will become available as we get closer to the launch date (June 8th, 2012). With Ivy Bridge processors, a full complement of ports, including HDMI, USB2, USB3 and Ethernet (dropdown), and an estimated 8-hours of battery life, this looks like a great road warrior laptop.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Get an UltraBook, Save Your Back!

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Laptops & Netbooks" @ 10:00 AM

"The Ultrabook can basically be described as a Mac Book Air for the non-Apple user. However, the form factor does take a bit of getting used to."

Seems like more and more industry pundits are coming around to the UltraBook way of thinking. Rob Enderle often has his own spin on things, but his view here is pretty much spot-on (except, IMHO, his comment about Apple being design over function - my MacBook Air is pretty darned functional!). Anyway, unburdening a typical backpack can be an interesting process, lightening it with an UltraBook is an added plus. Rob does a quick review of three systems, from ASUS, Toshiba and Dell, and, of course has opinions on each one, but prefers the Dell XPS 13 in the final tally, and likes the lessened load on his back. I agree, and I've taken to using an older laptop now as my "desktop" computer, and carrying only a lighter system at other times.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dell Admits That Slim Is In

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 04:00 PM

"The company just announced the XPS 13, which weighs in at a shade less than three pounds (2.99, to be exact) and has a wedge profile that tapers from .71 inches to .24 (18 to 6mm). With a starting price of $1,000, it sports an aluminum lid and carbon fiber chassis -- a material we wish more Ultrabook makers would incorporate. Though it has a 13-inch screen, it's the kind of panel with bezels so narrow that Dell was able to build a chassis small enough for a 12-inch system."

It is hard to believe that the start of the ultra thin laptop rage started way back in 2008. While there certainly excessively thin laptops before the Macbook Air, the Air caught the attention of the consumer market in droves. It is four, yes, four years later, and Dell has put forward their latest competitor. If you are into thin, but not an Apple fan, Engadget's quick overview may give you the information you need. While I personally like the idea of laptops light enough that I can carry, I await the day that they carry more graphics punch. What about you?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

HP Spectre is a Glass Ultrabook

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 04:00 PM

"Metal is so 2011. An Ultrabook that breaks the mold, HP’s new Envy 14 Spectre sports a head-turning glass design at this year’s CES. It’s on the display as well as the lid and palm rest, making the Spectre (available February 8th for $1,399) one of the most unique laptops ever. While it costs $100 more than the 13-inch MacBook Air, HP packs this Ultrabook with lots of premium features, including a higher-resolution display, powerful Beats audio and even NFC capability."

Ultrabooks are going to be hot. That is what the press is saying. All the major PC manufacturers must be rubbing their hands with glee, hoping that the huge glut of ultrabooks coming out this year will spark renewed sales. But aside from thin, how do you stand out? With glass! The HP Spectre's glass finish is supposed to be scratch resistant but what about fingerprints? It seems with all these stylish computing tools from smartphones to tablets to now glass ultrabooks, the must have accessory to buy will be polishing cloths. Excuse me while I go buy some stock in some of those companies.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Another New Ultrabook: LG Xnote Z330

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Laptops & Netbooks" @ 07:00 PM

"LG has just announced their entry to the Ultrabook category, the 13.3″ Xnote Z330. While the outside cover has a concentric circle, etched pattern similar to that of the ASUS Zenbooks (although more subtle and originates from the corner instead of from the center of the cover), the overall look of the Xnote Z330 resembles that of a MacBook Pro/Air."

Starting at about $1500 and going to about $2300, LG seems to have aimed high, but missed the mark a bit on price, when $1000 is the holy grail. Specs are, well, like other Ultrabooks: 3-pounds; 4GB RAM; SSD; Intel Core i5 or i7; 1366x768 resolution; etc. LG promises that the X Note will cold boot into Windows 7 in 10 seconds or less. This system looks like the love child of an ASUS Zenbook and a MacBook Air (actually quite attractive). Further details should be forthcoming. With this latest generation of notebooks/ultrabooks, I can carry a MacBook Air and an Ultrabook, and still have my laptop case weigh less than my work laptop of 4-5 years ago. Thank you, manufacturers, from my shoulders and back!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HP Unveils its First Business Ultrabook: Folio 13

Posted by Michael Knutson in "HP Laptops & Netbooks" @ 11:00 AM

"PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov. 16, 2011 - HP today introduced its first business UltrabookTM, which features a thin and light design, strong security options and a responsive solid state hard drive for the ultimate mobile experience. The HP Folio13 also delivers up to 9 hours of battery life, the highest performance available among Ultrabook devices currently on the market."

Looks a bit like a small MacBook Pro, eh? A nice feature set, and, meets one of my requirements, a backlit keyboard. RJ-45 (Ethernet) and USB 3.0 ports are included, and a 128GB SSD is standard. An embedded TPM (security) chip will be included in some models (January 2012), allowing secure authentication and data encryption. With a 13.3-inch BrightView screen, Intel Core processors, and a very good webcam, this 18mm thin ultrabook weighs-in at about 3.3-pounds (~1.5kg). HP's Press Release (see link) stated that the Folio 13 will be available starting December 7th, with prices starting at $899.99. I've been looking for a new Windows laptop, and the Folio may jump to my short list.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ASUS Zenbook UX31: Better Than the MacBook Air? No.

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Asus Laptops & Netbooks" @ 06:30 PM

"Windows users don't need to hide in shame whenever they see someone whip out a MacBook Air at the local Starbucks. The ASUS Zenbook UX31 is a slim, stylish Ultrabook that not only packs a robust Core i5 processor and 128GB SSD into its 3-pound unibody aluminum chassis, but a high-res 1600 x 900 display and excellent audio."

Finally, an ultrabook that challenges the MacBook Air (MBA). Higher (1600x900) resolution, but not quite as good with viewing angles. Keyboard is flat, effective, but required harder touches to get keys to register. The large touchpad needs work. Cooling is excellent. Better audio, but the bass vibrates the deck of the UX31. Boot and wake slower than the MBA, but better than other Windows systems. More ports, but some compromises. Processor robust, but topped in the reported benchmarks by the MBA. Graphics performance slightly less than reported by the MBA. Battery life good, but, again, not as good as the MBA. But, starting at $200 less than the MBA, and with a larger screen, my impression is that the hardware is excellent, but that the software (mostly drivers) still needs some work. The MacBook Air still leads, but the competition is narrowing the gap. If I need a Windows laptop, this one definitely goes on my short list.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Asus ZENBOOK UX21 and UX31 Ultrabook Pricing and Release Date Confirmed

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Asus Laptops & Netbooks" @ 02:05 PM

Now dubbed the "ZENBOOK", the much-anticipated UX21 and UX31 ultrabooks are coming very soon - as in, available for order tomorrow. Woot! I'm really excited about this personally, because I've been looking for a new laptop for quite a long time now. The UX31 looks like it's exactly what I'm looking for, though I'm reluctant to drop $1500 on one until I read a review or two. Asus has a good track record with recent laptops, so I'm cautiously optimistic this will be a solid product. What about you? Are you getting an ultrabook?

Full press release after the break.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Asus UX31 Ultrabook: This Could Be My Next Laptop

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Asus Laptops & Netbooks" @ 10:00 AM

"We've heard the stories, but we've yet to appreciate it in the flesh until now. That's right, Pocket-lint was present and correct at the first UK showing of the Asus UX31, the company's new Ultrabook. Shown at an Intel Tweet Up in London to an unsuspecting audience, the new flagship Asus device and MacBook Air destroyer, according to some, settled in for a quiet 20 minutes with Pocket-lint."

I'm smitten...this may very well be my next laptop. The design is fantastic, the specs are right in line with what I'm looking for (256 MB SSD, Core i7 CPU) and, best of all, the 13.3" screen will come with a 1600 x 900 option. FINALLY someone doing something other than 1366 x 768! Assuming the price point is around $1500 (give or take) and the reviews are good, this is the laptop I'll be buying this fall. More photos here as well.

LAPTOP's Toshiba Portege Z830 Hands-On

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Toshiba Laptops & Netbooks" @ 09:39 AM

"We caught up with the 13-inch system in the IDF Ultrabook Pavillion, where it was being used to demonstrate Intel's new Pair and Share media streaming technology. We didn't get a chance to do any real work on the demo model, but we were struck by the system's sleek, business-first looks and its svelte 2.45-pound, 0.63-inch thick design."

It doesn't have the same "WOW" factor as the Asus UX31, but it's got all the right stuff on the inside (no mention of CPU though). I'm super excited about these Ultrabooks, but I'm a bit irked that in typical Windows OEM fashion, we're being shown things we can't buy for months. Apple has the right approach: announce something and have it on store shelves soon. Don't lose the buying impulse by making people wait months and months...

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Intel Ultrabook Gets Backed by Money

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 01:00 PM

"At this year's Computex Intel announced a "new" category of notebook computer designed to further blur the lines between traditional notebooks and tablets: the Ultrabook. Requirements for an Ultrabook are straightforward: it needs to be thin and light, it needs to have an SSD and it needs to be available at less than $1000. Think MacBook Air, but for all manufacturers."

The $300 million fund may help drive more interest in the Ultrabook spec, but I am not really sure how it will help. Companies are already seeking to achieve the same coolness factor that the MacBook Air, or Samsung Series 9 have. Those that currently do not have something comparable offer basic laptops at half the cost, or are investing their energies into the hot tablet market. If it catches on though, I suspect that there will be an increase in manilla folder sales.

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