If you haven’t heard of ‘ultrabooks’ yet, you won’t be able to avoid them for much longer. The word wasn’t far from the lips of most tech journalists at CES this year. But are ultrabooks more than just clever marketing?
It’s not every day you get a whole ‘new’ category of laptops. It’s not like ultra portable thin and light models haven’t existed before – they just haven’t been grouped under this umbrella phrase. So how are they different?
The term ‘ultrabook’ is given to laptops that comply to certain criteria set out by Intel. For example, they need to measure less than 18mm thick and run on Intel’s latest Core I processors.
Trading in for a slimmer model
In some ways ultrabooks could be seen as taking over from the dying netbook market. However, the only real similarity between the two is portability.
The specifications are entirely different – ultrabooks tend to offer premium features, such as solid state drives (SSD) that give you faster data transfer speeds than traditional hard drives. Netbooks generally offer the bare minimum. Ultrabooks certainly don’t share the cheap price point of netbooks either, with many models costing over £1,000.
If my finances allow it, I’m in the market for a new laptop myself sometime this year; my old Acer (though much loved) is starting to give up the ghost. And an ultrabook does offer many of the elements I’d be looking for in a new model.
The lack of a disc drive – left out due to the slimness – wouldn’t bother me. I could probably count on one hand the times I’ve actually put a disc into my current laptop. The premium specs sound good; I want something fast, and I definitely want something portable. In fact, the only thing really holding me back from an ultrabook is the price.
Just a skinny laptop gimmick?
Looks are important for ultrabooks too. I know that if I was spending this much on a premium laptop I’d expect a certain standard of design. So far manufacturers seem to be coming up with the goods with sleek designs using high quality materials.
However, on first impression, it looks suspiciously like most manufacturers are leaning towards rather Apple-inspired designs. The only manufacturer I saw at the Consumer Electronics Show that had stepped out of Apple’s design shadow was Dell, with its own distinctive take on things.
The first ultrabook models hit the shops in the last half of 2011 but, according to Intel, more than 60 are in the pipeline for this year. Most of the main laptop manufacturers are already in on the act – even LG, not exactly known for its computing products, has a couple of models planned to launch in the spring.
Are ultrabooks the perfect combination of power and portability that they claim to be? Or do you think we’re paying over the odds for style over substance?