There’s no denying the appeal of ultrabooks, but do these ultra‑slim laptops offer more than good looks? To answer that, it’s important to understand an ultrabook is still a genuine notebook computer. Most don’t include a DVD drive, but otherwise they’re fully featured, with a decent-sized keyboard and full versions of the Windows or Apple operating systems.
If it’s only for firing off emails and keeping in touch on the road, an ultrabook is probably overkill. Tablet computers are lighter and cheaper, and with powerful apps such as Adobe Photoshop now available for iPad and Android they can do some pretty amazing things.
However, for spreadsheets, long documents, other in-depth work or a specific Windows application, an ultrabook is still the better option.
So the key question becomes how ultrabooks compare with conventional notebooks.
Lightweight notebooks have been around for a long time but, following the success of Apple’s MacBook Air, Intel announced a set of similar specifications for Windows laptop makers. The most obvious of the specifications that make an ultrabook is thickness: no more than 21mm, depending on the size of the screen.
Other specifications include built-in Intel software for better security and faster resumption from Windows’ hibernation state. Inside, an ultrabook must have a CU LV (consumer ultra‑low voltage) version of Intel’s latest-generation Core i3, i5 or i7 processors. As the name suggests, CU LV chips are more power efficient, but unfortunately they’re also slower than Intel’s standard mobile processors. True, CU LV chips are a lot faster than the Intel Atom processors in netbooks. Then again, ultrabooks are a lot more expensive than netbooks, with pricing ranging from A$999 to more than A$2000.
To be fair, ultrabooks tend to include more expensive parts such as an SSD (solid state drive) instead of a standard hard drive. While SSDs offer less capacity they have access speed advantages and, as a result, much improved start-up times.
The good news is there are alternatives: conventional notebooks with 13-inch screens that use the faster regular Intel mobile processors. Typically weighing under 2kg, they’re still quite portable.
Some have large-capacity batteries for longer running time and, if you shop around, you’ll find some that sell for as much as half the price of an equivalent ultrabook.
Another option, of course, is Apple’s MacBook Air range. On the other hand, if you’re a Windows user who just wants the slimmest, lightest laptop available, an ultrabook may be just what you want.
It’s best to stretch your budget to a Core i5 model and carefully consider whether you want a fast SSD or a high-capacity, standard hard drive.
Here’s a range of ultrabooks and other lightweight notebooks that covers some of what’s available.
- Acer Aspire S3-951 http://tinyurl.com/s3-acer
- Toshiba Satellite Z830 http://tinyurl.com/z830-toshiba
- Asus Zenbook UX31E http://tinyurl.com/ux31e-asus
- Apple MacBook Air http://tinyurl.com/macbook-air-apple
- Lenovo ThinkPad E320 http://tinyurl.com/e320-lenovo
- Dell Inspiron 13z http://tinyurl.com/13z-dell