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Ultrabooks are here
They’re skinny, pretty and fast

10/27/11
By John Andrews jandrews@hippopress.com



Remember netbooks? Those charming little underpowered laptops with small screens and eccentric Linux-based operating systems?

Unless you own one — and perhaps even if you do — you’re probably saying, “Oh, yeah,” right about now. They haven’t gotten much press or advertising since the tablet onslaught began. When you can pack a 7- or 10-inch touchscreen, why bother with a clunky keyboard and AC adapter? If you really want a laptop, there are cheap ones with more power than netbooks anyway.

It’s time for a new confusing sub-category for laptop buyers, and Intel has just the thing: Ultrabooks.

Most netbooks used an Intel Atom processor of about 1.6GHz, but there were AMD and VIA processors in some as well. The Ultrabook is an official specification and trademark from Intel, so it’ll be harder to pass off truly pitiful hardware as one of these, as sometimes happened with netbooks.

So what makes something an Ultrabook? Glad you asked.

• Intel Core processor:
Low-voltage versions of Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, to be specific. They will use less power and generate less heat than desktop and laptop processors. This is important because Ultrabooks will also be…

• Very slim: Intel’s reference design is less than one inch thick. That means no CD, DVD or Blu-ray drive, but also not a lot of room for airflow and cooling. It also means it’s…

• Very light: Weight will vary by screen size and other options, but in general, Ultrabooks will come in under three pounds. That’s half the weight of other midrange laptops.

• Not very cheap: Not terribly expensive either, but they aren’t the super-low-cost proposition that netbooks were. The price point is “around $1,000,” with one Acer model priced at $899 and an Asus line ranging from $999 to $1,449.

• Fast-booting: Users of Ultrabooks need to get things done. They must move swiftly and can’t be held down by bulky, weighty technology — or slow boot times. Intel claims that these machines can resume from sleep in just a few seconds, putting you on the Web as quickly as you can sit down. They accomplish this by using solid state disks to store the operating system. The Asus models use dedicated 128GB or 256GB solid state disks, while Acer opted for both a 20GB SSD and a 320GB traditional hard drive.

Intel initially predicted that 40 percent of laptops sold in 2012 would be Ultrabooks, but has since quietly backed off that number. They’ll certainly be popular with home users who like to show off their sleek technology, and corporate customers will like the reference design from the chipmaker itself. Ultraportable laptops have shipped without optical drives for years, and increased connectivity to the Internet (through mobile broadband and Wi-Fi networks popping up everywhere) has made physical discs less important.

Still, a lot of folks want the most power their money can buy, not necessarily the most portability. Core i7 processors are plenty powerful, but low-voltage ones stick to the slower end of the range. Ultrabooks are bigger than netbooks but generally smaller than value-priced laptops, with screen sizes under 14 inches and little room for expansion ports.

Is there a market? Absolutely. Will your next laptop be an Ultrabook?

Read my ultrawitty musings and links at twitter.com/CitizenjaQ.






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