But what exactly is an “ultrabook”? And is it worth getting for you Windows-types out there?
Intel has been gracious enough to lend Technoodling a couple of Ultrabook format laptops. One is the top-of-the-line ASUS Zenbook UX32VD (you can tell that it’s an ultrabook by its “U” prefix), and the Samsung Series 5 Ultra NP530U3C (you can tell that it’s an ultrabook by its “U”… oh wait, there’s that word there, Ultra).
So we’re going to put these units through their paces and tell you what you’re getting out of the Ultrabook specs…
Intel, the tech titan that’s behind the Ultrabook initiative (and which owns the trademark… so not all slim laptops can be called an “Ultrabook”), has declared 2012 to be the year of the Ultrabook. So let’s first see what this is all about.
A real-deal Ultrabook is supposed to have the following specifications:
This year’s models are also required to have USB 3.0 on board. It the Ultrabook that you’re staring at doesn’t have one, then it’s likely last year’s model.
Oh, and if your unit doesn’t pass the mettle on any of the above points, then it likely isn’t an Intel Ultrabook.
Is a MacBook Air an Ultrabook? The funny thing is, it ought to be because it fits the specs as outlined by Intel, down to the use of its Core processors. But it isn’t… because Ultrabook is, after all, a trademark.
Okay. Let’s get straight to the point that cynics may make about Ultrabooks: Aren’t these units just MacBook Air clones?
If by clone you mean that these ape the design of the successful and slim MacBook Air, then you may score a couple of points here. But it isn’t that simple.
First of all, MacBook Airs are Intel-based machines, and Intel did have a hand in helping design these units. So there’s that.
But other than the cosmetic similarities of being really slim units, Intel has taken the ball and ran with it to build up a whole system of standards.It’s Intel’s way of rallying computer manufacturers together to come out with ever thinner and lighter devices.
And if anything, Ultrabooks still manage to offer a variety of features, depending on your needs.
Ultrabooks also come with a wide variety of ports. Some still have VGA, some have LAN, there’s HDMI, and some have two USB 3.0 ports while others have just one. Many have SD card slots and some don’t. So there’s a whole gamut of choices out there and it pays to shop around.
So just how well does an Ultrabook perform? I test drove the ASUS Zenbook for a week or so, and it performed quite impressively. I only have two considerations when I assess a laptop: one is how zippy it performs, and two is how long the batteries last.
(The Samsung is currently undergoing tests, and I’ll let you in on it once I’m done.)
Verdict: Battery life hovers at the 5.5 to 6 hour mark, which isn’t bad. Not awesome, but decent enough, especially if you consider that the Zenbook does have an even brighter HD screen versus the MacBook Air.
The Core i5 processor is also clippy. You can run any program on the Zenbook (under Windows 7) and it will take it, even some pretty tough 3D games (not being a gamer though, I wasn’t able to really drill down on performance here). So performance-wise, the unit delivered. And frankly, at this day and age, I think most computers with an i3 and up processor can take most of whatever you throw at them, save for the most hardcore of games.
The ASUS Zenbook –and Ultrabooks in general, I suppose– offers an impressive blend of form factor and performance.
How do Ultrabooks compare versus a MacBook Air? I can’t really say. Die-hard Mackers will always insist that nothing compares to the Air. But when you factor in considerations such as price, ports mix, additional features, and the like, then Ultrabook units can in fact generate a whole lot of appeal.
And it will only get better. The next generation of Ultrabooks are expected to offer nothing less than 9 hours of battery life. That’s something to look forward to.
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