Ultrabooks: More than Just a Tablet

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It’s no secret that people will pay more for some products than others. (Just ask Apple.) A good example is that people will pay thousands of dollars for a Rolex but only tens of dollars for a Timex, even though both watches are similarly accurate. In fact, the Timex might even be more accurate than the Rolex—and it never needs winding.

Intel wanted computer manufacturers to do the same for notebook computers as Rolex has done for wrist watches: make them more desirable, with the added challenge of keeping them universally affordable. The “Ultrabook” is Intel’s vision of what premium quality ultra-portable notebook computers should be. Ultrabooks are thin, light, attractive, powerful and made from premium materials. Designed to be desirable way beyond their computing power, Intel-based Ultrabooks are poised to do battle against the MacBook Air, tablet computers and anything else that’s thin and light.

Intel's official Ultrabook specifications include a price point for base models that falls below $1,000. Ultrabooks with screens smaller than 14 inches have to be less than 18 millimeters (0.7 inch)  in thickness, but with screens 14 inches and larger, they can be as thick as 21 millimeters (0.8). Ultrabooks have to be able to wake from hibernation in 7 seconds or less and they must have a minimum of five hours of run time from a fully charged battery. Intel never specified a weight limit, but most Ultrabooks tend to weigh around three pounds. Let’s take a closer look at some beautiful new offerings from Acer, ASUS and Hewlett-Packard.

Acer Aspire S Series

Acer’s new Aspire S Series Ultrabooks are attractive from a distance. You don’t even have to turn one on to know that it’s cut from higher-quality cloth than other notebooks. Housed in a sleek, lightweight aluminum and magnesium alloy body, the S Series Ultrabooks feature a 13.3-inch LED-backlit display with 1366 x 768 native resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. The display is powered by integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics that can dedicate up to 128MB of system memory for its own use.

The use of a relatively small display, along with the aluminum-and-magnesium-alloy enclosure, the lack of an optical drive and a thickness of just 0.68-inch keeps the weight of S Series Ultrabooks to less than three pounds. Features common to all of the S-Series Ultrabooks include a 2-in-1 media card reader, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, an integrated 1.3-megapixel HD webcam, an integrated microphone and built-in stereo speakers. Ports include two USB 2.0 and one HDMI. Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) comes preinstalled.

You can get the S Series Ultrabooks with slightly different hardware configurations, depending on your performance needs. The Ultrabook S3-951-6828 is powered by a dual-core 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-2467M processor, which can be over-clocked to 2.3 GHz when applications require more horsepower.

The S3-951-6828 also includes 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 240GB solid state drive. The use of a solid-state drive allows the notebook to wake from its regular Sleep mode in less than two seconds. If you leave the computer in Sleep mode for more than eight hours, it automatically enters a Deep Sleep mode which can conserve battery power for up to 50 days. The computer can also wake from a deep sleep in six seconds.

If you don’t mind saving lots of money and having more storage space, and can get by with a conventional hard drive in place of solid-state storage, you should like the Ultrabook S3-951-6646. It comes with a 320GB hard drive for storage use and a 20GB solid-state drive for the operating system, and it costs much less than the S3-951-6828. If you want more computing horsepower, the Ultrabook S3-951-6432 packs a dual-core 1.7 GHz Intel Core i7-2637M processor, which can be over-clocked to 2.8 GHz, but is otherwise identical to the S3-951-6828.

  Acer Aspire S Series Ultrabook S3-951-6828 Notebook Computer Acer Aspire S Series Ultrabook S3-951-6646 Notebook Computer Acer Aspire S Series Ultrabook S3-951-6432 Notebook Computer
Processor 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-2467M Dual-Core 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-2467M Dual-Core 1.7 GHz Intel Core i7-2637M Dual-Core
Memory 4GB 4GB 4GB
Storage 240GB SSD 320GB HDD & 20GB SSD 240GB SSD
Graphics Integrated Intel HD 3000 Integrated Intel HD 3000 Integrated Intel HD 3000
Display 13.3" 1366 x 768 13.3" 1366 x 768 13.3" 1366 x 768
Card Reader SD, MMC SD, MMC SD, MMC
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 802.11b/g/n 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0+HS 4.0+HS 4.0+HS
Webcam 1.3MP 1.3MP 1.3MP
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Ports 2x USB 2.0, HDMI 2x USB 2.0, HDMI 2x USB 2.0, HDMI
Dimensions 12.59 x 0.68 x 8.52" 12.7 x 0.69 x 8.6" 12.59 x 0.68 x 8.52"
Weight  2.93 lb 3.08 lb 2.93 lb

ASUS Zenbook

The ASUS philosophy in designing the Zenbook was to fuse beauty, strength and stability in a thin, lightweight notebook with the sleek profile of a high-quality wristwatch. Even the aluminum underside of the notebook was given more attention to detail than most notebooks have on their upper surfaces.

With a spun aluminum lid and champagne-colored chassis, the Zenbook Ultrabooks are attractive even from ten paces. A concentric-circle design on the lid produces a bedazzling halo of light. Two choices of screen size (11.6-inch and 13.3-inch) dictate the physical dimensions of the Zenbooks, though both are a razor-thin 0.11-inch high at the front edge. When not in use, Zenbooks can enter a power-saving Standby mode, with standby times of up to ten days. An Instant On function enables the computer to resume from Standby in just two seconds.

All Zenbooks feature Bang & Olufsen ICEpower Audio speakers, an 83-key chiclet-style keyboard and a multi-touch touchpad. They come with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) preinstalled. Zenbooks are offered with two screen sizes, 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches, and for each size there are different configurations to choose from.

Zenbooks with 11.6-inch screens have 1366 x 768 native resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio.  The display is powered by integrated Intel UMA graphics. Standard features include 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 128GB solid state drive, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, an integrated 0.3MP webcam, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port and a Mini-HDMI port. The 11.6-inch models are 11.7 inches wide by 0.67 inch thick by 7.7 inches, front to back, and they weigh 2.43 pounds. Of the models with an 11.6-inch screen, you have the choice of the Zenbook UX21E-DH52 with a dual-core 1.60 GHz Intel Core i5-2467M processor or the Zenbook UX21E-DH71 with a dual-core 1.80 GHz Intel Core i7-2677M  processor.

Zenbooks with 13.3-inch screens have 1600 x 900 native resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio.  The display is powered by integrated Intel UMA graphics. Standard features of the 13.3-inch models include 4GB of DDR3 RAM, an SD card reader, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a 0.3MP webcam, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port and a Mini-HDMI port. The 13.3-inch models are 12.9 inches wide by 0.78 inch thick by 8.9 inches deep and they weigh 2.87 pounds.

You have three choices of Zenbooks with 13.3-inch screens. The Zenbook UX31E-DH52 features a 128GB solid-state drive and a dual-core 1.70 GHz Intel Core i5-2557M processor; the Zenbook UX31E-DH53 has the same processor and a larger 256GB solid-state drive. The Zenbook UX31E-DH72 features a dual-core 1.80 GHz Intel Core i7-2677M processor and a 256GB solid-state drive.

  ASUS Zenbook UX21E-DH52 Ultrabook Notebook Computer ASUS Zenbook UX21E-DH71 Ultrabook Notebook Computer ASUS Zenbook UX31E-DH52 Ultrabook Notebook Computer ASUS Zenbook UX31E-DH53 Ultrabook Notebook Computer ASUS Zenbook UX31E-DH72 Ultrabook Notebook Computer
Processor 1.60 GHz Intel Core i5-2467M Dual-Core 1.80 GHz Intel Core i7-2677M Dual-Core 1.70 GHz Intel Core i5-2557M Dual-Core 1.70 GHz Intel Core i5-2557M Dual-Core 1.80 GHz Intel Core i7-2677M Dual-Core
Memory 4GB 4GB 4GB 4GB 4GB
Storage 128GB SSD 128GB SSD 128GB SSD 256GB SSD 256GB SSD
Graphics Integrated Intel UMA 3001 Integrated Intel UMA 3002 Integrated Intel UMA 3003 Integrated Intel UMA 3004 Integrated Intel UMA 3004
Display 11.6" 1366 x 768 11.6" 1366 x 768 13.3" 1600 x 900 13.3" 1600 x 900 13.3" 1600 x 900
Card Reader None None SD SD SD
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 802.11b/g/n 802.11b/g/n 802.11b/g/n 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0
Webcam 0.3MP 0.3MP 0.3MP 0.3MP 0.3MP
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Ports USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI
Dimensions 11.7 x 0.67 x 7.7" 11.7 x 0.67 x 7.7" 12.9 x 0.78 x 8.9" 12.9 x 0.78 x 8.9" 12.9 x 0.78 x 8.9"
Weight 2.43 lb 2.43 lb 2.87 lb 2.87 lb 2.87 lb 

Hewlett Packard Folio 13-1020us

Like other Ultrabooks we’ve discussed, Hewlett Packard’s Folio 13-1020us Ultrabook is a real looker. Housed in a sleek brushed-aluminum chassis, the Folio 13-1020us features a 13.3-inch LED-backlit BrightView display with 1366 x 768 native resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. The display is powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000.

The Folio 13-1020us is powered by a dual-core 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-2467M processor, which can run as fast as 2.3 GHz, thanks to Intel’s Turbo Boost 2.0 technology. The notebook also includes 4GB of DDR3 RAM. A six-cell lithium-ion battery provides up to nine hours of run time. Like other Ultrabooks, this one can wake from sleep in just seconds, thanks to its 128GB solid-state drive.

Other features of the Folio 13-1020us include a TrueVision HD webcam, a backlit keyboard and multi-touch touchpad, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an integrated card reader, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI port and a combination headphone-output/microphone-input jack. Like most Ultrabooks, this one has no built-in optical drive; you have to use an external drive, which is sold separately. But unlike most other Ultrabooks, the Folio 13-1020us features an integrated 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet port which is always handy and sometimes necessary, say, when setting up a new Wi-Fi router. The Folio 13-1020us is 12.54 inches wide by 8.67 inches deep by 0.7 inch high and it weighs 3.3 pounds.

Based on appearance alone, and much like Rolex watches, Ultrabook computers clearly offer more bang for the buck than run-of-the-mill notebooks or the power-lacking netbooks ever will. But that value comes not from the size of the display or speed of the CPU; it comes in the form of beauty, precision fit and finish, elegant tactile feedback and the grin on users’ faces.

Hewlett Packard Folio Ultrabook 13-1020us
Processor 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-2467M Dual-Core
Memory 4GB
Storage 128GB SSD
Graphics Integrated Intel HD 3000
Display 13.3" 1366 x 768
Card Reader SD, MMC
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Webcam Not Specified
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Ports USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI
Dimensions (inches) 12.54 x 0.7 x 8.67"
Weight (pounds) 3.3 lb

Loaded with power, style and extreme portability, Ultrabook computers deserve some serious consideration these days. Get yours today at B&H!