Going from a Tablet to an Ultrabook™

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You’ve probably all heard the hype by now: tablets are set to overtake the laptop market by 2015, with sales of tablets pushing expensive laptops out as the number-one tech purchase. You can thank Apple for that hype—sales of the iPad were astronomical at one point, opening the door for literally hundreds of other manufacturers to make tablets. The problem is that hundreds of manufacturers mean hundreds of levels of variation in tablet speed, design, and functionality.

This begs the question—why would you ditch your laptop in the first place? Size? Speed? Instantaneous technological gratification?

Now consider the Ultrabook. It’s smaller, lighter, and thinner than a traditional laptop—stylish and faster, too. Running Windows 8 natively as an operating system, it also offers more real-world productivity through fully realized programs like Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite packages. Yeah, your Android or iOS tablet can play games better, and are made for a more compact and enriching multimedia experience, but Ultrabooks are made for power players who need to get things done.

Also, the tablet experience is predicated on portability, ease of use, and immediate boot times. But Ultrabook design and core reconfiguration of the technology surrounding Ultrabooks have made them faster, more portable (or at least less noticeably cumbersome than last-generation notebooks) and more productive than some tablets.

First, let’s talk about what you should look for in an Ultrabook:

  • Processor speed at least in the Intel® Core i5 range: i3 may be too sluggish, and i7 is overkill for most everyday tasks. If you can spare the extra scratch, try finding something with a new Haswell Intel Core processor—they double the battery life of your Ultrabook.
  • 4GB of RAM at the very least: more is always better.
  • A dedicated video processor if gaming or high-end graphics (like design programs) are going to be used a lot
  • A 750GB or higher hard drive is nice, roomy, and inexpensive: but an SSD is faster, lighter, and more resistant to shock and vibration. Want something betwixt those two? Look for hard drives with an SSD cache.
  • Depending on how sociable you are, you want an integrated webcam (most Ultrabooks come with one).
  • Screen size depends on your shoulder strength: from 11.6” for those that don’t want to lug around the weight, to a 17-inch clavicle buster, trust me, the longer you carry around any computer, the heavier it seems to get.
  • 1366 x 768 HD resolution is standard, but is quickly becoming a nuisance. Opt for higher-end 1920 x 1080 Full HD IPS screens, if your budget allows.
  • Multi-touch capacitive touchscreens: ditch the mouse and trackpad, and fully capitalize on the Windows 8 experience.

So where does the line get crossed from wanting a tablet to needing an Ultrabook? Let’s take some real-world scenarios and play matchmaker:

New Hire Sharon N.

Sharon just got a new job with a hot advertising agency. She’s looking for something to use on her train commute that lets her take notes, maybe search the Web using the train’s Wi-Fi, and go over spreadsheets from yesterday’s big meeting. She had an iPad, but she didn’t really use it for much more than watching movies and reading e-Books. She’s wondering if she can just upgrade the iPad to make it faster and more productive. Or she’s thinking of ditching her iPad and moving on; but because she’s just starting out, her budget is limited.

Sharon is the perfect candidate for an Ultrabook. She needs something with a little more processing power, like the ASUS VivoBook S400C. With a medium Core i5 processor, it has many of the features she’ll need—speed, power, full Windows 8 functionality—and it also has a touchscreen, which she’ll appreciate from her iPad experience. The hybrid drive (500GB hard drive and 24GB SSD) also keeps the cost of the unit down, and although the HD resolution may not be the biggest and brightest, it will be perfect for her commute.

Gamer Mike F.

Mike used to be a dedicated desktop gamer, until the kids came along. Now everyone in the family seems to crowd on the desktop bandwagon, and he rarely games from the family PC any longer. He has gotten into tablet gaming—he loves the speed and portability of firing up the tablet and getting right into a great game. He also loves the fact that he doesn’t spend countless minutes waiting for games to load, and he doesn’t have to find out if his games will work with his video card. But lately, Mike’s been seeing advertisements for other really cool games that are available only on Windows PCs.

It’s time to ditch your tablet for a faster and more resource-ready Ultrabook like the ASUS Zenbook UX32VD-DS72. It has NVIDIA GEForce GT620M dedicated graphics, an Intel Core i7 dual core processor, a hybrid hard drive, and 4GB of RAM. It should handle the high end of the gaming spectrum like Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft.

But wait, Mike loves the instantaneous action of tablets as well? Another path to consider is a tablet with an Intel processor running Windows 8 natively, like the Acer 128GB Iconia. This 11.6-inch tablet features a 1920 x 1080-resolution capacitive touchscreen, 128GB solid-state drive, and Intel Core i5 processor. Unfortunately, the stock graphics controller is the Intel HD Graphics 4000, which doesn’t hold up well against hardcore games, but with a little resolution tweaking, Mike may find this unit both portable and productive.

CEO Janice R.

Janice got a tablet as a business gift from a client a year ago. She loved the instant startup, and even found some productive apps that helped her schedule meetings and Skype with co-workers. But Janice is a mover and shaker—she is constantly globe-trotting, and does not need the ball and chain of a ten-pound notebook computer. Can Janice have something tablet-ish, and without injuring her shoulder?

Janice, meet the super-slim and light Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus NP940X3G-K01US Multi-Touch 13.3" Ultrabook computer. This slim laptop (at only half an inch thick when closed) also weighs only 2.5 pounds, which means long days of carrying it around won’t mean a trip to the chiropractor later. It has speed, with a new Haswell Core i5 processor (which will extend the battery life), power with 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive for storage. The 13.3-inch screen is a capacitive touchscreen with startling 3200 x 1800 resolution. With Windows 8 running the show, there won’t be anything Janice won’t be able to do on this light and sturdy machine. Give the tablet to your niece, Janice, and move up to the big-girl tech that an Ultrabook brings.

Fashion Designer Johnny F.

Johnny loves the tablets that designers use to sketch out their fashions on popular reality TV shows. He was considering getting an Ultrabook, but he wanted something with style, power, and the ability to draw freestyle and bring his ideas to life. He also needs something that has serious graphics chops if he’s going to be using graphic-design programs.

Johnny, good news: you don’t have to give up the portability and style of a tablet just to get your work done. One of the tablets that fits that particular bill is the Samsung ATIV Tab 7, an 11.6-inch tablet that has the bonus of having a touchscreen and a digitizer pen included. You can write, draw and design in Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution to your heart’s content, and the Intel Core i5 processor will ensure that you will have the power behind your pen while using the tablet. It comes with a detachable keyboard dock, which lets you transform your tablet into a full-fledged Windows 8 computer.

Johnny may also want to consider the Toshiba KIRAbook i7 Multitouch Computer. Why? Because the KIRAbook is made for graphics-centric professionals. Besides the crystal-clear 13.3-inch screen and amazing 2560 x 1440 resolution, the KIRAbook also comes preloaded with Adobe Premiere and Photoshop Elements, includes 8GB of RAM for fluid multitasking, and also has a Windows 8 multi-touch screen.

If you own a tablet but think it’s time to trade up, consider this: what do you use the tablet for? Entertainment and gaming? You may want to stick with it. But if you’re looking for anything more substantial than that, an Ultrabook adds power and productivity to everything you do. And weighing less than 3 pounds, solid-state drives that match eMMC flash storage, and much more enhanced screen resolutions, Ultrabooks may keep the whole “tablets are set to overtake the laptop market by 2015” thing at bay for a while.

For more recommendations of Ultrabooks, stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online via Live Chat.

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This is a great article however, it would have been nice to have some examples on a ultrabook capable of running Lightroom and maybe elements (at the least). After all I shop with you for photography related items. I get my business items elsewhere.

Just my take.

Roger

This article mentions that Ultrabooks are faster than laptops, and although I wish this was true, it is not. As far as mobile technology has come, they still have to make compromises for the small form factor and power consumption.

A multimedia laptop and an Ultrabook may both have i7 processors, but they're not the same. An i7-4700HQ (Laptop) vs an i7-4500U (Ultrabook) are really two different beasts. The average user will never need nor notice the extra processing power, but it's still something to consider.