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What's this Intel Ultrabook That
I Hear About a Lot?
The launch of Intel powered ultrabooks
last fall failed to garner much attention due to their steep price. Ultrabooks are ultra-thin notebooks that aim to fill in
the gap between lightweight laptops and tablets. Since their inception, Intel has been banking on ultrabooks to fuel the growth
in PC shipments. Earlier this year, the company introduced a $300 million funding to achieve improvements in Ultrabooks and
launched its largest advertising campaign in a decade. Although the recent sales figures released by the IDC indicate that
ultrabooks are having a tough time gaining acceptance among users, we feel that it might be too soon to make a judgement call.
Lackluster Ultrabooks Sales
in The First Half of 2012
Research firm IDC estimates that only 500,000 ultrabooks have been sold so far this year. We estimate global notebook
shipments to reach $188 million by the end of 2012. Based on that forecast, Intel seems to be behind its estimate that ultrabooks
will reach 40% of consumer notebooks by year-end. However, there are certain factors which could point to a better performance
in the latter half of 2012 and 2013 on:
1. 140 Ultrabooks Designs: At present Intel has around 35 ultrabooks that are powered by
a range of third generation Intel core processors in the market. However, the company confirms that it has over 110 additional
designs in the pipeline that are up for launch in the coming year.
2. Lower Prices: According to consumer market research
firm NPD, the average market price for a Windows notebook is $510 whereas the average selling price for ultrabooks for the
first five months for the year was $927. However, ultrabook prices have come down since then to as low as $699 with the Sandy
Bridge edition of the Dell Inspiron 14z. We feel that a more competitive price range can be an important factor that accelerates
ultrabook adoption among users.
Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks & Launch of Intel’s 4th Generation Processors: Intel’s Ivy bridge processor,
which offers significantly higher graphics and improved CPU performance, has been in the market for only a short period of
time. Thus, we feel that Intel is yet to realize the full benefits of the advanced processor.
In addition, Intel is
already working on its next generation processor, Haswell, which it claims not only provides superior performance but also
consumes 20 times less power than the Ivy Bridge processors. The company plans to introduce the new processors to the market
4. Touch Enabled & Convertible Ultrabooks: With around 40 touch enabled ultrabooks
expected to be launched by year-end, Intel looks determined to take its processing power a notch higher. At the recently held
Computex 2012, the company announced that it has signed several agreements with some leading touch paneled manufacturers to
adequately cater to the expected demand for touch-enabled notebooks over the next several years.
to look forward to will be the hybrids and convertible Ultrabooks which are expected to be launched with Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS.
Also, the upcoming Windows 8 launch can also reignite the PC market,
thus driving up sales in the latter part of the year. However, the expected entry of ARM based players and the increasing
popularity of AMD’s Trinity processors still remain major roadblocks
for the success of Intel’s Ultrabooks. Additionally, the increasing adoption of smartphones and tablets could be a headwind
to the growth of notebook shipments in the future.
Since May there has been a nearly constant,
subcellular buzz on the Internet about something called an Intel Ultrabook. But what, exactly, are we looking at here?
First, let’s understand how Intel
“releases” notebooks. Intel makes chips. That, in general, is all they do and all they ever want to do. However,
the company often releases reference designs or plans for future products. These reference designs have included embedded
systems for machinery (using Intel chips), point-of-sale systems for stores (using Intel chips) and low-power “in-vehicle
infotainment systems” (using Intel chips.)
In short, Intel builds something, gives manufacturers the plans (and guidelines), and then sells them a few million
chips that will go inside the hardware. That’s why most laptops are, inside, essentially the same: they’re based
on a reference design passed along from chipmaker to manufacturer like holy writ.
Every once in a while, though, Intel releases something a bit more impressive than
a point-of-sale system. Thus we have the Ultrabook. The Ultrabook is an ultra-slim laptop (think MacBook Air)
that maxes out at 0.8 inches thick. Ultrabooks will cost less than $1,000 and they will, obviously, use Intel chips. Other
than following those guidelines, however, manufacturers can riff on Ultrabooks like Satchmo on “Cornet Chop Suey.”
However, most will depend on one of Intel’s five current reference designs on which to base their manufacturing plans.
The first notebook in the Ultrabook
line is the Asus UX21, a .67-inch laptop that is thinner than the Air, includes an 11.6-inch display, one USB 2.0 port and
one brand new USB 3.0 port. New processors will join the line-up next year as other manufacturers begin the Ultrabook push.
These laptops are expected to have instant-on
features that allows you snap the laptop open and use it immediately. Most will also eschew a mechanical hard drive for one
powered by SSDs.
So far the promise
of cheap, thin, and light is like a three-legged stool missing a leg: the UX21 and the 13-inch UX31 will cost more than $1,000
when introduced in September and manufacturers are currently struggling to price their hardware below Intel’s requested
doesn’t mean that Ultrabooks won’t fall below $1,000 in the next year or so. Intel is already cracking down on manufacturers to keep their prices down and, recalling the meteoric drop in
netbook prices a few years back, it’s clear that the consumer is hungry for — and expecting — cheaper and
cheaper laptops every year.
Many of this
year's hottest new laptops are all about one word: Ultrabooks.
The term Ultrabook is actually pure marketing, dreamt up by Intel for a
new generation of portable PCs featuring its technology.
Like Centrino but unlike
Viiv, it's starting to stick as a catch-all term for thin and light
laptops, or ultraportables as they're sometimes classified.
The best way to think of an Ultrabook is a MacBook Air that isn't made by Apple, a netbook that isn't underpowered or a laptop that's been on
a crash diet. Ultrabooks all feature a Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, plus fast SSD storage and USB 3.0 connectivity.
out our video guide to the Ultrabooks that are set to hit the shelves during 2012.
According to Intel, Ultrabooks also have "ultra-capabilities" - security
features, battery power, instant-on and quick standby. They'll provide a lightweight alternative to tablet devices for people
who just can't work without a full QWERTY keyboard.
Intel has announced a massive
$300m (£185m) fund to help develop Ultrabook hardware and software, and it's confident that Ultrabooks will make up 40% of the market by 2012.
Buying Guide Five
best laptops in the world
first models are shipping with current generation Sandy Bridge Core processors,
which will be replaced this year by a new generation of Ivy Bridge chips.
Intel set an initial
price target of $999/£999 for Ultrabooks, though many have been more expensive - expect serious in-roads on the cheaper
£600-£800 market this year.
But what's the best Ultrabook to buy? Check out the best Ultrabooks we've reviewed, as well as those we've got hands
Z330 and Z430 Super Ultrabooks
Rather than a tapered
design, the chassis on the 13.3-inch LG Z330 Super Ultrabook
is 14.7mm thick from front to back. It runs Windows 7 (for now) and has a bigger brother, the LG Z430, which comes with a
14-inch display. Why is it 'Super'? Because LG says so.
Asus has done a terrific
job with the Zenbook's design - even if you have to acknowledge that the designer took more than a sneaky glance at Apple's
ultraportable first.The 13-inch Zenbook is fantastic to look at. When closed, the wedge-shaped laptop measures 17mm at its
thickest point and a mere 3mm at its thinnest.
The same design thinking even stretches to the Intel Core and Windows
7 stickers. We wonder who it was that proposed they were silver and black - Intel? Asus? - but whoever did has made a difference.
3. Samsung Series 5 Ultra
Packing an Intel Core
i5 processor, the Samsung Series
5 Ultra is small but perfectly
formed. Available in 14-inch or 13-inch models, the 13 incher is 17.6mm at its fattest point, narrowing to 14mm.
It comes with a 128GB/256GB SSD or a 500GB hard drive (alongside a small 16GB flash drive) and incorporates an LED SuperBright
screen. The only worry? Battery life is low at around three hours in our tests. Not to be confused with the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook. Which is definitely not an Ultrabook.
4. Samsung Series 9
While the original Series
9 was one of the world's thinnest laptops, the new Samsung 9 Series Ultrabook
is even thinner.
The design team has shaved off another 4mm, giving this 13-inch (1600 x 1200) laptop a waistline of only 12.9mm.
Inside, a 1.7GHz Core i7 chip does all the hard work, ably assisted by up to 8GB of memory and SSD storage.