What is an Ultrabook?

Category: Laptops

I've been looking around at new laptops, and I keep coming across the term ultrabook. But I can't actually find any such thing for sale. What exactly is an Ultrabook, and what type of user are they best suited for?

Should You Buy an Ultrabook?

If you've been thinking about buying a super-slim, ultraportable laptop, you may want to hold off until at least the last quarter of 2011. That's when the first so-called Ultrabook is expected to hit the shelves.

The Ultrabook is the latest design concept announced by Intel Corp. And the reason you're having trouble finding one for sale, is that they're not for sale - yet. The Ultrabook is not a product; it's just a rather fuzzy vision of what "tomorrow's laptop" should look and perform like. The announced characteristics of an Ultrabook include:

  • A form factor less than 21 mm (0.8 inches) thick
  • Five to eight hour battery life, even in the smallest Ultrabooks
  • Fast start-up from hibernation, on the order of two seconds
  • Enhanced security based on Intel Anti-Theft Technology and Intel Identity Protection Technology
ASUS Lenovo Ultrabooks

So far, the Ultrabook sounds a lot like a Macbook Air. Smaller, lighter, and less power-hungry is where mobile computing is headed, obviously. Does anything else make an Ultrabook worth waiting for?

Of course, Ultrabooks will have "Intel inside." That technology includes the current top-end Intel Sandy Bridge i5 and i7 processors; Thunderbolt connectivity; and the hardware-based security already mentioned. Beyond that, it gets rather fuzzy.

Is It a Notebook, a Tablet, or Both?

Intel says an Ultrabook will have "tablet-like features" that enable you to use it as a tablet when you want; presumably, that means a touch screen. But Ultrabooks will also have keyboards so you can use them as laptops when you want. We will have to wait until the holiday season to see how that works.

Intel thinks that ultraportable laptops are too expensive. But don't expect the first Ultrabooks to be bargains. Prices below $1,000 are not expected until 2012, assuming things go according to Intel's plans.

The first Ultrabook that anyone has actually seen is the Asus UX21, demonstrated at Computex. It sports an Intel i7 processor, Sandisk mini-SSD storage, a 13-inch display, a mini-HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, a glass touchpad, and metal "chiclet" keyboard. The UX21 is 0.67 inches thick and weighs 2.4 pounds. There is no optical drive, no removable battery, and no price as yet. Asus says the UX21 will go on sale in September.

Also at Computex, Lenovo mentioned its Ideapad U300s Ultrabook, again with no price. The U300s will feature a 12.5 or 13.3 inch screen; 4 or 8 GB of DDR3 RAM; 128 GB of SSD; WiFi, Bluetooth, and webcam; and either Intel i5 or i7 processors. Lenovo has not released any more specs.

The Sandy Bridge processors mark Phase One of Intel's Ultrabook roadmap. Next year, we can look forward to Ultrabooks based on Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge processor, the first chip that uses 22 nm manufacturing technology and 3D transistors. The result is a 37 per cent performance boost while consuming half the power of Sandy Bridge processors.

In 2013, according to Intel, we will see Ultrabooks incorporating even faster and more power-stingy processors code-named "Haswell."

Bottom line, if you're looking for a slim ultraportable laptop, and you want it today, an Ultrabook is out of contention. Check out my recent article Is Macbook Air The Best Laptop Ever? for some models you can buy now.

Your thoughts are welcome on this topic! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "What is an Ultrabook?"

Posted by:

02 Aug 2011

Thanks Bob, for clarifying what an Ultrabook is, in plain, easy to understand language. I have been reading about them & to be honest with you, these articles haven't been as clear, as you.

One reason, why I haven't even considered a Laptop is due to the battery time. I much prefer to use my Desktop, since I don't have to worry about 'battery time'. Yes, I know that you can use an AC adapter. In all honesty, having to use an AC adapter, you may as well use a desktop.

Laptops should be as mobile, as possible. The possibility of an 8 hour battery time, can make a big difference. Right away, I can see students or business' using an Ultrabook. This could be a real time saver, for them.

Down the line, with Utrabooks on the market, I may consider using one.

Posted by:

03 Aug 2011

Relatively small SSDs and no optical drive. Sounds like a very large smart phone without voice capability.

Posted by:

Robert Moulton
18 Nov 2011

Sounds good... as far as it goes. Needs more USB (for a mouse - HATE touchpads - and a printer), maybe a Firewire port, definitely needs larger SSD (incorporate flash units?), either an optical drive or flash card port and an RJ-45 for (more) secure network connection. This will make it larger, of course, but that's OK as a 12-13" screen is way too small.

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