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HP DM4 power pack
In some regards, mainly the battery life and thinner chassis, the Envy would clearly be the preferable choice, but is it £500 better? No way. In fact, in some ways, the cheaper of the two is actually the better specced: it has more RAM, can accommodate even more RAM and comes with discrete AMD graphics, rather than relying on the Intel HD integrated chipset.
The most compelling reason to choose the ultrabook over its laptop rival was the size of the power pack, as the one that came with the DM4 (pictured) is plain ridiculous for a 14-inch laptop, but how likely is not buying a laptop on the basis that the power pack is a ludicrous size?
Image credit: Ben Woods
HP's new Spectre XT
And HP isn't alone in its seemingly bizarre specification of its ultrabooks versus its standard laptops. Sony has done something similar the recent launch of its T series ultrabooks, at least one of which is heavier and thicker than its existing ultra-thin Z series laptops.
It's a strange situation: if you have lighter and thinner laptops that, in some cases, cost less than ultrabooks, the term loses any value it had and becomes nothing but branding.
Used well, 'ultrabook' could have differentiated between classes of laptops, immediately telling a would-be buyer that a product bearing the name has certain characteristics. Instead, as the definition of what an ultrabook is becomes more vague, the term has descended into just another buzz marketing word.
For the term to be of any quick reference use, Intel needs to define one key element of the ultrabook and keep it constant. Depth, weight, or price are all key contenders: had it stuck to its £650 ceiling, say, then customers would know, without knowing anything else about the device, that it costs less than this amount.
And it is price that is mostly likely to determine the ultrabooks' future. Last weekend I saw a 48-hour offer on a Toshiba Satellite Z830 13.3-inch ultrabook that brought the cost to £549, a far more middle-of-the-road figure that might tempt me if I were looking to spend around £500 on an everyday laptop. The price has since gone back up to £800, putting it firmly out of the question.
Until the average price falls, ultrabooks are a bizarre anomaly of not-top-of-the-line specs, crammed into small, but not necessarily that light, chassis. For my £1,200, that's just not good enough.
Perhaps the next generation of ultrabooks will rectify this imbalance in some way: HP's follow-up to the Spectre, the Spectre XT (pictured), is due to go on sale in the UK at the end of June, but with a price tag starting from £899, I won't be holding my breath.
Image credit: Ben Woods
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