The key to lower Ultrabook prices? One word: plastics

Summary:Ultrabook pricing could fall as low as $599 later this year as vendors move away from sleek metal chassis and toward plastic-based ones.

With laptop manufacturers struggling to keep costs down as they try to emulate the MacBook Air with Ultrabooks, they may have figured out one way to shave dollars off the price.

Intel's Taiwan chief believes Ultrabook pricing could fall as low as $599 later this year -- though $699 might be a more popular "sweet spot" -- in part because vendors will move away from sleek metal chassis and toward plastic-based ones.

Of course, part of the sexiness of Ultrabook designs is the brushed-metal casing, but there are shortages of those chassis -- perhaps due to Apple's dominance of the supply chain -- driving the pricing up. Instead, manufacturers will use fiberglass-reinforced plastic or possibly aluminum-coated plastic as a replacement. As the image above shows, Intel claims that the plastic chassis can be as rigid as metal ones.

Brushed metal looks great and would probably be the consumer preference -- except not enough consumers are willing to pay $1,000 or more for a laptop that uses it. Considering that most people buy $500 laptops with thoroughly unsexy designs now, it makes sense to use cheaper casing materials in order to get Ultrabooks closer to mainstream prices. Start looking for these plastic fantastic Ultrabooks in the second half of the year.

Would you care if your Ultrabook came with a plastic chassis instead of a metal one? How much more would you be willing to pay for a metal one? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.


Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility


Sean Portnoy started his tech writing career at ZDNet nearly a decade ago. He then spent several years as an editor at Computer Shopper magazine, most recently serving as online executive editor. He received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the University of Southern California.

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