All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

Summary: Ultrabooks are all thin, so the only features that matter are what's inside.

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware
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This year is going to be the year of the Ultrabook, and we'll see proof of that this week at the CES. I believe we'll see at least 50 Ultrabooks announced, perhaps even more. Acer jumped ahead of the line of the CES announcements and showed off its Aspire S5 Ultrabook. Acer was quick to point out that the S5 is the "world's thinnest" Ultrabook, but that claim doesn't carry much weight with me.

Ultrabooks are Intel's answer to the MacBook Air, and the whole point is to make them thin. They are thin by design, and that means all of them. The thickness, or lack thereof, is a required feature of the genre, so a millimeter here or there is not really the point.

What is important are the features that determine if an Ultrabook is worth the money or not. Those features are battery life, screen resolution (not size), SSDs, and weight. Processor power is not that critical as Ultrabooks by definition have good Intel power inside.

Battery life needs to last all day, and that means at least 7 hours on a charge. On top of that rapid charging technology should be leveraged to allow quickly topping off the battery. Lenovo uses such technology in some of its laptops to permit an 80 percent charge in just 30 minutes. Ultrabooks that can't go all day are failing in this key area, no matter how thin they are.

Most early Ultrabooks have 13.3-inch displays, and while 1366x768 is the typical resolution that's not good enough for that size screen. The 13-inch MacBook Air uses a higher resolution 1440x900 display, and that is perfect. While 1366x768 is cheaper to use, it should be better for bigger screens.

Fast solid-state disks (SSDs) are key to getting good performance out of Ultrabooks, and they need to have a large capacity to make them appropriate for most users. Conventional hard drives are cheaper and hold more information, but they hit the battery harder and affect performance.

So don't wow us with how thin your whiz-bang Ultrabook is, get us worked up with the insanely great battery life, screen resolution, SSD size/speed, and how light it is. Then price it so low we can't pass it up. That's how to set your product apart from the growing Ultrabook crowd.

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Topics: Apple, Hardware

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28 comments
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  • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

    So basically do everything you possibly can to jack the price up, then sell it to us at a loss. Brilliant business logic.
    Aerowind
    • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

      @Aerowind You're making the same argument that people make on tablets about price. As a consumer, I don't care if you make money or not. It is the job of a business to make a product at a price that I find attractive. Macbook air is the market leader, I want a significant advantage on features or price to consider an ultrabook.
      kingcobra23
      • And your desires as a consumer are slave to the laws of physics

        you can want X for price Y all day long, but if physics says "impossible," you will never see it.
        baggins_z
      • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

        @kingcobra23 Couldn't agree more! Not the consumer concern if businesses can't come up with something that can compete on features and price with a Macbook Air.

        @Aerowind You really make no point in your dry critic, that has little to no value. Are you one of the business competing against the Macbook Air perhaps?

        James business logic it's accurate indeed, yours on the are end is rather clueless. You seem to be looking at it from the mere POV of budgeting costs of production vs sales doing so in a vacuum, without considering market implications. I am sorry are you Mr. Jim Balsillie or perhaps Mr. Mike Lazaridis? LOL!

        The only chance for Ultrabooks to get anywhere will be to have better specs than a Macbook Air at a lower price. If businessed will not be able to manage offering something that will convince consumers to consider an Ultrabook over the already established Macbook Air, then guess what those consumer will buy. So it's no surprise that James Kendrick here has made the points he has.

        If you think that Ultrabooks should have the same specs of a Macbook Air and sell for the same (or higher) price, then hardware makers might as well save their pain and avoid an Nth failure.

        Ultrabooks on-par with Macbook Air in features and price, will be already a loss, as they won't be likely to make it at all. We've already learnt that from the tablet wars, where we've seen how well feature and price parity worked against the iPads... that didn't go so well for Xoom and Galaxy, although at least they are are still around... something that can't be said for Touchpads and Playbooks.
        freakqnc
  • There is only one "early ultrabook"

    The Macbook Air, which has been around since 2009. Anyone else getting into it now is not "early."
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

      @rbethell
      By 2009, the HP DMZ was already in their like 3rd iteration and at half the price.
      rengek
      • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

        @rengek And it was a woeful piece of crap, in my experience.
        thetwonkey
    • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

      @rbethell I got my MacBook Pro in 2008 and several of my colleagues had asked if I got the MacBook Air. I believe the year was 2008, but your point is valid. Ok, in 2008 the MacBook Air was thin, but it lacked a lot of things. From 2010, the MacBook Air became what it should have been from the beginning, but the battery life couldn't be had with yesterdays technology.
      ManoaHI
  • It's also about the aspect ratio...

    ...MacBook Air 13" features a high-resolution 16:10 screen, while all the other ultrabooks feature a low resolution 16:9 screen. 16:10 is so much better when working with a screen in the 13" ballpark which of course is ignored by all the PC makers. Also of note is the fact that till date, none of the ultrabooks have a trackpad that is as good as the one on a MacBook Air/Pro, a fact which however small is one of the reasons that prevents me from switching to one of these machines.
    iravgupta
    • The trackpads the bigger deal

      @iravgupta than the thin-ness (although that is nice.) There's nothing worse about being on a laptop than keyboard jumping in a Word Doc, common to most PC track pads, when the palm hits one of the stupid buttons. Just do multitouch, like a Macbook, and that largely goes away.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

        @rbethell Or use Linux. I just need to click a checkbox in KDE to have it ignore the trackpad when there's keyboard activity. You don't need any fancy pad magic or the insanity that is multitouch (I don't want to swirl seven fingers and touch my left nipple to the trackpad to launch an application).
        jgm@...
      • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

        @jgm that fancy magic, in the case of multitouch, would consist of (a) touching the icon and clicking (b) using the resulting launched program.

        And, thanks but no thanks on the Linux, be it KDE, XFCE, JWM, Gnome, Unity or whatever has gone in or out of style this week. I've got OS X. I'm hardly missing anything.
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

      @iravgupta
      Its funny how suddenly ratio matters when an apple product has the higher ratio. But on a tablet 4:3 is perfect because thats what ipad has instead of 16:9 like android tablets.

      I happen to prefer 16:9 ratio. But if I didn't there are plenty of alternatives on windows laptop. I don't want to look like every other apple drone.
      rengek
      • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

        @rengek

        Actually, you're wrong. Aspect ration matters _for both_. What you're doing is an apples-to-oranges comparison, however.

        I get it, I really do. You're just looking for an excuse to show your distain for a certain fruit-flavored company.

        The problem is that reality is getting in the way of your ABA-mentality. You see, Apple employs designers who know that on average... Yes, I don't doubt that you're a unique snowflake and important and all that, but the cold hard is that for _most_ people... 4:3 is the best aspect ration for a device that you will use vertically and in the same way as a piece of paper. (Hint: this is why we use Letter/A4 paper in portrait mode and NOT a landscape oriented Legal.) Widescreen (16:10 or 16:9) is much more efficient for the typical computer/laptop usage.

        I'm sure you're going to spew some BS about how I'm wrong because _you_ prefer 16:9 for everything (possibly because it makes you feel warm and fuzzy) or that there's no difference between tablets and laptops. The catch is: there is a use case difference between Tablets and Laptops no matter how you try to deny it.

        This, I might add, is also why e-book readers typically have a roughly 4:3 Portrait screen layout... and why ones like the Sony Reader Daily Edition 16:9 Portrait don't sell and eventually get dropped.

        I would recommend you do a little research into UI before you try to bash a company for getting UI correct.
        eak2000
      • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

        @eak2000 "You see, Apple employs designers who know that on average... Yes, I don't doubt that you're a unique snowflake and important and all that, but the cold hard is that for _most_ people... 4:3 is the best aspect ration for a device that you will use vertically and in the same way as a piece of paper. "

        The rest of us are getting beyond tired of intelligent people telling us with a straight face that Apple employees somehow know what's best for everyone along with the suggestion that if it's not best for you you're in some fringe minority. We hear this for aspect ratios, we get told that some magic Apple study shows that their phone size IS the only size a phone can be and be able to use it with one hand, etc.

        Fact: TV is widescreen. Movies are widescreen. Tablets are predominantly content consumption devices because of a lack of input peripherals. Video is a major form of content. Thus... widescreen is the best aspect ratio for most users, period. That's also the reason why wide-screen is actually not more efficient for many content creation laptop/desktop uses, despite your claim.
        We do NOT use tablets vertically to watch video, and we certainly don't use them like a piece of paper.

        "This, I might add, is also why e-book readers typically have a roughly 4:3 Portrait screen layout... " Sigh... a book isn't a video, which explains your evidence without the need to resort to magical omnipotent Cupertino people. Also, real books are portrait rather than landscape, which also explains the shape of e-book readers alone without having to resort to magic Apple designers.
        jgm@...
  • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

    So these are good criteria for evaluation. Is CNET/ZDNET/ETC-NET now going to use these criteria to evaluate them as they come out?
    jason.rupe
  • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

    "Those features are battery life, screen resolution (not size), SSDs, and weight".

    Bite your tongue Jim: Screen resolution "and" size are very important depending on the application. Usually (but not always) the two go together. SSD's are nice but price can be critical, more important is dependable storage. If you can get dependability out of a platter hard drive - great.

    I'll go along on the weight and battery life. You can't have too little weight nor too much battery life.

    I drool thinking about what we will have in twenty years.
    shanedr
    • Ah but you can have "too little weight"

      @shanedr .. For to reduce weight they often have to leave something out. It's all a balance of what you put in vs weight and heat.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
  • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

    I looked at the 13" MacBook Air and the 11" and ended up choosing the 11". The screen still looks great, and the computer is so much smaller and lighter. I have no regrets, even with not having an SD card slot.
    datrappert
  • RE: All Ultrabooks are thin, what else have you got?

    Ah, just thin,fancier netbooks, right? I'll keep my faithful Acer until something compelling comes along.
    psion@...