Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

Summary: Intel may be introducing confusion with consumers over the Ultrabook designation.

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What is an Ultrabook? After watching the endless coverage of the CES and seeing dozens of them unveiled you would think it would be clear, but it's anything but that. Thin, light notebooks are Ultrabooks, right? Thin, light notebooks with solid-state drives for performance are Ultrabooks, right? Thin, light notebooks with SSDs and long battery life are Ultrabooks, right? The correct answer is: it depends on who you ask.

Take the Samsung Series 9 "Ultrabook" that made my top pick of those debuting at the CES. According to Samsung it is not an Ultrabook. The cheaper, slightly thicker Series 5 that Samsung also rolled out at the CES is an Ultrabook. Take a look at the pictures above and see if you can spot what makes one of them an Ultrabook and the other not. Not so easy, is it? Apparently the Series 9 is thinner and lighter, and because it is a better notebook is costs more. That's enough to knock it off the Ultrabook pedestal according to Samsung.

When Intel made up the Ultrabook term, it used $1,000 as the mark for OEMs to hit to fit the designation. Unfortunately that price point is only just now getting hit by OEMs, so it's kind of arbitrary if a notebook is a genuine Ultrabook or not.

The price point is not a hard and fast criterion anyway, as some notebooks that sell for more than $1,000 are still being marketed by the OEM as Ultrabooks. The Lenovo IdeaPad U300s I reviewed (left) sells for almost $1,600 in its top configuration and is still an Ultrabook. It's almost $1,200 in its low-end configuration so it's not even close to hitting Intel's criteria. But it is still an Ultrabook according to Lenovo.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U260 (orange laptop, right) is almost as thin and light as the U300s, and is a fair bit cheaper. It's not an Ultrabook, however, even though similarly configured to the one that is. A bit confusing indeed.

Another criterion that Intel designated for Ultrabooks is the use of an SSD for performance and battery life gains. Apparently that's not a hard criteria either as some Ultrabooks shown off at CES are using conventional spinning HDDs to keep the cost down. Others are using HDDs with flash cache (hybrids) for the same reason. Using HDDs flies in the face of two primary criteria for Ultrabooks according to Intel, battery life and system performance. It makes you wonder if OEMs start calling thick and heavy laptops Ultrabooks, what will Intel do?

It seems that none of the criteria, other than thin and light, are really required to determine what is an Ultrabook and what isn't. It's also apparent that Intel is leaving it up to the OEMs to choose to market products as Ultrabooks or not. I predict we will have a confused bunch of consumers before too long as it becomes evident the Ultrabook designation doesn't really mean anything. Even worse, if OEMs start saving the Ultrabook designation for their cheap laptops and leaving it off their good thin and lights, it's going to get a negative image in the marketplace.

Image credit: Samsung; CNET Sarah Tew

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Topics: Tablets, Intel, Laptops, Samsung, CES

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124 comments
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  • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

    Centrino.

    Enough said.
    wendellgee2
    • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

      @wendellgee@... Exactly!
      m4nc1n1
    • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

      "It seems that none of the criteria, other than thin and light, are really required to determine what is an Ultrabook and what isn???t."

      Isn't that enough? As soon as you start mentioning SSDs etc..., you start confusing most people. Personally I'd prefer an ultrabook with regular HDD. SSDs simply don't have enough storage and laptops are my main computer nowadays. I did away with the need for a desktop along time ago.
      bradavon
  • whatever the title

    Who cares about the title? Will take a look at CPU, RAM and Hard drive and then the weight and thickness.
    wmac1
    • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

      @wmac1
      I'd add price to the list. ;)
      Jean-Pierre-
    • Yes, and others will look at weight and thickness first but, in the end ...

      @wmac1 ... if they have to pay $1,000 or more for what they want, they will usually buy the MacBook Air.
      M Wagner
      • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

        @mwagner@... The point of these is that they are UNDER 1000. The bottom end is currently 799 and falling rapidly. By the end of the year there will be sub 600 dollar ones with core i5... half the cost of air. These will sell simply on price coupled with our economy. The number of people that can afford apple isn't endless, and the 1st place OS on the planet is due for a refresh this year.
        thtechnologist
      • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

        @mwagner@...

        People that wan't a light fast notebook with Win 7 wouldn't bother with the MBA.
        hopp64
      • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

        @mwagner@...

        Uh, so your argument is that Apple is cheap? They're catering to the price conscious? They don't have what people want, but they're only $1k(BS! They run way more expensive than that!) so people will go to the bottom for price. Sad, but probably true.
        tkejlboom
      • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

        @thtechnologist - it's taken an Intel R&D fund to artificially drop the price of "Ultrabooks", and PC brands are still not making the kind of profit per unit that Apple is. The only way that PC brands are going to be able to drop prices further is either A) Intel gives them more money, B) Intel drops the price of the chipsets that go into Ultrabooks, or C) PC makers start skimping on capabilities (USB3 can only do so much since it's extremely outclassed by Thunderbolt).

        @hopp64 - people that don't want a MacBook generally buy a much less expensive HP, Dell, Lenovo, or something that isn't light, fast, and cased in aluminum or some other metal.

        @tkejiboom - you must not have looked at Apple's prices lately. MBA starts at $1000.
        Champ_Kind
      • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

        @Champ_Kind

        Hmm... My Lenovo Y560 meets two of the criteria. It's quite light, and fast as well. As for being cased in metal, aluminum doesn't really provide much more protection than well-designed (engineered? molded? not sure of the right word for this) plastics.

        Magnesium alloy's on a whole different level... and the Thinkpad X220 is cased in the stuff. So, yes, people who don't want Macbooks do have faster alternatives which are cased in metal and are light.
        spacespeed
    • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

      @wmac1 If you have ever used a MacBook Air then you would probably put weight and thickness first. I bought an Air and now I rarely use my more powerful MacBook Pro.
      esummers78
      • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

        @esummers78 Yeah as my age I don't have time to bother with something that's a compromise just to save a few $. I bought my Air last year just before the released the latest version and it's been awesome. It works perfectly and seems to have a charge for most of the day. I use it for most things at work now and my work issued laptop has become my desktop. I carry this thing around everywhere like a cell phone
        simon_nyc
      • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

        @esummers78 My 11" MacBook Air is the best computer I have ever used PERIOD. And I've been using all sorts of PCs since the early 1980s.
        datrappert
    • Retail buyers

      @wmac1
      Individual consumers, as opposed to IT pros, will look at labels to make decisions more often then looking "under the hood". Similar to the way a lot of people only buy Chevy, or Ford despite the fact that if what they want is reliability they should at least consider Honda and Toyota.
      use_what_works_4_U
      • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

        @macadam

        In fairness, Chevy and Ford have made huge leaps forward in the last 2 years. Ford has increased their power per liter of displacement by 100% in the last 3 years. How did they do that? Still, it only makes them comparable to Honda, but it makes you wonder what is in the works for next year.
        tkejlboom
    • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

      @wmac1 The better thing to look at will be the price point which at over $1k most will likely buy a Mac and use Bootcamp as the Apple units have great resale value and Wintel is worthless a year after you buy. And what is considered thin and light enough? My EEE E-350 weighs only 3 pounds and gets 6 hours plus playing 720p, would that be considered an ultrabook? To me the whole ultrabook thing stinks of failure, its too high, its confusing, there are no real standards.
      PC builder
  • Sounds like Intel...

    ...needs to require certification. If a laptop has features X, Y, and Z you can call it an Ultrabook and we'll kick back ad dollars. If not, we won't.

    Should clear things up *yesterday*. :)
    wolf_z
    • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

      @wolf_z Hey! Quit confusing crApple with Intel :|
      MrElectrifyer
  • RE: Ultrabook is going to confuse buyers

    Who cares what it is called if it does what you want and you like it?
    Ididar