The best business ultrabook (February 2013 edition)

The best business ultrabook (February 2013 edition)

Summary: There are a number of good, solid ultrabooks aimed at business users, but one stands head and shoulders above the rest.


Who says the PC is dead? There's still considerable interest in Windows-powered PCs, especially in business circles. And today's Hardware 2.0 mailbox question is related to the newest PC form factor—ultrabooks.

What's the best ultrabook for business?

Well, that was simple and straight to the point, as will be my answer. The best ultrabook for business users is the Lenovo ThinkPad T430u.

(Credit: Lenovo)

There's an awful lot to like about the ThinkPad T430u:

  • It's tough.
    Not just tough, very tough. The sturdy aluminum chassis is designed for the rigors of being on the road, and the system has been built to pass eight demanding MilSpec tests.
  • Excellent keyboard.
    The ThinkPad T430u has a well-engineered, well-designed keyboard. The keys are nicely spaced, crisp, and highly responsive. The keyboard makes you feel like you're using a desktop system, not a petite ultrabook. Keyboards have always been a strong point for Lenovo hardware, and the ThinkPad T430u lives up to this expectation.
  • Price.
    Starting at $674, the buying a fleet of these isn’t going to break the bank.
  • Easy access to the guts of the system.
    Simply flip the ThinkPad T430u over, pop the latches, and you have access to the 2.5-inch drive, removable battery, and even wireless card. This allows to easy repairs and upgrade, and means that if you have to send the device in for service, you can keep the drive containing all your precious data.
  • Windows 8 ready.
    The ThinkPad T430u is ready for Microsoft's new operating system, and is equipped with a decent trackpad that's ready to handle multi-touch gestures.

The biggest disappointment with regards to this system is the display. While it's great for business use, the 14-inch 1366 x 768 screen is dull and not up to the challenges of modern multimedia. It's fine for the odd cat video, but the poor contrast means that it's not the sort of screen you'd want to watch a movie on.

However, display aside, the ThinkPad T430u is a fantastic package of features for a price that will surprise as opposed to shock.

Topics: Laptops, Lenovo, Mobility, Windows 8

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  • What is Ultra about the display

    Why do PC makers seem to think that 'business' notebooks including high end Ultra notebooks deserve lower screen resolution than the average smart phone? I purchase Asus UX31 and UX 32 series Ultrabooks because they come with 1600x1050 and full 1080p displays. They are well built (but not tanks), fast, have 7+hrs battery life, light and easy to type on. What's better, you can optionally order one with a 3D graphics accelerator so you don't have to put up with low end Intel embedded graphics if you don't want to.
    • Crap Displays

      Somehow the ipad can deliver a better screen resolution than this ultrabook? Then why would I want to buy it? I'm keeping my ASUS ux31e until I can afford the new ASUS ...
    • Businesses don't care about high end Graphics.

      Ivy Bridge Graphics are more than up most Business needs. With the obvious exception of Graphical Designers and the like, and they all use Macs anyway.
    • Yes, but...

      The UX32 that I am looking at has a screen res of 1366 x 768. I am getting this from the Laptop Direct (UK) site. Not sure where I can find units with the screen res that you are mentioning.

      What I do like about the UX32 is that it is a 13.1" screen and I have been looking for that screen size for a while. It also looks good and does not appear to be too expensive.
    • Obviously...

      This is not a gaming system or designed for high-end computing, then again it is a "BUSINESS" ultrabook. But hey, 720p is just fine for most applications, 1080p would be more for the movies and super-high-end graphics arena.
      My bet is on the Lenovo when considering the ASUS price point is about $200 more at base price without a lot more included other than the 1600x900 display (BTW: that IS NOT FULL HD, output through HDMI support 1080p -- Lenovo has 2 HDMI 3.0 ports for video output) though it does not say if it supports full hd I suspect it does with the 1GB Nvidia Discrete GPU.
      So for that much less I could drop down to 720p for mobile computing needs and go with Lenovo on this one.
  • I agree here...

    Levono (and IBM before them) have always made a tank of a computer. One that, in vendor demonstrations often gets dropped from ~1.5 metres onto the floor, has water poured into its keyboard, and is held by the screen while they flip the computer back and forth. They are simply amazing. Sure, Panasonic makes tougher... but you pay a LOT of money for those. Personally, despite Lenovo's fantastic engineering, I can never bring myself to buy one. The X1 Carbon was the closest I came. There is one very important reason for that, and one businesses look for now as well... style.

    The average Lenovo (except the Carbon to some extent) looks straight out of the early 90s. It's aesthetic is terrible. They may be robust and functional, but no business exec wants to rock up to a meeting with an old-looking, black brick of a computer... especially when the rest of the table is likely filled with other "shiny" devices including Apple's MacBook Air (though I don't consider that a 'business' computer, outside of an Apple-only business).

    No, I am much more fond of the Asus ZenBook and Dell XPS ultrabooks. Both are exceptional-quality devices, wrapped in aluminium, with good displays, at affordable prices. They may not be as tough as the Lenovo, but they are a HEAP better. The HP Envy needs to get a mention here, because it is also pretty good... but I don't really trust HP any longer (certainly not as much as Dell and Asus). Another reasonable choice might be the "dockables" instead of a pure ultrabook... something like the Fujitsu Stylistic Q702... but I don't think that's anywhere near the Dell and XPS in build quality (yet).

    Not sure I could have given the nod to the Lenovo, sorry.
    • looks are purely subjective...

      ... I'm an Apple enthusiast but I also love a quality pc product and do you know who's designs I always gravitate to on the PC side?... Lenovo. And more specifically the think pad line. In a world where EVERYTHING is a sea of silver toned crap made to LOOK like apple products, Thinkpads maintain an individual style from the last truly great era in electronics. To me, it's a stunning example of the "everything old is new again" philosophy.

      Also I have a feeling a business on a tight budget looking for a quality machine is still going to place value and function over style for all but perhaps the highest level executives.
      • Hmmm...

        I see your point, but I think "Indestructible" rather than business. I've seen these things dropped down flights of stairs, jumped on, and anything else you can thing of and they still work... Sure a broken screen once in a while but overall the hardware functions under the worst conditions. With the addition of SSD's and intelligent HDD's this durability factor can only go up. It does weigh 1 pound more than most others but would make a good 4lb weapon if in a bind.
    • I see it differently

      When I see the word "Thinkpad", I immediately remember IBM and it means business to me. So doesn't matter what the notebook looks like, if it's a Thinkpad it means business!

      But please Lenovo, go with good resolutions, who ever though 1366x768 was a good resolution for 14-15" screens? (I've even see that resolution on a 17" Acer!).

      My 4.3" smartphone has a better resolution!
      • Bah...

        My response above was meant for this post....
    • On the other hand...

      ... there is something to be said about durability and repairability with Thinkpads.

      I recently sent a hand-me-down Thinkpad T30 (circa 2002 vintage) to my in-laws, still working. This after sending for recycling a working Thinkpad 600E that got the "this old hammer" treatment - replaced keyboard, screen, etc. from damage my kids inflicted. Still have a working T42, T60 and T400 - the last still running decently quick with Ubuntu... and faster in some respects than my second-generation Macbook Air despite still using a spinning HD.

      Sure, these laptops won't win any beauty contests, but there's something to be said for taking a beating and still running when you need them. IMHO, you can't beat them - short of dedicated models like Panasonic's Toughbooks (which I've used, too).
  • No way...Carbon Touch all the way

    I just bought the Carbon Touch and it is by far the best Windows 8 Ultrabook on the market. 8GB RAM, 240GB HDD (256 was delayed), i7, and touch, touch, touch. This is a developers machine and at 3.4 lbs it's awesome. It's a slick machine. My only complaint is the hazy, screen protector they put over the touch screen. But even with that, it's the king of the hill.
    • Agreed!

      But the Carbon is very expensive! Nevertheless, its also eminently drool-worthy!
    • Yeah...

      For TWICE the money!
  • Ultrabook?

    I am unclear how a PC with a weight "Starting at 4.08 lbs" qualifies as an Ultrabook? It may be marketed as such but that doesn't make it so. It's heavier than a 13" MBP Retina - albeit a lot cheaper.
    It is a laptop. A good one? Sure I will concur but despite the specs and price it doesn't qualify as an Ultrabook for me.
    • You do realize...

      Companies just make this shit up to catch attention right? Ultrabook, touchpad, Thinbook, eBook, PalmPilot.... It is all meaningless and has everything to do with marketing something that simply sounds different so it seems different.
      Like the iPad Mini, why didn't they just call it an iPhone Macro? or a iHand PC or some other crap? Marketing, everyone drools over the "iPad" namesake. Gaming does it also, look at Call of Duty, one of the worst FPS's of technology (nice game, crappy implementation) yet it sells tens of millions of copies because of the orignal namesake "Call of Duty". Any gamer would know Battlfield 3 or others are simply years ahead in gaming graphics and design yet they stick with the same old stuff because they are making money hand over fist.
      To the point, Marketing, marketing, marketing... Maybe I should make a MainFrame Mini, most people would identify it as a Desktop PC but I would call it something different because it catches attention.

      But I am curious, what "IS" the difference between an Ultrabook, eBook, eReader, iPad Mini, Tablet PC, and a Laptop? Can ANYONE honestly answer this without being overly redundant?
  • Ultrabook: Another Failure

    Lenovo ThinkPad T430u is a lousy configuration to lure customers in with barebone configuration for $674. Customers end up to pay more and more. If Lenovo and Dell keep using this tactic, you will drive customers away.
    I keep sharing with people who willing to listen: You must understand customers and current economic conditions. Ultrabook will end up like netbook: boring, expensive, and nothing significant. It is not just hardware. Intel needs to build a solid ecosystems for the next generation laptops, computers, and servers with applications and reasonable costs. Microsoft has not done much lately.
    ARM Holdings and its worldwide partners are working hard to earn heart and mind from their customers.