Unlike many an Ultrabook, there’s no mistaking this one for a MacBook Air, or even an Air wannabe. Staying true to the venerable ThinkPad brand, the X1 Carbon is matte-black through and through, and clad in that distinct rubberized coating that feels nice to the touch, won’t easily slip from your grip, and remains blessedly free of fingerprints. It looks every bit the business companion it’s intended to be. In fact, the X1 Carbon looks a lot like the ThinkPad X1 we reviewed last year (bit.ly/lEdkj4). But it’s grown from 13 inches to 14 inches, and its body has been flattened to Ultrabook standards, measuring just .71 inches at its thickest. Its lap weight, by the way, comes in just under three pounds.
Can a ThinkPad be sexy? When you’re talking about the slender and sleek X1 Carbon, it sure can.
We’ve been so inundated with Ultrabooks these days that we almost forgot how powerful, and hulking, a full-on gaming notebook can be. MSI’s GT60 arrived in our Lab to remind us. At 15.6 inches, the GT60 is not the biggest of the big, but it’s a beast nonetheless with a 15.5x10.5x2-inch body and a 10-pound carry weight.
The keyboard’s multicolored backlighting is customizable via a software control panel.
When Asus’s Zenbook UX31E debuted last year, it seemed to almost single-handedly put Ultrabooks on the map. Its intriguing mix of good looks, performance, and price convinced many a skeptic, us included, that PCs could compete with the likes of Apple’s vaunted MacBook Air—at a price that catered to common folk.
The UX32Vd comes with a protective sleeve, as well as a small pouch for carrying two connector dongles: one USB-to-Ethernet, one Mini-VGA-to-VGA.
Origin PC’s Eon11-S isn’t the first 11.6-inch gaming notebook to come knocking—Alienware kicked off the category in 2010 with its small-but-mighty M11x. But times have changed since the M11x’s debut, hardware and thermals have advanced, and thus Origin’s Eon11-S is no less impressive an accomplishment. Packed into the 11.2x8.1x1.4‑inch chassis are an Ivy Bridge Core i7-3720QM quad-core processor and a GeForce GT 650M GPU. They’re joined by a 256GB SSD in the standard 2.5-inch trim and 8GB of DDR3/1333 RAM across two slot‑driven SO-DIMMs. Incidentally, all the innards are accessible via a bottom panel that pops off with ease, making future upgrades possible.
The Eon11-S comes in either a “Traditional” design, with a simple matte-black textured lid, or this “A-Panel” design, in either matte red or black, for the same price.
As we learned with the Acer Timeline M3 we reviewed last month, Ultrabooks are not only growing in number, but in size. That’s the case with Samsung’s new Series 9, which comes in both 13.3- and 15-inch flavors. We took the latter for a spin to see how a larger footprint impacts the overall experience.
The Series 9 comes with support for Intel’s Wireless Display, so you can wirelessly stream 1080p content to a larger HDTV or monitor, provided you pony up $100 or so for the necessary adapter.
WHEN LOOKING FOR a tagline that will easily sell a boatload of Acer Timeline M3 notebooks, it doesn’t take much more than: “an ultrabook that will play Battlefield 3 on Ultra setting.” And it’s true, too.
The Timeline M3 will indeed play BF3 on Ultra, provided you’re comfortable with 30 frames per second. That dips a bit below our thresholds for a shooter. We preferred playing Battlefield 3 on High, which gave us 50–60fps in online play. Granted, we were only playing at the 1366x768 native resolution of the machine’s 15.6-inch panel, but that’s pretty good for a so-called ultrabook.
We say so-called ultrabook because even though it’s within the very loose parameters set by Intel, a lot of people who encounter the Timeline M3 aren’t going to think this widescreen notebook is an ultrabook. Most people equate ultrabooks with PC clones of a MacBook Air. But the definition is broader. Ultrabooks must be within a certain height, run a certain proc, reach a certain battery life rating, and come out of hibernation in a certain amount of time. The Timeline is wide—just shy of 15 inches across—so wide that it has enough space for an optical drive. There’s even room in the Timeline to sport a 7mm, 2.5‑inch drive bay. Acer doesn’t use the bay, though, instead opting for a teeny-but-fast SATA 6Gb/s Lite-On SSD in mSATA trim. Storage hogs hoping to use both bays will be heartbroken—installing a drive in the 2.5-inch bay turned off the mSATA drive.
Dell’s XPS 13 certainly isn’t wanting for style. Sporting a slick wedge profile that measures .24–.71 inches front to back, the XPS 13 is all matte-silver, machined aluminum up top, with a carbon fiber base. A soft-touch surface on the bottom makes the device easy to grip and two rubber “feet” that run horizontally along the underside will surely hold it in place on any surface and promote airflow. Dell even took care to construct a thin metal door on the XPS 13’s underside to hide the Windows certificate of authenticity sticker and sundry other unsightly logos.
An embedded magnet keeps the lid securely attached to the base when the laptop is closed, but opening it can be a challenge—it’s a two-handed affair. Inside, the XPS 13 continues its logo-free theme (save for the “XPS” on the screen bezel). The black, soft-touch palm rest is void of third-party branding. It’s kept company by a black magnesium clickpad and a shiny black island keyboard, which is backlit. The screen consists of edge-to-edge Gorilla glass. As with the HP Folio 13, it’s 13.3 inches with a 1366x768 resolution. The TN panel displays all the typical weakness—move your head or the screen beyond the narrow sweet spot and see contrast and colors diminished.
While HP’s Folio 13 is sized similarly to the other ultrabooks we’ve tested, sporting a 13.3‑inch screen and measuring 12.54x8.67x.7 inches, it’s a bit heavier than the others, but not by much. With a lap weight of 3 pounds, 4.8 ounces, it’s 3.7 ounces heavier than the Asus Zenbook, although its battery is nearly twice the size and weight of the latter’s.
Aesthetically, the Folio 13 is pleasing. The lid, keyboard deck, and palm rest are all brushed aluminum. Screen bezel, trackpad, and keyboard are black, as is the Folio’s underside, which sports a rubberized finish that makes the laptop nicely grippable. In all, it’s a handsome and well-contructed device.
The Folio 13’s port selection is comparatively generous for this class. Ethernet, full-size HDMI, and a media reader are all welcome inclusions, and one of the two USB ports is a 3.0 variety, although the driver for the Fresco Logic USB 3.0 controller wasn’t installed in our model (d’oh!). When it was, performance for the port was in line with expectations, giving us reads and writes to an external USB 3.0 drive of 217.7MB/s and 184.4MB/s, respectively.
IT MIGHT SEEM like ultrabooks have overtaken the laptop landscape, what with all the attention they’ve received lately in the press and at CES, but there are still plenty of folks who prefer a more substantial laptop for general-purpose computing. These are the folks Samsung’s Series 7 Chronos is aimed at.
Like its ultrabook brethren, which inevitably draw comparisons to the MacBook Air, the Chronos bears a strong resemblance to an Apple product: the MacBook Pro. The 15.6-inch laptop is just shy of an inch thick; its lid, display bezel, and palm rest are all made of silver brushed aluminum; the island keyboard is backlit; and it features a large, 4.2x3-inch glass touchpad with integrated right and left buttons. The Chronos is not the paragon of industrial engineering that Apple is known for (the edges and bottom of the rig, for example, are made of plastic), but it has an attractive, refined aesthetic and its build quality feels solid.
The Chronos also costs a lot less than a comparably equipped MacBook Pro. The model we reviewed, sporting a 2.2GHz Core i7-2675QM processor, 8GB of DDR3/1333, an AMD Radeon 6750M GPU, and a 750GB 7,200rpm hard drive (plus an 8GB iSSD for fast boot and app loading), is fully $500 cheaper than the closest 15-inch MacBook Pro—and that model is limited to 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 5,400rpm drive, and a 1440x900 display (vs. the Chronos’s 1600x900). It’s a no-brainer if you’re into value.
WE REVIEWED Eurocom’s top-of-the-line mobile workstation, the Panther 2.0, in our June 2011 issue. That high-end behemoth weighed more than 15 pounds and cost upward of $5,000, but it sported a desktop Core i7-980X CPU and a pair of Radeon HD 6970s in CrossFire. This time around we’re taking a look at the company’s lighter-weight mobile workstation, the Neptune 3D.
While also billed as a high-end desktop-replacement, the Neptune 3D is far more modest than its beefy big brother. It’s based on a mobile Sandy Bridge CPU (Intel’s Core i7-2760QM) and a single mobile GPU (Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580M). The Neptune 3D weighs less than nine pounds, but its defining feature is its 17.3-inch, 120Hz, 3D display.