AMD earlier this week announced the launch of its latest E-Series accelerated processing unit (APU) platform designed for thin and light notebooks to go up against Intel's Ultrabook initiative, but there are some key differences that AMD wants you to be aware of. For one, AMD believes Intel has set forth too many rules for its Ultrabook platform, ultimately causing the devices to cost more than they should.
It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when you're Apple, a company that thrives on form just as much as it does on function, there's nothing flattering about other companies designing products that look even remotely like existing iDevices. And make no mistake, today's Ultrabooks share design DNA with Apple's MacBook Air, DNA Apple doesn't want anyone else using, so the Cupertino company went out and snagged a broad patent for the MBA's wedge shaped design.
Announced along with a bunch of other Ultrabooks and “Sleekbooks” at HP's Global Influencer Summit in Shanghai last month, the HP Envy Spectre XT is now up for pre-order. The 13.3-incher, which HP likes to think of as an “ultramobile premium Ultrabook,” tips the scales at 3.07 lbs and measures 12.44 x 8.8 x 0.69 inches.
Toshiba is one of the many companies using the Computex convention to unveil new Ultrabook models, and is hitting the form factor hard with two new models from the the company's freshly minted Satellite U Series, along with a sweet upgrade to its existing Portégé Z, which will now come equipped with 3rd Generation Intel Core processors (Ivy Bridge). One of the new Ultrabooks -- the Satellite U845W -- also happens to be the world's first to feature a 21:9 cinematic display, Toshiba claims.
The very last thing in the world students heading out into summer vacation want to think about right now is the fact they'll have to go back to school in a few months. Parents, however, know the back-to-school season is coming, and they're the ones Dell is pitching its "tailored line-up of Inspiron laptops" to, including Dell's first Inspiron Ultrabook model, the 14z.
Showing up fashionably late to the Ultrabook party is Sony, which is just now unveiling its first Vaio model in Intel's high-performance, ultraportable category of laptops. The Vaio T, as it's called, is a 13.3-inch Ultrabook with a flat brushed aluminum design and magnesium chassis. Sony also unveiled a number of other Vaio notebook models, but let's take a closer look at the Vaio T before moving on.
Shakespeare's Juliet famously said "that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," which is good news for AMD, seeing as how the Sunnyvale chip maker isn't allowed to call its own thin and light notebooks 'Ultrabooks,' a term Intel created for a new generation of laptops that follow specific design guidelines, one of them obviously being the use of Intel processors. There's nothing stopping AMD from promoting its own equivalent, but Intel may have a trump card.
Someone must have handed Gigabyte the gauntlet, which the Taiwanese hardware manufacturer plans to throw down in the Ultrabook category with a new thin and light model constructed entirely of carbon fiber. Gigabyte's upcoming X11 laptop is supposedly the lightest Ultrabook this planet has ever seen, barely budging the scale at 975g (about 2.1 pounds) and measuring 0.3cm (about 0.12 inches) at its thinnest point.
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.