Notebook makers find themselves in a bit of a pickle regarding Intel's Ultrabook initiative. On one hand, lower prices are what will truly drive Ultrabook sales, which is something Intel recognized on Day 1 when it advised notebook makers to stay under a $1,000 ceiling. That's well and good for the consumer, but high manufacturing costs cut into profits when you start dipping below a grand. It might be another year before Ultrabook pricing starts to look truly enticing.
HP jumped into the Ultrabook game with its business-focused Folio 13, but the company's first foray into the consumer field is the product that caught all the buzz at CES. Like every Ultrabook, the super-sleek Envy 14 Spectre sports a Sandy Bridge processor and an SSD, but it also packs a higher display resolution than most of its competitors and Gorilla Glass on, well, pretty much everything. Why are we talking about it a month after CES? Because the Spectre just became available for preorder.
Tax season is upon us, and for many, that means a tax refund is just around the corner. Looking to spend it wisely? A first generation Ultrabook might be just the thing. They're fast, lightweight, still relatively new, and best of all, they're about to come down in price. It might require hunting deal sites to score an Ultrabook on the cheap, but as vendors get ready to roll out second generation models, first generation Ultrabooks will drop in price to clear out inventory and make room for the new stuff.
You’d have to actively be avoiding the tech media over the past several months not to have heard about Ultrabooks. Their coming has garnered a boatload of buzz, fueled in no small part by Intel’s $300 million fund to get hardware and software makers behind the cause.
Ultrabooks are Intel’s answer to the spread of ARM-based tablets—a way to capture the hearts and minds of the masses with an x86-based portable device (of the Intel persuasion, natch). To that end, Ultrabooks are required to meet a few key “desirability” standards. They must be slim, lightweight, have generous battery life, and boot and resume from hibernation in brisk fashion. It’s also understood they should look cool. As Apple products so clearly demonstrate, style sells. And sure enough, Ultrabooks—at least those that have debuted so far—are heartily infused with MacBook Air influence.
So are these new, “cool” devices the next must-have products? Is all the hoopla warranted? We review the first four Ultrabooks to kick off the category. All are 13.3 inch models, but each brings its own brand of hot-newness to the table, with varying degrees of persuasiveness, as you’ll see when you click the jump.
There are two trains of thought in the field of competition. One is 'The best offense is a good defense,' and the other is simply the reverse. Acer plans to implement the latter in 2012 as it goes into attack mode with a barrage of Ultrabooks, laptops, tablet PCs, and smartphones, Acer chairman JT Wang reportedly indicated at the company's ceremony for the Lunar New Year.
Nvidia may give Ultrabooks a major shot in the arm. The GPU maker is reportedly working on a version of Kepler designed specifically for Intel's new form factor for notebooks, which is great news if integrated graphics tend to make you sad. Details are fairly scarce, but the idea of a discrete next-generation GPU nestled inside a slim Ultrabook is certainly an intriguing proposition.
In May 2011, Hewlett-Packard said it hadn't found a "value proposition" in Intel's Thunderbolt (formerly known as Light Peak) interface, and come to find out, Thunderbolt controllers are 10 times more expensive than USB 3.0 chips. Big whoop, HP's stance isn't getting in the way of other system makers jumping on the high-speed interface.
Will this be the year of the Ultrabook? It's certainly looking that way so far. Ultrabooks debuted at the tail end of 2011 and were a predominant theme at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. Whether manufacturers can keep the momentum going remains to be seen, but the expectations are high, particularly at Acer.
The message at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year was loud and clear: Ultrabooks are here to stay. Intel finds itself in similar territory after spearheading the once hugely popular netbook market, and so does AMD, which has a chance to take a mulligan and do things differently this time. AMD waited too long to get into netbook alternatives, and this time around, the Sunnyvale chip maker doesn't want history to repeat itself.
Perhaps 2012 will be the year that solid state drives (SSDs) finally dip to $1 per gigabyte, or even lower depending on how the market plays out. High prices compared to mechanical hard disk drives (HDDs) have prevented SSDs from making a serious run at the mainstream market, but Ultrabooks as gain popularity, the demand for NAND flash memory is growing fast, and that could lead to lower costs.