Get the skinny on Macbook Air’s new rivals.
LAPTOPS are going on a diet.
A new breed of portable computer is emerging that promises ‘‘ uncompromised’’ computing in a slender form, rapid operation and extended battery life.
Spearheaded by Intel and its $ 300 million investment, this new breed is called the ultrabook and it not only promises to challenge Apple’s posterchild for slim laptops, the MacBook Air, but all full-size laptops.
In fact, Intel is so convinced of the ultrabook’s future popularity it predicts 40 per cent of all laptops will be ultrabooks by next year.
Four big-name computer makers have already signed to produce skinny laptops under Intel’s Ultrabook trademark, including Toshiba, ASUS and Lenovo.
But Acer became the first to show an ultrabook in Australia recently after it unveiled the Aspire A3.
The 13-inch laptop is 13mm thin, weighs a mere 1.35kg and fulfils ultrabook requirements by offering up to seven hours of battery life, and a resumption time of 1.5 seconds.
Oceania managing director Charles Chung says Acer released the new style of machine to convince existing laptop owners to upgrade their two or three-year-old machines.
‘‘ They have been holding on to their machines and haven’t really had a reason to upgrade until now,’’ he says.
Acer product group director Nigel Gore says the ultrabook’s thin form will also appeal to potential tablet buyers who need to create content on the go – something he says is impractical on a tablet’s touchscreen.
‘‘ The tablet did something for people and that was they realised they could get a device to view in terms of content consumption, but as soon as it came to content creation it fell short,’’ Gore says.
‘‘ This will leave off from where tablets started. You cannot create a Word document or a PowerPoint display on a tablet device as you can do with an ultrabook.’’
The Acer Aspire A3 will be joined by Toshiba’s Portege Z830 ultrabook later this year.
It was unveiled at the Berlin IFA electronics show recently. The company’s first ultrabook will weigh 1.12kg, making it 20 per cent lighter than its last ‘‘ ultraportable’’ computer.
Intel Australia marketing director Kate Burleigh says the new laptop category was made possible by engineering breakthroughs and new processors that use less power and create less heat.
But she says increasing interest in tablet computers would also help push sales of the sleeker, lighter notebooks that mirrored their size and heft.
‘‘ The idea is that it’s a tablet when you want it to be and a notebook when you need it,’’ Burleigh says.
‘‘ The Australian market is a very mature computing market so we expect ultrabooks to be big here.’’
To meet Intel’s ultrabook definition computers must be no more than 2.1cm thick, must wake in less than seven seconds and they must offer five hours or more of battery life.
Burleigh says all three promises can be delivered ‘‘ with no compromise’’ from a traditional laptop by using second generation Core i3, i5 and i7 chips and flash-based memory drives that add speed but little bulk. But both of these components come at a cost and suggestions that ultrabooks may significantly undercut Apple’s thin laptop are so far proving false.
Acer’s first ultrabook will cost between $ 1199 and $ 1999 when it is released next month, $ 100 more than the 11-inch Air’s starting price and reaching beyond the top-tier price of a 13-inch Air.
With laptop sales and prices diving, however, the ultrabook may be seen as a potential saviour for the industry.
‘‘ This market is so dynamic,’’ Gore says.
‘‘ This is definitely going to see users’ perceptions around notebooks change.
‘‘ It’s going to challenge the idea that you have to carry something heavy to have a powerful unit.
‘‘ This is the first model we’re bringing to market but it will not be our last model.’’