Get the skinny on Mac­book Air’s new ri­vals.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

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.’’

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