THE ULTRABOOK IS HERE!
The bulky laptop sheds kilos and gains brain cells. (It's even thinner than the Macbook Air!)
Faced with an onslaught from tablets, which have, for the past couple of years, been eating into the netbook pie whilst successfully wooing a sizeable chunk of mid-level laptop buyers too, PC makers are looking at ways to reinvent their products. Their best bet to sustain consumer interest in laptops is the new range of sleek, slim and superfast Ultrabooks which have started appearing in stores around the world.
The Ultrabook is not actually a technology, but a trademark of Intel, which created the protocols for this new segment. Intel specifies that these devices should be super thin, have ultra-fast start-up, extended battery life and must be security enabled. Most importantly, the devices must have a price tag around $1,000. Since it is a trademark, to be called an Ultrabook these devices will also need to have the new low-power CULV processors from Intel as well as 2nd Generation Intel icore processors. They will have integrated graphics, solid-state drives and unibody designs to hold larger batteries.
They will be different from netbooks for they will be larger—at least 13 inches—and have much better processing power and storage. But like netbooks these too will have no optical or slot drives, and may also be lacking in many ports common in regular laptops. However, they will be a better bet than netbooks, though not a cheaper bet.
“These smart and sleek, ultra-thin devices will increasingly deliver full performance, built-in security and will be ultraresponsive to the needs of the individual. Thanks to their thin, light and sexy designs, they can be welcome lifestyle accessories. With substantially longer battery life and offered at mainstream price points, Intel expects Ultrabook devices to be as transformational for mobile computing especially as the Intel Centrino Mobile technology was more than eight years ago,” says Sandeep Aurora, Director, Marketing, Intel South Asia.
It is a bit too early to write off the netbook, especially since the entry level Ultrabooks will cost almost double that of a high-end netbook. But many companies have already announced that they will start focusing on Ultrabooks in the coming months. But then you don’t need Ultrabooks to kill the netbooks, that task is being done efficiently by the tablets.
While they will try to offer a replacement for mid- and high-end laptops, especially the new affordable Macbook Air, Ultrabooks will have tablets too in their crosshairs. To this effect, the second generation of these sleek devices are expected to sport touchscreens and gesture controls. Intel says that during a research study on the use of touch-enabled applications on an Ultrabook, users found the use of touch on a clamshell design, and the seamless transition between the use of touch applications and the keyboard to be compelling and natural. “The addition of the touch experience will also fuel innovation in the design and shape of future Ultrabook systems, from clamshells and hybrids, to convertibles and other styles likely not yet imagined,” says Aurora.
At least four companies have already brought in their Ultrabooks into the Indian market, with a handful more expected to be available by the middle of this year. Acer was among the first to enter India with its S3, while Lenovo and HP followed with the U300s and Folio 13 respectively. Asus too came in with its Zenbook soon after. The prices range from around 48,000 for the S3 to 89,999 for the Zenbook.
But some say it is wrong to call the Ultrabooks a different segment since none of the manufacturers are strictly sticking to the Intel benchmarks. Experts highlight the fact that while some of these machines have a battery life at the lower end of the scale, others can give up to 10 hours of juice. The price too is pretty much all over the place.
Still the chances are that if you go to buy a laptop this year, you will return home with an Ultrabook.