Ul­tra­book vs note­book vs net­book

Be­fore we dive into the ac­tual 30+ re­views or even at­tempt to give you any buy­ing ad­vice, it’s es­sen­tial to first clear the air of all the con­fu­sion over ul­tra­books, note­books and net­books, and how they’re dif­fer­ent from each other.

PCQuest - - COVERSTORY - - Abhijit Ahaskar, Rahul Ku­mar and Jayanta Ghose

Ul­tra­book is a term coined by In­tel for note­books based on cer­tain pre-de­fined spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Broadly, these spec­i­fi­ca­tions re­quire that the ul­tra­book should re­duce its bulk with­out com­pro­mis­ing on per­for­mance or bat­tery life. So, the height of ul­tra­books with 13-inch dis­plays shouldn’t ex­ceed 18 mm, while the 14-inch ones should limit it to 21 mm. The bat­tery backup should be more than 5 hours and it should wake up from hi­ber­na­tion in 7 sec­onds or less. They should be based on In­tel’s lat­est low volt­age mi­cro­pro­ces­sors, co­de­named Sandy­bridge and Ivy­bridge. Plus, they should sup­port some se­cu­rity fea­tures like In­tel’s Anti-theft and iden­tity pro­tec­tion tech­nol­ogy.


An ul­tra-book is best un­der­stood as a prop­erty or an ob­ject. In­tel’s ul­tra-book is a prop­erty built by In­tel whereas, the ob­ject ul­tra-book is just any ul­tra-slim note­book like Macbook Air, or note­books based on AMD’s Trin­ity, the chip gi­ant’s sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, A-Se­ries of APUs. See­ing all the ac­tion in ul­traslim lap­tops, AMD in­tro­duced two of its Trin­ity APUs specif­i­cally for this ul­tra­thin seg­ment, viz. the dual-core A6-4455M and quad-core A10-4655M. Such prod­ucts would be thin and light, but they’re not la­belled as ul­tra­books. Ir­re­spec­tive of what they’re called, the good thing is that they’ve changed the look and feel of note­books al­to­gether, and we’re hop­ing that over time, economies of scale will take over, and a lot more note­books will have sim­i­lar spec­i­fi­ca­tions as ul­tra­books.


Ul­tra-books are sturdy and com­pact and most of them boast of uni-metal body made from light weight al­loys of alu­minium, mag­ne­sium or some car­bon fi­bre. They are crafted on low-power pro­ces­sors with 32 and 22 nm mi­croar­chi­tec­ture from In­tel; as a re­sult they of­fer bat­tery back-up of upto 9 hours. Ports are im­por­tant in any com­puter, but un­for­tu­nately the slim edges of ul­tra-books make note­book like con­nec­tiv­ity a dis­tant dream. All you can see on an ul­tra-book are a few USB ports, an Eth­er­net port, a mic and an au­dio jack. Ul­tra-books are crammed for space and a full-key­board ul­tra-book is still a rar­ity, though back­lit keys mostly found in high-end note­books, is a com­mon fea­ture in ul­tra­books.


For now, ul­tra-books seem to be on the right track but then net­books had raised high ex­pec­ta­tions too. A di­rect

com­par­i­son be­tween a net­book and an ul­tra-book leaves the for­mer nowhere in the pic­ture as they are not just shod­dily built but also lack the strength of ul­tra-books. They were mostly based on In­tel’s Atom pro­ces­sors and had much smaller 10-12 inch screens which made them un­suit­able for rig­or­ous tasks such as gam­ing or mul­ti­task­ing. The tiny key­board was dy­ing for space and the eyes had to be strained not just to see the screen but also to find the right keys. Some hope floated in their long bat­tery back-up and af­ford­able prices but the lack of en­thu­si­asm on the mak­ers’ part, killed even that. Net­books are now in vir­tual obliv­ion and you can see some ob­so­lete units in some re­tail out­lets at Nehru Place in New Delhi.


We all love our note-books. Even the sim­plest model will give no cause for com­plaint. Then how and why is the ul­tra-book a threat? Ul­tra-books can make your dear note­book look ugly with their slim­ness, pow­er­ful Core i7 pro­ces­sors and mem­ory of upto 6 GB. Ac­tu­ally, it is an evo­lu­tion for note­books-from a no­tion of thick and heavy porta­bil­ity to one of ul­tra-light and slim porta­bil­ity. Ne­an­derthals evolved to Homo sapi­ens and life saw not just im­prove­ment but also ad­vance­ments. Ul­tra­books have done just that to note­books. But who re­ally needs them? What kind of peo­ple are they meant for? We’ll find out in the next story.

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