HWM (Malaysia) - - FEATURE -

2015 was an ex­cit­ing year for note­books, we saw not just one, but two new CPU ar­chi­tec­tures. Well, to be en­tirely ac­cu­rate, the first Broad­well CPUs were launched late in 2014 in the form of In­tel’s new Core M pro­ces­sors. But it was only in 2015 that In­tel fi­nally un­veiled the bulk of its Broad­well pro­ces­sors, which found its way into many note­books.

Broad­well was no­table be­cause it was a die shrink of the pre­ced­ing Haswell ar­chi­tec­ture. It mainly brought about im­proved graph­ics per­for­mance and much bet­ter power and ther­mal char­ac­ter­is­tics, which meant note­books had longer bat­tery lives and note­book man­u­fac­tur­ers could build slim­mer note­books. And there was cer­tainly no short­age of su­per-slim and compact note­books in 2015.

Pow­ered by the Core M pro­ces­sors, 2015 saw two ul­tra­porta­bles in the form of ASUS’ ex­cel­lent Trans­former Book T300 Chi and Ap­ple’s MacBook. The Trans­former Book T300 Chi is a de­tach­able note­book with a tablet dis­play that’s a mere 7.6mm - just about as thick as a first gen­er­a­tion iPad Air. The MacBook, on the other hand, is a 12-inch su­per-slim note­book that mea­sures 13.2mm at its thick­est point be­fore ta­per­ing down to just 3.5mm at the op­po­site end. It also weighs a scant 920g.

Broad­well also gave us ex­tremely com­pe­tent all-rounder note­books like Dell’s stun­ning XPS 13. The in­cred­i­bly slim dis­play bezel and ul­tra-sharp dis­play aside, the XPS 13’s is also im­mensely compact, tak­ing up as much as 20% less foot­print than com­pa­ra­ble 13-inch ma­chines. And yet in do­ing so, it sac­ri­ficed no per­for­mance and was one of the strong­est all­round note­books that we tested in 2015.

Apart from In­tel, NVIDIA also con­trib­uted im­mensely to the growth of note­books in 2015. Ear­lier this year, it launched its se­cond wave of Maxwell mo­bile GPUs, such as the GeForce GTX 950M, GTX 960M and GTX 965M. Th­ese midrange mo­bile GPUs soon found their way into many en­ter­tain­ment note­books, and even slim gam­ing note­books.

The Zen­Book Pro UX501, is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple. It was a 15-inch note­book that mea­sured just 21.3mm thick and weighed 2.27kg. How­ever, it packed an ul­tra-high res­o­lu­tion 4K dis­play, thanks to it hav­ing an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M. For gamers, the AORUS X5 is one of the most compact and pow­er­ful gam­ing note­books in the mar­ket to­day. Thanks to its twin GeForce GTX 965M GPUs in SLI, it was only 23mm thick and weighed just 2.5kg. Its per­for­mance, how­ever, could eas­ily ri­val that of larger, heav­ier 17-inch gam­ing note­books.

If you thought all of th­ese were im­pres­sive, the se­cond half of the 2015 saw In­tel fol­low up with its new Sky­lake ar­chi­tec­ture. In keep­ing with the zeit­geist of the times, In­tel rec­og­nized the im­por­tance of mo­bile and fo­cused on im­prov­ing their chips’ power ef­fi­ciency and ther­mal char­ac­ter­is­tics.

The new Sky­lake pro­ces­sors can throt­tle be­tween its var­i­ous P-states more ef­fec­tively, al­low­ing for greater power sav­ings over time. And some of them also have low rated TDPs as com­pared to the mod­els that they re­placed. To­gether with the sup­port for more power-ef­fi­cient DDR4 mem­ory, th­ese note­books will pro­vide longer bat­tery lives than their Broad­well coun­ter­parts.

And it’s thanks to th­ese Sky­lake pro­ces­sors that Mi­crosoft could re­lease the dou­ble whammy that is the new Sur­face Pro 4 and Sur­face Book. The Sur­face Book, in par­tic­u­lar, is a breath of fresh air in the note­book space and is so note­wor­thy and spe­cial that we just can’t wait for it to ar­rive. Of course, the Sur­face Pro 4 is no slouch ei­ther. It im­proves on its pre­de­ces­sor in ev­ery way. De­spite be­ing more pow­er­ful, the Sur­face Pro 4 is both thin­ner and lighter than the Sur­face Pro 3.

All things con­sid­ered, it has been a fan­tas­tic year for note­books. Hy­brid and de­tach­able note­books, which were once con­sid­ered gim­micky, have re­ally come into their own and are a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to tra­di­tional note­books. Tra­di­tional note­books, on the other hand, have never been bet­ter de­signed and well­rounded. If any­thing, 2015 was the year that note­books re­ally rein­vented them­selves, and proof that you can in­deed teach an old dog new tricks.

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