Ultrabooks are here! These super slim but powerful computers are starting to trickle in – it’s a shame they missed the back-to-school buying seasons, however they are just in time for Christmas. Asus offers the UX21 and UX31 systems in 11″ and 13″ sizes, respectively. The hands on reviews are all here:
Unfortunately, if you bought a Windows PC for the back-to-school season, you will miss the new “ultrabooks” which are coming in October and November. Ultrabooks are a concept pioneered by Intel and are being created to combat the Macbook Air’s key features and, most importantly, pricepoint. When the original Macbook Air came out in 2009, it was one of the most expensive Macbooks around – it’s thin design, low power use and speed SSD drives were out of reach for the average customer. Last year, when the Air was refreshed, it came at a juicy $1000 price tag – and sales boomed.
The Ultrabook concept mimics the super-thin design of the Macbook Air and promises a sub-$1000 pricepoint. Various models have been announced already and more are on the way. Most are THINNER than the Macbook Air.
It took long enough, but there are finally some Windows-based competitors to the revised Macbook Air. This Samsung 9 series laptop is actually thinner and lighter than the Air, but only by very slight differences. Unfortunately it only comes in 13″ version, so there is no competitor to the 11″ Air yet.
Specs look good, with a much more powerful CPU than the Macbook Air and includes 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD.
About a month ago, I bought my first Mac – a Macbook Air 11. Here are my impressions:
The hardware of the Mac is top-notch and cannot be beat. Like for phones, I choose my laptops based on portability and form-factor first and being thin and light is one of the biggest features I look for. My previous laptop, a Dell e4200 was thicker, however was lighter than the MacBook Air, despite being larger (12″ screen).
The build of the Mac is solid. Even being so thin, it does not feel creaky or wobbly. My original e4200 was replaced by a new one because of the creaky body – it squeaked when you typed. This Mac had no such issues at all and the build quality definitely makes it stand apart.
One of the features that exceed my expectations was the speakers. Given it’s small size and the lack of any speaker ports, I was expecting pretty sad sound. Turns out the speakers on the Air are not just good, they’re the best laptop speakers I’ve ever had. I can only imagine that the regular Macbook speakers are even better. Clear stereo definition of sound is available – the sound seems to emanate from underneath the keyboard with a clarity unmatched by any Dell/HP/Toshiba laptop I’ve used in the past.
I do miss the SD slot that the 13″ Air’s have, that is definitely one feature I wish the 11″ version had – and the lighted keyboard that was on the previous generation of Macbook Air.
Mac OS was definitely harder to get used to than I anticipated. This can be mainly attributed to being a Windows power user for many years. I got used to using a lot of keyboard shortcuts – shortcuts where are different on Mac OS.
One of the best features of Mac OS is the ability of it to repsond to “gestures” – or more specifically, using multiple finger inputs on the trackpad for different functions. One finger to move the cursor, two for scrolling, three for moving back and forward on browsers – this is a feature I’m surprised has not been built into more Windows machines.
I’m disappointed at the lack of 64-bit software for Mac’s (Photoshop is 64-bit for Windows but not Mac), and the lack of TRIM support for SSD’s, which are standard of Macbook Airs, is troublesome. The drive performance will eventually deteriorate to the point of requiring a format/reinstall in order to get peak performance again.
Overall I’m happy with my Macbook Air but I’m not married to it. If a Windows machine came along with the same hardware build quality and form-factor, I would switch back. The recently announced Adamo 13 comes pretty close.
I’m a big fan of thin notebooks and more and more laptops are using the Intel CULV platform for new, thin form factors. Acer has their timeline series. HP has their Envy line, and now Asus has the UL line.
The UL30Vt is an update to the UL30 introduced earlier. This one keeps the same form factor but adds a dedicated nVidia graphics card that can be switched on or off to conserve battery life. Like the HP Envy, this notebook apes many of the MacBook’s styling – chicklet keyboard, brushed aluminum, thin and smooth surfaces.
- Intel SU7300 Core 2 Duo Processor 1.3GHz
- 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 2 slots, 8GB Max
- 500GB SATA Hard Drive (5400 RPM)
- NVidia G210M Graphics with 512MB DDR3 + Intel GMA 4500MHD (Switchable VGA)
- 13.3-Inch Widescreen HD LED LCD Display; Wi-Fi 802.11 bgn; Bluetooth; 0.3M Webcam
Do these laptops look familar? They should, the design is almost entirely stolen from Apple’s Macbook and Macbook pro line. HP has leveraged the “Envy” brand from in-house gaming laptop maker Voodoo to market it’s new, sleek, aluminum/magnesium chassis laptops. Available in both 13″ and 15″ versions, these will probably be very hot sellers. With the slim (just 0.88″) 13″ for the portable market, and a Quad-core Core i7 processor in the 15″ for computing power, these two models will be on the top of everyone’s wishlist this Christmas.
They are not due to be available until October. Priced at $1699 USD for the Envy 13 and $1799 USD for the Envy 15. Canadian pricing is not available.
Laptop Magazine completed their annual survey of laptop vendors and evaluated their technical support. For the last few years, Apple has won and this year was no different. No wonder so many people are “thinking different”. Here are the 2009 grades, more detail about the web vs. phone support is in the article.
- Apple A
- Asus B-
- Dell C-
- Fujitsu B-
- Gateway B-
- HP C-
- Lenovo B+
- Sony B+
- Toshiba B
Was in the Sony Store earlier this week and found this cool laptop sleeve for my new 12″ dell. It’s a small sleeve and pretty thin. Like the famous Incase sleeves for Macbooks, these sleeves are made up of durable neopreene like a wet suit to prevent scratching.
Before the weekend my new Dell e4200 arrived. The first thing I noticed was how light the packaging was – this laptop is really light! A 2.2lbs weight is fine, but the accessories including the external drive and power adaptor are also featherweights. The power adaptor was the biggest surprise as it’s the same size as an iPhone – no large bricks for this small laptop.
This notebook is packed with great features, LED backlight for increased power consumption and reduced size/weight; an external battery meter that lights up 5 LED’s to indicate how much life is left on the battery without turning the laptop on; solid-state drives for better performance, power consumption and the reliability of no-moving-parts; speedy DDR3 RAM; and, a thin 0.75-1.1″ profile and 2.2lbs weight.
Overall I’m pretty happy with the laptop. The fast memory and fast hard drive make Windows performance zippy even though the CPU speed is a slow 1.2ghz. It’s as thin as IBM’s X300 and has more features than the Macbook Air like an SD card slot, ethernet port and eSATA port.