Ultrabooks vs. Laptops
Personal computers come in several form factors and names; desktops, laptops, notebooks, netbooks, subnotebooks and convertibles. Joining them is the Ultrabook, a registered trademark by Intel and is supposed to be the best laptop variety yet. But how can you tell if a laptop is an Ultrabook? There are three factors: looks, performance and battery life.
Intel generally requires Ultrabooks to be thin and light. This is why devices such as the Acer Aspire S5 and ASUS UX31A are between .45 and 0.60 inches and are in unibody chassis. There are three Ultrabook platforms (arranged chronologically): Huron River, Chief River and Shark Bay. Huron River and Chief River devices are required to have a thickness of 18 mm if their display size is 13.3″ or lower or 21 mm if the display size is 14″ or larger. Intel is yet to give specifications for Shark Bay Ultrabooks which are expected to come out by the middle of 2013. Obviously, looks alone wouldn’t tell you which platform an Ultrabook follows.
Huron River Ultrabooks follow Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture while Chief River follow the Ivy Bridge architecture. This simply means that Huron River devices like the Samsung Series 5 has an older chipset than a Chief River Ultrabook like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. A simple way to identify if an Intel processor is “Sandy” or “Ivy” is by looking at the first number following the hyphen – an Ivy Bridge Core processor always has “3″ such as in Core i5-3317U.
Besides the processor, Intel also put requirements on the disk drive used which, of course, also affects performance. Huron River Ultrabooks doesn’t have a drive minimum transfer rate although they should still be solid state drives. Most laptops today still use hard drives which are slower and noisy. Solid state drives (SSD), although still pricy compared to hard drives, have become cheaper and faster. The 80 MB/s minimum transfer rate required for Chief River and Shark Bay Ultrabooks are easily provided by SSDs which can reach a maximum transfer rate of 550 MB/s. Similarly, Huron River devices do not have required ports while Chief Rivers should have USB 3.0 or Intel Thunderbolt.
Probably one of the reasons why the popularity of laptops has gone down is because of their horrendous battery life. An $600 laptop would lasts for only three hours while a tablet at similar price would last up to 10 hours. Huron and Chief River Ultrabooks, as required by Intel, should have a minimum battery life of 5 hours while the upcoming Shark Bay Ultrabooks should last for at least 9 hours. Battery manufacturers aren’t the only ones pressured by this task as Intel themselves aim to make processors that consume very little power.
Ultrabooks are priced between $600 and $1,500. Below are the most popular Ultrabooks today:
Ultrabooks, tablets and convertibles are the future of mobile computers. They aren’t competing with each other as they can serve different purposes. Tablets, which most of us use for games, movies and books are typically consumption devices while convertibles stand between tablets and Ultrabooks. None of them can deliver the processing power that Ultrabooks can as of the moment which is the primary reason you would be buying one.