Ultrabook: The next generation

3/27/2012 4:28:05 PM

Ultrabook: The next generation

We assessed the first Ultrabook generation, but with upcoming Windows 8 and Intel Ivy Bridge, this is just a start

This year’s Consumer electronics show (CES) witnessed an announcement of new Ultrabook generation, many products will not be launched until this mid-year, together with the new Ivy Bridge processor of Intel. We gathered the new Ultrabooks for you to understand what you can expect next.

HP Envy 14 Spectre

Description: HP Envy 14 Spectre

Envy 14 is the first Ultrabook that we have seen to make Macbook Air fade. The black hard glass cover is as an piano - except from HP logo, which uses screen’s background to create elegant light near the below swivel joint on the left. The topic is continued inside, with place to put wrist and touchpad which are also made of glass. However, HP’s product manager held a handkerchief in CES due to an appropriate reason: Envy is dusty as a coffee table at a kindergarten.

Noticing the detail on Spectre is so excellent. The keyboard is not only back-illuminated: every key also has separate LED light, so specific function keys can light up if necessary; a proximity sensor dims the light when you are far from the screen, whereas Ethernet port is installed with a small cell allowing it to lie equally to the remained ports when not being used.

It sounds HP does not cut down on elsewhere. Spectre can be nominated with Core i5 or i7 processor (Sandy Bridge (second generation) rather than Ivy Bridge (third generation) at first). It can be install 256GB SDD storage and 4GB or 6GB RAM. Moreover, 14-inch screen is very nice: deep and diversified colors in 1,600x900 screen with the fidelity as sharp as knife and nearly perfect view angle.

With 1,899 USD, it is at high-class point in Ultrabook’s price segment, but we cannot wait to touch it.

Acer Aspire S5

Description: Acer Aspire S5

Acer early joined by holding a press conference before opening CES to launch “the world‘s thinnest Ultrabook”. Basing on the fact that all Ultrabooks are slim (according to theory), we are not surprised at that announcement. However, we are impressed by the way it does this.

Press a key on Aspire S5 keyboard, then the ports hidden before appear from the back. At a certain extend, it is a Star Trek­-type skill, but it makes laptop look extremely thin when you go out.

Thunderbolt port (20Gbytes/second) is more noteworthy: it is thing you do not find on any Ultrabook in this month’s Labs. Thunderbolt port is near to HDMI and USB3 ports, which gives S5 the market-leading connectivity.

13.3-inch Aspire S5 just weighs 1.35kg, and continues in waiting mode within less than 1.6 seconds, according to Acer. The price was not announced when we did this writing, perhaps Acer is waiting for Ivy Bridge processor to appear before deciding precise technical features. It is planned to launch in spring.

Samsung Series 9

Description: Samsung Series 9

The updated version of Samsung Series 9 you will find in this month’s Labs promises some improvements. Even according to Ultrabook’s standard, it is also amdly thin and light: 12.9mm in thickness, and just 1.16kg in weight. You have to pay the price by the ports: it just has one USB3 port, one USB2 port, and large SD slot lying tidily on the side.

In addition, you are sunk into the world of tiny jacks and adapters: it has a micro-HDMI port on the left, adapter for Ethernet and VGA, together with 3.5mm jack that are both headphone-jack and microphone-jack.

Samsung packs 1,600x900p resolution in 13.3-inch screen, but LED screen made cording to customer’s requirement that we saw at CES was in light-particle phenomenon, and if you sit off central position, it will also develop a yellow tone.

Samsung is giving eloquent announcement about the awake-time: 1.8 seconds since sleeping mode, 9.8 mode seconds since switch-off mode. However, our strict test did not prove this, with the pre-produced device model at the show taking about 13 seconds. But Samsung has time to solve that before officially isueing.

Lenovo Ideapad Yoga

Description: Ideapad Yoga

Yoga is the evidence that Ultrabook can outpass laptop with traditional folded cover. This Windows 8 device provides a multi-point screen and 360-degree swivel joint allowing it to be used in a few configurations.

It can be flatly folded ang used as a normal touch-screen tablet with the keyboard and touchpad that are neutralized to prevent unintentional key pressing. It can be folded up to create the desktop base for touch-screen activity. And it can be used in normal laptop format.

Lenovo announces 8 hours of battery life, with the frame just 1.40kg in weight and 16.7mm in thickness. Since Yoga has to wait for Windows 8 to appear at the end of this year, Ivy Bridge certainly can. It is included in our list of Chrismas’s wishes.

Intel Ivy Bridge

We expected Intel to give announcement time of Bridge processor (next generation) at CES, but regardless of holding press conference and speech at Las Vegas, the company did not plan to talk about the processor. However, PC producers told us that they waited for the third generation of Core processor to start to be sold in April or May.

Description: Ivy Bridge

While Sandy Bridge processor in this month’s Ultrabooks are built up based on 32nm process, Ivy Bridge will reduce it to 22nm. Intel claims this move allows new CPUs to provide double performance without consuming more energy. The improved multiplicative coefficient Turbo Boost allows those who are keening on it to increase processor pulse to 6.3GHz.

Ivy Bridge also includes a new graphic core providing more improvements than Sandy Bridge. A new GPU supporting DirectX 11, and has preset AVC encoding set to decode and shift code of hardware video. It also support 3 screens (increasing in comparison with 2 screens of Sandy Bridge), and includes many technical improvements – including access to L3 cache on chip at the first time – to improve performance. Regardless of these improvements, Ivy Bridge is not sure to be compared with Fusion CPU of AMD about playing 3D game.

Judgement from Labs

We have never expected any producer to keep tightly Ultrabook definition since the first day – anyway, even MacBook Air of Apple needs a few technical feature update and important redesign before we find the right formula – but we are pleased to say that what we have seen so far shows many promises.

There had been very few Windows laptops that could compete with MacBook Air before, but within just a few months, Intel’s definition brought many attractive designs, usually excellent, and many nice laptops to induce people to get away from Apple Store.

First, Lenovo had never created such a nice laptop; XPS 13 of Dell marks the pinnache design in a product series that has witnessed many wonderful laptops for many years (do you remember rather crazy Adamo XPS?); and Asus overcame itself with the pair of Zenbook. Aspire S3 of Acer impresses in another way – it is not only beautiful, but also surprisingly cheap with 1,055 USD.

About thing to improve, Apple calibrates all laptop screens before launching – a decision to take advantage of LCD screens that it develops. In comparison, there is no Ultrabook producer doing the same thing, and all screens here are remarkably worse. A sufficiently good screen is not enough for Ultrabook – it has to be wonderful.

The last weekness is the point we hope Windows 8 will solve: Apple’s OS X gesture control and multi-point gestures are a pair borned by god: all typing and scanning are rewared by a fast and smooth reaction, which is enough to make any Ultrabook appears to be awkwardly designed. If Intel, Microsoft and producers give it into account – and with touch-screen Ultrabooks planned to be launched in 2012, we do not doubt they will do that – Ultrabook’s future will be assured. Apple has to look back stressedly.


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