back to article Ten... Ultrabooks

Reg Hardware PC Week It took a little while for the production lines to get going, but the first few months of 2012 have seen super-slim Ultrabooks completely outnumbering every other type of desktop or laptop PC coming our way. Intel’s tight definition of the Ultrabook category means that there are certain things you can …


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  1. petur

    Please mention a basic set of specs

    If you're going to list a number of devices, it would be great if the same set of features were mentioned, like screen res, cpu, memory, disk, viewing angle,... On some models you mention one, for others you mention another.

    1. MnM

      Re: Please mention a basic set of specs

      yes please

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please mention a basic set of specs

      Pointless request.

      The only convenient way of doing that would be a table and everybody knows that HTML can't do tables.

      Well, not here at The Reg anyway, where if they need to show you a table, they show you A PICTURE of a table (y'know, a frigging JPEG).


    3. joejack

      Re: Please mention a basic set of specs

      ...and "maximum you can expand to" specs as well, e.g. comes with 4GB, expandable to 8GB. Or choice between unusably low resolution and 1680x1050. Reg doesn't even do this for the full reviews this summation links to.

      I love all of the non-IT related articles, but the IT-related articles are getting progressively more useless. Every interesting review here requires me to search other sites for basic product information that should have been included.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    13" Air benchmark missing?

    Would have been nice to see how it compares to the Windows competition, as I'm still waiting for an Ultrabook to replace this with.

    Also no mention of the 1440*900 screen that got it bought in the first place - which still seems to be a significant differentiator from most Ultrabooks. If only the HP were not quite so heavy :-)

    1. Quxy

      Why replace the 13" Air?

      It runs Linux (and Windows, for that matter, although with VMs I don't see the point of a dedicated Windows machine) wonderfully; and you can always boot back into OSX if you want that environment. My only complaint about the Air is its lack of a dedicated gigabit Ethernet port. And from a price/performance standpoint, it compares quite favourably to the other machines in the review.

      1. joejack

        Re: Why replace the 13" Air?

        ...and it tops off at 4GB, has a glossy screen, no Kensington lock port, and no USB3 or eSATA.

        Otherwise, perfect!

  3. jake Silver badge

    Comic books are comic books.

    19 cents or a quarter ... any kid can buy one.

    Low price doesn't automagicaly make it usefull ...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wot no battery life info

    How pretty it is and a brief run down of the spec sheet is all well and good, but give us the full facts.

  5. Garf

    No mention of Ivy Bridge?

    There is no point buying an ultrabook at the moment - Ivy Bridge processors are just around the corner.

    Rather mis-timed article in my opinion. Also agree with the above about stats - screen res, boot time, and battery life are key factors for me.

    1. Paul Webb

      Re: No mention of Ivy Bridge?

      I totally agree about Ivy Bridge unless you are more interested in the fact these will soon be discounted. And, having been on the market for a while, will have given other people plenty of time to try out various breeds of penguin.

    2. Dave 126

      Re: No mention of Ivy Bridge?

      > 'Rather mis-timed article in my opinion.'

      Possibly... but then the introduction of the new Ivy Bridge models might result in the price of some of the above models being cut, making them a more tempting purchase.

  6. spegru

    missing info

    Battery life and


    1. gaz 7
      Thumb Up

      Re: missing info

      I have a Samsung NP300 which has a similar size and appearance to the Samsung NP530 "reviewed" here but a little older (bought late last year) and it runs Ubuntu flawlessly and nice and nippy too.

      For me real life battery life is about 2 hours, but that may be as I haven't optimised it for battery use as it is usually tethered to power and cat5 and things like the screen brightness are always cranked right up!

      I really like it though.

  7. sad_loser

    not new really

    the toshiba portege owned this sector many moons ago.

    good quality, very robust for their size and weight. Before the advent of VMs I used to cart two of them around to develop on, one linux, one windoze, ah the good old days.

  8. jason 7

    So I guess these are all 1366x768?

    So no one here will be buying them.

    That was a waste of time reviewing them then.

    Getting the message?

    1. dogged

      Re: So I guess these are all 1366x768?

      I was waiting for the first screenres whinger to show up.

      You don't win anything, by the way.

      1. jason 7

        Re: So I guess these are all 1366x768?

        Oh I know but if you like using inferior kit at higher prices then don't let me stop you.

        It's called trying to raise the bar above mediocrity.

        Seems some folks love less than average. Probably why the world is such a shitty mess.

        1. dogged

          Re: So I guess these are all 1366x768?

          More about what you consider to be important. I value battery life over screen resolution.

          It's kind of irritating that whenever the Reg reviews a laptop, a group of about ten commentards all come along and criticize the screen rez, regardless of what it happens to be. Another five then accuse it of copying the Macbook Air (totally regardless of what it actually looks like) and three more will make bad jokes about Apple suing over rectangles.

          It's boring.

          1. jason 7

            Re: So I guess these are all 1366x768?

            Boring? Well so will ultra/laptops be when they come with just 800x480 screens cos the manufacturers say that folks get by just fine with them on phones.

            Then we'll all know who to thank.

            But we will get 12 hours use so that's okay...hoorayyyyy

    2. Azzy

      Re: So I guess these are all 1366x768?

      Nope. The 13inch zen book is 1600x900. And I think the airs also have a higher res. But yeah, the higher screen Res of the zen book makes it best PC ultrabook

      I have one and love it. 1600x900 is fine for a 13 inch screen

    3. Dave 126

      Re: So I guess these are all 1366x768?

      @ jason 7

      I'm with you on wanting a higher resolution screen. For slightly Ultrabooks you may find the Wikipedia article for 'Ultrabook' a good starting place, as it has a chart showing which models have a 1600x900 display.

      Something I haven't seen mentioned is a possible reason for an abundance of low-resolution screens on Ultrabooks. i.e One of Intel's requirements is for a minimum battery life, in hours. Could the difference in power consumption between a hi-res and low-res screen be big enough to influence the choice of screen resolution seen on most Ultrabooks? After all, the manufacturer has to use a proscribed chipset, and and can only fit so large a battery within the maximum WxLxH Kg allowed for in the Ultrabook brand (and in any case, the maker is too busy trying the grab the 'thinnest lightest laptop ever!' crown)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So I guess these are all 1366x768?

        The 13" Air seems to do fine with its higher-res screen.

        Before the iPad 3 I would have expected resolution to have very little effect on battery life, after all, the backlight is the component that consumes 90+% of the power... but I guess all the circuitry to wire up each pixel blocks some of the backlight so it has to be cranked up to achieve the same amount of brightness at the user's eyes... :(

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: So I guess these are all 1366x768?

          Computing fonts, shapes, etc everything for more dots eats GPU and in the absense of GPU support for font scaling (which if memory serves me right is the case for Intel) CPU. In fact, that probably eats more than the display itself.

          So in fact 1366x768 is pretty much optimal for 11-13 inch as long as it can support more dots on the VGA/HDMI/Whatever port it can output to. It is not that pixelated to irritate you, gives enough pixels for the desktop to lay things out and at the same time provides a good balance in terms of CPU/GPU power consumption.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So I guess these are all 1366x768?

            >>Computing fonts, shapes, etc everything for more dots eats GPU and in the absense of GPU support for font scaling (which if memory serves me right is the case for Intel) CPU. In fact, that probably eats more than the display itself.<<

            Sorry but you could not possibly be more wrong and I don't know where you could have gotten this idea. All you have to do is run Task Manager (or Activity Monitor on a Mac) and watch the CPU and memory usage while you are doing simple activities like web surfing and email which have "fonts" and "shapes" to see that the CPU is basically idle. In this day and age it takes an absolutely negligible amount of time/power to display 2-D graphics (i.e., not video or 3-D games) regardless of resolution, whereas a backlight is one of the most power-hungry components of a laptop and will take several watts of power--you can get a very real increase in battery life by just turning the backlight down a few steps.

            1. jason 7

              Re: So I guess these are all 1366x768?

              Indeed, I thought Voland was referring to atomic clock type displays for a minute..

              We are talking 21st century computing here, not 1970's!

              The only reason they put 13x7 screens in computers today is that they are cheap, very cheap and nasty. Has nothing to do with improving battery life and GPU power.

              If I spend more than £700+ on such a device I expect more in terms of quality throughout.

  9. TheTick
    Thumb Down


    The prices on most of these ultrabooks are ridiculous.

    I'll take a notebook 5mm thicker and £700 cheaper thanks.

    1. Terry 13

      Re: Overpriced

      If form factor is all that matters, the poser who will almost certainly buy the original design, an Air. If battery life matters, as it does to most, the purchase will be something else, Apple or Wintel. I might be wrong, but the pricing seems all wrong as does the basic premise. I can't see these selling in volume at all at this price and Apple's new competitive pricing looks as though it will strangle these to death at birth. My guess is that these will also suffer terrible depreciation, which makes them a bad investment too. These need to come in much, much cheaper.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Overpriced

      ...and I won't.

      There, the Internet is in balance again.

    3. aThingOrTwo

      Re: Overpriced

      Your £700 cheaper notebook won't have a SSD, which provides a big performance boost. It probably won't have great battery life either.

      If you are actually carting a laptop around then solid construction and strong battery life are very important.

      1. TheTick

        Re: Overpriced

        SSD's are under £1/GB now so around a ton for a good make 120GB SSD. Plenty of notebooks out there with good build and battery life as well.

        The Acer model approaches reasonable pricing though, to be fair.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Overpriced

      >>I'll take a notebook 5mm thicker and £700 cheaper thanks.

      The base model Air is £849 so I don't know what you think you're getting for the difference.

      The weight difference between my old MacBook Pro and the 11" Air is huge for me. Even though the Pro was "only" 4.5 lbs I easily noticed it in my bags and luggage and was annoyed by it, whereas the Air is barely noticeable. I have actually taken my backpack to a few different places without even realizing that the laptop was in it. Also, it's less deep than almost any other laptop (11" widescreen) making it absolutely ideal for planes and trains--you can tilt the screen to a comfortable angle with room to spare. And even when under load it never gets hot or loud. I would have happily paid much more for the laptop and will never go back to using a "normal" laptop.

  10. David Gosnell

    And the winner...

    ... isn't even an Ultrabook!

  11. Fuzz

    The thing Intel got wrong

    They should have specified a minimum screen resolution for each screen size. I just don't get how you can copy the air in the basic style but not take a look at the specs to see what kind of screens these devices should have.

  12. stewski

    The toshiba is £700

    This article is rubbish.

    The winner is an HDD driven device (sso not actually an ultrabook?) and the Toshiba at number 10 is only about £30 more and on their own tests beats a bunch of the i5's.

    Frankly I bought the Toshiba (£700 at amazon or John Lewis) a month or two ago and cannot see any attraction of the models that cost £300+ more...

  13. Khaptain Silver badge

    El Reg, another Amazon Window

    No IT in this article, I did see a lot of marketing though.

    I understand that "Amazon" sales help El Reg pay the bills but FFS at least try and present the articles on a basis that would hold at least a modicum of interest for the El Reg readership.

    I click on these top ten lists hoping to achieve a little more that what I would expect from a "Currys" shop sales assistant. Yes, I could go and research each of them individually myself but then what puprose would El Reg serve at that point !!!!!!!!!!

    1. jason 7

      Re: El Reg, another Amazon Window

      They all lose it in the end.

  14. 4.1.3_U1

    Small, cheap laptops (not netbooks)

    Why can't I find anything at all to beat my couple of years old Acer Aspire 1410 - 1366x768 11.6" screen, core solo cpu, 2gb ram , under £400?

    I'd like to buy a newer, smaller, faster, better, lighter, cheaper, etc laptop but there isn't one - why not? In the past I've always managed to buy a new laptop every couple of years that meets all of those simple requirements, but I can't any more. Why should I be forced to buy a tablet to do that now - I need a built in keyboard!

    Now, if someone could make something around the size of a (New (TM)) iPad, screen res. included, that had a keyboard built in and one could stick one's favourite linux / bsd distro on without difficulty then I'd be there in a flash.

    Why oh why oh why oh ... (cont p94).

  15. pctechxp

    An important question no one appears to be asking

    How do you go about backing up the software images on these things or are you in the Apple situation where you are dependent on the manufacturer continuing to host the image for your particular system or are you expected to purchase a USB flash drive/HDD to back up the image onto.

    Or is it dependent on a useless recovery partition?

  16. Richard Lloyd

    Why would you carry around a one grand laptop?

    Ultrabooks are just ludicrously priced - no-one in their right mind would carry around an easily stealable/breakable one grand bit of kit, no matter how light or thin it is.

    Whatever happened to good old 9/10" netbooks with an SSD and running Linux for around 200-250 quid? Looks like these massively overpriced ultrabooks took their place - a bad, bad market move IMHO.

    I picked up a Dell Mini 9 for 149 quid a few years back and it's still going strong as a great little portable netbook. Sure, I boosted the RAM, the SSD and put a better Linux on it, but it's still one of the best purchases I've ever made and gets more use than my 116 quid HP Touchpad with CM9 does (though tablet browsing in bed is actually the only thing a tablet is good for, IMHO).

    1. aThingOrTwo

      Re: Why would you carry around a one grand laptop?

      Whenever I travel I often see with Thinkpads (X200 seems popular) and MacBook Pro/Airs. These are nearly all priced around the £1000. People carry them because they are thin, light, provide good battery life and powerful performance.

      On to netbooks:

      No one wants to use desktop Linux on a tiny screen with a cramped keyboard and even worse trackpad. They just provide and poor overall experience. They're not "good old" anything. They are and always were a bad idea. Just a way for OEMs to keep volume up during a recession.

      You are completely out of touch with the market. Not everyone else. The key to the ultra book is that the screen is usable, the keyboards are comfortable and the performance good.

      PS: No one buys netbooks anymore.

  17. Boris S.

    That's Ultra High-Priced books

    Over-priced and under-powered sums up the "Ultrabook" which most consumers refuse to buy for these very exact reasons.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worst written article on el reg in a while

    See above

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Worst written comment on el reg in a while

      See above

  19. RobE

    bad article and I have the Samsung S5...

    I agree, an all round poor article that doesn't explain much of the technical specs.

    I bought the Samsung Series 5 after browsing every laptop in the shops. A lot of netbooks have only got the atom processors so are worthless. The S5 is about the only one with a full blown i5 and also has a 16GB SSD + 500GB of diskspace... so its great all round. I did question the £800 price tag but currently the S5 is on offer with £130 cashback bringing it in at cheaper & better than the ACER, which el-reg rated as #1. That aside, Acer tends to use low quality components, as have Dell in my past experience. I would have gone for a sony if they had anything competitively priced and at the same size but the closest thing was £1200.

    So why did I buy the S5 which is close to £1k? because if you've ever carried round a 3KG laptop for a living you soon get tired of it and thin/light laptops very quickly become attractive. The weight of the S5 is impressive and I did look at a lot of the ones above mentioned. Their specs were no where near worth investing in for anything like £300+ since come the end of this year they won't be worth even half of that.

    The speed of the S5 is phenominal compared to my old Sony laptop. Only time will tell if it is durable but the metal casing seems strong enough and well built. I decided to give it a go because I have been incredibly impressed with the Samsung Galaxy S2. Happy I chose it even for the price!

  20. Alex Walsh

    An article on Ultrabooks containing 2 Mac's that by default do not meet the definition of an "ultrabook", as copyrighted?

    I know the reasons for including it, the inspiration behind ultrabooks but considering the spec is locked down, it's a bit disingenuous to include them isn't it?

  21. Matthew Collier

    Worthless/useless netbooks?

    Well, personally, for portable computing, I don't think the netbook can be beat. You can easily take one plenty of places I wouldn't ever take a £1000 "Ultrabook" (like, in a rucksack or tail pack on the back of my motorbike), nor would I let the kids take an Ultrabook *anywhere*.

    Just because some people prefer something more than a netbook, does not devalue the netbook, just different kit for different uses (and I don't think you can really compete with the size weight and price of the netbook, unless you really do need a portable desktop replacement).

    Personally, I think for pure portable web surfing, a tablet is tops, for all round useage and portability, a netbook, a full blown laptop for portable desktop replacement and/or an Ultrabook for the same, but more portability/less weight, but with much greater cost, and of course, a desktop for permanent convinience and high-power processing requirements and/or, anything else you want to do.

    Right tool for the job! :) (if you don't want/haven't got space for a desktop, then IMHO, everything else is a compromise of one sort or another...)

    And: "No one wants to use desktop Linux on a tiny screen with a cramped keyboard and even worse trackpad. They just provide and poor overall experience. They're not "good old" anything. They are and always were a bad idea. Just a way for OEMs to keep volume up during a recession."

    Well, apart from myself, I can think of quite a significant number of people I know who would disagree with you! :) Linux runs well on netbooks, but I note, XP just about, and Win7 is like wading through treacle! :(

    1. jason 7

      Re: Worthless/useless netbooks?

      Must admit I have an older Acer netbook with Ubuntu 10.4 netbook edition on it. It works a treat for when we go on holiday to do email and look up hotels/restuartants.

      That is the only time I use Linux though.

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