back to article Ultrabooks: objects of desire but just too darn expensive

Here's a snippet of market data of interest to folk keeping tabs on the Ultrabook market. In the UK, during the past four years, laptops costing £800 or more have never taken more than 7.5 per cent of notebook sales as a whole. That's no great surprise, perhaps - you'd expect cheaper laptops to outsell pricey ones. But it is a …


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  1. lotus49

    Yup - £900 is too much

    I have read many reviews of Ultrabooks here and elsewhere and some of them are indeed very nice machines but I wouldn't pay £900 for one. That's £50 more than the cheapest MacBook Air and only £100 less than the cheapest MacBook Pro.

    I'm no Apple fanboi but I'd rather have the Apple laptops at that price.

    1. Durdy

      Re: Yup - £900 is too much

      Not only that, but the Apple Laptops have better graphics and usually better resolutions...

      Realistically, if you're getting a 1366x768 res screen and Intel graphics, you shouldn't be paying more than about £450 regardless of other specs.

      1. CheesyTheClown

        Have a Slate... want an ultrabook

        I agree with 900 quid being too much. I bought my Series 7 Slate because it was around 800. More than that, I'd have held off and I don't usually get squirmish over a little extra dough.

        Frankly though, I just bought a Core i7 3770 to test out the new HD4000 graphics on and since I replaced a 2600K, I was quite impressed. I really just don't see the need for an external graphics card anymore, but I don't really play high end games. I did however plug a decent ATI card in and did see a difference, but not enough to pay the extra money on the power bill or having another fan to listen to.

        I'm dying to buy a new 11.6" ultrabook so I can have the slate and the tablet (I have reasons) but I don't want the ultrabook for that kind of money unless it is convertible. Something that small should be a tablet too. Otherwise I think it's just a whimpy notebook.

        I read the article and I think that guessing the demand on a product which simply won't exist until August - October is silly. People keep bashing Windows 8, but I fell in love with it on my tablet... just needs some "features" fixed... like the way tiling works on metro is a little quirky. I don't even use any of my iPads anymore unless I'm charging the slate or reading an eBook... widescreen is lame for ebooks.

    2. LarsG

      Re: Yup - £900 is too much

      If I'm going to pay these prices I want a full spec laptop and that means a DVD drive thank you.

      Comsumers are getting wise.... Except for the buyers of the Galaxy Note, still there is a small percentage of the population that will remain gullible no matter what.

      1. Craigness

        Re: Yup - £900 is too much

        I got a full spec laptop with DVD player a year ago for £320, a tablet recently (with keyboard) for £400 and have an old linux netbook which cost under £200. I get far more out of that lot than I could ever get from an ultrabook for the same money.

  2. Hieronymus Howerd

    The title says it all

    I looked at Ultrabooks when my last laptop broke, and you can't help but think, well, that's a lovely piece of kit but I'm not paying £1k for a *laptop*, no matter how shiny.

  3. h4rm0ny

    Stating the obvious

    Everyone reading this article knows that the ultra thin laptops are overpriced. But Intel and the manufacturers clearly still need to be told.

    I'm hanging on for one of the AMD APU ones that we're expecting to emerge soon. They should be noticeably cheaper. At least they'd better be!

    1. spencer

      Re: Stating the obvious

      I just hope there's not a painfully long wait like with the Brazos netbook chippery.

      ...and then once they arrived no one took any notice of them, despite most of them being of a decent spec for not much monies.

  4. jai

    doomed to fail?

    I don't understand how Intel expect to increase the uptake of Ultrabooks by forcing the manufacturers to include more, new tech.

    That's going to be expensive and so force the manufacturers to keep the prices high. Surely the best way to gain market share, if that's their ambition, is to allow the prices to come down and to start approaching normal laptop prices. and then, when people are buying ultrabooks in large volumes, it will be natural for these extra features to be included at an additional cost. But you need the lower end ones too if you want the product to move out of the niche market of those of us who value the lightweight portability over the price.

  5. fishman


    It's cheaper to buy a regular laptop + 7" tablet than an ultrabook.

  6. Tom 35

    "laptops costing £800 or more have never taken more than 7.5 per cent of notebook sales as a whole."

    And I bet most of that is corporate laptops like Latatudes for the "Important" people in the office. Very few are people spending their own money.

  7. Arctic fox

    ".....But if they stay priced above £800....."

    In a certain sense this is no surprise at all. In general punters are not willing to pony up to that extent. A quick look at the online catalogue of Scandinavia's largest computer retailer (I live in Norway) tells the tale. Of the 116 pcs from various producers they have available 70% are in the price range between £225 - £750 (and if you take a look at how many units they have in stock at each price point the disparity becomes even more striking). Over £800 is too much for a large majority of punters. It has been the case for a long time that the vast majority of ordinary retail customers will simply not drop most of a grand for a computer regardless of which form factor we are talking about. The Ultrabook/MBA market is, relatively speaking, a smallish minority segment and it is not clear to me how Intel are going to make the £800 - £1000 segment any kind of mass market price point. I am entirely willing to be proved wrong but I just can't see how they are going to do it.

    1. Peter H. Coffin

      Re: ".....But if they stay priced above £800....."

      Mostly because punters have *no reason* to spend a lot of money to upgrade a machine. The vast majority of people are doing things on laptops that laptops have done adequately well for a decade, and don't have much interest in upgrading at all. They're moving photos off of cameras, reading email, doing a bit of web surfing, watching videos and playing Solitare just like they always have, and that doesn't necessitate a new laptop every three years. It necessitates one when something important breaks or replacing the battery yet again gets more expensive than buying a new machine. And bottom-end laptops will do all of those things perfectly well.

  8. Tim 11

    should have bought a mac...

    the problem with PCs is that you need a new one every 2 years as successive versions of windows get ever more bloated.

    spend a grand on a macbook air today and you'll still be happy as larry in 6 years time, it's better value in the long term.

    1. Benjamin 4

      Re: should have bought a mac...

      I have a five year old Fujitsu Siemens laptop which still happily runs Windows 7. Absolutely no reason to upgrade every two years. Try telling all the people with IBM T60s to upgrade. You'd have a riot on your hands!

      1. Volker Hett

        Re: should have bought a mac...

        Exactly my thinking.

        1. P. Lee

          Re: should have bought a mac...

          but probably only true if you run osx and if you are using it for the home.

          ilife is good value, pages, numbers usually adequate for a scenario where compatability isn't required and NeoOffice will do fine as well. Apple has OSX and ilife as value-add to their shiney. Ultrabooks are just shiney with limited hardware, meh graphics and same-old same-old software.

          Also, Intel chips appear to command a premium. AMD may not be as fast at the top end but are excellent value for money and is more than good enough for most people. Thunderbolt is a great improvement, but I'm surprised noone has really done full external PCIe x16 in a docking station for laptops to allow full-blown graphics cards. I'm happy to leave my gaming graphics at home most of the time, but I do want them and I'd rather not pay for a desktop and a laptop.

          I think intel has got a bit fat and lazy with AMD not really challenging for the top end. Putting a thin pc in an aluminium case is nice but it isn't innovation, its branding. I want a pc in three parts - touchscreen with ARM tablet, laptop base unit/keyboard with fast x86 cpu and a docking station with fast graphics and an ARM server.

    2. Volker Hett

      Re: should have bought a mac...

      My white macbook is now 5 years old and still fine, even the battery is still over 80% of its capacity. Ok, scratches and the broken parts on the top case where the lids bumpers are, but that's only cosmetics.

      And it still runs Windows XP in a virtual machine :)

      1. nick47

        Re: should have bought a mac...

        If you take your MacBook to any Apple store they'll replace the whole keyboard section for you for free. Book an appointment though.

    3. uhuznaa

      Re: should have bought a mac...

      6 years is a stretch.

      The point with PC stuff is not so much software bloat, it's the hardware losing its value. You can use a Macbook for two or three years, then sell it off for a healthy chunk of money and get the latest and greatest from Apple again.

      The "Ultrabook" of today will be worth hardly anything in three years, though.

      And all of this is a trick of Intel anyway. Subnotebooks have always been a very small market segment, there is no way you blow that up into something it isn't.

    4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      PC's last for ages

      My laptop is 7 years old. XP got wiped before it could boot. Vista and Windows 7 have been and almost gone. Windows 8 is nearly here, and I will not bother to look at the required specs or available drivers. Microsoft could bring out hundreds of new operating systems, but I doubt if any of them will be a reason to replace my laptop. Eventually some part of it will break and I will not be able to find a replacement. For that day, I am thinking of something like a raspberry pi and a monitor glued to the inside of a suit case. A Pi is already pushing my (partly older) desktop towards retirement.

      I do not see Intel promising to compete with ARM on price yet. Ultrabooks will stay expensive for another year, perhaps two before Intel admit that an £800 computer is a niche market.

    5. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: should have bought a mac...

      Nope don't think so. I've only just retired a 9yr old XP PC. If I hadn't had the cash it would have served for another couple of years quite competently.

      My 5yr old laptop is also doing fine, it's running Xp also but has run Vista and the Win7 test release quite happily.

      If you maintain a machine (and by that I mostly mean the OS) well it can last a long time. If you're not careful and let a machine fill with fragmented crud then it'll bog down with time.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: should have bought a mac...

        Still running a 6 year old Dell Inspiron 1300 laptop with XP SP3 here - showing no sign of slowing down or giving up the ghost (nobody runs as admin but me, and only when absolutely necessary). The only upgrade has been an extra 1Gb RAM about 4 years ago (it came with a pitiful 256Mb). It still does everything a home PC is typically needed for (browsing, email; watching videos, word processing, photo transfer & manipulation). It spends most of its time plugged into the mains, so battery life isn't an issue.

        I plan to switch it to Linux (probably the next Mint LTS or Fuduntu) when XP support runs out in a couple of years - there's no reason it shouldn't remain adequate for home use pretty much indefinitely.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: should have bought a mac...

      Eh why would you need a new PC every 2yr as new versions get more bloated? We have 6yr old DELL Optiplex’s 745’s at work bought to run Vista run’s 7 fine and have had 8 running on them also fine. The difference with any Apple product is that in 6 years time you would be able to install the latest version of their OS! as they have a habit of leaving legacy users wayyyy behind.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: should have bought a mac...

      @Tim. A six year old MacBook Pro will not run OS X 10.7 Lion. Larry must be easily satisfied.

    8. Anonymous Coward

      Re: should have bought a mac...

      I did - macbook pro circa 2009, loved it, but sold it, now dual boot a hackintosh desktop.

      (Sold it because I really couldn't afford it - 1300 quid insanity purchase)

      The problem with Apple, is you get locked out of the walled garden every few years - no longer able to upgrade - it's a constant with them, you just know within 3 years, you won't be able to install the new OS.

      Compare that with windows - you can install windows 7 on laptops 7 or 8 years old.

      And for really ageing PC hardware, there's Linux - perfect for browsing the web, email - great second computer to have around.

      Had to vote you down I'm afraid, as you clearly haven't thought this one through.

      The most important things for geeks is to remain steadfastly platform agnostic.

      Your title and post effectively amounts to trolling, although you mostly probably didn't mean to troll.

  9. Kevin7

    I don't think I've ever seen many ads on telly for laptops that cost more than 400 quid. They're cheap and cheerful and get thrown away in about 4 years. They rarely do anything more than surfing the Internet and running Office. They've become the PC people can have on their knees while they watch EastEnders. Ultrabooks will never touch this market.

    1. Andrew James

      I agree. Anyone bright enough to have a job earning sufficient pay to afford an Ultrabook will be wholly disinterested in Eastenders.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        - Might be management...

        ... in which case a tendency towards sadism and masochism is almost a given.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intel don't have a choice

    They're scared of tablets. They don't have a competitive tablet chip. They do have competitive laptop chips. The ultrabook plan is a defence plan to keep on side users who aren't IT professionals and who are considering defecting to tablets.

    As for me, as a MacBook Air owner whose work takes me all over London, I have no plans to get a tablet because my laptop is smaller than an iPad and comes with a keyboard to do real work on. Seriously, if you travel at all and haven't tried a light laptop do. They feel like a very slim folder or (for science people) a lab book, not a computer-when you hold them it all starts to feel worth it. But yes, they are a disposable income product.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh and as for price

      When the MacBook Air was introduced it cost £1250. It's now £850 and you can get a refurb with warranty for £650 if you know where to look. The £500 Ultrabook isn't far off.

      1. Andrew James

        Re: Oh and as for price

        The £500 Ultrabook will be a long way off if Intel keeps moving the goalpost on what the minimum spec should be.

        The £500 Superbook with a dumbed down specsheet and a slightly chunkier profile might not be that far away though. As soon as manufacturers realise they dont need to jump on board the Ultrabook brand, because its not worth anything, low price slimline reasonable spec laptops will start popping up all over the place, and the Ultrabook branding will die off becuase why pay an extra £300 for something to do the same job - if it doesnt have an Apple logo on the lid.

    2. Volker Hett

      Re: Intel don't have a choice

      I think I might qualify as an IT Professional, SCO ACE, MCSE, Informix DBA, AIX, HP-UX and even Sinix in my CV, but I use an iPad to do "real work" which means keep the servers running to me.

      But for IT Professionals who do PowerPoint most of the time, this may be different.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Intel don't have a choice

        Sorry. I find it hard not to grin at someone who says "I might qualify as an IT professional" and backs it up with their having an MCSE.

  11. David Black

    Shame, but even £800 won't get you much Ultrabook

    I love ultralight laptops and have an Lenovo X301 for my more powerful PC chores (thanks to redundancy) and an old 1st gen macbook air for around the house surfing and mailing (my daughter pinched my tablet) and completely agree that the lightness, good battery life and form factor make a compelling offering.

    When the ultrabooks launched, I was really, really excited, finally a laptop with some serious grunt that won't give me a hernia and lasts more than 30mins between charges. Then I tried buying one... all the entry level £800ish machines have some significant shortcoming, crappy screen size/quality, crappy drive spec, poor design etc. You really are ponying up in the £1,100 region for a proper bells and whistles machine that really does tick all the boxes. That's way too much and will never break that market. They are lovely machines but compromise a little on some of the ultrabook elements and you can get a "traditional" laptop that is a 90% ultrabook-like for £500.

    Whomever thought of the price point for the ultrabooks should be taken out and educated on market economics.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intel and all can FO and die

    The specs are shite for the price they ask for. People would have paid a grand, or just about for a good laptop. Ten years ago.

    I doubt there's ever going to be a large market for laptops, no matter what specs, at this price point, ever.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bang for buck!

    Simple as that;

    Yes they are more portable, most people use them at home on their lap.

    Yes they are thinner and lighter, most people use them at home on their lap.

    Ooh they're so pretty, but you're paying £400-500 more for something thin, with an SSD, do the math!

    Those spending in the £800+ bracket, usually want one of 3 things:

    1. Ultra portable business machine, these have existed for many years prior to the Ultrabook and usually the company in question will have a deal setup with a supplier for one of their business systems.

    2. Powerful, yet portable workstations, see 1.

    3. Gamers, Ultrabooks don't have the performance in either CPU or Graphics for gaming and would rather spend the cash on the high end CPU and Graphics chipsets than just having it thin.

    The only people interested in Ultrabooks are those intending to have something to show off, on the train/plane or in the Coffee shop.

    Most of which probably have a Macbook of some form, they will probably be Apple Fanboi's and won't consider windows as an alternative.

    Marketing strategy fail!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bang for buck!

      Posting this on a MacBook Air from Barcelona. It was a pleasure taking it onto the plane as it didn't weigh me down at all. I use it on my lap at home, on the train when I am doing some coding, and at my client site when I need to access tech sites they block. I do C# and Java development on Windows and Macs. In short I love both Windows and OSX, but am happy to spend the extra (debatable it is extra) for a machine that is so quick, can run both Windows and OSX, and just doesn't feel bloated after a few months they way every Windows machine i've used seems to. Apple succeeds because they have brilliant hardware, and decent software. Microsoft deserves to succeed because they have decent software.

      1. stewski

        Re: Bang for buck!

        Toshiba z830 = £700 - equivalent macbook = £1100

        The main differences being

        the tosh can plug in to a projector or monitor via VGA,

        the tosh has USB3 not thunderbolt

        the mac is an i5 the tosh is i3 (no major shakes, agree?)

        the battery in the Tosh lasts longer

        the tosh has sdxc for upto 2tb of expansion

        the tosh takes up to 6gb of ram (which cost me < £40) the mac is maxed at 4

        the tosh has a max res of 1366x768 the mac supports 1440x900 (which I seriously would prefer but it is still a compromised resolution for my work so VGA support is a must)

        I can run OSX as easily as you can run win7

        What is special about the air again?

  14. conan

    Value for money

    I'm happy to spend a grand on a laptop; my current one cost more, if you include the upgrades I've shoved in it. But it has to have top-spec everything - and that means graphics. If I'm spending £1000, it doesn't have to play the latest games amazingly well, but it has to play some games I want reasonably, which a £500 laptop can do. This means for an Ultrabook to be worth it to me it must not have Intel integrated graphics... Oh wait a minute

  15. Pud

    I too would love an Ultrabook for its portability, but I don't need it to be a power machine; it needs to do email, read and write documents; run Powerpoint.

    So it doesn't need an I7 processor or 5 million gigabytes of memory or USB6 or whatever. Give me the style without the cost

  16. The New Turtle

    Probably the biggest single weakness with virtually all the true ultrabooks I've seen reviewed so far is inappropriate screen resolution - basically using cheap consumer panels at 1366X768. These machines would be bought by people in the business sector - like me - who want something small and light to travel and work with, and for whom a wide screen is a significant disadvantage. The (3 1/2 year old) Macbook I'm using right now runs 1280 X 800, which is better for viewing documents. Ideally one would have something like 1440 X 900 in a panel to fit a 13" size body shell in a 'premium' PC product.

    Sherlock, because the makers don't seem to have a clue about this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Samsung 9 series ticks all these boxes nicely with its 1600x900 display .

      Worth every penny to make the Macbook Air owners choke on their lattes.

      1. Dana W


        Every time i see another Windows powered "me too" Mac look alike, the LAST thing I do is choke. I think its hilarious. And as ever, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

  17. Thorfkin

    Most people aren't going to want to spend an extra $500 for a machine that can do the same thing as a cheap netbook but is a little thinner. The CPU in the ultrabook is faster than a netbook CPU and Intel claims the GPU is Direct X 11 capable but Intel has been historically unable to produce drivers that can run even basic old games let alone anything current. So the end result is still a machine that does exactly the same as a cheap $400 laptop or even cheaper netbook but just weighs less. Worth an extra $500? Not likely!

  18. Mr Bear

    So basically Intel want people to pay twice as much for laptops during a recession? I thought they had clever people working there.

  19. MnM

    reading this on an oldish Lenovo Core2 duo with a 1280*800 screen, recently refreshed with Win 7, extra 1GB RAM, new battery, 120GB SSD - cost 110 quid to bring it very up to date.

    Ultrabook not really an upgrade on this - with proper vertical screen res and non-rip-off price I would buy, I've been wanting to for years... but they're not very good at the moment.

  20. Chris 228

    I doubt it!

    I doubt many people will want an underpowered Ultrabook regardless of price when they can soon have a quality Trinity powered laptop at a very affordable price. Demand looks to be staggering for Trinity laptop at this point, which is no surprise based on performance and value. Intel might as well concede defeat and move on to something else like servers.

  21. The Boojum

    For anything high end - big spreadsheets, presentations, video, audio - a desktop.

    For everything else my Transformer Prime plus cloud storage.

    It's worked perfectly well for me for 5 months.

    Ultrabooks with my own money? You must be joking.

  22. Smartypantz

    Descent screen anybody ?..... helloooooo..

    I dont give a flying fuck if its dual, quad or hexa core, has 4 6 or 8 GB's of RAM, or if its a 120, 160 or 240 GB SSD.


    A laptop with anything less than 1920x1080 (preferrebly 1920x1280) SUCKS!

    Why the hell should I buy one of these things for a truckload of money, if the ergonomics are more or less the same as my 5 year old laptop, and the only difference is that it opens my officesuite ~11% quicker?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Descent screen anybody ?..... helloooooo..

      I have never understood that attitude.

      Is there an international willy-waving trophy for winning in the "my tiny screen has more pixels than your tiny screen" stakes?

      This 'ere thing has somethingx800 on its 13" display and I need a fucking magnifying glass to spot the pixels on that.

      I have nothing against 1920 x 1080........on a 24" monitor where you can actually see the bloody difference.

      1. Figgus

        Re: I have never understood that attitude.

        Just because your eyes are a tad soft doesn't mean the rest of ours are. I have a 12" mini that does 1366x768 and the lack of resolution is one of my primary gripes about it.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A Windows computer is a Windows computer

    no one is going to pay 2x the cost of a laptop when it runs exactly the same OS. People don't buy Microsoft computers to be blown away be their sleek design and light weight.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Windows computer is a Windows computer

      ...and that's why Ultrabook sales are so poor.

  24. Christian Berger

    I don't get the point

    I mean I recently got an X40, that's a nice compromise between size and usefulness. With Linux that device is nearly a full blown workstation. Getting more storage or a bigger, higher resolution screen unfortunately clashes with the idea of a portable computer.

    It wouldn't be of more use if it was thinner, the thickness never has been a problem to me. If it was, perhaps the form factor of an old Nokia Communicator, it would have a bit more use because then I could simply carry it around in a pocket. However just making a laptop flat won't make it more useful.

    CPU power is rarely a problem these days, nor is disk access time.

  25. stewski

    Where is the £900 coming from.

    I bought my toshiba z830 for under £700, its lighter than my works 10" toshiba at100 and the ssd means photoshop loads in about 3-5 seconds and it boots in less than 20.

    My friends ipad set her back over £500 by the time Apple had finished selling her add on's she needed to be able to plug it into anything and to my mind it is functionally useless in comparison.

    Mine doesn't have a dvd drive but everything else I could ask for is there including a matt screen. What the hell are you people on about?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Arm laptops

    Meanwhile, still waiting for a good arm based laptop that has been coming for years now but has yet to appear. Curious, that.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never met an Intel product I didn't dislike

    I have yet to meet a real person who actually said they wanted to buy an Intel Ultrabook.

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