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Seriously, What's an Ultrabook Anyway?

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When Intel first announced their initiative on Ultrabooks back in August of 2011, fans of ultraportable laptops with sensible battery life and performance everywhere rejoiced. The name of the game was thin, fast, long battery life, and stylish. Finally, Windows users would have viable alternatives to the MacBook Air. The initially announced wave of Ultrabooks from various PC manufacturers were looking great, with slick machines like the Lenovo U300s, high-resolution Asus Zenbook, etc.

Then of course, as is often the case with PC manufacturers, things started to get a little bit ridiculous.

Most Ultrabooks in the starting lineup weighed in at three pounds or less. But as 2012 approached, suddenly 14-inch AND larger Ultrabooks started appearing.

While Intel set clear guidelines on specifications for a laptop to reach Ultrabook status with each mobile platform release, they never did set a maximum weight for laptops to qualify. The current "Chief River" Centrino-mobile platform Ultrabook specs require that a 13.3" or smaller display be thinner than 18mm, while 14-inch or larger laptops be 21mm or thinner, and convertible laptops be at most 23mm thick.

Somewhere along the way, manufacturers decided to "Ultrabook" their entire lineups. Keep the thickness in range, slap in an mSSD cache instead of a true solid state drive to reach the hibernation bootup requirement of 7 seconds... and BAM, Ultrabook.

Who cares if the weight of the 14-inch "Ultrabook" is well over 4 lbs? (Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook at 4.6 lbs)

Who cares if the combined weight and size of the 15-inch "Ultrabook" makes it feel like a regular sized laptop?(HP Envy 6 Ultrabook at 4.85 lbs)

While all of these laptops are infinitely better in the sense of portability when compared to their non-Ultrabook counterparts, allowing 15-inch+ laptops to enter the "ultraportable" space was a really mind-boggling decision for me as a consumer. Clearly doing so has diluted the Ultrabook designation's marketing power, given that almost every laptop is now being tagged with the Ultrabook moniker (or is so close to the Ultrabook spec that the distinction becomes unclear).

While Intel has set a clear guideline in the 2012 platform for a minimum of 80 MB/s storage transfer rate, the current push towards requiring touchscreen specs for mid-2013 Haswell equipped Ultrabooks seems pretty ridiculous - though given the OS they'll be operating on (Windows 8), perhaps there's little choice on Intel's part.

If anything, at least there won't be 50 different models of the same laptop from one manufacturer (touch Ultrabook vs non-touch Ultrabook vs non-Ultrabook model). We're looking at you, Lenovo U310 and U410. Sheesh.

    Past Editor’s Notes and Discussions

  • tttJan 25, 2013

    the thin ultrabooks and w8 convertibles are real revolution

  • Viet DoJan 24, 2013

    As 2013 rolls into gear and the specs for Haswell Ultrabooks are being released, you seriously have to wonder if the term "Ultrabook" means anything anymore.

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