The Argument Against Ultrabooks

Posted on 27 October 2011 By


Asus_Zenbook_UX21In this article I’ll be taking a different stance and presenting an argument against Ultrabooks.

Why would a pro-Ultrabook web site and a pro-Ultrabook author do this? Simply because I want you readers, and myself, to get a better perspective on the discussion going on around Ultrabooks. All opinions are valid and to make a decision, you need both sides of the story. The more discussion we have, the more we understand. Fingers crossed that Intel and a few OEDs and OEMs read this too because it’s exactly what they need to be thinking about.

I have tried to keep this article factually correct. Your input is encouraged in the comments section below.

Let me start with this…

The Ultrabook is a fashion item designed to allow manufacturers to decrease costs and charge a premium for a style-focused, sealed-unit laptop. It ignores flexibility and compromises on performance and battery life.

Exhibit number one – A Core i3 laptop weighing 1.3KG/2.7lb and costing just €450 / $500 – half the price of an Ultrabook. Next question?

You want gaming graphics? Ah, there’s another problem. The HD 3000 graphics included in Ultrabooks is nothing compared to a discreet graphics solution. Even a cheap graphics solution like the Radeon 6630M found in a €700 ThnkPad Edge E320 with a fully-clocked Core i5 will vastly out-perform an Ultrabook with Integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics. The weight penalty is a small 500gm but it comes with a much bigger battery.

The Ultrabook is one big corner-cutting exercise.

The GPU is the #1 case in point but for another, look at the connectors. You’ll be fumbling with micro and mini ports, assuming you’ve remembered to bring, or haven’t lost, the adaptors. Want HDMI and VGA? You’ll be lucky to find that. Full size SDXC card that allows photographers to quickly import photos? Not many Ultrabooks support that.

The CPU is cut-down too. Fancy a 1.3Ghz weakling in your laptop? OK, we’re not talking about netbook levels of processing power here because the Intel ‘Core’ CPU is an advanced processor but a desktop CPU it is not. And don’t fall for that Turbo mumbo-jumbo either. Only the Core i5 and Core i7 versions have the turbo feature but even then, the thermal ‘headroom’ in these tight devices means you have just seconds before the core heats-up and the clock is knocked back down.  The fully-clocked Lenovo X220, Toshiba R830 and Dell Latitude E6220 show how lightweight devices can run fully clocked mobile processors with very little weight compromise. And so on to the next cut-down component – storage.

A 320GB hard drive is standard on most $250 netbooks these days. On the $1000 Ultrabook, you’ll get 128GB. Faster, yes, but how long can you survive with just 100GB of storage space? A full drive is a dead drive.

Because of the push for thin and light, corners have been cut in the battery department. Battery capacities in Ultrabooks are down below netbook levels yet because there’s no space for standard size batteries, each one need to be designed separately for each device. The cost, obviously, goes up and you’ll have to pay for it. Combine the Ultrabook platform that can suck 25W with the 35Wh battery capacity found on the Asus UX21 and you’ll be shocked at sub-2hr battery life figures. Want to carry a spare battery? Sorry, these mini power-packs are sealed-in. Yes, you’ll read about a 13” Ultrabook running idle for 8 hours but if you start using the device in any sort of productive way you’ll be running it at 3X-4X the power it took to idle. Be very careful of manufacturers battery life claims.

I mentioned sealed-in batteries above but that’s not all that’s sealed-in. Even if you do manage to get the device apart (by invalidating your warranty) you’ll see soldered flash storage and memory. There are no upgrade possibilities at all with Ultrabooks. When the disk fails, the laptop is ready for the dump. The same applies to memory – if it fails, you’ve lost your Ultrabook. Throw-away laptops aren’t good for the user, aren’t good for the environment.

This sealed laptop approach is something new for manufacturers and although it might result in cheaper production costs over time, the early costs will be high as new, expensive and low-volume parts are sourced. Ultrabooks will remain expensive to produce and with volume predictions dropping to 20% (from Intel’s original 40% of the laptop market) the costs could remain high, possibly never reaching the tipping point needed to reap the rewards of a shorter production line and lower part count. You’ll be paying that early adopter premium for a long time.

The MacBook Air is a good example of how an Ultrabook can work but it’s not something that the PC can’t copy without looking clumsy. the MBA cuts corners just like the Ultrabok but it’s produced by a company that has the marketing momentum and brand to push it through to a large enough customer base that is already primed for higher costs and style-focused devices. The MBA is cool. Copying the MBA is the Anti-Cool. In many cases, OS X is better optimized than the PC-generic Windows 7 too. For the same hardware you’ll get better performance simply because OS X doesn’t have to support millions of hardware combinations and engineers can therefore spend more time focusing on optimisation. How does Toshiba, Dell or Lenovo hope to appeal to a style market when their brands speak ‘business?’ It smacks of  clumsy-cool don’t you think?

This follow-the-leader approach never works. PC’s are boring. Manufacturers should accept that and focus on price and flexibility, not sealed-unit corner-cutting copycat eye-candy.

-END

This article obviously doesn’t represent the views of the author and this website so in a follow-up article, I’ll be discussing these points and taking into consideration the discussion in the comments below.

Update: The Argument for Ultrabooks has been posted.

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  1. #1 by tauerman on October 27, 2011 - 16:35

    I bought a Lenovo X220 with IPS monitor 2 months ago.
    I’m very happy, it has enough power ( I don’t play games), has a retrofitted 3G module.
    And I expanded the Ram to 8GB, swapped the 250GB HDD for a Intel X25-m G2 80GB SSD.
    I don’t need more than that, because my main computer is still my Desktop PC.

    And for portable stuff, the X220 is pretty cool.
    12,5″ display is a great size.
    And the whole unit only weights 1,5kg.

    Ok, lastly I have to admit normally this would cost above 1000€ but because of student discounts it was around 1000€ with the extras.

    • #2 by Chippy on October 27, 2011 - 16:53

      I’m a big fan of the x220 but with that combination, you’re looking at €1500 there, surely.

  2. #3 by Keith on October 27, 2011 - 16:36

    there is always the “why don’t I just get the MBA” argument.

  3. #4 by Keith on October 27, 2011 - 17:42

    They need to do more to differentiate between regular 11.6″-13″ (eg TimelineX) and Ultrabooks. It just doesn’t feel “luxurious”. For one they could have used a better screen (viewing angle galore!)

    • #5 by Chippy on October 27, 2011 - 19:32

      I agree Keith. Intel was created a trademark Ultrabook brand but don’t seem to want to make it mean anything.
      However, we must remember that we are in a transition phase and OEMs, oed’s and contract manufacturers have extra costs ordeal with as they migrate to an Ultrabook design and manufacturer process. It could be that Haswell+Windows 8 will be the timeframe in which the Ultrabook becomes more tightly defined with security, media and speed features.

  4. #6 by Adam on October 27, 2011 - 18:25

    I have to agree at this point. I’ve been an ultra light segment fanatic ever since I got the first x60 as a work machine and a couple years later bought my wife one of the first ULV Core2-based machines. The ACER Aspire Timeline series 13.3″ models (see 38010T) could be purchased for $650 2 months after they came out. Infinitely more capable than a netbook, incredibly portable, 9 hour real battery life when new; all around great mobility VALUE.
    Gen 1 ULV by the specs: (Acer 3810T):
    Height: 1.1″
    Weight: 3.5 LBS
    Battery Life Casual Surfing and Document Authoring: 9 hours
    Screen: 13.3″ @ 1366×768
    Cost: $650 for single core (don’t install AV on it)

    Now with the ultrabooks you’re getting even thinner and even lighter, certainly way faster, BUT you’re getting a decrease in battery life (Intel Core sacrificed mobility for power; the balance just wasn’t right; I’m hoping that Ivybridge brings this closer to parity but I think the Anandtech “lobbyists” are likely to push GPU speed increases to the detriment of mobility and battery life again this time around), and over a 50% increase in cost.(And no increase in monitor quality or resolution except from ASUS)

    The Ultrabook price point just doesn’t justify what you get; not even the “coolness” makes up for it. If we would’ve also seen battery life increases along with the perf increases (10 hour battery life) and screen quality and resolution increases I could almost say that the 60% cost increase is worth it, but it’s not.

    When I compare say the Lenovo U300s to the slightly thicker and heavier U300, the non-ultrabook U300 is the clear over-all value winner.

    (Only slightly thicker and heavier than the ultrabooks and still thinner and lighter than the old Acer Aspire 3810t.)

    These “almost but not quite” Ultrabooks are the ultra mobility value leaders this time around.

    I’m looking for a modern replacement for our trusty Acer Aspire 3810t and I understand that $650 isn’t going to happen if I want: WIDI and an SSD, but I’m willing to pay extra for those features.

    Intel Sandybridge is a complete disappointment for the mobility enthusiast; the balance between performance and efficiency was significantly unbalanced towards perf; the other half of me says that I should completely wait until Ivy Bridge when I’m hoping that the equation will be slightly more in mobility’s favor.

    For me there’s only two options that make sense at the moment:
    1. The new and emerging “almost ultrabooks” (after all the major manufacturers release their new models of ultrabooks and competition brings prices down at least $100)
    2. Wait for Ultrabook v2 and hope that Ivybridge boosts both GPU perf AND efficiency and that we get Ivybridge+higher resolution screens+WIDI for the current $1000 -$1100 price points.

    I’d pay $1000-$1100 for an ultrabook if I could get 8 hours of real battery use, decent SSD, WIDI, and a decent screen. -If that can’t happen (and I don’t see how it will unless Intel agrees that it has to drop that 60% profit margin to 45% at launch and 50% after economies of scale drop production costs) then “almost ultrabooks” are the only reasonable option for the person not completely infatuated with looks to the point that the rules of logic and paying a fair price doesn’t apply. (And let’s be honest, those buyers buy Macs.)

    Adam

  5. #7 by Adam on October 27, 2011 - 18:36

    Intel got us (well me anyway) excited about their vision of getting people excited about PCs again and creating a full-powered ultra mobile platform that can take mind share away from tablets and that offers a super value proposition for content CREATORS.

    Their STRATEGY and EXECUTION then veered significantly from that course and they instead delivered an over-priced wanna be Mac Book Air.

    They still have the ability to create an “almost Ultrabook” a “superbook” category (if you will) that CAN accomplish the original vision and I believe capture 40% of the market IF they can hit that $650 price point.

    -Use Intel Core-based ULV CPUs and Intel Widi as the basis for that platform (but accept a 45%-50% profit margin; for the love of God you’re competing with Arm for survival and “hearts and minds” now; ACT LIKE IT! (heck, convince Microsoft to subsidize 5% of your profit margin loss; this will benefit them more than anyone except for Intel, after all)) and target the 1″ thick, less than 3.5 lbs, all-day computing, ultra fast boot time (hybrid SSDs to keep costs down), plastic / fiberglass chassis machines.

    Make thin, light, near instant-on machines with WIDI and the back-ground cloud-updating capability for $650 and you’ve got a World Beater. Just keep that recipe up for the Win8 launch (and watch the boot times get even faster) and just suck in the market share or at least stop the market share blood loss to ARM while you prepare to compete with ARM on efficiency as best is possible.

    It’s not just about thin, light, and good battery; THE PRICE MATTERS!

    Adam

    • #8 by James on October 30, 2011 - 21:32

      It would be nice if Intel could lower their prices faster, and I agree price matters, but there are reasons for them not to.

      1st, they need revenue for the high paced R&D they need to keep on schedule for their cycles of next gen product offerings that they need to keep on schedule to stay ahead of the competition.

      This is further complicated by that while they are not competing with ARM for survival yet, they are trying to compete with ARM to get into the mobile market.

      Intel is just starting to establish full SoC designs, which is needed to get cost and power usage down to the levels ARM already has them.

      While similarly ARM is trying to expand their market as well but they too have to learn to make more powerful chips and even their next gen top of the line offerings are only finally rivaling Intel’s low end ATOM chips that are used in netbooks.

      While ARM chips are still also all 32bit, with 64bit only in the design stage and may take another 10+ years before it becomes common for ARM.

      So for now the two still represent separate markets but they are gearing up for more direct competition, all of which takes a lot of R&D money, and as they do so the run time and price difference is shrinking between them.

      Ivy Bridge though will be when we see more practical pricing for Ultrabooks, Asus has already suggested they can lower their starting price to about $600 for example once they start producing Ivy Bridge models. Though Ultrabooks likely won’t truly meet expectations until Intel comes out with Haswell in 2013.

      2nd, Intel is also paying an investment cost for establishing the Ultrabook category as is already. Manufacturers just want more of a break to cover the costs of establishing the new category, but Intel is already paying part of the investment costs.

      3rd, Ultrabooks are actually a long term plan for Intel. So don’t confuse what you see available now as much will change in the coming two years.

      Besides, Ivy Bridge is only months away and will offer both lower pricing and improved performance.

      While Windows 8 also means a mainstream OS that is better optimized for power efficiency than traditional Windows for another potential boost in run time.

      4th, consider that Intel doesn’t want Ultrabooks to replace their traditional PC laptop market. Nor do they want Ultrabooks to interfere with their efforts to get into the mobile market. So view Ultrabooks as the line between Intel’s portable to mobile offerings and their traditional PC base.

      So a lot of things are in play and Intel is focusing on its end game and not immediate gratification.

  6. #9 by fab on October 27, 2011 - 18:50

    the answer to all the question is much more simple than the bare technical plus / minus:

    it looks good? then i’ll get it. do NOT underestimate this argument with priority number one. (cr)apple is the first company that showed how that works.

    if you only can imagine how many people – and not just 2 or 3, but 20/30 – i know, that only look at design. they have no clue about i5/i7, SSD, microsd, minihdmi etc.

    and to top it all: the more expensive it is, the better it is. this is the main thought every – sorry – dumb consumer has!

    period

  7. #10 by Adam on October 27, 2011 - 19:17

    Fab,

    There certainly are those consumers that will pay an unjustified premium for aesthetics; whether those consumers can be convinced that “PCs can be cool” and therefore justify the price is yet to be seen, and I’d argue is a niche market. (Nothing resembling even the revised 20% market share at current prices with the hardware mfgrs themselves only half-heartedly supporting ultrabooks and releasing their own “almost ultrabooks” at 30% discounts to the actual ultrabooks.)

    (Charging MORE for slower ULV processors is just ridiculous.)

    What many of us ultra mobile enthusiasts still want to see is a machine that fulfills Intel’s original ultrabook vision.

    Right now there’s no reason for me to not buy a $500 beast of a PC for productivity and content creation and use an iPad for my mobility needs if I’m a value-focused consumer; or to just buy a Macbook Air if I want an ultramobile where price is no object and I just want the ability to look down my nose at other people.

    There’s not a big enough gap in the marketplace for a $1100 Ultrabook, as speced today, to gain 20-40% market share.

    There’s a HUGE gap half way between today’s pre-ultrabook ultramobiles and tablets that you could drive a truck through. (Price AND capability gap.) -Ultrabooks did great on closing the capability gap but they’re really far from the mark on the cost gap. ($100 cheaper than a Macbook Air; whoopedy doo!) A Kindle Fire costs $200.

    Yes dramatically different hardware, interface, and capability but in the new App Centric World where “just enough” is “good enough”, does that matter?

    I know a tablet isn’t a content creation device but there’s a huge price gap on the content creation side, too.

    If the assumption of a 20% market share for ultrabooks by the end of 2012 is baked into Intel’s stock price, I say: SELL, SELL, SELL! -Maybe that will wake them up to more closely aligning profit margins with their competitors…

    Adam

  8. #11 by Adam on October 27, 2011 - 19:30

    Ultrabooks ARE a great product; they will no doubt sell lots of units and make a lot of people a lot of money. (Mainly Intel.)

    But they’re not going to put a dent in the macro MARKET SHARE trends.

    A “regular mans” $650 or even $750 Ultrabook-inspired “super book category” that focuses on all-day battery life, features that make computing “less painful” (fast boot, WIDI, updates from a low power mode) and provide “as much mobility and CPU power as possible for $650-$750″ has a better shot at impacting market share.

    Car companies use their race cars to drive innovation that can be applied in less expensive ways in the future to improve their mainstream product line. Intel’s created a race car showcase platform here, but the innovation needs to trickle down into the mainstream products because there’s not enough consumers looking to buy a Ferrari.

    (Even with significant and increasing wealth gaps in America, there’s still not enough consumers around who can buy Ferrari’s to justify not focusing better on the mainstream products/consumers.)

    Adam

  9. #12 by Wesley on October 27, 2011 - 23:08

    I can’t be sold on ultrabooks in terms of the high price and the low specs that you get in return. An SSD hard drive for example might be very fast, but I need as much space to work with as possible and an average of 128GB is not going to be anywhere close to being enough. They really do look good though…

    I do prefer a smaller laptop between 12″-13.3″ and I want a lot of good features. I am actually looking around for a laptop to buy in the near future and have narrowed it down to either the Lenovo Z370 or HP Pavillio dv3-4300sa. Both cost about £550 and have similar specs. Eg. 13.3″ screen, Intel core i5, 4Gb ram, 750GB hard drive, dedicated onboard video cards, DVD writers, 6 hours battery life and only weigh 2kg.

    For just a tiny bit more weight and thickness and half the price of an ultrabook, you just get so much more.

    • #13 by James on October 30, 2011 - 21:42

      Between the mobile market and Ultrabooks there is a increased demand for SSDs. All of which should accelerate development and help lower costs.

      Mind that it was not that long ago that 128GB SSD would have cost you more than the whole Ultrabook. While a high end offering now for a 2.5″ SSD has finally reached the 1TB mark.

      So by 2013 we’re likely to see at least a doubling of capacity for the price.

      Though keep in mind not all Ultrabooks will be using just SSDs, some are still utilizing hard drives or will opt for a combination of both. At least for the larger models.

      While there is also the growing support for cloud storage. Along with other options like WiFi enabled portable hard drives, etc.

      • #14 by Dan on October 30, 2011 - 22:44

        Which makes me wonder… with the advent of msata SSD storage, does that save cost over the 2.5″ SSD? I would hope so.

  10. #15 by Dan on October 28, 2011 - 19:25

    Ultrabooks have ruined me though! I like the idea of the Lenovo Z370 or X220, or even Vostro v131but those look like they were designed 5-10 years ago! As an avid Windows user who would not consider MBA an option, I’m tired of putting design second.

    I agree with most of what this article says, but I am finally getting to the point where I am willing to pay a little more for awesome design and appearance while willingly sacrificing graphics, resolution and high performance. The Ultrabooks meet that need, while being extremely light and pretty, while still more performance than a netbook.

    • #16 by James on October 30, 2011 - 21:58

      Just wait till Ivy Bridge comes out, pricing should be a little better and performance will get a 20-30% boost.

      So will be less of a sacrifice then! Though even now the Ultrabook is multiple times more powerful than a netbook.

      • #17 by Adam on October 31, 2011 - 13:14

        Perf isn’t the problem; battery life and price is currently. What can’t you do with the current Sandybridge CPUs that you’ll be able to do with an Ivy Bridge CPU?

        I’m quickly losing hope that the price decreases will be a good trade off. The supposed price decreases come from allowing fiberglass chassis (which takes us back to normal non-ultrabook PC looks and feels) and the hybrid SSD stick+ traditional HDD strategy and so far the Acer utilizing this combo is testing horribly in storage performance and boot times compared to it’s pure SSD bretheren.

        The talk about the Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks having “retina-like” ultra high resolution displays also makes me think that lowering the price is NOT a goal in the v.Next Ultrabooks.

        I don’t think sacrificing disk perf or trading out metal unibody designs for fiberglass is the right way to get the perf drop unless the hybrid SSD+HDD options get better in a hurry.

        The problems in Ultrabooks are all in Intel’s arena: MORE efficiency and lower prices. (We need Ivy Bridge to get us back to a FULL 8 hours of light use (none of this 4-6 hour crap) and we need the cost of the CPUs to come down. (60% profit margin is unjustified.)

        -I’d probably pay $1000 for an X31 if I could get it with a true 8 hours of battery life, though.
        (I don’t think you really have a mass market product until we see another 30% drop in the total price, though and much of that should come from a reduction in the CPU markup.)

        Adam

      • #18 by James on November 5, 2011 - 09:54

        Run time is improving as they make the technology more energy efficient. Just compare the runtime difference between the Asus EP121 Slate with the older Core i5 and the Samsung Series 7 Slate with it’s Sandy Bridge i5.

        While there’s also more than just compromises on case design and hybrid drive options going towards lowering the cost of Ultrabooks in future models.

        Ivy Bridge will be introducing some of Intel’s newer technology like their announced Tri-gate transistors (which claims up to 50% power consumption reduction), PCI Express 3.0, DDR3 low voltage for mobile processors (could shave 4-19W from your power draw), dynamic configurable TDP (adjusts power usage as needed), Power Aware Interrupt Routing (PAIR) technology (like auto turning off USB ports when not being used), etc. Along with reducing manufacturing size to 22nm. All of which will help address both the pricing and power efficiency issues.

        While Ivy Bridge will be also boosting performance a little higher than what Sandy Bridge offers. Like the GMA will add support for DirectX 11, OpenGL 3.1, and OpenCL 1.1, 16 execution units (EUs) compared to Sandy Bridge’s maximum of 12.

        So don’t lose hope quite yet, though it may take the addition of Haswell, which brings the whole thing into a SoC design, before we really see the technology for making Ultrabooks practical for the masses come into play.

  11. #19 by Adam on October 28, 2011 - 19:38

    Another example:
    The Dell Vostro v131 is only 0.83″ thick (and a bit chunky at 4 lbs), had a 13.3″ 1366×768 screen, an Intel Core i5 2510M, 4GB RAM, and really hits all the ultrabook requirements except that it has a traditional hard disk drive.

    With a coupon code that’s floating around it’s only $599 with free shipping… is getting rid of that one extra pound and an SSD worth $400??? -And you can get a Vertex 2 120 GB SSD for $165… Is 1 lb of weight worth $235??

    (You can buy a Kindle and dinner for the price difference.) -Get your ultralight AND a tablet if you avoid the ultrabook premium pricing…

    Adam

    • #20 by Dan on October 28, 2011 - 20:54

      Yes, but the design is still not on par with the Ultrabooks. With the UX31 or U300s, you will turn heads at the local coffee shop. The Vostro just looks like another corporate Windows laptop. …imho.

      • #21 by Gyan on October 29, 2011 - 01:19

        If turning heads is what you need, I suggest you go to an Apple store. They have what you seek.

        I was hoping to get an MBA equivalent for a reasonable price. That was what Intel announced they were pushing.

        I suppose it didn’t work. I couldn’t care less that the laptop has a shiny case and swarovski swirls everywhere. Whoopdee freaking doo.

        What I was hoping to get is a rail thin, light, long lasting (battery) laptop, with decent perfomances and a reasonable price. 600 dollars. 700 tops. Asus can keep their fancy B&O partnerships and fancy casings. 100 euros less than an MBA? Give me a break.

        Does that really sound unreasonable? Maybe.

        So far the one coming closest is the Toshiba ultrabook. The design is sober, no need for extra bling. Sadly the price is pretty damn high for that one as well.

        I think it really comes down to who these ultrabooks target. I personally think it’s the netbook crowd who will be the most interested. Students, needing to haul books and stuff throughout the day, need something thin, light, with a long lasting battery, and more power than a netbook.

        Let’s get real here. If you really want a decently powerful machine, you’re not going to get an ultrabook. They are much better than netbooks, but considering the price, performance wise, they’re a bad joke.

      • #22 by Dan on October 29, 2011 - 01:47

        I see your point, but you missed what I said in #12 about wanting what Apple has in design in a Windows laptop. And I’m not talking about installing Win7 on MBA.

        If anything, I see the Ultrabook (at these prices) geared towards business people with deep pockets who need a light slick Windows machine out of the box with a little bling.

      • #23 by Gyan on October 29, 2011 - 11:46

        Ah yes, I did miss #12, apologies :)

        Indeed, I suppose there is a market for people looking for an MBA in anything but the OS. Still, wouldn’t that be pretty niche? Maybe I underestimate it.

  12. #24 by bearforce1 on October 29, 2011 - 09:29

    Well this is crap news and disheartening.

    I was hoping for a thin light machine with bucket loads of battery. End of story. How did they manage to muck it up so much.

    If they said here is 12-14 hours of battery life I reckon many would jump on it. I know I would.

    So Ultrabooks are not powerful and they don’t have great battery life. Yay the worst of both worlds.

    • #25 by Adam on October 31, 2011 - 13:25

      How are they not powerful?

      I agree with you completely when it comes to battery life, though. We’ve got a doubling in battery technology only once every 10 years and a doubling of processing power every 18 months; we certainly can’t expect battery technology to get us increases in battery life; it HAS to be the semiconductor and component manufacturers who bring it.

      Intel has been listening to the gamers and perf nuts too much *Cough Ananadtech *Cough and really screwed mobile enthusiasts with Sandybridge and we saw a battery life decline in almost every use case scenario vs. the Core2 CPUs.
      -YES we get more performance per watt but who cares if over-all battery life declines!?!?!

      There should NEVER be an over-all increase in power consumption in a laptop platform any more.

      I’m glad to see they have addressed this in the roadmap, but Sandybridge has been painful and with the revised messaging on the Ivy Bridge platform’s power increases I’m not hoping for huge increases in Ivy Bridge. (Yes huge graphics perf increases, but battery? -We’ll have to see.)

  13. #26 by Michael on October 29, 2011 - 13:38

    Ultrabooks were there 7 years ago. Go to Dynamism and see for yourself. Fujitsu and Sony came out with sub 1kg machines and they did not sell well. Yes it was $5000 but at that time, the average notebook was $2000.

    History is repeating itself. Ultrabooks are like the ultralights created by Sony and Fujitsu (Toshiba as well) 7 years ago.

    It is even harder for there “ultralights” to compete now cause your average 1.3 to 1.4 KG notebook has dropped so much in price. For example, look at the Asus UL20A, it light and yet gives far more battery performance than your modern ultrabooks.

    A lot of people are going ga ga over ultrabooks, buy one and get a shock with the battery life. I know a friend who gets 2 hours plus on his Acer Ultrabook. This is like going back in time.

  14. #27 by Everett on October 29, 2011 - 23:01

    Chippy! Thank you for this article! I have been GA GA over all these shiny machines, but I did not realize battery life was so poor and that a failed SSD could not be replaced. So if anything goes wrong, it is ship to the factory…or throw it away, eh?

    I have been waiting for the Toshiba z830 because it seems like the best of these machines. But now I am considering a more traditional route. Just trying to find a thin and light i5 with a discreet video card for sub $1000.

    Now, Chippy, I am eagerly awaiting your next article as to WHY BUY an Ultrabook. You have talked me out of buying one so far. Are you going to talk me back into buying one next!??

    • #28 by Chippy on October 30, 2011 - 10:25

      To be honest, if you need upgradeability, discreet graphics, ultrabooks in 2011 may not be for you. The z830 is likely to have a memory slot and i have seen some ssds in slots (asus ux) but it’s likely that opening the device voids the warranty.

    • #29 by Adam on October 31, 2011 - 13:28

      Is it true that you can’t replace the SSDs in this generation of Ultrabooks? -I’m not concerned with warranties.
      (If I’m spending $1000 on a laptop I’m going to want to keep it for 3 years which means in 18 months I’m probably going to want to upgrade that SSD.)

      Adam

      • #30 by Chippy on October 31, 2011 - 14:53

        The Asus UX range have replacable sticks. Not sure how easy it will be to get upgrades though.

  15. #31 by Dan on October 31, 2011 - 13:18

    I sure hope representatives from Asus, Lenovo, Acer, Toshiba, Samsung, etc. are reading this thread.

  16. #32 by Richard on July 22, 2012 - 08:40

    Intel’s Ultrabook label seems like an attempt to revive the netbook market, only this time a bit thinner and slightly more powerful. Netbooks lost popularity because people discovered that they weren’t as light as a tablet, the batteries didn’t last as long as tablet batteries, they weren’t powerful enough to use as a proper PC, and they had frustratingly low screen resolutions. All of these things are also true of Ultrabooks. Ultrabooks, as they currently stand, are 2012′s netbooks, only far more expensive.

    At a time when Windows 8 challenges computer manufacturers to find a way to converge touch screens and all-purpose computers, Intel’s highly restrictive Ultrabook concept is exactly not what the manufacturers need. Rather than aspire to earn the label “Ultrabook” by meeting Intel’s arbitrary conditions, manufacturers would do better to ignore this particular Intel marketing device and focus on finding genuinely satisfying ways to improve portability and battery life on touch-enabled Windows PCs.

    After all, consumers buy based on what they see in the shops. It doesn’t matter to them whether it’s called “Ultrabook” or not.

    • #33 by Ben Lang on July 22, 2012 - 18:50

      I’d have to disagree. There is a distinct difference between netbooks and Ultrabooks. Notice how we capitalize the latter? It’s because an ‘Ultrabook’ is a defined thing. Netbooks were just a term for a cheap and small computer, there was no real definition. Netbooks were bad for the companies making them and bad for consumers. No one wanted to make netbooks because the profit margins were tiny and these were low-power and non-premium devices that didn’t make a good mark on the PC industry. From an earlier article:

      Pushing Ultrabooks over netbooks is a good move by Intel that benefits the whole PC laptop industry — in more ways than just potentially raising margins. Even if Ultrabooks are more expensive than netbooks, they hold a significant edge in processing power, aesthetics, and features, over netbooks. This edge means that an Ultrabook owners can go longer between purchases than a netbook owner. Assuming this works out to mean that, on average, Ultrabook owners are spending about as much as netbook owners are spending over time, Ultrabooks provide a significantly better reputation to the PC laptop market (thanks to superior design and features) than that of their netbook brethren.

      What consumers didn’t realize is that they were paying less for computers, but it was crap hardware so they had to replace them more often to keep up. The end result being that people weren’t actually saving money, but they were getting inferior computing products. Also from a previous article:

      n the last several years, netbooks have become quite popular for a number of reasons. They succeed because users began to move away from traditional software and into the cloud. This made the optical drive mostly a waste of space and cost. With cloud computing came generally lower processing requirements, and both of these factors allowed laptop makers to trim the excess fat from the usual laptop and turn it into the netbook. Netbooks aren’t perfect however, they work for cloud productivity, but they frequently struggle with anything as soon as it comes to multimedia. Efforts have been made to rectify this issue with discrete graphics, but as Chippy points out, discrete graphics are not the way to go if you want to enable high-efficiency computing.

      Instead, Ultrabooks add back the multimedia capabilities that were cut out when netbooks went under the scalpel. Maybe they thought we wouldn’t miss it too much — apparently they were wrong. Intel has added vital hardware encoding and decoding directly to the Ultrabook platform for multimedia playback and basic editing. The processors, while not blazing compared to much larger and heavier laptops, are far more capable of utilizing heavy (in the eyes of a netbook) multimedia applications like iTunes and Spotify, and the same goes for photo viewing and editing software. Instead of discrete graphics, Intel has pushed to return good performance for these specifically missed functions to a completely on-board platform.

      With Ultrabooks, consumers can expect a certain speed and performance from their computers. Intel’s best silicon goes into these devices and they have an impressive range of power from very low power with high battery life to high performance for desktop scenarios. They are thin, light, and power efficient which means they last a long time but don’t take forever to charge. I for one am very happy to see netbooks replaced with Ultrabooks; for the consumer they represent a better value.

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