Archive for March, 2012
Ultrabook prices are falling fast. The Novatech nFinity 2367 Ultrabook is on offer in the UK for £358 before tax, with SSD storage.
18mm thin with SSD – You’ve got two of the most important Ultrabook specifications covered. There’s a 14” screen too. The price is a UK pre-tax offer equating to around £430 after sales tax which smacks of great mainstream value. Where’s the catch?
Calling all Ultrabook designers, manufacturers, OEMs. Putting discreet graphics in Ultrabooks is not going to help the Ultrabook and it may come back to bite you. Mainstream buyers don’t understand what it means, gamers aren’t interested, video editors use Apple rigs and that just leaves the niche market of mobile geeks that do a bit of gaming on the side, a big bunch of impressionable bloggers and anyone you can tease with marketing, advertising and a bunch of stickers. Well, maybe that’s what it’s all about; the ability to market a product. I still think it will hurt the Ultrabook though.
Over the last 6 years of blogging I’ve been fortunate enough to have a well-focused and knowledgeable community associated with my sites. The comments on UMPCPortal articles are priceless nuggets of information and insight, Ultrabooknews has been the same. I want to thank you all for reading and contributing. I also want to offer you an easy way to feed back to me, to Intel and to the manufacturers. This post is intended as a long-life post open to all your comments. Key comments will be highlighted in the post as I regularly update it. I’ll be tracking comments as closely as I can, both here and on social networks, and I’ll be taking this with me to Intel, to manufacturers to ISVs and OSVs as a bell-weather of thoughts from our community.
Take the opportunity to comment below on anything Ultrabook related. Here are a few teasers to get you going?
Unlikely to be a true Ultrabook but definitely part of a developing trend towards the convertible Ultrabook design is this Teso K116 ‘ultrabook’ spotted on Alibaba, the global trade portal, today by Netbooknews.
The detachable screen is designed in a similar way to the relatively successful Asus Transformer.
‘Shocking thinness and price” says the advertising for the new Lesance NB S3431 Ultrabook. While 19mm might not be a shock to anyone that reads Ultrabooknews, the price of $725 (59980 Yen) is pretty impressive.
Yes, this is a Japan-only model (although expect it to reach other countries under other brands – this looks like one of the first 2nd-tier OEM Ultrabooks to hit the market) and the specs are so-so when compared to other Ultrabooks but for the mainstream market this price is a good indicator. Continued…
When the Ultrabook launched in June 2011, Samsung were ahead of the curve because the Series 9 had already launched into the thin and light space. It was expensive but brought the best of Samsung’s engineering to the table in exactly the way the Ultrabook was to do just months later. Over time the price has come down so it was difficult to imagine how Samsung might fit a product into the Ultrabook market but at CES the strategy was revealed as the Series 9 received a complete refresh to remain as the premium thin and light product. The price was obviously pushed back up which left space for what is effectively a tier-2 thin-and-light in the Series 5 Ultrabook.
There are two models in the range and the pricing is competitive; especially in Europe where the 13” Series 5 is offering a great package for a price that is currently only beaten by the Acer S3. The 14” Series 5 offers a DVD writer and a good set of specs but it’s the base model Series 5 13” were testing here. Bought (for a family member, not sent by a PR company) in Germany, this is an extended review of the NP530U3B.
To all intents and purposes the Series 5 is a simple, unfussy and polite Ultrabook but there’s a lot going on under the hood. It’s a swan! Express Cache is doing it’s stuff to improve boot, hibernation and application startup times and Turbo is giving a leg-up where needed; but only a little one. It seems the Samsung Series 5 has been de-tuned in order to keep it quiet.
If Apple launches a 15” MacBook Air this spring it will send a strong message to everyone that the time for traditional laptop designs is coming to an end. A report at Apple Insider says it’s likely to happen. Personally, I’m not surprised at all. We’ve already seen Samsung and Acer launch 15” ultra-thins and if the Ultrabook methodology is as cheap as I think it is, traditional style laptops for gamers could get more niche, and more expensive. The same will be true of traditional MacBook Pro.
A launch of the new MacBook Air models hinges on Intel’s Ivy Bridge platform availability so the reported ‘April’ launch could be well towards the end of April with devices being available in May although with Ultrabooks also lining up to use the platform, it will be interesting to see who get’s the first batch.
For those not familiar with Euro pricing, €599 for the Acer M3 (M3-581T-32364G34M) is a breakthrough for the Ultrabook segment. Average price for an Ultrabook in the European region is near €1000 with the lowest-priced offers down at around €700. To see a launch price of €599 is going to raise eyebrows across the industry because not only is the Acer M3 a cheap Ultrabook, it’s got some premium features too. But there’s a price to pay. This 15.6” chubber weighs 2.3KG!
Daring, Powerful, Persuasive, Excited, Determined and Persistent. All these qualities can pay dividends. In some situations, they can earn you an Ultrabook!
I’ve just updated the Dell XPS 13 information page with links to a set of reviews that came out in the last week and I get the impression that most reviewers are impressed with the new Dell Ultrabook. It took a while to reach the shelves but at $999 it looks like a reasonable buy in the USA. In the UK, however, you’ll pay £1149 which is way more than one would expect. In the EU, €1149 is still a bit expensive. The Acer S3 can be had for €699, the Samsung Series 5 (which I’m testing right now) for 400 euro less and the excellent Toshiba Z820 and HP Folio for under 1000 euros.
I’ve added reviews from Cnet, MobileTechReview, Slashgear, Engadget, Anandtech and Expert Reviews which were all based on a US sample.
One the plus side you’ve got a good backlit keyboard and nice design in a relatively small chassis and features such as Smart Connect Technology which we haven’t seen used in an Ultrabook yet. Wifi should be reasonable and will support Wi-Di and My Wifi as it’s based around the Centrino Advanced-N 6230 which I talked about yesterday.
If you’re considering the Dell XPS 13 though, take note that there’s no SD card slot, a Mini Display port instead of HDMI or VGA, average battery life, slightly heavy weight, and a potential noise and heat heat issue which could affect the usefulness of ‘Turbo.’
The bottom line here is that the Dell XPS 13 looks great and performs just as an Ultrabook should and in the USA the pricing looks about right if the specs pass your tick-list. Outside the USA the sensible buyer may choose the HP Folio to save some money for similar functionality and performance and if large storage is an issue, the Samsung Series 5 is the obvious better choice leaving, in Europe at least, 400 Euro in the back pocket – enough for a 256GB SSD upgrade and bonus 500GB portable hard drive!
If you’re checking out specifications and features of Ultrabooks for a purchase soon, make sure you keep an eye out for Intel Centrino Wireless modules. I’ve had very good experience with the Centrino 6230 module on two Ultrabooks now and having used Intel My WiFi tech today I can say that some of the features are extremely useful and easy to use.
The Centrino 6230 module is a 2 antenna, dual-band (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) Wifi unit with Bluetooth 3.0 + HS on-board. WiFi-n speeds go up to 300Mbps and I can confirm that stability and range is excellent. If you’re in a crowded hotspot, the 6230 could give you an advantage.
The 6230 support Intel’s Wireless Display 2 functionality where, given a compatible receiver, TV or STB, you can transmit 1080p format images (Note: with some lossy compression I understand) wirelessly. I haven’t tested Wireless Display outside a trade show yet so I can’t tell you too much about it. I can tell you about My Wi-Fi though. In this article you find out how to do it and what you can do with it.
I don’t believe any of the Gen-1 Ultrabooks should be taken off the market to be replaced with Ivy Bridge models but there’s a risk that they will be if manufacturers adopt a two-prong approach with low and high-end Ivy Bridge devices. News just in via The Verge says that new Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks, the UX32A and UX32Vd, will start at $800. Does that leave any space for price drops on the UX21 and UX31?
While old stock may go for cheaper prices in Q3 we think it’s unlikely that the UX21 and UX31 will continue on the production line.
As reported previously, there will be new ASUS Zenbook Ultrabooks with Full HD displays soon. The previously reported news has been confirmed by The Verge who have picked up a full spec sheet for the new ASUS UX31A and UX21A models that will launch when Ivy Bridge goes into production.
The Verge is also confirming the backlit keyboard but adding information on various screen options that range from matte to gloss with different brightness ratings. I can’t imagine that all the variants (including 2GB and 4GB RAM versions and three Ivy Bridge CPU versions) will all make it to productions but it’s great to see that ASUS are attempting to raise the bar. There’s also a switch to an Intel WiFi module that supports Wireless Display. Let’s hope it’s a high-end Centrino module although to be honest, the UX21 and UX31 already have good quality Qualcomm Atheros WiFi modules.
I spent 2hrs testing the Samsung Series 5 (530u3B) in front of an audience this evening – the best way to review!
We didn’t find any showstoppers but we did find an empty memory slot. You can see an upgrade to 8GB in the fourth video in the playlist below but in the other three videos I give you a deep dive into the Series 5.