If you have been shopping around online for an Ultrabook then you will have come across many makes and models of machine as well as Ultrabooks with many different sized screens and hardware specifications. If you are confused as to what you should be buying, read on to discover our top tips in order to buy the perfect Ultrabook for you.
‘Ultrabook’ is a term given to a laptop which meets certain Intel hardware requirements including processor, dimensions, connectivity and software. These requirements ensure that all laptops which carry the ‘Ultrabook’ name are top-end machines in terms of specification and modern features. In essence, any Ultrabook is up to date, however some of them are not as good as others as with any product range.
If you are unsure of what an Ultrabook actually is, here is our blog post on this subject.
Things to consider in an Ultrabook
Once you have read up on what it actually means for a laptop to carry the Ultrabook name, you can then begin looking for your perfect machine. Here are some of the key features you need to consider in an Ultrabook in order to make the right purchasing decision first time:
Build quality, materials
Gone are the days when laptops were made up of plastic and tacky materials. Now and in this age of the Ultrabook, you should be looking for a machine which features materials like Aluminium, Carbon Fiber or Titanium. The better the build materials, the longer your laptop will look great.
Some Ultrabooks which sport a fantastic build include the Lenovo Carbon X1 (Carbon Fiber) and ASUS Zenbook Prime (Aluminium).
There are Ultrabooks on the market which range from 13” to 15”, and a few with an inch either side. When shopping for an Ultrabook, look out for laptops with a resolution of at least 1600 x 900, as these are a decent step up from the usual bog standard 1366 x 768. More up-market machines feature 1080p displays, of which are gorgeous.
The Lenovo Carbon X1 Ultrabook features a 14-inch, 1600 x 900 display, whilst the ASUS Zenbook Prime a 13.3 inch 1920 x 1080 display.
Also, newer Ultrabooks as well as 2013 will feature a touch screen display; the reason for this is that Windows 8 features a tile based interface, enabled and optimized for touch. Whilst this is okay to use with a track pad or mouse, a touch screen makes the whole experience better.
Following on from the above display points, Windows 8 will be released in October 2012 and at this years IFA (consumer technology show) in Berlin numerous manufacturers released touch-screen updates to pre-existing Ultrabooks. You can view our coverage of hybrid Ultrabooks here.
All Ultrabooks feature either an SSD (solid state drive) or a small SSD combined with a larger HDD (hard disk drive). Usually, cheaper offerings feature a hybrid of the two. An SSD is an extremely fast drive which allows Windows 7 to cold boot in under 12 seconds and cold boot in Windows 8 in under 10.
Even if you get an Ultrabook with hybrid storage, it will use the SSD to boot Windows and so your laptop will boot up very quickly.
Due to most Ultrabooks being extremely thin, keyboards can be sacrificed in the design stage. In general, Ultra-thins’ suffer from having a shallow keyboard, although after a while this is something people usually get used to. Also, look out for Ultrabooks with a backlit keyboard; once backlit, you will never go back.
The HP Folio 13 has an excellent backlit keyboard, and is cheap too.
Older Ultrabooks feature Intel Core Sandy Bridge Processors, whilst newer ones feature Intel Core Ivy Bridge processors. The newer of the two boasts better integrated graphics and a higher level of power efficiency, up rating battery life along the way.
The highly affordable HP Folio 13 features a Sandy Bridge processor, whilst newer machines such as the Zenbook Prime feature an Ivy Bridge.
If you are planning on playing a few games on your Ultrabook, you might be disappointed, because a lot of them feature Intel HD integrated graphics. Whilst suitable for applications, web browsing and tasks, Intel HD Graphics aren’t very good for gaming purposes. If possible, seek out an Ultrabook with dedicated graphics.
The 13.3-inch ASUS UX32VD features a dedicated Nvidia 620M chip for gaming, as does the Acer TimelineUltra M3.
With an Ultrabook you will always get USB 3.0 as standard, and USB 2.0 where the manufacturer seems fit to include them. Be sure to look out for Ultrabooks with an optical drive, as if you need a disc drive for work purposes you should know that super-thin Ultrabooks don’t have them (a portable optical drive is easy to buy however).
This is a big feature you should look out for in an Ultrabook. You should be looking at Ultrabooks with a proven minimum of 5 hours battery life from moderate usage, and manufacturers who install high quality batteries. The Lenovo Carbon X1, for example, will give you 5 hours of battery life from just 35 minutes of charging.
Ultrabooks are constantly advancing and unlike in 2011 when they first made an appearance to the UK market, in 2012 they are extremely potent machines offering up some of the best features of any laptops in the world.
Recommended Ultrabooks / check these out (mid-2012)
HP Folio 13 13”– Cheap, reliable, good reviews, backlit keyboard; this Ultrabook is perfect for people on a budget and business folk’ alike.
ASUS Zenbook Prime 13” – A premium Ultrabook with a 1080p IPS panel display. Amazing media playback, and performance to boot.
ASUS UX32Vd 13.3” – Dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT620M graphics , 4GB RAM, great blend of performance and portability.
Lenovo Carbon X1 14” – Carbon Fiber build, gorgeous 1600 x 900 display, lightest Ultrabook in the world.
Overall purchasing a new laptop is a fairly easy task, providing that you have set a budget and know what you want. If you have any particular laptop brand allegience however we recommend you scrap it, because within the past year, practically all PC manufacturers have released decent Ultrabooks all of which ship with their own specific selling points.
We will update this post throughout 2012 with new Ultrabooks which you should check out.
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