Ultrabook Buyers Guide: How to Choose an Ultrabook in the UK

how to choose an ultrabook

Pictured: Dell XPS Duo 12

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).

Display, resolution

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.

Touch screen

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.

Storage

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.

Keyboard

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.

Processors

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.

Graphics

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.

Connectivity

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).

Battery life

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.

Link to official page.

ASUS Zenbook Prime 13” – A premium Ultrabook with a 1080p IPS panel display. Amazing media playback, and performance to boot.

Link to official page.

ASUS UX32Vd 13.3” – Dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT620M graphics , 4GB RAM, great blend of performance and portability.

Link to official page.

Lenovo Carbon X1 14” – Carbon Fiber build, gorgeous 1600 x 900 display, lightest Ultrabook in the world.

Link to official page.

Overall

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.

Be sure to subscribe to our Twitter updates, or like or Facebook page, in order to keep up with the latest Ultrabook news.

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About Jakk

Consumer technology nut with a rather keen love for good writing. 22, owner of multiple consumer technology news and reviews websites, you can rely on me to offer all of you lovely UK consumers up to date information on Ultrabooks. Find me on . Follow me on Twitter.
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13 Responses to Ultrabook Buyers Guide: How to Choose an Ultrabook in the UK

  1. james says:

    Touch screen Ultrabooks are what you want, with W8 on the way.

    • Jakk says:

      Yep, agreed, touch screen Ultrabooks should be all the rage in 2013, and well worth the buy in terms of future proofing.

  2. Michelle says:

    I’m confused, so Ultrabooks are Intel only? I have a very thin Sleek book powered by AMD or that’s what the sticker says.

    • Jakk says:

      Yep, Ultrabooks are Intel only. Please refer to the blog post linked to above in our guide :) . FYI, I am a big fan of the Sleekbook line.

  3. lenovo fan says:

    some very useful information here. I already bought my S5, may get the S7 upgrade though with touch screen.

  4. Arthur Tua says:

    When the Lenovo X1 Carbon be available in the UK?

    • Jakk says:

      Arthur the Lenovo Carbon X1 UK release date is sketchy at the moment. For the US August 21st is the release date (tomorrow) however for the UK it is unknown. We’ll update this post as soon as we get any new info on the X1.

  5. James says:

    Hey Jakk,

    Great informative website by the way!
    I have been reading that the ASUS UX32VD-R4002V won’t be released in the UK unfortunately. Firstly – do you know whether this is true, and secondly do you know of a way(s) to import a QWERTY keyboard model from the EU?

    • Jakk says:

      Hi James, thanks man! Glad you are liking it :)

      Strangely I had a list of retailers for that particular Ultrabook stocking it in the UK. Now, there appears to be but one at:

      http://www.passiontec.co.uk/_fenster.php?art_id=90000229 (non affiliate link).

      I’ve never used that store so can’t vouch for their quality. I’d recommend contacting them first. Not even sure if they are UK based! From looking across the internet, there are no reviews for them. Perhaps the Asus Zenbook U500:

      http://www.ultrabook-news.co.uk/asus-announces-zenbook-u500-ultrabook-a-15-dedicated-graphics-beast-2012 will satisfy you?

      Sadly I can’t help you with your second question :( .

      Jakk

      • James says:

        Thanks Jakk!

        I’ve seen the U500 – the UX32VD has the edge for me as it can be upgraded to an SSD and to 10GB Ram quite easily…not sure if that’s possible with the U500

        I’ve been in touch with passiontec and they tell me that the keyboard is QWERTY on that item. As you say I’ve never used them before so don’t know how reliable they are but seems like they might be a German company.

        If I end up going for it I’ll update on the outcome here just in case anyone else is interested in the same model!

        • Jakk says:

          James yes please be sure to do that! I’d like to see whether Passiontec are legit or not as they appear to have some solid prices on gear. Naturally it is your money however so no pressure there ;) .

          I’m glad I could help, if there is anything else be sure to let me know.

          Jakk

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