Unlike the netbook craze that stormed the PC market a few years ago (and just as quickly fizzled out thanks to the rise of the Apple iPad), it looks as though Ultrabooks are here to stay. Whereas netbooks made use of power efficient, yet pokey Intel Atom processors and slow hard disk drives (HDDs), today’s latest crop of Ultrabooks make use of fast third-generation Intel Core processors and blazingly fast solid state drives (SSDs).
In this piece, I’ll take a look at some of the factors that make the Ultrabook platform attractive for business users that need a powerful machine that is also portable enough to tote along to meetings without significantly weighing you down.
As previously mentioned, today’s crop of Ultrabook computers pack the latest generation Core i5/Core i7 processors and at least 4GB of RAM to conquer your most demanding business apps. No longer do business users have to resort to heavy, desktop-replacement notebooks to get serious work done.
And we can’t forget the importance of the SSD. Once relegated to high-end notebooks a few years ago (a 64GB SSD added $1,000 to the price of the first generation MacBook Air just four years ago), SSDs have brought incredible I/O performance to notebooks while keeping device form-factors slim and battery drain to a minimum. And with prices of SSDs falling well below the $1/GB mark, we’ll continue to see explosive growth for SSDs in all segments of the notebook market.
Excellent Battery Life
One of the added benefits of moving to low-voltage third-generation Core i5 processors and SSD is long battery life. Most Ultrabooks today have battery life ranging in the 5- to 7-hour range which should be plenty for a business professional to get enough work done on-the-go before scrambling to an empty power outlet on the floor in airport terminal or in the hotel room after a day of meetings.
Many people have differing ideas of what “lightweight” means in a portable computer. For some people, lugging around something that weighs 4 pounds isn’t a problem. However, to me, the sweet spot is in the 3-pound and below range.
While most netbooks used cheap plastic to reach sub 3-pound weight levels, many Ultrabooks take advantage of all-metal chassis construction that provides a much more durable and solid basis to work from while still meeting those weight targets. Some, like Lenovo, go for a more exotic route by using carbon fiber. Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon manages to weigh in at an even 3 pounds despite its 14” form-factor.
Wireless Connectivity and Ports Selection
Most Ultrabooks these days do away with ports and features that many business users grew accustomed to over the years. Two of those are internal optical drives and GbE ports. Most of us rarely use optical discs anymore, as we’ve become a “digital download” society. And materials that were once distributed using CDs at trade shows are now placed onto thumb drives. For those that still need to an optical drive for occasional use, there’s always an external USB solution waiting to greet you.
As for GbE, the prevalence of Wi-Fi hotspots means that wired Ethernet is becoming less of “need” for business users. As with optical drives, there are always USB-Ethernet solutions (something that ASUS includes in the box with the Zenbook Prime UX31A) if you happen to be in some backwoods location that hasn’t moved into the 21st century.
But beyond those two items, you’ll find numerous connectivity choices in Ultrabooks including Bluetooth 4.0 and optional 3G/4G broadband when it comes to wireless solutions. When it comes to physical ports, USB 3.0 is commonplace now alongside USB 2.0, and Thunderbolt is an up-and-comer for high-speed peripherals. HDMI, DisplayPort, and in some cases – mini VGA – are there to handle your external graphics needs.
Multiple form-factors/screen resolutions to suit each user
11-inches, 13-inches, 14-inches, 15-inches… pick your poison. Although I don’t think that many business users will enjoy typing on an 11″ Ultrabook’s keyboard for too long, having a powerful notebook option in that form-factor is a plus for those that don’t mind have a slightly cramped typing area.
But that’s the beauty of Ultrabooks; there are enough form-factors in that Ultrabook space that it should be easy to find the perfect solution that fits your needs. For example, ASUS offers up its Zenbook Prime UX31A that manages to cram a 1920×1080 IPS screen into a 13″ notebook. For those that prefer a larger screen (but don’t mind a tradeoff in screen density), there’s the 15″ Samsung Series 9 with a 1600×900 display. It’s a bit heavier than my tastes at 3.51 pounds, but reaching that weight is a remarkable feat for a 15″ notebook.
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Brandon Hill is the executive editor of DailyTech and manages day to day operations of the site. DailyTech is an online tech magazine dedicated to bringing readers the latest in tech news ranging from gadgets to computer hardware to science to advanced automotive powertrains. Our focus is to provide readers with timely information on current technology and give them a chance to have a voice on any topic via each article’s comments section.
Brandon is a diehard car enthusiast and can often times be seen perusing online car forums when not engrossed in DailyTech. He also is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys backpacking, camping, and kayaking — all of which are remnants of his days as an Eagle Scout.