For an exclusive Windows user, the prospect of owning a Mac has been an exciting to-do to cross off my enthusiast bucket list. I have owned two iPhones and one iPad, and have enjoyed all three, but I have never bought a Mac nor have I used one extensively. I have always been curious to see what's on the other side, but some constraints, one of which was Windows-only engineering software, prevented me from looking at any Mac with serious consideration. Luckily, or not, things have changed, and at the beginning of September I bought a new 13.3-inch MacBook Air, hoping to see what all the fuss is about.
I'll admit to being quite passionate about new devices, and always looking to get to know the basics before they arrive at my doorstep. Yes, I too scour the InterWebs searching for the tiniest of details. I just can't help it (and no, I do not believe that I am a control freak). But this time around I decided that the MacBook Air (I'm going to call it MBA from now on) needs a fresh take. Before it arrived, my impressions were that the hardware will not be a surprise (why would it be?) and that the software will take some getting used to. I thought everything was going to be smooth sailing once I settled in... and I was wrong.
I have to admit to being somewhat spoiled by the amazing battery life on my 13.3-inch Apple MacBook Air (mid-2013). It has completely transformed my usage habits and my perspective on mobility and laptops. Using it for 10 hours straight without any charging time is a common scenario, without being exactly light on the throttle. But even the mighty MacBook Air cannot compete with HP's latest ultrabook, the EliteBook 840 G1.
HP says that the EliteBook 840 G1, which is part of the manufacturer's new business ultrabook lineup, can deliver a whopping 33 hours of battery life. As you can tell from the headline, there is a "but" somewhere.
I have a bit of a confession to make: I rarely get excited by new tech products. It's not because they are bad (well, in most cases they are not), but rather due to their inability to make me see myself using them. A handset can't really get my heart racing when it looks almost exactly as every other similar device on the market (and, no, I'm not taking a stab at the iPhone here), no matter how hard I try to see the light.
There is, however, a genre which appeals to me -- ultrabooks. Why? Well, manufacturers are so desperate to get people's attention away from the traditional product in this segment -- Apple's MacBook Air -- that they go to great lengths to make their products stand out from the crowd, like a color arc in a rainbow. And that is a good thing. Just look at Acer and its dazzling Aspire S7 or ASUS and its striking Zenbook lineup, the latest member of which is the UX301 that was just teased at IFA. (They're appealing and inviting.)
Haswell is the latest catch-phrase in Intel processor architecture, designed as a successor to Ivy Bridge. A low power processor that is made with today's Ultrabooks in mind, the chip debuted early last month and is finding its way into today's hardware. Now Acer announces it will be powering the latest Aspire notebook.
The Aspire M5 (technically the Aspire M5-583P-6428) will be a Best Buy exclusive and packs a Core i5 processor, Intel Wireless Display technology (WiDi), four speakers, 15.6-inch display and multi-touch.
During the Xander Zhou fashion show in London, yesterday, Chinese maker Lenovo unveiled its first 15-inch ultrabook called the ThinkPad S531. The new device, however, is not all that new inside, featuring third-generation Core processors, rather than Intel's latest "Haswell" offerings.
Despite the fashion connection, the ThinkPad S531 is unlikely to win any design awards (well apart from the "boring boardroom choice"). The ultrabook looks rather understated (maybe a bit too much) and similar to Lenovo's other business-grade laptops, sporting an all-black look that is only interrupted by a couple of logos and the company's now-customary red trackpoint.
Microsoft Surface Pro gets even stiffer competition from new 11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air -- which one would you buy?
To the untrained eye, this comparison appears to be moot. After all, the Surface Pro is a tablet and the 11.6-inch MacBook Air is, indeed, an ultrabook. Traditionally, the two types of devices rarely have anything in common. Tablets offer touchscreens, portability and great battery life while ultrabooks usually fail to deliver the same level of versatility. So how can one pit the Surface Pro against the smaller MacBook Air?
As my colleague Joe Wilcox explained almost seven months ago, the two devices actually have a great deal in common. The Microsoft-branded tablet kicks off at $899, can be coupled with a dedicated keyboard, has expansion ports, runs a fully-fledged operating system and, to its disadvantage, delivers pretty appalling battery life. The Apple-branded ultrabook packs similar hardware specifications, starts at $999 but offers a built-in keyboard from the get-go. And, in the meantime, the fruit company upgraded its device to Intel "Haswell" Core processors which provide a tremendous bump in battery life. Now, more than ever, choosing between the two is a very tough call.
On Monday, at Computex 2013, Taiwanese manufacturer Acer officially took the wraps off the 8-inch Iconia W3 tablet and unveiled two ultrabooks -- the refreshed Aspire S7 and the new Aspire S5. Each device features Intel processors and runs Windows 8.
The Iconia W3, which was quietly unveiled two weeks ago, packs an 8.1-inch display with a resolution of 1280 by 800. Power comes from an Intel Atom Z2760 processor, similar to a number of other Windows 8 tablets on the market. The device also sports 2 MP cameras on the front and rear and 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage depending on the trim.
Lenovo on Tuesday announced the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch, the Windows 8-optimized version of the X1 Carbon Ultrabook it debuted in August for the 20th anniversary of the ThinkPad.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch has a 14-inch touch display, weighs 3.4 pounds, and has a thickness of 20.8mm. Like the non-touch version, it includes a Lync-optimized 720p face-tracking camera, fingerprint scanner, an eight-hour battery, and optional 3G mobile broadband.
Acer America on Thursday announced the price and availability of the Aspire S5-391-9880 ultrabook. This particular PC stands out from the mass of selfsame thin and light PCs because of the interesting design Acer used to hide the machine's extra USB, HDMI and Thunderbolt ports.
With a thickness ranging from 0.44 inches at its thinnest point to 0.59 inches at its thickest, The S5 isn't the thinnest ultrabook going, and at 2.65 lbs, it's not the lightest. Nor is it the most powerful, capacious, or flashy, with a 3rd Generation Intel Core i7-35i7U ("Ivy Bridge") processor, a 256GB solid state drive, and a 13.3 inch (1366 x 768) backlit LED screen, a common feature to many Ultrabooks.
At Computex 2012 in Taipei, Taiwanese PC maker Asus unveiled a new Windows 8 ultrabook design that features a full-sized HD IPS touchscreen display on the "lid" portion of the device. This second screen allows the device to be used as a tablet when the lid is closed, or as a presentation/screen-sharing tool when it is open.
The Asus Taichi is currently a working design, and Asus says the specs are not yet finalized. However, the company says the Taichi will be available in both 11.6” and 13.3” profiles, will have third generation Intel Core processors with 4 GB of DDR3 memory, and an undisclosed amount of SSD-based storage.
As tablets become more popular among consumers, our functionality requirements also increase. The rise of this sector contributes to the blurring of the lines between notebooks and tablets, says NPD's Ross Rubin. Things will only get murkier when Windows 8 releases later this year, its Metro interface built with touchscreen interfaces in mind.
NPD and Rubin see the entire industry encroaching on one another's turf. Android has found its way onto dual-boot devices like ViewSonic's Viewpad tablet. On the flipside, Windows 8 makes it enticing for manufacturers to add tablet-like features as the OS was built with mobile in mind.
BetaNews is pleased to be a media sponsor of Newegg's March Mania Ultrabook-a-Day Giveaway, starting today and going for 21. Each day the tech retailer, in cooperation with Intel, will award one lucky winner an Acer Aspire S3-951-6646, ASUS Zenbook UX21E-DH52 or Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Ultrabook.
Why just watch March Madness when you can get a little crazy trying to win one of these sleek Ultrabooks?
Three days ago, near the end of his last Consumer Electronics Show keynote, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer boomed: "There's nothing more important at Microsoft than Windows". He better mean it, because the Windows PC is in big trouble. Fourth-quarter US personal computer sales were outright disastrous, while overall 2011 global growth was the worst since 2001. Recession that year devastated PC shipments, despite Windows XP's late-year launch.
There is no single reason for weak shipments during fourth quarter, when holiday sales typically give PCs a boost: Economic crisis in Europe, hard drive shortages following flooding in Thailand and weak demand among consumers, among others. There is a convergence of factors -- a cascading effect that disproportionately affects Windows PCs compared to Macs. On the Windows side, only Lenovo has proved immune. Apple meanwhile continues to sell Macs hand over fist, as they say, while Windows is at risk.
As expected, Dell has joined the ultrabook foray, announcing the XPS 13 at Consumer Electronics Show 2012. Thin and lights aren't new for Dell, but joining the announce-now-and-ship-later CES crowd is disappointing. As a build-to-order maker, Dell is known for shipping right away. If you want an XPS 13, however, the Round Rock, Texas PC maker will make you wait until the "end of February".
The XPS 13 inherits from its predecessors, like the XPS 14: The screen is edge-to-edge, allowing for a larger display in a smaller enclosure. Dell boasts a 13.3-inch screen in the size of an 11.6-inch portable, claiming the frameless display reduces XPS 13's footprint by 15 percent compared to comparable 13.3-inch laptops. Looking at the product photo, I don't see how the screen is any more frameless than Apple's MacBook Air.
It's time for the Consumer Electronics Show, where ultrabooks already are making a big splash. A question arises that deserves consideration. Is this the end for netbooks? Will ultrabooks make them obsolete?
I can't answer this and we will have to wait and see, but consider this: Every time a new generation of electronics comes out the new features are exciting, but as usual selling prices tend to be higher. Prices range between $849 and $999. Sure, there are those who have no problem dropping as much as a $1,000 for the latest gadget. But for the average person, selling price matters. Many people choose between features and price and often price will win out in the balance between cost versus features. I am a programmer, yet I have always lived on a tight budget and tend to buy what is more in line with what I can afford rather than the bleeding edge devices. Simply put: I look for what's good enough within my budget.