The term “ultrabook” became part of mainstream tech vocabulary last year. With both performance and power, these machines are ideal for highly mobile lifestyles. If you’re always in and out of meetings, and need a full laptop for work, then a light ultrabook which won’t require you to hunt for power outlets is a boon.
The first ultrabooks were a big step up from old and boring laptops. A year down the line, the second generation of ultrabooks has arrived in the marketplace, with much more processing muscle and a few design tweaks. This generation of ultrabooks, revealed earlier this year, has been selling for a little over a month now, with the oldest of the generation having reached retail here in late June.
Interested in buying an ultrabook? We list different options from the new generation to help you decide:
Sony Vaio T13113
Surprisingly, Sony’s first ultrabook is also one of the most affordable. It looks terrific with a brushed metal finish, and at 17.8mm thickness and 1.6kg, is sleek and portable too. Unfortunately, it’s let down by middling hardware, which is the reason for the low price tag. Unlike other ultrabooks in this section, the T13113 is powered by a second-generation Intel Core i3-2367M processor clocked at 1.4 GHz, which is a real issue if there are heavy-duty graphics tasks. Also, unlike the competition, the Vaio comes with a 500 GB SATA hard drive, plus a 32 GB SSD. The result is performance that is not really in ultrabook territory. Other specifications are decent—4 GB RAM, a 13.3-inch display of 1,366x768 resolution, and a couple of USB ports (one USB 3.0), though again, the video card is definitely the last-generation Intel HD Graphics 3000.
*Price: Rs 45,990
Verdict: More of a beauty than a beast, this. Avoid it unless you’re on a very tight budget.
HP Envy 4
The Envy 4 is one of the few ultrabooks with a 14-inch display, though it runs at the same 1,366x768 resolution that has become a standard in the ultrabook segment. Its sleek form factor (just 19.8mm thick) and 1.75kg weight mean there's no trade-off for the larger screen. You can get a model with a Core i3 processor, or a Core i5 with 4 GB RAM, graphics powered either by Intel HD Graphics 3000 or AMD Radeon (with up to 2 GB dedicated memory), and storage that can either be 500 GB SATA or a combination of 500 GB SATA and 32 GB SSD. Hewlett-Packard (HP) says the Envy 4 comes with a stack of Intel technologies, including Intel Rapid Start and Intel Identity Protection and Intel Smart Response for brisk performance. Our experience, especially after the blazingly fast HP Folio last year, was a tad underwhelming. Still, the Envy 4 range looks good while performing solidly enough, and serving up decent battery life for a reasonable price.
Price: Rs 57,990
Verdict: It’s not the best ultrabook, but it’s an all-rounder. Good value for money.
Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3
If you thought the 14-inch displays on the HP Envy 4 and the Dell XPS 14 were large, then you will be surprised by the 15.6-inch display sported by the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 ultrabook. Acer has promoted it as the first ultrabook with a display that size, and it certainly looks the part—with a thickness of 19.8mm and a weight that is above 2kg. That said, the notebook packs in a lot into that frame—you get a Core i5 second-generation processor, an nVIDIA GeForce GT 640M graphics with 1 GB dedicated memory, 4 GB memory, a 500 GB hard drive, a bevy of ports (three USB ports, one of them USB 3.0) and, for good measure, a DVD drive too.
Gaming and multimedia performance were quite good thanks to the combo of display, processor and graphics, and thanks to the large display, you end up getting a very spacious keyboard. We were not exactly over the moon with the start-up and shutdown times of the machine, but this is the closest you can get to a 15-inch MacBook Pro if you are on a tight budget. Ultrabook purists might scream blue murder at its size.
Price: Rs 51,990
Verdict: A lot of value but a little oversized, this is a good deal for bargain hunters who want a bigger screen than the Vaio offers.
Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook
Many tech pundits felt Dell had come out with one of the best ultrabooks in town with the XPS 13, and the company has upped the ante with the XPS 14. As its name indicates, the new ultrabook has a 14-inch display, but despite the screen being a whole inch larger, the body is only slightly bigger than that of the XPS 13.
Like the XPS 13, the display is of scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass, and the casing of the device is machined aluminium, resulting in a laptop that looks very good indeed and feels tough. It’s also remarkably powerful—you can choose from third-generation Intel Core i5 and quad-core Core i7 processors with speeds ranging between 2.6 GHz to 3.1 GHz and either Intel HD Graphics 4000 or an nVIDIA GeForce GT 630M (1 GB dedicated memory). Storage can be handled by a combination of a 500 GB SATA hard drive and SSD storage or a 512 GB SSD if you are looking for really fast performance. It comes with two USB 3.0 ports and a very comfortable spill-resistant keyboard. Our only complaint is about its weight, which is above 2kg.
Price: Rs 82,990
Verdict: In terms of sheer performance, this has got to be one of the best ultrabooks around. However, all that muscle comes at a heavy price!
Lenovo IdeaPad U410
Lenovo was among the first movers in the ultrabook space internationally but its initial offerings were definitely high-end. That is not the case with the U410, which is among the lower-priced ultrabooks in the market today. It won’t win too many beauty contests, as it looks more like a solid ThinkPad than a svelte ultrabook.
At 21mm thickness and a weight that is close to 2kg, it is not the slimmest or lightest machine, but the U410 is likely to strike a chord with those seeking a value-for-money notebook. The display is 14 inches with 1,366x768 resolution, 4 GB RAM and nVIDIA GeForce 610M graphics card with 1 GB memory, which makes it a decent performer in the multimedia and gaming stakes.
Storage is handled by a 750 GB hard drive with 32 GB SSD storage ensuring speed bursts while booting and coming out of sleep mode. Lenovo has thrown in features like Smart Update, which fetches new mail and social media updates even when the Ultrabook is in sleep mode, and the OneKey Rescue system which makes data backup and recovery an easy task. Typing addicts will love the well-spaced-out keyboard, but purists will frown at the fact that only one of the two USB ports supports USB 3.0
Price: Rs 52,990
Verdict: This is for those looking for the maximum bang from minimum bucks. It’s not the best looker on the market, though.
Apple MacBook Air
The notebook that just about everyone insists inspired the ultrabook concept, meanwhile, remains a force in its own right. After the latest refresh in June, the base 13-inch MacBook Air comes for Rs 67,900 and packs in 64 GB storage, 2 GB RAM and an Intel Core i5 processor. That might not sound like much to those who have seen ultrabook specifications, but the real magic of the device is in its design and interface.
It is built of aluminium and is incredibly thin at a mere 17mm, tipping the scales at 1.08kg. Then there is the little matter of Mac OS X, which runs on the MacBook Air and serves up an interface that is much smoother and easier to use (and also more secure) than anything on competing ultrabooks. Yes, there is a paucity of ports—you get only two USB ports (both 3.0, however) on the base model and no card reader—but the sheer portability and speed of operation (you can boot up an Air in about 12-15 seconds) compensate.
Price: Rs 67,990
Verdict: If you are not addicted to Windows, this still remains the best ultraportable computer in the world, whether you choose to call it an ultrabook or not.
*Prices will vary from location to location.
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