What the Hell Is An Ultrabook?

What the Hell Is An Ultrabook?

We'll show you. Plus: six of the best to look out for. By Matt Currie

When we first heard the term “Ultrabook,” we imagined some kind of souped-up e-reader. This was before CES 2012, an event that was all but devoted to these things. It turns out Ultrabooks are actually a whole new class of Windows laptop—the missing link between portable, but weak netbooks and powerful, but bulky notebooks. They’re decidedly slimmer and sleeker than your average lapper, too. Specially engineered by chip-maker Intel, Ultrabooks serve one purpose: to wage war on the pint-sized powerhouse known as the MacBook Air (as well as any tablets that try to get in their way).

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Scroll down further to learn more about how these totable dynamos came into being and whether or not you should pick one up.


How To Make Sense of All This Ultrabook Stuff:

1. Why did notebooks need to become “Ultra?”

In a world where the MacBook Air has taken portable power to new heights and school boards are talking about ordering tablets instead of text books, Intel needed to become hipper and easier to carry if Windows laptops were to stay relevant. Tweaking its hardware to allow for full power with less bulk, the chip-maker has orchestrated a market flood of around seventy unofficially Air-inspired devices in 2012; the idea being to take a bite out of Apple’s mobile laptopping monopoly while also offering an attractive alternative for tablet users everywhere.

2. What makes a notebook “Ultra”?

In a way, every notebook has it in them to be Ultra. But in another, more accurate way, they need to follow these Intel-mandated specs:

Weight: 3lbs or less
Height: 0.8 inches or less (more commonly 0.6 or 0.7)
Screen: 11.6- to 13.3-inches
Battery: 5 to 9 hours (generally closer to 5 or 6)
Storage: 64-256 GB **Solid State Drive
Memory: 4 GB RAM
CPU: New ultra-low voltage Intel 2nd-gen i3, i5, and i7 cores
External: No disc drives and minimal ports
Price: Around $1,000

**A microchip-based storage drive offering quicker performance and better power efficiency than the standard mechanical HDD.

3. So, can my next book be “Ultra”?

Unless you’re a gamer or video editor, yes it can. Ultrabooks are great for things like surfing the web, processing words and streaming video. The only real rub is that you won’t be able to watch DVDs or hook up to multiple external devices. If you’re cool with all that, just make sure you find something with close to six hours of juice and at least 256 GB (or a hybrid SSD/HDD drive) if you plan to store a fair amount of movies and pictures.

4. Where are they going with this?

  • Dreaming big, Intel fully expects Ultrabooks to account for 40% of all notebook sales by the end of this year.
  • Many are speculating that touchscreen technology will make its way onto the next generation of Ultrabooks; no word yet on whether or not the next batch of tablets will strike back by adopting keyboards.
  • Several industry observers have commented that some forthcoming Ultrabooks are already bumping up against Intel’s recommended specs; For example, one version of the soon-to-drop Samsung Series 5 has a DVD drive and a 14-inch screen, plus it weighs in at a whopping 4 lb.





  • Josh

    This is just another useless attempt at creating a ‘new market’ report to box out Apple which is the clear leader in sales, marketing, product, user interface, and design. All these other pre-obsolete companies are constantly scrambling to play catch up and wedge themselves into a market segment that Apple has either just created or breached. If this were a fair comparison at least the first ‘ultrabook’ the macbook air would be featured instead of just these copycat pretenders to the throne.

  • Phuck Yui

    Ya but at those prices I’d rather have a macbook air

  • Mark

    ‘Ultrabook’ is an Intel trademark–so no, the Macbook air shouldn’t be included. It inspired the ultrabook but legally it is not one.

    But really, does anyone else find the name strange? To me ‘ultrabook’ connotes something big and imposing. Maybe something like this $4500 piece of hardware. Now that’s an Ultrabook (in my books).

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